Thursday, December 27, 2012

Minestrone Soup

The very first soup that I made from scratch was Minestrone.  It was unusually cold and foggy, the wood stove was radiating a wonderful warmth and I was in the kitchen paging through a cookbook that my sister-in-law had given me.  I was looking for something that would warm us up!  When I saw the Minestrone soup recipe I decided that it looked like something I could was a hardy soup and would be perfect.

Well, I made the soup and, for just learning to cook, it wasn't bad, but, I knew that if I made it again something had to be done with the just didn't have the flavor that the soup had at the nearby Italian restaurant.   I laugh at that it would have that flavor!

That is when I began doctoring the recipe and came up with one that we have enjoyed over the years and is the soup most requested by my girls.

The vegetables vary based upon what's in the refrigerator.  I didn't have any spinach this time so I used Swiss Chard.  I think the great flavor is really in the meat preparation.

Minestrone Soup

1 pound stew meat (I had a top sirloin steak in the freezer so that is what I used.)
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can beef stock  or beef consomme
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 - 3/4 cup red wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme ground or 2 tsp fresh
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp basil
Pepper to taste

2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 head finely sliced cabbage
Fresh or frozen spinach, amount to your liking
1 zucchini, if available, cut into large chunks
1 can kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup small pasta
Parmesan cheese, shredded, for topping

Cut the meat into small pieces.  Dredge it in a mixture of flour, garlic salt and marjoram. Cook  it in a stock  pot with a little olive oil.  Allow the meat to cook undisturbed until browned.  Stir to brown  evenly.

Add the onion and garlic to the pot and allow them to soften.  Add the next eleven ingredients.  Allow to simmer while you prep the vegetables.  Add the carrots, potato and cabbage first as they require longer to cook.  Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes then add the zucchini (if using), kidney beans and pasta.  Continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked.  Add one cup water to the pot if a thinner consistency is desired.

Top each serving with a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan.


Perfect on a cold and blustery day!

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Almond Joy Bites

Traveling in December seems to leave one racing to get things done.  I got myself part because I was gone for a week enjoying my granddaughter's smile and because my sewing machine decided to stop.  It was a major stop, a new circuit board which meant that all projects came to a halt.  Thankfully, I was given a loaner and was back on the road again...but in the fast lane!

I finished two rather large rag quilts but have two quilts left to bind and not much time left.  All  of that said, I knew that cookie baking was halted and I needed to find something easier from the kitchen.

I have always wanted to make some candies and this was going  to be the year....the year for very easy candies!  I found a recipe for Martha Washington Balls at the Southern Bite. I have renamed them Almond Joy Bites...there isn't an almond in them but the taste and the coconut...oh, my goodness, just like an Almond Joy...heavenly...and, they must be removed from my kitchen!

Almond Joy Bites
adapted from Southern Bite

2 cups shredded coconut
8 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1 can Eagle Brand Milk
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
4 cups chopped pecans
Chocolate flavored Almond Bark

Combine the first six ingredients well using a spoon and finishing with hands.
Roll into small balls 
(Using a small scoop allows for uniformity of the balls.) and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Place in the freezer at least 30 minutes. 
Once thoroughly chilled, dip balls in melted chocolate-flavored almond bark and allow to cool on parchment paper.
When the chocolate sets, decorate with a drizzle of dark chocolate or white chocolate and sprinkle with coconut, if desired.


My little morsels spent a few hours in the freezer as I got busy...I learned that the chocolate set up faster when the balls were frozen and it didn't effect the end result.

I am sharing at Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday and at Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

The holidays and peppermint go hand in hand for me.  I can remember, as a child, that I could hardly wait for the candy canes to be available in the stores.  So, yes, I am a long-time fan of anything with peppermint...can you imagine my excitement when a local ice creamery made peppermint ice cream, only to be made and sold during the holidays!?

Well, here is another item that is only available during the holidays....Chocolate Peppermint Truffles aka Candy Cane Peppermint Truffles that I saw on Kim's blog, Liv Life.  This has to be the easiest recipe around.  In a hour or two you can have some tasty chocolate peppermint morsels.

Chocolate Peppermint Truffles
adapted from Liv Life

1 box Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's
1 package reduced fat cream cheese  (not fat free), cut into small pieces
1/4 cup crushed candy canes or peppermint rounds (plus additional for sprinkling)
1 pound dark chocolate chips/morsels
1/8-1/4 tsp peppermint extract (I added just a dash of this as we are peppermint lovers!  Taste test first!)

Place the Joe Joe's in a food processor and process until crumbly.  Add the pieces of cream cheese and crushed candy cane and process until mixture comes together, being careful not to over-process.   Shape into 1-inch balls and place into the freezer for at least an hour (the balls are much easier to dip in chocolate when they frozen, or at least very cold - they stay together better and the chocolate sets up faster).

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler keeping an eye on it and stir occasionally until smooth.  Using two forks, dip the truffle into the chocolate.  Roll it around until covered and lift it out  using a fork.  Allow the excess chocolate to drip...I sometimes run the bottom of the fork on the edge of the bowl to remove and excess.  Place the ball on a piece of parchment or waxed paper and sprinkle it immediately with the remaining crushed candy canes.  Allow the chocolate to set.  

Truffles will last a few days if kept in a covered container in the refrigerator.


They made cute little gifts, too!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Continuing with the baking...sugar cookies are delicious any time of year but I believe that they are the best at Christmas time.  Sitting by the fire and reading, while enjoying a cup of tea and a sugar cookie or two makes for a perfect afternoon or evening!

I hope you have time to bake for the holidays and to enjoy a few quiet moments...

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside.

Put sugars and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds.  
Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, the vanilla and the lemon juice.  Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

Scoop the dough with a 1 1/2 inch cookie scoop. Space the cookies at least 2 inches a part on parchment-lined baking sheets. (These cookies spread when baked.)  Flatten cookies slightly with a spatula.  Sprinkle the tops with sanding sugar, then lightly brush with a wet pastry brush; sprinkle with
more sanding sugar.

Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes.  
Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes.

Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hazelnut Shortbread Sticks

It is time for the cookie baking to begin!  It is a love hate activity.  I love planning, baking, decorating and sampling after that I hate having them around the is hard to muster up the self control....they are so tempting.

The answer is to box them up and share with others.  So, the next thing I love to do is share!  I enjoy packaging them and delivering...

First on the list are the Hazelnut Shortbread Sticks....wonderful shortbread sticks dipped in chocolate and chopped hazelnuts...yum!

Hazelnut Shortbread Sticks
Bon Appetit, December 2004

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely ground husked toasted hazelnuts (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces high-quality milk chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped husked toasted hazelnuts

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture until just combined.

Shape dough by tablespoonfuls into 3-inch-long logs. Place on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies until light golden brown around edges, about 20 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool cookies completely.

Stir milk chocolate in top of double boiler over barely simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Place 1/3 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts in small bowl. Dip 1 end of cookie into melted chocolate, then into coarsely chopped hazelnuts. Return to rack. Repeat with remaining cookies. Let stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. (Cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)


I am sharing at On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

I flew to Seattle yesterday to visit my daughter, son-in-law and four month old granddaughter.  It was a cold, gray and rainy day.  The perfect weather for soup.  My daughter had a very large butternut squash on the counter and some tasty unfiltered apple cider so we revised a  previous recipe  and had a yummy dinner with crusty bread and slices of Dutch sheep's milk gouda....delicious!

Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped 
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 large butternut squash, or two medium
3 large sweet apples (I used gala.)

4 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cup apple cider (I used unfiltered apple cider.)

Warm the butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over low heat.  Add the onions and curry powder and cook, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, until the onions are tender.  Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.

Peel the squash cut in half, and remove the seeds.  Cut the squash into chunks.  Peel, quarter, and core the apples.  Cut into chunks.

Add the squash, apples, salt, pepper, and vegetable broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 30-40 minutes, until squash and apples are very soft.  Process the soup through a food mill or puree it coarsely in the food processor.  (I used a hand blender.)

Pour the soup back into the pot.  Add the apple cider to make the soup the consistency you like (you may need to add more than a cup of the apple cider); it should be slightly sweet and quite thick.  Check and adjust the salt and pepper, if needed, and serve hot.


A perfect soup on this very rainy day and sunshine provided by Sabine!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chicken and Cheddar Stuffed Poblanos

When I saw these on a Debby's blog, A Feast for the Eyes, I knew that they would be making an appearance at my house...and what a great idea!  They are delicious.  I have always liked stuffed peppers but had only stuffed bell peppers.  I have been missing out!

I had some leftover chicken and only had to cook a little rice, chop a little tomato, onion and cilantro and grate some cheese...very easy and quite tasty.

Chicken and Cheddar Stuffed Poblanos
A Feast for the Eyes and Fine Cooking, December 2008

4 large poblano chiles
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1 tsp ground cumin
Generous pinch ground cinnamon
Kosher salt
1 Tbs olive oil
2 cups shredded cooked chicken, preferably dark meat
1 1/2 cups cooked brown or white rice
2 cups rated sharp or extra-sharp white Cheddar (about 7 oz.)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (including some tender stems)
1 Tbs lime juice

Position an oven rack about 4 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Slit the chiles from stem to tip and set on the baking sheet.  Broil, turning every few minutes, until blackened all over, 5 to 8 minutes.  Let cool slightly, peel off the skins, and cut out the seed cores, leaving the stems on. (I used a spoon to scrap out the seed cores.)  Turn the chiles inside out, flick out any remaining seeds, and turn right side out.  Return the poblanos to the baking sheet.

Puree the tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor.  Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the puree and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture looks thick and pulpy, 8 to 11 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the chicken and rice, and then 1 cup of the cheese, the cilantro, and the lime juice.  Season to taste with salt.  Divide the filling among the peppers, wrapping the sides of the peppers up and around the filling, some of which will still be exposed.

Broil the peppers until the cheese is melting and the top is beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.  Top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese and broil until the cheese is completely melted, about 2 minutes.


I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage, Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm and Foodie Friday hosted by Diane at Simple Living.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Enchiladas Verde

Ahhhh....turkey leftovers.  Are there any leftovers that are better?  I don't think so.  We prepare two turkeys at Thanksgiving.  Why?  We enjoy leftovers...turkey sandwiches especially.  We enjoy sending home turkey with our guests so that they can enjoy a sandwich or two also.

Mr. T. always prepares one turkey on the barbecue.  This year, he put the turkey on the smoker for a few hours and then moved it to the barbecue.  It was delicious.  I now have a very large dish filled with turkey!  Thinking that I might turn into a turkey sandwich I decided to make Turkey Enchiladas Verde.  This is a regular meal at our house when there is leftover turkey.

I tried a new recipe this year and we really enjoyed it.  I did use a jar of Mrs. Renfro's Jalapeno Green Salsa as I am easing back into the kitchen after last week's marathon.  I did make a discovery....I purchased two packages of 10 count Mission Yellow Corn Tortillas today. Each package contained nine tortillas. I think they need to change their packaging or include ten tortillas!  I did email them regarding their new math.

Turkey Enchiladas Verde
inspired by The Border Cookbook, by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison

Yields:  10-12 enchiladas

2-3 cups shredded turkey
2 cups Chile Verde Sauce (I used a jar 16 oz., Mrs. Renfro's Jalapeno Green Salsa)
1 cup Creme fraiche
Vegetable oil
10-12 corn tortillas
1/2 cup chopped green onion
12 oz Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Preheat over to 350° F.
Grease a large baking dish.

In a shallow bowl or dish, combine the sauce with the crema.
Spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture thinly in the baking dish.

Mix the turkey, green onion in a bowl.  Add enough sauce to bind.

Heat 1/2 to 1 inch oil in a small skillet until the oil ripples.  With tongs, dunk a tortilla in the oil long enough for it to go limp, a matter of seconds.  (Don't let the tortillas turn crisp.)  Drain the tortilla on paper towels.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Dip a tortilla into the sauce.  Top it with about a large spoonful of the turkey mixture and then about a tablespoon of grated cheese.  Roll the sides up snugly and place the tortilla seam side down in the baking dish.  Repeat with the remainder of the tortillas and filling.  Do not pack the enchiladas tightly in the baking dish.  Top the enchiladas with any remaining green onion and pour the sauce evenly over them.  Scatter Monterey Jack cheese over the tops of the sauce.

Bake the enchiladas for 15-20 minutes, until they are heated through and the sauce is bubbly.  Serve the enchiladas immediately.

Serve with sliced avocado, a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream!

1.  Be careful, if you used too much mixture or roll the tortilla too tight, the tortilla will split.
2.  Leaving space between the enchiladas enables you to serve them without accidentally tearing them.
3.  A rotisserie chicken could be used instead of the turkey or you may wish to cook your own chicken.


I had to giggle at Mr. T. who thought that I had used chipotle in the sauce...then he remembered that the turkey was smoked!

I am sharing at On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable and Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spiced Cranberry Chutney with Oranges

As I mentioned earlier I have a tendency to mess with the basic Thanksgiving menu through the cranberry!  I usually have two or three choices on the menu.  This year I tried a new simple recipe and I am bringing back a chutney that I haven't made in a long time.

I have always loved chutneys and I like this one because it is not extreme in its flavors.  It is a perfect balance of sweet and tart.  The recipe makes five cups and since I do not need five cups of chutney, I shared with my neighbor so they will also be enjoying this tasty dish on Thanksgiving.

Spiced Cranberry Chutney with Oranges
Bon Appetit, November 1999

Makes 5 cups

2 1/4 cups packed golden brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cranberry juice (I used Cranberry Juice Cocktail.)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 12 oz packages cranberries
2 Tbsp orange zest
2 oranges, peeled, white pith removed, sectioned
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup dried apricots

Combine first five ingredients in a saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat, bring to a boil.  Stir in the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is thick.  Stir occasionally, about 40 minutes.  Cool completely.

Can be made three days ahead.  Cover and chill.


This is a great addition to your holiday menu!

I am participating in Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Orange Maple Cranberry Sauce

I have strict orders not to mess with the Thanksgiving menu.  A basic traditional menu is what is appreciated at our house.  You know the basics:  turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce... I always make the basic menu but I wouldn't be me if I didn't throw in a few new side dishes along the way.

Nobody ever seems to mind if I "mess" with the cranberry sauce...such a little berry with such great flavor!  Over the years I have made so many different  types of sauces and of course a few cranberry chutneys and a conserve or two....and what is a conserve?  It is preserving fruits with sugar or a mixture of several fruits cooked to jam-like consistency with sugar and often garnished with nuts and raisins.  I guess you could say that I really mess with the cranberry sauce! 

I wanted to add a simple recipe for cranberry sauce to the menu, so I am trying, yet again, a new recipe!  This is one that I saw in this month's Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2012.  Fine Cooking is my very favorite cooking magazine. I was pleased that I could make the cranberry sauce in advance and I am not disappointed!

Orange-Maple Cranberry Sauce
Fine Cooking, October/November 2012

1 12 oz. package of fresh or frozen cranberries (picked over and rinsed)
1 cup PURE maple syrup
1 medium orange, finely grated to yield 1 tsp zest, then squeezed to yield 1/3 cup 

Combine the cranberries, maple syrup, and orange juice in a 3 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, just until the cranberries burst, about 5 minutes.  

Remove from the heat, stir in the zest, and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.  (The sauce will thicken as it cools.  It may be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

I have been sampling all is really tasty!  You won't be sorry if you add this simple cranberry sauce to your menu!


Pasta Al Forno Con Pomodori E Mozzarella

It is Secret Recipe Club time!  You remember, it's where participating bloggers are assigned a blog with the challenge of identifying a recipe, preparing it and then posting on a designated day.  I was really excited to be assigned Lavender and Lime!  Tandy says that she "loves to read about food, cook food and of  course, eat food!" That is quite evident when one is perusing her blog!  She is an accomplished, published, award winning cook with a wide variety of recipes from which to select.

I have been in a pasta mood of late so her dish, Pasta Al Forno Con Pomodori E Mozzarella caught my attention right away.  It is a very simple recipe yet packed with flavor.   She made it when she set a cooking challenge for herself of using at least one recipe from her stack  of cookbooks.  That would be daunting for all of us, to be sure....Tandy approached her personal challenge with this recipe from Jaime Oliver in his book, Jamie's Italy.

She used a very basic....tomato pasta sauce (your choice) layered with pasta and Parmesan cheese and then top it off with Mozzarella cheese (I used fresh Mozzarella).  Bake at 350° F for 20 minutes.  I used Tandy's basic tomato sauce recipe.  How simple is that?

Tomato Pasta Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic sliced
1 28 oz whole peeled tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried basil
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup red wine
A splash of red wine vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper.
Add the wine and vinegar.
Simmer for at least an hour.
Break apart the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.
Adjust the seasoning and serve. 

The dish was quite flavorful...unfortunately, I had too much pasta for the amount of sauce that I had made.  Next time, and there will be a next time, I will know better!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding....Dressing!

This month's cooking challenge was a real challenge...not because it was difficult but because I have been out of the country for almost three weeks.  I have gotten used to having my "every meal" prepared for me.  I have gotten used to choices at each meal, my bed being made and when I returned to reality last Wednesday I expected the pampering  to continue....instead, I spent 24 hours unpacking, doing laundry and trying to recover from  jet lag....only to come down with a super duper migraine!  After three days in bed I knew that this month's cooking challenge was going to look a little different for me.

The November Crazy Cooking Challenge fare, please.....stuffing!  Of course, stuffing means that I must actually stuff something.  So, I am taking a little cook's license (kind of like literary license...) and making a side dish that could be called a dressing except the ingredients don't match that definition, because of the cream.  It is more like a bread pudding.  But, who says that your dressing cannot have cream?

The recipe I selected comes from Cathy's blog, Noble Pig.  She has absolutely fabulous recipes and if you haven't visited her, you are really missing out on a super blog!!

Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding
inspired by Noble Pig

Serves 8-10

8 cups bread cubes from a rustic country loaf, 1/2" dice (I used a rosemary garlic bread)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
2 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced (I used four thick slices, about 5 ounces)
4 cups sliced leeks white and green parts (about 4-6 leeks)
1-1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, sliced (I used 1 pound)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage

1/4 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup minced fresh-flat leaf parsley
6 large eggs
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
8 ounces grated Gruyere cheese, divided

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes until dried out and lightly browned. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large 12" skillet saute pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook for 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in leeks and cook over medium for 10 minutes, until they are tender. Stir in mushrooms, sage, white wine, 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons pepper and cook for 12 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the parsley. Pour mixture over bread crumbs on baking tray to cool down slightly.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, chicken stock, and half of the Gruyere cheese. Add the bread cubes and mushroom mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid . Stir well and pour into a 3 quart gratin dish (13 x 9). Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the top is browned and the custard is set. Serve hot.

This was an amazing side dish!  Mr. T. loved it and asked why we couldn't have that for Thanksgiving...I cannot think of a reason that this cannot be on our table!  Totally delicious!!

I am also participating in Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Devils on Horseback with a Kick

Happy Halloween!

Mr. T came in from the garden with a couple handfuls of jalapeños.  He wandered around the kitchen trying to decide what to do with them....then it came to him, "What would Big Dude do?"  Mr. T has taken to following Larry's blog, Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings.  Larry is a fun guy who likes to cook and likes to travel.  Pay him a visit if you haven't already....

Mr. T reached in the refrigerator and pulled out the bacon and a container of dates.  He then began to seed the dates, sliver the jalapeño, and cut the bacon slices in half.  He then stuffed each date with a sliver of jalapeno and then wrapped the bacon around the date.  He used a toothpick to secure the bacon and placed each "bite" into a baking dish.  The little devils were baked in the oven at 425 degrees F.

I have been in the Czech Republic, Germany, and France since the 15th but I will be home late today with great foods to share!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Capellini with Shrimp and Creamy Tomato Sauce

Have you ever cooked with sweet vermouth?  I hadn't until now.  In fact, didn't even know that there was such a thing as sweet vermouth....I have always used dry vermouth and I guess I never looked past the label on the bottle that I was picking up.  That said, I knew I had to make this just to try sweet vermouth...

First, sweet does not mean sugary sweet.  The vermouth smoothed the edge off of the canned tomatoes...if that makes sense, and gave a richness to the sauce.   It was a very nice meal...very quick....very easy.

I found the recipe on Epicurious, while looking for something else.  Isn't that always the case?  I would be very careful with the recipe's heat recommendations.  Shrimp cook quickly and garlic burns quickly...voice of, I suggest a medium heat, not medium-high...  Each stove is a little different so use your best judgement when cooking the shrimp and garlic....

Capellini with Shrimp 
and Creamy Tomato Sauce
Gourmet, April 2008

3 Tbsp olive oil
a lb peeled large shrimp
3 large garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup sweet (red) vermouth
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 lb capellini (angel-hair pasta)

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook shrimp and garlic with oregano, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper, turning once, until golden, about 2 minutes total.  Stir in vermouth and tomatoes, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet.  Add cream and briskly simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 1 minute.  Stir in lemon juice.

Meanwhile, cook capellini in a pasta pot of boiling salted water until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.  (If necessary, thin the sauce with some of the pasta water.)

Serve immediately topped with shrimp and sauce.


I love pasta and I love shrimp...this was a hit!   The leftovers were great too!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not Your Mother's Meatloaf, Revisted

There are recipes that are just worth repeating.  When you think about it, those recipes are just like a good book, you don't "use it up".  Books and recipes are always worth repeating and there is just as much enjoyment the second time as there was the first time!

That is the way I feel about this particular meatloaf recipe.  It took me a long time to find a meatloaf recipe that I enjoyed.  I steered away from meatloaf for many years as I thought that my mom's Lipton soup concoction was the only way to prepare it....that recipe never appealed to me.
You can read about that, here.

Not Your Mother's Meatloaf!
Inspired by Wives with Knives and the Tasting Table

2 Tbsp extra virgin  olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic,  crushed
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp chili powder
Salt and freshly ground black  pepper
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
2 eggs
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/8 tsp hot sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
4 slices of bacon

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a medium skillet set over medium heat, heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic until soft, 5to 7 minutes.  Stir in the ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp chili powder, and 1/2 tsp  dry mustard.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, cooked onion and ketchup mixture, eggs, and thyme.  Add the panko and milk and mix well.

Lightly grease a loaf pan or baking sheet with 1 Tbsp melted butter.

Make the glaze.  In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the ketchup chili powder, Worcestershire Sauce, hot sauce, brown sugar and any butter remaining after lightly greasing the pan.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Form the meat mixture into a log and place it on the baking sheet or in the loaf  pan.  Lightly coat the top with some glaze.  Lay the bacon slices across the loaf lengthwise with the pieces touching each other.

Place in the oven and bake until the meat is firm, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending upon the oven.  I tested it with the meat thermometer. The last 15 minutes of baking spread half of the glaze over the top of the bacon and increase the oven temperature to 375° F.   Remove from the oven and set aside to cool just a little before slicing.  Serve with the remaining glaze.


Monday, October 22, 2012

World's Best Mac and Cheese

It is Secret Recipe Club time!  You remember, it's where participating bloggers are assigned a blog with the challenge of identifying a recipe, preparing it and then posting on a designated day.  I was really excited to be assigned Alli 'n Sons!  She uses the descriptor:  Motherhood, Baking and Boys with a Side of cute!  How she does everything being "up to her armpits" with two busy young men, I don't know.  Three cheers for Alli!!!

While chocolate is a popular ingredient on Alli 'n Sons, I couldn't take my eyes from the World's Best Mac and Cheese!  Who cares that, like Alli, I could not find Beecher's artisan cheeses? Alli said she was able to substitute with brands in her area and felt great about the results so I decided that I would do the same.  I think it is the touch of chipotle chili powder that sends this over the top...along with white cheddar...and Gruyere...both favorites of mine.

World's Best Mac and Cheese
adapted from Beecher's Mac and Cheese and Alli 'n Sons

Serves 4

Preheat oven: 350° F.
Butter an 8" casserole dish for four

Beecher's Flagship Cheese Sauce 
(Makes about four cups)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
14 ounces semi-hard cheese, such as Beecher's Flagship, grated (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 ounces semi-soft cheese, such as Beecher's Just Jack
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour.  Continue whisking and cooking for two minutes.  Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly.  Cook until the sauce thickens about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from the heat.  Add the cheese, salt, chili powder and garlic powder.  Stir until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are incorporated, about three minutes.  Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to three days.
NOTE:  A single batch of sauce makes enough for a double recipe of macaroni and cheese.

6 ounces penne pasta

2 cups Beecher's Flagship Sauce
1 ounce cheddar, grated (1/4 cup)
1 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder

Cook the penne two minutes less than package directions.  (It finishes in the oven.)  Rinse the pasta in cold water and set aside.

Combine cooked pasta and 2 cups Flagship Sauce in a medium bowl and mix carefully but thoroughly.  Scrape the pasta into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with the cheeses and then the chili powder.  Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Let sit for five minutes before serving.

Note:  If the recipe is doubled, use a 9 X 13 inch pan and bake for 30 minutes.


Mr. T and I loved this Mac and Cheese.  Since my daughter lives in Seattle, I am going to pay them a visit the next time I am there.... When I make this again, I think I will order the cheese on-line, just for fun!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

When I go to a Mexican restaurant, I always seem to order chicken enchiladas with green sauce.  They are my favorite.  I usually make them after the holidays to use up leftover turkey.  It has become a traditional meal around here.

I saw a recipe the other day for enchiladas with green sauce but using hamburger just didn't sound as good to me.  So, I decided to switch out the hamburger for chicken..what appealed to me in the original recipe were the roasted tomatillos and jalapenos that were in the sauce....of course, there has to be a bit of a Rick Bayless influence...he is the best!

Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde
adapted from Fine Cooking and Rick Bayless

1 lb tomatillos (about 12 medium), husked and rinsed
3 jalapenos, stemmed and halved lengthwise (seeded, if you like)
1 medium white onion, cut into large chunks
3 garlic cloves
2/3 cup chopped cilantro, divided
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 Mexican creme, creme fraiche or heavy whipping cream
About 2 cups of coarsely shredded cooked chicken, grilled, roasted, or rotisserie
2/3 cup shredded Mexican melting cheese (quesadilla, asadero, or any similar), Monterey Jack, or mild cheddar
12 corn tortillas

Make the sauce
Roast the tomatillos, sliced onion, peeled garlic and chiles on a rimmed baking sheet 4 inches below a hot broiler until the tomatillos are soft and blotchy black on one side, 4-5 minutes.  Turn everything over and roast the other side.  Remove and reduce the oven temperature to 350° F.

Scrape the tomatillo mixture into a blender, along with 1/2 cup cilantro.  Process to a smooth puree.  Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp oil in a medium-large pot over medium high heat. When the oil is hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle, add the puree all at once.  Stir constantly for several minutes until darker and thicker.  Add the broth and the crema, reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.  (You want a soupy consistency.)  Taste and season with salt.

Put the chicken in a bowl and stir in 1/2-3/4 cup of the sauce mixture into it.

Finishing the enchiladas
Smear about 1 cup sauce over the bottom of the large casserole dish.  Lay the tortillas on a baking sheet (or 2) and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil  Bake just to warm them through and soften, about 3 minutes.  Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.

Working quickly so the tortillas remain warm and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken and a bit of shredded cheese up in each tortilla, then line them up in the baking dish.  Pour the remaining sauce, evenly, over the enchiladas and sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Bake until the enchiladas are heated through, about 15 minutes.  Garnish with onion rings and remaining cilantro.



I am participating in Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tequila Lime Chicken

While cruising through my favorite blogs, I spotted a recipe that sounded really great....maybe it was the hot weather and the thought of a frosty margarita came to mind, maybe it was the hot weather and a margarita over with ice came to mind...either way, I knew I was making this chicken!

Mari from Once Upon a Plate posted this recipe and commented about the wonderful flavors and tender chicken.  The original recipe belongs to Ina Garten and was adapted by Mari.  She said that she has prepared the meal at least three times!  With that, I was sold...if it is on the rotation, it has to be good!  Like Mari, I had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on hand so that is what I used.

Tequila Lime Chicken
adapted from Mari at Once Upon a Plate

Serves 6

  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (5 to 6 limes)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh jalapeno pepper (1 pepper seeded)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 split boneless, skinless chicken breasts


Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts. Refrigerate overnight. (The citrus will begin the cooking process so I would suggest not marinating them any longer than overnight.)
Heat a grill with coals and brush the rack with oil to prevent the chicken from sticking. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, sprinkle well with salt and pepper, and grill them for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes, until just cooked through. Remove from the grill to a plate. Cover tightly and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.


The next time I prepare this recipe I will make some Mexican Rice and Pot Beans to accompany it!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Contingency Plan: Upside Down Apple Pie

 Everybody needs a contingency plan.  I knew that I was going to need one when I set out to make the Spiced Apple Pie.  As I mentioned in the earlier post, making pies is not something that I ever rush to do.  My pie crusts have had more fatal accidents than I care to mention.  Anytime something is fatal, it is best to avoid it!

But, being brave, I set out on the Crazy Cooking Challenge...I was going to make an Apple Pie....and, I had a contingency plan.

I knew when I saw the recipe for Upside Down Apple Pie at Cathy's blog, Noble Pig, that all would be well.  I would either have two yummy pies to eat or one accident and one yummy upside down pie to eat.  Success was in my future!

Upside Down Apple Pie

6 Tbsp butter, melted & divided
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, or halves
2 refrigerated pie crusts
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice
5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored & cut into 1/2" slices

Preheat oven:  375° F.

Coat a pie plate with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper. Coat the paper with cooking spray also.  (A regular pie plate works well here as there is not a lot of hangover for sealing the two crusts together when refrigerated pie crusts are used.) 

In a small bowl combine 4 Tbsp of melted butter, brown sugar and pecans. Mix well and spread evenly over the bottom of the pie plate, on top of the parchment. Place one of the crusts in the pie plate, pressing it firmly against the nut mixture and up the sides of the plate. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and the remaining 2 Tbsp of melted butter. Mix well. Add the apples in and toss gently to coat. Spoon into the pie crust.

Place the second crust over the apple mixture. Trim and fold the edges together to seal and cut some slits in the top of the crust for venting. (All pies, even upside down ones need just a little sugar sprinkled  on sure to brush the crust with some milk first.)

Bake 1 hour or until crust is golden brown. Be certain to place your pie plate on a baking sheet to catch any drips from the pie.  (There will be drips!)

Let the pie cool for 5 minutes and then place a plate that is larger than the pie on top of it and flip it over. Use oven gloves as it will still be hot. Remove the pie plate and gently lift the paper. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.


This was an absolutely wonderful pie!!  The caramel and nuts on the bottom/top had a little crunch and made it seem as though you were eating one of those large, heavenly cinnamon rolls that you get when you take a trip to the beach.  You know the kind...the ones you do not eat very often because you know that you would be eating two days worth of calories!!  Yep, those kind...  Well, this could be the substitute..still the wonderful flavor plus the bonus of apples!!  

What a contingency plan!!

I am participating in Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.