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Recipe: Creamed Spinach with Shallots and Bacon


This recipe for Creamed Spinach with Shallots and Bacon came about, believe it or not, when I intended to make my Southern Creamed Corn recipe, and in true Linda fashion… just began cooking… all the while thinking I had a large bag of frozen corn in the freezer… ahhh BIG surprise… when it wasn’t there… then I remembered I had used it when we had company… yikes… time to find what I did have… and spinach it was.. and so yet another creamed spinach recipe for my file.

I decided to use shallots… mostly because I really like them.. the flavor is decidedly oniony but far more delicate than onions… and so it went… the result.. is one darn good creamed spinach recipe that has a pleasant smokey bacon flavor that doesn’t overwhelm it…

TIPS

I used heavy cream.. you can use half and half… but then I would eliminate all or most of the water… if you decide to go even lower fat with milk… plan on adjusting the flour quantity quite a bit otherwise it will be runny… I would add about 2 tablespoons of flour if using milk…. I personally prefer the heavy cream.. it gives a really smooth texture to the creamed spinach.

I recommend that you don’t add the salt and pepper until the very end… and I caution you about adding any salt at all… the bacon will add considerable salt to the dish.. taste it before adjusting the seasoning.

While we’re talking about seasoning.. I added a pinch of cayenne… to add a bit of punch… actually it didn’t add a lot of punch… again taste it.. if you like it.. great.. if you want more .. add more…

You don’t thaw the spinach… it will thaw during cooking.

I chopped the cooked bacon with a knife the first time… I recommend if you have a mini chopper.. use that to chop the bacon.. it makes far smaller bacon bits and the bacon then can be dispersed throughout the creamed spinach better.

I like to chop my shallots and garlic together in the mini chopper.. it mixes them together very well…

I hope you like this as much as we did!







Recipe: Creamed Spinach with Shallots and Bacon

All you need:

4 cups frozen chopped or cut spinach
2 tablespoons flour
3 slices thick smoked bacon
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup water
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

All you need to do:

Cook bacon in a skillet until it is fairly crispy. Drain on paper towels. Leave 2 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat in the pan and discard the rest.

Preferred Method: In a mini chopper, chop together the shallot and garlic.

Alternative Method: Chop the shallot and garlic very finely with a knife.

Add the chopped shallot and garlic to the skillet with the rendered bacon fat and cook for about 2-3 minutes over medium heat until soft.

Meanwhile, put the frozen spinach in a large bowl and add the flour. Toss to evenly coat the spinach.

Add the cream and water to the spinach and mix well.

Add the spinach to the skillet and cook over medium heat until mixture bubbles, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, chop the drained bacon in the mini chopper… then add it to the skillet. mix well.

Cover and cook about 15 minutes, stirring periodically.

Add the cayenne and mix well.

Add any salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot.

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Recipe: Almond Streusel-Cherry Cheesecake Bars


This recipe for Almond Streusel-Cherry Cheesecake Bars is just divine. We love the hint of almond in baked goods and this one fits the bill nicely. It’s quick and easy. It uses cookie mix which saves loads of time and pie filling which adds a nice burst of flavor.

These bar cookies travel well and are perfect for those church suppers and family get-togethers. Keeping my promise to post more recipes with little short-cuts to make life a bit easier… I found this recipe at Betty Crocker. It was a prize winning recipe in 2006. The taste is wonderful.

I do have a few tips though… some things that will definitely help.

TIPS


The recipe says to cut in the butter and cream cheese with the cookie mix when making the crust. You can use two knives (personally.. I find that to be a pain) or use a pastry cutter. I used my food processor… if you have a food processor… I definitely recommend using it… it cuts the butter and cream cheese perfectly…
resulting in a perfectly crumbled mixture…. just pulse a few times and it’s perfect.

When I have to cut in cold butter and/or cream cheese… I cut it into small cubes… placing the cubes in a small bowl then refrigerating it again for about 30 minutes… I do this because handling the butter warms it up and you really want cold butter when making a crumbly mixture like this.

Make sure you soften the 2 ½ (8 oz. pkgs) bars of cream cheese. make sure you keep the ½ bar for the crust in the fridge … you want that one firm.

I used the almond extract, which adds a fabulous flavor but I left out the sliced almonds because someone I made it for shouldn’t eat nuts…. the recipe was still perfect.


I always line my pan with Reynolds Wrap Non-Stick Foil..I still spray the foil with cooking oil to ensure it definitely won’t stick. I like to use foil because this way I can lift the cake out and cut it on a cutting board… which is infinitely easier than trying to cut them in a pan.

The original recipe says to refrigerate it for about 2 hours before serving.. which I do agree with… this will set the cheesecake part up nicely…. however… I do recommend you remove it from the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before cutting… the crust gets pretty brittle when refrigerated, which makes cutting and eating it a bit difficult.

I hope you try these wonderful bar cookies!







Recipe: Almond Streusel-Cherry Cheesecake Bars

All you need:

For the Cookie Base and Topping

1 pouch (17.5 oz) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
¼ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
4 oz. (1/2 of 8 oz. package) cream cheese
½ cup sliced almonds

Filling

2 ½ packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Line a 13x9 inch pan with non-stick foil. Spray the foil lightly with cooking oil. Set aside.







Cut the butter in half the long way and then cut it again in half to form 4 long strips. Cut the strips into cubes and place in a bowl. Cut the cream cheese into small cubes and also place in the bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Dump the cookie mix into a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add the cold cubes of butter and cream cheese. Pulse several times until you have a crumbly mixture.

Alternative method: place the cookie mix into a large bowl and cut in the butter and cream cheese with a pastry blender or two knives until ccrumbly.

Reserve 1 ½ cups of the crumbly mixture for the topping.


Dump the remaining crumbly mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly over the bottom.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.



Meanwhile, in a large bowl beat the 2 ½ packages of cream softened cream cheese with the sugar, flour, almond extract and eggs on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.





Spread the mixture evenly over the baked cookie base.

Spread the pie filling evenly over the cream cheese mixture.

Sprinkle with the reserved crumbly mixture and almonds.



Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until light golden brown. cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until chilled.




Remove from the fridge for about 20 minutes before serving. Cut into bars.

Store covered in the refrigerator.

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Recipe: Baked Crab Rangoon


Chinese New Year or The Lunar New Year began this year on February 3rd and marks the beginning of the Spring Festival in China and continues until the 15th day… which is coming up this week. So what better way to celebrate than with a Chinese food post.

Crab Rangoon are deep fried wontons stuffed with a cream cheese, crab and scallion mixture. If you’ve never had them… you really need to try them.

At one of my previous jobs we would order Chinese food for lunch sometimes and the local restaurant where we would place our order would send free Crab Rangoons with our order… we were positively addicted to them.

Recently I came across a recipe at Kraft that baked them instead of deep frying them… I thought what a great idea… so I decided to use their baking method with my recipe… we loved them!

These are quick and easy to make.. they’re perfect as a quick snack or with a meal… a great little addition to a party too…

TIPS

My oven is accurate… so baking them at 350 degrees F for 13 minutes is exactly how long I baked them… BUT… I strongly suggest you watch them… they brown quickly and I have no doubts they would have burned quickly had I not been there to take them out when they were golden brown.

My mini chopped was in the dishwasher when I made mine… so my plan to mix the ingredients in the chopper was nixed… I chopped them myself and mixed the ingredients with a fork in a small bowl… it worked fine… just make sure your cream cheese is soft…

I nuked my cream cheese in the microwave for 15 seconds to soften it quickly.

You can find won ton wrappers in the refrigerated produce section of the grocery store.




This recipe will make about 24 Crab Rangoon.

These are delicious and are far more heart healthy than deep frying them … not to mention easier and clean-up was a snap.







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Recipe: Baked Crab Rangoon

All you need:

Won ton wrappers
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
¼ cup finely chopped imitation crab meat or fresh or canned crab meat
Spray cooking oil

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray cooking oil lightly a regular size muffin tin(s).

Place one wonton wrapper in each muffin cup.

In a small bowl combine cream cheese, green onions and crab.

Drop a rounded measuring teaspoon of the crab mixture into each won ton wrapper.

Bake for about 11-13 minutes or until golden brown… watch them closely … they will go from golden brown to burned very quickly.

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Recipe: Chicken Marengo


I made Chicken Marengo years ago… and unfortunately lost the recipe… when my son was a young, money was scarce and I was always on the lookout for an inexpensive meal that was hearty that would feed us for at least two meals... we loved leftovers.

I distinctly remember finding the recipe in a woman’s magazine and my husband trying the recipe. Yes... you read that right... my husband was an excellent cook... and loved to try new recipes... we loved to cook together in the kitchen.

The recipe used chicken legs and thighs… the recipe I have today uses boneless skinless chicken breasts.

I made it periodically from memory through the years… changing the recipe from chicken legs to boneless breasts… since I wanted to reduce the fat content.

Another change I made was… originally I used a cup of chicken broth and a cup dry white wine… recently I came across a recipe that uses chicken bouillon cubes instead of broth and increases the wine… I tried it and liked it better… so this recipe uses chicken bouillon cubes.

History

History of this dish dates back to Napoleon … it is said that after the Battle of Marengo, he demanded a meal… his chef had little to choose from for ingredients and invented this dish from what he had available… it is also noted that the original dish had crayfish included also… numerous variations, like this one, emerged over the years.

TIPS

A word of caution about bouillon cubes.. most contain a small amount of MSG… so if you are MSG sensitive… you can cut back on the wine and use chicken broth instead… I would cut the amount of wine in half and replace the half with chicken broth.

I used thin boneless chicken breasts cutlets… I figure 2 good sized cutlets per person. This recipe makes enough sauce for 8 cutlets (4 servings). You can also make this with thicker chicken breasts.

I like to chop the onion and garlic together in my mini chopper, it gets it finely chopped and well mixed.

For the dry white wine, I used a Sauvignon Blanc.

I like to serve this with noodles, although I also make it with penne.

Some recipes add a bit of cognac at the end… I do not… it just isn’t in the recipe I’m used to making.

This is a perfect a special meal for a weeknight… it cooks fast and looks like you slaved in the kitchen when you didn’t.

I hope you try this!







Recipe: Chicken Marengo

All you need:

8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups dry white wine
2 cans (14.5 oz each) Hunts Petite Diced Tomatoes
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 teaspoons thyme
16 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

All you need to do:

In a flat bowl or plate, mix the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Dredge the chicken in the flour.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil.

Brown the chicken breasts over medium heat. Remove to a plate.

Add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are soft, stirring frequently so they don’t brown.

Add the wine and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomatoes, bouillon cubes and thyme, mix well.

Add the chicken and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and simmer with the lid on the skillet for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms have cooked.

Remove to a serving plate and sprinkle chopped fresh parsley over the top.

Serve with hot buttered noodles.

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Valentine's Day Breakfast Ideas


Valentine's Day falls during the week this year so why not celebrate a bit early this weekend with a fabulous breakfast?

These recipes are easy… most can be prepped ahead… and oh so good…. peruse the list and see what fits in your time and budget… for a list of even more ideas… see the Recipe Index under Breakfast and Brunch

Whether You’re Making Breakfast for Two or For a Family – Make it Special!


Warm Blueberry Crumb Muffins with a small fruit salad with Yogurt Sauce or maybe some scrambled eggs…and for the adults ….finish with a specialty coffee … Tia Maria and Coffee is so warm and soothing… perfect with a light breakfast of muffins…a terrific easy breakfast…for other muffin recipes see the Recipe and Tip Index under Muffins



Breakfast Bruschetta with Mascarpone and Blueberries… all I can say is easy and yummmmm… absolutely delicious… add scrambled eggs and you have yourself a great breakfast!





Cheddar and Chive Eggs with a Cheese Sauce….put them in a baked pastry shell or a crepe… quick easy and foolproof…and oh so delicious!






Eggs Benedict – terrific poached eggs on an English muffin with luscious Hollandaise Sauce over it…





Omelets are a wonderful choice for two…. they work really well when you make them for two people… making them for a family doesn’t usually work as well someone always ends up waiting for theirs while others have to start eating theirs before it gets cold. Use two pans at once or make one and put on a oven save plate and cover it with foil …. Put it in a warm oven while you make the second omelet…

Make each omelet with whatever ingredients each of you prefer…. See the Recipe and Tip Index under Breakfasts and Brunch




Serve them with Home Fries and a slice of cantaloupe …. Perfect!





Hash Brown Nests and Eggs… you can make a bunch or a few … they look so good… kid’s love them!







Frittatas are terrific to make…. quick and easy…. assemble it and bake it… make them mini sized or regular sized and cut wedges… serve with toast or breakfast potatoes… See the Index under Breakfast and Brunch for a list of wonderful kinds of frittatas you can make.

Breakfast Casseroles are great for serving a family… everyone loves them and they’re easy… some terrific choices are:



Southwest Potato and Egg Bake








Grits and Sausage Casserole







Cheese Strata … or want a Strata with a little more…. try the Spinach Ham and Cheese Strata



And for even more ideas....




Crepescrepes always are terrific… make them ahead… separate them with waxed paper and cover them tightly with plastic wrap…..fill them with whatever you want… so easy! See the Index under Crepes for a list of Crepe Recipes






Waffles are always good… make them plain with syrup or get a little fancy and make Bananas Foster Waffles (I have a non-alcohol version too)… or maybe Peach Melba Waffles…. Don’t forget to check my Waffle Making Tips.




Pancakes…. everybody loves pancakes… make ‘em plain, or with BlueberriesApples or Bananas… they’re always a hit.





Chocolate French Toast…. no listing would be complete without French Toast…. Chocolate French Toast is divine.. not a chocolate lover? Try a stuffed French Toast… Aloha Pineapple Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast or French Toast Stuffed with Blueberry Cream Cheese or try a French Toast Casserole... prepare it the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning... what could be simpler?


Bacon… add bacon to your breakfast…do it the easy way.. make the bacon in the oven! … quick and easy and hardly any clean-up.

Special Kid Friendly Ideas:



Breakfast Burrito







Egg Biscuit and Egg Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches







Kid Friendly Cream Cheese and Jam Omelet




I could go on and on…. check out the Breakfast and Brunch listing in the Index for more terrific ideas!

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Recipe: Penne with Basil Pesto Pomodoro Sauce


This recipe for Penne with Basil Pesto Pomodoro Sauce is so quick and easy… perfect for a weeknight meal. Best of all… it tastes so good you’ll forget just how inexpensive it was to make…. what could be better?

This recipe comes from the folks at Hunt’s… I ran across the recipe and knew it would be perfect for us… we both love pasta and love Pesto…

TIPS

I used store bought pesto.. you can use your own instead.

I really love Hunt’s canned tomatoes… they really are the best.. I found that the tomatoes are perfectly cut.. not very watery like some other brands. The quality is tops too.

I added cubed cooked skinless chicken breasts .. but this can easily be a meatless meal.

I used 2/3 of a pound of dried penne… this recipe will make 4 servings. I served it with a side salad and bread.

I hope you try this .. it is delicious!







Recipe: Penne with Basil Pesto Pomodoro Sauce

All you need:

2 cans (14.5 oz.) Hunt’s Petite Cut Tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
Olive oil cooking spray
About 2 cups of cooked skinless chicken breasts, cubed
¼ cup prepared basil pesto
Cooked penne (I used about 2/3 of a pound of dry penne)
Grated Parmesan cheese

All you need to do:

Cook the penne according to package instructions and drain. Set aside.

Spray a large skillet with the cooking oil and heat it over medium heat.

Add the onions and allow the onions to cook until they are soft (I stirred them frequently).

Add the canned tomatoes (DO NOT DRAIN THE TOMATOES).

Add the chicken and stir… cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the pesto and stir well.

Add the pasta and stir.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

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Recipe: Chicken and Gnocchi Soup


This recipe for Chicken and Gnocchi Soup is a copycat recipe for Olive Garden’s popular soup. I ran across many recipes, all virtually the same, for this soup and decided to give it a try… not sure where it originated from… the base is similar to another one of my soups so I knew it would be good.

But alas… I didn’t have whole milk or half and half or heavy cream in the house… it was a rainy cold day.. perfect for soup and not so perfect for running out to the store…

I decided instead to substitute evaporated milk…. which turned out better anyway.. lower fat and just as creamy… perfect!

TIPS

Since I decided to use the substitution… that’s how I wrote the recipe.. you can use heavy cream if you would like.

If you prefer a thicker soup you can add about a tablespoon of cornstarch that is mixed in some of the soup then poured back into the pot.

The soup is only slightly creamy… it really is very light tasting, not heavy at all.

I cooked my chicken breasts in chicken broth with an onion (cut-up), a handful of small carrots, 1 stalk of celery (cut-up), 2 teaspoons of dried thyme and a bay leaf. After removing the cooked chicken breasts, I saved the veggies for another use and poured the chicken broth into a measuring cup… I used the cooked broth again in my soup..

I chopped the onion and garlic together in my mini chopper, which not only made it easy, but very finely chopped.

I know the Olive Garden soup uses shredded carrot but I sliced my small carrots instead.

I used frozen chopped spinach… fresh spinach would be even more flavorful.

A perfect soup for a rainy day … it made a great supper with some fresh bread.

I hope you try it!







Recipe: Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

All you need:

1 cup diced cooked chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups evaporated milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup finely diced celery
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ cup sliced carrots
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
1 (16 oz) pkg. gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese

All you need to do:

In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat.

Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Cook until onions are soft.

Add the chicken broth, dried thyme and spinach. Heat until carrots are cooked (about 15 minutes).

Turn heat up and bring to a boil.

Add the gnocchi and cook as directed on package (mine took about 4 minutes to cook).

Reduce the heat to medium again and add the evaporated milk. Cook an additional 5 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

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Recipe: Ham and Cheese Pinwheels


This recipe for Ham and Cheese Pinwheels started out quite differently… I had planned on other ingredients and when I started to make them… I realized I was missing a number of ingredients.. so I surveyed the options in the fridge.. and Ham and Cheese Pinwheels were born.

The recipe started out from something I saw at Pillsbury… I liked the idea it used Pillsbury Refrigerated Crescent Rolls…. I wanted something quick and easy for a Saturday night movie night.

TIPS

I used Garlic Butter Crescent Rolls, but you can use the Original variety if you prefer.

I used Colby Jack cheese, Swiss would be a terrific option also.

You must press the dough together well…. as they say.. don’t do as I did… I didn’t press it well and when I went to roll it… frankly … it was a pain in the neck…. BUT I do have to emphasize.. they came out great…

Use a serrated knife to slice the dough… use a saw-like motion to cut.. it will be easier that way.

So let’s get to it… it was a great little snack… great for watching the Big Game on TV … a terrific menu idea for family night.

I hope you like them as much as we did!







Recipe: Ham and Cheese Pinwheels

All you need:

1 can (8 oz.) Pillsbury refrigerated Crescent Rolls – Garlic Butter or Original
About 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
Deli Smoked Ham, sliced thin
Sliced cheese or shredded cheese (Colby Jack or Swiss)
¼ cup chopped green onion

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil or lightly spray it with cooking oil.

Unroll the dough and press all the perforations together to seal.

Lightly spread the mustard over the dough.

Place one layer of cheese over the dough.

Sprinkle with the chopped green onion.

Place a layer of ham over the green onion.

Starting with the short side, roll the dough. Press the edges to seal.

Slice into 8 slices.

Lay them on the baking sheet.

Bake for 13 to 17 minutes until light golden brown.

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