Dec 31, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

This sweet potato side dish is the kind of thing you could serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas, among other times, but instead of toasted miniature marshmallows on top, this has a brown sugar pecan topping. It is rich and yummy!

Sweet Potato Layer
8 cups sweet potato, cubed (3 or 4 sweet potatoes)
1/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Topping
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup chopped pecans

Put sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Cook over medium high heat until tender; drain and mash. In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, white sugar, eggs, salt, butter, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. Add cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, and mix until smooth. Transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. In medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the topping over the sweet potato mixture. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 35 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.

Note: Next time I will try baking the sweet potatoes instead of boiling them. I will bake them with the skin on and then scoop the contents out and mash the potato flesh. I think that would improve the flavor of this dish even more.

Dec 19, 2011

Coleslaw

This simple recipe comes from allrecipes.com and has very favorable ratings there. It's called Mom's Coleslaw.

1 small head cabbage, shredded
3 medium carrots, shredded
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar

In a large bowl, combine cabbage and carrots. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss to coat. Serve with a slotted spoon. Makes 10 servings.

Dec 17, 2011

Updated: Homemade Food Gift Ideas for Christmas

Note: This is a a list I update every year for those who want to give homemade food to family or friends for Christmas, 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
Easy Microwave Caramels
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
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
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)

Breakfast
Oatmeal Pancakes (You could give a container of the pancake mix)
Granola

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 19, 2011

Flat Iron Steak and Sweet Potato Fries

For dinner tonight, I had steak and sweet potato fries. A rare treat, but yum! As an accompaniment, I purchased frozen sweet potato fries (Alexia is the brand) from Costco and whipped up a little fry sauce (see recipe below) to go with it. Add a small tossed salad (which I didn't ;-) ), and you are set!

2 flat iron steaks (the recipe I have called for flank steak, which I'm sure would be good, but the butcher recommended flat iron steak, which he said was less expensive and more tender)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated, or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Lay steak in a glass casserole dish and poke the meat all over with a fork. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the steak, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. Remove the steak from the marinade and broil or grill 4 to 5 minutes per side (meat should be slightly pink in the middle). Let the meat rest and then slice on the diagonal. Note: The original recipe I have says that you can heat the leftover marinade in the microwave until boiling and pour over the cooked meat, but I didn't do that this time.

To make fry sauce, which is practically a staple in Utah, mix about 2/3 cup mayonnaise with 1/3 cup ketchup and blend well. I also added a teaspoon of barbecue sauce and some garlic salt. People sometimes add a bit of mustard or dill pickle juice to the mixture. Experiment and find what you like best.

Nov 13, 2011

Sweet and Sour Mustard Sauce

This creamy sauce is a delicious accompaniment with ham. It makes ham just a little more fancy. The recipe comes from a former neighbor, Becky Ririe.

2 cups whipping cream
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
4 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 cup vinegar

Blend the cream and egg yolks together and set aside. Combine sugar, flour, and dry mustard in the top portion of a double boiler over boiling water. Gradually add the cream mixture, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened. Gradually stir in the vinegar. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Nov 10, 2011

Pumpkin Bars

This is one of my mom's favorite bar cookies, and mine too. These are so easy to whip up, and they freeze well.

4 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 small can (about 15 ounces) pumpkin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
Whole pecans (optional)

With an electric mixer, blend the eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin; set aside. Stir together the dry ingredients and then combine with the pumpkin mixture and beat until blended. Pour mixture into a greased and flour-dusted 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan, or divide between two 9-inch square baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees until edges begin to pull away from sides and center springs back when lightly touched, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan. Frost with a double batch of Penuche Frosting. Vanilla cream cheese frosting also works great. Adorn with a whole pecan on each square. Makes 75 to 80 1-inch squares.

Nov 6, 2011

Apple Crisp

I'm going to interrupt Pumpkinpalooza briefly for an apple crisp recipe. This was served at a recent dinner with family and friends. What I find interesting about it is that it includes graham crackers. But most importantly, this apple crisp is delicious comfort food. This recipe comes from my sister Emily.

4-6 large apples
16 graham cracker squares (2 1/2-inch squares)
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup butter, melted

Prepare topping first. Finely chop graham crackers with food processor (I just put them in a Ziploc bag and rolled with a rolling pin). Combine crumbs, sugar, oats, flour, and spices. Add butter and mix well. Peel, core, and slice apples. Prepare enough apples to fill a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish 3/4 full. Spoon topping mixture over apple slices. Microwave on high for 12-15 minutes, or until apples are tender; turn dish after 6 minutes. (I wanted the topping somewhat crisp and my dish didn't fit in my microwave so I baked the crisp in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the apples were tender). Cool slightly. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Nov 1, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Wow! I'm in pumpkin heaven! Although I just tried this recipe for the first time tonight, these are some of the best muffins I've ever made! Warm and delicate muffins, just out of the oven, with a deliciously sweet cream cheese filling. So good! Two thumbs way up for this recipe even though it takes a little more work than normal.

This recipe, which my friend Angie led me to, comes from a blog called Annie's Eats. I followed her recipe pretty much to the letter except when it came to the topping. I'm sure there is nothing wrong with Annie's topping, and I'll probably give it a try next time, but I decided to do a little experimenting. For half of the muffins, I thought that I'd go "topless" and sprinkle nothing at all on them. They are already plenty sweet and plenty rich. For the other dozen muffins, I did more of a brown sugar streusel topping. I mixed together about 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a few tablespoons flour (no butter). I also scattered some chopped pecans across the top. Anyway, BOTH options are wonderful, but I think I have a slight preference for the brown sugar topping.

Anyway, give these a try. You won't be sorry.

Makes 24 muffins

Ingredients:
For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar

For the muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

For the topping:
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Directions:
To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (It may be hard to resist immediate consumption, but the cream cheese filling gets very hot!)

Oct 29, 2011

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Pumpkinpalooza continues with this recipe for pumpkin ice cream, adapted slightly from a Benn & Jerry's recipe. I don't know if you like pumpkin ice cream, but where I live, it's only available seasonally, if at all, and it is often priced as a premium flavor. So now you can have pumpkin ice cream whenever you want. A great accompaniment for this ice cream is homemade caramel sauce and some toasted pecans.

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

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.

In a separate bowl, mix the pumpkin, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add about a cup of the egg/cream mixture and stir until blended. Then stir in the remainder of the egg/cream mixture and blend well. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream freezer and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions. Makes on generous quart.

Oct 28, 2011

Pumpkinpalooza!

Fall means shorter days, cooler temperatures, autumn leaves, Halloween, and PUMPKINS. So in the coming days, I'm going to feature recipes that use pumpkin--pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, pumpkin bars, and pumpkin pancakes. But before I get to that, you may want to try some great pumpkin recipes from the past.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup
Pumpkin Praline Pie
Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars
Caramel Pumpkin Cookies
And good, old-fashioned pumpkin pie, of course (I prefer the Libby's recipe right on the can)

Oct 26, 2011

Carrot Soup

My good friend Rachel made this soup at a fall-themed party for her son's first birthday. I've never had carrot soup before. It was tasty. I will definitely be making this again.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 stalk of celery
1 pound carrots, thinly sliced
1 head fennel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon coriander
2 (14.5-ounce) cans chicken or veggie broth
1/4 cup butter, cubed

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and cook, stirring, until slightly softened but not browned--about 2 minutes. Cook the carrots until begin to soften but do not brown--about 6 minutes. Stir in coriander. Cook, stirring, one minute. Stir in chicken broth. Heat to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook until carrots can be easily mashed--about 25 minutes. Puree the veggie mixture in a blender or food processor. Pulse in pieces of butter a piece at a time. Blend until very smooth--about 2 minutes. Heat again for 3 minutes.

Oct 5, 2011

Peach Jam

Fall is finally here and peach season is coming to a close. Peaches are undoubtedly one of my favorite fruits. In addition to eating plenty of fresh peaches this year, I've made multiple batches of peach ice cream. And on Saturday, my dad and I collaborated to make 18 peach pie fillings and something I've never made before--peach jam. It's really easy to make and is yet another way to enjoy the flavor of peaches throughout the year. This recipe came from the box of MCP pectin (adapted slightly) we used to make the jam.

4 cups finely chopped peaches
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 2-ounce box pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter
6 cups sugar

Prepare jam jars, rings, and lids. Jars should be washed and heated. Rings and lids should be covered with boiling water in a saucepan that has been taken off the stove.

Prepare fruit (the original recipe advises not to puree the fruit but to use a potato masher to preserve a chunky texture; however, I like a smoother texture, so I pureed the fruit briefly and it was fine). Measure the exact amount of prepared fruit into a 6- to 8-qusrt saucepot. Stir in lemon juice, pectin, and butter (to reduce foaming). Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly add sugar and return to a full rolling boil and boil for exactly 4 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off any foam with a metal spoon.

Working quickly, ladle jam into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of the top. Wipe jar rims to be sure that they are clean and cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly and then turn the jars upside down so that they will seal. Turn the jars back over after about 10 minutes and let them cool completely. Makes seven cups.

Sep 18, 2011

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

I just made a batch of this frosting for a pan of pumpkin chocolate chip bars. It is SO delicious! I had to fight the urge to consume most of it before I even put it on the cake.

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Milk, as needed, to achieve proper frosting consistency

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Add milk, as needed, until frosting is of a suitable consistency for spreading. Store in the refrigerator after use. Makes enough to frost an 11 x 13-inch cake.

Sep 11, 2011

Curried Cauliflower

Who doesn't need another recipe for cooking cauliflower? ;-) Like parents with their kids, I'm always trying to get myself to eat my vegetables, so I appreciated the simplicity and taste of this side dish. The recipe comes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

1 medium head cauliflower
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Wash and core the cauliflower and cut the florets into bite-size pieces. Place in a large bowl. Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil, salt and curry powder. Turn out the cauliflower onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 16-18 minutes, stirring every 6-7 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned in spots and is crisp-tender. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6 people.

Chicken Salad

I posted another chicken salad recipe very recently, and here is yet another. But I prefer this one to that one. I love the crunchiness of the celery and water chestnuts (I also added some slivered almonds, which the recipe doesn't call for), and this salad has a little bacon thrown in. The one thing I didn't do was add the grapes the recipe calls for, which I will try next time, and I'll also try salad dressing instead of mayonnainse. The original recipe comes from one of a raft of chicken salad recipes on allrecipes.com.

2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup halved green grapes
3/4 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons finely minced onion
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine chicken, bacon, water chestnuts, celery and grapes in large bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients; add to salad and toss to coat. Chill until serving.

Sep 3, 2011

Sweet & Sour Meatballs

My sister Emily made these the other day for a family party, and everyone loved them, especially the kids. Many family members went back for seconds. Of course, what I also like about this dish is that it couldn't be easier--pre-cooked meatballs and a quick sauce. And these meatballs can be served as an appetizer or over rice for a main dish.

1 cup chili sauce
1 cup grape jelly
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 6-pound bag of Kirkland pre-cooked meatballs (I prefer to NOT get the Italian flavored meatballs but it won't make that big of a difference)

Put all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on high for about 4 hours. Stir meatballs several times during the cooking process.

Aug 25, 2011

Cowboy Cookies

Another recipe from my cousin Katy, who is also the organizer of the dinner group I belong to. Katy's cooking never fails to please. Anyway, Katy made a batch of these cowboy cookies the other night, and I had to have the recipe! Who doesn't love a good oatmeal chocolate chip cookie?

Cream together:
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs

Add dry ingredients:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Add other ingredients:
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 - 2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups rolled oats

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Drop onto greased baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen cookies. You can also roll the dough in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. When you want to bake them, cut off slices and bake them.

Aug 13, 2011

Favorite Easy Meals and Snacks

This won't surprise anyone who knows me, but there are frequently times when I don't want to put hardly any effort at all into whipping up a meal or a snack. I'm either lazy or in a hurry. And I just want something that is tasty and that requires a minimum of effort. Below is a list of some of the things I like to eat in such circumstances.

Favorite quick meals
--IKEA Swedish pancakes with maple syrup, fresh fruit, powdered sugar, and a little whipped cream
--Grilled cheese sandwich
--Egg salad sandwich
--French toast
--Cold cereal
--Egg in a basket
--Bagel and cream cheese
--Rotisserie chicken
--Pizza
--Hot dog

Favorite quick snacks
--Frozen fresh blueberries
--Graham crackers and milk
--Ritz crackers and flavored cream cheese (chive and onion or garden vegetable)
--Toast and apricot jam
--Fresh tomatoes with homemade salad dressing
--Clementines
--Grapes
--Chocolate milk

What do YOU like to eat when you are feeling like the last thing you want to do is cook?

Jul 5, 2011

Mom's Potato Salad

This is my mom's classic potato salad recipe, a staple of the Clark family's summer picnics. We had a big batch of this just yesterday for the 4th of July, and to the usual rave reviews. The secret to my mom's potato salad is pickle juice, which gives this salad a delightful tang.

10 large potatoes (cooked, peeled, cut into chunks, then put in refrigerator to cool)
10 hard boiled eggs (8 chopped and 2 sliced)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped cucumber or bread & butter pickles (reserve 3/4 cup pickle juice)
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup chopped chives (optional)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon stone ground Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups Miracle Whip
Paprika

Put cooked potatoes and chopped hard boiled eggs in a large bowl. Pour 3/4 cup pickle juice over the potatoes and eggs. Mix in salt and pepper. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or more. Then add the chopped pickles, onion, parsley, and chives. Finally, combine the Miracle Whip and mustards, and add to the potato mixture. Blend thoroughly. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, top the salad with the slices of hard boiled egg and sprinkle with paprika.

Jul 3, 2011

Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

My friend Lyndsee recommended this recipe. She got it from National Public Radio's Splendid Table, which got it from Diane Rossen Worthington, who got it from Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who was begat by Sariah, who was begat by Eve, ;-)

The deliciousness and simplicity of this dish make it a keeper.

1-1/2 pounds ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound penne, fusilli, or farfallini pasta
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the tomato halves in a large baking dish that can be brought to the table. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper. Spoon evenly over the tomatoes. Spoon the olive oil evenly over the mixture. Roast the tomatoes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly, browned, and slightly thickened. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for about 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain well. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture in the baking dish. Add the basil and toss to combine. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6 people.

Jun 13, 2011

Chicken Salad

With the onset of warmer temperatures here in Utah, finally, it's time for some refreshing summer foods. And a summer classic is chicken salad, whether on a croissant or a bed of lettuce. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and adapted it slightly. The original recipe called for dried cranberries (I substituted grapes) and 1/2 cup chopped green pepper (which I omitted). But I'm sure that a lot of variations are possible. You could use pineapple tidbits or mandarin oranges instead of the grapes, slivered almonds instead of pecans, etc.

4 cups cubed, cooked chicken
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 cups seedless grapes, halved
1 cup chopped celery
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup minced green bell pepper
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise with paprika and seasoning salt. Blend in halved grapes, celery, onion, and nuts. Add chopped chicken, and mix well. Season with black pepper to taste. Chill 1 hour.

May 21, 2011

Granola

I tried my hand at making granola yesterday. I've always liked granola, but it tends to be pretty expensive. Also, I'm not a big fan of raisins, which seem to be a part of most granolas. So I set out to make my own version of homemade granola. I started with a very positively-reviewed recipe (called Megan's Granola) from allrecipes.com and then made some minor alterations based on my personal preferences. For example, the original recipe calls for 1 cup sunflower seeds. I don't dislike sunflower seeds, but they seemed like an odd ingredient for granola. Plus, I didn't want the additional expense. I also didn't add the two cups raisins or craisins (No offense, but yick to craisins!) for the reason mentioned above. But you are welcome to add raisins or craisins (yick) if you so desire, after the granola has cooled. I also adjusted a few of the ingredient amounts, though nothing major. Anyway, I quite liked the finished product. Very nutty and oaty. Tasty! I will continue to tinker with the recipe, but this one is a keeper.

By the way, even homemade, this granola still isn't cheap. But I'm worth it, right? ;-)

8 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups wheat germ
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.
2. Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, almonds, pecans, and walnuts in a large bowl. Stir together the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat. Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheets.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and toasted, about 20 minutes. Stir once halfway through. Cool, then store in an airtight container. Makes about 30 servings.

Note: I met a professional granola maker the other day, and she recommended baking the granola twice to make it crunchier, but I didn't get any more specific instruction than that--what temperature, how long, etc. So when I made my second batch of this granola, I tried taking the granola out after the first baking time, letting it cool just a bit, and then putting it back in for about five minutes or so and that seemed to enhance the crispiness. Just something to think about. Play around with this recipe.

May 18, 2011

Mexican Vanilla

For anyone out there who knows how delicious Mexican vanilla is, I just found a local source that sells it. In fact, the company is just two blocks west of where I live in Springville. Who would have thought?! Until fairly recently, my family always knew people who knew people (including a former 100+-year-old neighbor) who could get us Mexican vanilla directly from Mexico. We put it in whipped cream, cookies, custard, ice cream, and anything else that called for vanilla. It made everything better. Well, now you can get Mexican vanilla without any special connections. It isn't cheap, but I urge you to give it a try. It's called Blue Cattle Truck Mexican Vanilla. It has won awards and been featured on the Martha Stewart Show. Check out this link.

May 7, 2011

Vanilla Icebox Cookies

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla (or you can substitute lemon or orange peel for a slightly fruity flavor)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, beat until fluffy. Mix in dry ingredients. Add nuts and stir until combined. Shape dough into a 1-inch roll and chill. Once dough is chilled, cut into slices and bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.

Apr 9, 2011

French Dip Sandwiches

I have a short but checkered history with crockpots, though I admit that the blame for my early failures rests largely with me. In one case, I made pot roast in my crockpot, complete with the roast, veggies, and gravy. The recipe turned out fine, I think, but as I was transporting my crockpot meal to a gathering of friends, carefully steadying the container as I drove, I reached a point where I thought I had made it safely to my destination, and so I let go of the crockpot to pull into a parking space. However, in making the final turn, the crockpot somehow tipped over (why do they often have only three legs?) and the entire contents spilled all over my car floor. And in another instance, I used my crockpot to try a new recipe for Lime Chicken that had been recommended by a friend. I was so excited by the prospect that I made a whole crockpot full of Lime Chicken. But for whatever reason, the chicken was inedible. It was so awful that I couldn't even force myself to eat a single piece, and I ended up throwing the whole batch away. Ugh.

However, my luck with crockpots may have recently turned. One of my first successes was Pulled Pork. And now another success--French Dip Sandwiches! Yum! Plus I'm happy to report that this recipe is as easy as can be. It comes from my friend Elisa, who in turn got it from Our Best Bites. Give it a try!

1 2 1/2 to 3 pound beef roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 1-ounce packages dry onion soup mix
2 cups water
2 14.5 ounce cans beef broth
6-8 large buns, halved (or more...6 would be VERY generous servings!) (also, use a good quality bun; that makes a big difference)
Swiss, provolone, or mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and rub roast with salt and pepper. When very hot, carefully place roast in pan and sear on all sides. You're not cooking the meat, you're just browning it quickly to add flavor and seal in the juices. Place in crockpot and sprinkle with onion soup mixes. Pour water and beef broth over roast. Cook 8-10 hours on low or cook 4-5 hours on high and another 3-4 hours on low. It's hard to screw this part up; basically, the longer it cooks, the more tender it will be. But you know it's done when you pop a fork in it and the meat just falls apart. When meat is ready, take it out of the crockpot and shred with a fork. Keep the leftover juices to use as the dipping sauce.

Spread the halved buns face up on a baking sheet and butter them lightly, if desired. Top the bottom bun with shredded meat and cheese and broil the buns open-faced in the oven or toaster oven for a few minutes, until bread is golden and cheese is melty. Ladle the sauce into small cups for dipping and enjoy!

Mar 27, 2011

Swedish Pancakes

I should probably begin this post with three confessions. First, even though I call this a recipe blog, this post does not offer a recipe. It's more of a referral or a recommendation. Second, I can't say that I know anything about authentic Swedish pancakes, so take what I say here with a grain of salt. I think of these more as crepes. Finally, I'm probably recommending something here that you already make at home and do so easily and cheaply. I have made crepes before, and I love them, but this is a shortcut for when I'm feeling lazy.

That being said, I dropped by IKEA on a whim yesterday and found that they sell pre-made Swedish pancakes (Pannkakor) in the frozen food area. There are a dozen to a bag and each bag costs about $4.30. All you do to reheat them is to put them in the microwave for a few minutes. Voila! Then you can top them with butter, jam, maple syrup, whipped cream, fresh fruit, powdered sugar, or whatever. Actually, one of my favorite ways to serve them is to squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the heated pancakes and then top them with butter, maple syrup, a scattering of fresh blueberries, and a dusting of powdered sugar. Delish!

I also need to try these with savory fillings/toppings. Anyway, give them a try and let me know what you think.

Mar 16, 2011

Al Forno's Roasted Asparagus

This recipe for roasted asparagus is only slightly different from a recipe I posted previously. In this case, there is no Parmesan cheese or black pepper, and the asparagus is cooked at a higher temperature. But I like both versions. This recipe comes from The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

"You'll love the strategy in this recipe. By placing your oven rack on the highest shelf and roasting the asparagus on it with the oven cranked to 500 degrees, you get perfectly roasted sprouts--shocked with heat on the outside, moist as morning grass on the inside.

1 1/2 pounds asparagus
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt

1. Move an oven rack to the highest shelf and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Wash the asparagus under cold running water. Cut away about 1 inch from the bottom of each spear. Place the asparagus in a single layer in a roasting pan and brush with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt to taste, and shake the pan or roll the asparagus so the salt disperses.
2. Roast the asparagus until the spears are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness. Transfer to a serving platter. Serves 6."

Feb 26, 2011

Tamale Pie/Cornbread Casserole

This hearty dish clearly fits under the category of comfort food. I like the combination of the beef, bean, and veggie layer, topped with cornbread. This recipe is adapted slightly from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Beef Mixture:
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 cups salsa (jarred or homemade)
1 can (15 ounce) black, pinto or white beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Cornbread Topping:
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cup milk
2 or 3 green onions, sliced (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan and set aside. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and onion, adding the salt and pepper, over medium-high heat until the beef is no longer pink. Drain the fat from the pan. Stir in the corn, salsa, and beans. Pour the beef mixture into the prepared pan and set aside.

For the cornbread, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil, beaten eggs and milk. Whisk together until just moistened and no dry spots remain. Fold in the sliced green onions, if desired.

Sprinkle the cheese over the beef mixture and pour the cornbread batter over the cheese and beef mixture. Gently spread the cornbread to the edges of the pan, evening it out over the top of the casserole.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the edges are bubbly and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Let the casserole stand for 10 minutes before serving. May be served with additional salsa, sour cream, or chili sauce. Serves 6-8.

Feb 20, 2011

New York Times Essential Cookbook


A good friend of mine, Mark Magleby, who is an excellent cook in his own right, brought this terrific cookbook to my attention at the end of last year. He brought it to one of our monthly dinner groups and was browsing through it for pure enjoyment. Mark said that even if one didn't try any of the recipes, the recipe notes, the food history, and the quality of the writing make for fascinating reading. And he's right.

Here is how Amazon describes the book:
"All the best recipes from 150 years of distinguished food journalism--a volume to take its place in America's kitchens alongside Mastering the Art of French Cooking and How to Cook Everything. Amanda Hesser, the well-known New York Times food columnist, brings her signature voice and expertise to this compendium of influential and delicious recipes from chefs, home cooks, and food writers. Hesser has cooked and updated every one of the 1,000-plus recipes here. Her chapter introductions showcase the history of American cooking, and her witty and fascinating headnotes share what makes each recipe special."

To be honest, I haven't done much cooking out of the book yet, though it does have the no-knead bread recipe I love and make on a regular basis. Nevertheless, I am fascinated by the interesting little notes about each recipe. I am also intrigued by the historical introductions and timelines that begin begin each chapter. They give you kind of a quick overview of food history in the United States.

I have a lot more to read and even more to cook, but this cookbook is a keeper!

Feb 14, 2011

Ellen's Bar Cookies

I have no idea who Ellen is. All I know is that I associate these tasty cookies with my mom. She calls these "Ellen's Things" and has served them for years, particularly around the holidays. I don't know anyone else who makes them, or anything quite like them.

Because I'm not sure that anyone would be tempted to make "things" (Ellen's or anyone else's), I've changed the title to something a bit more descriptive. In any case, I do highly recommend these treats. They have a rich, dense, chocolatey layer on the bottom. On top of that is a creamy, pudding-like layer, which can be colored to suit your mood. And on top of that are swirls of chocolate, which you create by drizzling melted chocolate on the middle layer and then running a fork through the chocolate to make visually interesting swirls and lines. These cookies can be quite attractive.

Bottom layer:
1/2 cup butter
5 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Middle layer:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla instant pudding mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons milk

Top layer:
2 squares semisweet baking chocolate
1 1/2 teaspoons butter

Melt 1/2 cup butter in heavy pan. Add sugar, cocoa, and vanilla. Stir till dissolved. Cool slightly, then beat in egg. Set aside. Mix crumbs, coconut, and nuts together and stir in chocolate butter mixture; press into an ungreased 9" x 13" x 2" pan. In a bowl beat sugar, pudding powder, 1/2 cup butter, and milk (add food coloring, if desired). Beat until creamy. Spread over crumb mixture and chill. Melt chocolate and 1 1/2 teaspoons butter and drizzle on top with a fork; then lightly draw the fork through the chocolate to create decorative lines. Cool and cut into 1 1/2" squares.

Feb 3, 2011

Cream of Zucchini Soup

This delicious soup comes from my Uncle Brent and Aunt Fae. It's a great way to use the zucchini that is so abundant during the summer.

1 pound (2 medium) onions, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds zucchini squash, washed and sliced
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I actually prefer to omit the cayenne)
1/2 cup half and half
Grated cheddar cheese (garnish)

In a heavy saucepan, saute the onion in butter until it is soft and translucent but not brown. Add zucchini and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until squash is tender. Add seasonings and put mixture into a blender; puree until smooth. Add half and half, adjust seasonings to taste, and reheat but do not boil. Serve immediately, garnished with grated cheddar cheese.

Jan 19, 2011

Ham and Sweet Potato Hash

I like breakfast foods almost any time of the day, and this is a nice change up from traditional breakfast foods. I especially like the mix of sweet and savory in this hearty dish. Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons light cream
10 ounces ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large eggs

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid and microwave for about 6 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not overcooked (stir the potatoes halfway through cooking). Afterwards, drain off any excess liquid and set the potatoes aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until the oil is hot. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes and the cream. Using the back of a spatula, press the potatoes into a somewhat even layer and let them cook without stirring, for about 2 minutes, so they can start to get nicely browned. Flip the potato hash mixture, one portion at a time, and lightly repack into the skillet to let the potatoes brown on the other side. Continue this flipping process every few minutes until the potatoes are nicely browned, about 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the ham and lightly repack the hash into the skillet. Using the spatula, make 4 shallow divots, about 2 inches wide, in the surface of the potato mixture. Crack one egg into each indentation. Season with salt and pepper and then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Let the mixture cook until the eggs are set to your liking, about 5-7 minutes. Serves 4.

Jan 15, 2011

Easy Microwave Caramels

I LOVE caramels, especially soft caramels! I love the sweetness, the butteriness, and the smooth texture. So I'm thrilled that I can now make my own homemade caramels, thanks to my friends Elisa and Angie (see Elisa's recipe here). And these are some of the best caramels I've ever had.

In the past, I've been afraid to try making something like this. Candy making intimidates me. But I shouldn't have worried. This recipe is a lot easier than I expected. I tinkered with the microwave times the first couple of batches to get the desired consistency I was after, but now I've got it down. I am in heaven!

1 cup corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1 pint whipping cream
Dash of salt
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 2/3 cup cream in a microwave-safe bowl (it needs to be a deep bowl because the caramel mixture bubbles up quite a bit, and you don't want it to spill over into the bottom of your microwave; I use the liner from my slow cooker) and mix until blended. Cook the mixture on high power for 9 minutes, then stir in 2/3 cup more cream. Cook the mixture for another 9 minutes. Then stir in butter, vanilla, and the rest of the cream (butter should be completely melted). Cook for another 8 minutes. Check to see if caramel is cooked to soft-ball stage by dropping a little in a cup of cold water. If necessary, continue cooking the caramel one minute at a time until it is done. Pour into a well-buttered 8 x 8-inch pan and allow to cool and set up. Cut the caramel into pieces, wrap, and enjoy! By the way, I found that a local store sells caramel wrappers, which I hadn't known were available. They are pre-cut and clear, which makes the wrapped caramels more attractive, especially compared to wax paper.

NOTE: cooking times may vary depending on your microwave. The times above work perfectly for MY microwave, and I've made these caramels about a dozen times now. But I know that a few people have tried this recipe and ended up with overdone caramel. So I'd suggest maybe reducing the cooking times a bit and using the cold water method mentioned above to test whether the candy is at the soft ball stage. You can always cook the caramel longer, of course, but there isn't much you can do when it is overcooked. However, once you have the times down, this recipe is VERY easy.

Jan 8, 2011

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

This is my kind of recipe. Just a few ingredients, easy to prepare, and really tasty! I had this tonight, along with my baked beans recipe. The world seems brighter after such a delicious meal! (I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com)

1 5-pound pork roast (shoulder or butt)
Salt and pepper
2 (12 fluid ounce) cans root beer
1 28-ounce bottle barbecue sauce (you can use your favorite; I used Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory and Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce)
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
Hamburger buns, lightly toasted

Season with salt and pepper and place pork roast in a crockpot; pour root beer over the meat. Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily, 6 to 7 hours (the actual length of time may vary according to individual slow cooker). Drain well. Remove pork from the crockpot, take out any fat or bone, shred, then return to slow cooker. Stir in barbecue sauce, garlic salt, and onion. Add a little water, if necessary, to add moisture. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Serve over hamburger buns. (Not sure how many this serves. I'd guess that it makes enough for about 20 sandwiches. But you can use a larger pork roast, if need be.)

Jan 3, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes

I was assigned to do a potato dish for our family Christmas party this year, so I thought I'd try to find a good basic recipe for scalloped potatoes, and this is it. Cheesy and potatoey and filling. Plus it allowed me to practice on my new mandoline. This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (5 medium), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 bay leaves
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the potatoes, broth, cream, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes.

Discard the bay leaves. Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch square baking dish. Gently press the potatoes into an even layer and sprinkle the cheddar over the top. Bake until the cream is bubbling around the edges and the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.