Friday, December 19, 2008

Just eat it

I cringed at a piece of information I read in this month's Parents magazine: "One study conducted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that every American wastes, on average, more than a pound of food a day."

I went to the department's website for more information. In 1996, researchers found that up to 20 percent of all food produced annually for human consumption in the United States goes to waste. The value of the wasted food is estimated at about $31 billion per year. These lost resources could have fed 49 million people, the site said.

I'm relieved to say my family definitely does not waste a pound of food per person every day. Not being wasteful is important to us, but it's hard not to waste a little when you have kids. We try to limit the waste by only offering our kids portions we really think they'll eat. It's better to start small and add more if they are still hungry. And we always eat leftovers until they're gone, even if we're sick of them.

Wasting food is not only economically inefficient, but it's also socially irresponsible. You know the cliche "There are starving children in Africa..."? Well, it's not so cliche. I've been there, and I've seen starving children. There are also some in our own country, and even in our own back yards.

Let's all try a little harder, eh?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Let the gingerbread man eat cake

This old-fashioned gingerbread pudding cake is perfect for the holidays. Serve it with homemade cinnamon whipped cream, as I did, or with a scoop of ice cream. It tastes delicious, and it's unique.


2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 c. molasses
1 c. water
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 c. hot water
1/2 c. melted butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice and nutmeg in medium bowl; set aside.

Beat 1/2 cup butter and sugar in large bowl until creamy. Add egg, then molasses. Add flour mixture and 1 cup water. Pour batter into ungreased 9x13 pan and sprinkle with 3/4 cup brown sugar.

Combine 2 cups hot water and 1/2 cup melted butter in medium bowl; carefully pour over top of batter. Do not stir. Bake for 40 minutes or until gingerbread is cracked on top and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cinnamon whipped cream:

1 c. whipping cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Beat ingredients with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The king of corn

I'll be darned if this isn't the best creamed corn ever. This is one of those dishes I look forward to around the holidays. My husband's aunt bestowed the recipe upon me after my husband talked it up for our first couple of years of marriage. He wasn't kidding. The whole family agreed Thanksgiving would have been ruined without it.


20 oz. frozen corn (white, yellow or both)
9 oz. whipping cream, divided
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. butter/spread
Pepper to taste OR a pinch of white cayenne
2 Tbsp. flour

Combine everything except flour and 2 oz. whipping cream in pot and bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Blend flour with reserved cream and add to corn mixture to thicken. Serves 6.

*Note:  over the years, I have been using half milk, half cream with great results. We don't miss the extra calories.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crazy cranberry craving

This cranberry salsa is addictive, festive and every other wonderful -ive. The red from the cranberries is deliciously complemented by green flecks of cilantro and spread over a combo of cream cheese and sour cream. Serve it with tortilla chips. I'm telling you, this dish gets nothing but praise.


8 oz. cream cheese (I use reduced-fat)
1/2 c. sour cream (I use reduced-fat)
12 oz. bag fresh cranberries, rinsed
Half a medium onion or 3-4 green onions
Half a cilantro bunch
1 jalapeno or Anaheim pepper, seeds removed
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
Juice of 2 limes

Mix cream cheese and sour cream and spread on platter for bottom layer. Blend everything else in food processor to form top layer. Serve with tortilla chips. Refrain from overindulgence.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Who knew?

Advice from the back of the can:

"Enjoy them heated, chilled or right out of the container as a snack, main dish or sliced and added to casseroles and soups."

However, I think only my California nieces would agree with that.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sugar and spice

This recipe for chocolate gingerbread cookies is originally a Martha Stewart. I was clued in to it by my friend Holly at Phe/MOM/enon. The thing is, both she and Martha Stewart are really into baking, and I'm way too lazy for it. So, I dumbed down the recipe to suit my impatient needs. If you are interested in making it the right way, go to Holly's blog. The thing is, I thought it was just great without all the refrigeration and extra TLC. Maybe I'm a disgrace, though.


1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c. molasses
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Granulated sugar

Beat together butter and brown sugar, then add molasses and fresh ginger. Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips. Form into balls and roll in granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until surfaces begin to crack. Let stand for a few minutes.

The chocolate flavor is more apparent when the cookies are warm. The gingerbread flavor is more apparent when they are completely cooled.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chow down on chowder

We've been making this chicken corn chowder for three years now, and it's always a hit. It works great by itself or in bread bowls. You can make your ingredients as chunky or bite-sized as you desire. It's a Crock-Pot meal, which makes it even more appealing to me.


2 Tbsp. butter/margarine
1 1/2 lbs. chicken, cubed
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 lb. carrots, chopped
2 cans corn, drained
2 cans cream of potato soup
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. dill weed (this really adds to it)
1/2 c. half-and-half

Brown chicken in butter (it doesn't have to be cooked through), then transfer to Crock-Pot. Saute onions and celery briefly, then transfer to pot, along with carrots, corn, potato soup and broth. Add dill weed and cook for 5 to 6 hours on low. During last 10 minutes, stir in half-and-half. Serves 8.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Do the mashed potato, then do the twist

Fiesta mashed potatoes are a tasty twist on the traditional dish. By the way, I never peel my potatoes, because the skin has so much nutritional value.


8 to 10 russet potatoes (small-medium, like the ones that come in the bag)
16 oz. lowfat sour cream
1 packet Hidden Valley's fiesta ranch mix
1/4 c. butter or spread

Wash potatoes, then chop into chunks and place in pot of water. Boil until tender. Potato chunks will slip off the end of a fork. Drain and place in mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and beat with hand mixer until creamy.

Tip: Mix the sour cream and fiesta ranch ahead of time, then if you don't need the whole 16 ounces for your potatoes -- maybe you only used 8 and they were small -- you can use the remainder as a chip dip. Yum!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spectacular salad

This salad is extraordinary. I have made it many times since I got the recipe from a gal in my neighborhood. The above picture shows a bowl that is 11 inches in diameter. Two adults and one 3-year-old devoured its contents in less than 24 hours. The dressing is a delicious mix of sweet and tangy.


1 head romaine lettuce, washed and chopped (if you use bagged lettuce, you will probably need two)
1 apple, cubed
1 pear, cubed
1 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1 c. Craisins
1 c. cashews

1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tsp. minced onion (or 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. onion powder)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 c. oil (I have only used canola)

Mix salad ingredients and dressing ingredients separately. Toss together before serving. Keep them separate if you don't plan to use all the salad at once or it will get soggy. You must know, however, that I would still eat this salad if it were soggy. It's that good.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Do the dip

Now this is the right way to make a French dip sandwich. By the way, I used to hate French dip sandwiches. In recent times, I have had an awakening, a beautiful awakening. The only thing I can figure is that I had never eaten them the right way before. I think they never had toppings, which I have discovered are vital. The recipe below is delicious and so very easy. Serve the sandwiches with a salad or other veggie on the side.

Deli-sliced roast beef
Sub rolls or hoagie buns
Packet of au jus powder
Sliced Swiss cheese (please understand, I hate Swiss plain, but it is delicious on this)

Make au jus according to package directions. (You just boil it with water.) Add roast beef so meat will warm up. Meanwhile, slice rolls and toast them under the broiler until they're good and golden. Top with mayo and cheese. Use a fork or tongs to remove the beef from the sauce and layer it on the sandwich. Pour au jus into bowls for dipping.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Holy ravioli!

When you don't have time to put dinner together, make this alfredo ravioli bake. The only thing I did that's worthy of being called "cooking" was chop a red pepper. The dish requires an hour to bake, so if you can plan ahead for that, you'll have a nice dinner with very little effort.


1 25-ounce package frozen cheese-filled ravioli
1 8-ounce package pre-sliced mushrooms
1 c. chopped red bell pepper
1 16-ounce bottle alfredo sauce
8 ounces shredded cheese (I used mozzarella, but Swiss, Parmesan or a mixture would work)

Mix all ingredients -- don't even worry about thawing ravioli -- in a baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

By the way, this meal cost me $6.29 at Wal-Mart. I price-matched the mushrooms and cheese. I used a pepper from our garden. Three of us only ate half the pan, so we have lunch for tomorrow. Not bad.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Got extra tomatoes?

We love to use up our garden bounty by making tomato melts. Make them however your family will eat them. Feel free to experiment with toppings and seasonings. Make it for lunch, as a side dish, or even for your main dish if you're strapped for time.


French bread, sliced however you want
Fresh tomatoes, sliced
Shredded cheese (mozzarella, Parmesan or both)
Garlic powder or salt
Dried basil

Set oven to broil. Arrange tomato slices on bread. Sprinkle generously with cheese. Season as desired. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden and edges of bread are crisp.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

From garden to gourmet

This recipe for homemade tomato-almond soup is unique and wonderful. It tastes so fresh, because we use tomatoes from our garden. It has an unusual, gourmet taste to it. The almonds provide a bread-crumb effect. It seems like something that would be served at an expensive, authentic Italian restaurant. You need to like tomatoes in order to like this. We like it well enough to make multiple batches and freeze them. It tastes the very best with french bread dipped in it.


3 Tbsp. butter
4 c. chopped vine-ripened tomatoes*
2 c. vegetable or chicken broth (more or less if desired)
2/3 c. light cream
1/4 c. ground almonds
1 tsp. sugar
Dried basil to taste (shred fresh basil if desired)
Salt and pepper to taste
French bread for dipping

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, until the skins start to wrinkle. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, under a preheated broiler, toast ground almonds until they are golden brown. This will take only 1 or 2 minutes, so watch them closely.

Remove the soup from heat, place in a food processor or blender, and blend the mixture to form a smooth consistency. Alternatively, mash the soup with a potato masher. Pass the soup through a strainer to remove any skin and seeds. Place soup in saucepan and return to heat. Stir in cream, almonds, sugar and basil. Serves 4.

*This recipe is best made with garden fresh tomatoes. Store-bought tomatoes will give you a watered-down flavor. I chop, bag and freeze many of the tomatoes from my garden just so I can make this soup during the off-season. If you must use store-bought tomatoes, you could probably add an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce to increase the tomato flavor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Anyone wanna sign up?

I guess People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals could have been more convincing with the letter the group sent to Ben and Jerry's. PETA recently asked that the company move from producing its ice cream with cow's milk to making it with human breast milk, instead. I've already started hearing jokes about how that production line would function.

Here's an excerpt from PETA's letter to the company:

"If Ben and Jerry's replaced the cow's milk in its ice cream with breast milk, your customers — and cows — would reap the benefits ... The breast is best! Won't you give cows and their babies a break and our health a boost by switching from cow's milk to breast milk in Ben and Jerry's ice cream? Thank you for your consideration."

The whole letter can be found here.

The response from Ben and Jerry's:

"We applaud PETA's novel approach to bringing attention to an issue, but we believe a mother's milk is best used for her child."

Plus, they'd have to change the company name to Ben and Jerry's Moms' Ice Cream. Personally, I just don't think Cherry Garcia would be the same. Babies would love it, though.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tater-tot casserole

This tater-tot casserole is really easy and versatile. You can stuff as many veggies into it as you want. I got rid of a bunch of zucchini from our garden this way. It tasted great. The tater tots make it hearty, so just an 8x8 pan should do for most families.


1/2 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 c. milk (optional)
3 c. frozen mixed vegetables (or chop your own fresh)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
16 oz. frozen seasoned tater tots

Brown onion with meat, then spoon into 8x8 baking dish. Mix in soup, milk and veggies. Top with cheese, then potatoes. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Honey, lime home!

These honey-lime chicken enchiladas are fabulous. What a unique twist on an old favorite. I have already made these twice since I snagged the recipe from my friend at phe/MOM/enon, who got it from someone else. This is one of those recipes that require me to repeat the ingredients when I hear about them: "honey and lime, huh?" Now that I've experienced it, my answer is an ecstatic "you betcha!"


6 Tbsp. honey
6 Tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 lb. chicken, cooked and shredded (I boil it)
8-10 flour tortillas
1 lb. monterey jack cheese, shredded (I used colby jack)
10 oz. green enchilada sauce
1 c. cream

Mix the first four ingredients and toss with chicken in a plastic baggie. Marinate for a half-hour or more, if desired. Fill tortillas with chicken mixture and cheese, reserving about 1 cup cheese to sprinkle on top. Mix green sauce with cream and any leftover marinade. Pour over enchiladas, ensuring that it seeps underneath. Sprinkle with cheese and bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

*Note: Even mild green sauce is quite spicy for this wimp, so the cream really helps downplay the heat.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Only one left

These brownie cookie bars were good, because anything with that name would have to be, but I thought the brownie part was more like a chocolate cookie than a brownie. I'm used to richer, moister brownies. So, the whole thing for me was like a thick two-flavored cookie, which is just fine. I liked them best after they cooled.


Mix the following ingredients in order:
3/4 c. butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Split dough evenly in two bowls.

To one bowl add:
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1/3 c. cocoa

To the other bowl add:
1/4 c. flour
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Spread brownie mixture in the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Spread cookie batter evenly on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Muy bien

This is a great take on taco salad. It uses Fritos, of course, as many great taco salads do. The new ingredient for us was Catalina dressing. It's like a Mexican hat dance in your mouth. And truly, you can't get much easier than this.


1 lb. ground beef
1 can diced green chiles
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bag lettuce or 1 head lettuce, chopped
1 10-ounce bag regular Fritos
Chopped fresh tomato
Catalina dressing

Brown ground beef with chiles and onion. Toss together with remaining ingredients and top with dressing. Feel free to adjust ingredients to suit your family's taste buds. Serves 6.

*Note: If you anticipate having leftovers, you may consider letting individuals mix their own ingredients so you can store them separately afterward. The Fritos will become soggy in the fridge.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back in time

This brownie pudding recipe came from the January 1944 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. It's OK, but it's not sweet or rich enough for me. We're used to eating a lot more sugar than our grandparents did. Really, I mostly enjoyed it for its historical value.


1 c. flour
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 T. cooking oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. boiling water

Grease an 8x8 baking pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, oil and vanilla. Stir in walnuts. Pour batter into baking pan. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa. Stir in boiling water. Slowly pour water mixture over batter in pan. Don't mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mean, green broccoli cuisine

This broccoli salad is sweet and savory. I can't think of a better way to eat my veggies.


Florets from two medium-large broccoli crowns, chopped
1/4 c. chopped red onion
1 c. sunflower nuts
1/2 c. raisins or Craisins
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1/4 c. sugar

Mix ingredients well, then refrigerate before serving.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Stuck in the middle

Give these homemade ice-cream sandwiches a try for dessert at your next barbecue. They are a cinch to make, and you can try any combination your sweet tooth desires.


1 cake mix
2 eggs
3/8 c. oil

Beat ingredients with electric mixture to form dough. Shape into 1 1/2-inch balls, and flatten slightly onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cracks will form on top. Don't overcook or they won't be soft to make sandwiches. Let cool completely, then fill with ice cream.

*Note: We have tried chocolate cake mix and Oreo ice cream, and carrot cake mix and carrot cake ice cream (Wal-Mart brand). Both were a success. Be creative! If you don't want to use ice cream, substitute frosting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Touched by an angel?

When Mother Superior baked this delightfully airy dish the other day, I was surprised. And not only because we apparently suddenly had a nun living with us. But I loved the eggie goodness you normally taste with puffy German pancakes. Only these nun's puffs, with their sweet and crispy outside and melt-in-your-mouth insides, can be enjoyed without a fork.

Fortunately, this recipe exists and I was willing to try it out. Unfortunately, it only made 11 puffs. I bet I can get 12 out of it next time, though.


1/2 c. butter

1 c. milk

3/4 c. flour

4 eggs

2 Tbsp. sugar

Honey (optional, but it's a good option)

Grease muffin tin, including edges and around tops of cups. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add milk. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture until you can form it into a ball that does not separate. Remove from heat. Cool for 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute with a wooden spoon after each addition. Divide dough evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy. Serve with honey, if desired.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Brushing up on bruschetta

This bruschetta chicken bake is a unique dish that's easy to throw together, because one of its main ingredients is boxed stuffing. Even at that, it doesn't taste like dinner from a box.


1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Fresh chopped tomato, as much as desired
1 pkg. Stove Top stuffing for chicken
2 chicken breasts, cut up
1 Tbsp. dried basil leaves
Handful toasted pinenuts
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place canned tomatoes with liquid in medium bowl. Add garlic, stuffing mix and 1/2 c. water. Stir and set aside. Place chicken in 9x13 dish. Sprinkle with basil, cheese and pinenuts. Top with stuffing mixture. Sprinkle with fresh tomatoes. If desired, sprinkle grated Parmesan for looks. Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Note: You may want more cheese. I always do.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tastes like a million bucks

This recipe for peanut butter cookies won $1 million in this year's Pillsbury Bake-off. And though I don't really think any recipe is worth $1 million, these are definitely the best peanut butter cookies I've ever had. They have a creamy center. How awesome for the lady who won, huh?

Click here for the recipe.
*Note: I increased the peanut butter and powdered sugar amounts to 3/4 cup each. I found it impossible to make 24 balls with any less than that.

Start the day right

I love breakfast. And what better way to start the day than by combining all the fixins in one easy dish? This breakfast casserole does the trick.

6 c. frozen shredded hashbrowns
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
3 c. cooked meat, your choice*
8 beaten eggs
3 c. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Coat 9x13 pan in nonstick spray. Fill with potatoes, cheese and meat. In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour over potato mixture. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about an hour, or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.
*I use two or more of the following: cooked and crumbled bacon, cubed or chopped ham, cooked ground sausage.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Texas caviar

This salsa-of-sorts is delicious. It gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it. I've decided it's acceptable to eat this for dinner.


1 can each black, pinto and white beans
7 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (discard stems)
1 bag frozen white corn
Half a red onion, finely diced
1 Anaheim pepper, seeds removed, finely diced
1 pkg. dry Italian dressing (and ingredients to make it)
Juice of 2 limes

Rinse and drain beans. Rinse corn to thaw and mix with beans in large bowl. Add cilantro, tomatoes, onion and pepper. I use a mini-chopper for the onion and pepper. Make dressing according to package directions and add to other ingredients. I use a mini-chopper for the dressing, too, so it's creamy-looking and frothy. Refrigerate salsa so flavors mix. Add lime juice before serving.

By the way, Anaheim peppers are supposedly less spicy than jalapenos, but I've substituted a jalapeno in this recipe and haven't noticed a difference.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Primo pasta

This pasta bake is so darn easy. It tastes good, and it's quite healthy. It's a great way to get some spinach in your diet.


15 ounces spaghetti sauce
8 ounces rotini noodles, cooked and drained (I use either the colored veggie noodles or whole wheat)
3/4 c. sour cream
5 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (you could always try fresh)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spoon mixed ingredients into 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 25 minutes.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Putting the "pea" in "peanut"

If you ever need a unique side dish, this pea and peanut salad is a good one. It's got a fresh, savory flavor. You could put individual servings on romaine lettuce leaves for extra appeal.


8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
10 ounces frozen petite peas, thawed
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 c. roasted, salted peanuts
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Combine ingredients. Makes 8 servings.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Thai

This recipe for Thai chicken and noodles is so very, very yummy. I wouldn't feel bad about making it every week. Joe says he loves the way it smells when it is cooking. It is easy to make because the prime ingredient for the sauce is pre-made salad dressing. We have made it several times for guests, and everyone raves about it.


1 c. Asian sesame and ginger salad dressing*
2 chicken breast halves, cut up
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 Tbsp. honey
Ground red pepper to taste (I just do a couple of shakes)
8 ounces thin spaghetti, cooked
3/4 c. shredded carrot
3/4 c. chopped green onion
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Mix dressing, peanut butter, honey and pepper in small bowl; set aside. Cook chicken in skillet. Add sauce, carrots and green onions. Mix thoroughly, then toss with spaghetti and cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

*I used to use Good Seasons dressing, but now I can't find it, so I use Kraft's Asian dressing.

Hankering for Cafe Rio?

Well, I guess you could always go to Cafe Rio. But if you want to stay home and still enjoy the masterful taste of sweet pork, here's the recipe. It's so darn easy for something so rewarding. You've also got to make the avocado-ranch dressing. Feel free to make a burrito or toss it all in a salad. Yum!


2 lbs. pork roast (I used center-cut pork loin roast)
1 1/2 c. salsa (I used Pace picante sauce)
1 1/2 c. brown sugar

Place roast in slow cooker. Mix salsa and brown sugar, and pour over roast. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours. Shred pork.

1 avocado
Handful cilantro
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. mayonnaise
Half a packet of dry ranch dressing mix
Milk for thinning to desired consistency

Mix ingredients in a blender. Refrigerate before using so flavors can mix.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pumpkin and chocolate: so happy together

Here's what you make with your leftover pumpkin from the soup recipe. (You see, I buy the large cans of pumpkin puree.) Pumpkin bread with chocolate chips is scrumptious. I'm always in need of a good chocolate fix, and this hits the spot. I use half whole wheat flour so I feel even better about chowing down.


1 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c. canned pumpkin
1 c. chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, pumpkin and dry ingredients. Then add chocolate chips. Bake in greased bread pan at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Makes one loaf.

If you want to further sweeten the deal, try this glaze:

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1-2 Tbsp. orange juice

Friday, April 4, 2008

Gotta eat it to believe it

It may sound like a weird combo to some of you, but this pumpkin and sausage soup is delicious. It is spiced to perfection. I love that it's not your average soup, and it's easy to make. Let curiosity drive you to try it. This dish never fails to impress.


1 pound ground pork sausage
1/2 c. chopped onion
8-ounce package fresh sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
15-ounce can pumpkin puree
4 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. curry
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. heavy cream

In a large pot, brown sausage with onion, garlic and mushrooms. Drain fat. Add pumpkin and broth, then curry and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes. Add cream and simmer 10 minutes more. Makes 8 cups.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Artichoke and spinach: a dynamic duo

I love this artichoke-spinach lasagna. Joe says it is a delightful little jaunt through Italy. (Never mind that he's never been to Italy.) I don't even know that it really tastes Italian, other than its being lasagna. We love the twist on the traditional dish, though.


2 jars alfredo sauce
1/4 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
3 c. chopped cooked chicken
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped red pepper (optional)
1 garlic clove, pressed
3 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c. shredded Swiss cheese
10 lasagna noodles
2 handfuls fresh spinach

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook noodles according to package directions; be sure not to overcook. In small bowl, whisk together sauce, milk and oregano. In large bowl, combine chicken, artichokes, onion, pepper, garlic and cheeses. Spread 2/3 cup sauce over bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Top with half of noodles, overlapping to fit. Layer half of spinach over noodles and top with half of chicken mixture. Repeat layers, starting and ending with sauce. Cover and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 to 15 minutes more.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

One-dish fiesta

Tamale pie casserole is a twist on the Mexican food we're used to making. It's tasty and easy to make.


3/4 c. cornmeal
1 egg
1 1/2 c. milk
1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. mild taco seasoning (more or less)
1/2 c. chopped onion (optional)
1 small can enchilada sauce
1 c. chunky mild salsa
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 can corn, drained
1 can sliced olives, drained
1 1/2 c. grated cheese
Chopped green onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cornmeal, egg and milk, then set aside. Brown ground beef sprinkled with taco seasoning in large skillet, then drain fat. Add onion, enchilada sauce, salsa, tomatoes, corn and olives. Simmer over medium heat for five minutes. Pour into 9 x 13 pan, then mix in cornmeal batter. Bake about 50 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and green onions, and bake until cheese is melted.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Potato power

This recipe for potato and ham casserole is really great. Our favorite way to make it is with leftover spiral-sliced brown sugar ham -- you know, after Easter or Christmas or something. (Easter is coming up, so plan on making this.) It's really a winner. Tonight we just made it with thinly pre-sliced ham. It has a really simple flavor, but everyone seems to enjoy it.


8 russet potatoes (small to medium, like the ones in the bags),
scrubbed and sliced
24 thin slices of ham or a bunch of leftover holiday ham
1 stick butter
1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 1/2 c. milk
Pepper to taste
16 oz. frozen peas (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thick and bubbly. In 9 x 13 pan, layer potatoes, ham, peas and sauce. You should be able to repeat the layers once or twice. Bake, covered, for one hour.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Peter Piper's pick

This recipe is a unique twist on stuffed peppers. It's chock full of vegetables and color. It's as pleasing to look at as it is to taste. And it's healthy and easy to prepare.


6 large bell peppers (any color or a mix), washed
1 c. instant brown rice, uncooked
1 c. water or chicken broth
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can corn, drained
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 10-ounce jar Classico sun-dried tomato pesto
Shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring water/broth to boil in saucepan. Add rice, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Meanwhile, slice around tops of peppers, then scoop out seeds and membranes. When rice is cooked, add beans, corn peas and pesto. Mix thoroughly. Stuff peppers with mixture. Place in oven-safe dish and cover with lid or foil. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how thick and stiff your peppers started out. The result should be a pepper that slices easily with a butter knife. Top individual servings with shredded cheese.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Get out the milk

These oatmeal chocolate chip cookies have a little spice, which makes them different from your everyday chocolate chip cookies. They're tasty, and you can't go wrong with oatmeal.


3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. rolled oats
1 1/4 c. chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars, baking powder, soda and spices. Beat until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Spoon dough onto ungreased cookie sheets, and bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Makes about 60 cookies.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Somebody stop me

Our recipe for bacon-wrapped smokies absolutely rocks. These babies are so addicting. I simply cannot stop eating them, no matter how full I am. A lot of people make them with barbecue sauce, but that just won't do for us. A simple mixture of ketchup and brown sugar gives the smokies just the right zip. We have never had a bad review. In fact, we have never had a less-than-glorious review. Try them.


1 16-ounce pkg. cocktail smokies
1 16-ounce pkg. bacon (sliced into thirds)
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. ketchup

Wrap each sausage in bacon and secure with toothpick. Place on foiled cookie sheet (be sure your cookie sheet has edges to catch the grease). Cook at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix brown sugar and ketchup. Remove smokies from oven and coat with sauce. Bake at 400 degrees until bacon is cooked and crispy on edges. Divine. Absolutely divine.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Comforting food

As in, it's nice to eat food that comforts you the day after you made food you didn't like.

And that's what brings us to mac 'n' cheese. But this isn't just any mac 'n' cheese. This is Chuck's Favorite Mac and Cheese. Who is Chuck? We may never know. But at least we know his favorite mac recipe.

Marie whipped this little number up from a recipe we stumbled upon at I think we each polished off two bowls of the stuff, possibly more because three-quarters of the pan is gone.

I added a dash of salt to mine.


8 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
12 ounces cottage cheese
8 ounces sour cream
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c. dry bread crumbs
1/4 c. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In 9x13 baking dish, stir together noodles, cheeses, sour cream and salt and pepper. In small bowl, mix bread crumbs and butter. Sprinkle over noodle mixture. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, uncovered, or until top is golden.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A real patty pooper

"I don't know what I'm going to do with these patties," Marie says.

Geez. We have like 12 Lentil-Rice Patties left, meaning our first recipe for this blog was a flop. But that's why we're here: to warn you.

Don't bother with this recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

Our goal here was a noble one: to try something new, different from the norm. We thought it would be nice to incorporate lentils into our lives.

Our apologies to the Vegans out there, because we're pretty sure this is stuff you eat all the time.


1 14-ounce can chicken broth
3/4 c. water
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/3 c. uncooked regular brown rice
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c. brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
1 c. regular rolled oats
2 slightly beaten egg whites
1/4 c. snipped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or almonds, toasted

In medium saucepan, combine broth, water, onion, rice, red pepper and garlic. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 20 minutes. Stir in lentils. Simmer, covered, 25 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Add garbanzo beans. Use potato masher to mash mixture. Stir in oats and let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine egg whites, basil Worcestershire sauce and salt. Add to lentil mixture. Stir in nuts.

Coat skillet with nonstick spray. Heat to medium. Place 1/3 cup mixture onto hot skillet and flatten to a half-inch thick. Cook until light brown, turning once.

Serve patties with chopped tomatoes and sour cream if desired. (But why you would desire any of this we can't imagine. If you do desire, we have plenty of patties to go around.)