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Recipe: Potato Leek Soup


I haven’t met a potato soup I haven’t loved… at least not yet.. and I’ve had a lot of different potato soups… it seems potatoes, onions or leeks, bacon and stock or broth just make the best combination… everything else just makes it a little different than the next one…

I haven’t made a potato soup with leeks in a while and wanted to see what else is out there for recipes… I found one by Emeril that seemed a little different… it had the usual ingredients plus a ½ cup dry white wine… I thought… hmmm… that would be a nice little addition…

I was surprised there wasn’t a BAM! in this recipe…

The soup was excellent… but here are my thoughts on it…

First,the cream really can be left out.. I put it in.. but I don’t feel it adds that much in the way of flavor… it changes the texture… so you can consider adding less or substituting a lower fat milk or half and half would also lower the fat content.

Second… the wine… while it smelled fabulous when cooking.. by the time it was finished… I really don’t think the wine taste was apparent… I totally think it can be omitted if you want to.

Emeril has rather elaborate instructions on how to make a bouquet garni using a leek leaf… he does say you can use cheesecloth also… well first of all… if you need to know what a bouquet garni is.. I have a previous post on that subject… just click here… and you can read about it…

Now back to his bouquet garni… I really don’t think it’s necessary.. I put the bay leaves in the soup.. and fished them out just before blending the soup… I used dried thyme instead of fresh.. and the soup was really good… the conversion from fresh sprigs of thyme to dried thyme is one fresh sprig of thyme equals ½ teaspoon dried thyme… his recipe calls for 4 sprigs which converts to 2 teaspoons of dried thyme.. I think that is just a little too much… at least for our tastes… I used a heaping ½ teaspoon and that was about right.. as it is.. the soup ended up with a strong thyme flavor.

I think the cream ingredient is optional… cream adds a little smoothness to the soup but for those trying to lower the fat content in their diet… I really don’t see a problem with leaving it out.

I omitted the peppercorns.. the recipe also calls for ¾ teaspoon of white pepper… which in my opinion is more than enough.

Now I do have some tips…

TIPS

He suggests using an immersion blender.. which I wholeheartedly agree with… if you don’t have one.. it’s well worth the investment… they’re not terribly expensive… for example.. Amazon has one by Cuisinart for $28.99 (US)… it saves loads of time and makes clean-up a snap… great for soups and gravies.

If you don’t own one.. you can use a regular blender… but only fill the blender half full … make sure the lid is on tight and put a dish cloth over the top before blending.. hot soup will have lots of steam when blending.. and you don’t want to get burned… if the top flies off… hot soup and steam will not only make a mess but is dangerous.

Definitely use the snipped chives on top.. they add a really pleasant, light onion flavor… a really good finish to the soup.

His recipe calls for russet potatoes… russets are very flavorful but I find they can be a bit grainy… I used Yukon Gold potatoes… we happen to like their flavor… I would recommend either Russets or the Yukon Golds… not white potatoes.. white potatoes don’t have as strong a flavor as the others do.

He used only the white parts of the leek, I used the white and green parts.

I used smoked bacon… it has a stronger flavor and really adds a lot to the soup.

I used a Sauvignon Blanc for the white wine… you can find very affordable ones… Turning Leaf, Beringer, Yellow Tail and Monkey Bay are all decent and inexpensive to use for cooking.

About the salt.. his recipe calls for 1 ½ teaspoons salt… I added the salt later…as the soup was finishing and added it to taste… because of the bacon.. I added very little… so I changed the recipe to add the salt at the end and to your taste.

If you decide to leave out the cream and not replace it with any other milk product… you will probably need to thin the soup a bit at the end… add more chicken broth or stock until you get the thickness you want.

So… with all that said… let’s get to cooking…








Recipe: Potato Leek Soup

All you need:

2 tablespoons butter
2 strips of bacon, chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks, about 1 pound, cleaned and sliced
½ cup dry white wine (optional)
2 bay leaves
½ -1 teaspoon dried thyme (to taste)
½ cup dry white wine (optional)
5 cups chicken stock or broth
1 to 1 ¼ pounds potatoes, diced (see notes above)
¾ teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
½ to ¾ cup crème fraiche or heavy cream (optional) -see notes above
2 tablespoons snipped chives

All you need to do:

Trim the very tops of the leeks. Using a sharp knife slice the leek down the middle lengthwise. Rinse thoroughly under cold running water to be sure you have all the dirt out between the leaves.

Slice the leeks thinly crosswise.

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat, then add the chopped bacon. Cook until bacon has rendered most of the fat but is still soft. Stir frequently.

Add the leeks and cook until they’re wilted. Stir frequently.

Add the wine (if you are including it), bring to a boil.

Add the chicken stock, potatoes, white pepper, thyme and bay leaves.

Lower the heat to bring it to a simmer, cook until potatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup or use a blender. If using a blender, blend in small batches… see notes above on safety tips. Blend until desired consistency (I like it still a little lumpy).

Stir well.

Add the cream (if you are including it).

Adjust seasoning (salt, pepper and thyme).

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with snipped chives.

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Recipe: Irish Beef Hand Pies


These Irish Beef Hand Pies are nifty little beefy pastries that are a terrific for a lunch or light super… I had one a long time ago in a pub… and had long forgotten about them until just before St. Patrick’s Day I came across numerous recipes, all the same, and credited to Martha Stewart.

I simply didn’t have the time to get a post about them in before the ‘big day”… but I made a note to do a post on them anyway… after all.. Beef Hand Pies are good any time of year.

So I printed out her recipe and followed the directions.. yes… I actually followed the directions … well… let me qualify that… up to a point I followed the directions. I made the filling and tasted it and was not impressed. It lacked flavor and was extremely dry. So …yes… I did end up changing her recipe.

Her recipe lists ½ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce… that is not nearly enough… I upped it to 1 tablespoon.. which worked out nicely.

I used 2 tablespoons olive oil instead of 1 that was in the original recipe. I started out with 1 tablespoon and felt it just wasn’t enough to coat all the potatoes and cabbage.

The filling was dry… not at all as I had remembered it … the only “wet” ingredients in her recipe is 3 tablespoons tomato paste and the Worcestershire sauce… I was all set to add ketchup … then I decided to add a ½ cup of beef broth instead and continue to cook it a bit more… the result was much better… much much better.

They are a little on the bland side… next time I think I will add chopped onion when browning the beef… but this recipe here looks to be the real deal.

TIPS

I used commercial pie crusts… I’m not so sure I will do that next time.. it was tough to roll out a 9 inch round of pie crust into an even 14 inch square … probably would have been just as easy to make my own pie crust.

Be careful when you press your fork around the edge to seal it… I ended up piercing the dough a bit… but the filling luckily never ran…

I used Yukon Gold potatoes, the original recipe called for red potatoes. We like the Yukon Golds and that’s what I had on hand… it worked well.. use whatever potatoes you prefer.

One of the nicest features of this dish is that you can make these completely ahead and freeze them. You don’t even have to thaw them, bake them at the same temperature but bake them for 28 to 30 minutes.

The directions say to bake them for 10-12 minutes… I ended up baking mine for 15 minutes … set your timer for 10 minutes and watch them, you want them a light golden brown color.

Now let’s get to the recipe… I hope you try it… the family will definitely like them… I served mine with oven fried steak fries.

Recipe: Irish Beef Hand Pies

All you need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ head of green cabbage, shredded
½ pound potatoes, small diced
1 pound lean ground beef
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
½ cup beef broth
½ teaspoon thyme
2 (9 inch) pie crusts (commercial or homemade)

All you have to do:

Line a large baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

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

Add the potatoes and cabbage. Stirring frequently, cook until they start to brown (about 8-10 minutes).

Add the ground beef and cook until no longer red. Break the beef up into small pieces with a cooking spoon or spatula.

Add the tomato paste, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and beef broth. Cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).

Use a potato masher or fork to mash the mixture… leaving some small potato lumps.

Allow to cool.

Roll out the pie crusts into 14 inch squares. Cut each pie crust into 4 equal squares.(mine ended up far less than equal… they had that homemade look)

Place about ½ cup of filling on half of the square leaving a ½ inch border around the side. Brush the border with water. Fold the empty half over the filling. Crimp the edges with a fork.

Pierce the top with 3 tiny slits.

Place on the foil lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

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Recipe: Smokin’ Mac n Cheese


This Smokin’ Mac n Cheese is a simple “family” meal that kids and adults alike will love… it’s quick and easy.. a perfect weeknight meal.

I had a hankerin’ for mac n cheese (like that?.. hankerin’… living in the south has surely had an influence on me!)… but .. problem number one is … it’s not high on Warren’s list… “Mr. I Don’t Like Cheese” … well the Mr. has changed over the years… now he qualifies it by saying.. he doesn’t like to eat just cheese (cubed cheese etc)… but put out a tray of cut-up sausage and cheese with fruit.. and lo and behold… Mr. eats away… (big sigh)… ya gotta love a man that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge a woman may have been right…

So back to my mac n cheese… he has liked my Mexican Mac n Cheese… so I have to think of ways to change it up a little… I had a package of Lil Smokies from Hillshire Farms in the fridge that I wanted to use… so I went to the Hillshire Farms site… and sure enough.. they had a recipe with Lil Smokies added to Mac n Cheese… not rocket science there.. but the recipe used half and half instead of milk and didn’t make a roux for the sauce first… (I went back to the site to find the recipe and now I can’t find it… oh well you will have to trust me)…so I thought I’d give it a try… of course I had to add my little twist to it..

I also added one can of Rotel Mild Tomatoes and Chilies… and I must say.. it was a great combo.. even Mr. I Don’t Like Cheese liked it! ….. even loved the left overs… big sigh.. I do have to remember when creating recipes he doesn’t like cheese.

TIPS

The sauce came out perfect… very smooth and cheesy and gooey… but I know half and half adds calories and fat… you can still make a traditional cheese sauce and add the ingredients in the recipe..

I cut the Lil Smokies into thirds… you can add them whole… but cutting them makes a great presentation.

If you don’t want the zip from the Mild Rotel Tomatoes.. use a can of Petite Cut Tomatoes instead…

I didn’t drain the tomatoes.

I used elbow macaroni.. but you can use any other shape you prefer.

Truly an easy meal.. and really tasty too!







Recipe: Smokin’ Mac and Cheese

All you need:

3 cups dried elbow macaroni (any type you like)
1 package Hillshire Farms Lil Smokies
1 can Rotel Mild Tomatoes with Chilies
2 cups half and half
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded Mild Cheddar cheese

For Topping (topping is optional):

4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon (Fajitia or Taco Seasoning)
1 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs

All you have to do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot, cook the macaroni according to package directions for al dente… you want it cooked but still chewy because you will be baking the casserole in the oven later.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot add the half and half, 2 tablespoons butter and shredded cheese. Cook over medium heat until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth, stirring frequently.

Add the sausage and tomatoes to the cooked macaroni and stir well.

Add the cheese sauce to the pot of macaroni, stir well.

Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 baking pan.

To make topping: (this is optional)

Put butter into a 2 cup measuring cup or bowl and melt in the microwave.

Add the seasoning and bread crumbs.

Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top of the casserole.

Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue to bake for about 20 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly.

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Recipe: Ricotta Cappuccino


This fabulous dessert is so quick and easy… and oh soooo good. Ricotta Cappuccino is a classic Italian dessert.. I found it by watching Giada on the Food Network… I saw it quite a while ago and listed on my “To Do” list… and just got around to finally trying it… all I can say is.. WOW!

I lost my notes from when I watched the show and just figured I would find it online… it took me forever to find it… I had the name slightly wrong and all I kept coming up with were desserts that sounded good but not the one I wanted. The upside to all that searching is that I found a bunch more recipes for my “To Do” list… and if they’re half as good as this one… we’ll be in dessert heaven.

TIPS

I used my processor to make this… you can use a blender if you don’t have a processor… make sure you process or blend it well.. it will smooth out the graininess of the ricotta.

The original recipe uses a vanilla bean.. I used vanilla extract… the price of vanilla beans has skyrocketed and I rarely purchase them anymore… while I love them… I don’t love them $15 (US) for 3 worth… but I do recommend you use a good quality vanilla extract.

The equivalent for a vanilla bean pod to vanilla extract is one inch of vanilla bean pod to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

I found chocolate biscotti… one side of the biscotti has a thin layer of dark chocolate… it was a fabulous choice.

Giada’s recipe says to spoon into small coffee cups… mine were not small… while it looked great… it really was too rich to double the size of the dessert… I definitely recommend you use small dessert glasses for this.

The recipe calls for 1 biscotti… I used 3… it’s up to you how much you want to use.

This is a terrific special occasion dessert that requires little time and no expertise… and it will definitely impress.

Beware… this dessert is addicting!







Recipe: Ricotta Cappuccino

All you need:

½ cup sugar
½ vanilla bean OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese
½ tablespoon instant espresso powder
1-3 (3-inch) biscotti, crushed *see tips
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cocoa

All you need to do:

Process or blend the sugar and vanilla.

Add the ricotta and espresso powder and process or blend until smooth.

Spoon mixture into 4 small glass dessert glasses or coffee cups.

Sprinkle each with a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cocoa.

Note: I put half the amount of ricotta mixture in the glass first then made a layer of crumbs and topped off with the remaining mixture and crumbs.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day.

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Recipe: Gumbo


While researching various recipes for a series on Cajun food… I kept seeing recipes for Gumbo. I haven’t had Gumbo in years… so I decided to make Gumbo. I read probably dozens of recipes… all similar… some missing what I consider key ingredients.

As one reviewer of a recipe put it… it’s not Gumbo unless you have meat (chicken), sausage, fish (usually shrimp)and okra…. along with, in my opinion, tomato, onions, and garlic … they are the “must haves” of Gumbo.

I made a quick list of ingredients I felt needed to be included.. and armed with that information I went on a hunt for a recipe…I found one that mostly fit the bill… a recipe by Paula Dean. I did, however, change her recipe to fit my own recollection of a great Gumbo.

The first thing to be changed was the amount of grease (oil and margarine… by the way.. I almost fainted when I saw she used margarine not butter)… this was no big surprise… she routinely uses way too much fat in her recipes…. to follow Paula’s recipes you’d have to have a cardiologist on speed dial.

The next thing.. which again.. surprised me.. her recipe lacked spices.. true Cajun food is not bland and has some spices..and this Gumbo version is Cajun… so I added my Cajun Spice Mix.

I also changed the kind of tomatoes I used.. she uses stewed tomatoes.. I used Hunts Petite Cut Tomatoes.. also she uses beef bouillon cubes and water… I used beef broth… I saw no reason to use the bouillon in place of broth or stock… and bouillon, while not in significant amounts, has MSG in them (at least most brands), which I prefer to avoid if at all possible.

I also changed some of the cooking steps… some just didn’t make sense… namely when to add thickener (flour aka roux) and how to add it in… I think my method is easier and produces a better flavor since I cook the onions and garlic with the meats, rather than adding them after a roux is made. I make the roux and resulting thick sauce separately and then add it to the pot.

So with that all said… let’s get to making a great Gumbo.

TIPS

I bought cooked frozen shrimp, all I had to do was remove the tails…

I used a smoked beef sausage from Hillshire Farms.. you can use andouille sausage.. if you do use the andouille, then omit the spices and spice toward the end to your taste.

You can omit the spice if you prefer… the 1 tablespoon of my Cajun Spice Blend gives it a little kick.. not too much though… or you can use a commercially made Cajun Spice Blend that you like and use whatever quantity is to your tastes.

Use both the white and green parts of the green onion.

I served this with white rice and cornbread.

This recipe will easily feed 4-6 (6 if you serve white rice and cornbread with it).

We loved this dish… I hope you do too!






Recipe: Gumbo

All you need:

2 thick boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 smoked sausage, cut into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 large garlic cloves, finely diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 cups of beef broth or stock, divided
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 can Hunts Petite Cut Tomatoes (do not drain)
1 tablespoon Cajun Spice Blend (my recipe)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups frozen sliced okra
½ pound cooked shrimp, deveined and tails removed
¼ cup green onion, sliced

All you need to do:

Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and heat over medium high heat.

Add the chicken chunks and sausage slices, stirring frequently. Cook until the meats start to brown. Remove about 1 tablespoon of the sausage grease that has accumulated in the pot and set it aside.

Add the onions, garlic, celery and green pepper, stirring frequently. Cook until the onions soften (about 3 minutes).

Add the Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes.

Add 3 cups of the beef broth or stock. Heat until it begins to boil, then reduce heat to medium.

Add the Cajun spice and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and sausage grease you reserved earlier.

Add the flour and stir well with a cooking spoon. Cook for about 2 minutes (to cook off the flour taste).

Slowly add the remaining beef broth or stock, whisking constantly until you have a thick smooth “sauce”…

Add the “sauce” to the large pot stirring to completely incorporate it into the pot.

Add the okra and parsley, stir well.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring periodically.

Add the shrimp and green onions. Lower the heat to low and cook for an additional 5 minutes.



Serve hot in bowls with white rice.

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Recipe: Shrimp and Grits


This dish always sounded good to me… I love shrimp and I love grits… so what’s not to like?

We’re in south Georgia … where Low Country Boils, Fried Catfish and Shrimp and Grits reign supreme. At nearby Jekyll Island there even is a Shrimp and Grits Festival.. three days of music and great food.. lots of that terrific Southern hospitality … but alas.. it isn’t until September… so … I decided it was time I made my own Shrimp and Grits.

Don’t know what grits are? Read my post from a couple of years ago… “So Just What are Grits?”

Recipes for Shrimp and Grits vary somewhat but all in all they’re relatively close… so I took what I thought was the best part of several recipes… my recipe is altered enough not to give any one recipe credit…

TIPS

I used frozen cooked shrimp with the tails still on.. you can purchase this in the seafood department of your grocery store…

I removed the tails… I hate having to remove tails after I’ve cooked them in a dish… while the presentation is nice … it is a pain in the butt to eat them that way.
Use “quick cooking grits” not instant.

I made the grits in the microwave.. you can also make them on the stove top.. just follow the package instructions. I do not add salt to the grits since the bacon in shrimp portion has plenty of salt.

Use both the green and white parts of the green onion.

Garlic cloves are listed in the ingredient list as 1-2… I personally like a garlic flavor to be very apparent… so I would use 2… but if you only want a hint of garlic.. use only 1.

A pinch of cayenne pepper is optional.. it adds a little kick to the dish. You can add as much or as little as you like depending on how much of a kick you like.

My best suggestion is prepare the ingredients ahead so all you have to do is cook ... this dish cooks up very fast… so start the grits… and wait about 10 minutes.. then start cooking the shrimp portion.

I served this dish with fresh bread and a side salad.

This recipe serves 4.

This is truly a delicious and satisfying meal!






Recipe: Shrimp and Grits

All you need:

1 cup Quick Cooking Grits
4 cups of water
2 cups Cheddar Cheese
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 ½ pound cooked shrimp, tails removed
4 slices smoked bacon, chopped
1 ½ cups green onion, chopped
I-2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

All you need to do:

Make the quick cooking grits according to package instructions… my package uses less water for the microwave method, but I still used 4 cups of water… and cooked them until they were thick and not soupy.

Add the cheddar cheese and the heavy cream, stir well.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon until it is starting to curl up…cooked but still soft.

Add the shrimp, green onions, garlic and lemon juice, stirring frequently. Cook about 4 minutes.

Place a generous serving of grits on a plate and top with a generous serving of the shrimp and bacon mixture.

Alternate Serving Method: Put the grits in a large serving bowl and add the shrimp mixture, mix well. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

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Recipe: Quick Mardi Gras King Cake


This is so quick and easy… a total shortcut! Let me first tell you how I got to this “recipe”. Just before Mardi Gras I decided at the last minute to do a recipe or two that would be a good dish for the celebration.

Now I also have to tell you I’m totally addicted to a few Facebook games.. one of which is called Baking Life. I got interested when some of my friends were posting bonuses for the game.. namely Tiramisu… so now I play the game..

During various holidays they have new recipes for a limited time… we had been playing making “Mardi Gras King Cake”… which didn’t occur to me until a few days before Mardi Gras that this was an actual cake. So I goggled it and found many recipes all almost identical… if you are like me.. I didn’t know what it was… it’s basically cinnamon rolls made into a ring.. iced and sprinkled with spring colored sugars.

It really looks so pretty with the colored sugars… I thought I would make that… but good cinnamon rolls require a yeast dough and considerable time waiting for it to rise. A couple of people who have food blogs posted a quick an easy recipe using cinnamon rolls you buy in a can and bake (like from Pillsbury)… I thought how clever! The posts that I saw did not post a picture and had little or no instructions and no tips at all.

This “recipe” took 3 tries to get it to work … needless to say… I missed posting it for Mardi Gras… and thought… oh well.. next year. Then I got to thinking how it would be a perfect brunch cake regardless of the time of year… you certainly can change the colored sugars to match whatever time of year you do it… Christmas colors at Christmas.. red, white and blue at 4th of July .. or spring colors for Easter.

Traditionally, Mardi Gras King Cake has a hidden prize .. a plastic Mardi Gras baby is hidden in the cake by making a small slit after baking and inserting the prize… I wouldn’t recommend trying that with this.. but if you do… do let me know how it went.

Now for the “recipe”… I put it in quotes because it is a shortcut recipe… I’m sure the blog snob would stick her pointy little nose in the air and disapprove… after all… it’s not from scratch… gasp… horrors!.. it’s from Pillsbury in a can!

I’m putting this in caps… it’s important… PLEASE READ MY TIPS before trying this.

TIPS

Definitely use 3 cans of cinnamon rolls. You will need that many to rise and “swell” together to form a ring that will stay together as one piece.

Cut the cinnamon rolls into 4 slices not 8… they need to be that wide so they don’t fall over during baking.


Pinch the two cinnamon rolls together so they are one piece and when laying them down in a ring also pinch the ends of each set of two together so all the rolls are connected at the middle.

Lay them on end not flat (see picture).


Bake them for 25 to 27 minutes instead of the baking times on the package.. they will require the additional time otherwise they won’t be fully baked.


Ice the cake quickly with the icing in the cinnamon roll can… work quickly and sprinkle the colored sugar quickly after acing otherwise the icing hardens and the sugars bounce off the icing.

Buy commercial colored sugars … they use a coarser sugar than the normal sugar you keep in the house. You can find them in the grocery store… I found mine at Walmart and they are inexpensive… mine were $1 (US) each.

I baked mine on a 10 inch round cardboard baking circle… otherwise the cake is difficult to slide onto a plate from a baking pan. I suggest you cover the cardboard with non-stick foil because the rolls will leak grease .. you will have to use paper towel to mop the excess grease from the middle of the ring. The foil will make clean up easier…. I didn’t do that and the grease definitely shows on the cardboard.. if I had covered it in foil, there wouldn’t be any stain.

This is definitely worth trying… a great brunch cake anytime of the year.






Recipe: Quick Mardi Gras King Cake

All you need:

3 cans Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls with Icing (8 rolls each)
1 (10 inch) round baking cardboard
Reynolds Wrap Non-stick Aluminum Foil
Colored sugars

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cover the baking cardboard in non-stick foil.

Cut each can of cinnamon rolls into 4 instead of 8.

Place them in a ring on the foil covered cardboard round.

Place on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 25 to 27 minutes or until done.

Spread the icing on top of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides.

Quickly sprinkle colored sugars on the cake, a different color in each of 3 or 4 sections.

Serve warm.

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Recipe: White Pizza with Pesto Ricotta Spinach and Tomato


I really like White Pizza … you can make it so many different ways… I decided to try making it with basil pesto, ricotta cheese, fresh baby spinach and tomato…. The result?... fabulous!

It really was the perfect blend of flavors .. all topped off with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese.

TIPS

After your done layering all the toppings.. do a quick spray of olive oil cooking oil spray … it will help the cheese melt perfectly.

If you use my recipe for pizza dough… make the dough .. let it rise… punch it down… roll it in a ball .. using a sharp knife, cut off 2/3 of the dough if you want to make one large 16 inch pizza. The leftover dough can be used to make a smaller 12 inch pizza or even calzones.

You can also store the dough in a Zip Loc storage bag in the refrigerator for use at another time. Spray the inside of the bag lightly with cooking oil spray. You can store it up to 5 days in the refrigerator. The bag may puff up, just let the air out.

I served this with a large antipasto salad… a perfect combination!







Recipe: White Pizza with Pesto Ricotta Spinach and Tomato

All you need:

Pizza Dough (homemade or store bought)
¼ cup basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
Fresh Baby Spinach, stems removed
Sliced tomato
Garlic powder
Grated Parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Olive oil cooking spray

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Lightly spray a pizza pan with olive oil cooking spray.



Roll out the pizza dough to fit into the pizza pan with about ¾ of an inch over hang. Roll the over hang over to form the crust.

Using a fork generously prick the pizza dough.





Spread the basil pesto over the pizza dough.








Spread the ricotta over the basil pesto.








Lay the spinach leaves scattered over the ricotta.









Lay tomato slices over the spinach leaves.








Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

Sprinkle with garlic powder.






Generously sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.

Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray.




Bake at 450 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until crust is light brown and cheese has melted and is slightly brown also.

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St. Patrick’s Day Menu Ideas


I went through the archives and found a few recipes you may want to consider for your menu on St. Patrick’s Day. I remember last year when I did some research on the subject of St. Patrick’s Day I found out that Corned Beef and Cabbage dinners are not traditional in Ireland… which was a surprise… the articles went on to talk about other foods more common in Ireland…. which was really okay with me.

Don’t get me wrong I like Corned Beef and Cabbage… just not a lot. I’m not crazy about boiled plain potatoes either unless they’re drowned in butter…

So this year I decided to post a few ideas that might be an alternative to the standard Corned Beef and Cabbage… and what’s to say the whole meal will have to be “Irish”. When my son was growing up … I would make a special dish … maybe a dessert to celebrate a holiday… it was my way of making a weeknight a little more special.

So here are some ideas for you…









Cream of Cabbage Soup- a delicious addition to any meal







Irish Soda Bread – wonderful with a meal… sliced and toasted with butter for breakfast … or even a snack… an easy fool-proof recipe






Shepherd’s Pie- always a great meal.. a perfect dish to go with that Irish Soda Bread







Reuben Sandwich - for those of you like me… who really like Corned Beef.. and don’t want the whole Corned Beef and Cabbage meal….maybe make it a sandwich (photo by Sargento..the cheese people.. best cheese you can get for a sandwich)







Fried Cabbage with Bacon and Onions – a whole lot tastier than just boiled cabbage.







Frosted Irish Cream Brownies - all I can say is .. they are to die for







Irish Cream Chocolate Mousse – so easy and so good!

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Recipe: Irish Soda Bread


I wanted to make an Irish Soda Bread so I went on a hunt for a good recipe… which surprisingly enough .. was far more involved and difficult than I expected. Let me start with most recipes consist of flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt… and from there it goes… some add raisins, nuts, caraway seeds, eggs, butter and/or dried fruits such as cranberries… the modifications seem endless…

So I started weeding through all recipes… most do add butter and raisins… so what is the traditional Irish Soda Bread?... seems everyone who claims Irish heritage has an opinion. I read hundreds of recipe reviews … and decided on one that had a unique ingredient… sour cream… there were several that used this… but my dilemma was … it didn’t have butter… I debated and debated .. and finally decided based on literally hundreds of reviews of this recipe… I would try it…

I can tell you it really is easy… and seems flawless… the bread surely lives up to the hundreds of 5 star reviews I found on Allrecipes… the recipe I used as a base was credited to “Penquin Lady”… I have no idea the reason for the odd nickname… but she has one mighty fine recipe for Irish Soda Bread.

TIPS

The only change I made was the amount of raisins and omitted the 1 tablespoon caraway seeds… the original recipe lists 3 cups of raisins.. based on many reviews… I cut the raisin amount.. most reviewers cut it to one cup… I started with one cup and decided when mixing it in… that 1 ½ cups would be a better amount.

The recipe uses 1 ¼ cups buttermilk… I keep a can of powdered buttermilk in my pantry… I used 5 tablespoons of dried buttermilk mixed into 1 ¼ cups water…. it worked perfectly… it’s a wise thing to keep in your pantry… unless you use lots of buttermilk… keeping buttermilk on hand can be a waste of money and it isn’t cheap.

I mixed the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl… then added the wet ingredients… a quick mix.. then I used my dough hook to finish the kneading. The dough is very very sticky… it resembles a cross between a sticky wet dough and a batter… so it’s easier to use the dough hook.



This recipe is scrumptious and easy… what could be better?!







Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

All you need:

4 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups raisins
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
1 cup sour cream

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 inch round cast iron skillet or 9 inch round cake pan (I used shortening).

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl or large measuring cup.

Add the buttermilk and sour cream. Mix well.

In a standing mixer bowl or large bowl, combine the flour (reserve 1 tablespoon of flour to sprinkle on top later) sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

Add the raisins to the flour mixture, mix well.

Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until the flour is moistened.

Using a dough hook knead the dough on a medium speed for about 2 minutes…. OR knead by hand about 14 strokes (I highly recommend the dough hook method). The dough will be extremely sticky, almost batter-like.

Turn the dough into the prepared pan.

Using a sharp knife cut a 4 inch long and ¾ inch deep cross into the center of the dough.

Sprinkle reserved flour on top (best and easiest method is to use a small strainer and tap flour on top)… I did not use the complete tablespoon… I discarded the rest of the flour I didn’t sprinkle.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 65 to 75 minutes… I baked mine for 65 minutes.

Let cool about 20 minutes in the pan.



Turn out onto a wire rack and cool.

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Recipe: Chicken Scallopini


I love Chicken Scallopini… well… let me re-phrase that… I haven’t met a Chicken Scallopini I didn’t love…. I’ve ordered it in dozens of places over the years.. all very similar yet not exactly the same… it’s one of those dishes that everyone has a slightly different take on it.

One of the more recent places I’ve had it is Romano’s Macaroni Grill… which is excellent.. truly a dish to savor. I searched the web for a copycat recipe and found several… but after trying it.. I decided they just weren’t what I wanted.

Before I go any further… I do have to point out that their dish has artichoke hearts in it.. while I don’t dislike them.. I’m not necessarily a fan either… so my recipe omitted them… certainly you can add them in if you prefer.

This recipe is not meant to copycat the Romano’s recipe.. I just used what I thought they did and altered it to my tastes… it was definitely a winner in my household… if Warren could have licked the plate he would have.

My recipe uses wine… a very small amount… 4 ounces… you can leave it out if you prefer not to use wine… it does add a flavor to the sauce but I believe it’s more of an undertone… there are certainly enough other flavorful ingredients to make an excellent sauce.

TIPS

I used a Sauvignon Blanc for the white wine.

I would have preferred to use pancetta but couldn’t find it… so I used an imported Prosciutto instead. It comes already thinly sliced in a 3 ounce package. You should be able to find it in your grocery store. I actually found mine at Walmart.

Make sure you drain the capers before adding them, do not add the caper liquid it comes in.

I served my dish with spaghetti, any pasta you want should be fine.

This recipe should serve 4.

This really is a very easy meal to make and I hope you try it.







Recipe: Chicken Scallopini

All you need:

For the sauce:

1 ½ cups chicken broth, divided
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 stick of butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

For the Chicken:

6-8 thin sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (16 oz) pkg fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 (3 oz) pkg thin sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
3 tablespoons capers

All you have to do:

In a small saucepan, heat to boiling the white wine, garlic powder, lemon juice and ½ cup of the chicken broth.

Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. (If you omit the wine, then reduce the heat and skip the simmer)

Add the heavy cream and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup of chicken broth and the cornstarch until the cornstarch is completely blended in.

Add the chicken broth-cornstarch mixture to the sauce and stir constantly until it thickens (about 1-2 minutes).

Add the butter, stirring constantly until completely melted and incorporated.

Lower heat to just where you can keep it warm.

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

Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour mixture.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat.

Sauté the chicken breasts in the butter-olive oil until lightly browned on each side and cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the skillet.

Add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and when melted, add the mushrooms, prosciutto and capers to the pan.

Cook over medium high heat until mushrooms are soft, stirring frequently.
Add the chicken back to the pan.

Add the sauce to the pan and mix well.

Lower the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.

Place chicken on a platter or serving dish. Ladle a generous amount of sauce over the chicken. Serve the rest of the sauce in a bowl on the side.

Serve with pasta.

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Recipe: Minestrone


This flavorful Italian soup is both hearty and healthy… what could be better? Minestrone recipes are all pretty similar… lots of veggies… sometimes with meat added… you can use vegetable stock or a meat (chicken or beef) stock or broth as a base…. a soup for everyone…

This soup cooks up in a jiffy.. so it’s definitely a weeknight meal… we made a meal out of it with some fresh bread.

TIPS

I used beef broth as a base… I found chicken broth to be too bland… but either will work.

I used frozen cut string beans and chopped spinach… you can use fresh… if you use fresh string beans, then add them when you add the beans so they cook well enough by serving time.

I used baby carrots that I sliced… they just look better in the soup.

I used a “quick’ cooking dried pasta from Ronzoni … they have long thin elbows that cook in 3 minutes… it worked perfectly with this soup.

This soup recipe makes about 8 servings.. there really isn’t a good way to cut it back… since you are using full cans of beans… unless you use a half can of each type of beans.. and save the remaining beans for another use.

I used red wine… a Cabernet Sauvignon .. this is an optional ingredient.. but in my opinion adds a lot to the soup.. it gives it a full bodied flavor…

Hearty and Healthy!






Recipe: Minestrone

All you need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 small zucchini, peeled and chopped
1 cup cut green beans
1 cup baby carrots, sliced
5 cups beef broth
2 cans (14.5 oz)Hunts Petite Cut Diced Tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans (the Hunts Tomato can) water
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup frozen spinach
½ cup red wine (optional)
2 cups dried pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese (to serve with the soup)

All you need to do:

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.

Add the onions, garlic, carrots and zucchini and cook, stirring frequently until onions are soft and translucent.

Add the beef broth, canned tomatoes, kidney beans, cannellini beans, water and spices. (Also add the green beans if using fresh green beans..if using frozen green beans add them later… see below)

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat.

Add the red wine and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the frozen green beans and spinach and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is cooked (use the cooking time on the pasta box).

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Recipe: Dirty Rice with Smoked Sausage


I was always intrigued by the name of this dish… Dirty Rice… I guess it’s the little kid in me… there was something innately appealing about a food called Dirty Rice. I decided to see what it was all about… so some investigation yielded numerous recipes… some of which I discounted from the beginning due to some ingredients I knew would never fly in my household…. but before I get into that… first some background.

Background

According to Wikipedia, Dirty Rice is a traditional Cajun dish made of rice and chicken livers or giblets… which give it a dark or “dirty” color…. onion, garlic, celery, green pepper and parsley round out the flavors. Dirty rice is often served as a side dish to salmon or pork.

So I searched for a recipe.. most were very similar.. and did indeed use chicken livers… I happen to love chicken livers, pate in particular… it’s an old family recipe… but in recent years one by one of us has given up eating it because it’s so unhealthy… it’s loaded with cholesterol … and I knew Warren won’t touch the stuff… so I looked for a recipe high in flavor and one without the liver. I found, what I thought sounded like a great recipe by the Neely’s that I decided try.

I did end up altering it a bit though. They used chicken stock, which I found to be rather bland… I decided beef stock or broth would be more flavorful. I also increased the amount of rice and some of the other ingredients, as well.

TIPS

This is a great weeknight meal.. it really can be made in 30 minutes or less. You can use Minute rice instead of long grain rice (long grain rice was what the Neely’s used) which will cut the cooking time down considerably. If you do use long grain rice, make it according to the package instructions, using beef stock or broth instead of water.

I made my Minute rice in the microwave while I cooked the other ingredients… which also helped move things along faster.

I decided to use a Hillshire Farms Smoked Beef Sausage. You can use a pork sausage instead… it’s up to you.

My recipe will make 4 generous portions. I served this with corn bread made with red and green pepper added.

This is a great dish for a Mardi Gras celebration… it’s low maintenance and delicious!







Recipe: Dirty Rice with Smoked Sausage

All you need:

3 cups Minute rice
4 cups beef broth or stock, divided
1 large and 1 small onion, finally chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 smoked beef sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

All you have to do:

Prepare rice according to package directions using beef broth or stock instead of water (if using Minute rice… you use equal parts rice and stock, so 3 cups of each for this recipe).

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.

Add the sliced sausage and brown lightly on both sides.

Add the celery, green pepper, onions and garlic.

Stir well to coat the veggies with the oil and cook over medium high heat until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup of beef stock and cayenne. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the cooked rice and parsley. Stir well.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Recipe: Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Cream


This quick and easy recipe for Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Cream uses commercial gnocchi purchased at the grocery store… you can find it in the pasta section with all the dried pastas… and a quick cream sauce made with prepared Basil Pesto. You can make your own Basil Pesto… using my recipe that I posted previously or buy a commercially prepared one… either way.. it’s quick, easy and delicious!

TIPS

I used part heavy cream and part non fat milk… you can use all milk… whole or reduced fat varieties.. but you will need to adjust the amount of flour you use so it thickens properly.

This sauce is wonderful on other forms of pasta and chicken.

I served this with a dinner salad and bread… this recipe will serve 3 people… remember the portions will be small.. potato gnocchi is very filling.

Try it… you’ll like it!







Recipe: Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Cream

All you need:

1 lb. box of potato gnocchi

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup fat free milk
½ cup prepared basil pesto (commercial or homemade)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

All you need to do:

Cook the potato gnocchi according to package directions.

To make the sauce:

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the flour and garlic powder…. stir well to incorporate the flour… cook for a minute stirring constantly.

Using a wire whisk, continuously stir as you add the cream and milk.

Stir until sauce thickens.

Add the basil pesto and stir well.

Add the Parmesan cheese and stir well.

Ladle sauce over cooked gnocchi and serve.

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Recipe: Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry


I love Asian food… and high on my list of Chinese dishes is Beef and Broccoli. When I was first married my husband made stir fry almost weekly... unfortunately his recipes are nowhere to be found.. so I had to recreate them from memory… and with a little help of recipes I did find on the net.. I finally settled on what I remembered he used to do..

TIPS

The best tip I can give you.. is prepare everything so all you have to do is cook it… the cooking goes so fast… it’s just easier to be prepared rather than try to chop while the meat cooks…

I used a package of broccoli florets that I found in the produce section of the grocery store… they were the perfect size and already cut… it saved me loads of time and was well worth the purchase.

I used a top sirloin steak that I cut diagonally across the grain into thin (about ½ inch thick) strips that were about 3-4 inches long.

To cut the onion.. cut it in half the long way.. lay it cut side down and then cut into thin wedges.

I served this with white rice and some Baked Crab Rangoon…. a perfect weeknight dinner.

I hope you try this!







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Recipe: Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

All you need:

About 1 lb. top sirloin steak, cut into strips (see tips)
3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
½ cup water, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3-4 cups of trimmed broccoli florets
2 small onions, cut into thin wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
Hot white rice

All you need to do:

In a medium bowl, mix 2 tablespoons water (take this out of the ½ cup water), 2 tablespoons cornstarch and the garlic powder… mix well. Add the meat and coat the meat… set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining water, brown sugar, soy sauce, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and ground ginger…. mix well… and set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.
Add the meat and cook for about 2 minutes…turning so all sides get browned.

Add the broccoli and onions and stir quickly to coat lightly with any oil in the pan.
Put the lid on the skillet or wok and cook for about 5 minutes… stirring periodically.

When the broccoli and onions are cooked but still somewhat crisp… add the soy sauce mixture to the skillet and stir well to coat… cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Serve over hot white rice.

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