Thursday, June 16, 2011

Magic Peanut Butter Cookies

In honor of my return to the “low-carb lifestyle” of Atkins, this cookie recipe rocks – whether you use Splenda and make them low in carbs – or you use sugar.  These cookies are a definite must!

1-cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth – or ½ of each)
1-cup sugar (or sugar substitute – Splenda)
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup mini-chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix first 5 ingredients well.  Add the chips and blend in.  Moisten your hands slightly.  Scoop a tablespoonful of dough and roll it into a round ball.  Drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

 Bake for approximately 12 – 14 minutes. (Until slightly browned)  Carefully remove from pan and cool on wire rack.  (When they are hot, the cookies can break in two if you bend them – then you have to eat all the broken ones)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Italian Lentil Soup

This recipe originally came from my great-grandmother, who brought it from Italy.  My grandmother used to serve this as a first course at Thanksgiving dinner.  I have modified the recipe a little over the years, but it is still a favorite in my family.  It is a super fast meal idea for a quick, hearty dinner.  (Vegetarian recipe)

1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbs olive oil
6 cups water
2 – 3 vegetarian bouillon cubes (Knorr, if possible)
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 cup brown lentils
2 cups fresh, chopped spinach or 1 package frozen chopped spinach
1 cup orzo pasta
Fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, sauté sliced onion and garlic in olive oil until they just start to brown.  Add water, bouillon and Worcestershire sauce to pot.  Bring to a boil and lower to simmer.

Add the lentils to the pot and stir well.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Add spinach and orzo to pot and cook for 25 minutes or until orzo is al dente.

Serve with crusty French bread.  You can also sprinkle with fresh parmesan cheese for a wonderful flavor addition.

NOTE:  If you make a pot of this soup and refrigerate it overnight, it will thicken up substantially and be almost ‘stew-like’ in consistency.  I like to take leftovers of this soup for lunch.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Time Saving Meal Management Series - Post #1

I am often asked how I can regularly put a home cooked meal on the table despite a busy schedule, job, children, horses and all the rest.  I am going to start a series here that I will publish once a week or so to give some tips and time savers that help to keep me sane (relatively) and my family healthy and well fed.  You can feel free to employ some - or all - of these tips if they sound like they will help you.

One of the greatest inventions for busy Moms is the pre-roasted chicken available at the grocery store.  These chickens aren't just a good meal idea in and of themselves, but they are an essential item in my freezer.  I buy a couple of these at a time from Costco.  (I buy them at Costco because in my area, they are the biggest and meatiest available for the price ~ 3 lbs for $4.99.  Truthfully, I can't make them myself for that price.)

Once I get them home, I will strip the meat off the bones, cut it into smaller, uniform pieces and put it in freezer bags (I have a 'Meal Saver' system and I vacuum seal the meat, but you can use Ziploc freezer bags just as easily) in amounts of 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 pounds.  That is usually the amount of meat I use in a recipe for my family - with some left over for weekday lunches for me (I brown bag daily)  So, from 2 chickens, I will typically get 5 meals of cooked chicken meat.

Another item to keep or use can be really good chicken stock.  If you have a deep freezer and can store the broth, I suggest you use the bones, an onion, about 5 celery stalks and some pepper and boil, then simmer the carcasses for  30 minutes.  Cool the broth and freeze in usable amounts. (I like to freeze it in amounts of 1 cup)

That's great, you say - but what do you do with the chicken then?  Below are just some ideas for quick dinners with pre-cooked chicken meat.  I've included one recipe and will have others online that use cooked chicken in the coming weeks.  When you want to use the chicken, simply put the frozen bag in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 3 minutes to defrost.  It will now be ready to put into your recipe.

Recipe Ideas:
Chicken Spaghetti
Quick Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Tacos
Baked Chicken Burritos
30-Minute Chicken Chili
Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Chicken & Pepper Pasta
Chicken and Broccoli
Stuffed Chicken Bake
Busy Mom's Chicken Parmesan Bake
Chicken a la King

Chicken a La King

This is a wonderful and easy meal.  It can be dressed up with dinner rolls and a nice dessert for company or make a nice weeknight meal for your family.  I know some will want to omit the sherry for various reasons, but I recommend using it as the classic flavor is pulled together by that ingredient.  If you have children, fear not - the alcohol will cook off before serving. 

3 Tbs butter
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green Bell pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
3 Tbs flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 small jar diced pimentos
1 tsp ground nutmeg
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 ¼ – 1 ½ lbs cooked, chopped chicken
2 Tbs cooking sherry (optional)

Melt the butter and sauté onion, pepper and garlic until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and cook until tender stirring often.

Quickly stir in the flour to form a roux (you must keep stirring this so it does not burn or get lumpy). Once the butter and flour mixture is smooth (this will be quick) pour in the chicken stock and milk and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer.

Keep stirring until sauce thickens (if sauce is too thick, add a bit of broth or milk). Add the pimentos, nutmeg, pepper and cooked chicken (and sherry if you are using). Heat through before serving.

Serve over spaghetti or beside mashed potatoes and a vegetable – my favorite is steamed baby peas.  A butter lettuce salad is also an excellent addition to the meal.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chicken Cassoulet

My family loves this hearty chicken “stew”.  This is a quicker version of the classic French dish.  The wine adds just the right amount of flavor.  It is a wonderful meal to come home to especially on a cold, wet winter evening.  It is great served with fresh French bread and a green salad.

• 1 14 oz can great northern beans
• 2-1/2 to 3 pounds meaty chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, and/or drumsticks – I use boneless thighs)
• 8 ounces cooked Polish sausage
• 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 teaspoon instant beef or chicken bouillon granules
• 1 cup white wine
• 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 1/2 cup chopped carrot
• 1/2 cup chopped celery
• 1/2 cup chopped onion

1. Skin the chicken; set aside. Halve sausage lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces. In a medium mixing bowl combine drained beans, sausage, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon granules, wine, basil, oregano, and paprika. Set aside.
2. In a 3-1/2- or 4-quart crockery cooker combine the carrot, celery, and onion. Place chicken pieces on top. Pour bean mixture over chicken.
3. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 9 to 11 hours or on high-heat setting for 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 hours. Remove chicken and sausage with slotted spoon. Mash bean mixture slightly. Serve chicken, sausage, and beans in soup bowls. Makes 6 servings.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Zucchini Casserole

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables.  I like it lots of different ways – from steamed to raw.  This recipe was created to give the family more options for using that entire summertime zucchini crop.  Now, if you don’t care for jalapeños, just omit the pepper and add ½ tsp of garlic powder to the dish.  Give this a try with grilled chicken and a tomato & cucumber salad.

1 small onion chopped
1 small jalapeno minced (wear a pair of latex gloves so you don’t get the oils on your skin or in your eye)
1 tbs Olive oil
4 cups shredded zucchini
1/2-cup bread crumbs
2 eggs beaten well
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Pepper to taste

Sauté onion and jalapeno in Olive Oil until soft and slightly browned.  Mix next 3 ingredients with the onion and jalapeno.  Add one cup of the cheese to the mix and blend.  Spoon into a greased casserole dish.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Raspberry Cream Crescents

This is a super easy, super yummy addition to any breakfast, brunch or snack menu!  The crescent bites cook up quick and taste wonderful.  They do not last long on the table once the kids see them!  I hope you enjoy them too!

Cookie Sheet
Medium Mixing bowl
2 Wax paper sheets

1 package of Pillsbury Butter-Flake Crescent Dough
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
8 tsp Smucker’s Raspberry Jam

Confectioner’s Sugar (for decoration/garnish)

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar until creamy and smooth.

Spread out crescent dough on wax paper.  In each triangle wedge at the short end of the triangle, add 1 spoonful of cream cheese mixture and 1 tsp raspberry jam.  Roll into crescent shape making sure to pinch seal the edges.

Place on cookie sheet and shape into ½ circles (or crescents).  Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool on new sheet of wax paper.  Decorate with sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar and server.  Makes 8 servings.

NOTE: - Don’t limit yourself to raspberry!  Try chocolate chips, other jam flavors or even fresh blueberries.  Experiment and find your favorites!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crab Stuffed Poblanos with Pineapple Pico

This recipe actually arose out of a need for me to find new fish/seafood recipes that my “land-locked” husband would eat.  With my roots set firmly in New England soil, and his in Texas, some definite culinary twists can come out of my kitchen.  When he first tried this recipe, his comment was “where did you find this winner?”  When I said “my imagination” he promptly told me to write it up and keep it!  I hope you enjoy it too.

This can be served nicely with fresh corn on the cob – or for a change, a southwest mix of corn, black beans & green pepper, a green salad and tortilla chips/salsa to start.  Flan makes an excellent dessert finish to the meal for company.

Crab Stuffed Peppers
6 Poblanos – cut lengthwise down the center (remove seeds)
1 lb crab meat – fresh is best, but you can use canned or frozen
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar – divided as ¾ and ¼
1 tbsp Northwestern or potlatch seasoning (see below)
1 tbsp ground pepper (or to taste)
1 slightly beaten egg
1 ½ tbsp Hellmann’s mayonnaise
Sprigs of Cilantro for garnish

Turn oven to broiler setting.  Set rack in center of oven.
Spray a 13x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Arrange the halved peppers in the pan.  Place in broiler/oven for 10 minutes – or until peppers begin to darken.
Remove pan from oven and turn oven setting to 350 degrees.

While peppers are broiling, mix next 5 ingredients lightly by hand until well blended.
Add egg and mayonnaise to bowl.  Gently fold into the crab mixture until it is moist.

Stuff each pepper half with an equal amount of the crab mixture.
Place pan in oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove pan from oven.
Top peppers with remaining shredded cheese and return to oven until melted.
Place 2 halves of a pepper on each plate and top with spoonful of Pico.
Garnish with sprig of Cilantro.
Serve with sides.  Makes 6 main course servings.

Pineapple Pico
¼ cup onion diced
1 large tomato seeded and diced
1 cup diced pineapple
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (less if desired by taste)
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper (wear latex gloves to protect hands from oils)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Ground Sea Salt

Combine all the pineapple pico ingredients in a bowl, including salt to taste. Mix well and refrigerate for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend before serving.

Northwest or Potlatch Seasoning
I make a batch of this up and keep it on hand to flavor salmon or tuna cakes, chowders, baked fish and seafood stews.  It can be used to blacken fish also.  It is quite versatile.

1 Cup Paprika
1/4 Cup Cumin Seed
1 Tbsp Fennel Seed
1 Tbsp Onion Powder
1/4 Cup Garlic powder
1 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
1/8 Cup Thyme
1 Tbsp fresh ground pepper
1 Tbsp fresh ground sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Store seasoning in an airtight container.  Use as needed for recipes.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Homemade Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is so good and so pretty. It's special enough for company, but quick enough for just the family.  Of course, you will want to serve it with LOTS of whipped cream….
1/4 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans
20-ounce can of pineapple slices, drained, reserving 5 tablespoons juice
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Maraschino cherries
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet. Add the brown sugar and pecans; stir well to thoroughly combine, and then turn off the heat -- don't cook it. Arrange 8 pineapple slices in a single layer over the brown sugar mixture (your 9-inch skillet should accommodate 8 slices without overlapping). Set the skillet aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside.

Beat the egg yolks at medium speed until they are thick and lemon colored. Gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat. Add the flour mixture to the yolk mixture, and stir in the reserved pineapple juice.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Pour or spoon the batter evenly over the pineapple slices.

Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the skillet for 30 minutes; then invert it onto a serving plate. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple ring.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mushroom and Gorgonzola Fettuccine

Yes, this is a little more “haute cuisine” than my usual fare, but it is a great recipe if you like mushrooms and yummy cheese.  With a nice wine and followed by some berries with zabaglione – perfect for company.  "Mangia bene, vivi felice!"

1 pound dried fettuccine
3 cups sliced crimini or button mushrooms (8 ounces)
1 cup finely chopped onion
6 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 red sweet peppers, cut into thin strips (3 cups)
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (3 ounces)
1/3 cup snipped fresh chives
3 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook the fettuccine according to the package directions. Remove from the heat. Drain and return to saucepan.

For sauce: In a large skillet, cook the mushrooms, onion, and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon, reserving the olive oil in skillet.

Add remaining olive oil to skillet. Add the sweet pepper strips to skillet. Cook about 5 minutes over medium heat or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the whipping cream and cheese to the pepper strips in the skillet. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens slightly. Stir in the mushroom mixture, chives, parsley, basil, and salt.

To serve, pour the sauce over the pasta and toss the pasta to coat. Transfer to a serving dish. Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pistachio Chip Bundt Cake

This is a great cake for just about any reason.  It is moist and rich and people love it with coffee, after dinner or for a snack.  It is a required item at family gatherings.  My nephews have come to refer to it as simply “The Cake”.  I hope you enjoy it too!

10 – 12 Cup Bundt Pan – (if a 10 cup is used, the cake is taller)
No-Stick Cooking Spray
1 Yellow cake Mix
1 Package Jell-O Pistachio Pudding Mix
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Sour Cream
4 eggs
1 Package Nestle Semi-sweet Mini-morsels
Confectioner’s Sugar for Garnish

Pre-heat Oven Temperature to 350 degrees
Spray Bundt Pan with No-stick spray and set aside
In a large mixing bowl (or kitchen mixer) add next five ingredients.
Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes.
Blend mini-morsels into batter.
Pour batter evenly into Bundt pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (or until cake tester inserted into cake comes out clean)
Wait 5 minutes.  Then, turn cake out onto plate.
When completely cool, dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Serve cake.  Makes 12 – 15 servings.

NOTE: - Don’t let this recipe stop here!  You can change the pudding, cake mix and the chips for other flavors and types and experiment to find your family favorite!  Have fun!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cajun Style Jambalaya

Jambalaya is one of those lovely dishes where everything is cooked in one big pot.  The freshest celery gives the brightest flavors to the meal.  I love shrimp or crawfish in the Jambalaya – but if neither is your favorite, you can substitute some cooked chicken easily.  The crustiest French bread or yummy, hot from the oven cornbread will complete the experience.  Enjoy!

1 clove garlic chopped
1 onion chopped
¼ cup water
1 green pepper chopped
4 stalks celery chopped

1 lb medium – large shrimp cleaned (or crawfish tails)
1 lb smoked sausage

2 cans diced tomatoes
2 14 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1.5 cups rice

2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Dried red pepper
2 tsp. Chile powder
2 tsp. black pepper
Hot Sauce to taste
Pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, sauté the onion and garlic until softened and translucent.  Add the water, green pepper, jalapeno and celery.  Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and next 4 ingredients.  Add the seasonings.  Simmer on low heat on a simmer plate (if you have one) for 25 minutes.  Check seasonings and adjust to taste.  Continue to cook until rice is just firm.  Add the shrimp and warm for 5 minutes.

Serve with fresh crusty bread or homemade cornbread and a green salad.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Coca-Cola Cake

If you live in Texas, you have probably had this super, wonderful chocolate cake.  If you’ve been to a Texas ‘shindig’ otherwise known as a party, it’s likely to be set out on a table surrounded by the guys who all want a big slice of cake.  Get a big glass of milk, you’re gonna want it to savor with this cake.

Hint:    Don't make the frosting ahead--you need to pour it over the cake shortly after baking.  
1 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
Coca-Cola Frosting
Garnish: 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Combine Coca-Cola and buttermilk; set aside.

Beat butter at low speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until blended. Add egg and vanilla; beat at low speed until blended.  Combine flour, cocoa, and soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with cola mixture; begin and end with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended. 

Stir in marshmallows. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13- x 9-inch pan.  Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes. Pour Coca-Cola Frosting over warm cake; garnish, if desired.

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup Coca-Cola
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat; whisk in sugar and vanilla.  It is ready to pour over cake.