Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy as a clam

I love this clam chowder. The recipe is a tweaked version of Market Street Grill's. That's a top-notch seafood restaurant here. I took out the sherry wine and lowered the pepper amount because I'm afraid of spice. It is a wonderful soup -- definitely the best clam chowder I know. It is creamy and flavorful. Dip a fresh chunk of French bread into it and you'll be happy as a clam.

THE RECIPE:

1 c. diced potatoes (1/2 inch)
1 c. diced celery
1 c. diced onion
1 c. diced green pepper
1 c. diced carrots
2 6-ounce cans chopped clams, liquid drained and reserved
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. dried thyme
6 bay leaves
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce (this is a must)
2 3/4 c. water
3/4 c. clam juice (reserved from cans)
3/4 c. butter, melted
1 c. flour
8 c. half-and-half

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Chop vegetables and put in large pot. Mix melted butter and flour, then pour into small baking dish (8x8 or smaller). Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, add remaining ingredients except half-and-half to pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender.

Add flour-butter mixture, which looks like fluffy little beads after being cooked. Mix until thick. Remove from heat and add half-and-half. Return to burner and heat through, stirring occasionally. Supposedly this serves 12, but I eat like a hog, so I'd say 8.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Savor the flavor

Here is a quick and easy weeknight meal: curried honey mustard chicken. Everyone in my family enjoyed the flavor. It has a little spice to it, but not too much for me, and I'm a wimp when it comes to spicy foods. I found the recipe on Allrecipes.com, and people there were saying they loved the dish even though they hate curry. I love curry, so this was a keeper! Plan ahead so you can marinate your chicken.

THE RECIPE:

1/3 c. butter, melted
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
4 tsp. yellow curry powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
Cooked rice

Mix butter, honey, mustard and curry, then pour over chicken in baking dish. I cut my chicken into large strips, but you don't have to. Cover and refrigerate as long as possible to marinate. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is done (depends on thickness). Serve over rice to sop up all the sauce. Don't let any of it go to waste!

*Technically, I mean chicken breast halves, because a whole breast includes both sides attached in the middle. Most people don't know that, though, because the stores usually sell them already split. So, I've just joined the lay crowd in leaving off the "halves" part. Very unlike me to give in. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A twist on the traditional

I only tried one new recipe for Thanksgiving this year. I made this old-fashioned applesauce pie and then sent it to the party with my siblings. My family and I stayed home and threw up all day. What do you do, right?

This pie is really great, though, for people like me who don't like all the chunks of baked fruit in traditional pies. This pie has all the flavor of traditional apple pie, with the custard-like texture of pumpkin pie. It is a snap to throw together, and it's a fun change from the usual.

The recipe is an Amish one from the book "New Recipes from Quilt Country."

THE RECIPE:

1 pie crust
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. smooth applesauce
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together ingredients and pour into pie crust. Bake for 45 minutes. It looks a little wiggly when it comes out. Allow to cool completely before eating so it sets.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sweet seeds

We carved two big pumpkins this year for Halloween. After that, we had a nice pile of sloppy, gooey seeds. You'll see in the picture above how they ended up. Much better, eh? These cinnamon-sugar pumpkin seeds were pretty tasty. Last year, we tried a savory kind. It's fun to experiment.

THE RECIPE:

1 c. pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. oil or melted butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Rinse and drain pumpkin seeds. Just do your best to get the goop off. Lay out on cloth and pat dry. You can leave them to dry, but if you let them dry all the way, they will stick to the cloth a little. Heat oven to 300 degrees. On a cookie sheet, toss pumpkin seeds with oil until well coated. Mix sugar, salt and cinnamon, then toss with seeds. Spread seeds evenly on cookie sheet. Bake for one hour, tossing once halfway through.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hidden treasure

I have been meaning to post this recipe for a long time. This is a unique pie that got high praise from people who tried it. I have to say it is one of the best I've ever tasted. It's a mixed berry pie, using fresh boysenberries and strawberries from our garden, and here's the surprise: The sweet berry filling is swirled with chocolate! That's why I loved it so much. I'm not normally a big fan of baked fruit. I don't like the chunks, and I don't like tartness. But chocolate makes everything worthwhile!

I made this pie more than once, adjusting the fruit amounts according to what I had on hand. You can do the same. Below, however, is the recipe with the ratios I liked best.

THE RECIPE:

2 c. blueberries
2 c. strawberries, halved
1 c. boysenberries
1/3 c. flour
2/3 to 3/4 c. sugar, depending on tartness of berries
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips*

Gently mix berries with flour, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Allow to sit while making crust dough. Stir in chocolate chips, then pour filling into bottom crust. Make lattice-style crust on top or whatever design your heart desires -- something that allows ventilation. Brush top crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes. Line outer edges with foil if needed to prevent burning. I didn't need to do that. Let cool completely on wire rack before eating.

Crust recipe:

2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. shortening
1/3 c. cold butter
8 to 10 Tbsp. cold water

Stir together flour and salt, then cut in shortening and butter with pastry blender until you have pea-sized crumbs. Mix in water until dough forms. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface. You'll need two 12-inch circles for a 9-inch pie pan.

*I made it both ways. I liked it with more chocolate, and my husband liked it with less -- he loves baked fruit, though, so he wanted the fruit to shine with just a hint of chocolate. I wanted chocolate in every bite.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Creme de la creme

If you want a creamy and heavenly ice cream that you can't find at the grocery store, make this frozen cinnamon custard. It is truly divine. Eat it as the perfect complement to pie or cake, or just scarf it down by itself. Be sure to say "Mmm" with every bite. That's what we do.

THE RECIPE:

2 c. sugar
3 c. whole milk
4 eggs
2 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla
4 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a large saucepan (at least 3 quarts), over medium heat, stir together sugar and milk. Bring to simmer. Meanwhile, use a fork to beat eggs into cream, then set aside. When milk simmers, pour eggs and cream into it. Cook, stirring constantly once it gets hot, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. This takes some time. You have to be patient and not turn the heat up much or it will burn. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Cool completely.

Use ice cream maker according to directions. For some reason, mine always takes double the time the directions say. The mixture should double in size and be thick and creamy. Pack it down in the can and freeze for several hours or overnight. It will become a delicious and decadent ice cream!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another great day for pesto

Pesto has never let me down. I had never tried it on fish, but it was a hit. Of course it was! I'm sorry I even considered doubting. That was rude of me. Give this salmon with pesto mayo a try for a fast, delicious and unique meal. The recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens.

THE RECIPE:

4 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, completely thawed
Salt
Lemon juice
2 Tbsp. bread crumbs
1/4 c. mayo or Miracle Whip
3 Tbsp. basil pesto
1 Tbsp. grated/shredded Parmesan cheese

Broil bread crumbs on high until golden brown. Set aside. Season fish with salt and place on greased baking sheet with rims or on greased rack of broiler pan, tucking under any thin edges. Broil 4 inches from heat for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness, or until fish flakes easily with fork. (Mine were 1/2 inch thick and took only 4 minutes. Don't overcook your fish!) If fillets are 1 inch thick, turn once halfway through broiling.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir together mayo and pesto. Set aside. Stir together bread crumbs and cheese in another bowl. Sprinkle a hint of lemon juice on each fillet when fish comes out of oven. Spoon pesto mixture over all, then sprinkle with crumb mixture. Broil 1 to 2 minutes more.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Grease, be gone!

If you're like me, you love onion rings, but you feel guilty eating them because they have been soaked in fat. Well, my lovely friend Carolyn has come to our rescue. I think someone else came to her rescue, but we'll just give Carolyn the credit. Good friends are like that. :) The onion rings you see above are baked. No guilt required!

My husband doesn't usually like onion rings because of their greasiness, so he said these were probably the best he's ever tasted. Being the sicko that I am, I don't mind the grease, so I did notice the slight lack of richness in the baked version. But hey, they were still way good. They are definitely worth making again and again. Dip them in fry sauce, if you know what's good for you.

THE RECIPE:

1 1/2 c. cornflakes
1/2 c. plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk*
1/4 c. flour
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, cut in 1/2-inch slices and separated into rings
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, pulse cornflakes and breadcrumbs until fine crumbs form, then transfer to a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, flour, and cayenne, then season with salt and pepper.

Dip onion rings in egg mixture and dredge in cornflake mixture; place on a large plate. Pour oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and heat 2 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and tilt to coat evenly with oil. Arrange onion rings on sheet. Bake, turning once, until onion rings are golden brown, about 16 minutes. Season with salt.

*To make your own buttermilk, mix 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice with enough milk to make 1/2 cup. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Fry sauce:

Here is the quick version. Or try the copycat Winger's Creamy Amazing Sauce recipe for something special.

Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
Ketchup
Barbecue sauce

Add ketchup to mayonnaise, until you reach your desired taste. Add just a dot of barbecue sauce.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ah, root beer

I have loved root beer all my life. So when I heard there was such a thing as root beer cookies, I had to try them. What you see above is the second and best of two recipes I have tried. I got the recipe from Cafe Johnsonia. For some reason, the new root beer extract I bought doesn't turn things brown, like the last one did. Oh well. They still taste great, and like root beer, which is what matters.

THE RECIPE:

1 c. unsalted butter
2 c. dark brown sugar (light will work)
2 eggs
2 tsp. root beer extract
3 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. water (use only if dough is too dry -- I didn't need it)

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and extract. Whisk together dry ingredients, then add to wet a little at a time. Add water, if necessary. Chill dough for about an hour. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheet with spreading room in between. Bake at 350 degrees for 6 to 10 minutes. Mine took 10, but I wonder if that's because I didn't add the water. My dough was thicker. They were done when they were cracked all over the top.

Frosting:

1 c. butter
3 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. root beer extract
A few tablespoons hot water (optional)

Beat butter, then add powdered sugar and extract. Add water, if necessary, until you reach good spreading consistency. Frost cooled cookies.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Full of fiber

I'm always in the market for good meatless main dishes. I think people eat too much meat. If we're not careful, we could eat it with every meal every day and not think twice about it. This potato chili is a filling way to pack in the nutrients without using meat. It's a slow-cooker meal, which is a bonus. I got the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, and I'd say it's pretty good -- definitely worth making every now and then. The cheese really makes the dish.

THE RECIPE:

1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 c. chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. chopped green bell pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 small-medium potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Shredded cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients except for cheese and potatoes in large bowl. Spoon half of bean mixture into slow cooker. Top with sliced potatoes. Spoon remaining half of mixture over potatoes. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours. Top individual servings with shredded cheese.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Restaurant-style appetizer

This baked artichoke-spinach dip is a classic in the appetizer category. I've been making it for years, and everyone loves it. This time around, I used fresh spinach from our garden. I added more than the recipe called for, and I loved it. Feel free to make little tweaks like that.

THE RECIPE:

1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 c. sour cream
1 c. mayonnaise
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 c. chopped spinach leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and spread into 9x13 baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers or French bread.

*Note: I often halve the recipe and bake it in an 8x8 pan. Keep the baking time the same.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pastry-topped goodness

Sometimes a nice chicken pot pie really hits the spot. This is a yummy version I adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe. It's not much of a pie, because it's baked in a 9x13 pan, but it's the right idea. And it's delicious and comforting.

THE RECIPE:

1 recipe pastry topper
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
3/4 c. diced celery
1/2 c. chopped red sweet pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
2 c. chopped cooked chicken (I boiled mine)*
1 c. frozen peas
1 beaten egg

Cook onion, mushrooms, celery and pepper in butter over medium heat for a few minutes, until tender. Stir in flour and seasonings. Add chicken broth and milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add chicken and peas. Pour into 9x13 baking dish. Place pastry topper over chicken mixture and brush lightly with beaten egg (you won't use the whole thing). Cut slits in pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Pastry topper:

1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. shortening
4 Tbsp. cold water

Stir together flour and salt. Using pastry blender or fork, cut in shortening until dough pieces are pea-size. Sprinkle water gradually over mixture while tossing with fork until dough is moistened. Form into a ball. On lightly floured surface, roll dough into 9x13 rectangle.

*Or use leftover turkey or rotisserie chicken.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

French perfection

Crepes are amazing, aren't they? You can make them sweet or savory and serve them for breakfast, dinner or even dessert. I am in love with them. I am imagining the crepe pictured above drizzled with chocolate sauce. Oh my heavens. Below is Julia Child's recipe. Plan ahead, because crepe batter is supposed to be refrigerated before use.

THE RECIPE:

1 c. cold water
1 c. cold milk
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. flour
4 Tbsp. melted butter

Whisk together ingredients, then refrigerate at least 2 hours. Preheat wide nonstick skillet to medium heat. Stir settled batter before ladling into pan. Swirl pan around until batter has spread out into a wide, thin circle. You can either flip the crepe or leave it. It's thin enough to cook through. They only take a minute or two to cook. Flip cooked crepes onto plate to cool.

We stuffed ours with our neighbor's homemade strawberry jam, our homemade whipped cream and fresh berries. We topped them with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Another option is powdered sugar, strawberries and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. You can't go wrong.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Scintillating cinnamon

These snickerdoodles are so yummy. I could/would/did eat a whole plate's worth in one sitting. They are simple and economical as far as cookies go. Thanks to good old Betty Crocker for this one.

THE RECIPE:

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, slightly softened
1/2 c. shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, shortening and eggs. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. In separate, small bowl, mix 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls, then roll in cinnamon mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Even when they are done, they will still seem a little doughy between the cracks on top. Don't overbake, or cookies will be crunchy when cooled. Cool on wire rack.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Enchiladas with texture

I have been making these creamy almond-chicken enchiladas for years now. The recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens and calls for cream of chicken soup. I don't like to use cream soups very much in my cooking -- we are trying to be healthier -- but I keep them in my food storage. This recipe is a great reason to use canned foods. I absolutely love the addition of almonds. They give great texture.

THE RECIPE:

4 c. diced chicken breasts
3/4 c. slivered almonds
1/2 c. chopped onion (sometimes I use green)
2 4-ounce cans diced green chilies
6 oz. cream cheese
2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
10 flour tortillas
2 15-ounce cans cream of chicken soup
12 oz. sour cream (I used light)
2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. shredded cheese

In large skillet, cook chicken. Add onions and 1/2 cup of the almonds, then saute. Add 2 tablespoons green chilies. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, 2 tablespoons milk and cumin. Add chicken mixture. Spoon into tortillas, then roll and place side by side in 9x13 baking dish. In medium bowl, combine soup, sour cream, 2 cups milk and remainder of chilies. Pour over tortillas. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and remaining 1/4 cup almonds. Bake, uncovered, 5 minutes more. (Sometimes I put the cheese in the tortilla filling instead.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Garden fresh

I apologize for my long absence. I have had computer problems. Anyway, I'm back in action with this beautiful strawberry spinach salad. We grew our own spinach in the spring, and we have been enjoying all kinds of fresh salads lately. Homemade dressings are the way to go. I think you'll love this one. It's perfect for summertime. I halve the recipe for my small family.

THE RECIPE:

10 oz. fresh spinach
1 quart strawberries, sliced
1/2 c. slivered almonds

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. minced onion (I used a little onion powder)

Toss salad ingredients. Mix dressing ingredients thoroughly. Apply as desired to individual servings. I like to make my dressing ahead of time and refrigerate it before use.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Amazing

I am in love with this fry sauce. It is a copy cat of the Creamy Amazing Sauce at Winger's. I want to drench everything in it. You could make potato wedges, like I did, but be careful not to overseason them. You don't want their flavor to detract from the sauce's flavor. It would be a tragedy. You could buy frozen french fries at the grocery store and dip them in the sauce. Or you could slather a hamburger in the sauce. Just find something to slather. Anything. You will love it. The sauce has a kick to it, but I'm a wimp, so I'm sure it won't bother any of you.

THE RECIPE:

1/2 packet ranch dip mix
1 c. sour cream
3 Tbsp. Frank's Red Hot sauce*
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. water

Mix ranch powder and sour cream, then cover and refrigerate for an hour. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, mix hot sauce, sugar and water. Simmer over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool. Combine hot sauce mixture with sour cream mixture, and that's it! Keep refrigerated.

*You'll find this in the grocery aisle with barbecue sauces and chili sauces.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Waste not, want not

My kids refuse to eat bread crust. For a long time, I didn't give in. I figured if they would just get in the habit, it would no longer be an issue. I'm the one who learned the lesson. They simply won't eat bread crust.

So now, I cut off the crust beforehand and toss it into a container in the pantry so it doesn't go to waste. I also toss in the heals and any other unused or stale bread, whether it's white or wheat. It all goes in together. I leave the container open to the air -- its lid is ajar -- so the scraps will dry out (but still be safe from dust).

I add scraps every day until the container is full and the bread is completely dry. (You see, moisture is what will make it go moldy. Dry bread will last forever.) Then I toss everything into my food processor and make bread crumbs for use in recipes such as this. Once you have crumbs, you can store them in an airtight container. When I see the pile of crusts I otherwise may have thrown away, I cringe. It really adds up. It feels good to be resourceful!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater

My new 5-year-old got "The Mother Goose Cookbook" for her birthday. It's a cute little book full of nursery rhymes and their coordinating recipes. Olivia wanted to get right to work. She chose Peter Pumpkin's Pumpkin Muffins, and she helped me the whole way. The muffins turned out very moist and yummy. My husband thought they had molasses in them, so the brown sugar must give them a little kick. But they still don't beat my favorite pumpkin muffins of all time. Sorry, Peter. What's up with your poem anyway? Who keeps his wife in a pumpkin shell?

THE RECIPE:

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. plus 6 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. melted and cooled butter
1/4 c. plain yogurt or sour cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. warm honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. dried currants (I left these out)
3/4 c. chopped walnuts (I left these out)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour muffin tins. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Add spices. In separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, butter, yogurt, eggs, honey and vanilla. Stir in currants and nuts. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring until batter is just blended. Fill muffin cups halfway with batter, then sprinkle remaining brown sugar on top. Bake about 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean. Makes about 15 muffins.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Truffle meets cookie

These chocolate truffle cookies are evil. They have been sent from the underworld to destroy us. They have a dense and fudgy texture, like a truffle -- perfect for sinking your teeth into. They are rich and delicious. I meant to give them away, but I couldn't stop eating them. They were in control, not me. Evil, I tell you. I got the recipe from My Kitchen Cafe.

THE RECIPE:

1 1/4 c. butter, slightly softened*
2 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. flour
2 c. chocolate chips
About 1/3 c. cocoa powder for rolling
About 2/3 c. powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In large bowl, blend butter and powdered sugar. Add cocoa powder and salt, then sour cream and vanilla. Blend in flour, then stir in chocolate chips. If dough is too difficult to handle, refrigerate for 30 minutes or more. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in cocoa powder. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Do not flatten. Bake for 10 minutes.

Get them out even if they don't look done. Let cool for a few minutes before moving to wire rack. Cool completely -- I'm talking a good 45 to 60 minutes -- before rolling in powdered sugar. I know, it's hard to wait that long, but you must or the powdered sugar will melt.

*Your butter should give a little when you touch it, but it shouldn't be so soft that your finger pokes far into it. If your butter is too soft, you are going to have to refrigerate your dough before baking or your cookies will flatten.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter object lesson

I've seen these fun "empty tomb" rolls on multiple websites. Some people use homemade roll dough, others use frozen roll dough, and still others use refrigerated crescent dough. These rolls are the perfect way to teach the story of Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection to a child. Each roll starts out with a marshmallow inside, a symbol of the body of Jesus. When the rolls are cooked, the marshmallows melt, leaving a hollow roll -- an empty tomb. My almost-5-year-old was riveted on the lesson. She asked me to tell the story again and again as we assembled the rolls. Each ingredient is a symbol.

THE RECIPE:

1 8-count package refrigerated crescent roll dough
8 large marshmallows
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

Separate roll dough into eight triangles. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Dip each marshmallow in butter, then roll in cinnamon-sugar and place on triangle. Roll up marshmallow, being sure to seal edges well. Dip tops of dough balls in remaining butter and cinnamon-sugar. Place sugar-side up in greased muffin tins. Bake at 375 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Symbolism ideas:
(Scripture references come from King James version of Bible)

Marshmallow -- body of Jesus
Butter and cinnamon-sugar -- spices and ointments (Luke 23:56; John 19:40)
Roll dough -- linens for wrapping and/or tomb (Luke 23:53)
Oven -- tomb (or you can just have the dough be the tomb)
Hollow roll -- empty tomb/linens (Luke 24: 6; Mark 16:6)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Change of mind

I've never thought potato salad was anything special. This was my first time even caring to make it. I'm glad I did, though, because I really liked this recipe. As I was eating it, I thought, "This is probably the best potato salad I've ever had." A moment later, my husband piped up with, "This is probably the best potato salad I've ever had."

I adapted the recipe slightly from one at My Kitchen Cafe, whose blogger says this is the best potato salad she has ever had, too. She says it tastes great with the dressing poured over still-warm potatoes.

THE RECIPE:

2 1/2 lbs. red potatoes, washed and cut up*
1/2 c. sliced black olives
5 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1 c. Miracle Whip
1/3 c. buttermilk**
3/4 tsp. dried parsley or thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. minced dried onion
3/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. mustard (I used spicy brown for half)

Mix dressing ingredients thoroughly and refrigerate so flavors can mesh. Boil potatoes until tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Drain well. Mix potatoes with olives and eggs, then coat with dressing.

*Leave the skins on! They add health value and taste great.

**Or mix 1 teaspoon lemon juice with 1/3 cup milk and let stand for five minutes to make your own sour milk.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A toast to breakfast

Here's a fun and easy twist on the traditional: peanut butter waffle toast. Now let me explain. It's bread that has been dipped in batter -- similar to what you would do with French toast -- then cooked in a waffle iron. And it's yummy.

My sister-in-law Amy introduced it to us while we were visiting her family in Texas last month. And then my husband requested it for his birthday breakfast this week. The recipe calls for Bisquick, which makes it easy, but it would be fun to turn it into a made-from-scratch thing. I just couldn't bring myself to put forth the effort.

THE RECIPE:

1 1/4 c. milk
1 c. Bisquick mix
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
8 slices bread

Heat waffle iron. In medium bowl, stir top six ingredients until well blended. Dip bread into batter, coating both sides. Cook in waffle iron until toast is golden, about 2 minutes. Optional toppings: syrup, powdered sugar, maybe even a sprinkle of miniature chocolate chips.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ain't no mountain high enough

I love salads with lots of ingredients. This mountain salad has all kinds of great stuff in it. I got the recipe a couple of years ago from my friend Carolyn, who is an excellent cook. We love this salad! Note that this salad requires refrigeration before serving.

THE RECIPE:

1 head green leaf lettuce (or a mix of green leaf and spinach), washed and chopped
1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
10 oz. frozen peas, thawed
1/2 c. sliced green onion
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Dressing:

1/2 c. each mayonnaise, Miracle Whip and milk

Assembly:

Start with half of lettuce. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar. Then layer with half of each remaining ingredient: bacon, egg, onion, peas and cheese. Top with half of dressing, then start over with seasoned lettuce, bacon, egg.....etc. This time, though, reverse the cheese and dressing so you end with cheese on top. Refrigerate for about six hours before serving.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Creamy and dreamy

One of the side dishes for our St. Patrick's Day dinner was this creamy Jello. It is far better than plain Jello, of which I am not usually a fan. The recipe comes from my aunt Susan, who usually makes it for Thanksgiving, using orange Jello instead of lime. She tops it with mandarin oranges. I like it best with orange, but the lime was really yummy, and orange just wouldn't have had quite the same effect for St. Patrick's Day. So, if you're on the fence about Jello, make it creamy and you will be pleasantly surprised.

THE RECIPE:

1 package Jello (a flavor that goes with lemon)
1 package cook-and-serve lemon pudding

In saucepan, make lemon pudding according to package directions. While it cools, make gelatin according to package directions. Whisk the two together until frothy and well-mixed. Pour into 9x13 pan, cover and refrigerate all day or overnight.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hidden veggies

Here's a name you've probably never heard -- sweet potato enchiladas. I adapted the recipe from one at allrecipes.com. It is a meatless dish, which I'm always happy about. We're trying to be a little healthier around here. The filling is surprisingly good -- creamy and flavorful. My husband and 2-year-old really liked this meal. I'm still interested in tweaking it. I'm not a huge fan of canned red enchilada sauce, so I've got to come up with an alternative. In the comments on the original recipe, some people mentioned substituting green sauce. We'll see! I actually think this filling might be good in the baked taquitos we love. Let me know if you try it, and if you have any successful tweaks.

THE RECIPE:

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
10 corn tortillas
1 10-ounce can red enchilada sauce
1/4 c. reduced-fat sour cream
Shredded cheese

Boil sweet potatoes until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, then mash them with cream cheese, onions and seasonings. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9x13 pan. Heat three tortillas at a time between two damp paper towels in microwave for about 45 seconds. (This way, they won't crack when you roll them.) Place about 1/3 cup of filling in each tortilla, then roll and place seam-side down in baking dish. Whisk together enchilada sauce and sour cream, then pour over enchiladas. Cover with shredded cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cheese is beginning to brown.

Monday, February 8, 2010

In the mood for an eclair?

Sometimes I'm in the mood to make dessert from scratch. Sometimes I'm not. This "quick eclair" recipe, which I got from my sister-in-law, is for those days when you want to use store-bought ingredients and still end up looking like you tried. We thought it tasted great; my kids especially loved it. Just make sure you plan ahead for the refrigeration time. I halved the recipe, but the full recipe is included below.

THE RECIPE:

2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding
3 c. milk
1 8-ounce container Cool Whip
1 box graham crackers
1 tub chocolate frosting*

Mix pudding and milk until thickened. Fold in Cool Whip. In 9x13 pan, layer graham crackers, then half of pudding mixture, then graham crackers, then other half of pudding mixture, then graham crackers. Heat frosting until softened and kind of pourable, but not melted. Spread over top graham cracker layer. Refrigerate several hours (I did six hours) or overnight.

*I used extra frosting, because I'm a chocoholic.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sugar and spice and everything nice

Sweet potatoes with apples and cinnamon make a wonderful side dish. They are easy and delicious. I have used all different kinds of apples with great success. Of course, the dish seemed especially wonderful in the fall, with apples from our own trees.

THE RECIPE:

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
1/4 c. melted butter
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 apple

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch chunks. Place in 9x13 pan and toss with butter. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over all, then toss again to coat. Cover with foil and bake about 20 minutes. Core apple -- don't peel -- and cut into chunks. Remove sweet potatoes from oven and add apple chunks, stirring together. Cover again, then bake everything 10 minutes* more.

*That's for an apple that is cold from refrigeration. If yours is room temperature, you should probably cook it a couple of minutes less, so it won't get mushy. You want it to be tender-crisp. Keep in mind, the sweet potatoes need 30 minutes altogether.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fat-free dessert

If you are counting calories, these chocolate meringue bites might be the dessert for you. It's kind of a melt-in-your-mouth cookie -- very light but still chewy. They are semi-sweet, so a nice dusting of powdered sugar was a must for me. I got the recipe from a health magazine. The cookies are low in carbs and have zero fat, zero cholesterol and only 25 calories each. The magazine boasts, "In fact, you could eat ten of them and still not equal the calories in one piece of chocolate cake!" I thought the cookies were yummy, but I'm gluttonous when it comes to chocolate, so I need a nice helping of fat in order to be completely satisfied. So sad.

THE RECIPE:

1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 c. sugar, divided
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. mint extract (optional)
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, sift together cocoa, salt and 1/4 cup of the sugar. (I didn't sift.) In larger bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time until meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form. Fold in cocoa mixture and extracts.

Drop by teaspoonful about 1 inch apart onto foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Cool completely before peeling off foil.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Perfect Parmesan

My neighbor introduced me to these yummy and easy Parmesan potatoes. I love the crispy, golden Parmesan after it's baked. I'll admit I scraped the crumbs off the pan and ate them.

THE RECIPE:

5 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced (maybe a quarter-inch?)
1/4 c. melted butter
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Pepper
Powdered Parmesan

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place potatoes on rimmed baking sheet and toss with butter. Spread potatoes out evenly, then sprinkle generously with spices and Parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn over and sprinkle again. Bake 15 minutes more. I don't recommend lining your pan with foil, because the potatoes will stick to it, making them difficult to turn.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Edible art

My 4-year-old and I had a blast painting these cornmeal cookies. It is such a fun idea -- use paintbrushes and food coloring to make edible works of art! You could do it with sugar cookies, too. All you need is a cookie that can be glazed so you end up with a flat, smooth, dry, nonporous surface. Use clean craft brushes or makeup brushes, nothing too thick. The fine-tipped ones work great. You only need a tiny dip into the food coloring. The glaze recipe is below, along with the cornmeal cookies.

THE RECIPE:

2/3 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 c. flour

Beat butter and sugar. Add baking powder and salt. Beat in egg, lemon peel and vanilla, then cornmeal and flour. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill in refrigerator for a couple of hours. Work it with your hands until it is easy to handle, then roll out dough on floured surface until it's a fourth-inch thick. Cut into shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes, or until edges start to brown very lightly. Dip fronts of cookies into glaze or spread glaze with a knife. The glaze is self-leveling. Let dry before painting.

Glaze:

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. milk

Stir together ingredients until you reach spreading consistency.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Use your leftovers

If you need a great way to use leftovers from a holiday ham, try this -- ham fried rice. It's easy, and it tastes wonderful. Plus, you can adjust the ingredients any way your sweet little heart desires. There's no need to add salt, though, because there's enough in the soy sauce and ham.

THE RECIPE:

3/4 c. uncooked white rice
3/4 c. uncooked brown rice
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. diced ham
1 c. peas
4 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. oil (I used canola)
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
1 Tbsp. brown sugar

Cook rice according to package directions. (Remember, brown rice takes more water than white.) In large frying pan or electric skillet, scramble and cook eggs. Add cooked rice, ham, peas and onions. Toss with oil and keep frying. Add soy sauce, spices and sugar, and keep frying until you feel good about it. The ham and eggs will get a little browned on the edges. Turn off the heat and let it sit until you're ready to eat. It tastes best if you let the flavors mix for a little bit.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Polly want a cracker?

Have you ever thought of making homemade crackers? I hadn't, until I ran across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. These Parmesan cream crackers are a nice little treat. They are thicker than a store-bought cracker and extremely easy to make. After rolling out the dough, I cut it with one of my kids' playdough accessories to make the crackers look more like the real thing. Feel free to get creative. You could spread something on them or serve them with soup.

THE RECIPE:

1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter*
1/4 c. cream or half-and-half

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or lightly dust with flour. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of food processor. Pulse until combined. (You could do it by hand with a pastry blender.) Add cream and mix until dough forms. (You'll probably have to finish combining it by hand.)

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface until it's a fourth-inch thick or less. From into individual crackers -- mine were about an inch and a half long. Place on baking sheet and poke with fork. Bake until moderately browned, about 12 minutes. I think mine took longer. Cool completely on rack before eating so they will be dry and crisp. Makes about 30 crackers.

*If you are using salted butter, reduce the amount of salt in the recipe by half.