Friday, December 20, 2013

Italian-Style Sausage and Bean Soup

I made this soup recently and loved it.  It's going into my winter dinner rotation.  I made a loaf of the quick and easy french bread to go with it - perfect meal.  If you want to do the same, make the bread dough first, and while it is rising and the oven is preheating, start the soup.  They should both be ready to eat at the same time.

adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen

16 oz (1 lb.) smoked sausage (or chicken sausage)
2 tsp. olive oil
2 (15 oz each) cans cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 oz) can Italian-style diced tomatoes
2 cups (16 oz) chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
grated Parmesan for garnish, optional

Slice the smoked sausage in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4-inch thick pieces.  In a large pot, heat olive oil over med-high heat; add sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add onions.  Continue to cook until onions are translucent; add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Add diced tomatoes, chicken broth, beans, carrots, celery, and spices.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan, if desired.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Smoked Almonds

I thought I'd share this post from back in April of 2010, in case you are looking for a homemade gift that is NOT sweet and sugary.  :)

If you buy whole almonds on sale, it can be a lot cheaper to make your own smoked version than to buy the expensive brand. You can even spice them up, if you desire. If you like a very salty nut, increase the salt to 1 tsp.

adapted from Homemade Smoked Almonds on

3 cups whole almonds
1 egg white
1 tsp. celery salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. chipotle (or regular) chili powder, optional

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat egg white until foamy. Whisk in celery salt, garlic powder, salt, liquid smoke, and chili powder, if desired. Stir in almonds until thoroughly coated. Spread on pan.

Roast in oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sweet Corn Pudding

You know how some Mexican restaurants will serve a little dollop of this delicious sweet corn...stuff...on the side of your plate?  I've always loved that stuff and wondered what it was, exactly.  Well, it's sweet corn pudding.  And it's delicious and not hard to make at all!  I made a batch to go as a side with our second Thanksgiving dinner (the one I made at home so we'd have leftovers - because what is Thanksgiving without leftovers?) and it was a hit.  My husband says it's the only way he enjoys eating corn.  Guess I'll keep it to myself that this recipe is a little rich and should only be served in little dollops like at the Mexican restaurants, and not in giant, American-sized portions.  Keeping that in mind, this recipe should make enough for 6 people.

Masa harina is a flour made from corn.  It is not the same thing as corn meal.  You can find it in the baking or Hispanic section of your grocery store.

from Allrecipes

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/3 cup masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. heavy cream (or milk can be used)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl beat together the softened butter, masa harina, and water until well mixed.  Using a food processor or blender, process the thawed corn, but leave it a little chunky.  Stir into the butter mixture.  Add cornmeal, sugar, cream, salt, and baking powder and stir to combine. Pour batter into an ungreased 8x8 baking pan.  Smooth batter and cover pan with foil.  Place pan into a 9x13 baking dish that is filled 1/3 of the way with water.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chili with Cornbread Waffles

This idea has been floating about the internet for a while and I finally decided to give it a try last month.  I loved it!  And my family gave it 2 thumbs up.  Essentially, instead of making cornbread muffins to go with your chili, you make cornbread waffles and serve them with the chili on top.  It's a very filling and satisfying meal.  In fact, I found I couldn't eat an entire waffle - instead I only used 2 quarter sections for my serving.

You can use your own chili recipe or the simple one I've shared below.


1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 (8 oz each) cans tomato sauce
1 (7 oz) can diced green chiles
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can black beans
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans
2-3 Tbsp. chili powder (to taste)
2 tsp. cumin
salt & pepper

Toppings, optional:
Shredded cheese
sour cream
green onions

In a large pot, brown the ground beef with the onions; drain.  Add all remaining ingredients except salt and pepper and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste, before serving.  Alternatively, after browning beef with onions, transfer to a slow cooker with remaining ingredients and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Can be topped with cheese, sour cream, and sliced green onions.

from TastesBetterFromScratch

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat waffle iron.  In a large bowl, combine corn meal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Add eggs, milk, and oil and stir just until smooth.  Pour batter into hot waffle iron and bake in batches.  Makes 4 7-inch waffles.  Spoon warm chili over waffles or waffle sections.  Garnish with toppings.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Raspberry and Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

I first shared this recipe in December of 2010.  They are something different, pretty, and definitely very holiday-ish. These are shortbread so they have a different consistency than other cookies, and the almond extract just takes it to another level. My family can't get enough of them. I suggest using seedless jam and you aren't pigeonholed with one flavor. In fact, the cookies pictured in the photo above are not made with raspberry jam, but boysenberry because that is what I had on hand. But raspberry is my favorite.

The best trick for making the holes to fill with jam, is not to use the traditional thumbprint, but a ChapStick tube!  Of course you want to make sure it is clean before you use it - I soaked mine in white vinegar for a few minutes then wiped it off just to be sure.

adapted from

1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups flour
1/2+ cup raspberry jam

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. milk

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add almond extract. Beat in flour, 1/2 cup at a time until dough comes together. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Using lid-end of clean ChapStick tube, press holes into balls, swirling slightly to widen. Fill holes with jam.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Let cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes. Transfer to wire rack.

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, almond extract, and milk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cookies.

(I got 22 cookies out of this recipe.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Honey Spice Cookies

 This recipe was originally posted about 2 years ago.  It's an old family favorite.  In fact, these cookies sealed the deal with my husband when we first started dating a thousand years ago.

These are my favorite holiday cookies. I got the recipe from my mom and I'm not sure where she got it from. They are spicy and chewy without being one of those molasses cookies. They look pretty so they are great for gift giving. I can eat at least 4 of these at once, which is saying a lot because I generally can't eat more than one or two of any other kind of cookie I make. And that's not because they don't taste good, I'm just not a sugar fanatic. I feel sick if I eat too much of it. But these...they are like potato chips - I can't eat just one.


2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together shortening and brown sugar. Beat in egg and honey. Add flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves until thoroughly mixed (dough will be stiff). Shape dough into 1-inch balls and dip one side in water, then in sugar. Place sugar side up, 2 inches apart on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes then remove to wire rack.

Makes a little over 2 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Easy Rocky Road Fudge

This is a gem of a recipe.  I found it in the December 2006 issue of Good Housekeeping.  I've made it almost every year since for Christmas.  My husband likes it because it's not as rich as some fudge recipes can be, and I like it because it uses simple ingredients and still tastes delicious.  It's so pretty looking that it makes a great gift for friends or neighbors. 


1 pkg. (12 oz. or 2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips*
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 Tbsp. butter
1 pkg. (10 oz) miniature marshmallows

Line an 8x8 or 9x9 pan (for thicker fudge - like pictured above) or a 9x13 pan (for thinner fudge) with aluminum foil, with edges extending over the sides a bit.  In a large saucepan, combine chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter, and butter.  Cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or just until ingredients are melted, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in marshmallows.  Pour into lined pan and spread evenly.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.

Pull fudge out of the pan by the foil edges and let sit 10 minutes before removing foil and cutting fudge.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

*If you do not have butterscotch chips, you can substitute with more semi-sweet or even milk chocolate chips.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie Stew and Southern Style Biscuits

During the month of November, the restaurant chain Sweet Tomatoes (in some areas known as Souplantation) has a special, limited-time soup called chicken pot pie stew.  It is my favorite of all their soups/stews.  It is so creamy and delicious eaten with a biscuit.  LOVE IT.  I've always wanted to make something similar at home and I've tried loads of recipes, but nothing quite hit the nail on the head for me.

To my surprise, I discovered the company shared the recipe on their website back in 2011!  However, the posting is all jacked up and difficult to read.  And once I got it deciphered, the number of steps and sheer amount of stew it made was way too much for a typical household.  I was able to condense the steps and reduce the amounts and came up with something doable.  It's by no means a quick and easy meal, but it's worth the work every once in a while when you get a craving.

As for the biscuits, I am very happy with the recipe found here.  However, I'm always interested in trying new recipes and methods and thought I'd give these "southern style" ones a try.  Anyone from the south who knows their way around a biscuit will tell you to only use White Lily brand flour.  Well, it's not available everywhere, and I discovered that you can get the same result by using a mix of all-purpose and cake flour.  So, if you are living somewhere other than Dixie, you can use this trick to get the same fluffy biscuits.

adapted from the Sweet Tomatoes recipe

4 large red potatoes, cubed
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
4-5 cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion (or 1/4 lb. pearl onions)
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

In a small pot, cover cubed potatoes with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, heat olive oil in a large pot over med-high heat; add chicken and brown on both sides.  Once chicken breasts are cooked through, remove them to a cutting board.  Reduce heat to medium and add carrots, celery, mushrooms, and onions to the pot.  Saute for about 10 minutes or until tender.  While veggies are cooking, chop chicken into 1 inch chunks and place in a medium-sized bowl.  When veggies are ready, remove them to the bowl with chicken.

In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat with garlic.  Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in chicken broth, pepper, and salt until smooth.  Heat to a low boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in milk and cream and simmer for another 3 minutes.  Add chicken and veggies, potatoes, peas, parsley, and thyme and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Season as needed with additional salt and pepper.  Serve with biscuits.

slightly adapted from Southern Buttermilk Biscuits on

1 1/4 cup cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt (or you can use table salt)
6 Tbsp. cold butter
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl or in the bowl of a food processor.  Cut the butter into chunks and cut into the flour with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal.  If using a food processor, just pulse a few times until this consistency is achieved.  Add the buttermilk and mix just until combined.  If it appears on the dry side, add a bit more buttermilk.  It should be very wet.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface.  Gently pat (do not roll with a rolling pin) the dough out until it's about 1/2" thick.  Fold the dough about 5 times, gently pressing the dough down to 1" thick, adding flour as needed.  Use a round (about 2.5" in diameter) cutter dipped in flour to cut out biscuits, but do not twist as you cut!  You should get 6 round biscuits.  (You can gently knead the scraps together to make 2 more biscuits but they won't be as good or look as pretty.) 

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet close together for soft sides or 1" apart for "crusty" sides.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a light golden brown on top and bottom.  Makes 6-8 biscuits.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chocolate Orange Cookies

You know those chocolate oranges that people give around the holidays?  Well, I'm excited to share the cookie version!  These were super popular at a recent church function, so they are tried and tested.  And they look so pretty with the sugar and orange zest.  I think these would be great for a cookie exchange - something different from the usual.

You'll probably need to zest two oranges, depending on their size.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. orange zest
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat butter, shortening, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and 1 Tbsp. orange zest until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended.  Mix in the chocolate chips and pecans, if using. 

In a small bowl, combine the 1 tsp. orange zest and 1/2 cup sugar; mix with your fingers.  Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls (I use a medium-sized cookie scoop for uniformity) and then roll in the orange sugar to coat.  Place on ungreased or parchment-lined cookies sheets, 2 inches apart, and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and press cookies gently with a  flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup (this creates the cracks and crinkles).  Let cookies cool on cookie sheets for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chili Cheese Tot Casserole

Okay.  I never, ever, ever in my life thought I would be endorsing canned chili, yet here I am.  Some nights you just want something quick, easy, and hot and this casserole delivers.  And it tastes good!  When my hubby reheated some leftovers at work, people were commenting on how good it smelled.  My daughter ate every last bite on her plate.

This recipe is adapted from one I found on LoveBakesGoodCakes.  If you are simply disgusted by the thought of using canned chili, you can make your own following the original recipe.  As for me and my house, we are okay with using canned chili a couple of times a year for the sake of saving time and energy.  Especially since, for me, making good homemade chili is a several hour affair.  And I looked at the ingredients list of the Hormel brand and it wasn't terrifying like I thought it would be.  Totally normal stuff!  Not a single ingredient you couldn't pronounce or wouldn't use otherwise.  And it's cheap.

adapted from LoveBakesGoodCakes

1 (32 oz) bag frozen tater tots
3 (15 oz, each) cans chili, with or without beans
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 green onions, sliced for garnish, optional
sour cream, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place tater tots in a 9x13 casserole dish and bake for 25 minutes.

While tots are baking, heat chili in a pot over the stove or in a microwave-safe bowl.  Spoon chili evenly over baked tots and sprinkle with cheese.  Return to oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is heated through.  Sprinkle servings with green onions and dollop with sour cream, if desired.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins

Yep, it's that time of year when all things pumpkin surface on the food blogs.  I don't mind a bit because I think of pumpkin as a comfort food.  These muffins are a great way to share that comfort with others.  They bake up pretty and are nice and moist.  I promise these will not disappoint!

adapted from RecipeGirl

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened (or you can sub shortening or coconut oil)
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or line a muffin tin.  In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar, butter, and molasses.  Add egg and pumpkin puree.  Beat in remaining dry ingredients, just until moist.  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes.  Makes 1 dozen.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chicken and Barley Soup

This is just a variation of the classic chicken noodle soup.  I wanted to try adding barley instead of noodles and I was pretty happy with the results.  The barley adds a great chewy texture and is very filling.  I just throw all the ingredients in a pot and let it simmer.  You could just as easily make it in a slow cooker, so I've added instructions for that as well.


2 large chicken breasts (skinless, on the bone or not - up to you)
3 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 small onion, diced
3 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

Stove top instructions:
Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour.  Remove chicken and shred, then return to pot.  Season with salt and pepper.

Slow cooker instructions:
Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper in a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8-9 hours.  Remove chicken and shred, then return to slow cooker to heat through.  Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I love a spicy cookie.  That's probably one of the reasons I love fall and winter food so much.  Not that it needs to be fall or winter to enjoy these cookies.  These are good any time. 

I've discovered a way to make them semi-healthy:  I make them with coconut oil.  Coconut oil is great for baking, though I don't use it in all of my recipes because the coconut flavor does linger.  However, in a recipe like this, with spices that mask the coconut flavor, it works great.  The cookies are nice and chewy and deliciously spicy.

adapted from

1 cup coconut oil*
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat together coconut oil and sugars until creamy.  Add vanilla and eggs and beat until smooth.  Add the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt and slowly add in the flour until combined.  Mix in oatmeal, raisins, and almonds (if using).

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or use a medium cookie scoop) onto ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until light and golden.  Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet before removing to wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 3 dozen.

* The coconut oil can be replaced with 1 cup butter or shortening or a combination of the two.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Creamy Corn Chowder

This recipe was posted back in January of 2011.  I found it on OurBestBites, one of my favorite food blogs.  Since posting, I have come up with a quicker way of getting this soup to the table, so I've altered the recipe a little - not the ingredients, just how it's put together.

A tip for cooking bacon: line a cookie sheet with heavy duty foil. Lay bacon on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees.  Check it after 12 minutes and continue baking until desired doneness. The result? Perfectly cooked bacon without all the mess (since you can just wrap up the grease in the foil and throw it out).

from Our Best Bites

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup flour
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups milk
2 chicken bouillon cubes or 2 tsp. chicken base
1/2 lb. bacon, crisp-cooked and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 can corn, drained, or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
dash of hot sauce or cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Add potatoes to a small pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until soft.  Drain.

While the potatoes are cooking, melt butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Stir in onions and cook until tender and translucent.  Add flour to make a roux and whisk it until combined - cook for one minute. Add  1 cup water and whisk until there are no lumps.   Add milk, chicken base, cooked potatoes, and garlic and simmer until thickened, stirring very frequently.  Add bacon and corn and heat through.  Add a dash of hot sauce or cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kalua Pulled Pork

I can't believe it's taken me this long to share this recipe.  My mother grew up in Hawaii and I spent most of my summers there as a child, visiting my grandparents.  I think the only Hawaiian food I love more than poi is Kalua pork.  I was raised on this stuff.  And anyone who marries into our family knows that several times a year, Kalua pork is the dish of choice for Sunday meals.  Because Kalua pork, while delicious, is also high in fat and sodium and is therefore something not to be eaten every day.  Especially if you are like me and can't control yourself and go and pick at the leftovers in the fridge.

This isn't an exact recipe.  Basically you use "enough" of this and "enough" of that.  But it's simple.  3 ingredients!

The best cut of meat for the job is Boston butt, a.k.a. a pork shoulder roast.  They aren't small cuts, so you are looking at something between 7 and 12 pounds.  You will also need liquid smoke.  It comes in a bottle like this:
You will most likely find it around the ketchup and barbecue sauces in your grocery store.  Usually you have a choice of hickory or mesquite.  You can use either, but I've been using mesquite lately.  For a smaller roast, you will use about half of the bottle.  For a larger roast, my dad isn't shy about using the entire 4 oz. bottle.

The last ingredient is coarse sea salt.  Coarse sea salt has a lower sodium content by volume than regular table salt, so it's not interchangeable.  However, if you are in a pinch, you can sub Kosher salt.


1 Boston butt or pork shoulder roast
liquid smoke
coarse sea salt or Kosher salt

Line a large baking dish with heavy duty aluminum foil (enough to cover entire roast).  Place roast inside and prick all surfaces of roast with a fork.  Rub liquid smoke (about 2 oz for a small roast, 4 oz for a large one) all over roast.  I usually cut away the meat from the center bone and rub some smoke into the cavity as well.  Place roast with fat side up, wrap roast in foil, and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove the roast from the refrigerator and let stand about 15-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees (yes you read that right, 500 degrees Fahrenheit).  Sprinkle sea salt over fat on top of roast to create a thin salt crust:

Wrap roast tightly in foil again and place in the oven at 500 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 300 degrees and cook 1 hour for each pound of pork (ex: 7 lb roast = 7 hours).  Remove from oven and let stand for 15-20 minutes before opening foil and shredding pork.  I like to add a little bit of the pan juices to the shredded pork for even more flavor.  Ono!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and Cilantro Avocado Dressing

Last October we had a weekend where we had two family weddings to attend in addition to our church's children's program.  It was crazy, but it was great.  My parents flew out for the occasion and my family was in charge of catering one of the wedding luncheons.  However, this post is about the other wedding luncheon since that is where I encountered something new to me.  The combination of raspberries and chipotle peppers! 

The (other) luncheon was catered by a local Mexican restaurant and was a do-it-yourself taco bar.  Genius!  One of the options was raspberry chipotle chicken.  At first I thought, "Huh?" but I tried it anyway and, oh my, was I hooked!  What a great combination of sweet and tangy and spicy!  And to top it off, they offered a delicious cilantro avocado dressing to drizzle over your tacos.  I loved how it cooled down your mouth from the spice of the chipotle peppers (although, let's be honest - it wasn't that spicy).  I filed it away as something to try at home.

Well, here we are a year later and I finally got around to it.  I investigated recipes for raspberry chipotle sauce and cilantro avocado dressing and never found exactly what I was looking for, but I came close enough.  I ended up adapting each recipe to fit what I wanted.

If you don't already know, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are most likely found in the Hispanic food section of your grocery store.  They come in a little can like this:

They pack some heat, but in this sauce I would say the heat is between mild and medium.  Even my 9-year-old daughter loved it and she's not a fan of spicy.  And if you strain the sauce like I do, you lose not only the raspberry seeds but any remaining bits of pepper that might ignite your tastebuds.  If you're wondering what to do with the remaining peppers and sauce, someone recommended throwing the leftover peppers into a food processor, separating them into tablespoonfuls on a plate, and then freezing them.  Once they are frozen, throw them all into a ziploc bag in the freezer.  Then you have perfect portions for flavoring soups or what not.

I've used the raspberry chipotle sauce two ways so far:  mixed with shredded chicken for tacos (like my first encounter) and used as a glaze over pork chops.  For the chicken, I prepared it with my usual taco seasoning first and then added a few dollops of sauce.  Prepare yourself - the chicken will turn a purple-y color from the raspberries.  If this bothers you, you could always just spoon a little sauce into your taco instead.  I also drizzled the cilantro avocado dressing in the tacos and it was delicious!

For the pork chops, I just sprinkled them with a little seasoned salt and sauteed them in a little olive oil until browned and cooked through.  Then I brushed on the sauce.  Divine!  Serve them with salad drizzled with cilantro avocado dressing and you've got your second meal:

I've also read that people like to pour it over a block of softened cream cheese and serve it with crackers for an appetizer.  There are so many possibilities with this sauce since it pairs well with chicken, beef, pork, and probably fish as well.

Whatever you do, just try it!  I'm pretty sure you'll love it too.

adapted from

2 (6 oz each) containers fresh raspberries
2 chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, chopped
4 tsp. adobo sauce from can
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or raspberry vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium heat, mashing the raspberries.  Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced by half (about 15 minutes), stirring occasionally.  Strain sauce through a fine mesh sieve, if desired.  Makes a little over 1 cup of strained sauce.  Can be refrigerated up to two weeks.

adapted from EatingWell

1 avocado
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2/3 cup milk or buttermilk
2 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  Chill until ready to serve.  Makes a little over 2 cups.  Can be refrigerated up to 5 days.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Eggs Benedict Casserole

I made this casserole to bring to a brunch our family attended earlier in the month.  I like it because it's different from the usual egg casseroles I make.  The Hollandaise sauce totally makes it.  The hardest part of this recipe is finding Canadian bacon!  I finally found some in the lunch meat section of my local grocery store, next to the pepperoni. 

The Hollandaise sauce would also be delicious over veggies like asparagus or broccoli.  Yum!


6 English muffins, cubed
10-12 oz. Canadian bacon, diced
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp. onion powder

Hollandaise sauce:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Spread the cubed English muffins and diced Canadian bacon evenly in a 9x13 baking dish.  In a large bowl, beat the 8 eggs, then whisk in the milk and onion powder.  Pour over the muffins and bacon.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove dish from refrigerator and let casserole come to room temp (about 20 minutes or so).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake, covered for 35 minutes.  Remove cover and bake another 15-20 minutes or until center is set.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

While casserole is baking, prepare the Hollandaise sauce:

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and let cool slightly.  Whisk in beaten eggs, then whisk in cream and lemon juice until smooth.  Heat the mixture in the microwave on HIGH for 1-2 minutes, beating after every 20 seconds until the mixture thickens.*  Stir in Dijon mustard.  Serve with casserole.

*I have a pathetic 700 watt microwave.  It took me more like 3 minutes to get my sauce to thicken.  Just keep this in mind if you also have a wimpy microwave.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Savory Pumpkin Dip

I made this on Sunday for a little pumpkin-themed potluck get together after church.  I found the recipe on Gimme Some Oven after searching Google for "savory pumpkin recipes" Saturday night.  I actually had all the ingredients on hand - woo hoo!  Well, except the roasted pecans.  I did have some raw almonds, so I roasted those instead.  The dip was popular, so I figured I ought to share it here.

slightly adapted from Gimme Some Oven

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese or neufchatel, softened
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped roasted almonds or pecans
4-6 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, pumpkin, and seasoned salt.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until serving.

Here's a photo of the dip from Sunday:

It looks great garnished with crumbled bacon and green onions.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Beef Stew

I posted this recipe back in November of 2010.  I think it's delicious and it's a great ending to a cool day. I've started adding frozen peas at the end for a pop of color and flavor.  Sometimes I add some pearl barley instead of thickening the stew with cornstarch.  If you want to add barley, stir in about 1/2 cup when you add the potatoes and other veggies.  For the best browning results, pat the beef dry with paper towels before adding it to the pot. 

adapted from Beef Stew VI on

2 pounds stew beef, cubed
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
salt and pepper
garlic powder
4 cups (32 oz.) beef broth
1 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 stalks celery, sliced
4 carrots, thickly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 (10.75 oz) can condensed tomato soup
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbsp. water

Brown beef in oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, sprinkling beef with salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder. Add beef broth, rosemary, parsley, and 1/2 tsp. pepper and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.

Add potatoes, celery, carrots, onion, and tomato soup. Return to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer again for 50 minutes. Stir in peas and cornstarch and water mixture to thicken and simmer for 5 minutes more before serving.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Olive Garden's Fettuccine Alfredo

Friends and family know that when I go to Olive Garden I always order the exact same thing:  the minestrone soup and the fettuccine alfredo.  Why?  Because they are both delicious and, until now, I couldn't duplicate them at home!  Lucky for me I discovered a copycat recipe for the fettuccine alfredo online that, for me, is close enough to the real thing that I haven't been to Olive Garden in over a year.  And it's easy!

Of course the recipe calls for heavy cream - that's why it's so delicious!  However, I have discovered a way to cut a little fat and not lose out on the thick and creamy texture of the sauce.  I mix fat-free half-&-half with a little cornstarch to replace the heavy cream.  It works!

If you have a husband like mine who doesn't consider "plain" pasta to be a "real" meal, add some sliced, grilled chicken or sauteed shrimp to round it out.

slightly adapted from TopSecretRecipes

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 cups heavy cream OR 2 cups fat-free half-&-half whisked w/ 1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup grated Parmesan + more for garnish
salt and pepper, to taste
12-16 oz. fettuccine pasta

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan over med-low heat.  Add garlic and cream or half-&-half mixture and bring to a simmer.  Whisk in cheese and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally - do not boil or sauce will separate!  Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Drain pasta and toss with sauce.  Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pre-Cooking and Freezing Ground Beef and Chicken

So I'm finally getting around to starting a new section of my blog:  Tips & Tricks.  This will kind of be like a "Cooking 101" class combined with posts about time and money savers in the kitchen.  You'll find the Tips & Tricks link at the top of the page, next to the Recipe Index.

Today I wanted to share something I picked up from my mother-in-law.  You know all those recipes that call for browned ground beef or cooked chicken?  How many times does that mean you have to defrost a pound of raw ground beef, then cook it up, or defrost some frozen chicken breasts, cook them, then shred or chop - all before you can get started on your recipe?  I did that for years.  Until my mother-in-law introduced me to a better way.  Pre-cooking large batches, THEN freezing!  And not only does this save you time by getting it all done at once, it saves you time with defrosting as well.  Cooked ground beef and chicken have a lot less water content than raw and defrosts in a fraction of the time.

This can also save you money - if you wait for ground beef or chicken to go on sale before purchasing as much as you can fit in your freezer and use within 6 months.  I have a teeny freezer, so I have to do this more often than I'd like, but it still saves me time in the kitchen so I keep doing it.  Here's how it works:

1.  Buy the ground beef or chicken when it goes on sale.  The last time I did this I bought 6 pounds of 95% lean ground beef for $2.77/lb (best price I can get in Phoenix).  When it comes to chicken, sometimes I can get bone-in split chicken breasts for as little as $0.88/lb. (but that is rare).  Most of the time I get boneless, skinless chicken breasts for about $1.67/lb.

2.  Cook it up.  I have a big wok-style pan that I use to brown the ground beef:

It can just barely hold the 6 pounds!  If you have to, do multiple batches.

It can take time and patience, but it WILL brown.  Once it does, drain it and let it cool.  You don't want to put hot beef in the freezer - ice crystals will form from the trapped steam and cause freezer burn. 

When it comes to chicken, I prefer to cook it in a slow cooker.  I find it tastes better than boiling, plus you can leave it for 4 hours and do something else.  If using bone-in chicken, I place the breasts skin side down after sprinkling them with salt and pepper:

I also add 1/2 cup of water.  I usually cook them on HIGH for 3-4 hours, because I usually stuff as many breasts in there as I can (unlike the above photo).  Basically, you cook 'em till they're done, like so:

 At this point, the meat just falls off the bone.  

I like to chop my chicken, but if you prefer to shred it, go for it.  If you want another shortcut, you can shred the chicken in a stand mixer.  I like to add about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of the broth back into the chopped chicken.  It adds flavor and keeps the chicken moist.  You can reserve the rest of the broth and put it in the fridge.  Once the fat solidifies at the top, you can scoop it off and then freeze the broth for future use.

3.  Bag it up.  I use quart-size Ziploc freezer bags to store my ground beef and chicken.  I've found that 2 1/2 cups of ground beef or chicken is roughly equal to 1 pound.  So, I divide up the 1 pound portions, squeeze out the air as best I can, then spread the bags flat for storing, like so:

You can label them if you want, but it's not hard to guess what's in there.  If you are worried about using it in time, you can certainly add the date it was cooked.  This can help if you end up doing another batch before using up what's left in the freezer. 

4.  Freeze it.  Here's what my teeny freezer looks like:

Believe it or not, there's more stuff behind what you can see.  I'm all about organization in there (not necessarily in the rest of my house...).  As you can see on the left, once something is frozen flat, you can stack it vertically!  It's a lot easier to pull things out when they are stored this way - less risk of dropping frozen food on your foot.  The ground beef wasn't frozen yet, so I set some already frozen bags down for the beef to rest on until it froze.  Then I could rearrange it vertically again.

Obviously there are other things in there besides the cooked chicken and beef, but we'll get to those in another post.  As I mentioned before, you want to use it up within 6 months.  

5.  Defrost it and use it Now that your ground beef and chicken are cooked, you have them ready whenever they are called for in a recipe.  Just defrost it in the microwave - I promise, it only takes a couple of minutes at most.  Sometimes I don't even bother defrosting it - I just plop the frozen ground beef in my spaghetti sauce and let the stove do the work.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mexican Casserole

Some recipes you can just tell will be good.  When I saw this one on, I knew it was going into rotation at our house.  This one-dish wonder was popular with the hubby and kiddo.  I served mine with a big ol' dollop of sour cream.  Just watch it on the Fritos - if you use the whole bag it will be too salty*.

slightly adapted from

1 lb. ground beef
1 packet (or 1/4 cup) taco seasoning
1 (15 oz) can refried beans
1 cup salsa (or 1 [10 oz] can Rotel, drained)
2 1/2 cups shredded Monterey or Colby Jack cheese, divided
1 (10.25 oz) bag original Fritos corn chips*
1 can sliced olives
1 tomato, chopped
2 green onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and drain.  Add taco seasoning and 3/4 cup water; simmer until thickened.

In a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl, combine the refried beans, salsa or Rotel, and 1 cup of cheese.  Cover and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes; stir.  Continue to microwave until cheese melts and mixture is smooth.

In a 2-quart or 8x8 casserole dish, sprinkle enough Fritos to cover the bottom of the dish.  Spread bean mixture, then beef evenly over chips.  Sprinkle about 1 cup of Fritos over beef, followed by the rest of the cheese and olives.  Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is heated through.  Sprinkle with tomatoes and green onions before serving.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Peach Berry Salad with Lemon-Mint Syrup

In case you haven't noticed, I've been on a bit of a hiatus.  My daughter and I spent a month and a half in Georgia visiting my family and planning a family reunion.  Once we got back, I was busy packing for said reunion.  Then we spent a week in Utah at the reunion and had a great time.  When we got back, school started for my daughter and that meant, for me, the return of Cub Scouts.

I was starting to get back in the swing of things when my grandfather passed away.  Back to Utah I went for his funeral.  It was a lovely service and I will miss my Papa.  Luckily, I'd gone to visit him during the reunion and had one last special visit with him.  It was a good day.

Anyway, you get a sense of why I've been neglecting this poor little blog.  I feel a little remorseful since summertime is when I get the best light for my photos (meaning I don't have to have a meal ready before 4 pm to get a decent photo of it).  Oh well.

A couple days ago, a friend on Facebook asked for a fruit recipe.  She was invited to a potluck dinner and was assigned to bring a fruit dish.  I had noticed that peaches and berries were on sale at Sprouts and so I suggested a recipe I'd seen on Pinterest and had always wanted to try.  I have no idea if she made it or not, but I was inspired to go ahead and try it myself.  LOVE IT!  I know we're winding down on the summer fruit, but if you can get your hands on some peaches and berries and a handfull of mint, take a moment and make this delicious "salad" from Once Upon a Chef.

from Once Upon a Chef

4 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced
1 cup (1/2 pint) fresh blueberries
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup (1/2 pint) fresh raspberries
1 cup (1/2 pint) fresh blackberries

Combine peaches, blueberries, lemon juice, sugar, and mint in a bowl and toss gently.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill until serving (up to 6 hours).  Just before serving, gently toss in raspberries and blackberries.  Taste and add more sugar, if necessary.  Garnish with a spring of mint.

I think this Lemon-Mint syrup would be great with a salad made up of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.  Just mix the lemon juice, sugar, and mint until the sugar dissolves, then toss with the melon before serving.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie Biscuits

I happen to be one of those people who appreciate comfort food.  Chicken pot pie is right up there with hugs and snuggly blankets.  However, I don't always want to make a full-on pie and this version goes together pretty quickly.  My daughter ate hers in less than 3 minutes - it was like watching a Hoover commercial.

The biscuit recipe comes from my friend Michelle.  She made them for us over a month or so ago and I had to have the recipe.  Thankfully, she was willing to share!  You can cut them out with a biscuit cutter, but I find it's easiest/fastest to pat the dough into a square or rectangle and just cut the biscuits with a pizza cutter.  They won't be round, but they'll bake and taste the same - tender and delicious.

adapted from Chicken Pot Pie IX on

2 1/2 cups diced, cooked chicken
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup diced onions
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. celery seed
salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup frozen peas

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until carrots begin to soften.  Stir in flour and cook for one minute.  Slowly stir in chicken broth, milk, and celery seed.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and carrots are tender.  Stir in chicken and peas and cook until heated through, about 3-5 minutes.

courtesy of Michelle H.

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cold!
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together first 5 ingredients.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.*  Stir in beaten egg and milk; dough will be sticky.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, adding more flour as needed.  Pat dough out to 3/4" thickness and cut as desired.  Place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until fluffy and lightly golden.  Makes 8-9 biscuits.


Cut biscuits in half and place bottom half on plate.  Spoon pot pie filling over biscuit and top with remaining half.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Chinese Cabbage Salad

I've already shared a family recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad.  This one is a little different.  It uses Napa cabbage instead of lettuce and has a great crunchy topping made up of ramen noodles, almonds, and sesame seeds.  In case you were wondering, Napa cabbage (or Chinese cabbage) looks like this:

 image source

Most grocery stores carry it, but if you can't find it for some reason, you can substitute a head of green cabbage.

There are lots of variations of this cabbage salad.  Some include peanuts or peanut oil, others don't add chicken.  This is my favorite version so far and it comes from Your Homebased Mom.  I've only adapted it slightly.  Leigh Anne recommends using the leftovers of a rotisserie chicken (good flavor that way), but I had some diced cooked chicken already on hand.

slightly adapted from Your Homebased Mom

1 pkg. chicken flavored ramen noodles
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 large head Napa cabbage (about 2 1/2 lbs.), chopped
6 green onions, chopped
2 1/2 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 can mandarin oranges, drained; optional

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. sesame oil

Break up the ramen noodles into small pieces, reserve the flavor packet.  Melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet; add the noodles, almonds, and sesame seeds and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown.  Watch it carefully so the sesame seeds don't burn.  Stir in the flavor packet and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine chopped cabbage, green onions, mandarin oranges (if using) and chicken.  In a jar or resealable container, add dressing ingredients and shake to combine.  Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with crunchy topping.

Alternately, you can serve the dressing on the side.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Easy Chocolate Toffee Cookies

I first shared this recipe back in October of 2011.  I love how quick they are to make and the fact that there's only 4 ingredients. They stay soft a long time and the bits of toffee studded throughout add a great crunch.

slightly adapted from Chocolate Toffee Cookies on

1 box devil's food cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 (8 oz) package Heath Bits o' Toffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, oil, and eggs. Fold in toffee bits. Drop by tablespoonfuls (I used a medium cookie scoop) two inches apart on cookies sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until cookies are firm. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet before removing to a wire rack.  Makes about 26 cookies.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Black Bottom Strawberries and Cream Pie

What could be better than strawberries and chocolate?  How about strawberries and chocolate AND a big, fluffy pile of creamy, dreamy deliciousness?  Dude, this pie is so easy but it looks like a million bucks and tastes like it too.  Do yourself a favor and make it NOW.

adapted from Butter With a Side of Bread

1 Oreo cookie crust (or graham cracker crust)

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened (I use neufchatel)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip, thawed

Chocolate layer:
2 Tbsp. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
dash of salt
1/3 cup milk

2 cups sliced or quartered fresh strawberries
2 Tbsp. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. shortening
Combine 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, 2 Tbsp. sugar, cocoa, and dash of salt in a small, heavy saucepan; gradually add 1/3 cup milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook 2 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in 2 Tbsp. chocolate chips; bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Spread chocolate mixture into bottom of prepared crust.  Cool.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add sour cream and mix well.  Fold in Cool Whip.  Spread evenly over chocolate layer (pie will be very full).  Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Before serving, arrange strawberries on top.  Microwave 2 Tbsp. chocolate chips with shortening in a ziploc bag on HIGH for 20 seconds.  Knead the melted chocolate and shortening until combined.  Snip corner off bag and drizzle chocolate over strawberries.