Thursday, April 28, 2011

What I Think Snickerdoodle Cookies Should Be

This is what I envisioned for a Snickerdoodle Cookie.  I assumed that they consisted of chocolate, caramel and either pretzels or some peanuts, on what basis I have no idea.   That's just the way I played it out in my mind, having never had nor seen one.  Well, I was surprised when I looked up an actual recipe for one and found that I was dead wrong.  That the cookies did not consist of any of these things.  So, I decided to make it as I had imagined them, because truth be told the real ones sounded and looked unappealing to me.  I imagined some thick and moist cookie bars with huge clumps of chocolate pieces, crunchy salty little bits of pretzels and ooey gooey caramel threaded throughout.  I think that's what a Snickerdoodle Cookie should be. 

2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of salt
1 cup of melted butter
3/4 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
1 tsp. of real vanilla extract
2 Large eggs (at room temperature)
1 3/4 cups of chocolate chunks
1 cup of broken pretzel sticks (nice and tiny)
2 tsp. of caramel sauce (warmed up to drizzle)

-Preheat oven to 375*.  Stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl.  In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.  Once creamy, beat in eggs 1 at a time (making sure to thoroughly combine before adding the next).  Stir in the flour mixture in small batches (making sure to completely mix it in before adding more). Then just stir in the chocolate chunks and broken pretzels.  Grease the sides and the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish and spread the dough out evenly in it.  Drizzle lightly with the caramel and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Makes about 3 dozen bars.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Thai Pasta

Yep, it's true.  This amazing pasta is made with peanut butter and therefore it so extremely good.  This one here is a favorite of my children.  Especially my two gorgeous step-daughters, Kalena and Kiley.  When I am making it for them, because they are both die-hard vegetarians, I swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock.  I then exclude the turkey for additional veggies.  Once I even used fresh butternut squash cubed  up and sauteed in butter with some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  That worked great in there because it gave the dish substance while keeping it meat-free. 

6 oz. dried linguine
1 1/4 cups of frozen green beans/ yellow beans/ baby carrots (steamed in microwave)
1 turkey breast (baked/ sliced)
1- 8 oz. can of pineapple chunks (drained)
1/4 cup of chicken stock
2 heaping T. of creamy peanut butter
1 T. of low-fat soy sauce
1 T. of fresh lime juice
1/4- 1/2 tsp. of cracked red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove (minced)

-Cook pasta as directed for Au-dent' on the package.  Place the beans, carrots and sliced turkey in a large colander sitting in the sink.  Pour the hot water from the pasta over them to warm them up and drain.  Transfer veggies and turkey back to the original pan along with the pineapple chunks.  For the sauce, whisk together the peanut butter and the chicken stock in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Once it has combined, add in the soy sauce, lime juice, red pepper flakes and the garlic.  Bring to a slight boil, remove and stir into the veggies and turkey.  Fold in pasta and serve immediately.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fresh Roasted Garlic

What a difference this can make.  Just by roasting your garlic instead of sauteing it, you add so much more flavor and depth.  I think that it actually alters the garlic and brings out a natural sweetness that is otherwise unexposed.  And you can do so much with it.  I love to add it into my red sauces for pasta , smeared across a grilled steak or in with a roast in the slow-cooker.  You can even use it as a dip for crackers or veggies just by mixing it in with a little mayonnaise and sour cream.  It really is a flavor explosion.

1 whole tightly closed head of garlic
a little bit of extra virgin olive oil

-Preheat oven to 425*.  Slice about 1/4 - 1/2" off the top (pointed end)  of the garlic head.  This will slightly expose each individual clove.  Then, peel off the loose papery shell (you still want the head intact as a whole).  Place a decent sized square of aluminum foil into one of the cups of a muffin pan.  Place the garlic head in the foil lined cup with the cut-side facing up.  Drizzle the top with a little bit of e.v.o. and fold the extra foil inward loosely creating a tent (will keep it from burning).  Roast in the oven for 25-35 minutes.  It is ready once it feels soft and mushy when squeezed.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Almond Pound Cake

There's nothing better than a fresh loaf of pound cake.  It's so dense, moist and sweet it's hard to think that it's even considered a cake.  I think it's a cross somewhere between a cake, a muffin and a quick bread.  This particular pound cake is my most favorite.  I love the almond aroma and flavor that's in it, it goes great with any kind of topping.  You can try a caramel or chocolate sauce with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or any kind of sliced fruit and cool whip.  I think next time I will experiment with some canned peaches and maybe some homemade whip cream.....  Again, here's another recipe with endless combinations.

1/2 cup of real unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3 eggs (at room temperature)
3/4 cup of sour cream (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp. of almond extract

-Preheat oven to 325*.  Grease and lightly flour a loaf pan; set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with a hand mixer.  Slowly beat in sugar.  Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, then add in the almond extract.  Next, add in your eggs 1 at a time, making sure that each one is thoroughly combined (1 minute or so) before beating in the next one.  Start mixing in the flour mixture and the sour cream alternatively, each a little at a time (maybe 3 batches of each).  Lastly, pour your batter then into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until an inserted wooden toothpick comes out clean.  Once the cake is done baking and completely cooled, wrap it well in saran wrap to keep moist.  Serves 8.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grandma's Grease Gravy

This is my childhood.  These are my memories of my Grandma Neva.  Summers and holidays spent deep in southwestern Missouri, high up in the Ozarks doing food the right way.  Waking up every morning to the heavenly aroma of breakfast meat and grease gravy.  And if it was over biscuits- that was special.  Frist day was always on biscuits, leftovers the next morning was always on ripped up white toast (my personal favorite way).  Until about the age of 12, I thought that everyone else in the world was mistaken on what "Biscuits and Gravy" was.  I can remember asking myself, "Why were making that thick white "flavorless" gravy?  Didn't they know that it's supposed to be brown?"  I had no idea that  Grandma was on to something with that gravy.  That other people did not even know about Brown Grease Gravy.  So, for my family, here is Grandma's recipe for her amazing Grease Gravy that is a part of all of our memories and childhoods.  Her secrets were using pancake mix instead of flour and water instead of milk.  These were just accidents in the beginning.  No milk-ok try using water.  No flour- ok I got some pancake mix.  Stretching a meal for a family of 7 and then for an extended family of many is no easy task.  But Grandma always made due with what she had.  And nobody ever went hungry.

1 lb. roll of sage breakfast sausage (sliced into patties)
4 T. of pancake mix (I use Bisquick)
2 1/4 cups of water (divided)
1 pkg. roll of biscuit dough (I used Grand's Flaky Layers)

-Preheat oven to 350*.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown both sides of sausage patties.  Once the sausage is fully cooked (no longer pink inside), remove to a paper towel covered plate to absorb grease; set aside.  Add pancake mix into the hot grease and stir well to create your rue.  Pour in 2 cups of water and whisk continuously while still cooking over medium-high heat (don't leave your gravy unattended-it will get lumpy or even burn).  Your gravy will begin to thicken after you reach the boiling point.  Once it does and becomes nice and frothy, reduce your heat to low and still keep stirring it well.  Meanwhile, bake your biscuits for 16-18 minutes or until the tops are a deep golden color.  Once you are ready to start plating it up, if your gravy is too thick- you can stir in that last 1/4 cup of water.  Serve biscuits and sausage with some scrambled eggs and a healthy pour of gravy covering it all.  That's how Grandma made it, so that's how I'm making it. Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fresh Turkey Salad Sandwiches

Ever wonder what to do with the leftovers from Thanksgiving?  Usually by the third night, I can not handle anymore of the reheating.  But, this is a whole new fresh way to get rid of the scraps.  I always have leftover turkey, celery and cranberries from a turkey dinner.  And there is never a time in our house when we don't have apples and grapes.  So, this one is our new favorite leftover turkey dinner.

2-3 cups of cooked chopped turkey breasts (I just used leftovers)
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)
2 ribs of celery (sliced)
a handful of dried cranberries
handful of red grapes (rinsed, then sliced in 1/2)
Romaine lettuce leaves
wheat sandwich rolls

-Combine the first nine ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Split rolls and stuff with turkey salad and some lettuce.  Makes 4 sandwiches.  Enjoy!

Cranberry Cream Muffins

I am forever looking for different ways to use my leftover fresh produce.  And most of the time it's in my baking if I can.  That is how these cranberry muffins evolved.  They are both sweet and a little bit tart.  Two great additives for these moist muffins.  I have also used this same recipe, but with fresh cherries and fresh blueberries.  It is just wonderful every which way so far.

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 T. real unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
1 cup of sour cream
1 1/4 cup of fresh cranberries (halved)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. sugar

-Preheat oven to 350* and grease the entire muffin pan (always just in case they rise over the cups). Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; using a fork,cut in butter until crumbly. In a small bowl whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla. Pour egg mixture into dry mixture and thoroughly combine. Add in the sour cream and stir well; gently fold in the cranberries. Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin pan; sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 1 hour or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Makes at least 12.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Homemade Cream Puffs

Every holiday gathering on my husband's side of our family always has a little box of cream puffs in the corner of the spread.  He usually has his radar set to high-alert on these occasion's.  And I have to admit that I have made a few return visits to that corner myself.  That then started to remind me that I used to make cream puffs when I was a little girl -not exactly the same as the frozen chocolate iced ones, but actually better one's.  I can remember making these while I lived with my Dad in junior high.  I filled them with just chocolate pudding then, always thinking that it was too wet and heavy.  It never occurred to me to lighten it up with some whip cream.  And now that I have made them this way at home, I will never again buy them from the store.  Not ever.

1 cup of water
1/2 cup of real unsalted butter
1/8 tsp. of salt
1 cup of all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 pkg. of instant chocolate pudding
2 cups of milk
3 cups of cool whip
powdered sugar for garnish

-Preheat oven to 400*.  Toss the water, butter and salt into a medium-sized pot; bring to a boil.  Add the flour in all at once and fiercely stir.  Continue to stir while cooking until it begins to form a ball.  Remove pan from stove and let cool for only 10 minutes.  Add in your eggs 1 at a time-thoroughly stirring each one in before adding the next one (use a wooden spoon for this recipe).  For small appetizer sized cream puffs, do teaspoon sized scoops onto greased cookie sheets (I used stoneware).  Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a bright golden color (be careful to watch them so not to burn them).  Meanwhile  for the filling, whisk together the pudding mix and the milk.  Once slightly firmed, fold in the cool whip.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  After cream puffs are completely cooled, you need to create a "piping tool" for your filling.  I just spooned some of my filling into a zipper closure sandwich bag, sealed it tightly and just barely snipped the bottom of 1 corner.  Using the pointed end of a spoon, I pierced the side of a puff in towards the center-stopping in the middle.  Then I just pushed the snipped corner of my "pastry bag" into the hole that I made and squeezed a little bit.  It may take you 1 or 2 to get the hang of how much to squeeze in, but this actually worked extremely well and made no mess!  Once they are all filled, place onto a platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  These need to be either eaten immediately or covered and refrigerated for no longer than 20-30 minutes or else the pudding makes the bottoms all soggy and yucky.  I have never attempted to freeze them, I'm sure you can-they sell them that way-but mine never even make it into the fridge!  Makes 25-30.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Not Your Average Tacos

Sometimes it's the garnishes that can make the ordinary extraordinary.  The creamy avocado and the fresh ripened tomatoes add so much flavor to these otherwise average tacos.  And let's not forget to give credit to my favorite part, the lime-infused sour cream.  Wow.  What a difference that makes.  So, just because it's taco night doesn't mean that it has to be the same taco night as usual.  Play around with the fixings.  You may be surprised at what your favorite combination may be.

1 lb. of 80/20 ground beef
1 pkg. of taco seasoning
3/4 cup of water
1 avocado (peeled/ chopped)
1 Roma tomato (chopped)
shredded mild cheddar cheese
1 cup of sour cream
juice from 1 lime
12 hard taco shells

-Preheat oven to 350*.  In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, brown the beef and then drain off the grease (I save old pickle/ jam jars for my grease).  Add in the seasoning packet and water; bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.  Meanwhile, bake the shells off on a cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and fresh squeezed lime juice.  Assemble tacos with a little meat, some cheese, some avocado, some tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream.  Serve it along with some fresh chopped cantaloupe sprinkled with some sea salt and cilantro.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Mozzarella Stuffed Italian Meatloaf

My Grandma once told me that she made the best meatloaf ever many years ago.  She said that she put a whole ball of mozzarella cheese inside of it.  And that was like someone turning on a light bulb for me.  I was in awe of the idea.  Immediately my wheels started a turning.  I asked her how she seasoned it and what did she put on top of it.  And, notoriously as always, she could not recall.  So, that left me to wonder how I was going to pull it off.  I did not want to add in any sweet peppers or onion, it would be too much like pizza or spaghetti to me.  I also knew that I did not want to use any kind of a BBQ or ketchup sauce on top, those flavors would not mesh well with the cheese.  But rather more of a tomato sauce was what I needed.  I also still needed it to accompany some mashed potatoes, because there's just no other way to serve meatloaf than on top of a mountain of creamy mashed potatoes, so I needed to improvise.  And this is what I came up with. 

2 lbs. of 80/20 ground beef
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup of bread crumbs
2 tsp. of Italian seasoning
a slight 1/3 cup of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley (roughly chopped)
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper
1- 14 1/2oz. can of diced tomatoes (divided)
1- 8oz. ball of fresh mozzarella cheese (cut into 6 equal slices)

-Preheat oven to 375*.  In a large mixing bowl knead together the beef, eggs, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, parsley, salt/ pepper and 4 T. of the juice from the can of diced tomatoes.  Go ahead and use your hands, it's the only way to really combine it thoroughly.  Take 1/2 of the meat and press it into the bottom of a loaf pan.  Lay the sliced mozzarella over the bottom layer; press remaining meat over the top.  Spread the diced tomatoes and the small amount of juice that's left over the meatloaf.  Cover a small baking pan with aluminum foil and place the loaf pan on that prior to baking it off (just in case it overflows!).  Bake for 2 hours or until the center is done; allow to set and cool for about 10 minutes before you slice it.  Serve with my Homemade Mashed Potatoes and some steamed veggies.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Plain Jane Waffles

Like I have said many times before, sometimes simple is just better.  I have been making endless amounts of waffles lately, trying many different kinds of flavors and concoctions.  I am always wanting to add in some of this or some of that.  But today I thought lets just go plain, well almost plain.  I just had to add in a little bit of something.  And a good amount of honey did the trick.  These waffles are so extremely soft and so perfectly sweet.  According to my daughter Paige, these are "her" favorite kind of waffles so far.

6 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus of sugar
1/4 cup of baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. of salt
3 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup plus 2 T. of canola oil
4 large eggs (beaten)
a slight 1/4 cup of natural honey

-Preheat waffle iron. Using a whisk, mix together ingredients in the order shown above.  Make sure to get all the lumps out.  Let the batter rest for 5 minutes.  Ladle about 1 1/2 cups or so of batter into the center of the waffle iron. Close lid and cook on a slightly lower setting (I did 2 1/4) until done. Serve with butter and syrup. Makes 16 waffles. Enjoy!

Chicken Ceasar Salad

This is one of my most favorite salads.  I used to whip this one up for myself while I was waitressing my way through school.  We always had a huge assortment of salad fixings at the restaurant and that was one thing we could eat endlessly for free.  Not being much of a salad eater at the time, I started experimenting.  After playing around with all sort of different ingredients, I settled on this very concoction.  And I have been making it this way still all these years later.  Nowadays I make this for dinner for my family.    

2 large boneless/ skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup of e.v.o.
zest/ juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp. of dried basil
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 heads of Romaine lettuce (chopped)
1 small red onion (sliced then halved)
1/2 of a carton of whole mushrooms (washed, sliced)
1 1/2 cups of frozen peas
1 cup or more of Ceasar salad dressing
1/2 a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 a cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

-Preheat grill to medium heat.  Combine e.v.o., lemon juice, lemon zest, basil, a little salt/ pepper and the garlic in a small bowl.  Toss the chicken onto the top rack and grill about 15 minutes on each side (or until there is no pink left inside), all the while brushing with the oil mixture.  Plate the chicken and set to the side to cool (if you slice it now, all the juices will run out).  Meanwhile for the peas, place them in a small bowl with 1 T. of water; cover with a paper towel and microwave for about 2-4 minutes.  Once the chicken has cooled down you can begin to slice it thinly across the grain so you can finally start to assemble the salad.  Throw the sliced chicken, lettuce, onions, mushrooms, Ceasar dressing and Parmesan cheese into a large mixing bowl and stir well to coat evenly.  Arrange onto 4 plates and top with a scoop of peas, a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese and a handful of croutons.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Island BBQ Chicken with a Mango-Avocado Relish

This is my favorite way to have BBQ chicken.  By marinating in the Carribean Jerk prior to grilling and BBQing, you are adding just a ridiculous amount of flavor.  There is all kinds of wonderful things inside this marinade, there's pineapple, garlic, roasted red pepper, red pepper flakes and more.  And by tossing on the BBQ sauce at the end of grilling, you are keeping it moist and adding a sweetness to an otherwise spicy base.  The BBQ sauce is really like the icing on the cake here.  And the compliment of the fresh mango and avocado is right on.   Right on perfect.

4 large boneless/ skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup of a liquid Caribbean Jerk Marinade (I used K.C. Masterpiece)
3/4 cup of BBQ sauce (I used Kraft Original)
2 ripe mango's (peeled, chopped)
1 ripe avocado (peeled, chopped)
1 tsp. of lemon juice

-Place the chicken in a large dish and douse with the marinade, making sure to flip the chicken to coat evenly.  Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 4-24 hours.  Once chicken is done marinating, preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Grill chicken for about 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through, and then thickly slather on the BBQ sauce.  Grill for about 5 more minutes or until chicken is done (pink inside is bad!).  The marinade will "blacken" creating a "bark" on the exterior which has immense flavor, do not think that it is burnt.  Meanwhile for the relish, stir together the mango, avocado and lemon juice (lemon juice keeps avocado from browning and pulls the two fruits together).  Serve each chicken breast over a bed of Jasmine rice and garnish with a heaping spoonful of the mango-avocado relish.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cream Cheese Stuffed Shells with a Roasted Red Pepper Marinara

Maybe this is my Golden Ticket into the "Land of Cooking".  These stuffed shells are simply wonderful.  They have a bright creamy filling that melts in your mouth.  A deep rich sauce that carries a sweet tang of contrast.  And of course, layer upon layer of melted mozzarella cheese.   Perfection at it's finest.  You just gotta make this one.

1 box of large shell pasta
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 roasted red peppers (chopped-see my Roasted Pepper recipe)
1-29 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1-8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp. of Italian seasonings
fresh cracked pepper/ sea salt
2 eggs (beaten)
2 pkg. of cream cheese (softened)
1/4 oz. (small bunch) of fresh basil leaves (chopped)
1/2 tsp. of fresh lemon zest
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
2 tsp. of dried parsley

-Preheat oven to 375*.  Prepare pasta to Au dente' as directed on package (if fully cooked, they will fall apart when being stuffed); strain and place on paper towels to dry.  In a large deep saucepan, heat up about 1-2 T. of e.v.o. over medium-high heat.  Toss in red peppers, garlic and some salt/ pepper to saute' for about 2-3 minutes.  Pour in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and Italian seasonings; bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer.  Meanwhile for the filling, mix together the eggs, cream cheese, basil and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl.  Spread about 1/2 cup or so of the marinara sauce across the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish (keeps shells from sticking to pan).   Begin stuffing each cooked and dried shell with a heaping spoonful of the filling and place snugly together in dish.  Cover first with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, then with the remainder of the sauce and finish with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Garnish with parsley.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Paige's Peanut Butter Brownies

This may not be scratch-made, but sometimes we all need to take a short cut.  The inspiration for these brownies came from my daughters most favorite candy bar, a Reese's peanut butter cup.  And boy, did my Paige do a great job of making these brownies all by herself.  Pretty soon she'll be taking over.  Oh how wonderful it will be to have someone cook for me.

1 family sized box of brownie mix
1/2 cup of canola oil
1/4 cup of water
2 eggs
1/4 cup of peanut butter (melted)

-Preheat oven to 350*.  In a large mixing bowl combine brownie mix, oil, water and eggs.  Stir well to break up little balls of mix.  Pour into a greased 9x13" baking dish.  Drizzle melted peanut butter all over the top.  Using a wooden toothpick, make small circular swirls in the top of the batter to give it a marblized look.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool completely prior to cutting.  Makes 16 brownies.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Warm Apple Buckle

This dessert is basically like a dump cake or I guess it would be a dump pie.  There is all the same stuff as in a dutch apple pie, minus the pie crust and all the hard work.  I love to make this one with whatever fruit that I have lying around the kitchen.  It is not only amazing with apples, but it is great with pears, peaches and even blueberries.  And if you only have canned fruit, well you can even just use that.  I used the canned peaches once, and I'll tell you it was not as wonderful as it is with the fresh ones, but it was still very very good.  I think that this may be one of my favorite desserts.  It makes me think of being in the kitchen with my children and my husband.  And it reminds me of our evening walks, me using the bottom of the stroller to steal the apples from the abandoned lot.  I sure do love to take walks that way say in September ;)

6 large Baeburn apples (peeled/ cored/ sliced)
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 egg (remember to always use a Large size, room temp. egg when baking)
1/2 cup (1 stick) of real unsalted butter (melted)
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
cinnamon and sugar for garnish

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Arrange apples evenly in a deep casserole dish.  In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; stir in egg until crumbly.  Pour dry mixture over the top of apples, then drizzle top with melted butter all over.  Sprinkle with some extra cinnamon and sugar on top and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Serve with vanilla bean ice cream.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sun-Dried Tomato Sirloin Steak

If you are looking for an easy-no fuss marinade, then look no further.  What can be easier than pouring it out of a bottle.  The acidity from the dressing really helped tenderize the meat, let alone add an immense amount of flavor.  The veggies were actually my favorite part.  They were zesty and tangy the perfect compliment to this outrageous steak.

4 sirloin steaks
8 oz. (1/2 a bottle) of sun-dried tomato salad dressing
1 large green sweet pepper (julienne sliced)
6 large mushrooms (cut in quarters)

-Spread about 2 oz. of the dressing in the bottom of a 9x13" pan.  Place steaks in pan and pour 3 oz. more of the dressing over them.  Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate to marinade steaks at least 4 hours or more (up to 24 hrs is ok).  Do the same for the veggies with the remainder of the dressing in a seperate smaller pan.  Preheat grill to a medium-high setting.  Create a pouch out of aluminum foil; fill with veggies and some of the dressing from their pan.  Pinch the pouch closed and grill for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile grill the steaks (discard marinade) for about 8-10 minutes on each side for a MR center (remember they will continue to cook on the plate until cut).  Plate the steaks with the veggies and their juices on top.  Serve with baked potatoes.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lemon Buttermilk Cookies

These cookies are delicious.  They are soft, thick and cake-like while still having that wonderful cookie crunch.  I absolutely love the hint of lemon and the sprinkle of sugar on top.  They remind me of the lemon drop candies that I used to get from my Grandparents trading post store when I was little.  I loved the sugary coating over the tart lemon candy just like these cookies. 

2 cups of sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) of real unsalted butter
3 eggs
4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of salt
3 T. of lemon juice + enough milk to = 1 cup (this is an over soured buttermilk)
2 tsp. of real vanilla extract
zest from 1 whole lemon
sugar for garnish

-Preheat oven to 375*.  Make buttermilk in a measuring cup and set to the side to rest (you will see it start to thicken slightly).  Cream sugar and butter together in a large mixing bowl; add in eggs one at a time mixing well.  In a smaller bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together.  Add dry ingredients into the butter mixture in small increments, alternating with small pours of the buttermilk.  Once it is thoroughly combined, stir in the vanilla and the fresh lemon zest.  Drop by heaping teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets (I use stone one's) and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 11-14 minutes (you are looking for a light brown edge).  Makes over 3 dozen.  Enjoy!

Granola Belgium Waffles

I have been adding my Homemade Granola into anything and everything lately.  My husband was teasing me that I will probably be putting in the scrambled eggs next.  And kid you not, I was honestly contemplating that while making breakfast yesterday!  It's the truth though, I am addicted to t granola.  And it is simply wonderful in these waffles.  It adds a nutty texture that works well with the spongy waffle and sweet maple syrup.  Yum.

6 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 T. of sugar
1/4 cup of baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. of salt
3 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup plus 2 T. of canola oil
2 tsp. of real vanilla extract
4 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup of sour cream

-Preheat waffle iron.  Using a whisk, mix together ingredients in the order shown above.  Make sure to get all the lumps out.  Let the batter rest for 5 minutes.  Ladle about 1 1/2 cups or so of batter into the center of the waffle iron.  Close lid and cook on medium setting (I do 2 3/4) until done.  Serve with butter, syrup and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.  Makes 16 waffles.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Baked Mostaccioli

This is one of my family's favorites.  I think that it is probably most peoples favorite.  Who doesn't like pasta drowning in red sauce and smothered with melted cheese?  And besides the fact that it is delicious when it first comes out of the oven, it is even better as left-overs the next day.  By then, the herbs have had a chance to meld causing the sauce to really ripen.

1 lb. 80/ 20 ground beef
1 (26 oz.) jar of a basil flavored red sauce (I used Nannina's Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce)
1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 T. of dried Italian seasonings
1 cup of shredded Italian cheese blend
1 lb. of uncooked penne pasta
1 3/4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
dried/ fresh parsley for garnish

-Preheat oven to 375*.  In a large deep saucepan, brown beef and drain off grease.  Add in red sauce, tomatoes and Italian seasonings.  Bring to a boil; stir in Italian cheese blend.  Reduce heat and simmer.  Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed on package (add a little e.v.o. to the water to flavor the pasta and keep it from sticking together, do not salt the water you are using a lot of salty cheese already).  Strain pasta and fold into sauce.  Pour into a deep casserole dish and top with the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheese on top is melted well.  Garnish with parsley before serving.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Granola-Topped Pancakes

These pancakes are just delicious.  I love the nutty crunch of the granola along with the soft and fluffy pancakeWhat a wonderful way to spice up some pancakes.  We have pancakes a lot at our home for breakfast and a lot of the time for dinner.  So, I am always looking for new ways to change them up a bit.  I always use this recipe as my base for the pancakes and then I just switch out my top garnish.  You can use granola, crumbled cooked bacon, chocolate chips, sliced bananas and more.  The possibilities are endless.  And no matter whether you add the garnish in or not, these pancakes are always perfect.

2 cups of Bisquick
2 tsp. of baking powder
1 T. of sugar
1 cup of milk
2 T. of lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 cup of my Homemade Granola recipe

-Preheat stove top griddle or frying pan on medium heat.  In a large mixing bowl combine Bisquick, baking powder, sugar, milk, lemon juice and eggs well.  Allow batter to rest for a few minutes (it will get light and bubbly to make fluffy pancakes).  Grease hot griddle with some butter and ladle out pancakes.  Sprinkle tops of pancakes with crumbled granola.  Once pancakes begin to bubble (and bottoms are golden), flip and cook about 2 minutes or so longer.  Serve with butter and syrup.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!