Monday, December 10, 2012

Better than a sloppy joe


I got this recipe for Stromboli sandwiches from my sister-in-law Joanne. It makes a really quick and easy weeknight dish, or as my sister-in-law has done, you can use it to serve a crowd. Either way, you'll be happy with the results. It's a tasty sandwich!

THE RECIPE:

1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
1/2 c. tomato sauce
1/2 c. ketchup
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 tsp. oregano
6 large rolls or hoagies
Butter or spread
6 slices mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In skillet, cook beef and onion. Drain excess fat if necessary/desired. Add tomato sauce, ketchup, Parmesan, garlic powder and oregano. Simmer until flavors have melded, up to 20 minutes.

Split each roll in half and butter both sides. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Spoon meat mixture onto one side, then top with a slice of mozzarella. Close roll, then wrap in foil and place in oven for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Finger food


I bought jumbo olives on a great Thanksgiving sale and thought to myself, "I should stuff these with something!" How about cream cheese and spices? The stuffed olives turned out to be a really yummy and fun appetizer. The seasoning options are endless, so use whatever you want. We made a southwest kind and a ranch kind.

THE RECIPE:

3 cans jumbo black olives, well drained
4 ounces cream cheese, softened

Seasoning option #1

1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt

Seasoning option #2

1/2 tsp. spicy brown mustard
1/8 tsp. dill weed
1/8 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. salt

Mix cream cheese with your choice of seasonings, then spoon into piping bag fitted with flower tip. Pipe mixture into olives, then refrigerate about an hour so seasonings can meld.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Appearances are deceiving


I'm a huge fan of classic dishes with a twist. I love tradition, so I could never do away with the stereotypical holiday dishes. But, I love adding a little interest and intrigue. Keep your guests guessing the special ingredient in these yummy mashed potatoes and...parsnips! The recipe is a basic one to allow for gravy, but feel free to add whatever mix-ins suit your fancy.

THE RECIPE:

2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks*
10 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks**
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste

Put parsnips and potatoes in large pot of water and boil until tender, about 15 minutes. Parsnips take a little longer than potatoes. Drain well, then put in large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients, then beat with electric mixer until smooth.

*Parsnips look like fat, whitish carrots. They taste a lot like carrots, too.
**When I say medium, I mean the size that comes in the bags.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Always worth it to try something new


We tried a new stuffing this year -- mushroom-artichoke stuffing. It was very good, but next time I make it, I'm going to make some changes. I loved the mushrooms and artichokes, but I used an egg as a combining agent, and it gave the bread a spongy, stick-to-everything texture. I know that's a common way of making stuffing, but you see, it reminded me of regular spongy Stove Top Stuffing. Maybe you'd love it, but I can't have that. I like my bread to be a star and hold its own. This recipe is definitely worth keeping and tweaking, though.

THE RECIPE:

1 lb. thick, crusty bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 c. butter
1 onion, diced
1 c. diced celery
16 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. ground sage
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 beaten egg
1 c. shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay out bread pieces on baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes, or until dry and crispy.

In large skillet, melt butter, then saute onions, celery and mushrooms until mostly tender. Add garlic and saute one minute more. Place mixture in large bowl and add bread. Add remaining ingredients one at a time and mix well. Spoon stuffing into 9x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Citrus kiss


I hope no one will be horrified if I post a couple of belated Thanksgiving recipes. Our menu contained a few first-time items. The meal was voted a success! These orange-kissed sweet potatoes were so delicious. I loved the combination of flavors. I will definitely make them again. The base recipe came from America's Test Kitchen.

THE RECIPE:

4 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks*
1/2 c. brown sugar, divided
2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest, divided
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put sweet potatoes in 9x13 pan sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cover very tightly with foil. Bake about an hour, or until potatoes are tender. When done, change oven setting to broil.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix remaining 6 tablespoons brown sugar with 1 teaspoon orange zest and set aside.

Pour sweet potatoes and any liquid into large mixing bowl. Add orange juice, butter, cream, salt, cinnamon, pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon orange zest. Beat with an electric mixer until nicely pureed. Spoon potatoes back into 9x13 pan and sprinkle with brown sugar/zest mixture. Place pan on oven's middle rack and broil on high about 2 minutes, or until topping is browned and bubbly.

*I used three huge sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Something different: tuna + lasagna


This is cheesy tuna lasagna with mushrooms and basil. The base recipe came from our cute niece Cassidee, who is a great cook. It's comfort food, of course, with all that cheese. This dish is a snap to throw together, and our family really enjoys it!


THE RECIPE:

9 lasagna noodles
2 5-ounce cans tuna, drained
1 10.5-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 c. cottage cheese
8 ounces sliced mushrooms (optional)
2 c. shredded cheese (I have used mozzarella or cheddar)
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, mix tuna, soup, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, 1 teaspoon basil, and pepper.

Spread about 3/4 cup of tuna mixture onto bottom of greased 9x13 pan. Lay down three noodles, then layer as follows: 3/4 cup of tuna mixture, 3/4 cup cottage cheese, 4 ounces mushrooms, 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Lay down three more noodles, then repeat layering process. End with last three noodles, then top with remaining shredded cheese and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon basil.

Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand about 15 minutes so sauce can thicken.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Creamy, crunchy sweetness


Do you like toffee? I absolutely love it. It is a great partner to ice cream. My mother-in-law makes wonderful homemade toffee during Christmastime, but I can't wait around for that. This toffee ice cream crunch cake is a delicious and irresistible alternative!

THE RECIPE:

2 1/2 c. crisp rice cereal
1 1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted
2 8-ounce bags English toffee bits (from the baking aisle)
1 half-gallon vanilla ice cream, very softened*

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In 9x13 pan, mix cereal, coconut, brown sugar and melted butter. Stir in toffee bits and spread evenly in pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until toasty and browned. Let cool completely. Remove half of mixture, then spread out remaining mixture in bottom of pan. Carefully top with softened ice cream, then with reserved mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm.

*I let my ice cream sit out for two or three hours. I then stirred it in a mixing bowl so it was thick and creamy and evenly spreadable. Otherwise it would have been melty on the outside and stiff on the inside.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fancy french toast


The gal at Smitten Kitchen came up with an innovative way to make french toast. She calls it cinnamon toast french toast, and it tastes fantastic. You can make it ahead of time, even the night before, then have breakfast ready to go in a flash. I would never have guessed regular, cheap sandwich bread could make such great french toast.


THE RECIPE:

1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
16 slices white sandwich bread
1 stick butter, softened and spreadable
6 eggs
3 c. whole milk
 1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Lay bread in single layer on two cookie sheets, then spread butter on each slice. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Toast bread in oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until bread is golden and crisp.*

Butter a 9x13 baking dish. Cut two slices of cinnamon toast in half. Arrange toast in two rows, starting with a half slice, then fanning out whole slices and ending with a half slice.

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt and vanilla, then pour evenly over toast. Sprinkle any remaining cinnamon sugar on top. Let stand as little as 15 minutes or as long as overnight. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until puffed and until no liquid seeps out when toast is nudged around in pan. Cut into squares and serve with syrup.

*Switch cookie sheets halfway through if they are on different racks to ensure even cooking. Bake time in this case is more like 10 to 15 minutes.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fresh from the garden


My mother-in-law introduced me to this delicious angel hair pasta for using tomatoes and basil from my garden. It is very easy to pull together, and it tastes light and fresh. I could eat it every week. For variation, try adding artichoke hearts or pine nuts.

THE RECIPE:

1/2 c. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. finely chopped green onion
2 c. diced garden-fresh tomatoes
2 Tbsp. finely chopped basil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
8 oz. angel hair pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese

In skillet or saucepan, heat oil. Add garlic and onions, and saute for about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, cook angel hair according to package directions. Drain, then toss thoroughly with tomato mixture. Top individual servings with Parmesan.

Friday, September 7, 2012

An apple a day


When my 7-year-old was little, she used to tell people, "We're apple farmers!" She was right alongside us when we planted our apple trees, and in the past couple of years she has helped thin and harvest. This season, we have been enjoying huge and sweet honeycrisp apples. These babies are 4 inches in diameter. My husband's favorite way to eat them is just plain, off the tree, in all their glory. But, sometimes it's fun to do something different. How about a crunchy, tangy Waldorf salad? Yes, please.

THE RECIPE:

1/2 c. mayonnaise*
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
3 apples, cored and chopped
1 c. diced celery
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, toasted if desired
1/2 c. raisins or dried cranberries

Combine ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*I used the reduced-fat olive oil kind.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pacify your chocolate addiction


This week, my husband took all three of my children -- this includes a 6-week-old -- to the library by himself. I thought about running wild around the empty house. But then I thought about this French silk chocolate pie, and I had to make it. The recipe comes from Cook's Country, so you know it will be good. It is rich and thick and creamy and silky. My 7-year-old remarked that she loved the way her teeth felt sinking into its chocolatey goodness. The only drawback is the tired arm from all the mixing.

THE RECIPE:

1 c. heavy cream
3 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. water
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 cooked deep-dish pie shell*

Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine eggs, sugar and water in large heat-proof bowl (I used a glass mixing bowl). On stove top, set bowl over medium saucepan containing half an inch of simmering water. Don't let bowl touch water. You are making a kind of double boiler. Beat egg mixture with electric mixer until thickened and heated through, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat several minutes more, until mixture is cooled and fluffy.

Add chocolate and vanilla to cooled egg mixture and beat until incorporated. Beat in butter. Using rubber spatula, fold in whipped cream until no streaks of white remain. Scrape mixture into pie shell and refrigerate at least three hours to set.

*Next time I'll try an Oreo crust.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Heavenly breakfast


This pile of beauty you see before you is called heavenly breakfast*. It is a yummy twist on biscuits and gravy. The recipe came from the Brewer family, who lovingly introduced it to my family years and years ago. It's comfort food at its best. Serve it with a side of fresh seasonal fruit and enjoy!

THE RECIPE:

1 16-ounce can jumbo flaky refrigerator biscuits
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
Pepper
Paprika

Bake biscuits according to package directions. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Mix flour, salt, and pepper to taste, then add to melted butter, stirring until smooth. Whisk in milk, then cook until thickened, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or burning.

Meanwhile, separate hard-boiled yolks from whites. Slice or roughly chop whites, and crumble yolks. Stir egg whites into finished sauce.

To assemble heavenly breakfast, break up a biscuit into chunks, then spoon white sauce over top. Sprinkle with crumbled egg yolks and paprika to taste.

*Dishes similar to this are traditionally known as eggs goldenrod.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Creamy goodness


For the Fourth of July, we had to have some red-white-and-blue food. But these yogurt Jell-O cups would work for any party or holiday. Just change the colors and toppings according to your preference. They taste creamy and delicious, they are very cute, and they are beyond easy to make. Next time, however, I won't use paper muffin liners. They weren't firm enough to make a good mold. I will either try the foil liners or just put the Jell-O in individual clear glass dishes for serving.


THE RECIPE:

1 6-ounce package Jell-O, any flavor
1 32-ounce container low-fat vanilla yogurt
12 muffin tin liners
Homemade whipped cream
Berries

Combine dry Jell-O powder and yogurt in microwave-safe dish. Microwave 2-3 minutes, or until powder is completely dissolved. Spoon mixture into muffin tin liners or glass dishes and refrigerate several hours. Decorate as desired.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tropical summer treat


A great way to end a summer dinner is with a refreshing bowl of pineapple sorbet. It's light and sweet and delicious. It's very easy to make, especially if you have an ice cream maker. If you don't, you'll probably have to partially freeze it, then blend it again, then freeze it again, to create the necessary air bubbles.

THE RECIPE:

1 fresh, ripe pineapple
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Remove pineapple skin and core. Cut pineapple into chunks and place in blender or food processor, along with sugar and lemon juice. Puree thoroughly. Pour into ice cream maker's can and place in freezer for an hour or whatever -- until well chilled but not frozen. Then place in ice cream maker and follow your appliance's directions for churning. Enjoy the results!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Popeye was right

This spinach soup with acini di pepe is wonderful and a cinch to throw together. My whole family gobbled it down, along with seconds and thirds. We used fresh spinach from our garden, which made it even better.

THE RECIPE:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 c. chicken broth
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. each pepper, garlic powder, nutmeg
3 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 c. acini di pepe noodles
4 c. tightly packed, chopped fresh spinach
Shredded Parmesan cheese

In large pot, saute onion and celery in oil for a couple of minutes. Add broth and seasonings, then bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer up to 10 minutes while preparing carrots and spinach. Add carrots and acini di pepe and cook 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook a few minutes more. Soup is done when noodles and carrots are tender.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cinnamon meets salad


How about a cinnaberry salad for your next family gathering? You can adjust the salad ingredients to suit your fancy. The cinnamon dressing adds a fun and delicious twist. We think berries and cinnamon make a great pair.

THE RECIPE:

1 head romaine lettuce
2 c. packed fresh spinach
1 c. sliced strawberries
1 c. raspberries
1 c. blueberries or blackberries
1 c. sliced almonds, toasted under the broiler
1 c. shredded Swiss cheese (optional)

Cinnamon dressing:

1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
Shake of onion powder
1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 c. canola oil

Mix ingredients in food processor or blender, adding oil last. Pour over salad just before serving.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bringing home the bacon

This bacon and Swiss pasta salad is an easy and yummy side dish. It would be great for a barbecue. The ingredients are simple but flavorful, and you could always adjust them to your preference. I got the recipe from my lovely friend Kylie.

THE RECIPE:

16 oz. spiral pasta, cooked
8 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
12 to 16 oz. bacon, well cooked then crumbled
5 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

Dressing:

2 c. mayonnaise*
4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. sugar

Make salad and dressing separately, then combine in large bowl. Refrigerate at least an hour. I recommend reserving some of the dressing to stir in immediately before serving. The pasta soaks up the dressing during refrigeration, so the last-minute addition will preserve the creaminess.

*I used Kraft's olive oil mayo to cut down on fat.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our compliments to the Irish

This recipe is a delicious twist on mashed potatoes. It's called colcannon -- a mix of potatoes and cabbage -- and it's a traditional Irish side dish, which made it a perfect choice for St. Patrick's Day. Our family loves to try new things, and this was a winner. It was a great complement to our corned beef. We will definitely make this again.

THE RECIPE:

8 medium potatoes (between 2 1/2 and 3 pounds)*
1 stick butter
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 head green cabbage, chopped
1 c. milk
7 green onions, white and green parts chopped

Scrub potatoes and cut into chunks. In a large pot, boil potatoes in water until they easily fall off after being pricked by fork. Drain, then mash with butter, salt and pepper. I use an electric mixer.

Mix milk and onions in small saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are tender and milk is frothy and has absorbed their flavor. Pour into potatoes and mash together.

In large pot, bring water to boil, then add chopped cabbage. Boil only about 2 minutes, so cabbage is just tender but NOT mushy. Drain well, then stir into mashed potatoes. Do not use electric mixer on this part.

*I used red potatoes and left the skins on.

Below you'll see a plate of our St. Patrick's Day feast.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cinnamon rolls reinvented

Oh dear. It's terribly rude of me to suggest you should have these cinnamon roll pancakes for breakfast, because they aren't very healthy. But you should. You probably have a special occasion you could use as an excuse. Ours was St. Patrick's Day, as you'll see from the picture below with the green glaze. This recipe was delicious. I got it from a website called Recipe Girl. You can go there to find helpful tips for making these.

THE RECIPE:

Cinnamon swirl
Cream cheese glaze
Pancake batter

Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. On my electric stove top, No. 4 worked great. Make pancakes as usual, except squirt a swirl of cinnamon onto each when bubbles start forming on the batter. Keep the swirl about an inch away from the edge of the pancake.

Flip pancakes when bubbles pop and bottom of pancake is golden brown. Cook a couple of minutes more, until other side is nicely browned. Wipe out pan with paper towel, then repeat the process. Serve pancakes with cream cheese glaze. Makes about 8.

Cinnamon swirl:

4 Tbsp. butter, very softened
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

Stir together ingredients and spoon into a piping bag or thick plastic baggie with tip cut off. Tip should have about a 1/4-inch opening.

Cream cheese glaze:

4 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Milk for thinning

Whisk butter and cream cheese together. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, then thin with milk as desired.

Pancakes: (or use your own batter)

1 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp. cooking oil

Mix dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients and mix until just moistened.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pick your colors

I thought this glass block Jell-O looked so cute when I saw it on Our Best Bites. I just had to make it. What's funny, though, is I don't really love Jell-O unless it's been spruced up, like this or this. So, even though the recipe made a festive side dish for St. Patrick's Day, I didn't think the taste was anything special. You Jell-O fanatics out there will probably beg to differ.

THE RECIPE:

4 3-ounce packages Jell-O, any colors
2 packets unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Find as many containers as you have colors of Jell-O -- Tupperware or glass baking dishes will do. I used an 8x8 baking dish for my green because I had three packages of it. I used a small square plastic container for my yellow because I only had one package. If you choose four different colors, you will need four small containers. Spray with cooking spray. Clear out a shelf in your fridge.

Mix 1 cup boiling water with each package of Jell-O. That's it. Stir until dissolved and pour into containers so that Jell-O is up to an inch deep. Refrigerate several hours, or until firm.

Mix unflavored gelatin with 1/2 cup cold water. Let stand until thickened. Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water and sweetened condensed milk. Allow to cool while slicing colored Jell-O into small squares and tossing together in sprayed 9x13 pan. Pour milk mixture over all. Try to poke down any squares that want to stick out. Refrigerate overnight.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Best tilapia ever

Our whole family absolutely loves this Parmesan tilapia. We could eat it every week. It's incredibly easy and fast to make. We hope you like it as much as we do.

THE RECIPE:

1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless tilapia fillets, completely thawed
Salt
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese (not the powder)
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. each dried basil, black pepper, onion powder, chili powder

Mix cheese, butter, mayo, lemon juice and seasonings in small bowl.

Turn oven to broil setting on high. Move rack to highest possible position, which is 4 or 5 inches from heating element. Let oven preheat. Place tilapia fillets on baking pan or cookie sheet coated in cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Tuck under any very thin parts of the fish to ensure even cooking. Place in oven for 2 minutes. Flip over fillets and salt the other sides, then place in oven again for 1 more minute. Remove and spoon Parmesan mixture over all. Cook for 2 minutes more.

Fish is done when the color becomes opaque and the fish flakes easily with a fork. It will still look and be moist. If you are new to cooking fish, please restrain yourself from the need to overcook the fish. It only needs a few minutes under this kind of intense heat and it's perfect.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Molten lava

You want some, don't you? Who wouldn't want a molten lava cake? This is what my family had for our Valentine's Day dessert, with a nice scoop of cookies and cream ice cream on the side.

The picture shows a cake made in a custard dish, which results in a runnier center. I have made baby versions in muffin tins, which also have melty centers but just not enough to run out like that. Either way is delicious. I'm sure the smaller ones are good for portion control, but only for someone who has self-control. Not I.

P.S. The recipe comes from Kraft Foods.

THE RECIPE:

4 ounces Baker's semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 c. butter
1 c. powdered sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
6 Tbsp. flour

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease four small custard cups and place on baking sheet. Or, line 10 muffin tin cups with paper liners.

Microwave chocolate and butter for 1 minute, then stir together until smooth and melted. Stir in sugar, then eggs, then flour. Spoon into prepared cups. Bake for up to 12 minutes if using custard cups and up to 9 minutes if using muffin tin. (This is according to my oven, which is electric.) There might be a slight dip in the center even when they're done. The centers should jiggle. Don't overbake!

Let stand for a minute or two, then run a knife around the edges if using custard cups and invert onto a serving plate.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A trip to Santa Rosa

I'd like to introduce you to Santa Rosa salad. I don't know how the name came about, but I do know the salad is a wonderful medley of flavors and textures. The dressing has a tangy zip, and the pecans and snap peas add a delightful crunch. Thanks to my friend Carolyn for posting this recipe on her blog.

THE RECIPE:

2-3 c. chopped, cooked chicken breast
1 box long-grain and wild rice, made according to package directions*
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lime juice
3 green onions, finely chopped
3/4 c. diced red bell pepper
3/4 c. diced green bell pepper
Handful snap peas, ends removed and cut into thirds
1 avocado, diced
1 c. toasted pecans

Mix all ingredients except avocado and pecans. Stir in dressing and refrigerate at least two hours. Add avocado and pecans before serving.

Dressing:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/3 c. seasoned rice vinegar**
1/3 c. canola oil

Mix ingredients in blender.

*I used Rice-a-Roni brand. Any brand with a seasoning packet will do, even if they yield different amounts of rice. It doesn't have to be exact.

**If you do not have seasoned rice vinegar, which is different from regular rice vinegar, then use 1/3 cup regular but add 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sunny side up

Wouldn't it make you happy to see colorful flowers on your breakfast table? These fried egg flowers are a fun way to start the day. Slice into them with a knife and fork, and dip each bite in salsa. They taste good, and the bell peppers give them a yummy southwest flair.


THE RECIPE:

Oil
Bell peppers, sliced in 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch rings
Eggs
Salt and pepper
Salsa for serving, if desired

Lightly oil frying pan and bring to low heat. (The right heat was #2 on my electric stove top.) Place pepper rings in pan and crack an egg into each. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then cover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on desired yolk firmness. If your frying pan doesn't have a lid, use foil. Serve with salsa.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Heaven-sent sauce

The holidays are long over, but I can't help posting this recipe. In an effort to bring a new human into the world, I was sick and vomiting all through the Christmas season, which made food blogging a big no-no. It wasn't fair to this delicious eggnog cake. I could eat the caramel-rum sauce with a spoon. Remember it for the 2012 holidays, okay? Or, make the sauce whenever you darn well please and spoon it over regular yellow cake instead of eggnog cake.

THE RECIPE:

1 yellow cake mix
3 Tbsp. flour
2 c. eggnog
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. rum extract
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat ingredients until smooth. Pour into greased bundt pan or two greased loaf pans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Watch carefully and check with a toothpick so cake doesn't overbake. Toothpick should come out with a few moist crumbs.

Caramel-rum sauce:

1 1/8 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. butter
3/4 c. cream
2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg
1/8 tsp. rum extract

Mix brown sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add cream, powdered sugar and spices, whisking until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened but still pourable. Remove from heat and add rum extract. Spoon generously over eggnog cake.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Couscous is cool

This was a unique meal for our family. It's always fun to try something new, and even more fun when we like it. This couscous with chicken apple sausage fell into that category. It was easy to throw together, which is a huge plus for me. The different flavors and textures made for an interesting conversation topic at the dinner table. The recipe came from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

THE RECIPE:

1/3 c. pine nuts
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
12 ounces precooked apple chicken sausage, cut in 1/4-inch rounds
1/2 tsp. each salt, dried thyme, cumin, coriander, curry powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 c. chicken broth, divided
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1 c. dry couscous

Cook couscous according to package directions. Cook it in chicken broth for extra flavor.

In large, nonstick skillet, cook pine nuts over medium heat, tossing frequently, until golden. Remove pine nuts and set aside. Heat olive oil, then add onions and saute until tender. Add chicken sausage and brown lightly. Add 1/3 cup chicken broth, along with seasonings. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until liquid is mostly absorbed. Mixture will still be wet but not soupy.

Add cranberries and remaining 2/3 cup chicken broth to skillet. Stir in couscous and let entire mixture simmer for a few minutes, until liquid is mostly absorbed but couscous is not dry. Stir in toasted pine nuts and serve.