Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Grandma Zimmy's Pot Pie

We celebrated this Christmas at my Grandparents house on Little Bass Lake.

Before our meal we gathered at the family table. My Grandpa prayed a blessing over the food and thanked God for gifts he has given us. Outside, the snow fell silently, dancing gracefully through the air before it came to rest creating a blanket of pureness all around us. The new snow shimmered across the ice, changing the landscape with each flake that landed. It was like watching an artist complete a masterpiece. God is the greatest artist I will ever know. He gave us the perfect image of new beginnings for our celebration of Jesus's birth.

My Grandma and I took it all in for a moment before we indulged in some home cooking. She made a chicken pot pie for dinner that was simply delicious. It's just a basic pot pie, yet, the flavors were blended in a way that danced on your tongue. So a huge thank you goes out to Grandma Zimmy for this little gem of a recipe.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Note: Do not add any salt to this recipe.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

2 medium chicken breasts
1 can chicken broth (low sodium)
1/2 can water
2 cups frozen peas and carrots
1 cup celery sliced into chunks
4 oz. cream cheese (light is fine)
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 heaping TBS flour
2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls

Boil the chicken breasts in the chicken broth and water until very tender. Remove the chicken and when cool cut into medium bite sized chunks.

Into the hot liquid add the frozen peas and carrots and the celery. Boil until the carrots are done.

Then add the cream cheese and stir until smooth, then add the cream of chicken soup and mix all well. Sprinkle in flour. Stir to combine. Stir in chicken. Keep hot, but not boiling.

Open 1 can of crescent rolls and lay flat, pressing perforated edges together to seal. Put this as a bottom crust into a 9" circular casserole dish, and cut off excess around the rim.

Pour hot filling into bottom crust and repeat with another can of crescent rolls for a top crust. Excess dough can be rolled up crescent style and baked.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned just right. Remove and let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Curing hot dish phobia

Jon is a hot dish hater.

Or so he says.

Really, he only dislikes Minnesota Goulash hot dish. It's generally made with elbow macaroni, ground beef, canned tomatoes, corn, and sometimes topped with cheddar cheese. When he hears hot dish that is the image that comes to mind.

I made tater tot hot dish tonight for dinner. He came into the kitchen and said, "Mmm, it smells really good!" I had to laugh when he squealed "OH tater tots, YUM!"

He asked for the leftovers for his lunch....This seems to be the case more often than not when I make hot dishes.

I have two versions I make, a basic down-home version and a more company friendly version. I will list both. My hot dish hater loves them both. Enjoy!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Classic Tater Tot Hot dish
Serves 4

1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup milk
3/4 lb ground beef
1/4 cup diced onion
1/3 cup cheddar cheese
1 small can corn, drained
tater tots
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Brown beef and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Add corn to beef.

Spray a casserole dish. Pour in beef mixture.

Stir together soup and milk. Pour over beef. Top with cheese.

Arrange tater tots over all.

Bake, uncovered, about 35 minutes or until tots are golden brown.

Let set 5-10 minutes before serving.

Company Tater Tot Hot dish
Serves 4

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 small onion, diced
garlic salt and pepper to taste
1 small can corn, drained
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
1 1/2 oz shredded sharp provolone cheese
3/4 oz grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Tater Tots

Preheat oven to 400.

Brown beef, onion, and Worcestershire sauce together. Season with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Add corn. Spread into a prepared casserole dish.

Combine flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the same skillet the beef was browned in over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone and Parmesan, stirring until cheese melts.

Pour over beef and corn mixture.

Arrange tater tots over the top.

Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes until tater tots are golden brown.

Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Baking

I don't do a lot of holiday baking, there are enough bakers out there that lovingly drop goodies off at my door. But, every once in a while I like to whip out some cookies or brownie bars.

I grabbed some Andes Mint Chunks the other night when I was doing some late night shopping with my friend Kate. I had no idea what I was going to be doing with them, but they sounded good at the time.

I did a test batch of brownie bars today using some mint/dark chocolate chips in place of the Andes Chunks, I can't wait to share these bars with family on Christmas!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Mint Chocolate Brownie Bars

2 cups flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
10 oz mint chocolate chips or Andes chocolate chunks

Cream together sugar and butter.

Add eggs and vanilla.

Sift together salt, soda, cocoa powder, and flour. Fold into wet ingredients.

Add chips. Stir until just combined.

Spread into a prepared jelly roll pan ( 15 x 10 x 1 ½)

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes- until a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Did you say cheese and chicken!?

I made one of my old favorites for my hubby the other night. My mom's cheesy chicken roll ups. They are quick and easy, and oh so delicious!

My husband isn't a fan of mushrooms so I left them out of the filling until after I filled his chicken. He suggested I swap out mushrooms for crumbled bacon, perhaps next time around we will give it a try.

Hope you are all staying toasty warm in your homes this cold time of year. This recipe uses the oven and, bonus! The aroma is simply splendid. If there are any leftovers, they are even better the next day as the flavors blend and mingle overnight.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Cheesy Chicken Roll Ups
Serves 4

16 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast (aprox 2 large breast pieces)*
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 oz cooked, chopped mushrooms or drained mushroom pieces
1 TBS pimentos
1 TBS fresh or 1 tsp dried chives
2 TBS dried bread crumbs**
olive oil or melted butter
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with cooking spray.

Cut chicken into 4 thin breasts by butterfling the breast lengthwise then fully seperating the halves.

Place one chicken breast between two pieces of plastic. Pound to an even 1/8 inch thickness using a meat mallet or a sturdy skillet. Repeat with remaining three breasts. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl combine all remaining ingredients except bread crumbs and olive oil.

Spread 1/4 of the mixture on each chicken breast, leaving a small edge all around. Roll up chicken and secure with toothpicks. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet.

Spritz each roll up with olive oil or brush lightly with melted butter. Sprinkle with 1/2 TBS bread crumbs.

Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before pulling out the toothpicks.

* You can use four, flash frozen individual breasts instead. They are usually about 4 ounces. You can then omit the butterfly and seperate step, continue directly to pounding meat thin.
** Bread crumb topping is optional. If making gf, omit crumbs or use gf bread crumbs.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I hear ornaments...

Charlie thinks I have brought some nature in just for him.

In the middle of the night I hear the jingle of ornaments.

We play a "fun" little game this time of year. The game play goes something like this: He plays with the ornaments and bites the tree, I come stumbling out of my bedroom in the middle of the night. He meows and squints at me because he knows what's coming next.

I am going to pull out the big guns. The melter of all naughty kitties!

My squirt bottle.

I aim haphazardly in the dark, he runs away as I pull the trigger repeatedly. And, about 20 minutes later he tries again. We do this twice nightly for a good week before he learns not to eat the tree.

The Christmas tree is up and decorated. The nativity scene it set out on top of my dad's old Philco record player and radio. The garland is hung, bulbs hang from ribbon through the house, and the twinkle lights add a touch of color to the white walls in the hallway. It's beautiful. And finally, December 4th, the snow began to fall. Yep, it is starting to slowly feel like Christmas around these parts.

Here's to you and your holiday adventures, friend! Cheers!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Day:Take Two

I had the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving with my family Saturday. The food turned out wonderful, and company was even better. We had loads of leftovers, just the way I like it!

I came up with a few different recipes to use up my leftovers. I made traditional turkey noodle soup, but I also created some recipes for cranberry relish muffins and individual breakfast bake. My husband calls the breakfast bake a "mini feast in a bowl."

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Cranberry Relish Muffins
Makes 1 dozen

1/2 cup cranberry relish
1 3/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 C. sugar

Sift together the flour, 2 Tbsp sugar, baking powder and salt.

Combine the egg, milk and oil. Add to the dry ingredients, and stir until moistened.

Gently fold in cranberry relish. Do not mix in entirely. You want to have streaks of relish running through your muffins.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tins.

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven, dip tops into melted butter, and sprinkle with sugar.

Individual Breakfast Bake aka Mini Feast in a Bowl
Makes 4 servings

1 cup leftover stuffing*
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 eggs

Lightly spray 4 small ramekins with cooking spray.

Layer into each ramekin 1/4 cup of stuffing and 1/4 cup potatoes. Bake in an oven preheated to 375 until warmed through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly fry eggs until over-easy.

Remove ramekins from oven.Top with cheese. Return to oven until cheese is melted. Serve with fried egg on top.

*I shred a small amount of turkey meat into my stuffing when I make it. Another option is to finely chop some turkey meat and layer it between your stuffing and potatoes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mini Thanksgiving Bird

I spent my turkey day alone this year. My husband was taking care of his brother out of state for a few days following surgery to repair a hernia. So I did the next best thing to turkey, I made a Cornish game hen with homemade stuffing.

I have never had a more flavorful, moist bird in my life.

If you haven't ever made brined turkey or game hen before, you must give it a try. The breast meat is so tender you would think you are eating dark meat.

The following recipes make enough brine for 1 medium game hen or 1 small chicken and enough stuffing for the same. The brine can easily be doubled or tripled for turkey.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Brine for poultry
Makes 1/2 gallon

8 cups water
1/4 cup canning salt
3 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
2 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS dried Italian herbs
2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2-1 cup apple juice (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a zip top gallon bag. Shake to combine and dissolve salt. Rinse poultry of choice and submerge in brine. Refrigerate overnight. Rinse poultry, drain, and pat dry before cooking.

My preferred method of cooking: Pat the poultry dry. Loosen skin on breast. Gently push some small pats of butter under the skin on the breast. Tress your bird. Place in your roaster. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock to roaster, cover and cook according to package. Add 1 cup stock for larger birds such as chicken or turkey.

Why I like this method: chicken stock and a good fitting lid keep the bird moist, this completely eliminates the need to baste your poultry. This method works wonders even if you don't brine your meat.

Homemade stuffing

1/3 cup of celery, chopped fine
3 TBS onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 TBS melted butter
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
2 cups day old bread, cubed
2 TBS milk

Cook celery and onions in the melted butter until tender.

Mix celery and onion with remaining ingredients.

* If you don't have day old breadcrumbs, take fresh bread, cut into cubes. Toast in a hot oven to dry out slightly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Sweet Melody

"Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out."-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sometimes we need a reminder that life is meant to be lived. Don't let your music go unheard by the world.

Here's to you and your life adventures, friend. Cheers!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Holiday baking

I had a hankering to do some baking.

It's fall, it's holiday season, it's time to turn on the oven.

I had some bananas waiting in the freezer until I could find a proper use for them. I found the recipe I was looking for today, banana bars with a peanut butter-chocolate frosting. I have served them to some company before, they flew off the serving platter.

This holiday season I hope to keep any and all baking on a relatively healthy level. So, I will post as I bake to share a little healthier spin on my favorite tasty treats. For these bars, you replace half the butter traditionally in banana bars for applesauce.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Frosted Banana Bars

3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Dash salt

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until crumbly, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the bananas, applesauce and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into butter mixture just until blended.

Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, frost with chocolate-peanut butter frosting.

Chocolate Peanut Butter frosting

2 cups powdered sugar
2TBS cocoa
4TBS milk
2 TBS peanut butter
½ tsp vanilla

Beat together until creamy. You may need to add more milk to thin to preferred consistency.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sooie! Pig, pig, pig, pig!

Ham, I love you!

I love pork. Bacon, ham, pork chops, pork steaks, ham shanks, and the list goes on.

Jon also is a big fan of piggies and the meat we get from them. He asked me to make a brown sugar glazed ham last Easter. I did and he said it was an "instant classic". Ok, so file that one in the keep pile.... ;)

I got a hankering for that ham the other day so I pulled out the recipe. I decided to add some honey that I bought from my local farmer's market to the mix. It was better than the original. Jon and I agree, the honey makes the difference.

It's a bit sweet and a bit salty, the leftovers are amazing! Give it a whirl, you won't be disappointed.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Oven Baked Ham with Brown Sugar Rub

1/4 ready to cook ham (around 6-8 pounds)
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 TBS flour
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup honey
3 TBS cider vinegar or white vinegar
3 TBS coarse ground mustard
1/2 cup water or (ham or chicken) stock

Preheat oven to 275.

Place ham, cut side down, in a baking dish. Pour water into dish.

Combine sugar, flour, pepper, honey, vinegar, and mustard. Smear over ham.

Lightly tent with aluminum foil. Bake approximately 4 1/2 hours. Baste every hour. Remove foil for last 45 minutes.

-Most hams directions are to bake 22 min per pound at 325. I reduce the heat and increase the time to keep my ham juicy and tender.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Company Cupcakes

I love company. It's the Suzy Homemaker in me. I also love to cook for company.

We recently had some friends coming by so I made cupcakes. Yummy, chocolate filled cupcakes! They were super easy and quick to mix up. (Ms. Martha Stewart makes a variation of these but she makes everything from scratch)

When my company arrived, we had a great time frosting and decorating our own cupcakes. The best part, of course, was eating these little gems.

Baker's note: Tossing the chocolate pieces in the dry batter mix keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the cupcake. This same technique can be used with muffins to keep the fruit pieces from sinking.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Chocolate Filled Cupcakes
Makes 12

Duncan Hines 12 count cupcake mix, white or confetti
12 Hershey's kisses or similar mini chocolate candies, unwrapped
Frosting and sprinkles

Preheat oven.

Toss chocolate candies in dry cupcake mix. Remove each piece of chocolate and set aside.

Prepare cupcakes according to package directions. Fill 12 muffin tins with half the batter. Place one chocolate candy in each muffin tin. Cover with remaining batter.

Bake according to package directions.

Once slightly cooled, frost and decorate. Enjoy while still warm for a gooey center.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Winter snackin'

I am always in search of new snack mixes for entertaining, particularly in the winter when we have a lot of movie nights at our house.

I came across a great new cheesy chex mix on one of my many cooking sites. We taste tested this mix this past weekend- it was exactly what I was looking for. Not too salty, not too much cheese (although I am the cheese queen....) and just the right amount of ranch flavor. Bonus: it's only 100 calories per half cup serving!

It's a quick and easy snack. Mix, Microwave, Cool, and Share. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Cheesy Ranch Snack Mix

9 cups rice and corn chex
2 cups broken pretzel sticks
2 cups cheese its or gold fish
3 TBS I can't believe its not butter
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mix cereal, pretzels, and crackers together in a bowl. Sprinkle with dressing mix and Parmesan cheese.

Melt butter. Drizzle over cereal mix. Toss until well coated.

Microwave 3 1/2 minutes, stir every minute.

Spread out on paper towels to cool.

Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

China Town at my house

I loath when daylight savings time ends. Why? Because, that means the sun sets before 5pm. Not OK with me. It makes me sad to get up in the dark and about 30 minutes after I get home from work, it's dark again!

To brighten up our night, Jon and I decided to have a little Asian-American themed dinner. We set the table with red linens, black plates, and thew some music on. We cooked together, a rare occurrence at our house. Usually, I don't let Jon near my kitchen. Not that he's a bad cook, quite the opposite actually. It's just that cooking is like daily therapy for me. It's my alone time with God. :)

So, what did we make? Egg rolls! Now, we are both incredibly picky when it comes to egg rolls, but this one is a winner. Because they are baked they are much lower calorie (only 115 cal per roll!) and won't give you gut rot from all the grease. Give it a whirl for a fun new experience.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Egg Rolls
Makes approximately 10 rolls

1/2 lb ground turkey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
1/4 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 TBS peanut butter
2 TBS light soy sauce
1/2 TBS teriyaki sauce
Egg roll skins
2 1/2 TBS melted butter

Stir fry together in a wok: turkey, onion, salt, and pepper to taste. Add remaining ingredients through soy sauce. Stir fry until veggies are limp.

Pour into a strainer, drain for hour.

Stir in teriyaki sauce.

Place 1 egg roll skin on the counter top with 1 point towards you. Lightly moisten the all four sides with water. Place generous amount of filling on the skin. Fold bottom corner up, the left corner up, then the right corner. Roll up and place seam side down on a cookie sheet. Repeat until all filling is used, about 10-11 rolls total.

Brush each egg roll with melted butter. Bake 12 minutes in a 500 degree oven until golden brown.

Serve warm with your favorite sweet and sour sauce.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crock Pot Fascination

It is crock pot season (it always co-exists with soup season). I love it because I can throw it together the night before, set it to low in the morning, and presto! Dinner when I get home from work. It's great.

I also like using my crock pot in the summer because it doesn't heat up the house. Sloppy Joes, BBQ sandwiches, Franks hot chicken tenders- Yum! So easy to get supper on the table without sweating!

I made a creamy Italian chicken dish the other day that turned out to be much like chicken tetrazzini. Jon and I agreed it was very good and so, it was added to the keeper list.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tetrazzini
Serves 3

¾ lb boneless, skinless chicken- frozen
1/2 pkg Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic
1 small shallot, minced
4 oz neufchatel or cream cheese
1/2 can healthy request cream of chicken soup
Cooked spaghetti
*Optional* fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese to garnish

Mix together Italian dressing mix and water in a medium small crock pot. Add chicken, garlic, and shallot to pot. Season with fresh cracked pepper.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Mix together cream cheese and soup in separate bowl.

Carefully remove chicken from crock. Shred chicken and return to crock pot.

Pour cream cheese/soup mixture into crock pot and mix gently. Heat over low until heated through.

Serve over warm, cooked spaghetti. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Monday, October 26, 2009

When the cats away...

When the cats away the mice will play. At least that's the old saying.

God blessed us with one last surge of fall beauty while my mom was visiting. It was cool, but it wasn't too cold or snowing, and the sun was shining. Today, however, the wintery cold has returned and the blue skies gave way to dingy gray clouds.

I can make the entire world disappear from the sanctuary of my kitchen. I can put on music to set the energy of the room. I can change the mood of my entire house with the smells of baking bread, spicy soups, or sweet treats. I can take risks, try new ingredients, and experiment with ethnic flavors without anyone interfering. This is MY kitchen.

I needed something to warm up my newly empty house and since Jon was away for a few hours I did what I always do when he's gone- I cooked.

I made a chicken tortilla soup I've been itching to try. It turned out wonderful! Jon requested it go on the "make this again" list. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Serves 3-5

8 oz frozen boneless, skinless chicken
1/2 (15 oz) can Mexican style diced tomatoes, undrained
5 ounces enchilada sauce
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 ounces canned, chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2(14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces frozen corn
1/2 can black beans or kidney beans, rinsed

Place all ingredients in a medium sized slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours. Shred chicken and return to soup for an additional 10 minutes.

Garnish with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, or shredded cheese.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Classics Revisited

My Great-Grandma Zimmy was a fantastic cook. I suppose when you live to be 104 you pick up a few skills along the way! She was an old farm cook- that means loads of meat, potatoes, cheese, and butter. Seriously, how can anything bad ever come from any of those things?!

When I was a kid, my dad used to make us grandma's hamburger pinwheels and creamed peas. I still like the pinwheels when I need a true comfort food.

I only had ground pork on hand when I made these, so I made some modifications to the original recipe and they were fantastic. I will post both versions. And, if you ask my dad, they must be served with creamed peas :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Hamburger Pinwheels
Serves 6-8

3 TBS chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/3 cup milk
2 cups Bisquick, prepared
1 TBS shortening
1/3 cup fresh, soft breadcrumbs
1 lb fresh ground beef

In a small skillet, saute onion in shortening until soft.

Mix in a bowl with salt, pepper, bread crumbs, milk, and beef.

On a floured board, turn out Bisquick. Roll flat into a rectangle. Spread meat mixture over the top, leaving a boarder of about 1/2 inch all around. Roll up lengthwise, like a jelly roll.

Place seam side down and cut into 2 inch slices. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Pork Pinwheels
Serves 4

1/2 small sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 TBS butter or margarine
salt and pepper
1/4 cup beef stock
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup +2 TBS dry bread crumbs
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 1/4 cup Bisquick + 1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 lb ground pork

Saute onion and garlic in butter until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together cooked onions, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, breadcrumbs, and pork.

In a separate bowl mix Bisquick and milk.

Lightly dust a clean counter top or large clean cutting board with flour or dry Bisquick. Roll prepared Bisquick out into a rectangle.

Leaving a boarder of about 1/2 inch all around the edge, spread out pork mixture. Begin to roll up lengthwise. After the first roll, fold the two short sides in slightly. Continue rolling lengthwise, place seam side down. Cut in half, then half again, and finally, half again so you have 8 even slices.

Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 25 minutes. Serve with BBQ sauce on the side.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Snow, Rain, Sunshine: Friday weather at my house

The weather doesn't know what to do today. It snowed all morning. There was a couple inches on the ground. Then it began to sleet. Then, rain. And finally, sunshine! Crazy weather patterns make me tired. Seriously, have you ever tried to change 3 seasons within an 8 hour time frame?! It takes a lot out of a gal.

I needed some comfort with all that mental disturbance, so I made veggie soup. So yummy, and so easy. It's a great dish whatever the season.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Vegetable Beef Soup with Alphabet Pasta
Make approximately 8 cups

1 (12 oz) package frozen mixed veggies
10 oz stew meat, diced into small pieces
1 (14.5 oz) can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
14 oz beef stock
14 oz V-8 vegetable juice
1 diced sweet onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
1/2 cup alphabet shaped pasta

In a stock pot, brown onion and stew meat.

Add all remaining ingredients except pasta. Simmer, covered for 25 minutes.

Add pasta, stir. Cover and return to a simmer for 10-12 more minutes, until pasta is tender.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's October

I don't really know what happened to August, let alone September. But, here are at almost the midway point of October.

Jon's birthday is Thursday and so we will make birthday cupcakes and celebrate quietly with his younger brother, Brandon. I enjoy our small get togethers, a birthday is just an excuse to have a good time with good friends.

With Halloween coming up quickly, I have begun to carve my pumpkins. Here's the first one of the year! This one only took about an hour and a half from start to finish. The more complex designs take me anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete.

I came into the living room the other night and this is what I saw:

Yes, those are the two men in my life holding all the remote controls to every electronic device in our living room. I kid you not, even the cat. It was very humorous to me, so I took a picture :)

I was flipping through some seasonal recipe ideas looking for inspiration. I came up with one based on a treat my dad used to make. At Christmas, my Dad always made buckeyes. They are a peanut butter candy dipped in chocolate. Then, he would spread Ritz crackers with peanut butter and dip them in the leftover chocolate. Seeing as how it is almost Halloween, I figured why not put a creepy spin on things. And so, Squished Spiders were born!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Squished Spiders

Ritz crackers
Creamy peanut butter
Chow Mien noodles
1 bag Chocolate chips
Food grade paraffin wax

Melt together chocolate chips about 1/4 sheet of paraffin. This will thin the chocolate while still allowing it to set.

Meanwhile, spread some peanut butter on the top side of the Ritz crackers. Place 3 chow mien noodles on each side to make 6 spider legs on each cracker.

When chocolate is melted, stir to ensure the paraffin is distributed evenly. Dip spiders in chocolate. Cool on wax paper or aluminum foil. Chill to set hard quickly.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Banana Rama

Jon brought me home some perfectly ripe bananas for banana bread last week. A while back, I found a hand-written recipe from my great-grandma tucked into one of my cookbooks. It made the best banana bread I have ever had!

Summer officially died last night at 10:29pm CST. We had about 5 minutes of fall before it began. The "S" word. Sn*w. We got about 1 1/2 inches of powdery fluff that stayed on the ground. Ick.

So, I am off to make a pot of soup and enjoy a quiet night of quilting and big band orchestra music.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Banana Coffee Cake
Makes 1 large loaf

1 stick butter (I used I can't believe it's not butter for baking, it works great)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup- not packed- brown sugar
2 eggs
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed well
1 tsp vanilla
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg- optional
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together sugars and butter until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs, one at a time until fluffy. The mixture should be a smooth, and pale in color at this point.

Gently mix in mashed bananas. Fold in vanilla,cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and soda.

Fold in flour.

Pour into a prepared bread loaf pan.

Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes. Check for doneness.

If needed return to oven 10 additional minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Spreading the spark

I have been using the "Spark" program online since March 29. I have lost 30 some pounds.I have 20 or so left to loose. I love this program. It lets me eat the foods I love, just in a healthier way. I've learned it's ok to indulge, once in a while. I've learned to like exercise. I've learned stumbling is normal and easy to do, getting back up is the challenge. I am thrilled Spark program creator Chris Downie finally wrote a book that is coming out in January with a "jump start" program that lasts 28 days. It's about setting up your long term and short term goals. But more importantly, how to actually achieve them.

The folks at work have noticed my changes. People are asking to walk with me, to workout with me, to know what I eat, how have I managed to stick to it? Co-workers are swapping recipes and workout tapes. It's a great thing! Sparking a change in those around me, what a feeling.

One of the gals gave me a recipe for Tex-Mex burgers. I tried them out at home with hubby- they were a hit!

I challenge you to make 1 healthy change, even if it's just to cut back to 1 can of pop a day, and really stick to it. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it takes preparation and planning. It's worth your time and effort. You are worth the effort.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Ms. Liz's Tex-Mex Turkey Burgers
Serves 4

1 ¼ # ground turkey
1 envelope reduced sodium taco seasoning
1 TBS dried cilantro or parsley
1 cup shredded 2% Mexican cheese blend
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup salsa
4 buns
4 lettuce

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, taco seasoning, and cilantro. Shape into four patties. Grill, uncovered, or broil for 5 minutes on each side.

Sprinkle with cheese. Grill until cheese melts and burgers reach temp. Combine sour cream and salsa. Serve on buns, with salsa/sour cream and lettuce.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Still canning away as the frost swoops in

Summer waved good bye today. I had to put the plastic up on my living room and bedroom windows. Hard frost is finally going to hit tonight according the weather people of the north. I grabbed the rest of my tomatoes and made spaghetti sauce. It turned out wonderful. So this winter when it is -50 F, no I am not exaggerating either, I will have a little summer flavor to savor.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Canned Spaghetti Sauce
Makes 5 pints

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 tbsp. oil
½ large bell pepper, dice fine
3 ½-4 lb very ripe tomatoes
1 large can tomato paste
1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. beef bouillon
1 TBS dry Italian seasoning
1 tsp. pepper
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 bunch fresh parsley

In a large saucepan cook garlic,onion, and bell pepper in hot oil until tender.

Peel fresh tomatoes: Score tomatoes with an X using a sharp knife. Plunge tomatoes in boiling water 30 seconds. Immediately plunge in ice cold water, pull off skin.

Core tomatoes, dice. Add tomatoes, including juice and seeds, to onion/pepper mix. Using a stick blender or just using clean hands- blend or squish tomatoes until semi-smooth. You still want to be able to tell you've used fresh tomatoes so don't puree if using a stick blender.

Add remaining ingredients except parsley. Whisk together until uniform. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer on low for 1 1/4 hours.

Remove bay leaf. Taste for seasoning. Add chopped parsley.

Evenly distribute in sterile pint jars. Lid and ring. Process for 10 minutes. Cool. Tighten rings. Store in a cool, dark location until ready to use.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

By popular request

Dear husband wants me to share my dish for Korean Stir Fry.

A young man I know is from South Korea and was really missing home cooked Korean meals like his mom used to make. He brought me a recipe and asked if I could help him prepare it. It was so delicious I brought a copy of the recipe home to try in my own kitchen. It was a hit, Jon even asked to have it again, soon! And that's sayin' something!

So here by request is "chap ch'ae" (and no, I can't actually pronounce it correctly, in fact I was laughed at when I tried to repeat its pronunciation.... hence the name change to Korean Stir Fry).

On another note- my salsa turned out wonderful! I highly recommend adding Frank's Hot Sauce to it for a different heat profile. Yum yum!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Korean Stir Fry (chap ch'ae)
Serves 4

5 dried black mushrooms (shitaki mushrooms may be substituted)
4 TBS soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
4 teaspoons toasted, sesame seeds
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces or steak sliced thin
1 package cellophane noodles
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and cut into medium strips
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup fresh spinach, chopped
5 teaspoons sesame oil

If using dried black mushrooms, put them into a small bowl and pour hot water over them. Soak for 20 minutes or until soft.

In a medium bowl, combine 2 TBS soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, garlic, 2 tsp sesame seeds, and chicken. Set aside.

Prepare noodles according to package directions.

Prepare chicken and vegetables:

In a large frying pan or wok, heat 1 TBS vegetable oil over high heat for 1 minute.

Add chicken mixture and fry, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is white and tender. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to noodles.

Wipe wok out with paper towels.

Heat 1 TBS vegetable oil over high heat for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute or until soft.

Repeat with remaining vegetables, cooking each one separately. (It is not necessary to wash and dry the pan between vegetables.)

Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds and 5 teaspoons sesame oil to noodle mixture and mix well. (Do not do this step in the wok or the sugar will burn and the dish will taste like burnt sugar, that's not yummy!

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Grandma's Salsa

When I was a kid, we'd go visit my grandparents in southern MN. In the summer my grandma had buckets and buckets of tomatoes. I loved to go visit and just eat them out of hand. They had so much flavor! Come fall, all those tomatoes were transformed into salsa, canned tomatoes, and other yummy treats to last the winter.

I planted tomatoes this year in the hopes I would get a good return so I too would be able to can some to enjoy later. Below is just a very small sampling of the 4 varieties I planted this year. Complete success in the square foot garden kiddos!

We've enjoyed tomato salads, BLT's, tomatoes with salt, tomato/basil pasta, I could go on for quite some time with all the ways Jon and I have eaten these wonderful little globes.

I was so today excited as we finally arrived at canning day! I wanted to make salsa the way my grandma did, so I emailed her and requested her recipe. She was so good to me and replied promptly.

After much chopping and tomato nibbling, I have 6 pints of Spranger Salsa. I can't wait to pop one of these jars open and give it a try!

I have many more tomatoes on the vine still getting ripe. Can't wait to make marinara sauce with them to enjoy the flavors of summer when I am trapped under 6 feet of snow this winter.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Grandma Spranger’s Salsa

5 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 ½ cups chopped jalapenos, seeded, cored, and rinsed*
2 cups diced onion
2/3 cup lemon juice
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ cup cilantro

Use the freshest tomatoes at peak season for best flavors. Can be canned or frozen.

To peel tomatoes, score tomato with an X and plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds. Shock in an ice bath so they are cool enough to handle. Skins should peel easily.

To freeze: Simmer all ingredients in a large pot for 30 minutes. Cool, add to freezer canning jars (plastic jars found in canning dept) or plastic containers.

To can: Sterilize glass jars (pints) and rings. Fill jars leaving a head space of about ½ inch or so. Lid and ring the jars. Be sure not to tighten rings too tight. Process jars for 40 minutes in simmering water. Cool. Tighten rings once completely cool. Give the jars a gentle shake to mix as the juices separate from the solids when processed. Store in a dark, cool place.

*For less heat, replace a portion of the jalapenos with bell pepper.

**For those of us who are allergic to cilantro- replace this with parsley, it's the not exactly the same, but it's a fair substitute.

What I did to personalize my salsa: I used 4 different varieties of tomatoes, decreased the amount of jalapeno to 3/4 cup and used red and orange bell pepper to make up the difference, added 6 cloves minced garlic, and I added Franks Hot Sauce as it is a different heat than jalapenos. One last note- I added Fresh Fruit color protector before I canned my salsa, this helps to prevent color fade.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation is....

So, I didn't really have a vacation, but seeing as school is back in session it only seems fitting to write a review of my summer.

Fall is upon us in Minnesota. I don't really know when summer arrived, but it's on its way out. It will toy with me for a few weeks. Some days will be sunny and 85 while other days will be foggy and 42. What does that mean for me? Adventure.

I have several irons in the fire metaphorically speaking. I have been busy canning, quilting, fishing, working, and swimming. I love it and wouldn't have it any other way. :) Gee, it's no wonder my mom says I would make a great Suzy Homemaker!

First things first- Below is a photo of a quilt I am working on. I decided to make a memory quilt of sorts. This quilt is made up of pieces of fabric from quilts I've made for people I love. I got this idea from a quilt I had growing up. My great grandma used to make quilts from her old aprons. There was so much love in those quilts. I wanted to look at my own quilt and remember the people and the events of my life. So, this is my way of preserving some of those memories.

Next on my list, canning. I love canning. This summer I've made jelly from mixed berries and rhubarb, and I took a stab at making dilly beans. All of this was done with ingredients from my own garden. Next on the list? Salsa and spaghetti sauce. One of the most exciting things for me was getting my own set of canning tools. Yes, I am a dork. Yes, I am ok with it!

I've read several books this summer. And yes, cookbooks count too! LOL. Ann Brashares, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and many more have been my constant companions. I don't see that changing with winter beginning to creep its way in. Cold nights mean cocoa and books :)

Fishing adventures abounded this summer. Jon and I went out often, I took the boys from work regularly, and of course, Kate and I went out River fishin' on the Mighty Mississippi in her boat. Yes, I learned how to back a trailer in for the first time. Yes, it still scares me!

Another of my great adventures has been walking with my walking partner, Corinne. She and her dog, Venus have been wonderful encouragement to me. We've been all over the place walking off the weight and strengthening our friendship, faith, and bodies.

My latest adventure was with Kate. We intended to go fishing on the River. We got to the river, got the boat in the water. And then the motor broke :( No fishing that day. Since there was still a lot of day left, we went with plan B. Snorkeling. We went to one of the local tacconite mine pits and dove in. Well, we didn't exactly dive it, it was a bit chilly at first. But we had a ball just swimming around the edge of lake exploring the world below the surface. Kate took pictures of me snorkeling away on my own little adventure!

So kiddies, that was my summer. What a summer it was. I look forward to new adventures this fall and winter!

Here's to you and your adventures, culinary or otherwise. Cheers!

Dilly Beans

2 lbs green beans, washed and trimmed
¼ cup kosher salt
2 ½ cups white vinegar
2 ½ cups water
4 cloves garlic
4 heads dill
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp black pepper

Combine water, vinegar, and salt in large saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer at least 5 minutes. Add a dash of franks hot sauce or cayenne pepper.

While waiting for the vinegar mixture to boil pack the jars with beans, 1 head of dill, 1 sliced garlic clove, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and mustard.

Pour the vinegar mixture into each jar until nearly full. Place lids on the jars.

Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Store in a dark, cool place for at least 2 weeks prior to eating.
-Makes 4 pints

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Squash+Cheese+Bacon= True Love!

I love food. I think food should be enjoyed deep into the soul. God gave us so many senses to enjoy the things of this world. Why waste them on boxed, bland, dull foods?

Part of the reason I enjoy gardening so much is I am close to my food. I plant it, nurture it, and harvest it. Then, I get to indulge in pure flavors you can't get from any supermarket.

Today I had leftover squash from my minestrone soup, leftover bacon from "The Best BLT EVER!" (I got to use lettuce and tomato from my own garden) and some delicious leftover provolone cheese from steak and spinach sammy's with pesto-mayo sauce. So I got to searching for a recipe that used them all. And guess what!? There is one from Cooking Light. YEA! I made some minor adjustments, but for the most part remained true to the original.

I topped off my meal with fresh tomato wedges with baby basil from my garden. Simple, sweet, decadent. All for only 449 calories per serving, I can handle that!

Just one final note, my hubby, whos disdain for squash cannot be put into words, LOVED this dish. And actually asked if there was more to be had!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Bake
Serves 3

1/4 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
Cooking spray
4 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw)
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
4 ounces uncooked spiral pasta
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
1 1/2 oz shredded sharp provolone cheese
3/4 oz grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, Italian Seasoning, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450°.

Dice bacon into bite sized pieces. Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until it begins to caramelize. Add shallots to pan; sauté about 8 minutes or until tender.

Combine squash and bacon/shallot mixture; set aside.

Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.

Combine flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly.* Remove from heat. Add provolone and Parmesan, stirring until cheese melts.

Add pasta and squash mixture to cheese sauce, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray

Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

* If you are not so skilled at this step and your milk and flour mixture becomes lumpy, don't panic. Continue to slowly thicken the mixture. Once slightly thicken as the recipe calls for, simply strain your milk mixture through either cheesecloth or an old flour sifter. I prefer to use a flour sifter as it's just less messy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

MMM Fall!

My favorite season, autumn, is approaching rapidly. As I harvest things from my garden and things wind down from summer, I anticipate a winter of new soups. (Yes, I am still on my soup kick. There are so many variations and styles of soup, it is one of my mini life goals to try as many as I possibly can! I know it makes me a goofball, but I enjoy it.)

Today I made a quick fall minestrone with fresh veggies from my own garden. It's really easy to throw together and the aroma is unreal. Like the middle eastern soup with couscous, this needs to be eaten immediately as the pasta continues to suck up the broth. If you do have leftovers, simply add some water to your now stew when reheating to thin it back out to a soup state.

In my next entry I will go over my dilly bean recipe, given to me by a wonderful friend who now lives several states away.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Garden Minestrone Soup
Serves 4

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
1 1/4 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled baking potato
3/4 cup (1-inch) snapped green beans
1/4 cup diced carrot
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Salt, to taste
2 cups chopped kale
1/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
3 oz light kielbasa sausage, diced
1 oz grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 1/2 minutes or until tender.

Add broth and the next 7 ingredients (broth through salt); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes.

Add kale, orzo, sausage, and beans; cook 5 minutes or until orzo is done and vegetables are tender.

Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's pronounced "Cal-Zone"

While I was out picking green beans and tomatoes from my garden yesterday I got to thinking about all the things my mom used to cook. My brain is often one big web of thought when I garden. I let my brain relax and wander to places I haven't thought about in years. It's like one giant domino game, in that one thought leads me to the next in a seemingly random but beautiful pattern.

First, I was thinking of BLT's with my own lettuce and tomatoes, then about cleaning my green beans, then about my mom and how she used to set me and my brother up in the dining room with green beans and brown grocery bags. We would snap green beans for what seemed like an eternity(which was in reality probably only 20-30 minutes)while our mom would wash and freeze them for winter.

From there my brain turned to later in my adolescence, to Mom making calzones. They were of course cheesy and delicious, but she managed to "sneak" spinach in there too. Then I remembered a few people had requested the recipe. So, today, before I snap beans and get ready to freeze and can them, I will take a moment to share her recipe with the world.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Ms. Mary's Cheese Calzones
Serves 4

8 oz frozen bread dough, thawed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 TBS water
1 clove garlic, minced
5 oz frozen, chopped spinach
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 egg slightly beaten
7 oz ricotta or cottage cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
Pizza sauce or marinara sauce for dipping

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Place on a floured surface and cover with a clean towel. Let dough rest while preparing the filling.

In a skillet, mix onion, water, and garlic. Cook until onion is soft. Add spinach and seasoning. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until warmed through.

In a medium bowl, combine egg and cheeses.

On a floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 6 inch round. Place 1/4 of the spinach mixture on one half of each circle. Be sure to leave an edge. Top with 1/4 of the cheese mixture, again leaving an edge. Moisten the edges of the dough with water. Fold the dough in half to cover the filling. Pinch the edges together to seal. You may want to use a fork to help press the seals together, just be careful not to poke a hole in the calzone.

Using a fork, poke three to five vents in the top of the calzones.

Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 15-22 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with wamed pizza or marinara sauce.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's a greeny beany you weeny!

I have pictures! I went to collect some of my veggies today from my square foot garden. I have been enjoying lettuce and arugula for quite some time now. But, today. Oh, today, was wonderful! I have been patiently waiting all week for my peas and green beans to reach perfection before picking. Today was the day!

Peas ready to be plucked from the vine.

Some of my yellow tomatoes, I have four varieties this year. They are all heavy with green fruit.

Carrot tops, the carrots are still tiny babies.

Finally- my bounty from today: lettuce, beans, and peas. Not pictured is the fresh dill I also picked. Behind the veggies are four jars of my homemade jelly. I started with seven jars a few weeks ago, let's just say the recipe has been saved :)


With fresh green beans, I don't like to do anything that might compromise the flavor. Quick and simple, green beans with feta are a perfect compliment to a grilled steak and fresh pasta.
Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Green Beans with Feta Cheese
2 # fresh green beans, ends trimmed
½ cup prepared Italian dressing
¼ cup crumbled feta
¼ fresh dill
1/8 cup bacon crumbles
salt and pepper to taste

Steam beans until just tender crisp (Only about 5 minutes, we aren't going for canned bean here. If your beans are olive colored you killed them.) Drain and rinse with cold water. Shake of excess water. Toss with remaining ingredients. Can be served right away or chilled for an hour first.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's hot out, let's make soup!

So, the weather man lied. Again. It was supposed to be cold and rainy on Tuesday. That's what the weather man told me last week when I made my menu. Well, it was 83 and sunny. Since I was still sick and was freezing in the air conditioning, I made soup.

Quick and easy, this corn soup is best with fresh corn picked at peak ripeness. Enjoy!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Quick Corn Chowder
Serves 5

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups 1% reduced-fat milk
14 oz turkey sausage, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and pepper; cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.

Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer.

Simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes until corn is tender and soup has thickened. Spoon into bowls. Sprinkle with cheese to garnish.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Crispity, crunchity, chicken-y!

I have a head cold. In August. Seriously, how does that happen!?

So, today I made a food comforting to my soul. Fried Chicken. It made my tummy happy though the battle rages on in my sinuses. Luckily, at this point I can still taste my food. I dread the next few days when that sense goes on a temporary vacation as it always does when I have a cold in my nose.

And yes, I am doing exactly as Mom always prescribed: getting lots of rest and forcing fluids. Hubby has since added orange juice to my fluid intake to try and kick this thing fast. We'll see who wins out.

In the mean time, my tummy is full and it's time for a nap. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Overnight Oven Fried Chicken
Serves 2

2 bone in chicken quarters, skinned (or 2 thighs and 2 drummies)
low-fat buttermilk to cover (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup yellow coarse grain corn meal
garlic powder
onion powder
black pepper
Butter flavor cooking spray

In a large plastic bag, place skinned chicken quarters and buttermilk. Seal and toss to coat. Place in a bowl to catch any possible leaks. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix crumbs, corn meal, and seasonings to taste together in a shallow dish. Once quarter at a time, coat chicken well with crumbs. You want this to be a nice, even but thick coating.

Spray a glass dish with cooking spray. Place chicken in dish. Spray with cooking spray.

Bake for 25 minutes. Carefully flip chicken over. Be careful not to disturb the coating. Bake 25 minutes longer. Let rest 3-5 minutes before serving.

I serve this with a baby fingerling potato that has been boiled until just tender. Toss with Parmesan cheese and a light drizzling of pesto. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The last muffin you'll ever eat

The last muffin you'll ever eat because your taste buds will think you have died and gone to heaven!

I have a dear friend who brought me a wonderful bounty of red, juicy, bursting with flavor, raspberries. I have been eating them one at a time savoring the brevity of their perfectness during the late summer. Today I decided I had to do something that really elevated this simple little berry to its full greatness.

I am like my dad, I like a good potluck. I just may have a fork in my glove box of my car just in case I happen to pass a church potluck. What?! Don't give me that look! There is really something to be said about those chatty ladies in a church basement cooking up a storm. You can smell casseroles, sweet desserts, meats, cheesy potatoes, green beans with bacon crumbles, pies....

Sorry, I started drooling and dreaming there for a moment. Where was I going with this? Oh yes, I remember now. I am very fickle about what I bring to said potlucks as I'm "competing" with women who've truly perfected home cooking for a crowd. But these, these little gems are going to the next potluck I attend!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Raspberry & Cream Cheese Muffins
Makes 12 muffins or two 6"-7" round cakes

3 oz neufchatel cheese or reduced fat cream cheese , softened
3 TBS butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 heaping cup fresh or frozen raspberries*

If using fresh smush a few berries to make some juice. If using frozen, thaw and reserve juice.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine cheese and butter in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add vanilla, egg whites, and egg; beat well.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk to cream cheese mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Gently fold in raspberries and juice.

Place 12 foil cup liners in muffin cups. Spoon batter evenly into liners. If using cake pans- spray with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° 25 minutes for muffins, 30-35 minutes for cakes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from pans; cool on a wire rack.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A day of new things

So I am always on the lookout for healthy, but oh so tasty treats. I found two new things this weekend.

The first couldn't be any more simple. Creamed Honey. That's it. Raw, unprocessed honey. Betterbee.com describes what creamed honey is best:

"Creamed honey is controlled granulation of honey which results in extremely small sugar crystals. The smaller the crystals the better the creamed honey. A good creamed honey should be smooth, not grainy, like velvet on the tongue. "

It's great on toast. But my favorite way to eat this simple treat? On a spoon. Yep. Just straight up honey. While at Tall Timber Days this weekend (a local festival celebrating the history of logging and mill work) I found a vendor from southern MN who sold about 15 varieties of honey. Creamed honey was new to me,but became an instant favorite.

Below is a photo of Jon and I waiting for the parade to start. That yellow circle on Jon's shirt is a sticker that says" I love you honey" and has a little bumble bee. Very cute, we got them from the honey vendor. They had a display with live bees making honey. It was really neat to see them working up so close.

Another flavor sensation I've newly discovered is Shrimp Pad Thai. I saw a show all about it on the travel channel one day and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I found a recipe in my cooking light cook book. I will most definitely be eating it again. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Shrimp Pad Thai
Serves 3-4 hungry folks

6 ounces wide rice stick noodles
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
12 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup tomato sauce
dry roasted, unsalted peanuts

Place noodles in a large bowl. Add hot water to cover; let stand 12 minutes or until tender.

Combine ketchup, sugar,oyster sauce, tomato sauce and pepper in a small bowl.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; sauté 2 minutes or until shrimp are done. Remove shrimp from pan; keep warm.

Heat 4 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add eggs; cook 30 seconds or until soft-scrambled, stirring constantly. Add sprouts, green onions, carrots, and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add sauce.

Toss in noodles and shrimp. Sprinkle with peanuts to garnish.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Easy as Tamale Pie

When I was in high school, my dad experimented in making tamales.

A tamale, for those of you who don't know, is a meat filled dumpling of sorts. A tamale consists basically of masa dough (a special corn meal dough) that has been smeared with a well seasoned meat and is then steamed in a corn husk. We began making them after my Hispanic uncle introduced us to this little Mexican treat.

I've really been craving those flavors but they are really high in calories. As luck would have it, Cooking Light has a light version with a lot less work involved. It's not a perfect match, but it's a pretty fair substitute.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Tamale Pie
Serves 3

1 can 98% fat free turkey chili
3-4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
12 oz polenta, crumbled

Optional toppings: salsa and sour cream

Preheat oven to 475.

Spray a small casserole with cooking spray. Layer the polenta, chili, and cheese in the dish.

Bake 15-20 minutes until bubbly. Remove from oven. Cool 5-10 minutes. Top with salsa and sour cream if desired. Serve warm.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sticky Pot, on purpose!

I have been going through my new cooking light cookbook trying new things as I go. Yesterday's adventure was Turkey Pot stickers. Very yummy, very simple. I'm still working on my dipping sauce.... but this one was good in a pinch :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Turkey Pot Stickers
Serves 3-4

1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps or baby portabella slices
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup sliced carrot
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten
2 cups chopped skinned cooked turkey
24 (4-inch) gyoza skins
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1/2 cup water, divided

Sauce: this so not traditional, but so tasty....

1 TBS cocktail sauce
1 green onion, sliced
1/8 cup lime juice
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 scant TBS sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
fresh cracked pepper

To prepare sauce: whisk all ingredients together. Allow to sit 30 minutes to let flavors blend.

To prepare dumplings:

Place mushrooms, onions, carrot, ginger, and vinegar in a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped, scraping sides. Combine mushroom mixture and egg whites in a large bowl; add turkey, stirring until combined.

Working with 1 gyoza skin at a time (cover remaining skins to keep from drying), spoon about 1 tablespoon turkey mixture into center of each skin. Moisten edges of skin with water. Fold in half, pinching edges together to seal. Place dumpling on a baking sheet (cover loosely with a towel to keep from drying). Repeat procedure with remaining skins and turkey mixture.

Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange half of dumplings in pan; cover and cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn dumplings; add 1/4 cup water. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Wipe pan dry with a paper towel. Repeat procedure with remaining vegetable oil, dumplings, and water. Serve warm with dipping sauce.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer Lovin'

Just an amusing side note, as I was putting in the title for this blog I automatically did this: Summerli. Can we say old habit!? The muscles in my hand just know "mmer" is followed by "li". I guess it will take some more practice to replace Zimmerli with Erickson. :)

Ok, moving on. I was at a local park the other day enjoying the sunshine when a smell caught my nose. You know, like in the old cartoons. Imagine the aroma wafting in, it turns into a hand and lures you in. You float, mouth watering, across the room to whatever the wonderful smell is, be it pie or pizza or whatever you fancy that day. That day the smell reminded me of a cold veggie pizza. Once it was in my brain, I had to make it.

You can use any of your favorite raw veggies, I just used what was in my fridge. Enjoy this light, cool summer pizza.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Veggie Pizza
Serves 4

1 (8 ounce) can reduced fat crescent roll dough
1/2 (8 ounce) package neufchatel cheese
1/2-3/4 cups reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon dried dill weed or 1 tsp fresh
1 package ranch dressing mix
Diced raw veggies of your choice: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, cherry tomatoes, green peppers

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Unroll crescent roll dough and lay flat on a baking sheet (do not separate sections). Bake in preheated oven for 11 to 13 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool.

While crust is baking, mix together cheese and sour cream until smooth. Stir in dill and dressing mix.

When crust is cool, spread cheese mixture evenly over top. Sprinkle with chopped veggies. Chill until cream cheese mixture is firm, about 20 minutes. Cut into 4 portions and serve. (Or for more manageable slices: cut into 8 equal pieces, then 2 pieces is a serving)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Baby Chickens?

We had Cornish game hen for dinner the other night. My husband is spoiled:

I presented my husband with a beautiful plate: Half a Cornish game hen dressed with lemon slices, fresh herbs, and pan drippings served along side homemade mashed potatoes with chives and dill. And to add color, roasted Brussel sprouts tossed with pecans and diced Roma tomatoes. A great looking meal worthy a restaurant menu. What did Jon say in response to this? "Where did you get baby chickens and how'd you cut it in half?! Is it magic?!" Ah, well, it was tasty non the less. And yes, folks, he did tell me thank you and that the meal was wonderful. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Oven roasted hens with lemon and rosemary
Serves 2

1 Cornish game hen
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, sliced
1 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 sprig fresh rosemary, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Rub hen with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1/2 the lemon wedges and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of hen. Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan, and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together chicken broth, wine, and remaining 1/2 tablespoons of oil; pour over hens.

Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes.

Transfer hen to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hen with aluminum foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes.

Cut hens in half lengthwise* with kitchen shears and arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and reserved lemon slices.

* Cut through the breast and back bone so each serving has 1 leg, 1 wing, and 1/2 the breast

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Move over Dinty Moore!

That's right, move on over canned, commerical stew. This girl's got a hearty homemade beef stew that satisfies even the hungriest man.

Another taste of home from my momma, with a twist or two of my own.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Beef Stew
Serves 4

1 pound stew meat, cut into bite size pieces
3 carrots, sliced on the bias
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 TBS cooking tapioca (also known as pearl tapioca, NOT sweetened or instant)
1 lb baby red skin fingerling potatoes, diced
1 rib celery
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a large casserole that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake, covered for 2 hours. Remove bay leaf.

Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving

Spicy Success

Well folks, I have been working on my lifestyle change now for 5 months to the day. As of this morning, I am officially over halfway to my recommended weight for my height. In fact, I have lost 24.5 pounds by eating right and walking. No pills, no shakes, no crash diets or cutting carbs. Nope, this has been made possible by hard work, determination, and a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I stumbled onto a website called sparkpeople.com back in March when I had finally reached my breaking point. It is a website with meal plans, exercise plans, support groups, certified nutritionist and physicians advice, best of all, it's 100% free. No fees or service plans, no driving to weigh-ins, no counting points, basically no pressure. My favorite thing about the site is it empowers the user to make life long changes. The website makes it clear this is not a quick fix, changing your life takes time and dedication. But, eventually it becomes second nature.

Another facet of the website is a user submitted recipe collection. It's like one big recipe swap, but it's all healthy food. Today's recipe is one I found in one of my Cooking Light cookbooks. I have shared it on the website and gotten wonderful feedback. Taste and enjoy!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Huevos Rancheros
Serves 4

· 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
· ½ can diced green chilies
· 1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
· 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
· 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
· 1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed ,partially mash and heat through
· 4 large eggs
· 4 (8-inch) fat-free flour tortillas
· 4 oz feta cheese

Combine the tomatoes, chilies, and enchilada sauce in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thick. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and lime juice. Set aside.

Heat tortilla in a dry pan until slightly golden.

Lightly fry eggs in a pan sprayed with cooking spray. We like ours over easy.

Spread about 1/3 cup beans over each tortilla; top each tortilla with 1 egg. Spoon 1/4 of the sauce around each egg; sprinkle each serving with 1 oz of feta.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A taste of comfort

My mom used to make pot pies. I am not getting into a competition with anyone, ahem, KATE....but they are possibly the best pot pies I have ever had the joy of tasting.

I think so much of that comes simply with the comfort and warm fuzzy memories I have with and of my Mom. She is a great cook, she keep us feed with delicious food every night of the week. It was a secret that it was actually good for us.

My brother, unfortunately missed out on so many of her yummy creations as he had already moved out on his own. Adam, you must try this one!

I make these pot pies when I need a touch of love and an embrace from my Momma. Until I go to Georgia to visit her and my dad, these will have to do. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Mary's Chicken Pot Pies
Serves 3

1 frozen pie crust dough, thawed
1/2 cup diced onion
1 rib celery, chopped
2 cups potatoes, 1/2" dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
dash of Italian seasoning
2 cups chicken stock
2 medium carrots, 1/4" dice*
1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed*
6 oz chicken breast, diced
cornstarch and water to thicken

* May sub 2 cups mixed veggies or 2 cups veggies of your choosing

Preheat oven to 425.

Spray individual casseroles with cooking spray. Divide pie crust into 3 balls and roll out to casserole width. Set aside.

Saute chicken, onion, garlic, and celery until chicken is no longer pink. Add remaining ingredients except cornstarch and water. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove bay leaf. Thicken with a cornstarch/water slurry. Thicken until sauce becomes a thin gravy consistency.

Divide into casseroles. Top with crust. Cut a slit in crust to allow steam to vent.

Bake 20 minutes. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mushroom Love

I love mushrooms. Sauteed, fresh, canned, it doesn't matter as long it's edible. Tonight I stumbled across a recipe on sparkrecipes.com for chicken mushroom hash.

Here's my thought process on this one: " Hmmm potatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and chicken. There was no way this could go wrong. Add to that, what?! this is HEALTHY?! Only 325 calories for a heaping plate? OK, I'm in. " And yes, I added the calculations again to be sure because I didn't belive the amount of food I was eating was only 325 cal. Sure enough, it was.

And you know, I couldn't finish my one serving it was so big! No deprivation for this girl.

Well, folks, it was fantastic. A definite keeper in my little red book. (I keep all my healthy and amazingly flavorful food in a red leather bound book)

So here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Chicken Mushroom Hash
Serves 2*

1 lb. potatoes, diced (2 medium)
1/4 lb mushrooms, quartered
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
10 1/2 oz. chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 1/2Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/8 c. light sour cream
1/4 cup part skim mozzarella cheese
fresh parsley

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat about 1/2 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion, garlic, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned.

Add the chicken, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, and the Italian seasoning. Saute until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the mixture from the pan.

Heat the remaining oil over moderately high heat. Add the diced potatoes and let cook, without stirring, for 6 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir the potatoes, and cook until well browned and fully cooked through.

Stir in the chicken and mushrooms, the sour cream, and the parsley. Cook until just heated through. Sprinkle with mozzarella.

*The recipe makes 2 servings, but could easily feed 3, maybe even 4 comfortably. Also note, the original author served this with a fried egg and no cheese. I substituted dry thyme with Italian seasoning.