Dec 30, 2010

Ropa Vieja

GUEST BLOGGER: Charlotte (The original recipe comes from Cooking Light [January 2008]; Charlotte's comments are in italics)

This Cuban stew is made by braising beef until it can be shredded--thus the name (translated as "old clothes"). Serve with tortillas and pass the hot sauce on the side for those who like it fiery (Cholula goes perfectly with this dish!!!). Because the meat is shredded, it's also suitable for tacos and burritos.

I enjoy it over Cal Rose rice (a short grain rice available at most grocery stores) and black beans, topped with tomatoes, avocados, and chopped cilantro. Hold the cheese and sour cream. Although we tend to put cheese and sour cream on all Hispanic food, this tastes much better without.

I usually double the recipe then divide and freeze the leftovers. When I double the recipe, I don’t double the peppers and onions because the amount called for can be overwhelming for the dish. When I make a single recipe I double the spices, and when I make a double recipe I quadruple the spices (just my preference).


Cooking spray
2 (1-pound) top sirloin steaks, trimmed (or flank steak or something similar)
3 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
2 cups red bell pepper strips (about 2 peppers)
2 cups green bell pepper strips (about 2 peppers)
4 garlic cloves, minced
(I chop everything the night before and toss it in a large bowl)
6 tablespoons thinly sliced pitted green olives (I use Spanish olives, pimento and all, and like to add more.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon no-salt-added tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat a large Dutch oven (I use a heavy pot.) over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 steak to pan; cook 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove steak from pan. Repeat procedure with cooking spray and remaining steak.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic to pan; cook 7 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in olives and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper); cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in vinegar, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook for 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in broth, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Add steaks; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 1 1/2 hours or until steaks are very tender. Discard bay leaves. (Make sure the liquid is simmering and not boiling during the 1 ½ hours. This gives you a clear broth rather than a cloudy broth – it has to do with the fat in the dish breaking down or something.)

Remove steaks from pan; shred with two forks. Stir shredded beef and cilantro into pan. Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup)

Dec 27, 2010

Mint M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

I realize that many people are probably still coming down from the massive sugar high that is the Christmas holiday, but I wanted to try this recipe while mint M&Ms are still available in the grocery stores. I don't know if it's different elsewhere, but around here, the mint variety are only available around Christmas time. In any case, these cookies are very tasty. They are also delicious if you prefer to use regular M&Ms instead of the mint variety. Or if you are looking for another M&M chocolate chip cookie recipe, here is another I recommend. By the way, this mint M&M cookie recipe was passed along to me by my friend Becky Watts Dean.

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 Package Mint M&Ms

Cream brown sugar, white sugar, and butter. Then add eggs and vanilla. Combine with flour, baking soda, and salt. Once the dough is mixed together, stir in chocolate chips. Scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes. Take cookies out of oven and press Mint M&Ms (about 4-5 per cookie) into the top of each cookie. Then return the cookies to the oven and bake until golden brown, another 2-4 minutes. Leave the cookies on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes after baking before removing them to a cooling rack.

Pineapple Cheese Dip

My sister Amy brought this dip to our family's Christmas Day brunch this year, and I really liked it.

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
Chopped pecans

Mix the first three ingredients together in a small serving bowl. Garnish with chopped pecans. Serve with crackers.

Beet Chips

And now for something completely different. An easy and healthy snack. Beet chips. Like potato chips but with beets instead of potatoes, and baked instead of fried. As mentioned in a previous post, I've discovered as an adult that I do in fact like beets. And this is a different way to eat them. The idea for this came from a chef at a local restaurant called Communal. I don't think they serve this snack at the restaurant, but I did find the recipe on their blog. According to the blog, "All you do is peel some raw beets and slice them as thin as possible. You really need a mandoline for this. Then place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet and sprinkle some sea salt on top. Bake them at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. That’s it!" I tried these today, and although the chips aren't as crispy or as addictive as potato chips, they were a nice change of pace for a snack. Plus I really like the color. I'm going to try another batch tomorrow and maybe brush the beet slices with a little balsamic vinegar before I bake them and see how that works out. I'll let you know how that experiment goes.

Dec 19, 2010

Gingerbread Men

Here is the traditional Clark family recipe for gingerbread men. I have to confess that I've probably never made these gingerbread men from start to finish. I'm basically too lazy to make the dough, cut out the cookies, and then frost them. Especially the frosting part. But I have made the dough for my mom, who then likes to take on such tasks. It's to my shame, I know. However, I have eaten more than my share of these cookies over the years. So I can attest to their deliciousness! By the way, in our family, we like thin and crispy cutout cookies (the theory may be that if they are thinner, you can eat more of them :-)), so I don't know what would happen if you did less rolling out and tried to make these into the thick cookies that some people like. If anyone wants to give that a try, let me know how it turns out.

2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup light molasses
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon hot water
1 teaspoon vinegar

Cream shortning and sugar until fluffy. Add molasses and egg, beating until smooth. Mix in dry ingredients, along with water and vinegar. Blend thoroughly. Cover dough and chill. Roll out dough until 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until browned. Makes 1 dozen men.

Dec 18, 2010

Green Enchiladas

This enchilada recipe comes from my friend Lyndsee. She brought this dish to our office Christmas party this year, to rave reviews, I might add.

1 4-ounce can green chilies
2 packages cream cheese
1.5 pounds chicken, cooked and diced (I used at least 2 pounds or more)
2 small cans green enchilada sauce
6 to 8 flour tortillas (however many you need to use up the filling)
Mild cheddar cheese, grated

Cook the cream cheese, chicken, and green chilies over medium-low heat until the cream cheese is melted and the mixture is well combined. Spread about 1/3 of the sauce evenly in the bottom of an 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Roll up however much filling you want inside each tortilla and place in pan. Pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted. Then turn the oven on to broil for a few minutes to get the cheese all bubbly.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

I've had this recipe in my folder for a long time and hadn't gotten around to trying it until this past week. It's a keeper. This cake serves a bigger group, and the recipe is as easy as can be to make. The chocolate chips (baked into the cake) and the chocolate frosting give this cake a moist richness, but the texture is still delicate.

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1-inch baking sheet. Blend water, butter, cocoa, cinnamon (optional), vegetable oil, vanilla, and baking soda in large bowl. Whisk in sugar, flour, and salt, then buttermilk and eggs. Spread batter in prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle batter with semisweet chocolate chips. Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cake cool on a wire rack.

Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1 pound (about 4 cups) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/3 cup whole milk I used cream and a little bit of water)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Melt butter in medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Whisk in powdered sugar, milk, cocoa, and vanilla. Mix well. then spread on cooled cake, and top with chopped nuts, if desired.

Dec 17, 2010

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Maple Glaze

This simple and yummy recipe is adapted slightly from America's Test Kitchen's Family Cookbook. I had a pork tenderloin tonight that I needed to use, so I thought I'd try something new. The seasoning and sauce combine to create a flavor that is slightly salty and slightly sweet.

1 pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees and adjust the rack to the lower-middle position. Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a twelve-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the tenderloin on all sides, about ten minutes, reducing the heat if the fat begins to smoke. Transfer the tenderloin to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Then add the glaze (see below). Roast in the oven until the center of the pork tenderloin registers 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 to 15 minutes, turning the tenderloin over halfway through the cooking time. Transfer the tenderloin to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees before slicing and serving, about 10 minutes.

Maple Glaze
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
a pinch of cayenne pepper, if desired (I don't)

After browning the pork, pour off the fat left in the skillet. Add all of the ingredients in the pan, scrape up any brown bits, and simmer until slightly thickened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove the glaze from the skillet and pour over the tenderloin prior to roasting.

Dec 11, 2010

Slow-Cooked Yellow Squash

This recipe comes from Everyday Food. They say that "Long cooking in a covered pot concentrates the sweet, nutty flavor of squash. If the vegetable begins to brown as it cooks, lover the heat and add a splash of water."

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 yellow squash (8 ounces each), thinly sliced
coarse salt and ground pepper

In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-low. Add onion, squash, and 2 tablespoons water. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, 30 to 35 minutes. Serves 4.

Rice Krispie Treats

I know, I know. But I do like them. :)

1/4 cup butter
1 10-ounce package miniature marshmallows (or 40 regular marshmallows)
1/4 cup peanut butter (optional)
6 cups Rice Krispies

Melt butter in large deep pan over medium-low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Blend in peanut butter, if using. Remove pan from heat, add Rice Krisipies, and stir until they are well-coated. Using buttered spatula, press mixture into buttered 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan. Cut when cool.

Nov 19, 2010

Updated: Giving Homemade Food for Christmas

Christmas is around the corner, and finding just the right gift for a friend, neighbor, or coworker isn’t always an easy task. So I thought I’d share a few Christmas gift ideas in the event that you’d like to give a gift of homemade food this year, which I think many people appreciate. And given the state of our economy right now, if you’re like me, you may be looking for ways to show that you care without spending a lot of money.

The items below can all be made from recipes on my blog. I’ve chosen these because they are all delicious and can be made with relative ease. Also, once you’ve made one of these items, all you need to do to make it festive is to wrap it in a cellophane bag and tie it with a beautiful holiday ribbon. You can also include a copy of the recipes along with a personal card.

Candy/Snacks
Cinnamon-Roasted Almonds
Caramel Popcorn
Uncle Antone and Aunt Gretta’s Easy Candy Popcorn

White Chocolate Popcorn
Lion House Taffy

Cookies/Cookie Dough
French Swiss Cookies
Aunt Joan’s Toffee Squares
Orange Oatmeal Cookies
Cut-Out Cookies
Frosted Lemon Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oatmeal Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Ginger Snaps
Date-Filled Cookies
Caramel Pumpkin Cookies
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars


With many of the recipes above, you could give a roll of cookie dough, along with the baking directions, so that the recipient could make these cookies at their leisure, perhaps after the flurry of holiday treats has passed.

Breads
Banana Bread
Applesauce Nut Bread
Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread

Corn Bread
Dill Bread
No-Knead Bread
(you could include a small jar of honey or jam with a loaf of this bread)

Or how about a bag of homemade oatmeal pancake mix?
Oatmeal Pancakes

Salad Dressing
I think many people would love a jar of homemade salad dressing for the holidays. It would certainly be a more unusual gift. Also, you could turn these into a larger gift by combining them with other items. For example, you could give the bleu cheese dressing with some beautiful pears. Or you could give a “salad basket” to a friend, including salad dressing, greens, fruit, pine nuts, etc)
Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing
Homespun German Salad Dressing


Soups
Granted, you can’t put soup in a cellophane bag very well, but a jar or other decorative container might work. It doesn’t have to be an entire pot of soup. Just enough for a serving or two. The idea is simply to show someone that you are thinking of them. And why not give something that isn’t sweet during the holidays, something that could help make a meal during the sometimes hectic Christmas season?
Butternut Squash Soup
Taco Soup
Carrot Chowder
Easy White Bean Soup
Chicken Chili


Happy Holiday Giving!

Nov 16, 2010

Apricot Sauce

This is one of my mom's tried and true favorites and a great way to make ham a little more special.

1/2 cup apricot jam
3/4 cup bottled apricots, drained and pureed
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried minced onion

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and heat for 5-7 minutes.

Nov 9, 2010

Kitchen Tip: Making Ice Cream with Fruit

Although summer is long gone this year, I figure that any season can be ice cream season. So I want to share a tip I discovered this year for making ice cream with fruit. The ice cream recipe I usually follow comes from Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book, which instructs you to make a Sweet Cream Base (see below) and then add other ingredients or flavorings. The base is always the same, obviously, but then you add whatever ingredients you want to create the type of flavoring you desire.

Well, I LOVE ice cream made with fresh fruit (peaches, strawberries, raspberries, or whatever), but particular fruits aren't always in season. So what I tried doing this summer was putting the prepared and pre-measured fresh fruit (2 cups of finely chopped fruit) in freezer bags, along with the sugar and lemon juice the recipe calls for. That and a quarter teaspoon of Fruit Fresh. Then I labeled the bags and put them in my freezer. So that way, whenever I want to have fresh peach ice cream, for example, all I have to do is pull a bag of the peach mixture out of the freezer to thaw, make the Sweet Cream Base, combine the two, and pop the mixture in my ice cream freezer. Voila!

So in the example below, I would buy the fresh peaches in season and then put two cups of chopped fresh peaches, 1/2 cup sugar, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and 1/4 teaspoon Fruit Fresh in each freezer bag. Those bags would then go in the freezer. And then when I wanted to make my peach ice cream, I would pull a bag out of the freezer, thaw it, and add it to the Sweet Cream Base. And there you have it. The same principle would work for other ice creams as well, though the amount of sugar may vary depending on the fruit.

Fresh Peach Ice Cream
2 cups ripe peaches that have been peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sweet Cream Base (see below)

Combine the peaches, sugar, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Puree with a hand blender. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours. Prepare the Sweet Cream Base and then combine with the chilled fruit mixture. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according the manufacturer's instructions.

Sweet Cream Base
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend.

Makes 1 generous quart.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I feel like I have a number of peanut butter cookies on this blog already, but this one is too good to not pass along. This cookie is slightly cakey and very peanut buttery, which is what I look for in the perfect peanut butter cookie. This recipe is adapted slightly from My Kitchen Cafe.

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups smooth or chunky peanut butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips (or a combination of peanut butter and chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine the butter and peanut butter and beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy (you can do this with a hand mixer or with an electric mixer). Add the sugars and mix until well combined. Add the eggs and mix for 1-2 minutes. Blend in the milk and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix just briefly. While there are still large spots of flour, add the chocolate chips (or peanut butter chips or both) and mix until the flour is completely mixed in and the mixture is well combined. Let the cookie dough sit for 15 minutes before scooping onto the baking sheets. The dough will firm up as it sits.

When ready to bake, scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 1 to 2 inches in between the cookies to allow for spreading as they bake. Bake for 10-11 minutes, taking care not to overbake. Leave the cookies on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes after baking before removing them to a cooling rack. This will help them set up and be firm enough to transfer without having them overbake in the oven. The cookies may look slightly underbaked but they will firm up as they cool. Resist the urge to eat them warm as they taste much better cooled.

Makes about 4-5 dozen cookies. Baked cookies can be frozen, and they taste great out of the freezer, especially if they are left to sit at room temperature for a few minutes.

Nov 8, 2010

Buttermilk Syrup

This buttermilk syrup is heavenly! So buttery and sweet! Try it on pancakes, waffles, or French toast. You'll love it! This recipe comes from my friend Angie and her sister-in-law Liza (also my friend).

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large saucepan, combine butter, sugar, buttermilk, and corn syrup and bring to a boil for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add baking soda and vanilla. Mixture will bubble up to at least double in size or more, so make sure you use a saucepan that is large enough.

Oct 31, 2010

Oatmeal Pancakes

I tried this recipe for the first time this morning, and I'm hooked! The oatmeal mixture is incredibly easy to make, and you can store it in the fridge or freezer to use whenever the mood strikes you. Once you have the mix, all you need to do is just add an egg and a cup of buttermilk, and you're ready to go!

Also, a friend recommended a delicious variation on this recipe. Try adding a mashed ripened banana along with the buttermilk and egg, before you cook the pancakes. That's the variation I'm most fond of currently. Or I've also made blueberry pancakes by tossing in fresh blueberries, when I've had some on hand.

One other note. Since a single batch of this pancake batter makes more pancakes than I can eat at one sitting, I usually cook all the pancakes up and then freeze the extras. That way, when I want a quick breakfast, I just pull a few pancakes out of the freezer, microwave them till they are warm, and add the butter and syrup. Very yummy and so easy. This recipe is high in fiber and yet the pancakes are fluffy and delicious (and you can increase the ratio of wheat flour to white flour, if desired)!

This is another recipe adapted from My Kitchen Cafe.

3 1/2 cups rolled (quick) oats
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a mixer with a paddle (or by hand). With mixer on slow speed (or gently by hand), drizzle the vegetable oil into the bowl slowly while the mixer is running. When all the oil has been added, stop the mixer and squeeze a clump of mix in your hand. If it stays together, it is just right. If it is still crumbly, add another tablespoon of oil at a time until the consistency is correct. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks at room temperature or indefinitely in the refrigerator or freezer.

To make the pancakes: whisk together 1 cup of mix, 1 cup buttermilk (a combination of half plain yogurt and half milk will also work), and 1 egg. The mixture may seem thin at first but the oats will soak up the milk as it stands while the griddle preheats. Heat a griddle and drop the batter onto it. When the edges look dry and bubbles come to the surface and don't break, turn the pancake over to finish cooking on the second side.

*Makes 10 cups of dry mix. One cup of mix will make about 6 to 7 4-inch pancakes.

Oct 16, 2010

Marinara Sauce

Friends have often told me that it's so easy to make homemade pasta sauces that there's no good reason to rely on store-bought sauces, which aren't nearly as good. And I've tried a few times to make my own pasta sauces, but I just kept returning to bottled versions out of habit and convenience more than anything else. In any case, a marinara sauce such as this one may finally make a believer out of me. It's delicious! Furthermore, the recipe is very simple, uses basic ingredients that I usually have at home, and the end result can be divided into smaller portions and frozen for future use. How can you go wrong with that? This recipe comes from one of my favorite recipe blogs--My Kitchen Cafe.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (28-ounce each) cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter (optional but delicious)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring very frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until all the vegetables are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano and bay leaves and simmer, covered, on low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to make sure the sauce isn't sticking to the bottom of the pot, until slightly thickened and the vegetables are completely tender. Stir in the brown sugar. Taste the sauce. Add salt and pepper as needed. Add the butter and stir to combine if you want to round out the flavors and add a dimension of silkiness.

Remove the bay leaves. In a blender or food processor, blend the sauce (in several batches, if necessary) until it is smooth. The sauce can be frozen once it is cooled completely in freezer-safe ziploc bags for up to 6 months.

*Makes about 7 cups of sauce

Oct 2, 2010

Fruit Dip

This easy and delicious fruit dip recipe comes from my coworker and friend Lauren Woodmansee. She brought this dip to a recent office birthday celebration.

1 7-ounce container marshmallow creme
1 8-ounce package Cool Whip (I used an "Extra Creamy" generic brand)
1 8-ounce container of strawberry cream cheese
2 tablespoons orange juice

Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Then chill for at least an hour before serving with cut fruit, such as apples, cantaloupe, pineapple, bananas, strawberries, grapes, pears, etc.

Aug 17, 2010

Lemon Ice Cream

I made this lemon ice cream for the first time just recently, but I've eaten it many times in the past, and it is heavenly! This recipe brings back fond memories of the summer parties we had in my Oak Hills neighborhood in Provo, Utah when I was growing up. Homemade ice cream was always a favorite treat at these parties.

4 cups sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (usually about 4 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 quarts milk
1 pint heavy cream
4 drops of yellow food coloring (this is optional, but since this ice cream appears white, people may mistake it for vanilla otherwise)

Be sure to mix the sugar and lemon juice together first before adding the remainder of the ingredients, or the lemon juice may cause the milk and cream to sour. Freeze the mixture according to manufacturer directions. Makes 4 quarts.

Aug 2, 2010

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love peanut butter cookies, I love oatmeal cookies, and I love chocolate chip cookies, providing they are all of good quality, of course. But this recipe combines all three ingredients into a single delicious cookie. I've been looking for a recipe like this for a long time. I got it from my friend Elisa (see her blog here), who got it from someone else. I've adapted it very slightly.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Cream together the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour until just combined. Stir in the oats, and then the chocolate chips. Use a cookie scoop (2 tablespoons) and drop dough onto lightly greased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden. The cookies will not look completely done. But they will finish baking when out of the oven. Cool completely on the baking sheet.

Jul 14, 2010

Corn and Cheese Muffins

A combination of computer problems and summer travel has kept me from blogging for the past several weeks, but I'm back online again. Anyway, I'm certainly not above using package mixes if the end result is worth it. This tasty and simple recipe comes from the Gourmet website.

2 (8 1/2-ounce) packages corn muffin mix
1 cup nonfat milk (I used 1%)
1 cup lowfat cottage cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (packed) shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. Combine muffin mix, milk, cottage cheese, and eggs in a large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until well-combined. Mix in cheddar cheese. Let stand 5 minutes. Spoon batter into prepared cups, dividing equally. Bake until muffins are brown on top and tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let muffins cool to room temperature. Makes 12 (When I made this recipe, it yielded more like 16 to 18 muffins).

Jun 6, 2010

Grilled Island Chicken

This is the kind of of recipe I love. Flavorful grilled chicken that is a cinch to make and that uses ingredients I almost always have on hand. Yum. I intend to make this dish again and again. The recipe comes from My Kitchen Cafe (see the link above).

1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1-2 lemons)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-4 chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a mixing bowl or large airtight plastic bag. Whisk or shake well until the marinade is well mixed. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl or plastic bag so that they are covered by the marinade. If using a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap. If using a plastic bag, press out all the excess air and seal the bag tightly. Refrigerate and marinate up to 10 hours (I would suggest marinating for at least 3 hours at the minimum).

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat. Grill the chicken for 6-7 minutes per side (depending on how thick the chicken breasts are), until the chicken is no longer pink in the center (if you have a meat thermometer, the chicken should register 165 degrees). Tent with foil and let the chicken rest for about five minutes before serving. This recipe would also work well to make tasty chicken kebabs. Simply marinate chunks of chicken according to the directions above.

Alternately, the chicken can be baked using the following directions:
When ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and pour the excess marinade over them. Bake in the oven until cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 45 minutes (exact baking time will depend on the size of your chicken pieces.) Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

May 30, 2010

Apricot Tart

Before too long now, it will be apricot season. And this is one of my favorite ways to use fresh apricots. The combination of textures, the mixture of sweetness and tartness works well in this dessert.

1 cup flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons margarine
8-10 fresh apricots
1/4 cup sugar
Sliced, toasted almonds

Crust: Put the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Cut in the butter and margarine until the texture is that of tiny pebbles. Add just enough cold water to make the dough adhere. Form a ball and refrigerate 1/2 hour. Then roll out on a floured board into a circle large enough for a 10-inch shallow tart pan. line with wax paper and fill with rice or beans. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until brown. Remove beans and paper and bake another 2 minutes to brown bottom.

Filling: Plunge the apricots into boiling water for 30 seconds; remove and peel. Slice the apricots in half and arrange in the baked tart shell so no space is left between the fruit. Sprinkle with the sugar. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes until fruit is soft. Sprinkle almonds on top. Serve within 3 hours of baking.

May 20, 2010

Easy Baked Pasta

1 pound pasta (penne, ziti, or rigatoni), cooked until almost tender and then drained
1 26-ounce jar of your favorite tomato pasta sauce (2 to 3 cups)
1 pound cooked ground beef or sausage (optional)
About 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the cooked and drained pasta with the tomato sauce (and meat, if desired). Spread half of the pasta mixture in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella and half of the Parmesan. Spread the remaining pasta mixture in the dish and then sprinkle with the remaining cheeses. Bake until the cheeses turn golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

May 3, 2010

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 (10 oz.) pre-baked Italian bread shell (12-inch)
3 Italian plum tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup diced purple onion
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Cilantro (if desired)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In small bowl, combine chicken and barbecue sauce; mix well. Place bread shell on ungreased cookie sheet. Spread chicken mixture over shell. Arrange tomatoes and onions over chicken. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450 degrees. for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bread shell is browned. Yield: 6 servings.

Apr 24, 2010

Lemon-Artichoke Chicken

I tried this recipe this evening and liked it very much. The lemon and artichokes make a wonderful combination. And this dish couldn't be easier. Kudos to my friend Elisa for sharing it. You can find her recipe blog here.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I'm not a fan of spicy food, so I didn't include these)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used chicken tenders)
1/3 cup white wine
1 can (13.75 oz) whole artichoke hearts, drained, halved
1 whole lemon, thinly sliced
Orzo, or other pasta
Fresh parsley, chopped

Combine the oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper flakes in a small bowl for the sauce and set aside. Season chicken breasts with salt and black pepper. Saute in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned on both sides, 3-5 minutes per side. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 5 minutes. Add white wine, artichokes, and sauce. Simmer and reduce the sauce, about 3 minutes. Top chicken with slices of lemon, cook 2 minutes more, or until sauce thickens. Serve over orzo or other pasta. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Apr 21, 2010

Apricot Mold

Perhaps because it's rainy and cold outside at the moment, I'm thinking of things summery and light. I like to serve this gelatin mold with fresh fruit such as grapes, strawberries, or apricots in the center.

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups apricot nectar (I usually just puree bottled apricots w/ juice)
3/4 cup water
1 cup white grape juice or lemonade
1 cup sour cream

Mix gelatin, sugar, and salt in saucepan. Stir in apricot nectar and water. Cook over low hear until gelatin is completely dissolved. Then stir in juice and sour cream. Make sure sour cream is blended in completely. Then pour into mold.

Apr 18, 2010

S'mores

A few weeks ago, some neighbors invited me and other friends to their home for a barbecue. We had grilled chicken, potatoes, etc. The food was good and the evening was very relaxing, but one of the things I wanted to share from this event was that we had s'mores. Of course, I've had s'mores before, but there were a few things about THESE s'mores that are worth mentioning. First of all, my friends cooked the s'mores in a way I'd never seen before. They created foil packets with the s'more ingredients assembled inside and then put the packets in the coals to cook. The second thing worth noting is that in addition to graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow, my friends included other ingredients such as sliced strawberries or bananas, pieces of Skor bars, or peanut butter in some of the packets. And using a Sharpie, they wrote on the foil what kind of s'more was inside each packet. That way, people could pick what kind of s'more they wanted after they came out of the fire.

Anyway, the s'mores were wonderful! Although I actually didn't get to try any of the peanut butter s'mores, I thought that the addition of strawberries and bananas was particularly tasty.

This activity gave me a few ideas:
1) You could have a kind of s'more bar at a picnic, where people could make their own s'mores, choose their own ingredients, etc. Dessert would be fun and easy.
2) The other idea I had was to try cooking s'mores indoors, using the foil packet method. So I tried this in my oven a few days ago, and it seemed to work quite well. In each packet, I put a bottom graham cracker, two pieces of Hershey chocolate, two marshmallows, and a top graham cracker. And in one, I put a few slices of banana. Then I closed the foil packets and put them in a 350 degree oven for about three to five minutes. Voila!

S'mores may be better cooked in the great outdoors, but I love this new (for me) method of creating a traditional taste treat.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Just baked a batch of these this morning. Yum! These cookies are similar to Peanut Blossoms, but instead of a Hershey's kiss, they have Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in the center.

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (I may try salted butter next time; the cookies could have used a bit more salt, in my opinion)
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar, for rolling dough
36 mini peanut butter cups, chilled and unwrapped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, cream peanut butter and butter in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar; beat until combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture in two batches.
3. Scoop off dough by the tablespoon; roll into balls. Place granulated sugar on a plate; roll balls in sugar, coating completely. Place 2 inches apart on a nonstick insulated baking sheet.
4. Bake until cookies begin to puff up slightly, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven. Press one peanut butter cup in center of each cookie. Return to oven; continue baking until cookies are golden brown and chocolate has begun to melt, about 6 minutes more. Let cool at least 10 minutes on baking sheet before transferring cookies to rack to cool completely. Makes 36 cookies.

Apr 17, 2010

Annette Rollins' Carrot Cake

This delicious carrot cake includes pineapple, coconut, and walnuts, in addition to grated carrots. It is rich, moist, and dense. After the cake comes out of the oven, you pour a glaze over the top, so there is no need to frost it.

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3-3 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup flaked coconut
1 small can crushed pineapple (drained)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Mix ingredients together. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour in greased and floured 9 x 13-inch pan.

Glaze
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Karo syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Boil and stir five minutes. While the cake is still hot, poke holes in it with a fork and then pour glaze over the top. Poke more holes on the outside of the cake because glaze will tend to concentrate in the center.

Apr 11, 2010

Strawberries Romanoff

This is such a simple dessert that I don't think that you can even call it a recipe. It is something my mom likes to serve. There are just three ingredients--fresh strawberries, sour cream, and brown sugar. Hull and then halve, quarter, or slice the desired number of strawberries (depending on their size) and put them in a serving bowl. Serve the cut berries in individual cups or bowls (about a 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup per serving) with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of brown sugar.

Apr 3, 2010

Chocolate Praline Layer Cake

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 package devil's food cake mix (with pudding) plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs

Topping:
1 3/4 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Combine butter, whipping cream and brown sugar; cook over low heat until butter is melted. Pour into two round 9-inch cake pans; sprinkle evenly with chopped pecans.

In large bowl combine cake mix, water, oil, and eggs at low speed until moistened; then beat 2 minutes at highest speed. Carefully spoon batter over pecan mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes; remove from pans immediately, spooning extra topping from pan to cake.

Topping: Beat cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until stiff.

To assemble cake, place 1 cooled layer, praline side up, on serving plate. Spread top with half of whipped cream. Put the second layer on top and frost with remaining cream. Garnish with chocolate curls and whole pecans.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups chilled whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat ingredients in a chilled 2 1/2-quart bowl until stiff. After frosting the cake, refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Mar 27, 2010

Peanut Butter Fudge-Swirl Brownies

3 ounces semisweet baking chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coarsely chopped unsalted peanuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan. In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate with the butter over low heat; stir to blend. Set mixture aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, beat the peanut butter and oil together with an electric mixer until combined. Add the sugar and continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in he eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the flour and salt until just combined.

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the peanut butter batter and the cooled chocolate mixture. Stir the peanuts into the remaining peanut butter batter.

Scrape the peanut butter batter into the prepared baking pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Spoon the chocolate mixture over the batter. With a table knife or metal spatula, make a zigzag pattern through the layers to create a marbled effect. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted 2 inches from the center comes out almost clean. Cool the brownies in the pan, set on a wire rack.

Mar 22, 2010

Call for vegetable recipes

I realize that I don't have a very large group of people who follow this blog, but I'm still going to boldly go forward and issue my first call for recipes. Is anyone out there willing to share their favorite vegetable recipes? I'll be happy to post them here and give you full credit. I usually just cook frozen veggies and add a little butter and salt. But I'd like to find some new recipes that will help me to eat more healthily.

Mar 17, 2010

Julie Bateman’s Mandarin Orange & Almond Salad

Dressing:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons French mustard
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 medium purple onion, chopped
2 cups salad oil

Combine dressing ingredients in blender. Blend and then refrigerate.

Salad:
Mixed greens
Chopped celery
Dried cranberries (I'm not a big fan of dried cranberries, so I substitute fresh, chopped apple instead.)
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 package slivered almonds (caramelize the almonds in 1-2 T butter and 1/2 cup sugar)
Grated mozzarella cheese

Mar 8, 2010

Apple-Date Spread

If you want to try something a little extra special when you serve a sweet bread like banana bread, pumpkin bread, or zucchini bread, try this delectable apple-date spread. My mom made this a few years ago when an exhibit of her botanical art opened at a local gallery. This spread was a big hit.

1 8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup finely chopped tart apples
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 cup finely chopped dates

Blend cream cheese with milk and cream. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Mar 2, 2010

Scotcharoos

My friend and coworker Angie is a passionate lover of books and can recommend a good read to just about anyone. You can visit her book blog here. Frankly, I don't know why Angie isn't a librarian, but then she has other interests, too, including cooking. This Scotcharoo recipe is an oft-requested treat that Angie brings to office parties. The peanut butter, chocolate, and butterscotch make an awesome combination.

1 cup corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cup Rice Krispies
1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
(I use about a bag and a half of each kind)

Combine corn syrup and sugar and bring to boil over low heat. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and mix till creamy. Mix in Rice Krispies and pour into a buttered 9x13 pan. While treats are cooling, combine chocolate and butterscotch chips and melt over low heat, stirring as necessary. Pour over cooled treats and refrigerate till topping solidifies. Cut into chunks and serve.

Feb 20, 2010

Penne Pasta with Ham & Cheese

The Durstelers, my good friends, led me to this recipe, and I just tried it for the first time tonight. Yum! Ham and cheese make a delicious combination with pasta. The recipe called for pappardelle pasta, but I used penne because that is what I had. I will definitely make this again.

1 pound penne pasta
8 tablespoons butter (plus 1 tablespoon for baking dish)
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
8 ounces ham, julienned (I used commercially diced ham, which worked fine)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare pasta and preheat broiler. Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat; add flour and stir with wooden spoon until well blended, about 2 minutes. Stirring constantly, add milk gradually. Continue to stir until it thickens and is smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add ham, half the Parmesan, and 6 tablespoons of butter. Stir while butter melts. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Grease 8 x 12 oven dish. Add drained pasta and then pour white sauce over the top and mix well. Sprinkle evenly with remaining Parmesan. Broil until golden, about 3 minutes.

Corn Bread

This delicious corn bread recipe comes from my friend Kathy (you can find more of her recipes here). It is sweet and has more of the texture of a cake, which is the way I like it best.

2 cups flour
2 cups cornmeal
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 cups milk
2 eggs
2/3 cup oil

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients and stir until they are thoroughly combined. Pour in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Feb 16, 2010

Roasted Beets

Growing up, I thought I hated beets. The flavor seemed too overwhelming to me. But I've changed my mind fairly recently. I now know that I like beets if they are roasted instead of pickled. If you haven't tried roasted beets, give this simple recipe a try. It is adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

4 medium beets, greens removed, trimmed, and scrubbed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets individually in foil (like a baked potato) and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until a skewer can be inserted easily into a beet, 45 minutes to an hour.

Remove the beets from the oven, open the foil packets, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Take the warm beets, one at a time, and gently rub off the skin using paper towels. Slice the beets 1/4-inch thick, then toss with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

French Vanilla Ice Cream

This ice cream, along with the tunnel of fudge cake (search for cake recipes on this blog), were what Mom requested for her birthday this year, but both of these recipes are long-time family favorites. The recipe comes from Ben & Jerry's.

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream, milk, and vanilla and whisk to blend. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream freezer and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions.

Makes 1 quart.

Feb 12, 2010

White Chocolate Popcorn

This recipe comes from my sister Amy. She made it for me for Valentine's Day one year. Her recipe included just popcorn and M&Ms, and it was really good, but there are other possible add-ins. Whatever extra ingredients you throw in, this is delicious and easy!

2 bags microwave popcorn, popped and with unpopped kernels removed
1 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips
1 medium package regular or peanut M&Ms (about 1 1/2 cups)
Could also add miniature marshmallows, pretzel sticks, etc.

Put popped popcorn in a bowl along with any add-ins. Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave, 45 seconds at a time, stirring each time until the chips have melted completely. Pour the melted white chocolate over the popcorn. Stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in M&Ms. Then spread the popcorn out on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or more, until chocolate has hardened and popcorn breaks in pieces.

Feb 10, 2010

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I've always "kind of" liked stuffed peppers, though probably more the idea of them than the reality. Actually, I've liked the filling but not the peppers they were stuffed into. The problem, I have come to discover, is that I'm not a big fan of green bell peppers. However, red, yellow, or orange bell peppers are a different story. So now I make stuffed peppers with bell peppers I like, and I end up eating both the peppers themselves and the filling. This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

Salt
4 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, 1/2 inch trimmed off the top, stemmed and seeded
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3/4 pound (85 percent lean) ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained with 1/4 cup juice reserved
1 1/4 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup ketchup

1) Bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the bell peppers and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove the peppers from the water, allowing any excess water to drain back into the pot. Place the peppers, cut-side up, on a paper-towel-lined plate.

2) Return the water to a boil. Add the rice and cook until tender, about 13 minutes. Drain thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl.

3) Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beef and cook, breaking it into small pieces, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the rice. Add the tomatoes, 1 cup of the cheese, and parsley to the rice and stir to combine. Season the rice mixture with salt and pepper to taste. In a separate bowl, combine the ketchup and reserved tomato juice.

4) Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the over to 350 degrees. Place the peppers, cut-side up, in a 9 by 9-inch baking dish. Divide the filling evenly among the peppers. Spoon the ketchup mixture over the tops of the peppers, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake until the cheese is browned and the filling is heated through, about 30 minutes.

Feb 5, 2010

Lion House Taffy

I have fond memories of family taffy pulls and this was always the recipe we used. It is definitely a home and hearth memory from my childhood--my parents and siblings all gathered around the kitchen table to pull the taffy and have fun together. This is a fun activity for both adults and children. I love the buttery, sweet flavor of this taffy.

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup white corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons glycerin
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter

Mix sugar, water, corn syrup, salt, and glycerin in a heavy saucepan. Bring to boil over medium to medium high heat; cook to 258 degrees. Watch carefully so that the taffy doesn't overcook. Remove from heat and let stand for 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and butter; stir vigorously until butter is melted. Pour into buttered cookie sheet; cool until lukewarm and easy to handle. Pull taffy with buttered hands until it turns white. Then stretch it into a long rope, and using buttered kitchen shears, cut the rope into individual pieces and wrap each piece in wax paper. Makes about 4 dozen pieces. Note: glycerin can be purchased at a pharmacy.

Jan 30, 2010

Fast Buttery Peas

This recipe comes from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. It's an easy way to make ordinary cooked peas a little less ordinary. The addition of sugar highlights the natural sweetness of the peas.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (I used dried thyme instead)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound frozen peas (3 cups)
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallot, thyme, and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the peas (unthawed) and sugar. Cover and cook until the peas are heated through, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Jan 25, 2010

Penuche Frosting

This brown sugar-flavored frosting is wonderful. It goes well on a banana or spice cake.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in brown sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in milk. Bring to a boil again, stirring constantly. Take off heat and cool to lukewarm. Gradually stir in powdered sugar until frosting reaches desired consistency. Recipe makes enough frosting for a 13 x 9-inch cake or 2 9-inch rounds.

Jan 19, 2010

Roasted Broccoli

I know of no tastier way to cook broccoli than roasting it. I tried roasted broccoli last year for the first time and was amazed that it could be so delicious. More people would like broccoli if it were cooked in this way, I'm sure. And it couldn't be easier. Give this a try!

1 head of broccoli, washed, patted dry, and cut into fairly large florets
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (I used about two teaspoons of minced garlic, and that worked great)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put florets on a baking sheet and then drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic. Toss the florets so that they get a light coating of oil and the garlic is evenly distributed. Then spread out the florets into a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until tender and some of the edges of the broccoli are slightly browned, usually about 20 to 25 minutes. Right after you take the broccoli out of the oven, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Jan 18, 2010

Baklava


(photo courtesy of my sister Emily)

My niece is studying Greece in school, so her family decided to plan a Greek festival last night for the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. It was a fun evening! There was a Greek board game that my niece created for her class, a trivia quiz on Greece (which I won, incidentally), and a delicious Greek meal. My assignment for the evening was to bring baklava, which I'd never made before. I've eaten it but never tried creating it.

The recipe below is one I adapted from allrecipes.com. I'm not a huge baklava fan, to be honest. It's tasty every once in awhile. But I was very pleased with the way this recipe turned out. It wasn't difficult at all. It just takes some time to layer the phyllo dough. But if you like baklava, give this a try!

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped walnuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and cook until it comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Add vanilla and honey. Turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes. Then let it cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch pan.
3. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough and cover it with plastic wrap and a dampened cloth to keep the dough from drying out as you work. Place a single sheet of dough in the baking dish and brush it quickly with butter. Add additional sheets one at a time and brush them with butter until you have 8 sheets layered. Then sprinkle the top layer with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the nut mixture. Place another sheet of dough on top, brush it with butter, and then sprinkle it with nuts. Continue this process of layering until the nut mixture is gone. Then continue adding layers of phyllo dough and buttering each sheet. The top layer should be about 6 to 8 sheets deep. The top sheet of phyllo should also be buttered.
4. Using a sharp knife, cut into diamond or square shapes but don't cut all the way to the bottom of the pan because you don't want all the sauce to sink immediately to the bottom. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
5. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered because it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

Jan 10, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas

2 cups cubed chicken
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can tomato soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can (4 oz) diced green chilies
1 can (10 oz) mild enchilada sauce
6 8-inch flour tortillas

Sauté the onions in the butter. Take off heat. Add chicken, 1 cup cheese, and chilies; set aside. Combine soups and sauce; heat to boiling. Remove from heat. Pour about 1 cup sauce in bottom of 9" x 13" pan. Divide chicken mixture among 6 tortillas. Put a couple of tablespoons on top of each tortilla and roll up and put in pan. Top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Garnish each enchilada with a little sour cream, lettuce, tomato, and salsa, if desired. Serves six.

Jan 3, 2010

Tortellini Primavera

Feel free to substitute different vegetables with this dish. In place of some of the vegetables listed in this recipe, I've used summer squash, mini zucchini squash, button mushrooms, peas, yellow and green peppers, etc. I love the colors of all the vegetables in this dish.

1 package (16-oz) tricolor cheese tortellini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed
2 large carrots, pared, thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced crosswise, separated into rings
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Cook tortellini as package label directs; drain. Keep warm. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté asparagus, mushrooms, snow peas, carrots, onion, garlic, and salt until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; bring to boiling. Add tortellini; toss gently until mixed. Over medium heat, stir until heated through.

Jan 1, 2010

Ginger Snaps

These are a Clark family classic. My family has made them for as long as I can remember. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger

Cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Form dough into balls, roll each ball in granulated sugar, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.