Friday, August 31, 2012

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Another great dish I never would have known about if not for Pinterest!  This comes from the blog Buns in My Oven and her photos are definitely better than mine, but I'm doing the best I can with a beat up point-and-shoot.  This is a great side for chicken or pork and even my picky daughter ate this all up - mostly because you don't taste the zucchini.  I told her it was in there to make the rice look pretty.  This is a fresh alternative to the sodium-laden Rice-a-Roni.

from Buns in My Oven

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup long-grain white rice (not instant)
2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. butter
1 med or 2 small zucchini, grated
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
milk, as needed

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over med-high heat.  Add the rice and stir to coat.  Toast the rice, stirring often, just until it starts to turn golden.  Slowly pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, turn heat to low and cover.  Cook for 15-20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat and add butter, zucchini, cheese, and garlic powder.  Stir until well incorporated.  Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  Stir again and add salt and pepper to taste and a splash of milk for a smoother texture, if needed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jell-o Popcorn

Yeah, the name sounds a little weird, but this stuff is good.  You can make it any flavor you want (I prefer cherry) and it makes a lot.  We got the recipe out of my old elementary school's fundraiser cookbook and my siblings and I inhaled the stuff.

As you will see from the ingredients, this is not health food.  And your dentist would absolutely frown upon it.  But sometimes a body needs the odd combination of sweet, sticky, crunchy, fruity bliss.  This is seriously sticky stuff.  By the next day it is sure to remove any loose fillings in your teeth.  If you are looking for something less sticky, try this recipe from Our Best Bites.

And one last note: be sure to use yellow popcorn kernels, not white.  White popcorn kernels are smaller and pop smaller and are, in my humble opinion, an absolute waste of money.  Always buy yellow.


1 cup un-popped yellow popcorn kernels
1 small box Jell-o (any flavor)
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup

Pop popcorn in an air popper; remove any unpopped kernels (we're trying to rot your teeth, not break them) and place popcorn in a very large bowl.  Combine sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan; heat to almost boiling over med-low heat, stirring frequently.  Whisk in dry Jell-o and boil for 1 minute.  Quickly pour syrup mixture over popcorn and stir to coat using a wooden spoon (and oven mitts for safety).  Let cool until warm before eating!

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Year's Day Bean Soup

I know this is an odd time of year to be sharing a recipe for something with "New Year's Day" in it's title, but I love this soup and make it year-round.  The name comes from the idea that you will make this soup with the leftover ham bone from your Christmas dinner.  Certainly that is a good plan, but what about the rest of the year when you just feel like some ham and bean soup?  Well, I simply buy a ham steak and dice it up.  Or you can get some ham hocks (which will add more flavor, but are more work to remove the meat).

My grandmother got this recipe from a co-worker a few decades back when you had to buy individual bags of each type of bean and then mix them together.  Now you can just purchase a bag of fifteen bean soup.

If you've never cooked with dried beans before, there are a few things you should know.  Most dried beans (legumes) need to soak before cooking to soften and plump them, but more importantly, soaking dissolves some of the sugars that can cause...negative gastrointestinal effects.  We all know the song about the "musical fruit," right?  Well soaking helps alleviate some of that. 

There are two methods for soaking: the long method and the short method.  The long method involves soaking the beans in a bowl, covered with cold water, for 8-24 hours (or overnight).  I recommend the long method because I think it's more effective and I've found the beans don't seem to get as mushy.  But if you forget to soak the beans the night before, all is not lost.  The short method is as follows (and quoted directly from my Betty Crocker Cookbook):  Place dried legumes in a large saucepan; add enough water to cover them.  Heat to boiling; boil 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for at least 1 hour before cooking.  Drain, then cook in clean, cold water.


1 (20 oz) bag fifteen bean soup
1 - 1 1/2 lbs. ham bone, ham hocks, or ham steak (diced)
1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large can (29 oz) crushed tomatoes (pulse in a blender if you don't like chunks of tomato)
1 tsp. chili powder
2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. minced garlic

Soak beans (see above); drain and add 2 quarts (8 cups) water and ham bone, hocks, or diced ham steak.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Add remaining ingredients and cook for another 30 minutes.  If using a ham bone or hocks, remove from pot, shred meat and return meat to pot.  Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

I've tried several different recipes for peanut butter cookies but always come back to our family recipe.  I like my cookies soft and chewy and this recipe delivers time after time.  I have noticed in the last few years that the cookies bake up flatter than they used to and I suspect it's because there's been some change in the quality of the peanut butter available.  Who knows?  All I know is this recipe works great with crunchy and smooth alike.  Sometimes I roll the dough balls in sugar before flattening, but that's a tedious step that isn't necessary, just pretty.

This recipe makes a little over 4 dozen cookies, but is easily halved if you want to make less.


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.  Add the eggs, peanut butter, salt, baking soda, and vanilla until smooth.  Slowly mix in the flour until combined.  Roll dough into balls (about the size of a walnut) and place on ungreased or lined cookie sheet.  Press with a fork to make a criss-cross shape.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Drop Biscuits

I used to keep a box of Bisquick in my pantry, but since I've started making pancakes from scratch, I find I don't need it anymore.  Except when I want to make quick drop biscuits to go with soup!  Luckily the internet has once again saved me and I found a recipe that was pretty close to what I wanted. 

These are quick.  And easy.  No kneading or cutting!  And now I prefer them to the ol' Bisquick.

adapted from E-Z Drop Biscuits on

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet (or line with parchment).  In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the melted butter and milk and stir until moist.  Drop by rounded tablespoons (or use a large cookie scoop).  Bake for 8-12 minutes or until lightly golden.  Serve warm.  Makes about 1 dozen.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Danish Goulash

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and thought it sounded interesting.  Goulash is typically a Hungarian dish (see my recipe here), but this one is more like your typical beef stew.  For more of the story, visit the blog  It's delicious served over mashed potatoes and even my 8-year-old loves it.

slightly adapted from

2 lbs. stew meat, cubed
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pkg. onion soup mix
3-4 c. beef broth
4 carrots, peeled and cut (or 2 cups baby carrots)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper
mashed potatoes

Heat oil in skillet over med-high heat; brown meat on all sides (I usually do this in two batches for optimal browning).  Remove meat from skillet and set aside.  Add onions to skillet and reduce heat to medium.  Cook onions until translucent.  Transfer beef and onions to a large pot and add beef broth and onion soup mix; bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1-2 hours (the longer, the more tender the beef).  Add the carrots and simmer another 30 minutes.  Just before serving, mix cornstarch and milk in a small container until smooth.  Slowly add cornstarch mixture to beef, stirring constantly to avoid any lumps.  Once thickened, add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over hot mashed potatoes.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Country Griddle Cakes With Blueberry Compote

Don't you hate it when a restaurant stops serving one of your favorite dishes?  That's what happened to me when IHOP stopped serving their Country Griddle Cakes.  I was so mad and I still don't understand what their problem is.  It took me years to find a decent copycat recipe and this one is the closest to the real thing.  It comes out of a cookbook that is made up entirely of copycat recipes of popular restaurant dishes.  If you want to purchase the book, you'll find it here

The recipe calls for instant Cream of Wheat.  I take this to mean the 1 minute kind that comes in a cream colored box:
I've had better success with this variety over the 2 1/2 minute kind in the red box.

from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup instant Cream of Wheat (dry)
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat griddle over medium heat (325 degrees).  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients, then add the egg, oil, and buttermilk.  Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth (do not over mix).  Pour the batter by 1/3 cup-fuls onto the hot griddle and cook for 1-3 minutes on each side or until browned.

adapted from

2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice (fresh is best)

Combine 1 cup of blueberries, water, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes.  Add the remaining blueberries and cook for 8 minutes more (reducing heat if mixture thickens too quickly).  Serve warm. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cheddar Garlic Mashed Potatoes

These mashed potatoes are very creamy and have great flavor on their own, which makes them a great side dish for main dishes that may not have gravy to carry over.  I like them with Barbecue Meatballs or Slow Cooker Meatloaf.  For the best flavor, use sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese.

adapted slightly from Ben's Garlic Cheddar Mashed Potatoes on

4-5 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2/3 cup milk
1 cup shredded sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
sour cream, to taste
chopped parsley or chives, optional

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Drain.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute (do not brown the garlic).  Add milk and bring to almost boiling.  Remove from heat and whisk in cheddar until melted.

Combine hot potatoes and cheese mixture in a large bowl with salt and pepper.  Beat or mash, adding sour cream until desired consistency.  Garnish with chopped parsley or chives, if desired.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Banana Pudding Pie

I actually made this for our Easter dessert, so it's taken me quite some time to post this recipe!  My mother emailed it to me a while back thinking I'd be interested (naturally).  She got it from a family member over 20 years ago.  Some recipes stand the test of time.

Since this calls for fresh bananas it's best served the day it's made.  I took this photo the day after Easter and you can see that the bananas were already starting to darken.  It will still taste delicious but won't be as presentable after a day or two.  And the recipe makes a lot (it fills a 9x13 baking dish to the brim) so I'd save it for when you have to feed a crowd.


1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter*
5-10 bananas (depending on size)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 (16 oz - the large size) tub Cool Whip
1 large or 2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding
3 cups cold milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, cut the butter and flour together until crumbly; press into 9x13 baking pan.  Bake for 15 minutes; cool completely.

Slice the bananas evenly onto crust.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.  Fold in half of the Cool Whip and spread over the bananas.  Chill for 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk pudding into milk, stirring constantly until thick (about 2 minutes).  Spread evenly over cream cheese mixture.  Top with remaining Cool Whip and refrigerate until read to serve.

*If using unsalted butter, I recommend adding just a dash of salt.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Orange Dream Salad

I discovered this gem of a recipe in a family cookbook.  It's now my favorite Jell-o salad to make for holidays and get-togethers.  The flavor is creamy and mellow; the combination of orange and vanilla reminiscent of a Dreamsicle.

I've made this with both name brand and store brand puddings and gelatin and I strongly recommend sticking with name brand.  The flavor and texture really is superior.


1 small box cook & serve vanilla pudding
1 small box cook & serve tapioca pudding
1 small box orange Jell-o
2 large cans Mandarin oranges, drained
1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip, thawed

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add the puddings and Jell-o and cook for 3 minutes stirring continuously.  Pour mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until chilled.  Fold in Cool Whip and oranges.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Taco Pasta

Sorry it's been so long since my last post.  My daughter and I went out of town for 6 weeks to visit my family this summer and I'm just now getting back into the swing of things.

We ate a lot of chicken this week and I was hankering for something with ground beef.  Maybe Mexican?  But I didn't have any flour tortillas or taco shells on hand (or lettuce for that matter) so tacos and burritos were out.  I found a beef enchilada recipe I want to try but didn't have 3 of the necessary ingredients, so that was off the table.  Finally I thought of chili mac and figured there must be an easy Mexican-flavored twist to it.  So I Googled "taco pasta" and found a couple of recipes that sounded close to what I wanted.  I've sort of combined two of them here.

The nice thing about this recipe is you can fix it (well, most of it) and walk away.  It was very popular at dinner tonight, getting two thumbs up from everybody.  And I have to think this would be a great freezer meal!


1 lb. ground beef
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (7 oz.) can diced green chiles
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 pkg. (or 1/4 cup) taco seasoning
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
16 oz. uncooked mini pasta shells
shredded Mexican cheese blend
sour cream

In a large skillet, brown ground beef with onions; drain and let cool a little.  Combine beef and onion mixture, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, green chiles, beans, taco seasoning, and garlic in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Cook pasta according to package directions; rinse and drain.  Stir pasta into beef mixture and serve with cheese and sour cream.