Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Egg Salad

I learned how to make egg salad years ago from a cashier at our local market.  I was buying eggs to make it and realized as I was checking out, that I really had no idea what was in it. She was much older than I, and I am sure that she thought that I was teasing her when I asked her how she made egg salad.  But, she just shrugged her shoulders and said it's just eggs, mayo, mustard, pepper and some celery salt.  The celery salt was the key to it. She said that it was meant to be kept simple.  Simple ingredients and simple directions.  I have found that most of my regular cooking comes from "passed-on" recipes.    

4 hard-boiled eggs
3 T. of real mayonnaise (more or less to taste)
2 tsp. of yellow mustard
1/4 tsp. of celery salt
1/2 a stalk of celery (sliced thinly)
fresh cracked pepper

-Cut eggs in half to remove the yolks.  Using a fork, break the yolks up in a small bowl.  Mix in the mayo, mustard and celery salt.  Chop up egg whites and fold them and the celery in.  Sprinkle with pepper and serve on wheat bread or crackers with lettuce.  Makes about 2 cups.  Enjoy!

Homemade Granola

For those of you  who are not granola fans, so to speak, this is still a must-make recipe.  Even if it is just to smell it baking in your home.  It smells just plain wonderful.  Granola can be anything you want it to be.  Sweet, salty or both.  Mine just happens to be a product of my pantry.  I always end up with 1/2 cup of this or that leftover.  It is nice to find a nice healthy way of cleaning it out. 

4 1/2 cups of old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
1/2 cup of crushed pecans
1/2 cup of broken pretzel sticks
1/2 cup of dried cherries
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/3 cup of canola oil
1/4 cup of honey
1 T. of maple syrup
1/2 cup of light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. of real vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. of almond extract

-Preheat oven to 325*.  In a large mixing bowl stir together the oats, coconut, pecans, pretzels, cherries, cinnamon and salt; set to the side.  In a small saucepan bring the oil, honey, syrup and brown sugar to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.  Pour into oat mixture and thoroughly combine.  Cover two large cookie sheets with aluminum foil and spray with canola cooking spray.  Spread out wet granola evenly on each sheet.  Bake for about 25-28 minutes; stopping every 10 minutes to stir it.  Once it has reached a dark golden color, remove from oven and allow to completely cool.  Once cooled, break apart into small chunks.  Eat alone, top off your yogurt or even garnish the top of some muffins prior to baking.  I think that I may do that to a loaf of Banana Bread today :)  Yields 8-9 cups.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chocolate Cream Pudding Pie

This is my own sprucing up of one of my childhood favorites.  Occasionally my Mom would whip up a pudding pie for no particular reason.  I like the addition of the cool whip in the pudding, it adds a fluffiness to it.  And the sprinkle of crushed chocolate on top adds texture and a bitter-sweetness.  And as for me using a store-bought pie crust, well it is just plain sensible to know what you can do and what you can not do.  Cookie crusts never stick together for me.  It's always a huge disappointment when that happens and that is the exact opposite of what a spontaneous pudding pie is supposed to be. 

1 pre-made (I know, I know!) shortbread pie crust
2 boxes of Jell-O Instant Chocolate Pudding
2 3/4 cups of milk
1 tub (8 oz.) of Cool Whip (divided)
1/8 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (crushed)

-In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pudding mixes and the milk until firm.  Fold in the cool whip until combined.  Spoon into pie crust, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or so.  When ready to serve, frost with the remaining cool whip keeping about an inch or two away from the edge.  Sprinkle with crushed chocolate chips.  Serves 8.  Enjoy!

Bacon-Asparagus Linguine

Sometimes the best dinners are the ones that create themselves.  A little leftover bacon, a bundle of fresh asparagus needing to be eaten and a bowl of lemons catching my eye paved the way for this pasta dish. 

5 slices of  bacon (cooked/ chopped)(mine was leftovers from another meal)
1 lb. of fresh asparagus (see my Grilled Asparagus recipe)(chopped)
1 T. of real unsalted butter
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) of chicken stock
3 T. of cream cheese
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
1 1/4 cups of shredded Italian cheese blend
fresh lemon juice
dried/ fresh parsley
1 lb. of uncooked linguine

-Prepare pasta as directed on package (don't salt your pasta water-remember you have salty bacon and salty asparagus already).  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large deep saucepan over medium-high heat.  Toss in bacon to re-crisp; add in chicken stock.  Bring to a light boil and then whisk in the cream cheese.  Return to a boil and add in the white pepper and shredded cheese.  Add in the chopped grilled asparagus.  Keep in mind to be consistently stirring through this entire process.  Fold in prepared Au dente' linguine and garnish with fresh squeezed lemon juice and parsley.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grilled Asparagus

Here is a great way to "spring up" your cuisine.  Asparagus is a great side on it's own, or it is a great addition to any pasta.  The possibilities are truly endless.  This is my favorite way to prepare them for whatever it may be that I am doing with them.  May it be for a recipe that calls for cooked asparagus, or to accompany some salmon.  No matter what I always grill mine just like this.

1 bundle of fresh asparagus spears (rinsed/ dried)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper

-Preheat grill to a medium heat.  Meanwhile, holding the center and the cut end of the asparagus, bend to snap off dried-out end (it will naturally break at this point); discard ends.  Create a make-shift pan out of aluminum foil and evenly spread out spears.  Drizzle with e.v.o. and heavily season with salt/ pepper.  Roll them around to evenly coat, returning them to an even spread.  Grill on the top rack for about 20 minutes, while occasionally rolling them around for even cooking.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Fillet Mignon with Garlic-Buttered Mushrooms

Talk about your meat and potato kind of dinner. This marinade is so basic, yet so wonderful.  With a cut of steak like this, you don't really need to tenderize or season it, but just to enhance it.   And what better way to do so than to top it off with garlic buttered mushrooms.  Serve it along with some of my Mashed Potatoes and some steamed veggies.  And relish in a hearty home cooked dinner that you made yourself. 

4-9 oz. fillet Mignon steaks
2 T. of Season-All salt
fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of real unsalted butter
1 carton of mushrooms (sliced thickly)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper

-Place steaks in a shallow baking dish large enough for them to be close, but not touching.  Combine the Season-All, some pepper and the Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl; pour over steaks, turning them to coat both sides.  Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or so to marinade (the longer the better, but not exceeding 24 hrs.).  Preheat grill.  Discard marinade and grill steaks to MR or to your own liking (I only flip mine once).  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Toss in the mushrooms, garlic and a good healthy sprinkling of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Saute for about 7-8 minutes to soften and brown.  Plate the steaks and spoon the butter and mushrooms over the top.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Raisin Streusel Pumpkin Bread

After making my basic Pumpkin Bread, I thought about embellishing it a little. And boy oh boy is this the way to do it. By combining two recipes into one, I have created a wonderful and tasty new seasonal treat. It's like Pumpkin Pie meets Dutch Apple Pie in a loaf of bread. I have never seen a more beautifully crowned and crusted quick bread.

For Bread:
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of canola oil
4 eggs (beaten)
3 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1 tsp. of ground nutmeg
2/3 cup of water
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1/2 cup of raisins
1 recipe of my Struesel Topping

-Preheat oven to 350*; grease and flour two loaf pans (I like a baking spray by Pillsbury 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; fold in raisins. Pour batter into pan and sprinkle generously with topping crumbles. 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!

For Topping:
1 cup of light brown sugar
1/4 cup of real un-salted butter (melted)
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

-In a small bowl combine brown sugar, butter and flour with a fork.  Sprinkle over batter.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I realized that I have never had nor made a carrot cake before. 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 along with the cool creaminess of the frosting. What a wonderful cake this was.

For Cake:
4 eggs (beaten)
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups of sugar
2 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of baking soda
3 cups of finely shredded carrots (a must, or else they will sink to the bottom if they are too thick)       
3/4 cup of canola oil
1 recipe of my Cream Cheese Frosting

-Preheat oven to 350*. Let eggs stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grease and flour a 9x13" baking dish. 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 baking dish. Bake at 350* for 30-35 minutes, or until a inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and then frost. Serves 16. Enjoy!

For Frosting:

1/2 a brick (4 oz.) of cream cheese (softened)
1/4 cup of real unsalted butter (softened)
1 tsp. of real vanilla extract
3 cups of powdered sugar

-Beat first 3 ingredient'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 :)

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Whenever I spy some over-ripened bananas on sale, I immediately think of whipping up a loaf of Banana Bread. We always have a loaf of this sitting on the counter. It goes great with a spread of cream cheese and a hot cup of coffee.

2/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of real unsalted butter
2 eggs (beaten)
1 tsp. of real vanilla extract
3 over-ripened bananas (slightly mashed)
1 heaping T. of peanut butter
1 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
3 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/2 cup of chopped pecans

-Preheat oven to 350*. In a large bowl, blend sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla; stir in mashed bananas. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt together. Slowly add to sugar mixture in small amounts; stirring well after each addition. Fold in nuts and pour into a greased and floured loaf pan. Let stand for about 20 minute's prior to baking (this helps the rise of the loaf).  Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until inserted wooden toothpick comes out clean.  Serves 8-10.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coffee Cake Crumble

Butter does make everything better.

1 cup of sugar
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of cinnamon
2 tsp. of baking powder
6 T. of real un-salted butter (divided)
1 egg (beaten)
1 tsp. of real vanilla extract
1/4 cup of sour cream

-Preheat oven to 375*.  In a large mixing bowl combine sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder; cut in 4 T. of the butter.  Reserve 1/2 cup and set to the side.  Beat an egg in a measuring cup and fill the rest of the way with milk to equal 1 cup.  Add into flour mixture and stir well.  Stir in the vanilla and sour cream.  Grease a square baking dish with butter and pour in batter.  Sprinkle reserved flour mixture over the batter, dot with remaining 2 T. of butter and sprinkle heavily with cinnamon and sugar on top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Serves 9.  Enjoy!

Pepper-Lime Green Beans

These beans were fresh and tangy, a very nice switch-up from your average side.  And they were just gorgeous in their bowl with the bright red of the berries and the deep green of the beans.  I was afraid of the "Christmas" colors, but it looks summery to me.  Some of my most favorite concoctions are made from what's left in my fridge.

1 bag of steamable cut green beans
1 ripe lime (squeezed)
lime zest
5 sliced strawberries
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper

-Microwave beans as directed on package.  Pour beans into a medium bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Artichoke Melts

Let me be the one to tell you that these little toast's are a crowd pleaser.  Well, at least all the drunken ladies on Bunco Night loved them each and every time I walked in with them.  They have become my ultimate stand-by appetizer to bring to any occasion.  They are simple, fast and very inexpensive to make.  And on top of all of that, they are addicting.  Most people don't even know what they're made from just that they love them.  And when I tell them that they are eating artichoke hearts, well they usually give me a surprised look.  Followed then by a wow and a smile as they grab for another.

12 slices of white sandwich bread
1 can of artichoke hearts (drained/ chopped)
1/4 cup of real mayonnaise
3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove of garlic (minced)
fresh or dried parsley for garnish

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Cut the edges off of the bread and then quarter each slice to make four small squares.  Place small squares on a baking sheet (I use a stone one).  Combine the artichoke hearts, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and garlic in a small bowl.  Using a 1/2 tsp. measuring spoon, top each bread square with a rounded spoonful.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately garnish with parsley (it doesn't stick as good to them if they're cooled off when you add it).  Serves many.  Enjoy!

Cinnamon-Sugared Biscuits

This particular recipe comes from my childhood weekends up in Michigan.  My Aunt Deby made these occasionally for breakfast for all of us at her lake house.  And I can remember that they were delicious.  And I knew then and there that I wanted to make these for my children when I grew up.  That's how I have always thought about great food.  How I want to share it with others.  What a wonderful treat these are now in our home.  I like to surprise my children with these sugar biscuits every once in a while.  I think that my daughter likes to help make them almost as much as she loves eating them.  Thank you Aunt Deby for giving me endless memories and good food. 

2 pkg.'s of flaky biscuits
1 stick of real unsalted butter (melted)
1/2 cup of sugar
2-3 T. of ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease the inside of two round cake pan's and set aside.  Combine the cinnamon and the sugar well in a small bowl; have the melted butter in a separate small bowl.  Individually dip each biscuit first in the melted butter, then roll in cinnamon-sugar and place in the round cake pan's (you want them to fit snugly in).  Bake for 15-17 minutes.  Serves 6 or more.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Biscuits and Gravy

Good Morning.  That's what some biscuits and gravy says to me.  Growing up in a Southern family, I have had my fair share of biscuits and gravy.  And if I do say so myself, mine aren't half bad.  Probably one of my top three.  Because we all know that no one has anything on either one of my Grandma's or Aunt Deby's recipe.

1 lb roll of sage pork sausage
1/8 tsp. cracked red pepper flakes
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
a pinch of ground nutmeg
5 cups of milk

-Brown sausage on medium-high heat in a medium-sized pot.  Add in the red pepper, cracked pepper and some sea salt.  Once sausage is ready, add in the flour. Stir until flour is completely absorbed onto the sausage and you get the slightest bit of browning on the outside.  Slowly pour in milk while stirring.  Bring to a frothy boil, while constantly stirring, for a minute or two.  Stir in the nutmeg.  Reduce heat and simmer (gravy will start to thicken now) until ready to top off some warm biscuits.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cole Slaw Burgers

As if it were yesterday, I can still remember the first time I had this burger.  My Grandma Neva (my kitchen hero) had already prepared the burgers and set them out on the table as usual.  I was probably around 10 or so at this time.  So, you can imagine my reaction being slightly more dramatic than necessary.  Nevertheless I was skipping in for dinner, as usual.  I came gallivanting into the dining room and excitedly flopped into my seat.  Smiling I picked up my burger and as I was about to "go to town" on it, I spied something different.  Something was not right.  Something was terribly wrong.  For some reason, my Grandma probably being too busy and not paying attention, put Cole Slaw on my burger!  I was more than upset.  I was appalled.  I could not eat this.  I would not eat this.  And I am pretty sure that I cried.  I had never really had Cole Slaw before, but I was adamant that I did not like it.  And I was positive that it did not belong on my burger.  My Grandma calmly looked at me and stated, "That's dinner Tonya.  That's how I made it.  And that's how you are gonna eat it."  Reluctantly I took a bite.  Then another.  Then another.  Holy shit, Cole Slaw belongs on burgers!

1 1/2 lbs. of 80/20 ground beef
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper
4 slices of American cheese
1 small red onion (sliced thinly) (I only had a yellow one, but I normally use the red ones')
sliced dill pickles
yellow mustard
wheat kaiser rolls

-Preheat grill.  Add in some salt/ pepper to the ground beef and knead well.  Divide into 4 equal sized balls and form large flat patties (they're gonna shrink and  thicken up while cooking).  Toss on the grill over medium-high heat and cook to your desired temperature.  Remember that meat will continue to internally cook itself until it is cut, so always pull it off the grill slightly before the temperature you like.  Place a patty on a wheat roll and top with a slice of cheese, a scoop of Cole Slaw, a few onion rings, a couple of pickles and a squirt of mustard.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Homemade Cole Slaw

For years I have been trying to get this down right.  I have always added in too much mayo, not realizing that it will get more moist as the sugar sweats the cabbage.   The key is more sugar than you would think to add.  I also was trying to taste test it as I was making it, which led to waaaayyyy too much vinegar.   I could never taste the vinegar myself, so I just kept pouring it in thinking but I really want that tang from the vinegar.  So, I would ask my husband to try it and he would make the most god awful face every time.  Eventually he started to ask me to just buy it already made.  And all that did was make me more determined to get it right. Time is all I needed to add.  Once the sugar and vinegar do their magic, it all balances out as the flavors meld.  Patience is a virtue that I rarely possess.  But, I'm learning.

a slight 1/3 cup of sugar
4 tsp. of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of real mayonnaise
1 lb. bag of cole slaw style shredded cabbage and carrots
2/3 cup of red cabbage (diced)
fresh cracked pepper to your liking

-Combine the first 3 ingredients well in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in the cole slaw mix and the red cabbage.  Once thoroughly combined add a healthy amount of fresh cracked pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.  You can top your burgers, pulled-pork sandwiches and hot dogs with this or you can serve it on the side.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is a great soup for the cooking impaired.  It is so very basic, yet filled with a deep richness.  I was more than surprised at the wonderful flavor and body of the soup.  And the flour tortillas were my favorite part, I had no idea that they would turn almost into dumplings.  They are like soft yummy little pillows. 

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of chicken breasts (chopped)
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
2 cans of Mexican flavored diced tomatoes
2 cans of Italian flavored stewed tomatoes
1 cup of lite beer
3 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of beef stock
1 T. of cumin
1/4-1/2 tsp. of chili powder  (depending on what you prefer)
10 flour tortillas (ripped up in pieces)
garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and diced pickled jalapenos

-In a large stock pot, saute' the chicken with some salt/ pepper for about 8-10 minutes on medium-high heat in the e.v.o.  Add in onion and garlic and finish cooking chicken.  Then toss in the tomatoes, beer, stocks, cumin and chili powder.  Cover and simmer for about an hour on medium heat.  Right before serving, add in tortilla pieces (they will puff up like little dumplings). Top each bowl with a sprinkle of cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a few jalapenos.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

I will be the first to admit that this particular dish is a lot of work.  It is definitely a commitment.  But, it is also so incredibly worth it.  It is comfort food at it's finest.  This meal is as hearty and as filling as you can get. It is rich and creamy and just plain wonderful.  The best part is the white pepper.  It adds a great kick that pulls the flavor back around. And there is no better way to compliment it than to be accompanied by some of my Baked Apples.  They give it a nice sweet and spicy contrast that brightens everything up.
3 1/2-4 lb. whole chicken
1/2 lb. of whole baby carrots (washed/ peeled)
2 stalks of celery (chopped)
1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (peeled)
3 chicken flavored bouillon cubes
sea salt
2 tsp. of white pepper
2 tsp. of dried parsley
2 bay leaves
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of salt
3 tsp. of baking powder
2/3 cup of milk

-Rub chicken lightly with salt and place in a 4 qt. stockpot.  Add in carrots, celery, onion, garlic cloves, bouillon cubes, 1/4 tsp. of salt, white pepper, parsley and bay leaves.  Fill pot about 7/8ths of the way with water; cover with a lid and cook on low-medium heat for at least 2-2 1/2 hours.  Once chicken is fall-apart tender, transfer it to a plate to cool, leaving veggies in stock.  Add 2 cups of water to the stock; cover and simmer.  Meanwhile, for the dumplings, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in milk just until combined.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and need until firm.  Toss a kitchen towel over it and let it stand for 15 minutes.  Remove good meat from chicken and add the strained veggies to it on the plate.   Then remove towel from dough and roll out to about 1/4" thick.  Using a pizza cutter, cut short ribbons into the dough.  Allow to stand again at this point for 45 minutes more (this slightly dries them, keeps them from sticking together in the pot).  Return strained stock to a rapid boil.  Drop in a few dumplings at a time, allowing the stock to return back to a rapid boil before each new batch is dropped in.  Once all the kiddies are all in the pool (dumplings),  add back in your chicken and veggies. Whisk together the milk and flour  in a small bowl to add in to thicken the stock.  Continue to boil for a few minutes, then reduce heat.  Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes before serving.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Baked Apples

Nothing says loving like some apples baking in the oven.  My Mom used to make whole baked apples as a special treat when I was a little girl.  And I will never forget how excited I would become when I would notice their sweet aroma coming down the hall.  Sometimes natures most basic gifts are the best.

2 large Baeburn apples (cored/ thickly sliced)
1 T. of real unsalted butter (chopped)
3 T. of light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. of ground nutmeg
2/3 cup of apple juice
1 tsp. of fresh lemon juice

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Combine all ingredients in a small baking dish.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until the apples are super soft.  Serve alongside a great meal or with ice cream for dessert.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Banana Pudding

Here is one of my most favorite childhood memories.  Why, yes of course, mine would be food related.  My wonderful Grandma Marge would grace the table of every single family gathering with a glass dish of her infamous Banana Pudding.  It easily became all of the grandchildrens' favorite part of  our dinners.  At every holiday, special occasion or function you could count on her to have a dish made.  The first thing we would all ask her is if she made Her Banana Pudding, usually before we even had our coats off.  And every time she would respond with a proud warm smile.  After playing around with the ingredients (she never did tell me exactly how much of anything she used!  I can pretty much guarantee she still doesn't know), I came up with my own version.  And now my kids ask me for my Banana Pudding on the holidays.
1 box of Jello's Instant Vanilla Pudding
2 cups of milk
1 large tub of cool whip (divided)
4 ripe bananas (sliced)
1 box of Nilla wafer cookies

-In a large mixing bowl prepare pudding as directed.  Fold in 3/4's of the cool whip and stir well.  Evenly cover the bottom of a glass trifle bowl with a layer of cookies and then another layer of banana slices. Spread on about 2 cups of the pudding mixture.  Repeat layers ending with pudding on the top.  Spread the remaining cool whip thickly over the top, keeping 1-2" away from edges. Decorate the top with more cookies.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Serves not too many at my house!  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stuffed Banana Nut Waffles

Here is yet another wonderful way to utilize your over-ripened bananas.  My husband and all of my children are banana lovers, so I buy a bunch every week.  Sometimes they eat them all, and sometimes there are a few left behind by the time I go back to the market.  So, this is when I usually whip up some Banana Bread, Banana Muffins or if there is any sort of occasion a Banana Cake.  And since I have  received my waffle iron this year, I have been experimenting whenever possible.  And this particular experiment is a keeper.

4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tsp. of baking soda
2 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of salt
4 eggs (beaten, always use Large eggs for baking)
3/4 cup of canola oil
2 cups of sour cream
1 tsp. of real vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of milk
3 large over-ripened bananas (mashed)
3/4 cup of crushed pecans
garnish with cream cheese and maple syrup

-Preheat waffle iron.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add in eggs and oil, stir until thoroughly combined.  Then add in sour cream, followed by the milk and vanilla.  Lastly, stir in the bananas and pecans.  Allow batter to rest for about 5 minutes before using.  Pour a scant 2 cups of batter into the center of the waffle iron and cook on 2 3/4- 3 1/4 for the temperature setting.  Serve with a smear of cream cheese and some maple syrup.  Makes 16 waffles.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Roasted Pepper Cream Sauce over Cheese and Spinach Tortellini

This was simply delicious.  The sauce was so very thick and cheesy with a deep roasted flavor from the peppers.  It complimented the soft tortellini's perfectly.  And, basically, it got my daughter to eat her vegetables.  She didn't even notice that some of the tortellini were cheese and some were spinach.  Score one for Mom.

2 T. of real unsalted butter
1 large roasted red sweet pepper (chopped, buy them or make your own)
4 large garlic cloves (minced)
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper
1 pint (2 cups) of heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Romano cheese
1 bag of frozen cheese filled tortellini
1 bag of frozen spinach filled tortellini

-Start a large stock pot for boil and prepare frozen tortellini as directed.  Meanwhile, in a large deep saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Toss in the red peppers and some salt/ pepper; saute' for 1-2 minutes (basically to reheat them-remember they're already roasted).  Add in minced garlic and saute' for 1 minute more.  Pour in cream,Parmesan cheese and Romano cheese.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer (allowing sauce to tighten).  Strain the tortellini and gently fold it into the sauce (be sure not to over cook the tortellini in the boiling process, it will continue to cook in the sauce).  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches

Now this may be the most notorious recipe in the country, but not necessarily the same directions.  I for one and sick and tired of losing my bacon out the back of my BLT.  By weaving the bacon together in one large square, it creates a flat solid panel of meat.  So, when you cut it into four smaller squares, you get a perfect sheet of bacon that stays put.  Not to mention that it cuts down the time for the preparation.  You only have to do one batch of bacon instead of a few pieces at a time.  I am also a fan for that reason.  And, remember when you are making a recipe that calls for very few ingredients, you always want to use the freshest one's available to you.  Notice how the lettuce seems greener and fluffier than iceberg or Romain,that's because it's Hydroponic Lettuce-grown in water instead of dirt!  Not only does it give a great presentation, it makes the sandwich taste fresh and amazing.

1 pkg. of bacon (I only use Oscar Meyer-I love it)
1 head of lettuce (again I used Hydroponic Lettuce-if I can find it at Berkots, then it must be everywhere)
2 medium-large ripe red beefeater tomatoes (sliced)
real mayonnaise
toasted bread

-Weave bacon together by laying strips across your skillet in one direction, then lift and tuck bacon in the opposite direction.  You should end up with a large woven square.  Cook on medium-high heat trying to turn only once (I used 2 wooden spatulas to flip it-not too bad I was a little scared).  Once bacon sheet is nice and crispy, remove from skillet and plate.  With a long knife, cut the bacon into four equal squares.  Assemble sandwich with a slather of mayo on each inner side of the toast and top with lettuce, tomato and your bacon square.  No more lost bacon!  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Marinated Hawaiian Chicken Kabobs

What a gorgeous fusion of flavors these kabobs have.  There was spice from the chili powder, sweetness from the fresh pineapple, heat from the red pepper flakes and a great tang from the vinegar.  Talk about a party in your mouth all right. What a perfect meal for a hot summers night, or more likely, for wishing it was a hot summers night.

2 lbs. chicken breasts (cut into large chunks)
1 pkg. of McCormick's Grill Mates Hawaiian Luau Marinade Seasoning
1/4 cup of e.v.o.
1/3 cup of white vinegar
1 T. of honey
1 large red sweet pepper (largely chopped)
1 fresh pineapple (carved and largely chopped)
handful of yellow grape tomatoes
1 carton of large whole mushrooms (rinsed)
1 large red onion (largely chopped in hunks)
prepared Jasmine rice

-Prepare marinade by mixing the first five ingredients together; place in a large shallow dish and cover.  Reserve about 1/4 cup of marinade aside for basting the kabobs during grilling.  Refrigerate chicken in marinade for 1-24 hours (I did about 8 hours).  If subbing in shrimp instead of chicken, let it marinade no longer than 30 minutes.  Preheat gas grill to med-high heat.  Assemble kabobs by spearing a good variety of vegetables along with 2-3 pieces of chicken on each stick (if you're using the wooden bamboo skewers, don't forget to SOAK them in water for at least an hour-the longer the better).  Toss on the top rack of the grill (pretty much where I do most of my grilling) and baste/ turn occasionally during grilling. Cook for about 20-30 minutes depending on how large your chunks are.  Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

Here you go, this is an all-time favorite of everyone.  Who doesn't think of Mom when they hear of Chicken Pot Pie?!  This is a wonderful quick and easy meal, that can be put together in not time with no mess.  But let's not forget the best part of this dish, that it really does look amazing.  A crust this beautiful can make anything look good!

1 1/2 cups of roasted chicken breasts (they're great-only like $4 for the whole chicken!)
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1/2 tsp. of dried basil
juice from 1/2 of a fresh lemon
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper
9 oz. of frozen veggies (thawed)
1 egg (beaten)
1/2 cup of milk
1 cup of baking mix (I only use Bisquick)

-Preheat oven to 400*.  Mix the soup, basil, lemon juice, salt/ pepper and veggies right inside of the 9" pie pan (I use a glass Pyrex one=great crusts).  In a small bowl, combine the egg, milk and baking mix.  Pour batter directly over soup mixture.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until crust is a deep golden color.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

White Chocolate Chip Brownies

If a rich indulgence is what you are in search of, or frankly in craving of, then these decadent brownies are for you.  They are thick and cake-like while still being soft and gooey.  The makings of every killer brownie out there.  The white chocolate chips are a nice sweet addition and seem to lighten it up some.  While the natural cocoa gives them their notorious bitter-sweet flavor.  These are definitely a crowd pleaser.  Hands down.

4 eggs (well beaten)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 stick of real unsalted butter (softened)
2 1/4 tsp. of real vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup of natural cocoa powder
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 1/2 cups of white chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 350*.  In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat eggs until frothy; beat in sugar in small increments.  Toss in the butter and vanilla.  In a separate smaller bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients except for the chips.  Slowly beat the flour mixture into the egg mixture, again in small increments (I follow this method in all of my batters-mix dry's into wet's little by little).  Pour batter into a well-greased 9x13" baking dish; bake for about 30 minutes.  Make sure center is set by doing the wooden toothpick test (insert toothpick into center and remove-if dry it's done/ if moist it's not).  Makes around 30-36 brownies.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

White Chocolate Lemon Squares

These are just as fresh and as sweet as they look.  With a bright tartness from the fresh lemon juice and a creamy sweetness from the white chocolate, these little delights were simply amazing.  I absolutely love the scent of lemon so these were not only a treat to eat, but also from me to make.

1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour (divided)
1 cup of sugar (divided)
1/3 cup of real un-salted butter
2 eggs (beaten)
1 1/2 lemons (zested/ juiced)
1 cup of white chocolate chips
powdered sugar for garnish

-Preheat oven to 350*.  In a large bowl stir together1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of sugar; cut in butter with a fork (until crumbly).  Press into a 9x9" square baking dish.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice along with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and sugar.  Once the crust is done, remove from oven and sprinkle with chips.  Pour egg mixture evenly over the top and bake for another 15 minutes or until center is set and there's a light browning along the edges.  Makes 16 squares.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Slow-Cooker Chuck Roast and Mushroom Gravy

This is probably my personal favorite way of having "Pot Roast" for dinner.  The steak seasoning really makes for a delicious roast and an incredibly flavorful gravy.  And just think, all you have to do is pan sear your roast, toss all three ingredients into your slow-cooker and push a button.  Dinner is done.

1-2 T. of extra virgin olive oil
3lb. beef chuck roast
McCormick's Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup

-Generously season all sides of the roast.  Heat up 1-2 T. of e.v.o. in a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Once you can smell the olive oil, toss in your seasoned chuck roast and sear each side for about 3-5 minutes (you want to cook one side at a time, creating a nice dark crusting before flipping it to do the next side- this will add loads of flavor, enhance the cooking of the meat and give it a great plate appearance when served). Once you have seared all of it's sides, place the chuck roast inside your slow-cooker.  Pour the can of cream of mushroom soup on top, sprinkle a little more of the steak seasoning over it and cover to cook Slow and Low for 8-10 hours (this is one that really needs to be done slow and low or else it will be tough).  Serve with mashed potatoes and veggies.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mojito Lime Steak Fajitas

 Lately if I can add lime to it, it seems that I'm making it.  I love how it brightens up a dish and adds another contrast of flavoring.  This marinade is a little more subtle in this recipe with the sirloin than in the Mojito Lime Chicken Burritos.  So, paring it along with the Lime-Infused Sour Cream was nothing short of genius on my part.

2 lbs. of sirloin steak
1 pkg. of Mojito Lime Marinade
1/4 cup of e.v.o.
2 T. of water
2 T. of apple cider vinegar
orange sweet pepper (roasted and julienne sliced)
red sweet  pepper (roasted and julienne sliced)
chopped fresh cilantro
lime infused sour cream
tortilla shells

Lime-Infused Sour Cream:
1 cup of sour cream
juice from 1 lime

-Combine and cover to refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

-Mix together marinade package, e.v.o., water and vinegar.  Thinly slice the steaks across the grain of the meat; place in a large pan and pour marinade over the top.  Flip steaks to evenly coat and cover with saran wrap.  Place in the fridge for at least a hour.  Toss meat into a hot skillet and saute' for about 5-10 minutes depending on what temperature you prefer it at.  Place a few strips onto a warm tortilla shell along with a few slices of the sweet pepper, a dollop of the sour cream and a sprinkle of the cilantro.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Pecan Banana Muffins

What wonderful muffins these are.  They have such a great rise and shape to them, along with a beautiful coloring and texture.   Remember that we don't just eat food with our mouths, but also with our eyes.  And eye candy couldn't taste any better than these do. 

1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of real unsalted butter
1 egg (beaten)
1 tsp. of vanilla
1/2 c. sour cream
3 ripe bananas (mashed)
2 cups of flour
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 cup of chopped pecans

-Preheat oven to 350*.  In a large bowl cream the sugar and butter; beat in egg, vanilla, sour cream and mashed bananas.  In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture by small batches.  Once it is thoroughly combined, fold in the pecans.  Bake in a well-greased muffin pan (they will rise up over the edge) for about 30 minutes.  Makes 1 dozen large muffins.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Roasted Chicken Salad Pockets

This is springtime to me for sure.  It's a light and healthy way of spicing up your average chicken dinner. You can also just roast your own chicken in the oven, but the rotisserie chicken from the market has a great distinct flavor.  I love the contrast of flavors and textures myself.  The chicken is so very moist, while the green apples and red onion bring the crunch and the red grapes add a burst of sweetness.  Combined with the savoriness of the basil sauce and the soft pita, this is a perfectly unboring way of having a chicken dinner.  And not to mention, this is a healthy way too.

1 whole roasted chicken from the deli (mine was a garlic/ rosemary one)
1/3 cup of real mayo
1/4 tsp. of dried basil
juice from 1/2 of a lemon (remember to roll the lemon on the counter top w/ the palm of your hand to loosen the juices prior to cutting/ squeezing)
3 slices of a granny smith apple (diced)
1 slice of a red onion (diced)
handful of red grapes (rinsed, then sliced in 1/2)
1 cup of iceberg lettuce (julienne sliced)
1 pkg. of pita pockets

-Remove skin from roasted chicken; pull meat and chop into small pieces.  In a medium  bowl combine mayo, basil and lemon juice.  Stir in chicken, apples, onion and grapes.  Place a few pieces of lettuce inside of each pita and then fill with chicken salad.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!