Recipe: Spinach Salad – Magic Pan Copycat

I absolutely loved the Spinach Salad at a restaurant called Magic Pan. My Mother and I would go there often for lunch and when I was older, I would meet friends there for a supper for a girl’s night out.

Sadly, all 240 of the chains restaurants closed suddenly in one day and gone forever were wonderful dishes… they had fantastic crepes, soups and salads. The restaurant was made to look country French… with white walls… wooden beams…. hard wood floors…heavy wooden tables… a large fireplace… just beautiful.

Many Magic Pan devotees, like myself, have scoured the net in search of Magic Pan copycat recipes… some have surfaced… I found this one a while ago on numerous sites… no one is cited as the author (unfortunately, otherwise I would hunt them down for all of the recipes).

I understand in 2005, Magic Pan was resurrected in the form of a fast food crepe, sandwich place , a pale comparison to the original.

This Spinach Salad is simple and delicious.

Recipe: Spinach Salad - Magic Pan Copycat

All you need:

Fresh spinach
Sliced mushrooms
Bacon, minced
Hard boiled eggs, minced
Magic Pan spinach salad dressing

Magic Pan Dressing:

½ cup tarragon wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
Pepper to taste (about 5 turns of a pepper mill)
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup vegetable oil

All you need to do:

Spread the fresh spinach leaves on a plate.

Lay mushroom slices on top (about 1 large mushroom per serving).

Sprinkle with minced hard-boiled egg.

Sprinkle with minced bacon.

Drizzle dressing over salad.

To make the Dressing:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the tarragon wine vinegar, dried tarragon, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

Whisk in oil.

Recipe: Spinach Salad Dressing – Magic Pan Copycat

This is the salad dressing recipe for spinach salad that was popular in a restaurant called the Magic Pan… the recipe is a basic oil, vinegar dressing with tarragon and Dijon mustard… a really wonderful dressing you can use on most any salad.

The picture shows a serving for 4.... the recipe will make about 8 servings, depending on the size salads you make.


Recipe: Spinach Salad Dressing – Magic Pan Copycat

All you need:

½ cup tarragon wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
Pepper to taste (about 5 turns of a pepper mill)
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup vegetable oil

All you need to do:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the tarragon wine vinegar, dried tarragon, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

Whisk in oil.

Making Bacon in the Oven

Cooking Tip of the Day

Making bacon in the oven is a snap, with hardly any clean-up. I will never again stand there and cook bacon in a skillet on the stove.

 I heard this tip several times on Food Network shows (Barefoot Contessa and Michael Chiarello’s Easy Entertaining…. to name two) …. although oven temperatures varied … and some laid the bacon on a rack in a baking pan, while others just laid the bacon on a baking pan…. the basic idea was the same. I tried it and couldn’t believe how easy it was.

Simply line a baking pan with foil and lay your bacon strips on it. (or lay them on a rack, so they won’t be in the grease)

Put it into a cold oven and set the oven on 400 degrees F. Use a full size oven only… DO NOT USE A TOASTER OVEN.

Check it after 15 minutes…. if you like your bacon crispier, then you will likely need to bake them for another 5 minutes, but keep a close eye on it, they can burn easily.

Remove the pan from the oven and immediately remove the bacon, drain on paper towels.

Let the pan cool, when cool, the bacon grease will gel and clean-up will be a snap… just throw away the foil.

Product Review: Fresh Express Salads

Fresh Express salads are absolutely terrific! I find they're perfect when I purchase them and they stay fresh longer than other brands. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to pitch a bag of the other brand in the garbage because the leaves were discolored and sometimes even slimy the very next day after I purchased it.

Another beef I have with other brands is that I seem to always end up with an inordinate amount of the hard white core of iceberg lettuce in a bag…. not so with Fresh Express, their bagged lettuce has a reasonable mix of lettuce in the bag and its crisp! Their spinach is perfect... I swear every leaf was perfect... and I used it three days after we purchased it....

Last year I traveled each week with my consulting job to Providence, Rhode Island. Traveling as much as I did, waiting for planes and chatting with other people waiting, and meeting the people that by chance were sitting next to me on planes, gave me a unique peek into a vast variety of people, their jobs and their lives. Many of those people were business travelers, consultants, like me, or salespeople for everything from computer software to lettuce.

I had the unique opportunity to chat with a woman who was particularly friendly. When the talk got around to work… I asked what she did…. her answer?.... lettuce. We both giggled a bit at her odd answer, she then explained she had a very large regional territory for her company, Fresh Express. The conversation turned to why their salad products are so fresh. She was passionate about her company and its products and their commitment to making sure the consumer gets the freshest possible product… a refreshing attitude… I had to try their products and I'm glad I did.

According to their website, “they have a lightning fast “harvest to cooler” process that ensures that their products retain their just-picked flavor and nutritional goodness”…. They have stringent standards, regulations and internal audits to ensure you get a quality product….. I can tell you from personal experience… their salads are the best.

Check out the Fresh Express website and definitely try their products next time you have salad on your shopping list…. you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe: Banana Bread Pudding

This Banana Bread Pudding is a fabulous dessert. The recipe is easy and makes good use of those ripe bananas sitting on the counter. We always seem to have 3-4 ripe bananas…. I’ve come to think Warren buys extra so that I have to make something with them. This week I decided to make Banana Bread Pudding.

I used a Cuban bread…. I hadn’t tried Cuban bread before, but our local store was out of French bread… and I thought Italian bread was too soft, so I decided to try it. I’m glad I did. Cuban bread is a softer than French bread and is crunchier than Italian bread… a nice in-between bread…. I liked it so much I intend to use it more often in the future… it will make great homemade croutons and French toast.

I served this banana bread pudding with Chantilly Cream… a perfect topping for this.



Recipe: Banana Bread Pudding

All you need:

1 loaf Cuban or French bread, cubed
3 cups of milk
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 very ripe large bananas
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 tablespoons of cold butter, diced
Chantilly Cream

Chantilly Cream Ingredients:

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Spread the cubed bread in a 9 x 13 baking dish.

In a blender, blend the milk, eggs, sugar, bananas, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla.

Pour the mixture over the cubed bread and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Remove the foil spread the diced butter over the pudding.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve with Chantilly Cream.

To make the Chantilly Cream:

Combine the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat the cream on high speed until it forms soft peaks. I do not beat it until the cream is stiff… I prefer a softer whipped cream. Watch the mixer carefully, the cream will go quickly from soft peaks to stiff.

Place a Towel Under a Cutting Board to Prevent the Board From Slipping

Cooking Tip of the Day

Cutting boards tend to slip on counters which can be a safety hazard when chopping and cutting vegetables, meats, breads and etc.

Place a piece of paper towel or a fabric towel underneath the cutting board to prevent the board from slipping and cutting yourself with the knife.

Recipe: Chocolate Pudding Parfaits

This recipe for Chocolate Pudding Parfaits is a variation of, believe it or not, a dessert Warren bought me in the local hospital’s cafeteria. When I was an inpatient, sometimes the dessert on the tray was either missing (bad food service!) or just not that appetizing, so Warren went to the cafeteria and brought me this pudding concoction that was rather tasty (isn't he just the best).

I decided to post this because it really is a delicious dessert that kids will love... and well, to be honest, so will adults. It’s perfect for the family and actually makes a really nice dessert for guests too…. and it’s quick and easy…. how great is that?

I tweaked it a bit…. I use my Chantilly Cream in it… and I really recommend that you make the Chantilly Cream instead of using ordinary whipped cream, it just makes it all the more special.

You can use non-fat or low fat milk to make the chocolate pudding, in fact, non-fat milk will make the pudding creamier.

You can make the pudding from scratch… see my previously posted recipe for Chocolate Pudding, or make the pudding from a boxed mix. I know it’s very popular to make instant pudding, but I think cooked pudding is so much better…. It only takes a few minutes to make and the taste is so much more chocolatey and richer.

I hope you try this.


Recipe: Chocolate Pudding Parfaits

All you need:

Chocolate Pudding (from scratch or boxed)
Milk (fat-free, low fat or whole), to make the pudding
Hershey’s chocolate syrup
Crushed Oreo cookies
Chantilly Cream

For the Chantilly Cream:

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

All you need to do:

Make the chocolate pudding. Set aside and allow to cool.

When pudding is cooled, and you’re ready to assemble the dessert, make the Chantilly Cream.

Combine the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat the cream on high speed until it forms soft peaks. I do not beat it until the cream is stiff… I prefer a softer whipped cream. Watch the mixer carefully, the cream will go quickly from soft peaks to stiff.

Crush Oreo cookies in a Zip Loc bag. I crush 6 cookies for 4 servings…. The amount will depend upon how much of the cookie crumbs you want in your parfait.

To assemble the dessert:

Scoop some pudding in a glass.

Drizzle a little Hershey’s chocolate syrup over the pudding.

Scoop some Chantilly Cream on top of the syrup.

Spoon some cookie crumbs on top of the Chantilly Cream (about 1 tablespoon).

Repeat the layers.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Using Plastic Wrap to Prevent a “Skin” From Forming on Pudding

Cooking Tip of the Day

After pouring the hot pudding in a bowl, lay a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the pudding to prevent a thick “skin” from forming. Chill the pudding in the refrigerator.

Recipe: Grits and Sausage Casserole

This recipe for Sausage and Grits Casserole is a traditional Southern recipe made with pork breakfast sausage, grits and cheese. It’s easy to make and delicious.


This cheesy casserole makes a great brunch dish. Serve it with eggs and biscuits or fruit salad.

Be sure to use quick cooking grits NOT instant.

Don’t know what grits are? Read my post about what grits are.


Recipe: Grits and Sausage Casserole

All you need:

1 pound pork breakfast sausage
1 cup quick cooking grits
3 cups of water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups of shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided
½ cup milk
3 eggs, beaten

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking oil spray (butter flavored preferred). Set aside.

In a large microwaveable bowl, combine the grits and water and salt, stir.

Microwave uncovered on high for 5 minutes, stirring after 2 ½ minutes. If grits are still watery, microwave for another 2 minutes or until grits are the consistency of runny hot cereal.

In the meantime, drop the sausage into a large hot skillet, breaking it into small pieces. Brown the sausage until no longer pink. Drain on paper towels.

Into the bowl with the grits, add the butter and 1 ¼ cups of the cheese until melted. Stir well to completely incorporate the cheese.

Add the sausage and milk. Stir well.

Add the eggs, stirring constantly.

Pour the mixture into the prepared 9 x 13 baking dish.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the casserole rest 10 minutes before serving.

Food Safety Tip: Clean Separate Cook and Chill

Follow these four simple steps to fight bacteria in your kitchen and foods:

Clean – Wash hands and surfaces often

Separate – Don’t cross contaminate

Cook – Cook to the proper temperature

Chill – Refrigerate promptly

Recipe: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

This recipe for Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, like most of my recipes, is the combination of several recipes…. taking the best ideas from each.

I started out with the Barefoot Contessa…. her recipe uses water to cook the squash… after reading reviews, and looking at the reviews and suggestions… I changed it to chicken broth…. she uses curry, I’m not a big fan of curry…. so I went hunting for more recipes…. many recipes spiced the soup with nutmeg and cinnamon…. I liked that idea… so that went on the list…. another used quite a bit of sugar, that wasn’t ideal… it made the soup too sweet…. and so it went…

I started the soup and experimented from there…. my first try… was pretty good… but too sweet…. so I changed the recipe to use tart apples and less sugar… the result is a slightly tart soup that combines the butternut squash and apple nicely. The cinnamon and nutmeg compliment the flavors.

I hope you try it!


Recipe: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

All you need:

2 medium onions, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chucks
3 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and cut into chunks
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
Chicken broth or Vegetable stock (enough to cover the onions and squash in the pot)
2 teaspoons salt
10 turns of the pepper mill
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups apple cider
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

All you need to do:

In a large pot, over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter.

Add the onions and cook slowly until translucent (about 20 minutes).

In the meantime, peel the squash and cut the top portion of the squash off. This houses the seeds… remove the seeds.

Cut the squash into chunks.

TIP: My squash was quite difficult to cut because it was so hard. Cut the squash into 3 sections. Place on a baking sheet and put into a 250 degree oven for 5 minutes or so…. this will soften the squash slightly and make cutting easier.

Peel, core and cut the apples into chunks.

Add the squash, apples, carrot, salt and pepper to the pot with the softened onions.
Add enough chicken broth or vegetable stock to cover the chunks.

Increase the heat to medium high, and bring the pot to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 40 minutes or until the squash and apples are very soft.

Let the soup cool a bit (but still quite hot) for better handling.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the squash, apples, carrot and onions and puree in a food processor. Do this in batches. After pureeing each batch, dump into a large bowl.

Take the liquid that’s left in the pot and reserve about 1 cup… (the rest can be dumped or saved for something else).

Return the pureed squash mixture to the pot.

Add the apple cider, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg to the puree. Stir to incorporate.

Add the heavy cream and stir well. (this can be eliminated, however, I think it added a really nice creaminess to the soup).

Taste the soup and adjust seasonings to your taste.

Food Safety Myth: Lemon juice and Salt Will Clean and Sanitize a Cutting Board

Myth Buster

According to the Partnership for Food Safety Education, “Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of microorganisms that are on a properly cleaned surface to a safe level to reduce the risk of food borne illness. Lemon juice and salt will not do this. The most effective way to sanitize a cutting board as well as other kitchen surfaces, is with a diluted bleach and water solution.”

“To clean and sanitize your cutting board, first wash it with hot water and soap. Then sanitize it by using a diluted chlorine bleach solution (just 1 tablespoon unscented liquid bleach (not more) to 1 gallon of water. Let the bleach solution stand on the surface for a few minutes, then rinse and blot dry with clean paper towels. It’s important to clean and disinfect… just because a surface looks clean, doesn’t mean it’s free of disease causing bacteria.”

I never use wooded spoons or cutting boards for food preparation anymore. I use plastic cooking spoons and white dishwasher safe cutting boards… and run them through the dishwasher….

Source: Partnership for Food Safety Education

Recipe: Neiman Marcus Urban Legend Chocolate Chip Cookie

This recipe apparently is part of an urban legend about Neiman Marcus Department Store and a patron of their café. I had never heard of the legend (I swear sometimes I think I live under a rock) until my son mentioned it and how good the cookie recipe was.

The story goes that the person and their daughter finished having lunch and decided to have “The Neiman Marcus Cookie” for dessert. They loved the cookie so much that they asked for the recipe from the waitress who said they couldn’t have it. They offered to pay for it and the waitress told them it would cost “two-fifty”…. Thinking it was a bargain, they agreed to buy it. When the monthly bill from Neiman Marcus came, the charge for the cookie recipe was $250 US not $2.50. Irate, they called and complained and the store told them basically that they would not get a refund. In retaliation, they spread the recipe over the internet by emailing whoever they could and asking them to email it along as well.

According to the Neiman Marcus website, this story is an urban legend and what they call a modern myth of origins unknown. They say they never have charged for the recipe and that it’s free for all to copy, print and pass along to family and friends…. it’s absolutely free.

So here is the recipe as it appears on the Neiman Marcus website…. I tried it… I found it to be a very good chocolate chip cookie recipe…. the addition of the espresso gave it a nice light hint of coffee. Would I pay $250 for it?.... no… I don’t think the cookie was overly special…. but the recipe is definitely a do-over.


Recipe: Neiman Marcus Urban Legend Chocolate Chip Cookie

All you need:

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (about 30 seconds)

Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for 30 seconds.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds.

Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.

Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart.

Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread the dough out into a 2 inch circle.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

Makes 2 dozen.

Adding a Slice of White Bread to a Cookie Container

Cooking Tip of the Day

If your cookies are a bit too hard … add a slice of white bread to the cookie container to soften them up. The bread will dry up and need to be replaced periodically.

Food Safety Myth: If a Hamburger Turns Brown in the Middle it’s Cooked to a Safe Internal Temperature

Myth Buster

According to the Partnership for Food Safety Education, “You cannot use visual cues to determine whether food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature. The only way to know that food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature is to use a food thermometer. Ground meat should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F, as measured by a food thermometer.”

See my previous post about the various food thermometers.

Source: The Partnership for Food Safety Education

Recipe: Banana Bars

This recipe for Banana Bars is from Nestle Toll House. I came across this recipe when my son was little and knew instantly he would like it. What’s not to like? …bananas and mini chocolate morsels…. It was a lunch box and after school snack favorite for years. This is another quick and easy family pleasing snack.

The recipe calls for you to use a 15 ½ x 10 ½ x 1 inch baking pan. I found that the bars were on the thin side (see picture). I like to use a 9 x 13 pan for a little thicker bar… just up the baking time about 5 minutes… always test it… a toothpick inserted should come out clean… no cake batter, that is…. the pick will have chocolate on it, which is okay.

I used butter in my bars and I used 3 bananas (the original recipe calls for 2 medium bananas)… we love the banana taste. Ripe bananas (bananas with black on the skin) work best… they’re soft and mash well.

I hope you try this excellent recipe from Nestle and be sure to use Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate mini morsels…. they do bake much better than store brands.



Recipe: Banana Bars

All you need:

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ sticks butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 package (12 ounce) Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate mini morsels

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 15 ½ x 10 ½ x 1 inch or a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using your mixer, in a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar until creamy.

Add the bananas, beat on low.

Add the egg and vanilla extract, beat on low.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the flour mixture into the bowl. Beat until well incorporated.

Fold in the mini morsels.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes. If using a 9 x 13 pan add about 5 minutes to the baking time or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (no batter, it will have melted chocolate on it).

Cool completely.

Cut into bars of desired size.

TIP: I use a pizza cutter to cut my bars, it's quick easy and makes clean even cuts.

Food Safety Myth: You Should Not Put Hot Foods in the Refrigerator

Food Safety Myth Buster

According to the Partnership for Food Safety Education, “hot foods can be placed directly in the refrigerator. Large pot foods like soups and stews should be divided into small portions and put in shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator”.

“Food is not safe to eat after sitting out at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria spreads fastest at temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 F, so chilling food properly is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food borne illness”.

Source: Partnership for Food Safety Education

Recipe: Asparagus and Crab Quiche

This recipe for Asparagus and Crab Quiche is really a basic quiche recipe using asparagus and crab as the main ingredients. Quiches are very easy to make… and quick to assemble. This makes a great weeknight supper… serve a soup first and add a small dinner salad…. and you have a great supper! Oh… and… yes… real men do eat quiche.

About the trickiest part is getting the first piece cut and out in one piece… I used a traditional ceramic quiche dish… but I may use my tart pan next time since the sides can pop off and cutting would be easier.

My oven has been giving me trouble with my oven temperatures…. so my quiche actually took closer to 45 minutes to bake…. If your oven temperature is right on… 35-40 minutes should do it….

The best way of knowing whether or not your quiche is done, is to insert the end of a sharp knife into the center… if it comes out clean… it’s done. If it comes out wet with egg/milk mixture… continue baking for about 5 minutes and then recheck.

Be sure to use fresh asparagus…. canned is just to soft and wet…. It will make a mess.


Recipe: Asparagus and Crab Quiche

All you need:

1/2-3/4 of a bunch of fresh asparagus
1 cup crabmeat or imitation crabmeat, flaked or chopped into small pieces
1 cup Sargento Artisan Blend Shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon flour
3 eggs, beaten
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
3 turns of a pepper mill
3 tablespoons snipped chives
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell, homemade or commercial

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the asparagus into 2 inch pieces.

Place in a microwaveable bowl with ¼ water and cover with a piece of waxed paper.

Microwave on high for 6 minutes or until cooked but still crisp.

Set the asparagus aside to cool.

Place the pie crust into your quiche dish or pie plate. Pierce the bottom of the pastry with a fork.

Arrange asparagus on the bottom of the pie crust. Reserve most of the asparagus tops.

Put the crabmeat on top of the asparagus.

In a small bowl, toss the shredded Swiss cheese with the flour.

Put the cheese on top of the crabmeat.

Arrange the reserved asparagus tops over the top.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream and salt.

Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus tops.

Sprinkle the snipped chives over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 35-40 minutes or until the end of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let quiche rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Food Safety Myth: Rinsing Raw Chicken

Food Safety Myth Buster

My blog has a Food Safety section (see lower right column)…. I feel as part of a Cooking Tip and Recipe blog I have a responsibility to include Food Safety information. I will be posting information periodically that I hope will help you handle food more safely.

Today’s Food Safety Tip concerns the myth that rinsing raw chicken in a colander or simply in your sink will remove bacteria. THIS IS COMPLETELY FALSE. In fact, according to the Partnership for Food Safety Education,” it can spread raw juices around your sink, onto your countertops and onto ready to eat foods. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature, which for poultry is 165 degrees F, as measured with a food thermometer.”

Source: The Partnership for Food Safety Education

Recipe: Mini Cheesecakes

This recipe for mini cheesecakes is one I've made for years. I came across it from Pillsbury… I thought what a great idea for parties, church suppers, work food days and bake sales.

What I like about it is that they’re small…. Someone could eat more than one trying out different toppings or chocolate or marble ones. When I have a party I either do one big cake or an assortment of small desserts, cookies, pastries, and, of course, these mini cheesecakes. Long before Applebee’s came up with their “dessert shooters”, I was making them for my guests.

When I started making these (well over 20 years ago)… the vanilla wafers actually fit and covered the bottom of a muffin wrapper…. As many things today have changed… apparently the size of the vanilla wafers is also one of them…. they're smaller now and don't cover the bottom, but I still use them and these mini cheesecakes are still as delicious as they always were.

You can use fresh fruit, chocolate shavings or pie filling for the toppings. I like to take a portion of the batter and add powdered cocoa (sweetened, the kind you use to make chocolate milk)… add it a tablespoon at a time until the taste is what you like. You can make some mini chocolate cheesecakes or even marble some of them for variety.

You can keep them in their cupcake liners or take them out…. I prefer to leave then in them… but it’s entirely up to you.

Best of all, these mini cheesecakes can be baked and cooled then frozen up to 1 month ahead. Just store them in airtight containers. Let thaw in the refrigerator, then garnish.

These are easy, foolproof and bake in no time…. I’m sure you will like them.


Recipe: Mini Cheesecakes

All you need:

24 vanilla wafers
3 packages (8 ounces each) Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
Cocoa (sweetened), optional
Pie filling for toppings

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Place 1 vanilla wafer in the bottom of each paper liner. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.

Add the sugar and beat until well incorporated, scraping beater and sides.

Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed.

Be sure to scrape the sides occasionally.

OPTIONAL: Set aside a small portion of batter and add cocoa to taste to make some of them chocolate, if desired.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until set.

Let cool, garnish and refrigerate.

When ready to serve, bring to room temperature.

Recipe: Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini

Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini is a delicious dish that is said to be named after famed opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini. It’s a wonderful casserole type dish, made popular in the golden age of casseroles of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Surely it is one of the best comfort foods that families have loved for generations.

The wonderful thing about Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini is that it can make great use of leftover chicken or turkey. There are numerous recipes out there for it…. some use cream of mushroom or chicken soup as a shortcut for the sauce, while others make a sauce from scratch. Variations also include using different cheeses, such as Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese or Parmesan, some don’t use cheese at all.

I have several recipes for Tetrazzini and the one I’m posting today is one that makes the sauce from scratch and uses Swiss cheese. I like to use a ¼ cup sherry in the sauce, as well, however I didn’t use it this time because the person I made this for doesn’t care for alcohol or wine in most dishes, so I simply substituted some of the chicken broth I had from when I cooked the chicken breasts…. I don’t feel the dish suffered from the substitution.

I wanted to make the dish and didn’t have leftover chicken or turkey, so I prepared 3 rather large boneless chicken breast halves and diced them. While it added to the work… it was well worth it. I will include how I cooked the chicken in my directions. However, you can make your chicken or turkey any way you prefer.

You can prepare all or parts of this dish ahead, which can make the time to prepare the dish a bit more manageable. I made all the steps all at once.

Quick timesaving tip:

I boiled my spaghetti in a large pot, then after draining the spaghetti, I used the same pot to sauté the onions, garlic and mushrooms. After removing the onion mixture, I simply wiped out the pot and used it to make the sauce. This saved lots of clean-up time and made all the pots and pans manageable.

Quick Tips:

I used a very large bowl to “dump” my ingredients into so it was easier to toss the ingredients to combine them. After finishing the sauce in the large pot…. I simply dumped the bowl contents into the pot and mixed it…. it made it much easier to get the ingredients evenly distributed.

To make this efficiently, I put the chicken breasts on to cook first. I also boiled my spaghetti. While they were cooking, I set the milk and heavy cream out to come to room temperature and then sliced and chopped everything that needed to be and set them aside so they would be ready.

I used my mini chopper to chop the onions, garlic and parsley to save time. First I chopped the parsley and removed it… then I chopped the onions and garlic together.

I set up my large bowl, so as ingredients were finished I could simply dump them in.

I broke the spaghetti in half before I put it in to the water to cook…. it makes eating this dish easier.

I hope you try this wonderful recipe.


Recipe: Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini

All you need:

To Prepare the Chicken:

3-4 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

The rest of the ingredients:

12 ounces spaghetti, broken in half and cooked according to pkg. directions
7 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
16 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
¼ cup sherry (optional) can substitute chicken broth instead of sherry
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup flour
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 cup chicken broth
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
½ cup shredded Sargento Artisan Blend Swiss and Gruyere Cheese
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup Progressive Italian style bread crumbs

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking oil (butter flavored preferred).

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions… make sure you make it “al dente”… it should still be a bit chewy,otherwise it will be too soft after the casserole bakes.

Drain the spaghetti in a colander and run cold water over it to cook it down quickly. When completely drained put in a large bowl.

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.

Put the chicken in the large bowl.

Put the peas in the large bowl.

In the pot you cooked the spaghetti in, melt 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Add the garlic and onions. Cook until the onions are almost translucent.

Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are cooked and most of the waster from the mushrooms is evaporated.

Add the ¼ cup sherry or ¼ cup chicken broth (if using the chicken broth, I use the strained broth from what I cooked the chicken in…. you can also use just plain chicken broth if you prefer).

Simmer until the sherry evaporates (about 2 minutes)…. If using the chicken broth it won’t evaporate as easily… you will need to remove the mushrooms and onion mixture with a slotted spoon.

Add the mushroom mixture to the large bowl.

Wipe out the pot and use it to make the sauce. Melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium low heat.

Add 1/3 cup flour and whisk for about 2 minutes to incorporate, it will be paste-like. This will remove any “floury” taste.

Whisk in the milk, whisking vigorously until all the lumps are gone and it is smooth.

Whisk in the cream, 1 cup chicken broth, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Turn the heat to high.

Add the Swiss cheese and stir until melted, whisking constantly.

Allow sauce to come to an almost boil, turn down heat to medium high and simmer, whisking constantly until thickened.

Remove from heat.

Gently toss the contents of the large bowl to completely mix ingredients.

Carefully dump the bowl contents into the sauce pot.

Gently stir to incorporate the sauce completely.

Pour into the prepared 9 x 13 baking dish.

Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter ( I use a glass measuring cup covered with waxed paper and melt in the microwave on high for a 30 seconds).

In a small bowl combine the Parmesan cheese, Italian bread crumbs and melted butter.

Sprinkle topping over the casserole.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until topping is toasted and casserole is bubbly.

Recipe: Buttermilk Pancakes

Hmmmm… warm fluffy buttermilk pancakes with butter and syrup….. yummmm… a perfect Saturday morning breakfast. This recipe is a very basic buttermilk pancake recipe.

I’m constantly looking at recipes seeing what tips I can use to make mine better. I found a recipe that added vanilla to the batter and thought I’d try it…. I was impressed! The pancakes had a light vanilla flavor … just terrific!

Just a few tips:

DO NOT OVER-MIX the batter…. I cannot overstate this enough…. Mix lightly with a cooking spoon … there will be small to medium lumps in the batter.

I allow the batter to rest for about 5 minutes before making the pancakes. I think this makes them fluffier.

Most recipes say to use about a ½ cup of batter for each pancake… I think they get too big and become harder to flip…. I use ¼ cup measure that isn’t quite full…. I get nice sized manageable sized pancakes.

You griddle should be hot but not too hot otherwise the pancakes get blackened before they’re set and ready to be flipped. I start off heating the griddle on high… then turn it down to medium high.

I hope you try these.


Recipe: Buttermilk Pancakes

All you need:

1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

All you need to do:

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees F.

In a bowl, beat together the buttermilk, milk, egg, butter and vanilla.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix lightly with a spoon. The batter will have small to medium lumps.

Allow the batter to rest for about 5 minutes.

Spray a griddle with cooking spray (butter flavored preferred).

Heat the griddle until a drop of water will sizzle when dropped on the hot griddle. Set the burner on medium high….

Using a ¼ cup measure, ladle the batter onto the griddle. I don’t quite fill the ¼ cup measure… as your pouring use your judgment …. I prefer medium sized pancakes… I find them easier to flip.

When the under-side is golden brown and the top has set with tiny bubbles, flip the pancakes and brown the other side.

Repeat with remaining batter.

Keep cooked pancakes on an oven proof plate in the warm oven.

Serve hot.

Makes about 4 servings.

Recipe: Egg Potato Salad Fit for a Party

This is a delicious, albeit a basic potato salad with eggs…. I’ve used this recipe for years…

As you can see in the picture I decorated the top to make it look a bit more festive… this salad is a terrific addition to a buffet table, barbeque, church supper or any other event where you need to bring along something…. With the garnish it’s picture perfect!

Need to make more for a crowd?…. make two batches… best of all you can make this ahead… it’s even better the next day!

Of course not to mention the family will love it too… I served this with barbeque beef on buns for a supper one weeknight.

Recipe: Egg Potato Salad

All you need:

About 5-6 large Russet Potatoes, peeled, rinsed and cubed
1 ½ cups Hellman’s Mayonnaise
1 ½ tablespoons vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
2-ounce jar chopped pimentos, well drained
1 cup celery (2 large stalks), finely chopped
½ cup green onions, finely chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs (2 finely chopped, 1 for garnish)
3 tablespoons red pepper, chopped
Chives for garnish

All you need to do:

Place the diced potatoes in a pot with enough cold water to just enough water to cover (make sure your dices are the same size so the potatoes will cook evenly).

Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are fork tender but still somewhat firm. I keep an eye on this because they can easily become too soft and you will be making mashed potatoes not potato salad.

When potatoes are done, drain in a colander and run cold water over them to cool them down quickly and stop the cooking process.

In the meantime, in a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard and salt.

Add the chopped celery, pimento and green onions. Stir together.

Add the cooled potatoes to the bowl (they can be slightly warm, they will absorb some of the dressing if warm).

Add the chopped eggs over the potatoes.

Gently fold the dressing from below to the top. Keep doing this until the potatoes are evenly coated. By sliding your large spoon to the bottom of the bowl and bringing it up slowly you will avoid smashing your potatoes.

Pour the potato salad into a serving bowl. Smooth over the top.

Slice the remaining egg into 3 thick slices.

Place them on top of the salad.

Place the chives below the sliced egg to make it look like a flower.

Sprinkle the finely chopped red pepper over the bottom of the “flowers”.

Chill in the refrigerator until served.

Makes approximately 12 servings.

Making Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Cooking Tip of the Day

Do your hard-boiled eggs suffer from gray ring around the yolk?

I have the perfect fool-proof method for boiling eggs. I learned this tip years ago from Pillsbury ….

Place your eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water.

Heat to boiling, then reduce the heat to a slight simmer.

Simmer for 15 minutes.

Carefully pour off the hot water and then let cold water gently run over the eggs for a minute or two.

Allow the eggs to sit in the cool water for about 5 minutes, then remove the eggs and allow to completely cool.

Recipe: Breakfast Bruschetta with Mascarpone and Blueberries

Bruschetta is an appetizer or snack dating back to the 15th century in Italy. The Italian pronunciation is “brus’ketta”.

Most often you see it served as grilled thin slices of bread drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic…. then tomato slices, basil and cheese (most often mozzarella or provolone)are layered on top…. but in reality… many toppings are used for bruschetta. Variations of toppings include, vegetables, red pepper, beans, meats such as prosciutto and a variety of cheeses.

My Breakfast Bruschetta recipe started out as a need to use up some odds and ends ingredients that I had left from other meals I made…. I thought why not make it sweet... mascarpone is after all a cheese....the result was fantastic…. a true treat….

I used what was left of a baguette by slicing it on the diagonal (I just like the way it looks)… generously spreading butter or margarine on each slice…. then toasting them until they were a light golden brown and the butter melted through the bread. I allowed them to cool slightly.

In the meantime, I made Chantilly Cream from 1 cup of heavy (whipping) cream and set that aside. I had an 8 ounce container of mascarpone cheese that I let get to room temperature so it was soft…. I beat it with my mixer with ½ teaspoon almond extract. I folded in about ½ cup of the Chantilly Cream (the rest I used for a dessert)….

I spread the mascarpone mixture on each slice of bread and then topped it with blueberry pie filling or preserves…. I happened to have blueberry pie filling left and wanted to use it up…. you could easily use fresh blueberries…. Blueblerries or actually any berries are an excellent choice…. The buttered bread… the tang of the mascarpone and sweetness of the whipped cream are set off nicely by the tartness of the berries. Just wonderful!

Serve this with a specialty coffee… and you have an out of this world treat!


Recipe: Breakfast Bruschetta

All you need:

For the Chantilly Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
½ to 1 teaspoon vanilla (to taste)* I use 1 teaspoon

Other needed ingredients:

1 baguette, sliced
Butter or Margarine
8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
½ teaspoon almond extract
Preserves or pie filling or fresh berries tossed with sugar

All you need to do:

Allow the mascarpone to soften to room temperature.

Slice the baguette into ¼ inch slices… I like to do it diagonally because of the way it looks… but feel free to slice any way you want.

Generously spread butter on each slice.

Toast slices until a light golden brown and the butter has melted into the bread.

Allow to cool briefly (about 5 minutes). You don’t want it too hot so that your cheese will melt.

In the meantime, make the Chantilly cream by whipping the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until the cream forms soft peaks. Set aside.

Beat with a mixer, the mascarpone and the almond extract.

Fold in about ½ cup of the Chantilly Cream (to taste)… use leftovers for something else).

Spread the mascarpone and Chantilly Cream mixture on all the slices.

Top generously with preserves or pie filling or fresh berries tossed with sugar.

Recipe: Crab Cakes

This Crab Cake recipe is terrific and very easy to make. This is the combination of several recipes I have. Actually, I have many crab cake recipes… all slightly different… and I love them all! I’m almost certain I can say I never met a crab cake I didn’t like. Albeit, I like some far better than others…

This recipe has a tiny bit of zip to it with the cayenne pepper… but it doesn’t overpower the main event… the crab…. The buttery crackers give it a light buttery flavor that I think you will like.

Some Quick Tips

I found this mixture a bit of a pain to make into cakes … it was very loose. You can add 2 tablespoons of flour to help if you are really having trouble.

Refrigerating the mixture before forming patties helps and then I put them on a plate covered with plastic wrap and pop them in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes so they are easier to fry up.

I used a small amount of red pepper very finely chopped… it adds a little flavor and color… one side of a medium sized red pepper will equal what you need… use the rest of the unchopped red pepper in another recipe… it stores well in an airtight container or Zip Loc.

Using real fresh crab meat is always best but very expensive… imitation crab meat also works well and is far cheaper…. I bought a little more than ¾ of a pound (I’m using the other ¼ pound for something else) and it cost me $2.00 US…. Not bad when you figure that I got 8 good sized crab cakes… 2-3 per person is what I usually plan depending on what else I’m serving. Leftovers never go to waste here!

I served this with a garlicy rice and a side vegetable… you could add a side salad also.

I used Panko bread crumbs to coat the cakes… you can use any dry bread crumbs, but in my opinion Panko are the best. They can be readily found in grocery stores by the other bread crumbs.

To save myself time on clean-up I use my large skillet to sauté the onions and peppers… then wipe it out and use the same skillet to fry my crab cakes.

Spicy Remoulade Sauce goes really well with these... click here for the recipe.


Recipe: Crab Cakes

All you need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 large scallions (green onions), finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
8 ounces crab meat or imitation crab meat, chopped (fairly small dice)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons mayo
2 sleeves buttery crackers (Keebler or Ritz), crushed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 ¼ teaspoons garlic powder
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour (optional)
1 cup Panko crumbs or dry bread crumbs
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
Chopped chives for garnish (optional)

All you need to do:

In a skillet over high heat, sauté the green onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Add the red pepper and continue sautéing until the onions are soft.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine crushed buttery crackers, green onions and red peppers, eggs, mayo, dry mustard, Dijon mustard, cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Mix well.

Fold in the crab meat.

Add the flour if your mixture is too crumbly.

Refrigerate the mixture for about 30 minutes in the fridge before forming the patties.

Form ½ inch thick patties and then coat in the Panko or dry bread cumbs.

Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to help solidify the patties and make them easier to fry.

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Cook cakes until golden brown on the bottom and flip.

When golden brown on both sides, remove and drain on paper towels.

Garnish with chopped chives if desired and serve hot.

Recipe: Corn Muffins Filled with Preserves

This is a quick and easy recipe spin on an ordinary corn muffin. There's a grocery chain in upstate New York that makes the most wonderful muffins…. all kinds…. when they first came into the area, they had a wall of muffins…. no lie… there must have been 20 varieties. In any case, I cannot take credit for coming up with this spin on a corn muffin…. I played with my recipe until I got it like the store’s.

You can use any corn muffin recipe that you like…. or even the quick Jiffy boxed mix if you prefer. Now I know "only from scratch snobs" will turn their nose up at using a box mix… but let’s be honest here… sometimes it just works out better time-wise and ingredient wise…. I’m not judgemental.

All you have to do is make your corn bread batter, fill the tin about 1/3 of the way… add 2 teaspoons of your favorite preserves and then add more batter to fill the muffin tin about 2/3s full.

Don't skimp on the preserves... a mistake I made in an earlier test batch... what seems like a lot isn't... make sure to use 2 heaping teaspoons of preserves... add batter... it will likely come close to filling the muffin tin.. but I did get a nice height on my muffin top.

Do not over bake… another mistake that I made in an earlier test batch. Test after 12 minutes to see if a pick comes out clean….. actual baking time should be about 15 minutes.

Just a quick tip:

After mixing your corn muffin batter, let it stand for about 4-5 minutes to “rest”…. This will make for muffins that will rise higher.


Recipe: Corn Muffins Filled with Preserves

All you need:

Corn muffin batter (scratch recipe or Jiffy boxed mix)

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a muffin tin with liners or spray with cooking oil.

Follow corn muffin mix instructions.

Allow the batter to rest for 4-5 minutes.

Fill the muffin tin 1/3 full with batter.

Add 2 heaping teaspoons preserves over it.

Add muffin batter to cover the preserves and tin should be at least 2/3 full (I usually fill mine more to have nice high muffin tops).

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees F. (Test after 12 minutes with a pick… if it comes out clean (no batter) then they’re done.

Looking for More Recipes?

If you are looking for more recipes click the "Older Posts" link to page back to older posts or go to the archives in the right column. The list of labels at the bottom in the right column will help you find specific types of recipes or try our search engine at the top and search by name or ingredient.

What's more comforting on a cold day than Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup? .. and it's so easy to make!

Chicken Noodle Soup