Monday, December 23, 2013

Soup's on!

My family gobbled up this broccoli cheese soup in no time. It was delicious. We are broccoli fans around here. This makes a fast and easy weeknight meal. I have made this with several different combinations of cheese, depending on what I have on hand. My family said they would eat this any time.


4 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 c. chicken broth
2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1 head broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces

In large pot, saute onion in butter for several minutes over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, place broccoli in microwavable dish with lid and sprinkle with salt. Add a shot of water, cover, then steam in microwave for about 3 minutes, or until tender.

Add flour, salt and pepper to onions, and stir to make paste. Pour in chicken broth and mix thoroughly. Cook until mixture thickens. Add milk and cook until desired consistency is reached. Stir in cheese, then add broccoli. Allow the soup to stand, covered, on lowest heat until ready to serve so broccoli has time to absorb soup's flavors. Serves 4.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Creamy, buttery, lemony

This is a lovely pie. Lemon chess pie, as it is called, is a cousin to my beloved chocolate chess pie. It tastes like lemon bars instead of the traditional lemon meringue pie. I will definitely make this again. My family gobbled up this pie in no time. The recipe comes from Cook's Country.


5 eggs
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cornmeal
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 9-inch pie shell, well chilled
1 tsp. sugar

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon zest, juice, cornmeal and salt. Whisk in butter. Let stand while pie shell cooks so cornmeal can soften.

Poke pie shell all over with fork. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position. Bake shell about 8 minutes, then remove from oven. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees.

Whisk filling briefly to recombine. Pour into pie shell and bake until surface is light brown and center jiggles slightly when shaken, about 45 to 55 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar. Cool for 4 hours on wire rack before slicing into pie. Refrigerate leftovers.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Secret layer of deliciousness

This was my first time making banana cream pie. I did it for Thanksgiving for my auntie, who said it was her favorite. It turned out awesome! I was so excited when it got rave reviews. The success came because I made something called a black-bottom banana cream pie, which has a layer of chocolate right above the crust. Score! I don't think I could ever eat it any other way now.

I made my own custard, which isn't difficult at all. Any kind of crust will work, but I think the crunch of a chocolate or graham cracker crust is divine.


1 prebaked crust
3 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 c. whole milk
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 oz. semisweet chocolate
1/4 c. cream
1 or 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 ripe but firm bananas
1/4 c. orange juice
2 c. sweetened whipped cream*

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and salt. Whisk in cornstarch thoroughly. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm milk until almost boiling, stirring frequently. Drizzle hot milk slowly into egg mixture, whisking the whole time. If you do this very patiently, you will temper your eggs gradually and prevent them from scrambling.

Return combined mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Cool for a few minutes, then place plastic wrap directly onto custard to cool completely. The plastic will prevent the custard from forming a skin.

Combine chocolate, cream and sugar, and microwave in small increments until smooth. Let cool completely, then pour into pie crust. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Cut bananas into 1/4-inch slices. Toss with orange juice, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Fold bananas into custard, then spread into pie crust. Pipe whipped cream on top as desired.

*Whipped cream doesn't hold up long, so if you need to make this pie in advance, or if you need it to hold up for a long time through a party or extended refrigeration, you should consider stabilizing your whipped cream. This way it will hold up for days. See recipe below.

Stabilized whipped cream:

4 tsp. cold water
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)
1 c. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Place cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over top and mix in. Let stand for a minute to thicken. This process is called blooming. Microwave gelatin in small bursts, stirring each time, until melted into a translucent liquid.

Start beating cream, sugar and vanilla with mixer until cream starts to thicken. Pour in gelatin and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Makes 2 cups.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ginger beef

My family can't get enough of this ginger beef. It is so fast and easy to make, and it tastes fantastic. It does have quite a bit of sugar, but the meat is intensely flavorful, so a small amount of it goes a long way over a large bed of rice.


1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 lb. ground beef
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger*
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar

Brown beef in sesame oil. Drain fat if necessary. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly while cooking for a couple of minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 30 minutes. Serve over rice.

*For convenience, I often use bottled ginger, found in the refrigerated produce section of the store.

Note: With the purchase of gluten-free soy sauce, this dish could easily be made gluten-free.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Unleash your inner artist

Years ago, I posted this recipe for cornmeal cookies. Click here to see my old post, which contains the recipe. We use clean, fine-tipped craft paintbrushes and dip them in straight food coloring to decorate the cookies. This time around, it was Halloween style! We had so much fun, I thought the recipe deserved another shout-out.

*Note: The recipe calls for finely shredded lemon peel. I didn't have any fresh lemons this time, so I replaced the peel and the vanilla extract with 1 teaspoon lemon extract. Worked perfectly.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Autumn muffins

Remember all that lovely applesauce I made? Well, I used some of it to make a big batch of these healthy applesauce muffins. My family enjoyed them for breakfast several days in a row. They taste healthy and hearty, but they are moist and have a lot of flavor. We were really happy with them. As my husband said, these muffins taste like fall. You can't really taste the applesauce, but it adds great moisture and health value.


2 c. rolled oats
2 c. applesauce
1 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tins, or line with paper liners. In large bowl, mix oats, applesauce, milk, eggs, vanilla, butter and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, soda and seasonings. Add dry ingredients to large bowl and stir just until combined. Don't overmix.

Distribute batter evenly among muffin cups (make each about 2/3 to 3/4 full). Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Set the timer a little early and check so you can remove muffins as soon as toothpick test allows. Overbaking will lead to dryness. Makes 24 muffins.

*Note: Refrigerate leftovers after 24 hours so they don't spoil. Reheat them in the microwave. Muffins can also be frozen.

Base recipe came from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tender, sweet and savory

This dish requires a ridiculously small amount of work. Yet, it is so delicious. That is my kind of meal. We call it sweet rosemary chicken. I wrote the recipe for the oven, but the Crock-Pot would be a fantastic substitute. Serve the chicken on a bed of rice; we mix white and brown.


6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs*
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/3 c. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried rosemary

Mix sauce ingredients, then pour over chicken thighs in 8x8 baking dish. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours. Spoon juices generously over rice.

*Make sure you use thighs. Dark meat cooks differently from white meat.

Note: With the purchase of gluten-free soy sauce, this would be a very easy gluten-free dish.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fresh and healthy

Making applesauce from scratch was one of the most satisfying things I've done in the kitchen. It was so fun to know we grew the apples in our own yard, then slow-cooked them into this delicious, healthy puree. It was by far the best applesauce I've eaten in my life. Halfway into the cooking, your house will smell like a cider factory.

This is beyond easy! You can make as big or small a batch as you want. Use naturally sweet apples whose flavor you love, and you won't have to add a single bit of sweetener. I used honeycrisp apples from our tree, which we have been told are some of the best apples people have ever eaten. They made the sweetest, most flavorful sauce. I am excited to make this pie with it.


1/2 c. water

Peel and core apples before slicing into eighths. It doesn't matter if the air turns the apples a little brown while you're working. Fill Crock-Pot with desired amount of apple slices. A full pot will cook down and make about half a pot of applesauce. Pour 1/2 cup water over apples. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, or low for 8 to 10 hours.*

Puree apples to desired consistency. An immersion blender is fantastic for this. A regular blender works as well, or if you like a chunkier sauce, use a potato masher. Eat your applesauce warm, right out of the pot! Refrigerate leftovers. (Applesauce is also great for canning.)

*I do high for 6 hours, but every Crock-Pot is different, so you'll have to figure out what's best for you. I have two Crock-Pots, and one of them has a tendency to burn the top edges of food, so I spray the sides of that one with cooking spray before I put apples in it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Satisfying stroganoff

This is a simple and delicious recipe for stroganoff. It's fresh and well seasoned. My kids love mushrooms, so they devour this meal. It can be served over noodles or rice. Although the picture above shows enriched noodles, I usually use whole wheat, which I highly recommend.


1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
16 oz. mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
6 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. milk
3 c. beef broth
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. sour cream

In a very large skillet -- I use my electric skillet -- start breaking up and browning beef. Add onion, pepper and mushrooms. Cover and cook for several minutes, until beef is cooked through and vegetables are tender. Add cream cheese and cover to melt.

In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and cold milk until smooth. Pour broth into skillet, then add cornstarch mixture and stir well. Add salt and pepper. Cover and bring stroganoff to a boil. Uncover, add sour cream and simmer until thickened. The longer it sit, the thicker it gets. Serve over rice or noodles.

*Note: This recipe can be made gluten-free with very little hassle.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Crispy, buttery crumbs

The recipe for this plum tart comes from Ina Garten. It was very easy to make, and the crust was divine. You can substitute peaches or nectarines for the plums, which I will definitely be doing now that my nectarine tree is ready for harvest!


2 c. flour
3/4 c. finely chopped walnuts (not ground -- leave a little texture)
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
12 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
2 lbs. plums, pitted and quartered (for me, this was 8 plums)
2 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, nuts and sugar, then add butter and egg yolk. Mix with a pastry blender or fork or food processor until crumbly. Press 2 cups of crumbs into bottom of 9-inch springform or tart pan.

Arrange plum quarters, skin side down, in pan. Make a ring of plums around the outside edge and work inward. Sprinkle sugar over plums, then sprinkle remainder of the crumbs evenly over plums. Bake about 40 minutes, or until tart is golden brown and juices are bubbling. Cool, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Below is a picture of a pastry blender. It's a great tool to have for cutting cold butter into flour:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Best Spanish rice

This is an extremely easy and delicious recipe for Spanish rice. We make it all the time. It's fantastic! On nights when I want to go meatless, I have served this rice as the main dish with a bunch of veggies on the side. The recipe came from Lizzy Writes.


2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c. uncooked long-grain white rice*
2 c. chicken broth
1 c. salsa (I used mild Pace Picante)

In a pot over medium-high heat, cook onion in oil for a couple of minutes. Add rice and cook until it starts to brown, stirring frequently. Stir in chicken broth and salsa. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until rice is tender. No need to check until the end. Stir and serve.

*Obviously this would be healthier with brown rice, but it would require some important adjustments, and I haven't taken the time to make them. Let me know if you give it a whirl.

**If you want this recipe to be gluten-free, then be sure to check your chicken broth.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Island cuisine

I am so excited about this Caribbean corn on the cob. It has great flavor and texture. I researched seasonings to come up with a blend that would give accurate Caribbean/Jamaican taste but without the traditional spiciness. It's a winner!


6 corn cobs
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. homemade Caribbean seasoning
Shredded sweetened coconut
Lime wedges (optional)

Mix mayo and seasoning, then refrigerate at least 30 minutes so flavors can blend. Cook corn however you like. I like to boil mine for a few minutes, then toss it on the grill just long enough to get a few scorch marks. Spread mayo mixture onto plate and generously roll corn cobs in it. Then roll in coconut. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.

Caribbean seasoning:

2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. coriander
1/8 tsp. thyme or basil
1/8 tsp. onion powder
Shake of red pepper

Mix ingredients well. Store seasoning in a small airtight container.

*If you are going for gluten-free, be sure to check your mayonnaise. Some contains gluten, and some does not.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Take your BBQ up a notch

For the Fourth of July, we tried these saucy hot dogs, from Our Best Bites. They got rave reviews from everyone. It's fun to take something traditional and simple and give it a twist. I made the sauce in advance and refrigerated it. When dinnertime came, I reheated the sauce to serve over freshly grilled hot dogs. Sprinkle cheese on the finished product, if desired, or melt some cheese onto a toasted bun.

Despite all the positive reviews, I have to express one drawback. I couldn't really taste the bacon, so I was disappointed to have the extra fat content. I'm interested to see what would happen if I left it out and used a little canola oil to saute the onion. If I ever do that, I'll let you know. It might take away depth of flavor.


3 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 12-ounce bottle chili sauce *
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. apple juice

In a large skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towel. Add onion to bacon drippings and saute until tender, adding garlic a couple of minutes into it. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Crumble bacon and stir into mixture. Cook a few minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. Makes enough for about 10 hot dogs.

*Such as Heinz, Homade, or store brand, found near the ketchup and BBQ sauce -- not Asian chili sauce.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Thai enchiladas

Thai enchiladas. Does that sound like an oxymoron? These Asian-inspired enchiladas are delicious, and I love how different they are. They aren't spicy at all. They are just flavorful and good. They are jam-packed with all kinds of tasty tidbits. Feel free to adjust the ingredients according to your preferences.


1 1/2 c. chopped cooked chicken (I used 4 chicken tenders)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 carrot, shredded
2 c. sliced mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, cleaned out and chopped
1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. shredded cabbage (I used bagged coleslaw)
1/4 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 c. chopped peanuts
Handful cilantro, chopped
8 to 10 flour tortillas
1 can coconut milk*
1/4 c. sweet Asian chili sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare chicken and set aside. In large skillet, heat oil and saute onion, carrot, mushrooms and pepper for a few minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix peanut butter, sugar, soy sauce and garlic. Pour over sauteed vegetables and mix thoroughly. Turn off heat and add cabbage, coconut, peanuts and cilantro. Mix well.

Spoon mixture into tortillas, then roll up and place seam-side down in 9x13 baking dish. Whisk together coconut milk and chili sauce, then pour over enchiladas. Bake about 25 minutes. Let enchiladas rest about 20 minutes before serving. Spoon extra sauce over enchiladas and garnish with extra peanuts and cilantro, if desired.

*Try to find coconut milk that has not been diluted with water. Read the ingredients list on the back of the can. Some companies are tricky. Either way, you'll enjoy this meal, but the creamier version is nicer.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Chocolate heaven

What you see above is Michelle Snow's flourless chocolate torte -- or what's left of it. Wait a minute, I can't let those crumbs go to waste. Hang on while I leave the computer for a second...

Okay, we'll go back in time and see what it used to look like. This dessert is truly divine. Its texture is almost like cheesecake, and its flavor is rich and deeply satisfying for any chocoholic.

My sweet 20-month-old niece was just diagnosed with celiac disease, so it's wonderful to know she will always have an amazing gluten-free dessert like this to keep her from missing out.

My sweet friend and neighbor Michelle Snow is the author of several books about cooking, food storage and saving money, including "The WOW diet," "It's in the Bag," and "Queen of Common Cents." I will forever be grateful to her for this delicious recipe!


Butter for greasing pan
Cocoa powder for dusting pan
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 c. butter
6 eggs, separated
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place a pie pan on bottom rack of oven. Grease a 10-inch spring-form pan and dust with cocoa. Melt butter and chocolate chips together in microwave. In a large bowl, blend egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer until light yellow and thick. Add chocolate mixture and cocoa and mix well.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until medium-firm peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold egg whites into chocolate batter, half at a time, until no streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and place on middle rack in oven. Pour 1 cup boiling water into pie pan below. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out moist but clean.

Cool torte to room temperature on wire rack. Refrigerate several hours before serving. Garnish as desired: powdered sugar, whipped cream, berries, or nothing at all.

*Note: For a truly gluten-free version, ensure that your chocolate chips are gluten-free and that your vanilla is pure, not imitation.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Beautiful blueberries

For Mother's Day breakfast, we ate this blueberry strata, which I got from the Kraft website. It's a breakfast you assemble the night before, and it's a snap to throw together. It was good, and we were all happy to have something new, but I have to say it wasn't as flavorful as I expected. We couldn't really taste the cinnamon and syrup added into the egg mixture. The blueberry syrup poured on top, however, made the dish worthwhile.

I would make this again, but I might fiddle around with the recipe. Let me know if you have any suggestions! By the way, my young family only needed half the recipe.


12 slices white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
8 oz. cream cheese
8 eggs
2 1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. maple-flavored or pancake syrup
1/4 c. packed brown sugar

Spread half of the bread cubes onto bottom of greased 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with blueberries. Pinch off small chunks of cream cheese and sprinkle around, then top with other half of bread cubes.

Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, syrup and sugar. Pour over bread. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake strata, covered, for about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 to 35 minutes more, or until center is set. Pour blueberry syrup on individual servings.

Blueberry syrup:

2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/3 c. maple-flavored or pancake syrup

Combine blueberries and syrup in small saucepan and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour over blueberry strata.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Humpty Dumpty's favorite

Every now and then, I crave egg salad. This recipe was the result of one of my hankerings. My daughter and I combined some different but yummy flavors, and we were really happy with the results. We packed up our salad and fresh rolls and had a nice picnic as a family. This is a great recipe for spring and summer!


12 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I used the olive oil kind)
2 tsp. spicy brown mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder

Mix dressing ingredients thoroughly in a salad bowl before adding chopped eggs. Add eggs last and gently mix until combined. This prevents the eggs from breaking down. Refrigerate at least a half-hour before serving so flavors can blend. Spoon salad onto rolls or croissants. Serves 6.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A pound of perfection

This pound cake is absolutely delicious. Top it with fresh whipped cream and your choice of fruit. We even eat it by itself with a glass of milk. Its sweet, buttery crumb is addictive. I got the recipe from my sister Laura, who has graced many happy family gatherings with its presence.


1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sour cream
2 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix ingredients and pour into greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cake cool, then turn onto serving platter. Garnish as desired.

*I am at a high altitude, which may make my baking times different from yours.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Enchiladas for breakfast

 My family loves enchiladas....enough to have them for breakfast.

I saw these overnight ham and egg breakfast enchiladas on The Girl Who Ate Everything and had to give them a try. My family was very happy with the results. We used leftover Easter ham.


2 c. cubed cooked ham
1/2 c. chopped green onions
2 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
10 flour tortillas
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. flour
1 1/4 c. half-and-half
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
Salsa and sour cream for serving

Toss together ham, green onions and 2 cups cheese. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Fill each tortilla with a heaping 1/3 cup of ham mixture, then roll up and place seam side down in baking dish. Whisk together eggs, salt, flour, half-and-half and chiles. Pour over enchiladas, then cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over top. Bake another 10 minutes, or until eggs are set. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Simple, yet satisfying

This is just a simple, mild, kid-friendly recipe for white bean chili. It uses pantry ingredients, and it's meatless, because I like to try to reduce the amount of meat we eat every week. My entire family gobbled this right up. Add whatever toppings make you happy -- crushed tortilla chips, avocado chunks.....


2 cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, drained
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, NOT drained
1 medium onion, chopped
2 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. each salt, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 c. cream
1 c. shredded cheese

In large pot, mix beans, corn, chiles, onion, broth and seasonings. Bring to boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes so flavors can combine. Stir in cream and cheese. Serves 4.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

O'Dougherty approved

This loaf is a foot across. It's dense and crusty and even a little dry, but there's something my family just loves about it. We are Doughertys, after all. And this is Irish soda bread. It really is tasty.

I got the recipe from "Bon Appetit," which published it as "Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread," from Ballinalacken Castle Country House and Restaurant, in Ireland. This is traditional Irish soda bread, with the exception of the addition of sugar, which cooks have started including only in recent generations. Many recipes online call for eggs or dried fruit. These may taste good but would be considered "cake" in Ireland, not bread.

I am in love with the idea of having freshly baked bread in less than an hour, start to finish. There's no yeast, no rising time, and very little kneading. The baking soda's abilities as a leavening agent are amazing and make a great science lesson for the kids.


Nonstick cooking spray
3 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. (half a stick) chilled margarine or butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 c. buttermilk*

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray heavy baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. Whisk together flours, sugar, soda and salt. Add butter and cut into flour mixture until no large chunks remain. Add buttermilk and stir until shaggy dough forms. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead only until dough comes together, about 10 turns. Shape dough into 9-inch round, about 1 inch high.

Place on baking sheet. Cut a large X, about 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough, almost all the way to edges. Bake dough in center of oven until a bamboo skewer goes in without sticking and comes out clean. Mine was perfect at 32 minutes. The original recipe says 55 to 60 minutes. I attribute the significant difference to my altitude, which is 4,200 feet. Transfer bread to wire rack and cool completely. Serve with honey butter or jam.

*Or pour 2 tablespoons vinegar into a 2-cup measuring cup, then add milk to make 2 cups liquid. Stir and let stand for 10 minutes.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fruit dip

I love dips and sauces. I guess everything is more fun when it's gussied up. My friend Natalie introduced me to this yummy fruit dip. It tastes perfect on apples. Strawberries are a little too juicy and cover up the dip's flavor. Or you could just eat the dip with a spoon...


8 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 oz. yogurt, any flavor
7 oz. marshmallow cream
4 oz. Cool Whip

Beat cream cheese and yogurt with electric mixer. Add marshmallow cream, then Cool Whip. Store in refrigerator. Makes enough for a party.

*Note: I used reduced-fat ingredients.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sweet potatoes meet ginger

I really loved this sweet potato and ginger soup. It was smooth and creamy and very different from the usual, but it hit the spot on a day when I was in the mood for a change. I got the recipe from It is fantastic with an Asian chicken salad on the side. Or leave out the chicken and have a nice meatless meal.


2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. sugar
3 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
Chopped honey-roasted peanuts for garnish

In large pot, heat oil on medium-high, then add sweet potatoes and onion. Saute until golden brown. Add butter, sugar, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and salt, then saute for a couple more minutes.

Pour in chicken broth and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until sweet potatoes are very tender. Puree using an immersion blender or a regular blender (leave lid slightly ajar and cover with towel to avoid pressure buildup and volcano effect). Mix in milk and adjust seasonings as desired. Top individual servings with chopped peanuts. This soup tastes better the longer it sits.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


This is a fun and easy way to make two delicious kinds of fudge -- traditional and cookies and cream. These recipes are meant to be shared! A 9x13 pan goes a long way. Fudge is rich, so you can only eat one or two pieces at a time or else you'll be induced into a sugar coma. Hey, Valentine's Day is coming up. It's a perfect time to spread some thick, sweet, creamy love.


Base ingredients:

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
3 c. sugar
1 c. butter, softened
4 c. mini marshmallows
1 Tbsp. imitation vanilla extract

Traditional mix-ins:

2 12-ounce bags semisweet chocolate chips
2 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Cookies and cream mix-ins:

2 12-ounce bags white chocolate chips
20 (at least) chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped into big chunks

Prepare ingredients before starting the cooking process. In a large pot, mix evaporated milk and sugar and bring to boil. Once it starts to boil, set a timer. Cook, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes.

Remove from heat, then quickly stir in butter, marshmallows, vanilla and your choice of chocolate chips. Mix until smooth, then quickly stir in your other mix-in (nuts or cookies). Pour into 9x13 pan and refrigerate at least 3 hours before cutting into squares. Store in air-tight container.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Indian bean curry

I love it when new cuisine finds a welcome place at our table. This Indian bean curry is deliciously aromatic and flavorful. It makes a great meatless main dish.

You may need an introduction, however, to one of the star ingredients. It is an Indian blend of spices called garam masala. I know it's a hassle to buy ingredients you aren't accustomed to cooking with, but I believe this is a worthwhile purchase -- even for this dish alone. I found McCormick's version in the spice aisle at Walmart. The blend includes spices such as coriander, which has lovely fruity undertones. Other players are black pepper, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. You could definitely make your own if you're feeling experimental or if you already have these spices at home and prefer to be frugal.


1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 large onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger*
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder
2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. salt
2 c. chicken broth
2 15-ounce cans black beans OR black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. milk
1/3 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
1/3 c. lightly packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped

In large skillet, saute onion in oil for several minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger, then add tomatoes. Stir in seasonings until well combined, then add broth and beans. Bring to boil, then reduce heat a little and simmer.

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with milk until smooth, then add to bean mixture as a thickener. Stir in sour cream and cook, stirring as needed, until desired consistency is achieved. Stir in cilantro. Serve with naan (Indian flatbread) or over rice.

*There are bottles of freshly grated ginger in the produce section of your store. They last awhile in the fridge, and you can just squeeze out the exact amount you need -- hassle-free.

Friday, January 18, 2013

French onion soup

For a delicious and flavorful dinner, try French onion soup. It's very easy to make. It takes a little time, only because you have to cook the onions down, but it doesn't require much babysitting. 

Ours is a non-alcoholic version. I studied several recipes, then made the dish twice, making a few alterations to see if they made a difference in our level of enjoyment. Our conclusion is that this soup is a winner no matter what. Adjust ingredients -- you'll see the options below -- according to what you have on hand.


2-3 lbs. onions, sliced up to 1/4 inch thick*
3 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
3 ounces apple juice or orange juice
8 c. beef broth**
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Big cheesy croutons:

Sliced french bread
Garlic powder
Dried basil
Shredded Swiss cheese

In large pot, over medium-low heat, melt butter with olive oil, then toss with onions. Cover pot and let onions steep for 15 minutes to soften and release juices. No need to check on them. Stir in salt and sugar, increase heat to medium-high, and let onions cook uncovered, stirring periodically, for about 30 to 40 minutes. Onions will reduce down to about one-third their original volume. Toward the end you'll need to stir quite frequently.

Add flour and cook for a minute, then deglaze pan with cider vinegar and juice. Add broth and Worcestershire. Bring to boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. I needed an extra 1/4 teaspoon salt and a sprinkle of pepper.

Meanwhile, spread butter on french bread. Sprinkle with garlic powder and dried basil. Toast under broiler until dried and crispy. (Toast both sides, even though one side has nothing on it.) Remove from oven, sprinkle with Swiss cheese, then toast again to melt cheese. Dip into soup.

*I used white onions one time and yellow onions the other. Both were great. The first time, I used 2 pounds, and the second time, I used 4 pounds. Our family preferred something closer to the 2-pound mark. My onions were huge -- about the size of a small baby's head -- and each weighed about a pound.

**The first time, I used 5 cups beef broth and 3 cups chicken broth, because that was all I had. The second time, I used all beef broth. We were equally happy both ways. I would just suggest that the majority be beef broth.