Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mashed Potatoes

To me mashed potatoes can make every meal special.  There's no question what to have with meatloaf or roast turkey.  The answer is always going to be mashed potatoes at my dinner table.  Over the years I have used many different concoctions, depending on what a recipe may have called for or more commonly what was on hand in my pantry.  And this specific concoction is just wonderful.  The potatoes are dense and heavy, while at the same time they are fluffy and light.  The heavy cream and real butter give it a richness that milk and margarine can't replicate.  And the fresh cracked pepper and sea salt finish it off simply perfect.

6 Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled/ chopped)
1/4 cup or so of heavy whipping cream
3 T real salted butter
fresh cracked pepper and sea salt (this makes a difference)

-In a large stockpot, with lightly salted water, boil potatoes for 30-40 minutes; strain into a large mixing bowl.  Add in cream, butter and the salt/ pepper (keeping in mind that the water was salted-this is my favorite way of flavoring potatoes or pasta).  Blend well with a hand mixer until smooth (I prefer to leave a few little "lumps" of potatoes for texture).  And that's it!  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Slow-Cooker Dilly Beef Sandwiches

Here's a different twist on a family favorite.  This beef sandwich is definitely different than any one that you have had before.  I'd have to say that pickles and their brine are what gives this sandwich it's own unique tangy kick.  Paired with a soft doughy egg roll from your local market, this sandwich is amazing.  I have made this one many of times with many different beef roasts and I do believe that the sirloin roast is the best.  The meat is soft, tender and literally bursting with flavor.  I have yet to serve this without rave reviews.

1 3lb beef sirloin roast
1-2 T bacon grease
1 jar chili sauce
1 medium jar dill pickle slices (undrained)
12 egg dinner rolls

-Add bacon grease to a deep stock pot/ dutch oven over a high flame.  Once grease is brought back to liquid, add in roast.  Sear each side to develop a nice brown crust.  Remove roast from pan and toss into a slow-cooker. Pour entire jar of pickles with juice and chili sauce over roast.  Cover and set on High for 6-8 hours (the longer the better).  Using two large forks, shred roast in crock.  Cut a pocket slit in the side of each roll (so you don't lose your meat out of your bun-I hate that!) and stuff with meat and pickle bits.  Serves 6-8.  Enjoy!

Potato Chip Cookies

I can remember making these with my Mom when I was little.  They were always my Dad's favorite.  They are sweet, buttery and salty.  All the makings of a great cookie if you ask me.  So now you will have a use for the crumbs at the bottom of you bag of chips.  I know that this is what I use mine for.

1 cup real unsalted butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup crushed plain potato chips (I prefer kettle chips, they hold their crunch)
1/2 cup crushed pecans

-Preheat oven to 350*.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Beat in flour; add in chips and nuts (mixture will be crumbly that's OK).  Using the palm of your hand, knead dough into little balls and place on an ungreased baking stone or cookie sheet.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until very lightly browned.  Makes about 3 dozen.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baked Sweet Italian Sausage with Red Wine Marinara

I absolutely love this dish.  The compliment of the sweet sparkly wine with the acidity of the tomatoes is fabulous paired along with some creamy cheese filled pasta.  The sauce has a deep rich flavor and the sausage cuts like butter.  When I want pasta, this is the way I want it.  Not only is this wonderful and delicious, it is also quick and easy.  You can prepare this the same way, but instead of baking it off you can toss it into your slow-cooker on LOW for 6-8 hours.  But the oven is definitely the way to go if you can.  It gives the sauce and vegetables a roasted flavor.

5 sweet Italian sausages
1 lg green sweet pepper (halved then sliced)
1 T. of extra virgin olive oil
1 med red onion (halved then sliced)
1/4 cup Lambrusco red sweet wine
1- 29oz. lg can of tomato sauce
1- 15oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (un-drained)
1 T. of Italian seasoning
1 large ripe red tomato (sliced)
1 lb of prepared cheese tortellini
fresh parsley for garnish (chopped)

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Boil sausage for about 10 minutes (to get the grease out of them); plate and set aside. Saute the sweet pepper in a large saucepan over medium heat with some e.v.o. for about 2 minutes, then add in the onions.  Continue to saute until the vegetables are tender.  Pour in the wine, bring to a boil (while scrapping all of the 'flavor' off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon), then add in the red sauce, the tomatoes and the Italian seasonings.  Again bring this back up to a boil, then transfer it into your large casserole dish.  Add in your boiled sausages, lay your sliced tomatoes across the top and cover the top tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake for 2-2 1/2 hours.  Prepare tortellini as directed.  Serve sausage and marinara sauce over pasta with a sprinkle of parsley on top.  Serves 5.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tonya's Special Pie Crust

I now know that when someone stated that cooking is an art and baking is a science, that they were probably making pies at the time.  Now don't let me scare you off already, it's not hard to make homemade pie crust.  You just have to work quickly and efficiently if you want the dough to cooperate.  When you pull that gorgeous creation out of your oven, you will forget all the hard work and effort that went into it.  And just wait until you taste this amazing crust.  It is, hands down,  the best crust that I have ever had.  I won't evenconsider trying another recipe.

‎4 c all-purpose flour
1 3/4 c butter flavored shortening
1 T sugar
2 tsp salt
1 egg (beaten)
1/2 cup water

-Using a fork mix together flour, shortening, sugar and salt. In another bowl beat remaining ingredients. Combine together with a fork until moistened and form a ball with your hands. Wrap in saran wrap and flatten on countertop into a disc-like shape (helps chill quicker and is easier to roll out). Refrigerate for at least 30 min's or more prior to rolling out on a well floured countertop. Dough can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or can be frozen for up to 1 year. If you freeze it, do it in individual baggies 1 crust-sized portion in each. It does not like to be seperated and over-worked after freezing. Makes 2 thick and rustic pie shells (like I like mine) or 2 regular shells and 2 regular tops.  Enjoy!

Honey Pumpkin Pie

This my friends, is my very most favorite thing of all.  I absolutely love anything that has pumpkin in it, especially my pumpkin pie. The honey adds a great touch of natural sweetness and flavor.  A perfect match for the melody of spices and the wonderful flaky crust.  Top it off with a dollop of cool whip and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Nothing compares to a homemade pie.  At least nothing compares to this homemade pie that is.

1 single pie crust from Tonya's Special Pie Crust recipe: 
1 15oz can of pumpkin
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs (beaten)
1 12oz can of evaporated milk
1 T honey

-Preheat oven to 375*.  Place prepared and rolled single-pie crust into a 9" pie pan.  Use left over rolled pie crust for the decorative edging.  Cut out l2-15 leaf shapes (cookie cutter) and gently apply to the edge of the pie.  Combine all ingredient's in a medium bowl; pour into pastry lined pie pan.  Cover crust with an aluminum foil ring (keep on for the first 25-30 minutes to keep crust from burning).  Bake for 50-55 minutes.Let completely cool before covering and refrigerating (if left at room temperature, it begins it liquify).  Serve cold (if you warm it up it liquifies) with a dollop of cool whip and a sprinkle of nutmeg on top.  Serves 8.  Enjoy!

Honey Pecan Pie

This pie is my husbands most favorite part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.  It is the only thing besides my baked sweet potatoes that he will request.  With it's heavenly honey-roasted aroma and sweet nutty flavor, it is surely to go along just as perfectly with your holiday meal as it does with ours. 

1 pie shell from Tonya's Special Pie Crust recipe: 
3 eggs (at room temperature/ beaten)
1 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup real un-salted butter (melted)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 T honey
1 1/2 cups pecans (chopped)

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Place prepared and rolled single-pie crust into a 9" pie pan.  Use left over rolled pie crust for the decorative edging.  Cut out l2-15 leaf shapes (cookie cutter) and gently apply to the edge of the pie.  Combine all ingredient's in a medium bowl; pour into pastry lined pie pan.  Cover crust with an aluminum foil ring (keep on for the first 25-30 minutes to keep crust from burning).  Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Let completely cool before covering and refrigerating (if left at room temperature, it begins it liquify).  Serve cold (if you warm it up it liquifies) with vanilla bean ice cream.  Serves 8.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Sticks

It is time for holiday sweets people!  And why not start with a fun and simple treat that you can share with your kids.  My daughter, Paige, played "The Dipper" role, so partial credit must go to her.  We whipped these out tonight just as a holiday teaser.  And I must say that they were fantastic.  Whenever you have a combination of sweet, salty and crunchy you know it will be good.

1/2 bag of mini pretzel sticks
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tsp vegetable oil
and a dash of fun

-Combine chocolate chips and the oil in a small microwavable bowl.  Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes or just until chocolate stirs smoothly.  Dip pretzel sticks about 1/2 way into melted chocolate and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Place sheets in freezer for 10 minutes.  Store refrigerated in a covered container.  Makes 8-10 cups.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cream of Chicken with Rice

Usually when you start with butter, you end in delicious.  I do believe that butter makes everything better.  It creates a nice base layer of rich flavor as in this soup.  This was a beautiful cream soup, with a hearty down-home attitude.  I love how the fresh rosemary and squeezed lemon brought out a brightness to it, enhancing the chicken.   This is one of my favorite comfort foods that I make as soon as it gets cold every year.  Just the aroma of this simmering away on the stove is enough to warm you up.

2 T real un-salted butter (divided)
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 cups baby carrots (peeled/ chopped)
3 stalks of celery (chopped)
1 small onion (diced)
3 T all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy whipping cream (just because)
2 cups milk (if needed)
1 T fresh rosemary (minced, you can use dried but only about 1-2 tsp. then)
2 tsp. dried thyme
salt/ pepper
1 cup Jasmine rice (uncooked)
sliced lemon for garnish

-Heavily salt and pepper each side of the chicken breasts.  In a large dutch oven or stockpot, over med-high heat, deeply brown both sides of the chicken in 1 tablespoon of butter.  Remove from pan and set on a platter to cool before chopping (helps to keep the flavor). Meanwhile, prepare rice as directed and keep covered until ready to add in. Toss in chopped vegetables with remaining tablespoon of butter.  Give them a nice salt and peppering.  Saute' over me-high heat until soft.  Stir in flour and brown (it will coat the veggies, that's ok).  Slowly pour in heavy whipping cream and chicken stock.  Add in chopped chicken breasts, rice, rosemary and thyme.  Simmer while constantly stirring over med-high heat for 5-10 minutes.  Reduce heat and continue stirring.  Soup will slowly begin to thicken.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or more.  Use milk as a thinning agent, adding in 1 cup at a time if soup is too thick.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

hatThe only problem that these cookies cause at our home, is who gets to put the "X's" on the top.  I usually end up giving in and letting my daughter, Paige, do it.  But, first not without a fight.  These cookies bake up wonderfully soft and sweet.  And their delicious aroma is found everywhere in our home for hours.  You can dress them up with sprinkled sugar on top or with some chocolate chips, but I personally prefer them as is.  Of course I have to have a nice icy cold glass of milk to go along with them.  But, that's a given.

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening (I use the sticks for an easy, mess-free, precise measurement)
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
4 T milk
1 T real vanilla extract
1 large egg (stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or so, then beaten)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 T sugar for garnish (optional)
1 small bag of chocolate chips (optional)

-Preheat oven to 375*.  In a large bowl combine peanut butter, shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer just until well blended.  Mix in beaten egg.  In a small bowl mix together flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir into peanut butter mixture in small batches, thoroughly combining before each new addition.  If using chocolate chips, fold them in at this point. Drop by small spoonfuls onto a baking stone.  Using a wet fork (keeps fork from sticking to dough), inprint top of each cookie with a cross-hatched pattern (this actually has a purpose, it presses them down into shape or else they would be too thick and cook unevenly).  If topping with sugar, sprinkle evenly on top of each cookie at this point.  Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes or so, watching not to over brown.  Makes 3 dozen.  Enjoy!

Marinated Steak Fajitas with Saute'd Red/ Green Sweet Peppers and Lime Infused Sour Cream

These were very good and suprisingly tender.  You know that they are when your three year old eats as many as you do!  Mixing the fresh squeezed lime juice in with the sour cream, well, that was nothing short of genius.  I'd have to say that was my favoright part. 

1/3 cup Bold and Spicy A.1. Steak Sauce
1/4 cup medium chunky salsa
1 1/2 lb boneless sirloin steak (thinly sliced against grain)
1/2 cup sour cream (don't use Lite, it is too thin when lime juice is mixed in)
2 T fresh squeezed lime juice (using palm of hand, press hard & roll on countertop to excrete juices before slicing and squeezing)
1 red sweet pepper (sliced)
1 green sweet pepper (sliced)
1 medium onion (halved then sliced thin)
6-8 flour tortillas (warmed)

-Combine steak sauce and salsa in a medium bowl.  Toss in steak strips; cover and chill for 2 hours or so to marinate.  Meanwhile, mix sour cream and lime juice together; cover and chill until ready to use.  Saute' veggies in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and salt/ pepper (helps to soften) over high heat until crisp-tender.  Remove from pan, cover with aluminum foil and set aside.  Toss sirloin strips into the hot pan and cook about 4-5 minutes or until evenly browned.  Add veggies back in and cover.  Serve over warmed tortillas with lime infused sour cream.  Serves 6-8.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Chicken Bean Soup

Well if you're looking for a warm and hearty soup, then this is one is just perfect for you.  It's stocked full of veggies, beans and meat.  And it carries a beautiful array of flavors.  I like to garnish my "southwestern style soups" with a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.  And if I'm feeling a little risky, I'll dice up a few jalapeno's too.  Accompanied by some warm corn muffins, this is my idea of a warm and hearty soup. 

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (minced)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 medium carrot (diced)
1 can (15 oz) black beans (rinsed/ drained)
1 can (15 oz) navy beans (rinsed/ drained)
1 can (14 1/2 oz) crushed tomatoes (undrained)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice
sour cream and cheddar cheese for garnish

-Combine all ingredient's (excpet garnish's) in slow-cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  Remove bay leaf and chicken bones prior to serving.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pancakes

This recipe came from a very good old friend.  And, it is a wonderful recipe at that.  These pancake's were very filling a dense, while at the same time they were light and spongey.  Slathered with butter and syrup, they are the perfect match for some breakfast sausage.  Like I have said before, if it calls for pumpkin then I'm making it!

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbs brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin
1 egg
2 tbs oil
2 tbs vinegar
1 tbs honey
-Combine all dry ingredient's in a large mixing bowl.  Then add in milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, vinegar and honey.  Stir until completely combined.  Cook on a hot buttered griddle by ladel fulls.  Serve with butter and syrup.  Serves many.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sautee'd Rosemary and Pear Pork Chops

This is a wonderful dish.  I was quite impressed with how well the balsamic vinaigrette dressing played in with the sauce.  It also helped to soften and tenderize the pork chops to the point that the meat literally fell off the bone.  And the simple seasoning of garlic and fresh rosemary (that I grew myself thank you very much) was just the perfect pairing for the pears.  Served with some sweet and fragrant Jasmine rice, this has just become one of our family favorite's.  Hopefully, it will become one of your family's too.

5 bone in center-cut pork chops
1/4 cup light balsamic vinaigrette dressing (divided)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 shallots (these are nice and mild)
1 tsp fresh rosemary (minced)
1 can pear halves (undrained)
extra virgin olive oil
salt/ pepper

-Heat a little oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops; sautee 3-4 min's on each side or until you get a nice golden-brown crust.  Remove chops from pan and set aside.  Add in 3 tablespoons of the dressing along with the shallots, rosemary and garlic.  Sautee until softened.  Then, add in the remainder of the dressing, pears with juice and lastly the chops.  Cover and simmer over low heat for at least one hour (the longer the better!).  Occassionally checking and flipping pork chops.  Serve with the sauce over chops alongside some Jasmine rice and steamed vegetables.  Serves 5.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fresh Margarita Pizza

This is my version of the spectacular Margarita Pizza at Bucca de Beppos in Orland, Illinois.  Mine is great, but I will be the first to admit that theirs is amazing.  By keeping the ingredient's simple, you really get the intensity of the fresh basil and the creaminess of the fresh mozzerella.  Once you've tried this combination of toppings, anything more seems like overkill.  Sweet and simple is the key here.  Making this pizza at home tides me over until I can get back up there for theirs.  Not to mention that this is a "kid friendly" pizza to help make and to eat. 

1 pkg of crescent rolls
1 can (15 oz) pizza sauce
1 large ball of fresh mozzerella cheese (cubed)
bunch of fresh basil leaves (chopped)

-Preheat oven to 375*.  Unroll crescent roll dough (keeping it intact) onto a rectangular baking sheet (I prefer a stone, I think it helps things rise and crust up better).  Spread pizza sauce over dough keeping at least an inch or so away  from the edge.  Dot heavily with cheese cubes and bake for 10 -15 minutes (depending on pan and oven) or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. Remove from oven  and garnish with lots of fresh chopped basil.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

If it calls for pumpkin, then I'm making it.  I absolutely love baking pumpkin breads, muffins, cookies, cakes and pies.  And this particular quick bread is wonderful.  It had a beautiful rise, great color and perfect texture.  The aroma alone was making me dance around the oven in temptation.  With a spreading of cream cheese and a glass of milk, I was in heaven.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs (let stand at room temp. for at least 30 min's)
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup water
1/2 of a can (7.5 oz) canned pumpkin

-Preheat oven to 350*; grease and flour a loaf pan (I like a baking spray by Pilsbury for this, it has the flour in it).  In a large bowl, beat sugar and oil on medium speed.  Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined; set to the side.  In another large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add flour and water to sugar mixture alternatively a little at a time while beating on low until just combined; beat in pumpkin.  Pour batter into pan and bake at 350* for 60 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely and wrap in saran wrap.  Best if sliced the next day, but mine usually doesn't make it until then!  Serves 10.  Enjoy! 

Perfectly Sweet Sweet Tea

If you have ever been over to my house for a visit or a meal, you most likely were offered some of my sweet tea.  This is a staple beverage in our home.  Not only is tea good for you, but it goes with everything.  And not to mention it costs considerably less than soda.  I grew up with a pitcher of sweet tea gracing my mothers' refridgerator, and now my children will too.  And with little embelishes like fresh mint, lemon or raspberries (or all together if I'm feeling a little crazy), you can make it different and special.

3 Lipton Tea bags                                                                         
3 1/2-4 tbs. sugar
bunch of fresh mint leaves (no stems), lemon slices or fresh raspberries (optional)

-Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil; remove from heat.  Place tea bags in pan to soak for 3-5 minutes (if you leave them in too long, your tea can have a bitter after-taste).  Remove tea bags and squeeze excess tea out of them before discarding.  Stir in sugar until dissolved.  Pour into a 2 quart pitcher (I prefer glass, you don't get a funky taste from it like plastic and it doesn't stain).  Fill up the pitcher the rest of the way with cold water while stirring.  Chill and serve over ice with a couple mint leaves.  Serves 6-8.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

This particular dish reminds me of family dinners.  I don't know why though, because I can't recall if it was ever even on the table at any of ours.  It's just the type of food that you would think would be there.  It's warm and heavy.  The perfect comfort food if you ask me.  Packed with a rich cream sauce and a crusty cheese topping, it's the perfect side dish to accompany any large or small dinner.  I may just have to start this one in on our next family gathering.

16 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
1/2 cup real butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. salt
4 1/2 cups milk
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

-Cook pasta as directed for al dente (this was it holds up after it is baked).  Preheat oven to 375*.  In a large pan, melt butter; stir in flour dry mustard and salt.  Slowly stir in milk about a cup at a time.  Continue to cook over medium heat until sauce thickens and begins to bubble (constantly stirring the whole time).  Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of cheese.  Add your drained pasta into sauce and stir to combine.  Pour into a greased 13"x9" baking pan.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups of cheese evenly on top and then the bread crumbs over that.  Bake uncovered for 40 min's or until lightly browned around the edges.  Serves 12.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Slow-Cooker Pot Roast Pasta

This hearty dish went over great at our home.  I was a little leary to have a gravy style sauce over pasta like this, but the egg noodles can carry that load well.  My husband almost sounded shocked when he exclaimed how much he liked it.  I know that's true when he's up for seconds, and well let's just be honest, sometimes thirds.  That man can eat, and I am proud that I can feed him well.

1 lb beef stew meat
1 carton fresh sliced mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 tbs McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 pkg dry onion soup mix
1 pkg egg noodles (prepared as directed)

-Season all sides of meat with steak seasoning inside slow cooker.  Add in mushrooms,cream soup and dry soup mix.  Let it go Low and Slow for 8-10 hours.  Serve over prepared pasta.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Peanut-Crusted Stuffed French Toast

This concoction has been a long time coming let me tell you.  It is based on one of my all time favorite meals at a small restaurant in New Lenox, Illinois called Country Charm.  They have a wonderful cream cheese filled french toast with a warm blueberry sauce.  My Mom and I have been going there for it since I was in grade school.  Now that I live even farther away, I rarely ever get a chance to make it out there.  Well, it doesn't help that they close mid-day.  So, that led to many years of trying to create my own take on cream cheese filled french toast.  This one is wonderfully sweet and heavenly aromatic.  It's not just a treat to your pallet, it's a treat to almost all of your senses.  We eat with our eyes, our taste and our sense of smell.

3 cups crushed peanuts
8 slices of white bread (I used a buttermilk bread)
4 eggs (beaten)
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
1 brick (8 oz) softened cream cheese

-Spread the cream cheese evenly (staying about 1/4" in from edges, so it doesn't leak out while cooking) on one side of each slice of bread.  Assemble as sandwiches with cream cheese side facing inward towards each other.  Mix beaten eggs and vanilla in a large shallow bowl; dip sandwiches in flipping and  coating both sides.  Next, place crushed peants on a large plate; coat both sides of egg-dipped sandwiches evenly with nuts.  Transfer sandwiches onto a medium-heated griddle and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side (watch carefully as to not burn nuts).  Serve with syrup and some thickly sliced bacon.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Grilled Orange Brat's

I can hand over the credit for this melody of flavors to my husband, Rich.  He seen something along these lines on a hunting show.  When he first suggested to boil the brats in orange soda, my first response was not too nice.  It sounded absurd to me.  But then I remembered all the great things that I have made with Coca-Cola and beer.  So, I figured why not.  But, I decided to add in the fresh oranges for the extra flavor and tartness and the carmelized onions to balance it out.  And, tah-dah they were scrumptious!  There was just the right amount of everything.  And the best part was the crust that formed on the brat's as they finished grilling.  The orange soda added that touch.
1 pkg (5 sausage's) Johnsonville Bratwurst
1 liter orange flavored soda
3 oranges (halved)
1 medium sweet onion (thinly sliced)
extra virgin olive oil

-Boil sausage and orange halves in the soda for 10 min's (yeah I said soda!).  Meanwhile, sautee onion in a little extra virgin olive oil on medium heat until transparent.  Remove sausage (reserve orange halves for garnish) from pan and finish off on a pre-heated grill.  Grill on medium-high heat for about 5-10 min's more, turning frequently, or until evenly browned.  Place on buns with sauteed onions on top.  Serves 5.  Enjoy!

Creamy Potato Soup

This is probably one of my best loved hand me downs.  This recipe was given to me by a wonderful doctor, friend and co-worker.  I have played around with it over time, and always go back to the original chicken scratched one from a piece of office paper.  I transfer all my recipes to index cards for my box, except those from family and dear friends.  For some reason it just doesn't feel right to toss them out. My belly and those of others will be forever grateful to him.  Thank you Dr. Macnab.

5 large red pototoes (peeled/ diced)
1 medium yellow Vidalia sweet onion (diced)
3 stalks celery (sliced)
1 8 oz. brick of cream cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups milk
2 cups water
2 tbs. real butter
Cooked crumbled bacon and shredded cheddar cheese for garnish

-In a large stockpot, over medium heat, cook the potatoes, onions and celery in 2 cups of water; covered until done (about 20 minutes-you want them to be soft, but not falling apart). Add in cream cheese and butter; stir until melted.  Then, in a large bowl, mix together milk, soups and garlic.  Slowly pour this into your stockpot.  Cover and simmer for at least 15 min's.  Top with bacon and cheese.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake

This one takes the cake!  This is one of the few occassions where the picture does it justice alright.  Just to look at this, and I am drooling.  I can almost taste the moistness of the cake along with the fluffiness of the cool whip and the sweet tartness of the cherry sauce.  This is my first concoction to my recollection. I made this with on hand ingredients in the fifth grade. We can thank my Dad for keeping the options low due to empty cupboards! But, there's not a thing that I would add to change this even now.  This simple twist on chocolate cake is just amazing.  Sometimes simple is better.  ‎

1 boxed chocolate cake (prepare as directed)
1 tub of Cool Whip
1 large can of cherry pie filling

-Bake cake as directed in a 9x13 pan. Once completely cooled, top with cool whip. Sloppily spoon pie filling over the top. Cover and refridge...rate. Serves many. Enjoy!

Homemade Carrot Cake

It never even occurred to me that I had never had nor made a carrot cake before.  I guess my interpretation of it would have to be a banana cake, which mind you I make as a staple.  Well, to me anything with cream cheese is right up my alley.  So, I began to play around with the idea and came up with this.  The carrot is almost like a hint of sweetness to an other wise spice cake.  I loved the warmth of the cake and the cool creaminess of the frosting.  What a wonderful cake this was.

4 beaten eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups FINELY SHREDDED carrots (a must or else they sink to bottom)
3/4 cups cooking oil
1 recipe cream cheese frosting

-Let eggs stand at room temperature x 30 min's. Meanwhile, grease and flour a 9x13" cake pan. In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda. In a medium bowl mix eggs, carrots, and oil. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until combined. Pour batter into cake pan. Bake @ 350* x 30-35 min's. Cool completely and then frost. Serves 16. Enjoy!
4 oz (1/2 brick) cream cheese (softened)
1/4 cup of real unsalted butter (softened)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
-Beat first 3 ingred's until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time. That's it, now just frost your cake :)

Slow-Cooker Shrimp and Chicken Creole

I have not tried my hand at cajun cuisine until just recently.  And to be blunt,  I'm hooked.  The way the flavors meld and the subtleness of the heat plays in is wonderful.  Well, it just so happened to be a day when my Grandma was going to be joining us for dinner that I decided to break out my slow cooker and play around.  I was a little hesitant to make it that night, in fear that it may upset her stomach.  I was under the impression that if it was cajun it was hot and spicy, but after making this dish, I was impressed.  It was not hot and spicy at all.  Instead, it had a depth of flavor before finishing with a nice medium warmth.  Served over my old faithful, jasmine rice, this was the perfect cajun dish.  Even my children loved this one.  And not to toot my own horn and all, but my husband said that this was my best meal ever.  And that says a lot.

‎1 lb skinless chicken thighs
1 red bell pepper (diced)
1 large onion (diced)
2 ribs of celery (diced)
1 can (15 oz) stewed tomatoes , undrained
1 clove of garlic (minced)
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 lb shelled/ deveined/ cleaned shrimp
1 tbs lemon juice
few dashes of Louisiana Hot Sauce
prepared white rice (I use Jasmine Rice)

-Place chicken thighs in slow-cooker. Add bell pepper, onion, celery, tomatoes with juice, garlic, sugar, paprika, Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Cover; cook on LOW for 8-10 hours. In last hour of cooking, add shrimp, lemon juice and hot sauce. Serve over warm rice. Serves 6. Enjoy!See More

BBQ Sweet-n-Sour Chicken

I prepared this dish for the first time up at my wonderful Aunt Debys' lake house in Michigan.  I thought that the ingredients were fitting for her tiki style atmosphere and all.  And boy was it ever a hit.  Their lake friends were all asking me if this was sweet and sour chicken, and smiling to myself I said no it's just bbq sauce.  But let me tell you, had I not been the one to make it, I too would of been questioning it.  The juices from the pineapple and bell pepper infuse the bbq sauce with their bittersweet flavors completely altering the bbq sauce.  I served it over jasmine rice, and viola` we had a very simple but wonderful interpretation of sweet and sour chicken with rice.

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 green bell pepper (sliced)
1 fresh pineapple (fresh is better than canned here) (sliced)
bbq sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Ray's)
salt/ pepper
prepared white rice (I always use Jasmine Rice)

-Preheat gas grill.  Wash and dry chicken breasts; salt/ pepper both sides.  Using large square portions of aluminium foil to create "pouches", place chicken breast in center.  Cover with about a 1/4 cup of bbq sauce and top off with two pepper rings and two pineapple rings.  Fold foil inward, gathering at the top tightly.  Place pouches on the top rack of a medium-high heated grill.  Grill for 15 min's, or until chicken is cooked (165*).  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Sour Cream Banana Bread

All I can say for this wonderful quick bread is, oh my goodness!  Now mind you that I make banana bread like it's going out of style.  I have endless amounts of over ripened bananas every week.  I tend to slightly over buy.  But, I was raised never to waste and always eat what's open before opening up something new.  So, therefore I bake a lot of banana bread.  I have tried many different recipes for it over the years, but never finding one that was super moist.  Mine was always slightly over baked on the inside to insure that the center was done.  But, when my husband came home with a recipe for one made with sour cream I couldn't help myself.  I realized that I love to use it in my pound cake, so I was immediately thinking what I could do to enhance it, twist it around and make it mine.  I excluded the nuts and raisins it called for, threw in the semi-sweet chocolate chips and tipped in a little vanilla extract.  And it is phenomenal.  I will never again hunt for a new recipe to try.  This is the one.

1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of real un-salted butter
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup (3-4) mashed very ripe bananas
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Spray a loaf pan (I use stone-ware, it makes a higher rising rustic loaf) with a floured baking spray.
-In a medium bowl, beat together sugar, butter, and eggs.  Add in mashed bananas and vanilla. 
-In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Alternate adding in the flour mixture and the sour cream to the batter.  Add in the chocolate chips. 
-Pour combined batter into pan.  Bake for 60-65 min's, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Serves 10.  Enjoy!