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Recipe: Mascarpone Pasta Sauce


I love to try different pasta sauces… well… I love pasta and with pasta goes pasta sauces. This recipe for Mascarpone Pasta Sauce is the combination of several recipes and some tweeking of my own. Like most of my recipes… it's quick, easy and delicious… and not expensive to make…and the ingredients are readily available.

TIPS

Keep in mind this is a basic sauce that you can add a variety of things to…

I made the sauce with bowtie pasta and threw in mushrooms and peas…. I sautéed about 4 ounces of sliced fresh mushrooms in the oil and butter with the garlic and then added 1 cup frozen thawed peas.

You could also add cooked chicken, prosciutto, shrimp, chopped spinach, sun-dried tomatoes… the list goes on and on…. if you add chopped (finely chopped) spinach… add it to the sautéed garlic then add the mascarpone and cream…….

Be creative!

The sauce will be enough for a pound of pasta and should serve 4.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Mascarpone Pasta Sauce

All you need:

2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely in a food processor
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces mascarpone, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Reserved water from the pasta pot
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

All you need to do:

Cook your choice of pasta according to package directions.

**When the pasta is done boiling, reserve at least a cup of the pasta cooking water*** The starch from the pasta in the water will help thicken your sauce.

Drain the pasta.

In the same pot…over medium heat, melt the tablespoon of butter with the tablespoon of oil.

In a mini processor, chop the garlic cloves until they are very finely chopped.

Add the garlic to the melted butter and cook about 3 minutes until soft but not brown.

Add the mascarpone and the cream, stirring until smooth. Add the pasta water a little at a time until you have the desired thickness of the sauce.

Add the Parmesan cheese.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Add any other additions to the sauce you wish.

Add the pasta and toss to coat evenly.

Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives.

Serve immediately.

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Recipe: Creamy Mashed Potatoes



Creamy or lumpy?.... everyone has their own special way they like their mashed potatoes. Well… truth be told… I like them all… I love mashed potatoes… and I must admit… I will try just about any recipe for them… always in search of the “best”.

Some foods just seem to go better with a “rustic” mashed potato… slightly lumpy with bits of skin throughout… and some foods are the best with smooth creamy buttery potatoes.

Well… my quest to try yet a different mashed potato recipe took me to the Barefoot Contessa’s Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes. While they were good… they were a bit more work than I think necessary and they weren’t special… they were your average good mashed potato… nothing wrong with that… just not special. As one reviewer put it…. PEOPLE…it’s not rocket science just mashed potatoes!

She uses a food mill… which is totally unnecessary… if you want them smooth… use an electric mixer to whip them up briefly… or if you like them with a little texture… mash them by hand using a potato masher… she also goes through all these gyrations keeping them warm… placing a pan over another pan of water… just keep the lid on them… it should be fine. Her recipe also uses buttermilk… which I tried… honestly I couldn’t taste the tang of the buttermilk… sooo another recipe goes to the recipe junk yard.

This recipe for Creamy Mashed Potatoes is like the one my Mother and Grandmother’s made…. Except when I make my mashed potatoes creamy I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes… and I added 3 tablespoons of heavy cream…. I like the creaminess it gives the potatoes.








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Recipe: Creamy Mashed Potatoes

All you need:

4 large Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup milk
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt to taste

All you need to do:

Peel and dice the potatoes… making sure the pieces are the same size so they cook in the same amount of time.

Place in a large pot with 1 tablespoon salt and cover with water and bring to a boil.

Turn down the heat and simmer the potatoes about 20 minutes or until fork tender.

Drain and return to the pot or place into the bowl of an electric mixer.

Heat the milk and 4 tablespoons butter until butter is just melted.

Mash the potatoes until desired consistency.

Add the milk and butter mixture and stir.

Add the heavy cream and stir.

Add the ground black pepper and stir.

Salt to taste.

Pour the mashed potatoes into a large serving bowl.

Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into small “pats” and add them on top of the potatoes.

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We’re Celebrating Our 500th Post Today!!


We’re patting ourselves on the back…. jumping up and down…. pouring ourselves a glass of wine…and of course eating some great food. 500 posts… and we’ve barely scratched the surface… it’s been such fun.. cooking and eating our way to 500…. and looking forward to the next 500.

To be honest… we find ways of making special nights… we don’t need a party or guests to have hors’dourves and wine. We celebrate even the smallest things and sometimes…who needs a reason?... we sure don’t.

It can be simple cheese and fruit and some baked appetizers, like today… or fresh fruit and some crackers with a choice of spreads… it doesn’t have to be complicated… and you can always make it nice by using nice trays and cutting boards.

So we want to thank all our faithful readers… you have made this a terrific ride… we love your comments and encouragement… there’s more to come… so stick with us so we can celebrate often!

I hope you join in the celebration by trying our recipes.

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Recipe: Spinach Cheese Puff Pastry Swirls


This recipe is a combination of two recipes I saw that made these swirls. Paula Deen has a recipe… but I found hers to be bland and with both spinach and mushrooms the filling was too wet.…. and the other recipe from Pepperidge Farm… I didn’t care for the cheese combination … it was just a little off…. soooo with that said… here is my adapted recipe.

Keep in mind whenever you use cheese in a recipe… you need to consider the ingredients… different types of Swiss or Gruyere cheese will taste differently and you need to take into account you, your family and your guests’ tastes… some cheeses are sharper than others and will greatly affect whether it is a crowd pleaser or not….

I used Sargento Swiss blend shredded cheese… it contains Gruyere… it’s both economical and delicious… if you can’t find it or if you prefer… you can substitute Swiss or Gruyere.

And finally… consider the amount of salt, pepper and herbs you use… as well as what herbs you choose to include… if your meal is Italian… I would definitely add oregano and basil… and may even add more garlic… be creative!

Enjoy!



Recipe: Spinach Cheese Puff Pastry Swirls

All you need:

1 sheet frozen Puff Pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm),thawed
½ medium onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup spinach, thawed and drained well
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ cup Sargento Swiss Blend shredded cheese
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

All you need to do:

Thaw frozen puff pastry according to package instructions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter.

Add the onion and cook about 3 minutes or until onions are soft and translucent. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, make sure you drain the spinach well… I press mine into a strainer to make sure all excess liquid is out.

Add the spinach, garlic powder and cheese to the onions.

Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Flour a work surface and roll out the puff pastry just to get the creases out.

Brush with the egg wash.

Spread the spinach mixture over the pastry.

Starting with the long side, roll up the pastry jelly roll style. It will look like a log.

Place the rolled pastry on a plate and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes (this will make cutting easier).

I measure my cuts… every ½ inch I make a slight cut along the rolled pastry.

Then, using a sharp knife, I cut the slices and place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Brush with egg wash.

Sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 400 degrees F, about 15 minutes or until golden.

Serve warm.

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Recipe: Spinach and Cheese Phyllo Triangles


This recipe for Spinach and Cheese Phyllo Triangles uses the same filling as the recipe for Spinach Cheese Puff Pastry Swirls….

What I like about using the same filling in two different types of dough is that you make only one batch of filling…. saves time and money since there is no waste and adds variety to your table... to add variety ... just add a few different ingredients.

If you want to change up the filling a bit… you can add ¼ cup cottage cheese or ricotta to the mixture or ... try adding another seasoning to add zip... perhaps a dash of cayenne pepper.

They are easy to assemble… just be sure to follow the tips I previously posted on handling Phyllo Dough and you will have no problem making these and any other recipes that call for Phyllo Dough.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Spinach and Cheese Phyllo Triangles

All you need:

Athens Phyllo Dough sheets
½ medium onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup spinach, thawed and drained well
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ cup Sargento Swiss Blend shredded cheese
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 stick butter, melted

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Thaw the phyllo dough according to package instructions.

In a skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter.

Add the onion and cook about 3 minutes or until onions are soft and translucent. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, make sure you drain the spinach well… I press mine into a strainer to make sure all excess liquid is out.

Add the spinach, garlic and cheese to the onions.

Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Carefully remove 1 sheet of phyllo dough and place on a clean work surface.

Make sure to cover the open package of phyllo dough with a damp towel.

Gently brush the sheet with melted butter.

Remove another sheet of phyllo dough and place over the first one.

Gently brush the sheet with melted butter.

Repeat this step until you have layered 5 phyllo dough sheets.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the phyllo dough into 2 inch strips along the long side.

Place a heaping teaspoon of filling at one end of the strip, be sure to leave about an 1/8 of an inch border so the filling won’t spill out.

Fold into a triangle as you would fold a flag.

If for some reason you have a little extra dough at the end …. Using a sharp knife, just trim it off.

Place the triangle on the parchment lined baking sheet.

Repeat until you have used up all the phyllo sheets.

Brush all the triangles with butter.

Any remaining filling stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and can be used in other recipes.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden.

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Recipe: Mushroom Parmesan Phyllo Triangles


This recipe for Mushroom Parmesan Phyllo Triangles is so easy and delicious… the ingredients are simple and you can easily adjust the recipe amounts to suit how many you want to make.

I like to make the fillings for phyllo triangles on one day and actually assemble them on and bake them on another day. This way I can make a variety of fillings without feeling I’m in the kitchen forever. It also makes clean up a snap on both days.

I used my mini chopper to finely chop the ingredients… I found that everything gets more finely chopped. I put the onion and garlic cloves in the mini chopper at the same time to they get incorporated together… so no one will get a mouthful of garlic… which is not what you want.

You may want to check out a post I previously published for tips on handling phyllo dough.

I used white mushrooms, but you can use any other variety or combination of varieties … it’s great to change up the flavor… be creative!

I hope you enjoy this !



Recipe: Mushroom Parmesan Phyllo Triangles

All you need:

Athens Phyllo Dough sheets
8 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter, divided
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste.

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Thaw the phyllo dough according to package instructions.

In a skillet over medium high heat, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter.

Chop the onion and garlic in a mini chopper until very fine.

Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and cook about 3 minutes or until onions are soft and translucent.

Chop the mushrooms (do this in batches so they chop evenly)in the mini chopper.
Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are soft and the liquid has started to run out of them. Remove from the heat.

Put the mushroom and onion mixture into a large bowl.

Chop the parsley in the mini chopper until fine.

Add the parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Carefully remove 1 sheet of phyllo dough and place on a clean work surface.

Make sure to cover the open package of phyllo dough with a damp towel.

Gently brush the sheet with melted butter.

Remove another sheet of phyllo dough and place over the first one.

Gently brush the sheet with melted butter.

Repeat this step until you have layered 5 phyllo dough sheets.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the phyllo dough into 2 inch strips along the long side.

Place a heaping teaspoon of filling at one end of the strip, be sure to leave about an 1.8 of an inch border so the filling won’t spill out.

Fold into a triangle as you would fold a flag.

If for some reason you have a little extra dough at the end …. Using a sharp knife, just trim it off.

Place the triangle on the parchment lined baking sheet.

Repeat until you have used up all the phyllo sheets.

Brush all the triangles with butter.

Any remaining filling stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and can be used in other recipes.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden.

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Adding Variety to Your Hors’dourves Menu By Dividing Your Filling and Adding Different Ingredients to the Second Half

Tip of the Day

When preparing for a party …I like to plan a variety of hors’dourves not only just for a variety in flavors but also so my guests can find something they like… not all people like all things when it comes to cheeses and vegetables.

Some simple fillings can be used as a base for a slightly different filling. You can make a simple filling different by adding a cheese or a different herb to it.

Planning is key…. When planning the menu for your party think of ways you can savetime and money by making and using a basic filling… then try using it in different doughs (for example phyllo dough and puff pastry) or using a portion of the basic filling and adding a cheese to it… for example feta or ricotta or mozzarella… these little changes can make totally different hors’dourves with little time and effort.

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Recipe: Cheesy Bacon and Chive Corn Muffins


This recipe for Cheesy Bacon and Chive Muffins is a fast and easy way to jazz up corn muffins… the savory additions add another layer of flavor to a basic corn muffin. Using a corn muffin mix makes these a snap to throw together…

I served it for a Sunday Brunch… with eggs, bacon and hash browns… but they would also make a great addition to an evening meal. This would go wonderfully with a meatloaf or grilled chicken or steak….

I like to use buttermilk instead of milk in my corn muffins… I find it makes them less grainy and coarse… and using sour cream makes them lighter.

I hope you try this!








Recipe: Cheesy Bacon and Chive Corn Muffins

All you need:

1 box corn muffin mix (Jiffy recommended)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk or milk
1 egg
3 slices bacon (smoked flavor preferred), cooked and crumbled
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners (if desired)

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until all ingredients are just incorporated… do not overmix.

Allow batter to stand for 3-5 minutes.

Fill muffin cups ½ full.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes.

Makes 8-9 muffins.

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Recipe: Cheese Danish


These Cheese Danish are so delicious... warm flaky pastry... rich sweet cheese filling...and best of all ...a snap to make… the filling mixes up in minutes… and using purchased frozen puff pastry makes this recipe something you can throw together on a lazy Sunday morning for a terrific addition to a breakfast or brunch.

This is a recipe slightly adapted from the Barefoot Contessa…. she used ricotta cheese in her recipe… I substituted sour cream instead… I like the creamy texture the sour cream gives it, as well as, the tangy sour cream offsets the sweetness of the cream cheese and sugar.

I even made the filling the night before… storing it in an airtight container in the fridge… I set the coffee pot up the night before…all I had to do was get up … take the puff pastry out of the freezer for about 40 minutes to get it to room temperature… took the filling out of the fridge to get it to room temperature also…. flipped on the coffee… and headed to the shower.

The puff pastry rolls out in minutes.. all together the prep time is about 20 minutes which includes 15 minutes in the fridge to have the danish set before baking…. which it can do while you get the eggs and bacon going…..

Enjoy!



Recipe: Cheese Danish

All you need:

2 sheets frozen puff pastry (a box), thawed
1 brick (8 ounces) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of 2 lemons
Pinch of salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat the cream cheese and sugar on low speed until smooth.

Add the sour cream, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Mix at low speed until incorporated.

Add the eggs one at a time at low speed… until incorporated.

DO NOT OVER MIX. Set aside.

Carefully unfold the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface,
Roll it with a floured rolling pin to smooth out the folds..the surface should be about a 10x10 square.

Cut the pastry square into four equal squares.

In the center of each square drop a dollop of filling.

Using a pastry brush… brush the egg wash along the border of each square.

Fold 2 opposite corners to the center, covering the filling.

Brush the pastries with the egg wash.

Place on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Note: I drizzled a little icing over them for a little added sweetness.

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Recipe: Monte Cristo Sandwich


This recipe for a Monte Cristo Sandwich found its way into American cookbooks as far back as the 1930’s. It became very popular in California in the 1950’s. This sandwich is a variation of the French sandwich, croque-monsieur.

Traditionally, the Monte Cristo Sandwich is dipped in batter then deep fried. This recipe is grilled, which is another popular way of making it.

I like to grill it since it does significantly cut down on the fat without sacrificing the taste. I used Swiss cheese but I have seen some recipes that use gouda….the choice is yours.

You can substitute milk for the heavy cream... but the cream adds a wonderful richness to the batter.

This is a truly delicious sandwich recipe to make when you want to make a sandwich special. Serve it with soup and you have a quick and delicious weeknight dinner.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Monte Cristo Sandwich

All you need:

4 slices white bread
Margarine or butter for spreading
4 slices Swiss cheese
6 slices deli ham
6 slices deli turkey
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter
Powdered sugar for garnish
Seedless raspberry syrup

All you need to do:

In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, heavy cream, nutmeg, vanilla, salt and granulated sugar.

Pour the egg mixture into an 8x8 baking dish or any other flat dish (this will be used to dunk the sandwiches).

Assemble the sandwiches by thinly spreading margarine on each slice of bread.

Lay one slice of Swiss cheese on each slice of bread.

Lay the ham on 2 slices of bread (3 slices each).

On top of the ham, lay 3 slices of turkey.

Put the two slices of bread with the Swiss cheese only on top of the turkey to make the sandwich.

Heat a skillet on medium high.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter …making sure the butter coats the griddle.

Quickly dip one of the sandwiches in the egg mixture. Turn over and dip the other side. You do not want to leave the sandwich in the egg mixture long or it will get mushy.

Place the sandwich on the hot griddle.

Cook until the bottom is golden … then flip and cook the other side until golden.
When both sides are golden… remove to a serving plate …cut in half.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with seedless raspberry syrup dipping sauce.

Repeat steps with the other sandwich… adding butter to the griddle as needed.

Makes two sandwiches.

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Recipe: Baked Pesto Chicken


This recipe for Baked Pesto chicken is a snap to make. The other day one of my faithful readers sent me a question … what to do with a little leftover Pesto other than using it with pasta? I wrote him back with two alternatives…. This Baked Pesto Chicken recipe was one of them.

I decided to post this recipe since it’s so easy and so delicious…. another perfect weeknight meal that prepares in minutes…. but don’t be fooled ….this recipe is good enough for company too. The chicken is moist and the Pesto flavors the chicken beautifully.

I served this recipe with pasta bowties with mushrooms and peas in a light cheese sauce…. the richness of the sauce went well with the pesto chicken. If sauces are not your thing… you can serve this with a medley of steamed vegetables then gently tossed in garlic oil…. and perhaps risotto to round out the meal…. however you decide to serve this… it’s sure to be a winner.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Baked Pesto Chicken

All you need:

Pesto (homemade or store bought)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts halves
About 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Lightly spray a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray (size depends upon how many chicken breast halves you make… with 4 halves…I used an 11x7 baking dish).

Lay the chicken breasts in the dish.

Spread the pesto liberally on the chicken breasts.

Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Take the chicken out and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the chicken and pop back into the oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve.

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Recipe: Basil Pesto


This recipe for Basil Pesto is a basic one. I use pine nuts… I know some people use walnuts… but I prefer pine nuts…. you can substitute walnuts if you want. Basil pesto freezes well if you leave out the Parmesan cheese …. just add the cheese when you use it.

This recipe is so simple… you won’t want to buy it ever again…. the fragrance of the fresh basil can’t be beat…. it is absolutely wonderful. There are so many ways to use pesto…. on pasta, chicken, seafood, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella… the list goes on and on….

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Basil Pesto

All you need:

3 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

All you need to do:

Place basil leaves, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor.

Pulse until well chopped and incorporated.

Slowly pour olive oil into the processor while it is running.

Pour the mixture in a bowl and add the Parmesan cheese. Mix well.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Freezing Pesto

Tip of the Day

Pesto freezes well… but you do need to leave out the grated Parmesan cheese. … just add the cheese when you defrost it to use.

A little pesto goes a long way… so I like to freeze pesto in a plastic wrap lined ice cube tray. Just press the plastic wrap into each cube so that it is tightly against the tray. Simply drop spoonfuls of the pesto in each cube…. and pop into the freezer. After the pesto has set… simply them pop out of the tray and into a freezer bag…. and they’re ready to defrost and use in your recipes.

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Easy Main Dishes for a Crowd - Baked Pesto Chicken

Cooking for a Crowd Tip

In this season of family reunions and get togethers… I’m always on the look-out for simple yet elegant and delicious main dishes.

Today’s recipe for Baked Pesto Chicken is perfect for large gatherings. It requires little work… the pesto can be prepared in advance and the chicken can bake while you tend to other parts of the dinner or better yet… tending to your guests. Better still... it's virtually fool-proof.

This recipe is definitely one for you to earmark as a possibility for a spot on your menu when entertaining.

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Recipe: French Toast Stuffed with Blueberry Cream Cheese


This recipe for French Toast Stuffed with Blueberry Cream Cheese is a snap to make and so delicious even the pickiest eaters will want to eat breakfast!

One of my “staples” in my pantry is fruit pie filling… I use pie filling for so many things… the other day I added it as a surprise center to muffins...and another one of the things I do with it is flavoring cream cheese. I love to mix cream cheese with fruit…fresh fruit, jellies, jams, pie fillings… you name it…. it’s great on toast and bagels… even crackers.

I also use it as a filling in stuffed French Toast. … it’s absolutely terrific and you can make it in minutes.

This recipe will make approximately four stuffed French Toast. The quantities for making this do not have to be exact… so alter it as you see fit making the amounts you need. Leftover Blueberry Cream Cheese will surely not go to waste… as for the leftover pie filling… I will be publishing more recipes you can make with it… just store it in the fridge in an airtight container.

You can substitute milk for the heavy cream…but the heavy cream gives it a really luscious rich taste.

I hope you try this….







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Recipe: French Toast Stuffed with Blueberry Cream Cheese

All you need:

8 slices of white bread
4 ounces Philadelphia cream Cheese (1/2 an 8 oz. brick)
2/3 cup canned blueberry pie filling, divided
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons butter
Powdered sugar for garnish

All you need to do:

In a mini processor, add the cream cheese and 1/3 cup blueberry pie filling. Pulse a few times until well mixed. (You can hand mix this with a fork in a small bowl also if you don’t have a mini processor). Set aside.

In a small bowl beat the eggs, heavy cream, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and granulated sugar.

Pour the egg mixture into an 8 x 8 baking dish or any other flat dish (this will be used to dunk the bread).

Heat a skillet on medium high.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter…. making sure the butter coats the griddle.

Take one slice of bread and place a large dollop of blueberry cream cheese in the center… using a knife spread the cream cheese to about ¼ of an inch from the crust.

Using the reserved 1/3 cup blueberry pie filling... dollop about a teaspoon blueberry pie filling on top of the cream cheese mixture.

Place another slice of bread on top and gently press the bread together..

Quickly dip the bread into the egg mixture and turnover and dip the other side…. Do not leave in the egg mixture long… otherwise the bread will get mushy.

Place the French Toast on the hot griddle.

Cook until bottom is golden… then flip and cook other side until golden.

When both sides are golden… remove to serving plate… cut in half.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Repeat with other bread… adding butter to griddle as needed.

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Pantry Staples – Stock Up or Not To Stock Up

Tip of the Day

Awhile back, Warren and I got into a discussion about pantry staples. His opinion was that sparse was better… just go out and get what you need when you need it. I said that … that attitude was from someone that did not do the majority of the grocery shopping or cooking. The last thing I want to do is run out and waste time at the store just before dinner.

I am a firm believer in the well stocked pantry. First, from a time saving perspective… one trip a week to the grocery store is fine for me. Secondly, I do believe in meal planning… many items you need for a recipe do not use up the entire package and unless you want to waste it… you really need to plan to use it in another dish soon after opening. … and thirdly, and probably the most important reason for stocking up… is taking advantage of sales…. discounts do add up… especially on food items you would normally use anyway.

Now that I have pointed out the finer points of why pantry staples are a good thing…. the question is… what items fall under the “staples” list. For the most part… pantry staples are an individual thing… meal ingredients that “throw together” quickly on those nights that are unplanned… as well as, those items frequently used.

Whatever is on your list… I believe pantry staples are a wise investment in time and money, as long as thought has gone into choosing them and they’re used in a timely manner.

Let me hear your thoughts on the subject. Do you stock up?

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Recipe: Baked Spaghetti


This recipe for Baked Spaghetti is one that has been around for years…. there are probably a dozen ways to make it…. each good in its own right. It’s a perfect family meal… one the kids and adults will love.

I made this one with ground beef… but you can make this without meat… just add vegetables… sauté zucchini, cut-up summer squash or egg plant…. You can make it with sweet or hot Italian sausage too… it’s delicious no matter how you change it up.

In place of the Italian Seasoning you can use dried or fresh oregano, dried or fresh parsley, dried or fresh basil…. Italian seasoning usually also includes marjoram, sage and thyme…. add to taste…. if using dried herbs then start with about a teaspoon of oregano, parsley and basil each… and about ¼ teaspoon each of marjoram, sage and thyme.

Awhile back…one of the blogs I follow, Daily Dwelling, had “Baked Spaghetti” on its week’s menu…. I had long forgotten about my recipe… and decided to make it again… and it was as satisfying as I had remembered.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Baked Spaghetti

All you need:

1 pound spaghetti
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (26 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (any flavor)or homemade sauce
2 eggs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook spaghetti al dente according to package instructions. You do not want the spaghetti too soft since it will be baked later in the recipe.

Drain and set aside. Allow pot to cool.

In a large skillet, brown ground beef over medium high heat.

Add the onions.

Cook until beef is brown and onions are soft.

Drain off any excess fat.

Add the garlic powder, Italian Seasoning, salt and pepper.

Add about 2/3 of the spaghetti sauce. Set aside.

Reserve the rest of the sauce to serve at the table.

Add the spaghetti back into the cooled pot.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs slightly.

Add the Parmesan cheese and butter. Mix well.

Add the egg mixture to the spaghaetti mix well.

Place half the spaghetti mixture in a 13x9 baking dish.

Top with half the meat sauce.

Top the meat sauce with half the cottage cheese.

Sprinkle half the mozzarella cheese over the cottage cheese.

Repeat the layers.

Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking for 20 minutes or until bubbly and cheese has melted.

Serve with reserved spaghetti sauce.

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Recipe: Very Berry Blueberry Muffins


This recipe is a slight variation on my Blueberry Muffin recipe that I posted earlier this year. I love to make muffins and change it up a bit by adding a surprise center to them. In this case…. I make my blueberry muffin batter and fill the muffin tin about a third of the way… then add a generous dollop of blueberry pie filling … then cover the pie filling with more muffin batter.

The result …. a wonderful blueberry muffin chock full of blueberry flavor. It takes a terrific blueberry muffin and makes it even better!

So here’s the blueberry muffin recipe again…. this time with blueberry pie filling .... it’s so easy …. and so delicious!

Enjoy!



Recipe: Very Berry Blueberry Muffins

All you need:

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
¼ cup oil
1 egg
1 cup blueberries
1 can blueberry pie filling
4 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup sugar

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease muffin cups well.

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

In a medium bowl, beat together the milk, egg and oil.

In a medium bowl, add the blueberries to the sifted flour mixture. Toss lightly.

Combine the flour-blueberry mixture with the milk mixture. Fold together very lightly.

Fill muffin cups 1/3 full.

Add a generous dollop of blueberry pie filling.

Add muffin batter to fill the muffin tin to about 3/4 full.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (no batter just blueberry pie filling).

Melt butter and have in a wide bowl ready for when muffins come out of the oven.

Put ½ cup sugar in a wide bowl.

Remove muffins from pan when still hot.

Quickly dip the muffin tops in the melted butter then twirl in sugar.

Makes 8 to 12 muffins.

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Recipe: Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells


This recipe for Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells is a basic one. The filling can be used to stuff shells, manicotti, layer baked ziti and lasagna. I encourage you to be creative… add ingredients you and your family like… change seasonings slightly… by changing it up … you can make your meals more interesting and not become bored with the same routine.

This recipe is quick and easy. You can prepare parts of it ahead and assemble it when you make it… or make it completely ahead and store it in the refrigerator and just bake it when you serve it. It makes a terrific and easy weeknight meal. You can also freeze it for later use also. How wonderful is that??

TIPS

A package of jumbo shells contains a large quantity of shells… you can either make as many as you need or... make the whole package (which is what I usually do).

I stuff them all the same and freeze the leftovers… or I save the cooked shells and stuff them with something else later in the week… it’s a great timesaver and makes for very inexpensive meals.

This recipe will stuff approximately half the shells in the package… if you want to use all the shells, just double the recipe.

Be sure to drain the spinach well… you don’t want excess water in your mixture.

In place of the Italian Seasoning you can use dried or fresh oregano, dried or fresh parsley, dried or fresh basil…. Italian seasoning usually also includes marjoram, sage and thyme…. add to taste…. if using dried herbs then start with about a teaspoon of oregano, parsley and basil each… and about ¼ teaspoon each of marjoram, sage and thyme.

This recipe is delicious… one your family is sure to love… I hope you enjoy it!






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Recipe: Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

All you need:

1 package jumbo shells
15 ounce container part skim ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 cup frozen spinach, cooked and drained
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
24 ounce jar of tomato sauce (or homemade)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish. Set aside.

Prepare jumbo shells according to package directions.

Drain and allow to cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs.

Add the ricotta, spinach, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian Seasoning, Parmesan cheese, and ½ cup mozzarella cheese to the egg mixture…mix well.

Stuff each shell with about 2 tablespoons of filling…place open side up in baking dish. Make sure to fill the shell as much as possible.

Drizzle tomato sauce over the top and reserve the rest of the sauce to serve at the table.

Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese over the top of the shells.

Bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes or until bubbly and cheese has melted.

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Recipe: Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad


This recipe for Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad is one of those recipes that evolve on a Saturday afternoon… when you’re hungry and want something other than the plain ordinary…. so you rummage through the fridge to see what you have…. I had a leftover chicken breast from when I poached chicken breasts for the pot pie…. and so it went from there.

We had leftover cooked bacon from breakfast… so that got chopped and went in…. a little cheddar cheese… a little chopped green onion…. Mayo?.... nope… plain mayo just wasn’t going to do it…. ahhh … ranch dressing….

The result?..... terrific… we sat there eating it on crackers…. A terrific snack for a weekend afternoon…We decided it would be a fabulous sandwich in a pita pocket…. So we’ll be getting pitas on our next grocery run..

I don’t have salt on the ingredient list… this is not a mistake… between the bacon and the dressing… there is more than enough salt in the salad… add more if you prefer, but taste it first.

This chicken salad is great… a little smokey from the bacon… a little spicy from the green onion and ranch dressing…. a perfect change to add pizzazz to chicken…. I know I’m always looking for something new to do with chicken… and use up leftovers… try it…. you’ll like it!

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad

All you need:

2 cups cooked and finely diced chicken
3 strips of bacon, cooked and finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
¼ cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
3-4 tablespoons ranch dressing

All you need to do:

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well.

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Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry Crust


This recipe for Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry Crust is a combination of a few recipes… lots of trial and error went into this over the years. Chicken pot pie has always been a family favorite… however I make it...I have several other recipes that are equally as good… It's fun to change it up a little...it makes things interesting. I love to change flavors and textures...

A few months ago I posted a Chicken Pot Pie recipe... very similar to this one... I made a few changes...it used pie crust instead puff pastry... it also used mixed vegetables instead of just peas and carrots... it included potatoes... which I usually include but not this time. At first I wasn't going to post this... but decided it was a good example of slightly altering a recipe and giving it a "fresh new look and taste".

Chicken Pot Pie is one of those timeless comfort foods that everyone seems to love. It’s so easy to make and add a small salad to the meal and you have a quick and satisfying meal your family will love.

TIPS

Another wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can make the filling ahead… say on the weekend.. then on a busy weeknight… all you have to do is heat the filling slightly so it’s not ice cold… ladle into individual casseroles or one big casserole… add the crust on top and bake. How easy is that??

There are so many ways you can prepare Chicken Pot Pie… you can use leftover chicken diced.. or you cook your chicken specifically for this dish… it can be either baked, roasted or poached. There are several schools of thought about this. The Barefoot Contessa swears by using bone-in chicken breasts with the skin still on and baking it.

I personally like to poach the chicken breast in chicken broth with cut vegetables (carrots, celery, onion) and seasonings such as thyme and parsley… salt and pepper.

After the chicken is cooked, I remove the chicken and allow it to cool… and strain the vegetables out of the broth I cooked the chicken in…. I use the strained chicken broth as the base for my sauce.

If you decide to use leftovers or bake your chicken..simply substitute chicken broth from the grocery for the strained chicken broth when preparing the pot pie sauce.

You can use all white meat or white and dark meat… whichever you prefer.

Most recipes use a pie crust…homemade or store bought…. I used to use pie crust, as well. A while ago I decided to try it with frozen puff pastry… I love really buttery and flaky crusts… I liked the results so much… now I use puff pastry instead of a pie crust…. You can use a pie crust if you prefer..

As you can see… much like other comfort foods.. there are probably a million ways to make this… and it will come down to individual tastes… and ingredients available. Adjust the recipe as you like… adding other herbs and seasonings…

Great cooking is all about experimentation....variety is the spice of life.








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Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry Crust

All you need:

To Prepare the Chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 ½ cups chicken broth
1 carrot, peeled and cut into three pieces
½ medium onion, cut into wedges
1 celery stalk including the leaves, if available, cut into 3-4 pieces
4 peppercorns
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1-2 sprigs of parsley

For the Pot Pie:

Frozen Puff Pastry
½ medium onion, finely diced
1 stick of butter
The strained broth or chicken broth purchased from the grocery store
Additional chicken broth if needed
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
1 ½ cups frozen pearl onions
1 ½ cups frozen peas (Do Not Use Petite Peas)
1 ½ cups frozen diced carrots
1 small can of mushrooms, drained
1 egg beaten

All you have to do:

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer to thaw (according to package instructions).

Cook the chicken by your preferred method….

If using my method… place all the ingredients listed above under “To Prepare the Chicken” in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Simmer about 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Remove the chicken to a plate to cool enough to handle.

Dice the chicken.

Strain the broth you cooked the chicken in… and set aside.

TIP: I strain the broth into my large measuring cup… it’s easier to pour and measure… you will need to have 3 cups of broth for the sauce base… if you don’t have enough from the cooking liquid… add additional commercially made broth to it to make 3 cups.

In the original pot you cooked the chicken in…. melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the chopped onions and cook them until they are soft and translucent.

Add the flour and stir well to incorporate the flour.

Slowly add the chicken broth, whisking constantly to make sure there aren’t any lumps.

Add the heavy cream and stir to incorporate.

Cook for about 3 minutes until sauce begins to thicken...

NOTE: If you prefer your sauce thicker…then add additional flour (1 tablespoon at a time…sprinkle it over the top and whisk so there aren’t any lumps).

Add the thyme, salt and pepper… taste the sauce and make any adjustments you like.

Add the diced chicken, pearl onions. peas, carrots and mushrooms. Mix well.

Remove from heat and set aside.

Place one sheet of puff pastry on a floured work surface.

Gently roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.

Place your casserole upside down on the pastry.

Cut the pastry around the casserole… making sure you have about ½ inch extra around the casserole. This will give you pastry to press down around the rim when you are assembling the pot pies.



Spray cooking oil (butter flavor preferred) into the individual casseroles or one large casserole.

Ladle the chicken pot pie filling into the casseroles, to about ½ to ¾ inch from the top. Set aside.

In a small bowl beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water.

Using a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture around the rim (so the pastry will adhere to it).

Place one pastry cut-out on each casserole… pressing down on the dough that is hanging over the rim.

Brush the egg mixture over the pastry.

Using a sharp knife, make three little slits in the pastry to vent it during baking.

Place the casseroles on a foil lined baking sheet (makes for easier transport in and out of the oven as well as catching any spillovers…makes clean-up a snap).


Bake in pre-heated 400 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

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Tips for Juicing Lemons and Limes


Cooking Tip of the Day

Lemons and limes add a wonderful flavor to many foods. The best lemons or limes have smooth, oily skins are heavy for their size.

To get the most juice from your lemon or lime...they should always be at room temperature. Roll them with the palm of your hand on a hard surface before cutting and squeezing the juice from them.

If your lemon or lime is a bit hard… microwave on high for about 10-20 seconds.

If you are hand squeezing your lemon or lime…. There are a number of terrific gadgets available at cookware shops that will help you juice them.



Some gadgets will help you juice them without getting their pits in your juice…

If you prefer not to use a gadget, another trick to help keep pits out of your juice is to juice them cut-side up…. that way the pits tend to stay in the fruit and not drop in juice.

The citrus juicers pictured are available at Williams Sonoma.

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Recipe: Lemon Herb Chicken

This recipe for Lemon Herb Chicken is so fast and easy…. delicious and healthy too!! Serve it with rice and a steamed vegetable and you’ll have yourself a terrific supper.

My original version uses dry white wine, although it calls for only ¼ cup of wine… if you prefer you can substitute chicken broth… it will still be delicious.

Depending on the size of the chicken breasts and how many other side dishes you serve with it… will depend on how many chicken breast halves to figure per person… I generally figure 2 pieces per person… if you have leftovers they make a very tasty and quick lunch or dinner for another night. This recipe serves two.

This dish is so tasty … you can serve it for company… prepare this ahead and place in an oven proof dish, cover with foil and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven (try to limit the warming to no more than 30 minutes so the chicken does not dry out).

I hope you give it a try.







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Recipe: Lemon Herb Chicken

All you need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
¼ cup dry white wine or chicken broth (see notes above)
¼ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons sugar (to taste)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black or white pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Snipped chives for garnish

All you have to do:

Melt the butter or margarine in a large skillet.

Add the chicken and brown on both sides, turning once.

Add ¼ cup white wine or chicken broth, lemon zest,lemon juice,basil, parsley, salt and pepper.

Cook about 8 minutes or until chicken is cooked (no longer pink in the center).

Add ¼ cup chicken broth to hot skillet.

Scrape all bits of brown from skillet.

Add cornstarch and stir until slightly thickened. I prefer it a little runny... adjust the amount of cornstarch and chicken broth to suit your thickness preference.

Remove chicken to a serving platter and drizzle pan gravy over chicken breasts.

Garnish with snipped chives.

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