Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gingerbread Pear Cake

I decided this morning that we should have some sort of holiday flavored dessert tonight.  No cookies though.  I think I'm starting to burn out on those already.  So I settled on a super simple gingerbread pear cake.   

Here's the recipe:

2 tablespoons real butter, melted

1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 (16 ounce) cans pear slices, well drained
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 (14.5 ounce) package gingerbread cake mix

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  Mix the melted butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar in a 9-inch round cake pan.

3.  Arrange pear slices over sugar mixture.

4.  Sprinkle pecans around the pears.

5.  .Prepare the cake mix according to package directions, and pour over the pears and pecans in the cake pan.

6.  Bake approximately 50 minutes.
7.  Cool slightly before turning out onto a serving dish.

I just took it out of the oven a little while ago and my house smells AMAZING!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Homemade Bread Bowls

You know those super cute bread bowls used by some restaurants for serving soups and stews and such?  Well, they are really easy to make and, because you make them fresh just before you need them, they're softer than the restaurant ones too so you can actually eat the bowl!  The kids love them - and hubby thinks they're pretty cool too!  ;)

I use a recipe published on Allrecipes by Taste of Home Test Kitchens and these bread bowls come out perfect every time!  If you decide to try them, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to make!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Does This Look Bad to You?

If you've ever wondered (and who hasn't?) if you can still use products beyond the date on the packaging, or how long to keep something in the refrigerator, check out this site:   http://www.stilltasty.com/  It is full of information on which foods will last and for how long. 

Did you know that the date on the egg carton is not really an "expiration" date?  I didn't.  According to this site, it's just a guideline for the stores selling the eggs.  I don't know who created this site or how scientific it is, but it's pretty interesting.

Christmas Baking Party

My friend throws a Christmas Baking Party every year at her house.  There are usually 20-30 people in attendance and this is how it works:  Everyone brings their own ingredients and we cook.  Everyone gets a personalized apron the first year with the year sewn on it.  Each subsequent year, you get that year's holiday themed pattern stitched on by her my friend's mom, who sets up her sewing machine right there in the kitchen.  Back to the food:  Once everything is made (this is an all day event, btw), bags are assembled with a sampling of all the cookies, candies, etc. that were baked that day.

I've been giving alot of thought to what I will make this year and have settled on Hello Dollies because they are super easy, quick to prepare, and really yummy!  This is all it takes:

1.  Make a crust by combing 2c. graham cracker crumbs with 1/4c. sugar and 1/2c. melted butter; press into an 8x8 pan.

2.  Top with 1c. semisweet chocolate chips, 1c. shredded coconut, and 1c. chopped pecans.

3.  Pour 14oz. can of sweetened condensed milk over the top.

4.  Bake at 325* for approximately 30 min.

I'll probaly triple the recipe for the party.  So easy!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Recipe Overload

My recipes collection is out of control and desperately needs to be organized. The books and the online recipe boxes are fine but the problem is with the binder that has become a permanent fixture in my kitchen.

The purpose of this binder is to organize recipes I print from various sites.  All Recipes and Food Network are probably the most common.  I also get Food Network Magazine, which is awesome!  I highly recommend it if you love to cook are not already a subscriber. 

Back to the binder:  It started out as a great idea.  I had little sections with labels like, Bread, Soups, Beef, Vegetarian, etc.  It was all very cute and organized - at first.  Now it just looks pitiful.  There is more paper crammed in there than the rings will actually hold.  I've considered getting a giant binder or spreading everything out in several.  This may seem trivial to some but, let me tell you , it's really becoming a problem!

I do have alot of recipes stored online so that's helpful.  Another good thing is I actually do know what's in here very well and can usually locate what I want fairly quickly.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1

Good morning everyone!  Please tell me I'm not the only one who woke up this morning, realized it's almost Christmas, and almost panicked at the thought of everything that needs to be accomplished - and soon!

Now that I've fully recovered from Thanksgiving, it's time to get serious about Christmas.  I did get the tree up and decorated yesterday and have some of the outdoor lights up so I guess that's a good start.  Today, I plan to finish all indoor and outdoor decorating and decide for sure what I plan to make at an upcoming baking party and test the recipe. 

Also, lots of shopping to do today...cards, paper, bows, tins, tissue, bags, tags, ...etc., etc. All the running around can get exhausting so I think it's important that I work in a stop at Starbucks for an eggnog latte.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bacon and Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Sometimes the simplest meals are the best. 
I say this because I recently made myself a delicious dinner that consisted of nothing more than a grilled cheese sandwich.  This was not just any boring ol' grilled cheese sandwich though.
What made this so special was the addition of bacon. 

I used one slice of American cheese, one slice  pepperjack cheese, and two half strips of bacon.
Buttered the bread and cooked in the skillet until golden.

So easy and so good! 
The bacon is in there, it's just smothered in ooey gooey cheese.  ;)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To My Friends in Blogland.....

Check it out!

I got this cute award from Lissaloo at One Step at a Time
Hers is one of the blogs I read regularly as she has a nice mix of recipes, stories, crafts, and humor.

There are conditions to accepting this award and they are as follows:

- put the lemonade logo on your blog or within your post.

- nominate at least 10 blogs with great attitude or gratitude.

- link the nominees within your post.

- let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

- share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award
So, I would like to pass this along to:
1.  Louise at Felice in the Kitchen because she is constantly posting yummy recipes.
2.  The girls at Life Laugh Latte for keeping it real.
3.  Modern Mom at How to Survive Life in the Suburbs because she blogs the way I think.
4.  Holly at 504 Main, even though she's already received it.  She really does deserve it again!
5.  Polly at 5th Sister.  I read her blog alot too because I like the mixture of topics.
Wow - does the rule really say "nominate at least 10 blogs"?!  I'm going to cheat and stop here but these are the first blogs that immediately came to mind.  ;)

The Thanksgiving Table

My husband doesn't seem to understand the amount of time and thought goes into planning the Turkey Day table design.  I must say in his defense though that it's really not his area of expertise so it falls to me. 
Which is fine because I really do prefer to be the one in control of such things. 

It's not as simple as hubby seems to think though. 
Case in point:  I have been searching everywhere for the "right" (and I'll know it when I see it) tablecloth.
I have accepted the fact that I'm probably going to just have to make it myself. 
This is fine too because I've recently discovered that I LOVE SEWING!!! 
I never thought I would say that but it's true. 

So my plan is to go to the fabric store  : )   and hopefully find something I can work with for the table.

Here's the image I have in my head:

Cream tablecloth with just the right amount of gold accents. 
(This is where the problem comes in - with the gold not looking tacky or overbearing.)

Gold chargers

Gold-ish candles (the glittery kind) with holders made of (fake) cranberries

Dishes are white, silverware is .....silver

Cream colored napkins

Pretty glasses with gold rims

Placemats - do I need placemats???  Not sure yet.

If anyone out there is doing something FABULOUS with the table, I would love to hear about it!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Are You Ready???

I've been working on the Thanksgiving menu. 
The goal for this year is to jazz up some of the traditional favorites. 
This is what I have so far: 

Turkey (organic)
Cornbread Dressing 
Baked Cranberry Sauce (none of that canned stuff here!)
Mashed Chipotle Sweet Potatoes
Not-Your-Mama's Green Bean Casserole  (Alton Brown's)
Mac & Cheese (daughter's request)
Multi-Grain Rolls

Still need to finalize appetizers and desserts but I think this is a pretty good start!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pumpkin Pecan Waffles

We are so busy around here during the week that when the weekend rolls around again, we savor every minute of it.  This is the only time we are able to sleep in, lounge around with the paper,
and enjoy a nice, big breakfast together.

This morning I made these pumpkin pecan waffles and they were delicious!  For me, the flavors are just perfect for a chilly fall morning.  And the aroma that wafted through my kitchen this
morning was absolutely wonderful!

2c. all-purpose flour
4 TBSP white sugar
3 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs
1 1/2c. + 4 TBSP milk
1/2 cup pumpkin (I used canned)
2 TBSP real butter
1/2 c. pecan pieces

1. Preheat waffle iron.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Beat with a mixer on Medium until well blended.

4. Pour 1/2c. batter onto prepared waffle iron and sprinkle with 1/8c. pecan pieces.

5. Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Morning Prayer

Caffeine is my shepherd; I shall not doze.

It maketh me to wake in green pastures:

It leadeth me beyond the sleeping masses.

It restoreth my buzz:

It leadeth me in the paths of consciousness for its name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of addiction,

I will fear no Equal™:

For thou art with me; thy cream and thy sugar they comfort me.

Thou preparest a carafe before me in the presence of The Starbucks:

Thou anointest my day with pep; my mug runneth over.

Surely richness and taste shall follow me all the days of my life:

And I will dwell in the House of Mochas forever.

~Author Unknown, quotegarden.com

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is it Dinner Time Yet???

So I was in the kitchen just a few minutes ago, doing my usual dinner prep thing.  The chicken breasts are stuffed with bacon and feta, drizzled in olive oil, garlic, and spices.  The potatoes are ready to go. 
The spinach is...well, the bag is in the fridge.  I just have to open it before throwing the spinach in the skillet (we're loving fried spinach lately).  We will most likely eat within the next two hours. 
This is all fine and good but here's the problem: 


Somehow the Lean Cuisine sandwich I had for lunch just didn't do it for me. 
I need a diversion to keep me as far away from the leftover Halloween candy as possible.

Maybe I'll go bake a cake for dessert.....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Great Garlic Knots

My husband and I were first introduced to garlic knots at a really bad restaurant a few years ago.  The knots were burnt but we loved the idea of these little rolls smothered in oil and spices. 

So, I started experimenting. 
  This is one of those "semi-homemade" foods that is super easy and always devoured by everyone. 
You could make your own dough, but why?

These will be served tonight along with our easy spaghetti dinner.

1 can, refrigerated breadsticks
1/3 c. olive oil
3 TBSP minced garlic
5 TBSP grated parmesan cheese
3 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. salt

1.  Twist each of the bread sticks into knots.

2.  Brush with garlic mixture.

3.  Bake according to the instructions on the dough can, occasionally basting with the garlic mixture.

4.  When done, brush remaining garlic mixture over rolls and serve immediately.

Mr. H absolutely LOVES these knots!!!

Tuesday Morning

I don't feel like cooking today.  That doesn't mean I won't cook.  It just means that I will find something easy to serve tonight.  I'm thinking spaghetti with sauce from a jar and meatballs from Trader Joe's.  I'll jazz it up with garlic and spices and it will be fine.  ;)

What are your favorite, "I don't want to do any real cooking tonight so I'm just going to make this" meals?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Dinner: Bloody Baked Rats!!!

In the spirit of Halloween, I made "Bloody Baked Rats" from Allrecipes:  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Halloween-Bloody-Baked-Rats/Detail.aspx.  And OMG!!!  Let me just say they were horribly fabulous!!!

I did use my own meatloaf recipe for the "rats" but used these instructions as a guide for presentation.

Here are the alterations I made to the recipe in the above link:

* Pecan pieces for ears.

* Raisin pieces for eyes.

* Thin asparagus spears for the tails.

* Only made half the amount of "blood" sauce called for in the recipe and that was more than enough.

Everyone agreed this was a fun idea for a Halloween themed dinner!

The cheese "guts" inside were an unexpected surprise.  Hubby suggested adding a few strands of cooked spaghetti to the cheese for the "intestines".

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now???

It has been brought to my attention that new posts are not being received correctly.  I've been working on that this morning and I think it's fixed now.  So I'm testing it out with this post.  If you receive this in your list, please leave a comment and let me know! 

Thanks!  :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Candy Corn Bark

I put off buying Halloween candy this year because I knew that once it was in the house, the kids and I would consume it like....well, candy. This is especially true of candy corn. It was on sale for $1 a bag and I somehow convinced myself we needed multiple bags of this stuff. Not for trick-or-treaters - just for us! So now I'm looking for recipes that will help me use up the candy corn. I found one on Allrecipes and changed it up to suit my tastes. So here's my version:

16 Halloween Oreos, chopped
1 1/2 c. broken pretzel sticks
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 bag of white chocolate chips
1 c. candy corn
Halloween sprinkles

1. Spread the cookies, pretzels and cranberries onto a lightly greased baking sheet.

2. Melt chocolate 30 sec. at a time in the microwave, stirring frequently until melted. Remove from the heat while there are still a few chunks, and stir until smooth.

3. Drizzle chocolate with a spoon over the goodies in the pan, spreading the top flat to coat evenly (I used a piece of sprayed wax paper for this step).

4. Top with candy corn and sprinkles. Let cool until firm. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Molded Halloween Candy

I found candy molds on sale at Michael's and decided that I had to have one. If you have never played with these molds, I highly recommend it. This really is no-stress candy making. In fact, I don't even know that I would qualify this as candy making so much as it is candy painting and candy pouring.

All I did was paint the black parts with icing color and pour in melted white chocolate. The ghosts are actually supposed to be the backs of the skulls but I wanted some variety.

You just paint, pour, and set in the fridge. It's that easy!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spooky Spider Cake

I made this cake today! It's a big deal because this is the first time I have ever spent so much time on a cake. This was also the first time I ever experimented with gum paste. I never even knew for sure what it was until this morning (it's the stuff used to make decorations). You can buy it premade at Michael's, which is what I did today.

For the spider, I added black icing color to the gum paste. Then shaped the body and legs separately. The icing on the cake helps to keep the pieces in place.

The web is white sparkly decorating gel from a tube.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Want Pretty Cakes!

There is a difference between simply icing a cake and decorating one. You know those people that make decorating the perfect looking cake seem so effortless? I want to be one of those people! I usually just glob on the icing, make little swirly things all over it, and call it done. I want to do more than that though so I went to Michael's and bought a few basics (tips, bags, tools, etc.), came home and whipped up cupcakes from a box, and made my first attempt at "real" decorating. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Amazing Alfredo Sauce

I used to be one of those people buying the alfredo sauce in the jar. I figured out last night that it's super easy to make your own sauce and much better tasting than the other stuff. This recipe makes enough sauce for a 1 lb. box of pasta. I prefer to use penne, ziti, or even farfalle because they "hold" the sauce better than flat pasta, such as fettucine.

2 c. heavy cream
1c. real butter
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp.ground black pepper
1/4 tsp.garlic powder

1. Combine heavy cream and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

2. Heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally (Do not allow sauce to boil)

3. Stir in Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

4. Serve immediately over cooked pasta.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jazzed Up Sausage and Sauerkraut

Remember sausage and sauerkraut? My husband and I both have memories of this dish from our childhoods and they are remarkably similar in that the dish served in both our homes was pretty plain. Good, but plain. There was pan-fried sausage, sauerkraut, and.....I think that's it.
This is a recipe I came across on Allrecipes and have adjusted it slightly for personal taste. I like it because the classic flavors are still there but they're enhanced with the addition of the veggies and wine or broth.
Here's the recipe:

1c. baby carrots
2c. red potatoes, chopped
1 (16oz.) bag sauerkraut, rinsed and drained (this reduces that strong sauerkraut-y flavor)
1 lb. fully cooked beef sausage, cut into chunks
1/4c. white onion, thin sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4c. dry white wine or chicken broth
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. caraway seed

1. Layer carrots, potatoes and sauerkraut in your slow cooker.

2. In a skillet, brown the sausage; transfer to the slow cooker.

3. Saute onion and garlic in the skillet with drippings, until tender.

4. Gradually add wine or broth. Bring to a boil and stir in pepper and caraway. Pour over sausage and veggies.

5. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until vegetables are tender.

I have this in the Crock Pot right now and my house smells AMAZING!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween Ghosties!!!

I'll just start by saying that I think these little ghosties are adorable! All you do is coat Nutter Butter cookies with candy coating (I used Wilton's), set them on wax paper until dry, and decorate. The coating process can get a little messy but - so what? - they're so cute!

* Recipe from Taste of Home.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Getting Ready for Halloween

Did anyone else see Emeril's Kicked Up Halloween (or whatever it was called) last night? Fantastic ideas! I love Emeril anyway. He prepared this dish called "Vampire Chicken" that looks like a mutilated chicken (which, I guess it really is), complete with "blood sauce" that completely inspired me to get started on planning our Halloween menu. I don't want anything too gross. This is going to be our dinner, after all. I once saw a recipe for baked "bats," or something like that. I'll have to think about this...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mashed Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

Last night's dinner was balsamic glazed salmon fillets, chipotle sweet mashed potatoes, and breaded brussels sprouts. The salmon was really good and the brussels sprouts were cooked just right but the mashed sweet potatoes were excellent! They were so good that I am still thinking about them today. They are so good that I am considering serving them on Thanksgiving this year. I found this recipe through Allrecipes and, as written, it results in a somewhat spicy/sweet dish. The amount of heat is easily controlled by the amount of peppers added though. Here's the recipe:
Mashed Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

3 lbs. sweet potatoes
1-1/2 teaspoons minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons real butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Lightly grease a medium size baking dish, and set aside.

2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork, and place on the prepared baking sheet.

3. Roast the sweet potatoes in preheated oven until easily pierced with a fork, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven, and cool about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

4. When sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop flesh into a mixing bowl. Discard potato skins.

5. Using a hand mixer, beat the sweet potatoes with the chipotle peppers, butter, and salt; spread evenly in the prepared baking dish.

*This can baked now or refrigerated until the next day. That's what makes this so perfect for Thanksgiving!

6. Bake in the preheated oven until heated through, 20 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beets and Greens

These were actually pretty good!

Turns out, cooking a beet is exactly like baking a potato. All you do is cut off the greens and their stems, coat the beets in olive oil, and bake them, in a covered and sprayed pan for about an hour at 350* Testing doneness is the same as a potato too - just stick it with a fork. Easy.

For the greens, I heated about 2 TBSP olive oil in a skillet, tossed in a couple cloves of minced garlic and about 1/4 c. diced onion. Then, tore the greens into 2-3" pieces (throwing out the big red stems), seasoned with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, and sauteed until done.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I'm planning an experiment today. It involves trying to get my kids to eat beets. I keep seeing them in the store. Beets are one of those vegetables that, whenever I see someone buying them, I wonder what in the world they're going to do with them. I haven't had beets since...I don't know...and I'm sure they were the canned variety, which I've since read are not as good as fresh. The dish I'm serving tonight calls for the use of the whole beet, greens and all. You roast the beets and saute the greens...something like that. Anyway, it's two sides in one. If all goes well, I'll post the recipe and reactions tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to Cook a Pumpkin

In all the years I have been baking with pumpkin (pies, cakes, muffins, cookies, etc.) I have never, ever used a real pumpkin. I know the stuff in the can is labeled Real Pumpkin but I'm talking about the non-canned variety that only shows up in the grocery stores in the fall and winter. Not the big, jack-o-lantern ones, the other ones. The ones that sit with all the other gourds that I don't know what to do with, besides decorate. I actually set out today to buy a can of pumpkin for a cake recipe but, upon discovering that the store did not have canned pumpkin in stock, I decided to try baking a whole one. What I found is that it's ridiculously easy, fills my house with an amazing aroma, and a medium size pumpkin yields about 3 cups.

This is how I did it:

1. Cut the top of the pumpkin off, close to the stem.

2. Cut the pumpkin in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds and stringy stuff.

3. Spray a baking pan and place pumpkin halves in pan, face down.

4. Cover with foil and bake at 375* for about 1 hour.

5. When cool enough to handle, scrape pumpkin out of its shell. At this point you can mash or puree, if you like, but mine was so soft that it wasn't necessary.

So easy! I may never buy canned pumpkin again!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Spicy Szechwan Shrimp

My youngest son absolutely loves shrimp and has been asking me repeatedly to make his all-time favorite shrimp dish, spicy szechwan shrimp. So, that is what we are having tonight. Here is the recipe:

2 TBSP dry sherry
1 TBSP dark sesame oil
1 TBSP hoisin sauce
1 TBSP dark soy sauce
1 TBSP honey
2 tsp. Asian chile sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
3 TBSP green onion, minced
2 TBSP cilantro, chopped

1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed

2 TBSP grapeseed oil

1. In a medium bowl, prepare marinade by combining the sherry, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, chile sauce, garlic, ginger, green onion, and cilantro.

2. Add shrimp to marinade; cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours.

3. Preheat a wok to high. Add grapeseed oil to coat the wok. Add shrimp to the wok, reserving marinade. Stir-fry until shrimp are pink, 1-2 min. Add marinade and toss to coat the shrimp. Serve immediately over rice.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bavarian Apple Torte

The great thing about doing all the cooking around here is that we're always having exactly what I'm hungry for ;) and lately I've been craving apples. I made this Bavarian Apple Torte from Taste of Home a few days ago and everyone devoured it without any knowledge of how ridiculously easy it was to make! The crust has a nice shortbread flavor that hubby and I thought went well with the apples (Granny Smith). Here's the recipe:

3/4 c. real butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 - 8oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

3 c. thin sliced and peeled tart apples
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Combine the first four ingredients. Press onto the bottom of an ungreased 9-in. springform pan.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Pour over the crust.

3. Combine topping ingredients and arrange as pretty or as messy as you like over filling.

4. Bake at 350* for 55-65 minutes (mine was done in 60) or until the center is set. Cool on a wire rack. Store in the refrigerator. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Aren't We Having Waffles Tonight?

Because we're having chicken spaghetti tonight, that's why. Everyone loves it, we haven't had it in awhile, and I think it sounds pretty good.

Everything was going along just fine as I'm cooking the chicken breasts, chopping veggies, etc. when my teenage son comes in the kitchen and, seeing the recipe on my stand asks, "Whatever happened just plain ol' spaghetti?" The fact that we are known to have "plain ol' spaghetti" on a somewhat regular basis has completely escaped his memory. No matter though because that is not the point. The point is that, in the minds of these particular teenage boys, it almost never matters what I am making as it is almost never exactly what they are craving at a given moment in time.

For example, my other teenage son had kept insisting I make a certain chicken dish. So one evening I decide to make it, thinking he would be happy about it. Here's what actually happened: He came in the kitchen as I was preparing dinner, saw that I was making the meal HE SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED and asked me, (I swear this is true) "We're not having sushi?" What?! Sushi?! What in the world made him think we might be having sushi?! I'll tell you what - NOTHING!!! See what I mean?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rigatoni with White Beans

I have made this vegetarian dinner twice now and we have had no leftovers either time. It's delicious, healthy, and super easy. At first I wasn't sure how I would feel about the sage in this recipe as I had never used it with pasta. I was pleasantly surprised with it though as it really is quite good. Here's the recipe:

8 oz. rigatoni
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 TBSP olive oil
1 c. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings, undrained
1 small jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 c. chopped kale
1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

2. In a large, deep skillet, heat oil and saute onion and garlic until tender.

3. Add mushrooms and cook an additional 5 min.

4. Stir in beans, tomatoes, artichokes, sage, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 min.

5. Stir in the kale. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, and cook until kale is wilted, usually 3-5 min.

6. Two options here: (1) Add the pasta to the mixture; (2) Spoon pasta into bowls and top with bean mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

* Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Morning...

I have spent the morning working on a dinner menu. I have two weekly planning sessions, Monday - Thursday and Friday - Sunday. I know some people shop once a week or (gasp!) even less than that but twice a week works for me. This is what I have so far:


Rigatoni with White Beans and Artichokes
Roasted Tomatoes
Caesar Salad


Yankee Pot Roast
Mashed Potatoes
Homemade Rolls

Apple Torte for dessert... :)


Chicken Spaghetti
Green Beans


Leftovers, if there are any. Otherwise, I'll come up with something between now and then.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good Morning - Dinner is Ready! (Almost)

It's in the 60's this morning and the weather is not forecasted to reach beyond the 70's all week. Fall is here and I can already feel myself slipping into my winter food mode - comfort foods with lots of carbs. I'm thinking of making my fabulous chicken and dumplings in the Crock Pot today. It's a recipe that I've developed through experimentation of adding different ingredients, adjusting cooking times, and so on. I'll post the recipe later when I have some photos. It's delicious. Plus, there is something very appealing to me about having dinner pretty much *done* by 10am. ;)
***Update: I didn't get a picture after all. I usually make this meal a few times over the course of the fall and winter though so hopefully I can get one next time. :-/

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hearty Vegetarian Enchiladas

Every once in a while, I can serve a vegetarian meal hearty enough that the kids don't even question whether or not it contains meat. This is one of those dishes. It's a heavy dinner and I frequently only serve chips and guacamole on the side, which seems to be plenty for us. Here's the recipe:

1 green pepper, chopped
1/4 c. white or yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1 TBSP olive oil
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/4 c. salsa
1 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 c. brown or white rice, cooked
8 - 6" flour tortillas
1 c. salsa
1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
3 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped

1. In large skillet, saute green pepper, onion, and garlic until tender.

2. Add beans, tomatoes, 1/4 c. salsa, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until heated through and mixture begins to thicken slightly.

3. Add rice and cook an additional 5 min., stirring to blend everything together.

4. Add 1/2c. of the mixture to each tortilla, carefully roll up and place in a greased 9x13 glass pan.

5. Pour 1c. salsa over the rolled tortillas

6. Cover and bake at 350* for about 25 min.

7. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Return to oven for 2-3 min., or until cheese is melted.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pecan Blondies

The secret ingredient here is dark rum. I used Myer's Original Dark. It should be noted that these blondies would also be excellent without the rum but the purpose of its addition is to help bring out the flavor of the pecans. Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp.baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. real butter, softened
2 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs, room temp.
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 TBSP dark rum
1 1/2 c. pecans, chopped
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Line 9x13 pan with foil. Lightly grease foil.
2. In medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In large bowl (or electric mixer), beat butter and brown sugar on medium for about 2 min., until light in color and texture. Scrape sides and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Beat in vanilla extract and rum. At this point the batter will smell amazing!
5. On low speed, add dry ingredients, just until combined.
6. Stir in 3/4c pecans and all of the chocolate chips.
7. Pour batter into pan, top with remaining pecan pieces, and lick the spatula. Go ahead, it's good!
8. Bake 35-40 min. When testing, toothpick should be clean but not dry. Cool completely on wire rack.
9. Using a double boiler (or the microwave on defrost setting), melt white chocolate. Pour into a plastic bag, snip a little off the corner, and drizzle chocolate over the top.
* If your bag has a blowout (like mine did), you can always just spread the white chocolate across the bars (like I did). Maybe not as fancy as it could be but ... you know. ;)

Also, you could totally make these the day before you need them. They're good the first day but they are awesome the next!!! Enjoy!

**I've made some minor changes here to the original as printed in The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fall is In the Air!

It is finally nice enough outside to turn off the a/c, open the windows, and let the cool breeze flow through the house. This wonderful weather makes me want to stay in and cook, even more so than usual. I'm in the mood for something hearty tonight. Something like homemade chicken pot pie and mashed potatoes. Doesn't that sound good? Yes...

Friday, August 28, 2009

30-Minute Thursday

In preparation for an upcoming half-marathon, my husband and I are following a training plan that requires us to run four days a week. We ran a little later than usual yesterday and were both starving by the time we got home. Fortunately, I had anticipated this and already had an easy Pasta Pomodoro dish planned for dinner. Total time, including prep is only about 30 minutes. We have had this twice now and everyone loves it. Here's the recipe:

1 pkg. angel hair pasta

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. white onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 large roma tomatoes, chopped (about 2 c.)

2 TBSP red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)

1 can, chicken broth

crushed red pepper

black pepper

2 tbsp fresh basil

1/4 - 1/2 c. parmesan cheese

1. Cook angel hair pasta until al dente (2-4 min.)

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil.

3. Saute onions and garlic until lightly browned.

4. Add tomatoes, vinegar, and chicken broth; simmer for about 10 min.

5. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper, both to taste.

6. Add fresh basil and simmer another 5 min.

7. To serve, place pasta in bowl, add sauce over top, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

No leftovers at our house!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chocolate Caramel Toffee Cake

My husband and I were watching TV when I casually mentioned that I was thinking of making a dessert for the following night. I asked if he had any preference and his response was, "maybe something with chocolate and whipped cream." Hmmm...okay. The next morning, I'm going through all kinds of dessert recipes: pies, trifles, brownies, etc. Then I remembered the cake with the chocolate and the caramel and the bits of toffee...so good. So that's what I made yesterday. Here's the recipe:

1 pkg. Devil's Food cake mix

14 oz. can, sweetened condensed milk

1 jar caramel ice cream topping

3 Skor or Heath candy bars, chopped

8 oz. container, Extra Creamy Cool Whip

1. In a 9x13 pan, bake the cake according to package directions. When cake is done, cut several slits across the top of the cake, going almost to the bottom.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping over low heat. Stir gently until blended.

3. Pour mixture over the top of the warm cake, making sure to get it down into the slits.

4. Sprinkle about 2/3 of the toffee candy over the entire cake.

5. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

6. Top with Cool Whip and sprinkle with remaining candy pieces. Serve chilled.

Yes, it's messy but it's good!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Quick and Easy Appetizers

Have you seen these? I bought them for the first time at Whole Foods today.

I will admit right now that I was slightly influenced by the marketing genius of the company's name. Good Wives Hors D'oeuvres. With a name like that, how could I not buy them? Of course I want to be a *good wife*! Who doesn't?! Only a bad one would refuse to serve these cute little appetizers, right?

So anyway, I bought the Spinach and Cheese Flatbreads to serve prior to our salmon dinner. They're described as, "Spinach blended with tomatoes, cheese, and garlic, topped with a swirl of goat cheese, on a mini focaccia bread round," and they couldn't be easier. All you do is pop them in the oven for about 10 min. That's it. And the best part is that they're actually really good. I would even go so far as to say that, considering the fact that they're premade and frozen, they're pretty freakin' awesome! Not cheap though. I paid $10.99 for a box of 12 so it's not an every day kind of thing but it might be good to keep a box in the freezer, just in case you ever need something in a hurry. ;)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bake Sale!

It is now two weeks before school starts and the *volunteer opportunities* are pouring in from all over. The main office needs people to stuff envelopes, the PTA needs workers for the various Back to School events, and the sports teams are organizing fundraisers. The thing is, if you say yes to absolutely everything, it can get a little overwhelming and feel suspiciously like a full-time job.

That said, I did agree to help out with an upcoming fundraiser for my son's cross country team.
The first fundraiser of the year will be held this weekend and next. It will be a car wash/bake sale. One of my jobs is to bake and package something to be sold this weekend.

I'm thinking of maybe Rice Krispie treats or sugar cookies.....something easy. ;)

It seems like so many *bake sales* now consist mostly of pre-packaged stuff from the grocery store bakery and that just seems tacky to me. Aren't all of the homemade goodies supposed to be the big allure of the bake sale?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cherry Chocolate Cake

I've been having a cherry craving lately and today it collided with my ongoing craving for chocolate. I decided that I needed both. Long story short, we're having Cherry Chocolate Cake for dessert tonight. It's ridiculously easy to make. This is all you need:

1 box of Devil's Food cake mix

2 eggs

1 can of cherry pie filling

1tsp. almond extract

This is all you do:

1. Gently mix all ingredients together with a spoon (not a mixer as this will destroy the cherries)

2. Pour into a prepared bundt pan.

3. Bake at 350* for about 35 min. Cool about 10 min. in pan before turning out onto a wire rack.

4. When the cake has cooled completely, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

*Chocolate frosting drizzled over the top is good too.

If you look close, you can see the big chunks of cherry in the cake!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Baked Ravioli Ratatouille

We like to have vegetarian dinners at least twice a week. Last night we tried out a variation on ratatouille and it was delicious! The flavors of the vegetables and spices were very complementary and the aroma was fantastic. We will definitely be having this one again:

1 TBSP olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 c. eggplant, diced
2 c. zucchini, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 TBSP dried basil
1 TBSP dried parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
9 oz. pkg. fresh cheese ravioli
1 c. shredded mozzarella

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add garlic, onion, and eggplant. Stir over medium heat about 8-10 min., until veggies are softened.

2. Add zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 20 min.

3. Meanwhile, cook the ravioli according to the directions on the package. Drain and spread in a large, prepared baking pan.

4. Pour hot veggies over raviolis and sprinkle with mozzarella.

5. Bake at 350* for about 20 min., until cheese is melted and it looks like this:
Served with a spinach salad. So good!

Our Favorite Banana Bread

I have tried alot of banana bread recipes over the years. Some were good, some were not so good. I had just about given up on finding a really great recipe for using up all those old bananas that we always seem to have lying around, until I found one that is consistently delicious every single time. Here's what you need:

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. real butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
6 or 7 overripe bananas, mashed
chopped nuts, 1/2 - 1 c. - optional

1. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

2. Using a mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and bananas until well blended.

3. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture, until everything is evenly moist. Stir in the nuts.

4. Grease and flour, or spray, a loaf pan and add the batter.

5. Bake at 350* for an hour, give or take about 5 minutes.

6. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

* I don't know why but banana bread always seems to taste better the next day. That's just my observation and not one that prevents us from eating it the same day at all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sign of the Times

This is a little embarrassing, but here goes: I was making batter for banana bread and everything was going along just fine. Until I got to the step in which the batter is poured into a *prepared pan*. So far, so good until I reach for my handy can of cooking spray with flour built right in only to find that it won't spray at all. It's completely clogged! I run the nozzle under hot water because I read somewhere that that's the thing to do in these situations, but it didn't work. So there I am in the kitchen, on the verge of what feels a little like panic, trying to figure out what to do. Do I run to the store? Do I dump the batter and just forget the whole thing? Or...here is where the flash of brilliance comes in...do I do it the old fashioned way? Remember when we used to actually butter and flour pans as opposed to just spraying them? It's sad really that this was the last option to occur to me. So anyway, that's what I did and, sure enough, it worked just as well as it did back in the old days.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cooking and Cleaning

I'm thinking tonight will be a "Clean Out the Fridge" night, of sorts. The leftovers are out of control and I really can't stand the thought of throwing out so much good food, which is exactly what will happen if this goes on too long. I am amazed every time one of the kids stands in front of the open refrigerator and exclaims that there is "nothing to eat". Just for the record, this is completely untrue except in the minds teenage boys who, given the option, would eat microwave junk every day of their lives. So for tonight's dinner, everyone can choose between spaghetti and meatballs, Greek chicken salad in pitas, and shredded barbeque chicken sandwiches. Everyone gets fed and the refrigerator gets cleaned out. Sounds like a good plan to me!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No Frozen Dinner Tonight!

I don't usually cook on the weekends. Last Sunday was different though. We were out of the weekend stand-bys (DiGiorno pizzas and Bertolli skillet meals; both of which I always add garlic and spices to prior to heating) so I decided to throw together some chicken kabobs.

These are great when you want a good, fast dinner. You can soak the skewers to lessen the chances of them burning but I always forget to do that. The skewers get dark but it's no big deal. We haven't had any fires. After all, they're only in there for 6 minutes! We've made this a few times and my husband and kids all enjoy it. I like to serve these kabobs with rice and sauteed veggies. Here's the recipe:

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 lb. thin sliced, skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 inch pieces
Variety of veggies (I like a red pepper, green pepper, andyellow squash)

1. Combine first five ingredients in a medium size bowl. Stir in chicken and onion; allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

2. Thread chicken and veggies onto skewers.

3. Broil 5 in. from the heat, turning after 3 minutes. Continue broiling for another 3 minutes or until chicken is done.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Risotto - In the Microwave!

I tried this for the first time last night and it came out perfect! It's delicious as is but could also be jazzed up further with mushrooms or maybe sun-dried tomatoes. Everyone loved it and there were no leftovers! Definitely making this one again:

3 TBSP butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 vegetable broth
1 c. Arborio rice, uncooked
3/4 c. white wine
1/4 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese

1. Combine butter, garlic, and onion in medium size casserole dish. Microwave on high for 3 minutes.

2. Heat broth separately until hot but not boiling; about 2 - 2 1/2 minutes.
* I just use a glass measuring cup for this step.

3. Add rice and broth to the butter, garlic, and onion. Cover and cook on high for 6 minutes.

4. Stir in white wine. Cover again and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

5. Stir in parmesan cheese and serve.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

January 1 is probably the one day out of every year that I eat black-eyed peas. I've eaten them on New Year's Day of just about every year that I can remember. I used to just buy the canned variety, add a little salt and pepper, and call it done. This year, I decided to cook them myself in the Crock Pot. We like spicy food and these beans definitely had a kick. This is my new New Year's Day recipe:

6c. chicken broth
1lb. bag of black-eyed peas
1/4 onion, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper (1/2 if it's a big one)
1c. diced ham (leftover from holiday dinner)
4 slices bacon, cooked and broken into pieces
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 3/4 tsp. cumin
salt, to taste
1 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Throw everything in the Crock Pot. Cover and cook on low all day (8-10 hrs.). If you're ready to eat but the beans are not, just put it in the microwave, covered, and nuke it until liquid evaporates and beans are the consistency you like. Easy!


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