Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Cranberry, not just a relish

The cranberry. Because of it's nutrient and antioxidant qualities it is considered by food experts to be one of the "super fruits" yet for most people it brings to mind Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Generally it is served as fresh cranberry relish, or even more commonly as a relish from a can. Of course you can always find it in the juice form and in most stores as a dried berry in the same aisle that raisins and prunes are stored.

Until a couple years ago I never really gave this berry much thought outside these two holidays. So when I went hunting for a bag of fresh berries in February I was shocked to discover that stores only sell them in their fresh state for only two months of the year. (In my area from late October/early November until the end of December.) Apparently there is not enough demand for fresh berries outside of these two months so cranberry farmers put the majority of their produce into the form of canned berries, dried berries, and juice that can be bought 12 months a year.

Because of this I was left with the choice of canned berries or dried berries for my recipe. I was disappointed, but in the end the dried worked out fairly well. Still, I determined to buy up some extra bags the following November and freeze them for use later in the new year. The berries left in their bags freeze well and can be used later in all sorts of recipes or even as fresh cranberry relish.

The following are two recipes that call for fresh cranberries. (Note: you could substitute dried, but the fresh is preferred.) They are favorites in our home and I encourage you to pick up a couple bags of fresh berries now, even if you don't plan to try the recipes for a couple months. The berries will last up to (or even a little over) a year in your freezer.

Cranberry Orange Bread

I found this recipe at Since it isn't my own and I've done little to adapt it I have linked the name to the recipe. Be sure to check it out and print off a copy for your own files.

My thoughts: Every Christmas I try to bake some sort of seasonal bread to share with our neighbors and friends. The last several years I have made a family favorite, Lemon Bread, but this year I decided to try something different. Since I still had two bags of cranberries in the freezer I went hunting for a cranberry bread recipe. There are several, but this one seemed the easiest. It turned out well and went fast, so I ended up making a second batch.

Notes regarding the recipe: The recipe calls for 1 cup of cranberries. Each bag of cranberries from the store contains approximately 4 cups, so to save time I just multiplied everything in the recipe by four. This required a large bowl, but ended up giving me 10 small loafs of bread, perfect for sharing. If you decide to double, triple or quadruple the recipe be sure to use a stand mixer, not a hand mixer or a spoon. The batter gets thick and sticky, which makes it difficult to stir. Although the batter is thick it cooks into a light, fluffy, sweet yet tart bread.

I omitted the walnuts, not so much because people aren't crazy about nuts (or have allergies), but because I didn't have any on hand. I noted that it is also possible to make this recipe gluten free so long as the cook substitutes gluten-free flour for the regular flour.

Braised Brisket with Cranberries

This is another favorite recipe of mine. It's such a delicious meal on a cold winter evening (or Sunday dinner), but since cranberries are not available past New Years it tends to be a recipe you can only make in November or December... Unless you freeze your berries! (This recipe is the reason I started buying up and freezing cranberries, it's that good.)It makes a lot of food, so it's perfect for serving when we entertain company. I love the mix of flavors - the tartness of the cranberries, the richness of the beef and the tang of the onions. I found this recipe a few years ago in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine.

My Thoughts: I do not have a big enough pot that can be used on the stove burner AND in the oven, so I had to move the meat from one pot to another, but otherwise this recipe was fairly simple. It takes a while to cook, but it smells so good and is so delicious that it is worth the wait.

Note: I prefer to use a bag of frozen pearl onions, but not all stores sell them -- or if they do, they sell them seasonally. Like the cranberries you may have to plan ahead and purchase the frozen onions earlier than when you plan to use the recipe. However, when frozen pearl onions are not available you should be able to find fresh pearl onions. The fresh require a little more work (i.e. pealing), but work just as well.

For those who prefer not to use drinking wine in their cooking you could substitute cooking wine, or vegetable/chicken broth (though this may slightly change the overall taste of the recipe).

Friday, December 03, 2010

Killer Leftover Turkey Soup

Got leftover turkey? Unclogged arteries? A yearning for tasty-but-bad-for-you soup?

Then try the soup recipe I invented to use up leftover turkey!


5-6 pieces of bacon
1/2 large red onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup whipping cream (whole milk will do)
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup diced turkey

Fry bacon and onions in large, deep frying pan, keeping them mostly separate. When the bacon is crispy, take it out and put it on a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off most of the bacon drippings, leaving about 2 Tbsp. Add the turkey, flour and the pepper to the onions and bacon drippings. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly. Then keep stirring occasionally for 2-4 minutes.

Cut bacon in small pieces and reserve, keeping warm.

Stir in broth. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Add cheese; when cheese is melted, add cream and bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until warmed through.

Serve soup warm with crusty bread.

It is pictured above garnished with a little bacon and served with Irish Soda Bread. I don't eat the soup (I'm not a carnivore), but I love the bread! It's good with almost any soup. A missionary friend from Japan gave me the recipe, and here it is:


4 cups unsifted flour [I used 2 cups white and 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour and it turned out great!]
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk (or yogurt)
2 eggs
4 oz (1 stick) butter or margarine
½ lb. raisins (optional)
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional) [I never have put in raisins or caraway seeds… ick]

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Toss mixture with hands (this gives the bread a light, airy consistency).

Add softened butter to the flour mixture, still using hands, and blend until evenly distributed. [I have found that if you use cold butter, and mix about half of it in evenly and the other half in small clumps, as you would for biscuits, it’s even lighter and better]

Add raisins and caraway seeds. Toss with hands.

Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Add buttermilk and blend well.

Pour egg mixture, a little at a time, into dry mixture. Blend well with a spoon. [I do the biscuit thing again – I make a hole in the center and pour it all in at once. Then I use my hands]

The dough should be heavy but not too wet. If it seems too dry, add a little more buttermilk [Mine is always VERY wet… and it always turns out tasty]

Dust hands with flour and mold dough into a round. Place dough in a greased 9” round pan. Dust top generously with flour. [Again, mine never really molds. It really just plops/spreads. But it’s always good]

Using the wrong end of a fork, cut a deep cross in the dough. This will prevent the bread from cracking, and will give it a traditional look. [Um… again, mine is too wet for this really to work]

Bake at 350F for one hour, or until well browned. Cool on rack.

I’ve started making honey butter to go with this – use equal amounts softened butter and honey, and stir together. Rocket science!

Enjoy! And don't blame me if your arteries clog!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Capitol Hill Cooks by Linda Bauer

Per Alison's request I am posting this review here. It originated on my other blog.

384 pages
Published August 16, 2010
by Taylor Trade Publishing
Lanham, MD

When I cook I tend to stick to family recipes or those found within the cookbooks I've been given, or even those posted online. It is definitely a rare occurrence for me to buy a cookbook, let alone borrow one from the library and an even more rare occurrence for me to post a review. But when I first learned of Capitol Hill Cooks: Recipes from the White House, Congress, And All of the Past Presidents I was immediately intrigued. A new release I requested a copy from my library and began flipping through. It is indeed an intriguing cookbook and as such I felt it deserved a little attention by way of a review.

At first glance I assumed Capitol Hill Cooks: Recipes from the White House, Congress and All of the Past Presidents to be a collection of recipes by cooks of the White House and Congress, but I was partly wrong. It is a collection of recipes, but they are from actual elected officials -- Senators, Representatives, and the President and his First Lady. In some ways this is even more exciting for those enthralled by American history and the Who's Who of Washington, DC politics both past and present. My only dispute with this title is that it claims to include recipes from "all of the former presidents" and that's not exactly true. I checked and at least one (Millard Filmore) does not have a recipe attributed to him. Still, the majority do and it's truly fascinating to see what were the favorite dishes of nearly all of our Commander in Chiefs.

Capitol Hill Cooks contains over 200 recipes from 49 states and 2 United States territories. The cookbook is divided by courses. First come the appetizers, then salads, next soups and stews, then side dishes, main dishes, meats, poultry and seafood, breads and finally cakes and cookies, pies and desserts and snacks and sauces. Last a special collection of "favorite dishes of the presidents."

As far as cooking goes, the recipes appear to be fairly simple and straight forward and, for the most part, do not require any special ingredients, though there are the few exceptions.

Personally, while I thought Capitol Hill Cooks was a really clever idea, it unfortunately did not contain enough recipes that I would use to justify my owning a copy. However, before the book is due back at the library I do plan to try a few recipes and I might end up changing my mind, we'll see. The top recipes to catch my eye include: Senator Wicker's (MS) Poppy Seed Chicken, Rep. Honda's (CA) Japanese Chicken Salad, Senator Boxer's (CA) Lemon Blueberry Muffins, and President Reagan's The Reagan Family Cranberry Sauce. And if I feel brave enough I might even try my hand at a favorite of President George Washington's -- Nelly Custis' recipe for Hoecakes or Thomas Jefferson's Chicken Fricassee.

Along with the tasty there are one or two recipes that made me grimace. Most notable was Rep. Coble's (NC) entry of Breakfast "Brains and Eggs," which do include the real thing: pork brains in gravy. (Ewww!!!) No thank you.

My only grievance with this cookbook is that it contains no pictures. I personally find myself more likely to try a recipe if I can see how the dish is appears. This cookbook could read more like a work of non-fiction if the reader doesn't mind reading all the measurements. Several of the recipes contain brief notes about the history of the dish or a the reason for its inclusion by the elected official. My favorite little tidbit was that the Eggnog recipe credited to George Washington was recently discovered written in Washington's own hand. How cool is that?

All in all, Capitol Hill Cooks is a fun cookbook for those looking for something historic this holiday season. Even though I don't plan to buy a copy I was glad that my library offers the option to preview this cookbook.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taco Pasta

I my quest for recipes that use tomato paste, I came across this meal on the $5 Dinner Mom blog. I changed several things based on what I had in my pantry and my personal tastes. If you'd like to see the original recipe, go here. It got rave reviews from the men in our house, which means it's a keeper. :-)


1 lb. ground beef (I used precooked hamburger from my freezer)
1- 6 oz. can tomato paste
15 oz. can pinto beans (original recipe calls for kidney beans, I think pinto beans are more "mexican" and it's what I had on hand)
1 pgk. taco seasoning (orginal recipe uses various spices, this was easier for me)
2 cups uncooked rotini pasta (I used whole grain pasta)
1 c. frozen corn (I used the last of a bag of corn I had on hand. You could substitute 1 can of corn)

1-2 cups shredded cheese (optional, I skipped this)

1. In large skillet, brown ground beef. Drain and return to skillet. Skip this step if you are using pre-cooked hamburger.
2. Add tomato paste plus 2 cans worth of water to the ground beef. Stir until paste becomes tomato-y sauce. Add drained and rinsed beans. Add corn. Add taco seasoning. Stir through and let simmer for 4-5 minutes until hot.
3. Add 2 cups uncooked pasta with 2 cups of water to the meat mixture. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 10-12 minutes, or until pasta has cooked through. Stir a few times while pasta is cooking.
4. Top with cheese if desired.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Orange Chicken

I came up with this recipe and was told it was a Top Ten by my husband.

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 C Blood Orange Jam (available at World Market)*
  • 2 T white wine (I use Charles Shaw chardonnay available at Trader Joes for 2.49) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
*Orange marmalade could work but I haven't tried it.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add chicken and cook 5 minutes on each side or until cooked thoroughly. Remove from pan. Add jam, wine, and garlic to pan; bring to a boil. Cook sauce 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and return chicken to pan, long enough to coat with sauce. Serve with rice. (I use brown basmati) Serves 4.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Making Ahead...Eating Healthier...Spending Less

I've really started getting into shopping sales and using coupons. Because I'm busy with working, babysitting and being a mom and wife, I limit myself to 2 stores within a few blocks of my house and one store by my work. I've also started to do small amounts of making things ahead. Here are some tips and ideas that have worked for me. (Now you know why I have lots of tomato paste! lol)

BEANS: I'm making more bean meals because they are cheap and a great source of protien instead of meat. Canned beans are cheap, but cooking up a pot of beans and freezing them in can size or 1 cup portions is even cheaper. (Canned beans run $0.50-$0.90/each, a bag of dried beans is usually around $1 and cooks up to 6-8 cans worth.) Just put a bag or two of beans in a large pot, soak overnight and simmer on low until the beans squish between your fingers when gently squeezed. Very easy to do!

Suggested bean meals: chili, bean soup, vegetarian taco salad, taco pasta, tacos or tostados.

POTATOES: I just bought two bags of potatoes today for $0.99 each. Store potatoes in a cool and dark location for use as is or shred potatoes and freeze to make your own hash browns.

Suggested potato meals: baked potato night, potato soup, breakfast casserole, breakfast skillets, cheesy potato casserole.

HAMBURGER: Whenever I buy hamburger these days, I either wait for a sale or buy a bulk package of it and brown the meat as soon as I get home. Freeze in approx. 1lb. portions.

Suggested hamburger meals: chili, enchiladas, spaghetti, hamburger stew, queso dip, pizza pasta casserole.

CHICKEN: Ditto the hamburger. I use my Walmart brand "George Foreman" grill took cook up the chicken. Dice and freeze in 1lb. portions. I want to try roasting the chicken in my stove, but have yet to do it.

Suggested chicken meals: enchilada soup, quesadillas, chicken tetrazzini, chicken noodle soup, white chili, colorful chicken casserole.

Please share your ideas, tips and recipes. I'm curious if anyone has tried cooking and freezing rice.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Ideas? Tomato Paste

Wow! I've been bad about posting here. Life has been busy and I've been distracted with spoiling my new niece. While my sister in law is on maternity leave, my schedule is different and I'm working at the office more. After Christmas, things will return to "normal". (Ha! If there is such a thing.)

While you are waiting on more recipes, does any one have ideas for using up tomato paste?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Curry Pumpkin Soup

I'm always on the lookout for some new recipe to try. You just never know where you're going to find the next family favorite. I especially love soup and stew recipes when the weather turns cold. This is the perfect recipe for a chilly autumn evening.

I found this Curry Pumpkin Soup recipe while flipping through the October 2008 issue of Better Homes And Gardens Magazine at a friend's house. Luckily BH&G keeps a catalog of their recipes online so it was each to track it down. To print your own copy click on the picture below and follow the link to the BH&G website.

Overall I was pleased with how simple a recipe and how tasty the soup was. My three year-old wasn't a fan, but my husband and I really enjoyed it.

With the exception of orange zest and onions (which we never have in our house, my husband hates them) we had all the ingredients in stock. Right there that is a plus for this recipe. I hate it when you have to go hunting for rare ingredients. The recipe was easy to follow and made enough leftovers we easily got two meals from one batch. Of course if I had doubled we could have had leftovers to freeze, but I'm short on freezer space and with such a fast and simple recipe it won't be a big deal to make it again anytime we are looking for something like this.

I should note that I don't have a food processor, so I used my blender and that worked just fine.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it can be done as time allows. It's a quick recipe, but I started it earlier in the day as that is what my schedule allowed. I completed all of step 2 and left the soup to cool. Later I came back and finished step 3 and just before step 4 I completed the Orange-Cranberry Topper (Step 1). This worked well and dinner was ready when my husband walked in the door.

One other slight change, I only had 1 can of chicken broth, so I substituted 1 can of vegetable broth for the missing can. Which got me thinking.... taking out the other can this could easily become a vegetarian soup. If you substituted the butter and milk with something else it could even be vegan. Pretty versatile if you ask me!

Definitely a great dish, would make again. Great if served with fresh bread or rolls or cranberry orange muffins.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Shoo-Fly Pie

Recently I made a Shoo-Fly Pie to bring with me to the September meeting of my book club. I wanted something that reminded me of early fall and this molasses dessert seemed perfect.

I remember my mother serving this pie once or twice when I was a child. I don't remember where I picked up this particular recipe. The copy I have is typed on a typewriter and has no name. I've had it for years.

Shoo-Fly Pie
(One 9" pie)

This pie has a "damp zone" next to the crust. It is sometimes referred to as the "wet-bottom shoo-fly." Most people prefer this one above the others.

1 Pastry shell, unbaked
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS shortening (butter or margarine)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl.
3. Blend in the molasses.
4. Add baking soda to boiling water and let it dissolve.
5. Add water/baking soda mix to molasses mixture. Set aside.

6. Combine dry ingredients with shortening and work into crumbs with fingers.

7. Pour liquid into pastry shell.

8. Top with crumbs.

9. Bake in 400°F oven for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 325°F and bake 35 minutes longer.

Serve warm or cooled.

When I've made this pie in the past I've used normal wheat flour, but since several of the ladies in my club have gluten allergies I obtained some gluten-free pie crust mix and proceeded to make the pie gluten free. If you would like to try and make this recipe gluten-free I should point out that the topping ALSO includes flour (just a cup), so it's important to obtain some gluten-free flour in addition to the flour used in the pie crust (or the pie crust mix). Having tried this pie both with and without gluten flour I declare it delicious!

Here are some tips should you decide to try this pie gluten-free.

Tip 1. If you've never made a gluten-free pie before (or are a novice when it comes to pie crusts) I highly encourage you to try a box mix. I found a mix at a local health food store, but more and more general and specialized grocery stores are starting to carry gluten-free mixes and flour. I chose a mix because I'd never made a gluten-free pie before and had no time to experiment.

Tip 2. Although they don't taste much different than regular wheat flour crusts, gluten-free pie crusts are not the same consistency. They are STICKY! It's best to use plastic wrap on the bottom and top of the cr ust when you roll it out. This will also make transferring it to the pie pan much easier and will help prevent breakage and crumbling.

For more information about the history of Shoo-Fly Pie check out the article on Wikipedia or What's Cooking America

Other versions of Shoo-Fly Pie.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

This is another family recipe. I'm sure it originated with an actual recipe from a book, but I believe it's gone through enough adaptions I can call it a family recipe. Growing up my mother refused to purchase and make the box macaroni and cheese. It wasn't until I was a teen and babysitting that I ever tried the "instant" mac. As an adult I've discovered a renewed interest in my mother's recipe and have adapted it a little to suit my family's tastes.

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

3 cups of pasta*
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour (not whole wheat)
1 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 lb cheese (shredded)**
1 cup sour cream (use light sour cream for less fat)
bread crumbs (optional)***

* My mother always used whole wheat elbow macaroni. I've expanded to try other cuts of pasta including spiral, small shell and as pictured here gemelli.

** My mother always used sharp cheddar cheese. I've expanded to use 1/2lb cheddar and 1/4lb Gouda. The Gouda cheese adds some color and makes the dish a little cheesier/gooier. I love it. Like the pasta in this dish the types of cheese you use can change around the taste and make it seem different each time you serve.

*** My mother always made her own breadcrumbs. I often take the easy way out and use store bought crumbs. Plain is preferred over the Italian.

1. Cook pasta.
2. Meanwhile mix together ingredients 2-6 (milk, flour, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt) in a microwavable bowl or measuring cup, leave room for liquid to expand.
3. Microwave/cook until thickened. (!!) Warning: Keep an eye on this container while it cooks. It tends to thicken suddenly and boil over if not stopped in time. (!!)
4. Add shredded cheese to sauce and mix until cheese melts.
5. Stir in sour cream.
6. Stir in pasta.
7. Pour into a microwavable/oven safe container.
7. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 10 minutes to heat thoroughly.
8. (Optional) Top with bread crumbs.
9. Put under oven broiler for a couple minutes until bread crumbs or top is lightly browned.

Great served with a garden salad as a side.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pasta Fresca

Nathan and I love eating at Noodles & Co. Our favorite dish is the Pasta Fresca. We figured we could easily make this dish at home so Nathan found a recipe. We've further refined it to match the dish at Noodles. This can be a vegetarian or add meat.

Serves 2

Sauté Instructions: In a very hot sauté pan, add:2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil 2 1/2 cups pre-cooked penne pasta, 1/4 c. (I just throw in however much looks good) thin wedges red onions, 2 shakes of kosher salt & cracked pepper. Sear noodles, stirring occasionally until steaming hot.

Add: 1-2 roma tomatoes cut into wedges, 1 oz. baby fresh spinach, 1 oz. fresca sauce (recipe below). Again, I just add tomato and spinach until it looks right. NOTE: add tomato near the very end or your tomato will end up pretty mashed up. Toss to combine.

Serve with freshly shaved parmesan cheese or feta cheese. Top with grilled or breaded chicken, beef or shrimp. Nathan likes parmesan breaded chicken and feta cheese on his. I like grilled chicken and fresh parmesan on mine. Personalize to your tastes. Enjoy!

FRESCA SAUCE:(for 2-3 batches depending on how much you use)
NOTES: I minced my own fresh garlic and found that I could use WAY less than called for. Keep extra sauce in a jar in your fridge for next time or make less sauce.

1/4 cup fresh garlic
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sweet white wine
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cheesy Stuffed Shells

I used to get Kraft Kitchens magazine when it was free. It was full of quick and simple recipes that used an awful lot of Kraft products, but many were easily modified to make great dinners and desserts. And of course, I didn't always use Kraft products!

This recipe is probably our favorite from the magazine. My carnivorous husband loves it, and I think you could add either some cooked Italian sausage to the cheese mix, tuck a meatball in each shell, or just serve it as a side with a grilled steak or chicken. But it is also great on its own!

Easy Cheesy Stuffed Shells

Prep time - 30 min - Total time - 60 min
Makes 5 servings

1 container (16 oz.) 2% Milkfat Low Fat Cottage Cheese
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained (I use a bag of fresh spinach)
2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked, drained
1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce


HEAT oven to 400°F. Mix cottage cheese, spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella, Parmesan and seasoning; spoon into shells.

SPOON half the sauce into 13x9-inch baking dish. Add filled shells; top with remaining sauce and remaining mozzarella (and more Parmesan, if desired - I like it cheesy!).

BAKE uncovered 25 min. or until heated through.

Make Ahead
Assemble recipe as directed. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, bake, covered, at 400°F for 35 min. or until heated through.

Freeze Ahead
Reserve 1 and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella. Assemble recipe as directed, but do not top with the reserved mozzarella. Wrap casserole in foil; freeze. When ready to serve, heat oven to 400°F. Unwrap casserole; cover with foil. Bake 55 min. or until heated through, removing foil after 30 min. Top with reserved mozzarella; bake 10 min. or until melted.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Heirloom Food

My grandpa's funeral is this week. He lived 93 full and interesting years and it was his time to pass. However, I feel like I've lost a valuable link to history - he was born during World War I, grew up during the depression, joined the Navy during WWII... it is astonishing to consider the events and eras he lived though.

I can't experience life the way my grandparents lived when they were my age, so I really enjoy making recipes that they ate, enabling me to both smell and taste some history. This is a recipe my grandma made, and everyone who tries it loves it. So put on your fabulous 50's dress, pearls, and heels and whip some up for yourself!


Caramel Filling

32 caramels
5 Tablespoons light cream or evaporated milk (or regular milk, or heavy cream)

Melt the caramels and milk together. If you use a pan on the stove, stir constantly. If you use a microwave, stir every two minutes at first, and then every minute until caramels are melted.


1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup melted butter
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Mix together flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter, soda and salt and divide in half. Press half into bottom of 9x9 pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350F. Remove from oven; immediately sprinkle 1 cup chocolate chips on hot crust. Drizzle caramel filling over chips; cover with remaining oatmeal mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes at 325F. Allow to cool before cutting.

BONUS: for a quick and tasty dessert, you can pour a can of cherry, blueberry OR apple pie filling OR put fresh apples, peeled, cored, sliced, and shaken with 1/4 cup flour in a 9x9 pan. Shake some cinnamon sugar over the fruit and top with the bar mixture. Bake at 350F for about 25-30 minutes and voila – apple/cherry/blueberry crisp! I serve it hot with ice cream. (Obviously, you leave out the chocolate and caramels)

P.S. - S. Mehrens - I promise I prepared for this post before I saw your post! I guess it is Grandparents Week here at Cooking! Everyone else, did you have a favorite recipe from a grandparent?

Grandma's Goulash

This is one of my favorite meals from my childhood. Although my paternal grandmother passed away when I was 14 I still have many memories of time we spent together. As far as meals together I have a few scattered memories, but only remember one or two foods she served. My favorite was one I christened: "Grandma's Goulash". It is a very simple recipe and also very delicious.

Grandma's Goulash
1 lb ground beef (ground turkey or chicken could be substituted, though I've never tried it)
2 (10oz) cans of condensed tomato soup
1 bag of mixed frozen vegetables (fresh work too, but take longer to cook)
5 or 6 potatoes the size of your palm
Salt & Pepper

1. Peal and cut up potatoes. Put in boiling water to cook.*
2. Meanwhile cook ground meat in frying pan. When cooked drain fat and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Pour soup and frozen vegetables in bowl and mix together.
3. Add meat, stir.
4. Cover and microwave for 5 minutes. Stir and Heat for another 5 minutes.
5. Drain potatoes and mash adding salt and pepper and milk.
6. Move vegetable/soup/meat mixture to an oven safe container and top with mashed potatoes.
7. Add a dollop of butter and put under oven broiler for 2-5 minutes or until the top of the potatoes just begins to brown.

Great if served with fresh rolls, a garden salad or apple sauce as a side.

*Optional Substitute: Noodles can be substituted for the mashed potatoes. Instead of topping with potatoes cook noodles and mix with the vegetable/soup/meat mixture.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Victory Garden Casserole

One of my mom's good friends is an excellent cook and has shared multiple recipes with me. This is one of them. I'm not sure if she created it herself (she often does this) or if she found it elsewhere. If you are looking for a vegetarian meal with lots of veggies, this is for you.

Victory Garden Casserole

1lb. potatoes, sliced
1- 10oz. pkg. corn
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
3-4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
1- 10oz. pkg. green beans
1/2 lb. yellow or zucchini squash (can substitute lima beans)
1- 10oz. pkg. green peas
2 c. milk
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2-3/4 c. unseasoned fine bread crumbs
2 T. butter, melted

Lightly grease a 3qt. glass casserole dish. In vegetable steamer or double boiler, steam potatoes until tender, about 10 min. Steam corn till hot, 3-5 min. Turn into casserold over potatoes. In cup mix salt, pepper, thyme. Sprinkle 1/3 of salt mixture and 1 c. cheese over corn. Steam carrots until tender, then green beans. Turn into casserold. Sprinkle with 1/2 of remaining salt mixture and 1 c. cheese. Heat oven to 350. Steam squash 3 min. Turn into casserole. Steam peas until hot. Turn into casserole. Meanwhile, in 1 qt. saucepan, with wire qhisk, beat together milk and flour until smooth; heat to boiling and cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened. Stir in remaining salt mixture. With a knife, make a well in the center of the casserole. Pour sauce into well and over top of vegetables. In small bowl combine crumbs and butter; sprinkle evenly over top of casserole. Top with remaining cheese. Bake 30 min at 350 or until golden brown and bubbly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peach Quesadillas

I forgot the photo and this was supposed to be posted mid-summer when peaches were in season.

8 tortillas
2 large peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
2 sweet onions
2 cups shredded gouda cheese (though I intend to try other cheeses)
Tablespoon olive oil
Olive oil cooking spray

Thinly slice onions. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions.
Divide onions, peaches, and cheese evenly between tortillas; put on one side.
Cook quesadillas in a skillet coated with cooking spray. Fold in half after 1-2 minutes and then flip. Sides should be golden brown. Cut into several sections.

Strawberry Shortcake: Hot Milk Cake

This past weekend my family and I were heading to some friends for dinner. I needed to pull together a quick dessert and I wanted to keep it light and yet sweet. In the end a sale on strawberries at my local grocery store (I know out of season, but BOGOF can't be beat) helped me to decide. I made strawberry shortcake -- a hot milk cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The dessert was everything I hoped - light, fluffy, sweet, and fruity.

Here's the recipe I used. It's not original I copied it years ago from something my mother had -- I think a cookbook, but I don't remember now. My apologies to the original author, I'd give credit if I knew where to give it.

Hot Milk Cake (a.k.a Hot Milk Sponge Cake)

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour (Whole Wheat flour tends to weigh cake down, if used proportion to 1/3 cup WW to 2/3 All-Purpose)
1 tsp baking powder
1 TBS butter
1/2 cup of hot milk

1. Beat eggs until light and thick
2. Add sugar
3. Heat milk and add butter to milk, set aside
4. Gently fold dry ingredients into wet
5. Add milk (buttered fully melted), fold into batter
6. Pour into lightly greased cake pan (9x9)
7. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Serve with fresh strawberries and whipped cream or chopped peaches.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sarah's Menu Plan Monday

I have been working to plan out menus for the month using mostly the food items I have in my fridge, freezer and pantry, but it's sometimes difficult. In the end I usually stick to planning out the coming week and throw in a selection here or there later in the month depending on schedule and availability.

This week I have planned:

Monday: FISH - Parmesan Flounder, Rice, Garden Salad
Tuesday: BEEF - Grandma's Goulash
Wednesday: VEGETARIAN - Homemade Mac & Cheese, Green Beans
Thursday: CHICKEN/CROCKPOT - White Chili with Corn bread
Friday: Leftovers or "Breakfast" food

I have some recipes from the other week as well as this week that I plan to post, so check back if you're interested in a particular recipe (I left my menu as a comment on Alison's Menu Plan Monday - Aug 30). Or leave a comment should you like to see a particular recipe.

Alison's Menu Plan Monday

It's Menu Plan Monday time again! We have drained our fridge of meals and it's time for me to grocery shop again. Check out more menus at


Many Bean Soup
Egg salad sandwiches and fresh veggies
Oriental Beef and Noodles
Hot Dogs
Breakfast Food
Home made pizza
Pasta Fresca
Vegetarian Taco Salads
I also plan on cooking chicken breast and beans for my freezer stash.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

German Style Potato Salad

Ever since I can remember, my Grandpa has been making this potato salad for every family get together. Obviously, he's German. ;-) It is a hot potato salad. I've posted this recipe as Grandpa has passed it down. You might want to scale it down to serve less than a huge family gathering.

German Style Potato Salad

5lbs. potatoes
1/3lb bacon, cut up
2/3 T. flour
1 c. water
1 c. vinegar
1/2 T. salt
1 c. sugar

Boil potatoes in skins. Peel and slice into a bowl.
Pour over potatoes: sugar, onion.
Brown bacon bits. Add flour, water, vinegar and salt.
Mix together.

The longer potatoes sit in the sauce, the more flavorful the dish. It is intended to be served hot, but I think it tasts just as good cold. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Chocolate Haystacks

With Autumn fast upon us I have been looking for some fun cooking activities that I can share with my daughter on those cold rainy fall days. I came upon this recipe on KRAFT's website and although it could be messy, it does look delicious and fun, especially if you have a child (or children) in the home... or are a child at heart. I've yet to try it, but wanted to post it anyway.

Chocolate Haystacks
prep time: 10 min
total time: 1 hr 10 min
makes: 3-1/2 doz. or 21 servings, 2 haystacks each

4 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1 cup Butterscotch chips
2 cups Chow mein noodles
2 cups JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows

MICROWAVE chocolate and butterscotch chips in medium microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 to 3 min. or until almost melted, stirring after 1-1/2 min. Stir until completely melted.

ADD remaining ingredients; stir until evenly coated.

DROP tablespoonfuls of chocolate mixture onto waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

Substitute1 cup BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks for the chocolate squares.

How to Store:
Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Teach A Man To Fish...

It's still hot here. And this Labor Day, we ran errands and finished off with a trip to the local splash park. So by the time we got home, we were hot and hungry. And I decided to make ravioli.

Crazy, right? Not really. It took about 20 minutes, tops.

I can't publish the recipe here because it's copyrighted and I'm a lawyer so I'm kind of picky about that. Instead, I'll recommend the cookbook, because I use lots of recipes from it anyway.

You know how you can make Mac & Cheese without reading the box? And spaghetti, and a few other things without recipes? Pam (not Pamela) Anderson wants to expand your repertoire with How To Cook Without A Book. She is apparently an incredible cook who would always go out to eat with her family, because cooking was too much work and she didn't want to find and follow a recipe every night. Her mission in publishing this cookbook was to teach some basic cooking rules (i.e. how to sear a meat and make a pan sauce) and then expand on the recipes with different ingredients for different meals. In that way, you learn to make a recipe once or twice with the help of the book, and then can do it from memory.

Let me tell you, I'm reading Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller right now, and that is not his philosophy. But Anderson's recipes really work for those non-special occasion, weeknight dinners. You probably won't need to make an extra trip to the grocery store for exotic ingredients. And her super-easy salad dressings have been a real hit!

How To Cook Without A Book is going on my Christmas list this year (I checked it out from the library), both to give and to get. And I am not a cookbook collector. Do you have it? What do you think of it?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Stuffed Pepper Lasagna

I regret to inform all of you that it's still hot here and therefore, still no baking. Here is a quick and easy summer favorite, especially now that peppers are in season! If you need meat, you could probably simmer some sausage or hamburger in a little tomato sauce (so it's flavored and moist but not soupy) for 20 minutes and mix it with the rice.

Stuffed Pepper "Lasagna"
(modified from BHG)


* 4 medium green and/or red sweet peppers - I cut them in to bit-sized pieces

* 1 8.8-oz. pouch cooked Spanish-style rice

* 1 14.5-oz. can stewed tomatoes - I used Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes for extra spice.

* 4 1-oz. slices Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers


1. Quarter peppers; remove stems, seeds, and ribs. Place in 2-quart square microwave-safe baking dish. Add 2 Tbsp. water. Cover with parchment. Microcook on high 4 minutes, until crisp-tender; turn dish once if no turntable. Remove peppers from dish; drain and set aside.

2. Cook rice according to package directions. Drain tomatoes, reserving 2-4 Tbsp. liquid. In baking dish layer half the peppers (cut sides up), the rice, drained tomatoes, Jack cheese, and remaining peppers (cut sides down). Drizzle reserved tomato liquid. Cover with parchment. Microcook on high 5 to 6 minutes, turning once. Let stand 5 minutes. Makes 4 servings.


Stuffed Flounder served with Parmesan Noodles and Lemon Parsley Carrots

(This was from last week's menu. I just got a chance to upload the photos.)

Flounder Spinach Roll-Ups

I actually posted this flounder recipe some time ago, but although we love flounder I wasn't too crazy about this particular recipe. I felt it needed some slight alteration when it came to seasoning. This time I added a little more seasoning (salt and pepper) and sauteed the mushrooms and spinach in butter instead of oil. Both of these changes went a long way to improving the dish's taste. We all really enjoyed it this time and I had fun adding some different sides.

Parmesan Noodles:
1. Cook any type of noodle. I used elbow macaroni for 8 min.
2. Add a little butter and toss with grated Parmesan cheese.
3. Serve with a little cracked black pepper and a dash of salt.

Lemon Parsley Carrots
(Adapted from Better Homes & Garden: New Cookbook, 1953, pg 360)

1. Cook carrots (I used canned, though next time I plan to use fresh). To cook add carrots to a small pan and cook covered in a very small amount of boiling, salted water for 15-25 minutes.

2. Combine 3 TBS butter, 2 TBS chopped parsley, and 1 TBS lemon juice.

3. Drain cooked carrots and toss with the butter/lemon/parsley sauce. Serve hot.

*Note: Butter might be reduced to 2TBS depending on the number of carrots used. Lemon juice could be reduced to 2 tsp for less tartness.

The finished dishes:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

It's Menu Plan Monday again hosted by Organizing Junkie. Go check out the other menus.

My menu this week is very simple. Life has been hectic lately with out of town company, sickness and going out of town. My only goal was to actually have a menu and get food in the fridge fast so that we wouldn't be forced to eat out.
Pancakes & sausage
Spaghetti & garlic toast
Baked Potatoes
Grilled Sausage, steamed veggies & stuffing
Grilled cheese & soup

Freezer Cooking from Kraft

Wanting to try some freezer cooking recipes? Kraft has a page devoted to this. Check it out and give freezer cooking a try.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

I tried this recipe for the first time last week and it is a keeper.

1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Optional Garnishes:
Corn chips, fresh diced avocado, sour cream, shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese.

Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.

Notes: I used mild enchilada sauce and went on the low side of chili powder. You can spice this up by going to medium or hot. I also used some of my frozen, chopped chicken breast from my freezer stash. Talk about making this meal super easy to assemble! As usual, I assembled this is my crock pot the night before. Since I don't have a large crock pot, I guess measured the chicken, corn and water so that it wouldn't be overfull. I garnished with all of the above suggested garnishes.

Adapted from

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sunshine Shakes and other Breakfast Smoothies

When I was a teenager my family went through a phase where we would make fruit and yogurt smoothies for breakfast four days out of seven. Recently I stumbled upon the recipe we used most frequently. I don't have a photograph, but thought I'd share it here along with two others I have also enjoyed:

Sunshine Shake
Amount: 1-2 servings

Blend in blender until smooth:
1- medium orange, peeled and cut into chunks
1- medium banana, peeled
1/2 cup low fat vanilla or nonfat or low fat plain yogurt (Add honey, to taste, with plain yogurt)
1/16 tsp. cinnamon
1/16 tsp. nutmeg

Banana Raspberry Smoothie
Amount: 3 servings

1 1/2 cups Pineapple juice
1 cup vanilla yogurt (or plain sweetened with honey)
1 cup raspberries
2 ripe, medium bananas, peeled
1/2 cup of ice cubes (omit if you use frozen raspberries)

Combine pineapple juice, yogurt, raspberries, bananas and ice cubes in blender. Blend until smooth.

Berry Bonanza Smoothie
Amount: 2 servings

1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced
1 cup frozen berries (any mix of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries)
5 ice cubes (or omit and use a frozen banana instead of fresh)
* Can be sweetened with a touch of honey if too tart

Blend ingredients at high speed till smooth. Thin with a little nonfat milk if needed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hamburger Stew

This is hands down one of my husbands favorite meals. It is also a freezer meal. I love having a hearty meal I can grab from my freezer and have ready to eat in a fairly short amount of time.

2lbs. ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
4 (14.5oz.) cans stewed tomatoes
8 medium carrots, thinly sliced. I use the pre-sliced carrots fresh carrots in the produce section to save time.
4 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 c. water
1/2 c. uncooked long grain rice
2 T. salt
2 t. pepper

ADDITIONAL INGREDIENT when thawing and serving: 1 & 1/2 c. water.

In frying pan or dutch oven, cook hamburger and onions until meat is no longer pink; drain. Transfer to large stock pot. Add tomatoes, carrots, celery, potatoes, water, rice, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables and rice are tender.

Uncover; simmer an additional 20-30 minutes or until thickened. Stir often, mixture can stick to the bottom of the pot very easily. Let cool a bit. Transfer to freezer tupperwear in 3 cup portions. Freeze. Yields 5 batches. Each batch serves 2, with second helpings.

To serve: Thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Transfer to sauce pan; add water. Heat until hot. OR You can skip thawing and put frozen block of stew directly in the sauce pan with water and heat covered on low to medium heat until thawed and stew is hot. I use the later method.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Baked Teriyaki Chicken

I made this chicken for the first time last week and served it with roasted asparagus. My husband was leery of this recipe because he is not at all a fan of any fruity or sweet sauces. But he liked this recipe because the sauce is baked on and not very sweet or fruity.

Notes: I'm posing the original recipe from, but I only used half as much chicken (6 thighs). I didn't change the sauce recipe at all and had just the right amount so you might want to double the sauce if you make 12 chicken thighs. I also found that 6 chicken thighs fills up a 9x13 pan so making 12 chicken thighs might require two pans. Having to brush the chicken with sauce every 10 minutes is a little time consuming, otherwise, this recipe is very easy.

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 skinless chicken thighs

1.In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the cornstarch, cold water, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger and ground black pepper. Let simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and bubbles.
2.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
3.Place chicken pieces in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Brush chicken with the sauce. Turn pieces over, and brush again.
4.Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Turn pieces over, and bake for another 30 minutes, until no longer pink and juices run clear. Brush with sauce every 10 minutes during cooking.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Roasted Asparagus

I randomly picked up some fresh asparagus to serve with one of my meals last week. I can't remember how I've prepared it in the past, but I've never had consistent results. This time I decided to pull out a cookbook for help. I grabbed my copy of Joy of Cooking and looked up asparagus. Wonder of wonders, I learned something!! It is super easy to cook asparagus and get perfect results.

First, I learned how to prepare asparagus.

After rinsing, hold each spear with one hand at the base of the stalk and the other hand an inch or two farther toward the tip. Bend the spear. It will break at the point where the tender stalk starts to toughen. If it does not snap, move your hand a little farther up the stalk and bend again until the stalk breaks.

To roast asparagus,
Preheat oven to 5oo degrees. Prepare asparagus as listed above. Arrange the spears in a single layer in a shallow baking dish (I used a 9x13 pan and drizzle over them very lightly with extra virgin olive oil. Toss the spears to coat lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender but still slightly firm, 8 to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chop Sandwiches

Several years ago Nathan fixed lunch for the two of us and made up these sandwiches. Ever since we've had them often and called them "chop sandwiches".

Start with sliced deli meat. I used a mixture of turkey and ham for this batch. Slice into small squares. Put meat in small frying pan and fry on high heat. I use a non stick pan and no oil.

Fry until all edges are darkened. Remove from heat.

Place slices of cheese on top of the meat. Let cheese melt and mixture cool for a bit. It is easier to transfer to the pita bread cooled a bit.

Transfer to pita bread. Serve with pickles if desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kitchen Gadgets

As I was making my menu and shopping list this week, I realized that I don't own a basting brush mentioned in one of my recipes. This got me started on jotting down a list of kitchen gadgets that I don't have and would like to own. For example, wooden spoons, potato masher, basting brush, etc. Some of them are pretty basic and I'm actually kind of shocked that I haven't needed them in the past 7 years. What kitchen gadgets do you own, want or can't live without? I'd love to hear your recommendations.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

This is my first time linking up to Menu Plan Monday over at Organizing Junkie. Be sure to check out their blog for great ideas on menu planning.

I'm not a traditional weekly menu planner. I usually plan a menu of about 8-9 meals that we eat randomly. Since there are just the two of us plus our 15 month old, we find that between leftovers and going out once or twice, this will last us about two weeks.

Not all of these recipies are on the blog yet, but I'll be posting and linking up to them as I get a chance. Please feel free to post or link to your menu.

Chop Sandwiches
Breakfast Casserole
Baked Potatoes
Steak on the grill and Au Gratin Potatoes
Teriyaki Baked Chicken and Roasted Asparagus*
Crock Pot Tortilla Soup*
Loaded Bean Burritos

*new recipes to me this week

I also purchased 5lbs of hamburger to brown and freeze in 1lb portions for quick meals later since I ran out of prepared hamburger in my freezer this past week.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A European Twist on Toasted Cheese Sandwich

I had the most amazing sandwich today. It was heaven on a baguette and now I want to make it at home. This is a fresh and deliciously yummy summer meal that is both simple and light in fare. However, rather than wait until I can obtain the ingredients I snagged a photograph off the Internet to show you what I'm talking about. It doesn't do the sandwich justice, but it's the closest image I can find.
French Quarter Baguette


* French Baguette
* Fresh tomatoes
* Brie cheese
* Fresh mixed greens

1. Take the bread and slice down the middle like a sub. The length can be anywhere from 4-12" depending on the amount of sandwich you wish to have. Toast lightly.

2. Slice tomatoes and brie cheese. Layer in between the bread.

3. Serve with mixed greens on the side or tucked in with the tomatoes and cheese. Extra twist is to add a very light vinaigrette to the greens.

* Note the hotter the bread and the longer you let the cheese sit will allow for some melting or softening of the cheese.
Bon Appetite!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Refrigerator Pickles

Anyone who knows me knows that I love pickles. Although I prefer dill pickles and don't really care for the sweet ones, I did come across this recipe recently that Kendall and I both really liked (it's on the sweeter side of things). They're not your normal pickle, but they are very good and best of all, very easy to make.

Refrigerator Pickles

7 cups cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white sugar
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed

Mix the cucumbers and salt and let sit for one hour. Do not drain mixture and follow by adding the sugar, onions, bell pepper, cider vinegar and celery seed. Mix well, cover and refrigerate.

Copied from

Halleluiah! It is done!

I just finished going through all of the past posts on this blog and tagging them. Hopefully, you are now able to find previous posts easily.

**TODAY ONLY** FREE Mable's Meals Subscription

Go Here to check it out!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Banana Crumb Muffins

I was looking for a recipe to use up my very over ripe bananas. I had several Banana Bread recipies and this muffin recipe. The muffins won the coin toss. They are husband approved so I think I'll be making more in the future. I made a few changes to the recipe which I noted in italics in various places below.

Banana Crumb Muffins

Original Recipe Yield 10 muffins (because of using more bananas I easily made 12 muffins)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed (I used 4 bananas because that's what I had on hand. I did cut out the really bad spots so it was more like 3 1/2 bananas. I made no other adjustments to the ingredients and everything still turned out fine.)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons (see note about topping below) flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

*note on topping: I guessed instead of measuring the butter for the topping so I had to add additional flour to make it crumbly enough. I think this probably worked out well because my muffins ended up with ample topping.

**from the All Recipies website

Friday, July 23, 2010

Late-Summer Vegetable Soup

Recipe courtesy of 2008 Super Fresh Monthly Savings Magazine
Serves 6
Prep time/Total time: 35Min
(per serving: 182 cal; 5.6 g fat 9.8 g sat fat; 6 g protein; 31.1 g carb; 4.7 g fiber)

"The produce-packed soup is cooked quickly to preserve the fresh flavor of the vegetables. the orzo simmers right in the pot."

- 4 ears corn, husks and silks removed (if fresh corn is not available use frozen or canned, but be sure to rinse before putting in the pot)
- 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 cans (14.5 oz each) reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 8 oz. fresh green beans (stem ends removed), cut into thirds (again, frozen can be substituted if fresh is not available)
- 1 can (14.5) oz diced tomatoes in juice (or substitute
4 fresh medium tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup orzo pasta
- water

1. Cut off tip of each ear of corn. One at a time, stand ears in a wide bowl. With a sharp knife, carefully slice downward to release kernels. Discard cobs; set kernels aside.

2. In a Dutch oven or 5qt pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Add zucchini, green beans, corn, tomatoes (with juice), and orzo; cook, uncovered, until orzo is tender, 8 to 11 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To FREEZE: Ladle 1 1/2 cups into each of six resealable plastic bags. Store flat in freezer, up to 3 months. Before reheating, thaw in refrigerator.

Related Links:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pasta with Rosemary Tomato Sauce

Please excuse the murky photo, I took it with my phone and I thought it was a little clearer.

This recipe, which I call Pasta with Rosemary Tomato Sauce was actually one I discovered while eating breakfast in a restaurant last week. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but when one woman at a nearby table started rattling off quick and simple recipes to her friend my ears perked up. The following is my adaptation of what I overheard:

* Boil water for pasta. Any pasta will do, but I used the medium shell pasta and it worked well. (I used half a box, which when mixed with other ingredients was enough for lunch for my husband, daughter and myself and left me with some I could pack for my husband's lunch the next day.) When water is rolling boil cook pasta till al dente (approx 8 minutes).

While water is boiling prepare the sauce:

* Warm deep frying pan and add 1-2TBS of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

* Drop in 1-2 cloves of garlic minced and fresh rosemary (I chopped mine a little). Heat in the pan until the garlic is just browned, not burnt.

* Add 1 can of tomatoes (I used a 14.5 oz can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes from Hunts, but any diced tomato, stewed tomato or even fresh would work. Fresh tomatoes might take longer to cook, so plan accordingly.)

* Simmer sauce on the stove for 15-20 minutes, longer if using fresh tomatoes.

* About 3-5 minutes before the cooking time is up add 1-2 TBS of balsamic vinegar and stir.

* Serve hot over cooked noodles.

* Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Options: I had some leftover grilled mild Italian sausage, which I reheated and chopped to put in with the pasta. It was delicious. Leftover grilled chicken or shrimp would work too -- or this could be left as a vegetarian dish by omitting the meat.

This was delicious and was enjoyed by my husband and 3 year-old.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Weekly Menu

I labeled this as a weekly menu, but in reality my menus usually last longer than a week. Our style is to have a list of meals posted and to randomly pick what to eat based on what sounds good or our schedule. What was/is your menu and how do you plan your meals?

Weekly Menu
Hawaiian Chicken Kabobs--for my dad's birthday party
Savory Beef
Breakfast Food
BLTs & fresh fruit
Baked Potatoes
Hamburger Stew**

** Hamburger Stew is one of my husband's all time favorite "man food" meals. It is also a freezer recipe that makes 4-5 future meals. I always dread the work of making a huge batch of any freezer meal, but every time I make this recipe I realize it is actually much easier than I remember.

Help for Busy Days

Yesterday I had an unexpected window of time to do some cooking because of a cranky baby needing an extra nap and a toddler happily watching Cars. So I got busy! Here's what I got done:

  • Browned a bulk package of hamburger, made chili in the crock pot and froze the extra in meal sized portions for future meals
  • Cooked unused chicken breast from the bulk package we bought for my dad's birthday meal (see my menu post) using my George Foreman wannabe grill. Chopped and froze meat for future meals
  • Hard boiled eggs for salads and breakfasts/snacks
  • Made jello cups for Nathan's lunches
  • Sliced up strawberries for quick eating

Nathan was thrilled to come home to a hot meal all ready to eat and I was happy to have some freezer cooking done.

I have learned to stock up on marked down meat from the grocery store and freeze it for future use. My grocery store marks down it's meat 24 hours before the sell by date. The time the meat is packaged is stamped on the label. I didn't know what the process was until I asked. I've also learned how wonderful it is to have meal sized portions of pre-cooked meat in my freezer for quick meals.

What ideas help you plan ahead for quick meals or help save money on packed lunches? I always love getting new ideas.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Sandwich Recipe

I know, I know, I'm kind of ashamed to post a sandwich recipe. Really, if you can't make a sandwich, you're probably not reading cooking blogs. But this is a really good sandwich.

My husband likes egg sandwiches. They consist of a fried egg, mayo, bread and pepper.

He really likes them. That means if he stops home at lunchtime, we have them for lunch.


Meet the California Egg Sandwich. An antidote to the plain, dull egg sandwich. And, it's "healthy". Because it has vegetables. And fruit! That's what I tell myself, anyway. It sounds weird, but it's surprisingly good.

Ranch dressing
1/4 avocado (or more)
Little pat of butter
2 eggs (I use 1 egg, 1 egg white)
2 slices bread

Spread mayo on one slice of bread and ranch on the other (or mayo and ranch).

Put slices of tomato on one side and avocados on the other.

Fry the eggs in a little butter. I smash the yolks with a fork and lift the edges of the egg as they cook to let the uncooked egg run underneath. That way it cooks very evenly.

Plop the egg on top of the avocados, close the sandwich, and gobble it up!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Fajitas! I Just Made Some Easy Fa-jiiiiiiiiiii-tas!

You know you want to belt that out to the tune of "Maria" from West Side Story.

In the summer, I put all my baking recipes away and start using my giant 12" high sides nonstick pan. You can make a lot of things in a pan like this and it's easy to clean up!

Fajitas are great because you can use up veggies that have been hanging around in your fridge, or just buy whatever is on sale. I usually use some combination of onions and bell peppers, and you can also throw in mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, or whatever other vegetables you need to sneak in and use up. I used up a leftover steak and some purple cabbage with my onions and peppers in the above-pictured meal.

Easy Leftover-User-Upper Fajitas
Serves 4


1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped in half and then into eighths.
2 bell peppers (of whatever color), again, halved lengthwise and chopped into fat strips.
You can stop there. Or you can add another cup of chopped veggies.

2 pieces of leftover grilled chicken or steak, sliced. Or two steaks or boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces. Or skip it altogether.

1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspooons cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (I use less)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more...)
If you have cilantro lying around, chopped up (because you're making guacamole or something), you can toss some in as well.


1. Mix together seasoning ingredients in a small bowl.

2. Heat oil in large pan. Add vegetables and stir fry to nearly desired doneness over medium-high heat.

3. If you're making this meatless or using raw meat, skip this step. If you're using leftover meat, add it to the pan now - you're just warming it up.

4. Sprinkle about 2/3rds of the seasoning over the vegetables (and meat), and add about a 1/4 cup of water. Stir to evenly coat and let the water evaporate. Taste it and see if you want to add more seasoning. If you do, repeat step three with the rest of the seasoning!

5. If you're carnivorous, and using raw meat, take the veggies out of the pan, stir fry the meat, and repeat step three with the remaining 1/3 of seasoning. You can serve the meat separately or combine it with the vegetables.

Serve with shredded cheddar cheese (I know, it technically isn't done - but it's GOOD!), sour cream, and guacamole in burrito shells. And lime slices, if you're fancy!

For Jack (my 18 month old), I skip the burrito shell, cut everything up a little more, mix it together, and feed it to him like a casserole. When my husband saw that, he decided to eat his in a bowl without the shell too. So, gluten free option!

EASY "CHIPOTLE" GUACAMOLE (from the "Chipotle Fan" website)
2 Avocados
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (REALLY minced, if you're not into spicy)
1/4 red onion, minced
2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (confession: I just chop it, stems and all, until there are no more leaves. And no one has died or gagged)
1/4 of a lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mash until smooth. Add additional lime juice or salt to taste.

Disclaimer: I'm originally from Minnesota. And Minnesotans voted Taco Bell their third favorite Mexican restaurant (I can't find the link, but it was in City Pages in 2007 or so). So that may explain some things.