Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas

"Merry Christmas" --  It's a standard greeting among Christians this time of year.  I'm not a believer in being politically correct -- I tell everyone Merry Christmas.  It's a heartfelt greeting from me to you.  I would certainly not be offended by a greeting of your religion.  I would warmly accept it and thank you.

We exchange not only greetings with our friends and family, but gifts as well.  We share God's greatest gift of all -- He sent Jesus into the world.  We exchange gifts with one another in recognition of Jesus' birth.  God's love is endless - and so is the wrapping paper on the floor after our gift exchanges.

My family, like many others has grown to the point that we have multiple family celebrations and many directions to go during the holidays.  It's often difficult to manage, but somehow we find a way.  Most of us were at my sister's home in Jefferson City, MO to celebrate.  Poor Kim, she cleaned her house (and it looked great when we all got there) just so we could totally destroy it with wrapping paper, fingerprints, bedding and suitcases.  She was certainly a good sport about it!  We have become quite a large group when we're together.  It was a great time for everyone.  Thank you, Kim and Tim for letting us invade your normally quiet home.

We traveled home tonight.  I have to say we were ready to be home.  Everyone was tired.  But . . . our hearts were full of love.  Being with family recharges us.  We are reminded of the things that are really important in life.  What is more important than spending time with the "House That Built Me"?  I know, that's a country song; but think about it.  When we spend time with our family members, no matter where we are, we are spending time in the house that built us.  We are reminded of the parts of our childhood that made us  the people we are today.

I love my family -- we're a neurotic bunch, but we're great!  I challenge any family to have more laughter in a room than we find.  We are a hugely opinionated bunch -- and we often disagree, but love conquers opinions.  We have fun at one another's expense, but in the end we stick together.  Blood is indeed thicker than water.  Family comes first.

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Plans 2012

From Thanksgiving to Christmas is a blur every year.  There is just so much to do.  There are decorations to put up, goodies to bake, gifts to buy and wrap, cards to write, meals and events to plan, and a house to keep clean for the expected and unexpected guests.  Add that to our normal everyday schedules of work and watching kids and it's no wonder sanity is lacking during December.

Years ago as our family grew older and there were multiple family events to attend, my family decided that we would leave Thanksgiving Day to celebrate with the other side of the family.  We plan our Thanksgiving meal for the Friday evening after Thanksgiving.  Most of us have to travel, so it gives us Friday to make the trip and then we have the weekend to spend together and then travel back home again.

Christmas for our family is celebrated together on Christmas Eve.  This is a tradition that's rich with family history.  My grandfather's birthday was Christmas Eve, and as a child I remember so many family Christmases with all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, parents, sister and brother.  We were part of a very large family and there were so many of us, but those were special times.  We would go to church Christmas Eve -- Grandpa Mohr was a Lutheran pastor.  Oh, how I loved the Christmas hymns!  I still do.  My mom sang "Oh Holy Night" during the service and she would always bring tears to my grandpa's eyes.  He loved to hear her sing.  And our family has a special connection to "Silent Night, Holy Night".  That beautiful song was written by Joseph Mohr, my great-great-great-great-great uncle.  After church we'd all go back to Grandma and Grandpa's house.  We kids had to stay upstairs while Santa Claus came to deliver gifts and talk with our parents and grandparents.  (Of course, we kids could hear everything -- the anticipation was almost unbearable!)  Then . . . it was finally time to read the Christmas story from the Bible and then open gifts.  Christmas Eve will forever be the time that our family will celebrate Christmas together.

Having firm dates set allows us to plan for the holidays easily.  This year, Christmas Day is on a Tuesday which makes travel more difficult.  We'll travel Christmas Eve after work -- hoping everyone arrives by 8 or 9 pm for our gift exchange.  I can hardly wait to see Liam open his gifts this year -- he is at such a cute age!   We'll have Christmas Day to spend together before driving home that night so everyone can be back to school and work on the 26th.

I plan to fix a big dinner at home to celebrate with Eddie's mom and the kids at home.  We still need to schedule a day that will work for her.  A couple of Luke's friends and Eddie's friends have asked when they can come over for Christmas dinner too.  (I just love that they love to come over to eat!)  The more the merrier!  I have a bad habit of making way too much.  I'm seriously considering the same menu as our Thanksgiving dinner.  It was so good this year!  Now, we just have to plan the date.

Sending wishes for a sane and very Merry Christmas to all of you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 in Review

This is the time to jot down notes about what worked about this year's Thanksgiving menu and what didn't work.  Dinner was really good, but there were some variations to recipes as we cooked on Wednesday and Thursday.

I had planned to stuff my turkey with stuffing this year in spite of all of the warnings against that.  But . . . when I psyched myself into believing two turkeys may be needed instead of just one, we prepped them a day early and stuffed them with a mixture of lemons, oranges, celery, onions, sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme.  We smeared them with an herb butter (one stick of butter for each turkey softened and mixed with one Tbsp Poultry Seasoning and 1 tsp salt).  The herb butter gets smeared on and under the skin.  The turkeys were sprinkled with salt and pepper and placed in a Reynolds cooking bag.  They went into the refrigerator overnight.

The turkeys went into the oven on Thanksgiving Day at noon.  They baked at 450 degrees for the first hour and then the temp was reduced to 325 degrees for about 2 1/2 more hours.  Once they came out of the oven, I let them sit and rest for about an hour as the final dishes were prepped.  My kids still like to help cut the turkey.  We all love that tasty crispy skin!   My hubby complains about any recipe that includes fresh herbs -- he said the turkey had a funny taste -- but everyone else thought it was yummy!

The Chutney this year was a no-go.  I didn't like this recipe.  It will be back to an old recipe next year.  This one was far too savory.  It needed to me much sweeter.

The Jell-o Magic Mousse was made exactly as written and it was great!  I made it the day before so it had lots of time to set and came out of the mold absolutely perfectly.  I used Lemon Jell-o for the first layer and Mango for the next.  It was as pretty as it was tasty.

The Green Bean Casserole was the biggest change.  We didn't make the standard recipe.  We changed this up using no canned or bottled products - fresh ingredients only.  It was really good!  (Watch for the post for Best Ever Green Bean Casserole)

I left my gravy recipe alone.  It took lots of years, but that recipe has been perfected.  Luke told me this year's was the best gravy ever :)  I started with about 12 cups of water for the turkey stock and then used the stock not only for the gravy, but also in the Green Bean Casserole, the stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

I love my normal stuffing recipe, but it's never quite as good when at least part of it not cooked in the turkey. It lacks that extra flavor and moisture.  I always try to add a little extra turkey stock to the stuffing to make sure it's moist.

See my posts for Sweet Potato-Pecan Casserole and Spectacular Mashed Potatoes for those recipes.  They are a can't miss.

There were changes made to the Pecan Pie, but the Perfect Pumpkin Pie remained unchanged.  Watch for the Southern Pecan Pie recipe in the next day or two.

Dinner was great.  Family and friends make it that way.  I think we've just about perfected the menu.  That's easy to say now . . . next year I'll be busy looking for new ideas like usual :).

I hope you find a few good ideas to share with your family next year.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Favorite Week of the Year

Tomorrow is the start to my favorite week of the year.  It's the beginning of a week that's full of family, food and fun.  It's a week of reflection on my life and hopes for the future.  I always take the week off work to cook and clean and get the house in shape for the holidays.  There are lots of snacks to make - and now the grandkids can help :). And there is a Thanksgiving meal to make to share with family and friends on Thursday.  We'll have a fun week.  Most of you know my hubby watches all three grandkids every day, so we'll have lots of help.

Papa pulled out all of the Christmas decorations today, so the lights will go up over the next few days and then be lit Thanksgiving night after dinner.  We put up our tree and decorate for Christmas while we watch It's A Wonderful Life every Thanksgiving night.  That's a tradition we started years ago.  I'm a believer that Thanksgiving should have its perfect day before the Christmas rush takes over.

Friday, the kids and I will travel to New Windsor to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents, brother, sister, and families.  It should be a great weekend!

We had a year full of blessings --
   Granddaughter Elisabeth Lynn was born on January 25th
   We see all three of our grandkids almost every day
   Luke started the Automotive Program at Vatterott College on July 5th and is doing very well
   Emma is 2/3 of the way through Culinary School at L'Ecole Culinaire and getting fantastic grades
   We are all gainfully employed
   Everyone is healthy
   My boys are hunting together this year - I love that they spend time together :)
   My parents and Eddie's mom are well and will be spending the holidays with us
   Our brothers and sisters and their families are part of our daily lives
   We had lots of time to spend with family throughout the year - and we all still like each other :)

Life isn't all puppies and rainbows -- we have bad days and dark clouds now and again.  But the good days far outnumber the bad.  Life is good and we have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Menu 2012

It's taken me a bit longer to finish up plans for this year's Thanksgiving dinner than usual.  But . . . most of the menu is now in place.

Turkey - I have a 20 lb turkey and plan to stuff it with ordinary stuffing.  I know they tell you not to do that because it may not cook thoroughly, but if you use a Reynolds cooking bag and cook your turkey for about 10 minutes per pound (approximately 3 1/2 hours for a 20 lb turkey) it should be cooked to temp.  Use a cooking thermometer to check the temp of your stuffing.  It should be at least 165 degrees before it is served.  To prep the turkey, I'll remove the package of giblets and use them to prepare the turkey stock - see Gravy - A Healthier Version post.  I'll make a seasoned butter of one stick of butter, 1 Tbsp Poultry Seasoning, 1 tsp Kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.  The seasoned butter should be rubbed on the skin of the turkey, under the skin of the turkey, and inside the cavity of the turkey.  Season your bird all over with the seasoned butter.

Check for prior year's blog posts for the following recipes that I'll be serving for our dinner:
Use the search box at the top, left corner of the screen to type the search name.

Stuffing - My Favorite
Gravy - A Healthier Version
Jell-O Magic Mousse (ours will be orange and lemon)
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch
Mashed Sweet Potatoes (the only kind Luke will eat)
Mashed Potatoes
Thanksgiving - Cranberry Pear Apple Chutney
Green Bean Casserole
Pecan Pie
Perfect Pumpkin Pie
Pudding Pie

I asked for input from all family members, and these are the recipes they've asked for.  This is a classic menu.  It looks just like last year, and the year before.  I think we have a menu that will last for years and years.

Feel free to use the recipes and modify them to make them your own.

Sending the best of holiday wishes to your home from ours.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

This time of year I always seem to become reflective.  I like to look back on the year and its events and I like to look back at my life in general.

I grew up in a small farm town in the Midwest where everyone knew not only your name, but every single detail of your life.  During my teen years, I couldn't find a way out of that town fast enough.  Now, looking back, small town life had lots to offer.  I chose to raise my family in suburbia.  My husband and I bought a house 30 years ago in a tree-lined neighborhood of Fenton, MO (the city of trees) and raised our children.  Fenton is about 20 miles west of St. Louis.  It's just far enough out of the city to have quiet neighborhoods with large one-acre lots, but close enough to make use of the amenities the city has to offer -- the Zoo, Science Center, sporting events (who doesn't love the Cardinals?) (does anybody still love the Rams?), shopping, and work opportunities.

Thanks to Facebook, I've reconnected with lots of people from my high school days.  Some of these people I've chosen to stay in touch with, others I almost forgot about, but am happy to visit with again.  All of our lives have taken different paths.  I love to hear about their lives and share details of my own.  It's funny how after years of no communication at all some of our friendships pick up right where they left off while others keep a distance.  I'm thankful this year for my many friends -- Facebook friends and others -- you are a touch stone in my life.  I love sharing pictures and stories with you.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, my friends!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Santa Hat Brownies

I've been hard at work looking for unique ideas for Thanksgiving dinner.  In my quest for the perfect dessert, I discovered a great Christmas treat -- Santa Hat Brownies.  I think these will not only be yummy - they will be adorable!  The recipe is from Pampered Chef and I can't wait to make them.

Prepare and bake a brownie mix in the Mini Muffin Pan - prepare according to package directions.
Wash and core 24 medium-sized strawberries
Spread a thin layer of whipped topping (I like Cool Whip) on top of each mini-brownie
Place a strawberry (pointed end up) on top of each brownie
Dot the top of each strawberry with a tiny dollop of whipped topping

These would be a cute idea to send to school with youngsters, take to work, or serve at a holiday party.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Maple Sweet Potatoes - Thanksgiving 2012

I'm getting a late start working on my Thanksgiving menu this year.  The menu doesn't change much from year to year, but I do try to find variations of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes just to change it up a little bit.

2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 6) peeled and cut into 1" wedges
2 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp maple syrup (use the real stuff if you can afford to -- there's nothing like it)
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into wedges.  Toss the wedges with the olive oil salt and pepper.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place the potato wedges into a 3-quart baking dish.  Toss the potatoes with the syrup.

Place the baking dish back in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the lemon zest, sea salt, and nutmeg.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fried Chicken- Don't look here for a good recipe

Fried Chicken is one food I've never been able to perfect.  In all honesty, I don't even come close to making good fried chicken.  Everyone loves fried chicken and I keep looking for a way to make well-seasoned, fully cooked, crispy fried chicken, but I have come to the conclusion I am not intended to make fried chicken.

On an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on Food Network last week I heard a chef say that he poached his chicken in a cooking liquid for three hours before dipping it in buttermilk, then seasoned flour, and deep frying it. I thought, "That's it!"  So . . . Sunday, I poured four cups of chicken stock into a 12-quart stock pot and added carrots, onion, and celery tops.  I let it come to a rolling boil and then added my whole cut up frying chicken to the stock.  I covered that pot and left it at a very slow simmer for three hours.  I removed the chicken from the stock and refrigerated it until cool.

I dipped it in butter milk and then a mixture of 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1 Tbsp of Beer Can Chicken seasoning.  I deep fried it to a light golden brown and served it.

It tasted great!  BUT . . . It fell apart.  The chicken was entirely too tender and just fell off the bones.  In some of the pieces, the bones became downright dangerous!

And, as usual, out of every bad experience comes a good one.  I drained my cooking stock to remove the solids and used it a couple of night later to cook Orzo.  I had four cups of the tastiest stock.  I brought it to a boil and added one package (12 oz) Orzo.  Let it cook to absorb all liquid over medium-low heat.  Slice six green onions into 1/4" slices and add to cooked Orzo after it is removed from the heat.  Stir to mix through.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Make Your Own Air Freshener

We all have an empty spray bottle.  Well here is the perfect way to recycle that bottle.

Pour 1 oz of fabric softener and 2 Tbsp baking soda into your spray bottle.  Fill bottle with hot water and shake well.

Spray on fabric surfaces in your house to eliminate odors.

There are so many different scents available - pick your favorite.  I like Downy Clean Breeze.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Make your own Ricotta

This is an easy recipe to make your own Ricotta.  I  You'll be surprised at how easy this is and how great it tastes.  Do this the next time you plan to prepare a recipe that includes Ricotta.

4 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 - 3 Tbsp lemon juice

Combine the whole milk, cream, kosher salt, and 2 Tbsp lemon juice in a saucepan and bring just to a boil without stirring.  Immediately remove pan from heat.

Let mixture stand for 15 minutes at room temp.  Curds will begin to separate from the whey.  If only a few curds form, your lemons may not be acidic enough; add another 1 Tbsp lemon juice, and gently stir so you don't break up the curds too much, and let stand for 5 minutes more.

Using a large spoon (not slotted) or measuring cup, spoon curds into a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a large bowl.  The longer you drain the ricotta, the denser and more flavorful the cheese will be.  Add to your favorite recipe using Ricotta Cheese.

Who knew it could be so simple to make your own?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Drippy Ice Cream No More

I just found a great idea on

They suggest dropping 2 or 3 mini marshmallows into the bottom of your ice cream cone before adding the ice cream to the cone.  This will prevent the ice cream from dripping from the bottom of your cone.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beer Can Chicken - With the Pampered Chef Roasting Pan

The new Pampered Chef Beer Can Chicken Roasting Pan is a great addition to my grilling collection.  I made Beer Can Chicken a couple of weeks ago and was impressed, but tonight I switched it up and made an incredible dinner!

1 Roasting Chicken (6 - 7 lbs)
2 oranges
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Weber Beer Can Chicken seasoning

Okay, I know I called it beer can chicken, but instead of a beer, I filled the can with orange slices tossed with Thyme and salt.  The chicken was very juicy and very flavorful.

Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry.  Place body over can (drumsticks down). Peel two oranges and separate into slices.  Sprinkle with thyme and salt.  Toss well.  Stuff the orange slices into the opening in the top of the chicken.  Brush olive oil over all skin.  Sprinkle the Beer Can Chicken seasoning over the chicken.  Use your hands to rub the seasoning on areas that you can not sprinkle.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  Be sure to place the bottom portion of your broiler pan underneath the grill pan to catch grease.  You will find this recipe will create a great deal of smokiness if cooked indoors instead of outside on the grill.  However, outside on the grill will result in lots of fire.  Have water ready.

After 2 - 2 1/2 hours you will remove a gorgeous browned, well-seasoned chicken.

Who doesn't like crispy skin from turkey or chicken?  Yumm!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Casseroles For Fall

I can tell it's time for the weather to be cooler.  The sun comes up a bit later in the morning and sets a bit earlier in the evening.  This is the time of year that food starts to get appealing again.  Believe it or not, I found myself thinking about my Thanksgiving menu a couple of days ago.  I know that's crazy, but I like to find at least a couple of creative ideas each year.

Thanksgiving aside, I'm ready to start adding some casseroles back into my weekly dinners.  So many of them are comfort food and tonight's is no exception.

Roasted Potato and Chicken Casserole

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3 breasts)
8 medium potatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp hot sauce
2 cups shredded cheese - I like Kraft Mexican Blend with a Touch of Philly
10 slices of bacon (fried, drained, and crumbled)
1/4 cup diced green onions

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
Cut the chicken breasts into 1/2" cubes
Cut the potatoes (unpeeled) into 1/2" cubes
In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and hot sauce
Add the potatoes into bowl and stir to coat
Scoop the potatoes into a 9 x 13" baking dish coated with non-stick spray
Bake to potatoes for 45 -50 minutes (stirring every 15 minutes) until browned on the outside
There should be olive oil mixture remaining in the bowl
Add chicken cubes to the bowl and stir to coat - let marinate while the potatoes cook
Lower the oven temp to 400 degrees
Top the potatoes with the raw marinated chicken
Mix together the cheese, bacon, and green onions
Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the chicken
Bake for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the topping is bubbly

Serve with sour cream, ranch dressing, or extra hot sauce.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cooking With Fresh Produce - Stuffed Mushrooms

I picked up my second bag of produce from the Community Helpings Co-op tonight and it was stuffed full of  wonderful fresh produce.  This co-op is unbelievable!  What a bargain.  Just check out what I picked up for just $21.50.  I should have taken pictures again so I could share.  This is AWESOME!

4 cucumbers
6 plums
3 bell peppers
5 white onions
1 lb green beans
1 lb broccoli crowns
5 apples
8 pears
1 bunch bananas
1 spaghetti squash
1 clam shell of grape tomatoes
2 kiwis
1 bunch of red grapes
1 honey dew melon
1 bunch of celery

I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting - the bag was soooo heavy!

Emma and I created a fabulous recipe to use the fresh mushroom that came out of the last bag.  We stuffed them with a mixture of the following:

1 lb sausage (cooked, crumbled, and drained)
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded or fresh mozzarella
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Cook and brown the sausage.  Make sure all grease is removed.
Add cheeses and spices.  Stir to melt cheeses and mix spices.
Stuff 1 Tbsp full of mixture into mushroom caps.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.


Monday, August 27, 2012

A Fabulous Find!

A couple of months ago I read about this produce co-op and I thought it sounded like a good idea.  But . . . I was reluctant to try it out.  I didn't know anyone who had participated and I wasn't sure about the quality of the produce they would provide.  The prices were great, but I had to pay in advance and then pick it up at a particular location within a 15 minute window.  So much pressure!!! :)

Last Thursday I decided I would give it a try one time.  I placed an order for the Produce Basket, the Lunch Box Kit, and 5 lbs of sweet potatoes.  With the delivery fee and the required one time $2.00 contribution for coop bags, my total came to $40.00.  Take a look at a snapshot of the Produce Basket.

This picture doesn't begin to do justice to what was in the basket.  There were bananas, plums, nectarines, fresh ginger, cilantro, Napa cabbage, button mushrooms, tomatoes, lettuce, oranges, apples, carrots, potatoes, and cauliflower.  The bag had to weigh about 30 lbs.  The Lunch Box Kit had 10 single serve packages of baby carrots, pretzels, and animal crackers.  There were five single servings of banana chips.  There were baby bananas, 10 small apples, and 10 small pears.  What a bargain at $13.50!  Amazingly, everything was very fresh and well worth the money spent.

When I arrived at the pick up point, there were probably 50 people waiting in line to get their produce.  Pick up went very quickly.  Everything was sorted into bags and boxes and our orders were labeled with our names.  I had quite a time carrying all of my purchases all the way to the car.  I will certainly be back in two weeks for the next delivery.  What a bargain!

Check out the co-op when you have time.  Their website is  There are groups all over the St. Louis area.  I happen to be part of the High Ridge group.  Be sure to sign up for a group, and they will e-mail you a couple of days ahead to remind you to order, and then send you a reminder to pick up your produce on the delivery date.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Coleslaw - All Jazzed Up

4 cups shredded green cabbage
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
2 Granny Smith apples (julienned)
4 Tbsp Miracle Whip
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the green cabbage, red cabbage, carrot and apple.

In a glass bowl, whisk together the Miracle Whip, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, poppy seeds, salt and pepper.    Pour mixture over cabbage mixture and stir to combine.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

I love stuffed mushrooms, but sometimes I get tired of just the ordinary sausage and/or cheese stuffed mushrooms.  Here's a recipe that will mix it up a little.  I love this because I'm a huge fan of Stove Top Stuffing.  These are a great party appetizer or fantastic with a steak dinner.

1 pkg (6 oz) Stove Top Stuffing (chicken flavor)
1 1/2 cups hot water
2 lbs fresh mushrooms (I like Baby Portabellas)
2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz chopped fresh spinach (make sure it's washed)
1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix stuffing mix and water.  Remove mushroom stems and chop them.
Melt butter in skillet and add the chopped stems and garlic.  Cook and stir until tender.  Add to stuffing.  Stir in spinach and cheeses and mix well.

Spoon into mushroom caps.  Place in shallow baking pan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until tender.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Game Day CSB Dip

It's hard to believe, but Football Season is just around the corner.  At our house that means break out the   Tostitos and a fabulous dip.  This is one of the best - it's Super Cheesy Spinach & Bacon Dip.

3 oz fresh spinach washed and chopped (dry thoroughly)
1 1/2 lb Velveeta cut into bite-sized cubes
1 (8 oz) package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (cubed)
1 can (10 oz) Rotel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
10 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the tomatoes, Velveeta and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  Cook over medium heat to melt the cheese.  Once melted, add the chopped spinach and crumbed bacon.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dinner Disaster --- Almost

What a day today was!  And dinner tonight was challenging at best.
On the menu -- Thick cut sirloin steak, grilled veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, and Vidalia onion), and Grandma's Packet Potatoes.

What went wrong?  EVERYTHING!

First --- I placed the sliced potatoes for the Packet Potatoes on the aluminum foil sheets.  As I folded them up and lifted them to place them on a reinforcing sheet of foil, the sheets separated and about 1/3 of the potatoes splattered all over the stove and floor.  Oops!  Fewer leftovers!

Second -- The steaks were placed on the hot grill as always.  These were thick sirloin steaks so I let them cook undisturbed for 15 minutes.  When I lifted the lid of the grill, the steaks were on fire.  The steaks were somewhat charred on the bottom -- Ugh!

Third -- When I flipped the veggie basket, the first side of the veggies did not appear to be cooking very quickly.  I turned the flame level up just slightly and flipped the basket.  I left them undisturbed for about 7 minutes.  When I went back to check on them they were charred on the grill side.

All of this sounds disastrous, but believe it or not, dinner was fantastic!  The steaks were done to perfection (with a slight charred flavor), the potatoes were seasoned and perfectly softened, and the veggies had just the right cooking time and seasoning.

Dinner couldn't have been better, but it was certainly by accident.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tots On Top

When my kids were young we made this casserole for dinner at least once each month.  It never really had a name until one day my youngest daughter who was 3 at the time told me she wanted "Tots On Top" for dinner.  The name just stuck.

I've seen similar recipes, but none exactly the same.  This is quick, easy, and healthy.  I'm a believer in using fresh produce and avoiding processed foods.  It can't be done all the time, but fresh veggies are a no-brainer.

1 lb ground beef
1 small white onion (chopped)
1 can (10 3/4 oz) Golden Mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk
2 medium carrots (sliced or diced)
1/2 lb fresh green beans (ends snipped and cut into 1" pieces)
3 ears of corn on the cob
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 lb frozen Tater Tots

Wash, peel and slice carrots.  Wash, snip and slice green beans.  Remove the husk and wash the corn.  Use the Pampered Chef Kernel Cutter to remove the kernels from the ears of corn.  Place the Pampered Chef Steamer Basket in a 4 quart saucepan and add enough water in the pan to just reach the bottom of the steamer basket.  Add the veggies to the pan and salt well.  Place pan over high heat and steam for 6 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Brown the ground beef with the onion in a skillet.  Drain well once cooked.  Be sure to season the ground beef to your taste.

Place ground beef into 8" square baking dish.  Combine the soup and milk and whisk together.  Pour over the ground beef.  Top with the steamed veggies.  Sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese and then top with the Tater Tots.

Bake 45 minutes or until the Tater Tots are golden brown.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Veggie Pasta Salad

This is a great dish to take along to a party or pot luck.  It's colorful and crunchy, and oh so simple to make!

1 lb bow tie pasta
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup quartered black olives
1 cup fresh broccoli florets (bite-size)
1 cup fresh cauliflower (bite-size)
1 bottle (16 oz) Poppy Seed salad dressing or Italian (sweet or zesty) salad dressing
1/3 cup sunflower kernels

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.  Set aside to cool.

Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into bite-size florets.  Put into large serving bowl.  Halve the cherry tomatoes and quarter the olives and add to the bowl.  Toss in the pasta.  Drizzle with the salad dressing and toss to coat all ingredients evenly.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Sprinkle with the sunflower kernels just before serving.

My personal preference is the Poppy Seed dressing.  It's sweet and creamy.  My chefy daughter prefers the Zesty Italian version.  Both are good and sure to be a hit next time you need a dish to share.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Surprise American Dishes

I was web browsing tonight and ran across and found a couple of food trivia items I thought I'd share.  This is a great site if you get a chance to visit.

Fortune Cookies
Although associated with Chinese cuisine, fortune cookies are actually as American as apple pie. Food historians point to a number of possible pedigrees for this crunchy confection, but most agree that the first-ever fortune cookies were created in California in the early 20th century. The cookies, famous for the paper fortunes tucked inside their folds, were originally crafted by hand, using chopsticks. It wasn't until the 1960s that producers made the switch to machines, according to The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink by John F. Mariani. Chinese proverbs, suggested lottery numbers, jokes, biblical references, and quotes from pop culture are among the inspirations for the sayings inside.


French Dip Sandwich
Philippe Mathieu, a transplant from France to Los Angeles, is credited with inventing the famous French Dip sandwich: layers of warm, thinly sliced roast beef stacked on a French roll and bathed in the meat's natural juices. As legend has it, one day in 1918, Mathieu was preparing a sandwich in Philippe's, his Southern California restaurant, when he inadvertently dropped a French baguette into a nearby roasting pan filled with beef juices. His customer said he'd take the sandwich anyway, au jus and all, and the French Dip sandwich was born. Although Mathieu is undoubtedly associated with inventing the deli classic, some question whether he may have intentionally doused the baguette, or if it truly did take a fortuitous fall.

Interesting stuff!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shrimp Boil - Great For A Get-Together

Planning a family gathering, or a get-together with friends?  A Shrimp Boil is always a hit and really quite easy to prepare.  If you're looking to keep costs down, divvy up the ingredients and have your guests each bring one.

1 (3 oz) bag Shrimp or Crab Boil (found in the spice aisle or near the fresh seafood)
3 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
3 lbs small new red potatoes
5 ears of corn (cut into 3" pieces)
2 onions (quartered)
2 lbs smoked link sausage (cut into 1" pieces)
4 lbs large unpeeled shrimp
3 lemons (halved)
Fresh parsley

In a 12-quart stock pot bring 8 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the Shrimp or Crab Boil and Old Bay Seasoning.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add corn and simmer uncovered for 5 minute.  Add the onions, sausage and shrimp and simmer for 5 more minutes.  The shrimp should be opaque.

Drain and transfer to a large platter or a table covered in newspaper or brown paper bags.  Squeeze the juice of the lemons over the top and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Serve with sliced fresh baguette, cocktail sauce, and spiced mayo.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Easy Honey-Garlic Chicken

I just love it when I find a quick and easy recipe that makes a delicious dinner.  This is one of those.  This comes from

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast (sliced)
3 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables
1/2 cup Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
2 Tbsp honey
4 cloves garlic (minced)
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3 cups hot cooked rice

Cook chicken in large skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add vegetables, dressing, honey, garlic and ginger.

Cook and stir an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are heated through.

Serve with rice.

Okay - this recipe gave me a good start, but I like to jazz it up a little bit.  For starters, I slice up fresh veggies to stir fry instead of using frozen.  I like a combination of broccoli, carrots, onion, and snow peas.  The carrots need to cook a little bit longer than the five minutes noted to soften them, but not too much longer.  Add the onion and snow peas last.  They don't take long to cook at all.

I use my Pampered Chef Rice Cooker to cook the rice.  Perfect rice guaranteed every time.  Place 4 cups of water, 2 cups of rice, and 1 tsp salt in the rice cooker.  Place it in the microwave and cook on high for 5 minutes.  Cook at 50% power for 15 more minutes.  Let stand for five minutes before serving.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Are You Looking For An Easy Patriotic Dessert?

I saw this tonight on Party City's website.  This is a very patriotic dessert and would be so easy to make.  In fact, I plan to give this one a whirl on Wednesday.  What could be more appropriate for Independence Day and better for the awful heat we've been having?  It looks like they've used bananas, but I think I'll use marshmallows.  (Not a fan of bananas -- I know, that's almost unamerican -- but I don't like them.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dinner Ideas That Keep the Kitchen Cool

We lost a great film writer this week in Nora Ephron this week.  What a talented woman she was.  She wrote three of my favorite movies -- When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail.  My favorite Nora Ephron quote is "You should eat your last meal every day, because when the time comes, you probably won't feel like it."

 During the next week or two it sounds as though the temps will remain 100 degrees plus and I've been trying to get a little bit creative in the kitchen to serve healthy meals that will be appealing and satisfying to my heat weary family.

My Pampered Chef Grill Pan and Press will get a good work out for sure.  I think it may just be to hot to even step out and stand over the gas grill.  I don't say that very often.  Chicken breasts coated in olive oil and seasoned with one of my favorite Pampered Chef seasonings or rubs take 15 minutes to cook on the stove top.  They are perfect to serve whole or sliced and place on top of a salad.

The grill pan and press are also perfect to prepare the beef tenderloin medallions (available at Dierbergs).  I season these with salt and smokehouse pepper only and cook them for only about six minutes per side.  They are delicious and so tender.

The refrigerator is stocked with watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, grapes and cherries.  There are lots of veggies too -- carrots, celery, broccoli and cauliflower.  The veggies are perfect with Ranch salad dressing as a dip.  Quick, easy, and delicious.

Don't let the heat get the best of you.  Keep your family well fed even if they think they don't feel like eating.

Stay safe in this heat, and be sure to check on your neighbors -- especially those who are elderly or who you may suspect cannot keep their home cool.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heat Wave 2012!

I can't get over the forecast for the next week.  We have hot summers in St. Louis, but this is going to be ridiculous!  Four out of the next seven days will be 100 degrees or hotter - two days are projected to be 104.  That is beyond hot and there is just no escaping that heat if you have to be outdoors for more than a minute.

There are lots of hot weather recipes already posted on the blog.  This is a reminder of what to type in the search box above to find those recipes.

Fruit salad
Chicken Salad
Egg Salad
Hot Weather

Stay cool during this heat wave and feed your family lots of fresh fruit and veggies.  Don't use your oven, but fire up the grill outdoors if you need to cook.  Do what you can to keep the heat out of the house.

In anticipation of the heat I grilled a dozen burgers and 3 lbs of brats to keep in the fridge to just warm up in the microwave over the next few days.

I also have lots of melon, berries and grapes in the fridge to grab for a quick cool snack.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Tried A New Product Tonight - Daddy Hinkle's Instant Meat Marinade

I stopped to get a couple of steaks to grill for dinner.  As I walked down the condiment aisle, I spotted a trial size of a product I've never used before -- Daddy Hinkle's Instant Meat Marinade.  For $1.28 the package marinated and seasoned our steaks, and there was enough of the dry spice to sprinkle over the fresh broccoli  we steamed as our veggie for tonight.  The flavor I bought was Onion & Garlic (two of my favorite flavors).

Daddy Hinkle's comes in a two section package.  One side contains a liquid marinade and the other is a dry spice mixture to sprinkle over the steak.  I let the steaks marinate for about five minutes and then sprinkled them with the dry spice mixture on both sides and let them sit for about 10 minutes while the grill preheated.

I  trimmed the broccoli crowns and placed them into the Pampered Chef Steamer Basket.  I placed the basket in a 4-quart saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water.  I sprinkled them with sea salt and then about 1/2 tsp of the Daddy Hinkle's spice mixture.  I put the lid on the pan and cooked it over high heat for about 15 minutes.

I placed the steaks on the grill and let them cook for about five minutes on each side.  Once removed from the grill, I let them sit for about 10 minutes while I prepared a simple lettuce salad topped with fresh peach salad dressing.

This was a perfect hot summer night dinner.  I'll certainly be buying Daddy Hinkle's Instant Meat Marinade again.  The flavor of the steaks and the broccoli was terrific!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Liam! -- Total Cake Annihilation

Liam is one year old today!  He and his cousin, Christian shared a Double Trouble birthday party on Saturday.  What a day it was for both boys.  They had a blast!

There is positively nothing funnier than watching youngsters on their first birthday attempt to eat their cake.  Liam took it to a whole new dimension.  That little boy totally annihilated his cake.  But, he had fun!

This is precisely why all first birthday parties should be at home.  Liam went straight to Uncle Paul and Aunt Katy's bathtub from the high chair.  The good news . . . he is not permanently stained red.

I will forever remember this face!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Perfect Vegetarian Dish - Carrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad

I am the farthest thing from vegetarian that exists, but I do try to keep a few recipes handy for those times when I have people coming for dinner and I'm unsure of everyone's dining pleasures.  This is a salad that's perfect for your vegetarian friends.  I love it too, because it has three of my favorite ingredients.

4 medium garlic cloves (peeled and smashed)
Sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground red pepper flakes
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb baby carrots about the size of your pointer finger
3 oranges
3 avocados (chilled)
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cilantro sprigs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and smash the garlic and mix with a pinch of salt.  Work into a wet, smooth paste.  Put the paste into a large mixing bowl and add the cumin and red pepper flakes.  Add the olive oil and stir well.

Add the carrots and toss to coat with the oil and spices.  Sprinkle with 3 pinches of sea salt and continue to toss.  Pour the carrots into a baking dish.  Tilt the dish and pour 1/4 cup water into an empty spot to avoid removing any of the coating from the carrots.  Cover with foil and put in the oven.  Cook for 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook for about 25 more minutes.  The carrots should be as tender as the avocados.

While the carrots are roasting, peel and cut the orange into segments.  Pour any juice into a small bowl.

When the carrots are done, allow them to sit and cool until slightly warm.

Halve the avocados and remove the pits.  Cut the flesh lengthwise into slices about the same size as the carrots.  the slices should be sturdy enough that they don't break when you toss them.

Put the avocado slices in a large serving bowl and add the reserved oranges.  Combine the orange juice, lemon juice and 2 Tbsp olive oil, and a healthy pinch or two o sea salt.  Toss gently and well with your hands. Push the avocado to one side of the bowl.  Add the carrots a handful at a time, scraping and tossing them in the beautiful green liquid in the bowl before adding the next handful..  Make sure to scrape out and add all the garlicky spices left in the baking dish.  Toss it all together gently, being careful not to break the avocado slices.

Serve in a pretty serving dish and top with a little bit of Cilantro.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Even a Good Cook Can Make An "Oh No" Dinner

Last Friday night I went to happy hour at Jilly's in High Ridge with several of my co-workers.  In addition to the expected beverages :) we ordered lots of appetizers to share.  I had never had Deep Fried Cannelloni Bites, but these things were awesome!  After eating a bit more than my share, I was convinced I could make those yummy little bites myself.

As I did my grocery shopping last weekend I bought what I thought I would need to make them - Cannelloni noodles, ground beef, Sweet Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, onions, garlic, and bread crumbs.  The meat  mixture with cheese turned out absolutely awesome.  The flavor was spot on.  But . . . when it came to stuffing the cut cannelloni noodles, most of them split apart.  It's a little tough to bread and deep fry something that's falling apart before it goes into the deep fryer.  We wound up with a plateful of crispy noodles and crusty ground beef and sausage.  Top that with a little marinara sauce and that was dinner.

Such a disappointment!  From now on, if I want Cannelloni Bites I'll go to Jilly's or find them in the frozen section of my grocery store.  This is one recipe you won't find posted on this blog.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Irresistible Chicken Salad Sandwiches

We all have a favorite sandwich.  Mine happens to be Chicken Salad.  I fix this one of two ways -- either with canned chicken (the big 20 oz cans from Sam's) or leftover cooked chicken breasts that I cut into cubes.

2 cups of chicken
1/4 cup chopped bacon bits (I fry 4 strips of bacon and chop it)
3 stalks of celery finely chopped
2 green onions finely sliced (white part included)
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup Miracle Whip

This is always a crowd pleaser.  Sometimes I'll add a handful of Craisins to brighten it up.

Tip:  We have fried bacon with breakfast most weekends.  I freeze my leftover fried bacon to use in recipes like this when I need it.  That can be a real time-saver.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Strawberry Delight - The perfect summertime dessert

Summer begins at 6:09 pm on Wednesday, June 20th.  Get ready for the heat and humidity of summer and arm yourself with some recipes for delicious hot-weather food.

Strawberry Delight is the perfect dessert to take to an outdoor family gathering or to serve your family after a summer dinner.

One angel food cake (prepared)
2 (3.4 oz) pkgs Strawberry Jell-O
2 1/4 cup hot water
1 large tub of Cool Whip (32 oz)
2 small pkgs of frozen strawberries

Mix Jell-o and hot water until dissolved..  Add strawberries.  Let mixture sit until slightly thickened.  Fold in cool whip.  In a large bowl, break up the angel food cake into small pieces.  Add Jell-O mixture and stir well.  Pour into 9 x 13" pan.  Refrigerate until set.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pumpkin Bars

This post is for my sister, Kim, who will hit the half century mark on Friday.  Happy Birthday Kim!

We all have that one special recipe that we go to when we need to take goodies for a special event.  Pumpkin Bars is Kim's "go-to" recipe.  The only problem is she can't ever find the recipe.  Well, this post should fix that.  Just go to my blog and type "pumpkin" in the search box and this post will be at your finger tips.

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar
4 eggs (beaten)
2 cups pumpkin
1 cup oil

Mix ingredients together.  Pour into a jelly roll pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool fully and then frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 oz)
1 Tbsp cream
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Bring the cream cheese and butter to room temp.  Beat the cream cheese and butter with a mixer until fluffy. Add the liquid ingredients and the powdered sugar.  Mix well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sweet Glazed Carrots

I am always looking for new and delicious ways to add veggies to our meals.  I found this recipe on Kraft's website several months ago, and it's  become a regular at our house.  The kids love it!  It has just the right amount of tangy and sweet.

8 carrots (peeled and sliced)
1/2 cup Kraft Catalina salad dressing
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Cook carrots in boiling water in large saucepan 5 minutes or until crisp tender; drain.  Return to saucepan.

Add dressing brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce and mix lightly.  Cook on low heat 5 minutes or until carrots are evenly glazed, stirring frequently.

Stir in parsley and serve.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Grilled Pork and Pineapple

It's summertime and there is no better time to add fresh fruit to dinner.  Give this refreshing dish a try.  I use my Pampered Chef Pineapple Corer to easily peel and core the pineapple so it can be cut into perfect rings.

4 - 3/4" thick boneless pork chops
1 fresh pineapple (peeled and cored)
3 Tbsp orange marmalade
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup roasted, lightly salted cashew halves

Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cut pineapple into 1/2" thick slices and set aside.
Place the chops on a hot grill over medium-high heat.  Cook for four minutes.
Turn the chops and add the pineapple slices to the grill.
Brush chops and pineapple slices with 2 Tbsp of the orange marmalade.
Grill for 3 - 5 minutes longer until pork is fully cooked.

Combine yogurt and remaining marmalade.  Arrange pineapple and chops on plates.  Top with yogurt; sprinkle with roasted cashews (roughly chopped).

Friday, June 8, 2012

Grilled Veggies

There hasn't been much time for blogging lately.  My work world has been extraordinarily full the past many months and especially the last three weeks.  Monday we began transacting business in a new accounting/inventory software package.  There was data to convert and processes to reinvent.  We survived our first week and I am so proud of the exceptional people I work with.  What a fantastic team we are!  That hasn't left much time for cooking or thinking about recipes to share.

Last night I was just so hungry for good food.  I had to cook.  I went to Dierbergs for beef tenderloin medallions to put on the grill and decided we'd have some grilled veggies to go along with them.  This recipe makes use of my Pampered Chef BBQ Flexible Basket and it couldn't be any easier.

Slice your veggies into 1/2" chunks/slices.  Place them into a large bowl.  Drizzle olive oil over the top and then sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Shake to coat all veggies and allow to sit until about 10 minutes before the rest of your dinner is ready.

Place the veggies in the grill basket and secure the handles.  Place the basket on the grill and lower the lid (the handles will stick out the front of the grill).  Grill five minutes on each side.

So, you ask, what kind of veggies can be grilled?

My favorite:  Portabella Mushroom Caps and Yellow Onions -- Wash and slice the mushroom caps into 1/2" slices.  Peel and slice the yellow onion into 1/2" slices and then separate into rings.  These veggies grilled together are a perfect compliment to a good steak.

Alternate:  Zucchini, Yellow Squash, and White Onion -- Wash and peel the zucchini and squash into 1/2" chunks.  Wash, peel and slice the onion into 1/2" slices and then separate into rings.  These are perfect with just about any grilled entree you choose.

Grilled veggies are a family favorite -- even the little kids like them.  There's just something about the grill that makes food good.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New York Strip Steak

My family is not very good about using up left overs.  In fact, we STINK at it.  I've been working hard to find ways to waste less food although our chihuahuas and Jack Russell/mutt don't mind a few leftover nibbles now and again.

Part of my efforts to waste less include looking for better cuts of meat that cost a bit more per pound, but I purchase meal-size portions for everyone.  I've found that we waste a lot less and we're enjoying meals that much more.

Last night we had some really wonderful New York Strip Steaks that I found in the butcher case at Dierbergs. They really do have the best meat in any of the St. Louis area supermarkets.  They were about 13 - 14 oz each.  I let the steaks sit on a cutting board seasoned on both sides with Lawry's Seasoning Salt and McCormick Smokehouse Pepper while the gas grill preheated.

The steaks were placed on the top rack of a very hot grill.  They were turned once after about 7 minutes and then left to cook for about another 7 minutes.  I removed them from the heat and let them rest for about 20 minutes before serving.

I served these with fresh green beans steamed and topped with butter, cheese garlic bread, and an Italian salad.  There was a big thumbs up from the entire family (Luke included) and almost no leftovers.  Hurray!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

For My Bird Watching Friends

If you're a gardener who grows squash, small pumpkins or gourds, here's an idea to use some of your extra bounty this year.  Turn these into feeders for the birds in your yard.

Cut the squash, pumpkin or gourd in half.  Remove all seeds from the center.  Drill four holes (2 sets directly across from one another) about 1" down from the top.  Push 1/4" dowels about 6" longer than the width of the squash to allow about a 3" perch on either side of the feeder.  Fill the center with the favorite food of your neighborhood birds.  Use wire to hang the feeder from a tree limb, fence, or hook.

What a great way to spoil your backyard feathered friends!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sizzling Salads - A delicious new Kraft product

We tried a new Kraft product for dinner last night, and it was surprisingly good - Sizzling Salads Southwest Chicken Dinner.  The kit comes with a bottle of seasoning sauce in which to marinate and/or cook the chicken and a bottle of salad dressing to compliment the seasoning.  All you add is chicken, lettuce, and any other salad fixings you'd like.

Our Southwest Salad consisted of 1 1/2 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1" strips.  I cooked the chicken in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat.  I sprinkled sea salt and Pampered Chef Southwest Seasoning on both sides of the chicken as it cooked.  Once the chicken was fully cooked, I added 1/2 the bottle of of chicken seasoning sauce and let it cook for about 1 1/2 minutes more.

I combined Iceberg lettuce and spinach in a large serving bowl.  I drained and rinsed a small can of black beans and drained a small can of yellow sweet corn.  These were sprinkled over the top of the greens.  I added thinly sliced red onion and Kraft shredded Mexican Cheese and then tossed the salad well.

The kit contained a bottle of BBQ Ranch salad dressing.  (I thought that sounded kind of gross - but it was actually very good.)  This dinner salad got a big thumbs up from the whole family and we'll definitely be enjoying it again soon.

There were several other flavors too.  I bought the Asian Chicken Dinner Kit and plan to make that with Iceberg, Romaine, and Spinach, Mandarin Oranges, Mozzarella Cheese, red onion and toasted sesame seeds.  The kit comes with Teriyaki Ginger chicken seasoning sauce and Toasted Sesame salad dressing.  I can't wait to try it!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beet-Orange Salad

Boil 1 lb of beets in salted water until tender (about 30 - 40 minutes)
Drain, then peel and sliced into wedges.
Toss into a serving bowl with   1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar, 2 Tbsp chopped chives or scallions, and salt and pepper.  Add 1 bunch of Romaine or Green Leaf Lettuce
Add 2 segmented blood oranges and toss

Buttered Egg Noodles

Cook 12 oz wide egg noodles in salted boiling water until al dente.  Transfer 1/4 cup cooking water to a skillet.  Stir in 4 Tbsp butter.  Add some chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper.  Drain the noodles and toss with the sauce.

This is a simple side dish to serve with just about any meat, veggie, and salad.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grilled Caribbean Chicken Salad

I was fortunate enough to receive a fantastic new charcoal/gas grill for my birthday from my parents and my sister.  We broke it in over the weekend grilling some wonderful steaks and baked potatoes.  I'll post a couple of pictures of the grill soon.  It's a biggie!

Here is another recipe that will put that new grill to work.  Keep the house cool and fix this for dinner when the weather is hot.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup teriyaki marinade
4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
4 cups chopped green leaf lettuce
1 cup chopped red cabbage
5.5 oz pineapple chunks in juice (drained)
tortilla chips

Pico De Gallo
2 medium tomatoes (diced)
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
2 tsp chopped fresh jalapeno pepper (seeded and deribbed)
2 tsp finely minced fresh cilantro
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and chill.

Honey Lime Dressing
1/4 cup Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
 1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp lime juice

Blend all the ingredients in a small bowl with an electric mixer.  Cover and chill.

Marinate the chicken in the teriyaki for at least two hours.  Use a resealable plastic bag.  Put in fridge.  Preheat grill.  Grill the chicken for 4 - 5 minutes per side or until done.  Toss the lettuces and cabbage together and divide into 2 large serving size salad bowls.  Divide the pico de gallo and pour in equal portions over the two bowls of greens.  Divide the pineapple and sprinkle on salads.  Break tortilla chips into large chunks and sprinkle on salads.  Slice the grilled chicken into thin strips and divide among bowls.  Pour the dressing into two small bowls and serve with the salad.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Honey Garlic Pork Chops

It's certainly grilling time again, so I'm ready to find new and interesting ideas to grill for dinner.  We spend most of our last Spring, Summer, and early Fall outdoors, and that means cooking outdoors as well.  Meat and veggies on the grill, pared up with a salad and bread make a perfect dinner.

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp dry sherry
2 minced garlic cloves
4 boneless center cut pork chops

Combine all ingredients except pork chops in small bowl.

Place pork chops and marinade in gallon-size Ziploc bag.  Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.  Turn frequently.

Remove pork chops from marinade.  Heat remaining marinade in small saucepan over medium heat to simmer.

Grill chops over medium heat  12 - 15 minuets, turning once during grilling.  Keep chops 4 - 6" above flames.  Baste frequently with marinade.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Not In The Mood To Cook

It doesn't happen often, but I haven't been in a mood to cook the last couple of weeks.  I don't know if it's just a matter of too much going on in life or maybe a case of Spring Fever.  Our weather has been extraordinary lately and the urge to get outdoors is much greater than any urge to spend time in the kitchen.

Check back often to see what may be going on in the kitchen . . . I can't stay away too long.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato fans -- delight!!!  These are awesome and easy enough to make for dinner any night of the week.

2 large sweet potatoes (scrubbed, but not peeled)
2 oz cream cheese (cubed)
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise.  Place cut-side down in foil-lined baking dish.  Bake at 425 degrees for 35 minutes or until tender.

Scoop out center of potatoes into a bowl.  Leave 1/4" in shells.  Add cream cheese, milk, sugar, and cinnamon to sweet potatoes in bowl.  Mash until well blended.

Fill shells with potato mixture; top with nuts.  Bake 8 minutes or until potatoes are heated through and nuts are toasted.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Crab Cakes - I can do that!

I LOVE crab legs and often find myself with some crab left over and need a creative way to use it up.  Heaven knows, it's too expensive and way too good to waste!  Tonight I found myself with about 1 lb of crab meat left, so I thought, "Why not try crab cakes?"  I googled crab cake recipes and combined the ingredients from several that I thought sounded good and came up with some pretty tasty cab cakes for dinner if I do say so myself. . .

1 lb crab meat - I used fresh, but I imagine you could use canned
1 1/2 cups of fresh bread crumbs
3 green onions sliced (green and white parts)
2 Tbsp Miracle Whip
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp hot sauce
1 egg
 2 Tbsp Parsley flakes
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice

Combine all ingredients stirring to mix well.  Form mixture into about 6 cakes and set aside.

Prepare a dipping sauce of:
1/2 cup Miracle Whip
2 tsp sweet chili sauce (I like the Thai brand - it's pretty spicy though.)
2 tsp fresh squeezed orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Stir together and refrigerate until ready to serve with crab cakes.

Prepare three medium sized bowls as your breading station.
Bowl 1 = 1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
Bowl 2 = 2 eggs beaten with 1/4 cup of water
Bowl 3 = 1 cup of dried bread crumbs and 1 cup of Panko bread crumbs seasoned with salt

Heat 1 1/2 cups of peanut oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat.

Place each crab cake in flour to coat.  Dip into the egg wash.  Coat with bread crumbs.  Place into hot oil.
Cook for 3 minutes on each side or until completely crunchy on both sides.

Serve with dipping sauce.

I have to say, these were really good for a first try!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easter Sunday Breakfast - Baked French Toast

Sunday is Easter, and chances are, if you have family from out of town, they'll be visiting.  Baked French Toast makes the perfect breakfast  if you need to feed a crowd in a hurry on Sunday morning before church.  You put this together the night before and bake it before serving the next morning.

1 loaf of French bread (16 oz) sliced into 1" slices
8 eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Dash of salt

Coat a 9 x 13" baking dish with non-stick spray or butter.  Place the bread slices in two rows in baking dish.  Combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and whisk until well blended.  Pour mixture over the bread slices and cover evenly.  Make sure slices fit nicely into the bottom of the pan.  Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning:
Remove baking dish from refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Top the French Toast with Oat Topping (recipe below)
Bake for 40 minutes.
Serve with Maple Syrup

Oat Topping:
2 sticks of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Quick Oats
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well.  Sprinkle topping on French Toast before baking.

This is yummy served with sausage patties for something savory to go with the sweet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Loaded Baked Potatoes

Who doesn't love a baked potato?  And what makes them better than loading them up with all of our favorite indulgences?

6 baking potatoes (3 lbs)
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
6 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
3 green onions (sliced)
1/2 cup cooked bacon bits (about 1/2 lb)

Wash and pierce potatoes with a fork.  Place on a plate and microwave on high for 4 minutes.  Remove from microwave, turn over, and then return to microwave.  Microwave on high for 4 more minutes.

Place microwaved potatoes on heated grill and grill for 12 - 15 minutes (until potatoes are crisp).  Turn potatoes occasionally.  Remove potatoes from grill and split.  Top with desired ingredients.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Perdue Seasoned Roaster

I found yet another new product in the grocery store tonight and I can't wait to try it.  I think everyone will be home for dinner tomorrow night, so I think we'll try this then.  It is a 6 lb seasoned roasting chicken already in a cooking bag sealed in airtight packaging and sold with the fresh chicken in the meat case at Dierbergs.  The cooking directions say to bake it at 350 degrees in the cooking bag in a 9 x 13" baking dish for about 2 hours (115 minutes to be exact).

This is something I can have the hubby get in the oven about an hour before I get home.  That will give me an hour to prepare a veggie, salad, and bread or pasta item to compliment our yummy roasted chicken.  It doesn't get much easier than this.

Thanks, Perdue!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kraft Fresh Take - Cheddar Jack & Bacon

I have been eyeing the new Kraft product in the grocery stores for the last few weeks, but finally had a coupon and decided to give it a try.  There are six flavors of the new Kraft Fresh Take.  They are a combination of cheese, spices and breadcrumbs in one package and are intended to be used to coat fish, chicken or pork, or mixed into ground beef.  They are found near the cheese products in the dairy section of your grocery store.

I bought the Cheddar Jack & Bacon flavor Fresh Take and used it to coat boneless pork chops.  It was so simple.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  I dropped each of my boneless chops into the bag of mixed cheese, spices, and breadcrumbs to coat them and then placed them on a baking stone.  I placed them in the oven and baked for about 30 minutes (I like my pork fully cooked - not rare or medium).  The instructions said not to turn the chops over half way through.  The did get a little mushy on the bottom, while crunchy on the top.
Maybe preheating the baking dish would help to crisp the bottom.  I'll try that the next time.

I heard only positive comments from the whole family about the flavor of the chops.  I served them with a fresh green salad and steamed cauliflower.  A really tasty dinner in about 40 minutes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken & Broccoli

I needed dinner in a hurry tonight and looking in the fridge and pantry, I found two jars of Ragu Alfredo Sauce, chicken breasts, and fresh broccoli.  Hmmm perfect for Fettuccine Alfredo - just add chicken and broccoli.

2 chicken breasts
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp Pampered Chef Herbs de Provence
1/4 tsp salt
6 cups chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1 lb fettuccine noodles
4 cups fresh broccoli florets
2 jars Ragu Alfredo Sauce

Combine olive oil, Herbs de Provence and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add chicken breasts and and turn to coat with seasoning.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes at room temperature.  Preheat the grill pan and press.  Place chicken breasts on hot grill with press on top.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Turn and cook for 5 minutes on the other side.  There should be good grill marks on both sides.  Turn off heat.  Turn chicken breasts one more time and leave on grill pan still covered with press for another five minutes.  Then, move chicken breasts to cutting board and slice into chunks.

Pour chicken stock and salt into stock pot.  Bring to a boil.  Add fettuccine noodles and salt.  Add broccoli and allow to cook for three minutes.  Remove broccoli and set aside.  Let the noodles boil in the stock until soft.  There should still be a small amount of chicken stock left in the pot.  Add broccoli back.  Add chicken chunks and pour in both jars of Alfredo Sauce.  Stir well to combine and heat through over medium heat.

This is so yummy and simple.  I served it with fresh fruit on the side.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sirloin Tips and Rice Pilaf

Are you looking for that simple but really great tasting dinner to wow your family?  This just may be it.  Dinner will be ready in about 40 minutes and everyone will love it!

4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup orzo pasta
1 cup white rice
2 cups chicken broth
6 green onions sliced (white and green parts)
2 Tbsp fresh chives (sliced thin)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 lbs sirloin steak (cut into 1" cubes)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add orzo and toast until golden (about 4 - 5 minutes).  Add rice and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until rice is tender.  Remove from heat, add green onions, chives and cheese.  Stir to combine.

Toss cubed beef with salt and pepper.  While the pilaf is simmering, heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook steak until browned on all sides (about 5 mins).  Add garlic, parsley, and zest; cook for 1 minute more.

Add lemon juice and wine to the pan and deglaze.  Serve steak with the rice pilaf.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Family's Favorite New Pampered Chef Product

Every once in a while you have one of those situations arise that make you go Hmmmm.

The new Pampered Chef products for Spring arrived at my house yesterday.  I spent the evening unpacking and finding places for the new goodies to be stored.  In my little house, that's no easy task.  I must say there are a few items still waiting to find a place, like the new double wall tumbler.  Emma saw it last night and she spent 15 minutes telling me why she should have the tumbler for driving back and forth to school and for at school.  Tonight, Luke came home from work and decided it looked like the perfect cup/glass for his iced tea.  He didn't ask, he just picked it up, filled it up, and proceeded to get comfy and watch TV.

I want the tumbler.  It's perfect for me to use at work.  I'm afraid we may have to buy a couple more of these.  We have other family members who haven't seen this yet, and I have a sneaking suspicion they'll want it too.

Stay tuned for the outcome!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pampered Chef Spring Samples Arrived Today

Quite an exciting evening!  I unpacked two boxes of new products tonight.  I am looking forward to lots of new BBQ recipes this Spring and Summer.  There is a new veggie basket, a grill pan (for pizza of all things), a grill pan for beer can chicken (it can be used with or without the beer can), and tons of new pantry sauces and spices.  There are lots of new dinnerware pieces too.

If you've been toying with the idea of a Pampered Chef party, this is the time!

Lemon Poke Cake

2 round white cake layers (9" ) baked and cooled
2 cups boiling water
1 pkg (6 oz) Lemon flavored gelatin
1 pkg (3.4 oz) Lemon flavored instant pudding
1 cup cold milk
3 cups thawed whipped topping

Pierce prepared cakes with large fork all over.

Add boiling water to gelatin mix; stir until completely dissolved.  Pour over cake layers.  Refrigerate 3 hours.

Beat pudding mix and milk in a large bowl with whisk for 2 minutes.  Stir in the whipped topping.  Dip 1 cake pan in warm water and then unmold onto plate.  Spread with about 1 cup of the pudding mixture.  Unmold second cake layer and carefully place on the first cake.  Frost top and sides of cake with remaining pudding mixture.  Refrigerate one hour.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Roasted Chicken for Dinner Tonight

1 - 7 lb roaster chicken
3/4 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp rosemary leaves
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
3/4 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp olive oil
1 orange sliced into thin slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse chicken under water and place in a 9 x 13" baking dish.  Slice orange into very thin slices.  Do not peel and do not use ends.  

Lift skin on chicken to separate from meat.  Combine all spices with olive oil in a small bowl.  Rub spice mixture under skin and all over skin to season chicken.  Stuff all orange slices into chicken.

Bake for 2 1/4 hours.  Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.  

Luke told me this was the best chicken ever!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Onions, Garlic, Shallots

Store onions, garlic, and shallots in a cool, dry spot, and they'll last a month. Handy to have: red, yellow, and sweet onions.

Do not store onions and potatoes near one another.  They emit gasses that shorten the shelf life of one another.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Almond Chicken - A quick dinner idea

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup of your favorite Italian salad dressing
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (divided)
2 cups fresh green beans (trimmed and halved)
1 cup white rice
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Combine 2 cups of chicken broth and 1 cup white rice in a saucepan with 1/2 tsp salt.  Cover and cook over high heat until it comes to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is soft.

Meanwhile, cook chicken in Italian dressing in large skillet on medium-high heat for about 4 minutes on each side or until evenly browned.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cover; simmer for five minutes.  Add the trimmed green beans; cook for 5 more minutes or until chicken is done.

Place cooked rice on a serving platter.  Top with chicken and green beans.  Sprinkle with almonds.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Whole New World

Today, in just a few moments time I saw my seven month old grandson discover a whole new world.  We recently discovered he had some trouble with his vision and today he got his glasses.  His little face was just lit up all evening as he finally reached for the things that he could never really focus on before.  What a joy to watch him pick up snacks and reach for toys.  His little face was filled with wonder all evening.  There is simply nothing better!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sauteed Veggies

2 small zucchini
2 small yellow squash
1 small white onion
1 small fennel bulb (also called anise)

Wash, peel and slice all veggies into bite-sized pieces.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 Tbsp butter and one Tbsp olive oil.  Add veggies and saute until softened.

This is so easy and soooo good.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Oven Roasted Veggies - Works on the Grill Too

1 zucchini, cut into 1 1/2" chunks
1 cup button mushrooms
1 yellow squash, cut into 1 1/2" chunks
1 cup large cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup Zesty Italian Dressing
2 Tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Combine vegetables, tomatoes and dressing.  Spoon onto center of large piece of heavy-duty foil.  Bring up foil sides.  Double fold top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside.

Grill 8 - 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender, turning after 4 minutes.

Cut slits in foil to release steam before opening packet.  Sprinkle vegetable mixture with cheese.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Grandchildren Are Blessings

 Eddie and I are so fortunate.  Pictured above are grandson, Christian who is 2 1/2, grandson Liam is 7 months, and granddaughter Elisa was born just a week and a half ago.  They are truly bright spots in our lives.

Today, my mom and my sister's family came for a quick visit and had the opportunity to see just how much energy can be created in one room by three small children.  I have a feeling that the energy meter will only continue to go up from here.  It was great to spend time with Mom, Kim and family.  We went to Paul and Katy's so they could see Baby Elisa.  She is such a dainty little girl, so sweet and so content.

It's such fun to play with the kids!  I sure do go to bed tired after I spend a day with any of them.  I ask you, can you possibly have a bad day when you come home after work and hear a 2-year-old scream "Bammy" with brightest smile plastered across his face?  Or see the big smile of a 7-month old when he sees you're home?  There just simply isn't anything better than knowing they love you.

I'm looking forward to lots of quality time with Baby Elisa too.  She's still a little young for her crazy Grammy to get her all wound up.  It won't be long though.  Once Katy goes back to work, Eddie will be watching all three of them during the day.  I think Papa's gonna get a work out!  I can't wait to see our own little Mickey Mouse Club in action.

Guess Who Needs Glasses

At a well-baby check up two weeks ago, the pediatrician suggested that we have Liam see a Pediatric Ophthalmologist to have his eyes evaluated.  Last Tuesday Liam saw Dr. Beck, and after a lengthy exam she determined that he's far-sighted.  The vision in his right eye is worse than his left, often causing his right eye to drift to the center.  She recommends corrective lenses.  Is there anything more adorable than a baby in glasses?  Check out this picture of Liam at his fitting on Thursday.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grilled Chicken - Mango Salad

I found this recipe at Dierbergs not so long ago, and it's really a good one!

2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp Caribbean jerk seasoning (divided)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to even thickness
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 Tbsp rice or white wine vinegar
1 (5 oz) bag baby spinach, rinsed and drained
1 mango, pitted, peeled, and cubed
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and 1 tsp of the jerk seasoning.  Rub over chicken.  Let stand until sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.  Place chicken on oiled grid over medium-high heat; cover and grill until internal temperature is 165 degrees (about 5 mins/side).  Let stand 5 minutes before slicing crosswise into strips.  In screw top jar, combine oil, juice concentrate, vinegar, and remaining 1 tsp jerk seasoning.  Cover and shake vigorously to blend.  Place spinach in large bowl.  Drizzle 2 Tbs of the dressing over spinach; toss until well mixed.  Divide spinach among 4 individual plates.  Top with mango, onion and chicken strips.  Serve with remaining dressing.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mushroom Risotto

2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable broth
1 (10.75 oz) can condensed golden mushroom soup
1 tsp minced garlic
6 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Stir together all ingredients, except Parmesan in slow cooker.  Cook on high, stirring every 30 minutes for 2 hours.  Check consistency.  Continue to cook, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Be careful not to overcook risotto.  (Rice should be al dente, not mushy.)

Stir in Parmesan before serving.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Nuts - A Healthy Snack

1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Allspice
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg white
3 cups mixed nuts, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts and pecans

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Mix sugar, cinnamon, allspice, seasoned salt, pepper and nutmeg in small bowl until well blended.  Beat egg white in large bowl until foamy.  Add nuts; toss to coat well.  Add spice mixture; toss to coat nuts evenly.

Spread nuts in a single layer on lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake 1 hour, stirring once.  Cool slightly and break apart.  Cool completely.  Store in airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Meet Elisabeth Lynn -- The Newest Addition to the Family

There's no question about it, our newest grandbaby is a beauty!  Elisabeth Lynn was born at 10:04 a.m. on January 25th.  She is perfectly healthy and simply gorgeous.  At 6 lbs 13 oz and 19 1/2" long she is a dainty little girl.  We're so anxious to spend more time with her.

Mommy, Daddy and big brother Christian are all doing well.  It will be fun to see how Christian will adapt to having Elisa at home.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Very Rich French Onion Soup

I love a good French Onion Soup, and I'm always trying to perfect the recipe.  Here's my latest . . .

1 stick of butter
4 medium white onions (sliced thinly)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup of red wine
3 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 heaping Tbsp flour
8 cups beef broth
1 loaf French bread
1/2 lb mozzarella cheese (cut into small cubes)

Melt the stick of butter in a large 12" skillet over medium heat.  Slice the onions and mince the garlic.   Add to the butter with the bay leaves and thyme.  Add salt and pepper and cook until the onions are caramelized (about 25 minutes).

Add the wine, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated (about 5 minutes).  Add the flour to the onions and cook while stirring for about 10 minutes.  Add the beef broth while stirring constantly.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

While the soup simmers, slice the French bread into 1" cubes.  Toss them into a skillet and toast in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until crunchy.

To serve, place a handful of toasted bread cubes and several cheese cubes in the bottom of a soup bowl.  Spoon the simmering soup into the bowl and serve immediately.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Apricot Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Black-Pepper Sauce

Pork tenderloin is one of those items that you'll find on sale frequently at the grocery store.  I stock up on it when I find it and we have it prepared in one of many ways once a week or so.  Here is one of our favorite recipes. It came from

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 lb pork tenderloin
14 shallots (peeled and halved lengthwise)
2 shallots (coarsely chopped for sauce)
1 (10 oz) jar all-fruit apricot jam
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 1/2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp Thyme

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add pork and halved shallots to skillet.  Brown pork on all sides, turning occasionally, 6 - 8 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat.

Brush pork in skillet with half the jam; drizzle 2 Tbsp broth over shallots.  Transfer skillet to oven.  Roast, turning shallots occasionally until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 155 degrees, 30 - 35 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven.  Using tongs, transfer pork and shallots to a plate.  Let rest (it will continue to cook; temperature should reach 160 degrees).

Place skillet over medium-high heat; add remaining chopped shallots.  Sprinkle with salt; add remaining jam and 6 Tbsp broth.  Deglaze skillet, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon; add cranberries, vinegar, and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until berries are juicy, about 5 minutes.  Stir in thyme.

Slice pork; divide among plates.  Serve with cranberry pan sauce and shallots.