Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rich Hot Cocoa Mix

It is a hot cocoa kind of morning.  Raining and chilly out side.  This time of year I like to make up a large batch of hot cocoa mix to share and to last me all winter.  It is also money saving.

1 box (14 qt. size) powdered milk
1 lb. box powdered sugar
1  2 lb. box Nestle's Quik or similar product
¼ cup of dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa
8 oz. jar coffee creamer

In a large airtight container (a Texas gallon ice cream bucket works well), mix ingredients together well until even colored and no streaks remain. Cover tightly with a snap top lid and keep away from humidity. Put a plastic 1/4 or 1/3 measuring cup in the container and leave it there for convenient measuring.

Measure out 1/4 or 1/3 cup of the mix and stir into 1 cup boiling water and stir well.  I like to leave a measuring cup right in the container so I know how much to use or you can use a Sharpie and write on top of the container. Drop in some miniature marshmallows or dollop of whipped cream to make it extra rich.  Christmas season serve it with a peppermint candy cane.

This also makes a nice Christmas gift.  Fill a mason jar with the mix and tie a nice Christmas bow on it.  You can also put a tag on it with the recipe so they can make it. 

It makes many servings and keeps indefinitely.

Nice thing to warm up your Tricker or Treaters  when they come back from the evening out.  Have a safe and happy Halloween.   Keep warm, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Making homemade ricotta cheese is easier than you think.  You will need a large pot, some cheesecloth and a colander. 

1 ½ tsp. salt
1 gallon whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
6 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

Place cheese cloth into the colander and set in the sink.  Make sure you cut the cheese cloth bigger than you need so it stays put and cover the entire colander.

In a large pot, add in milk, cream, and salt.  Bring slowly to a rolling boil.  This might take a bit!  Be patient.

When it is at a rolling boil, add in the lemon juice and turn off the burner.  Let it sit for approximately 3 minutes.  You will see it curdling immediately.

When it is done curdling, pour into cheese cloth lined colander and let drain. The longer you let it sit and drain the dryer your ricotta will be. 

This yields about 1 quart of ricotta.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours.  Let it cool completely and then use however you choose.  I usually use it to make lasagna or Russian blitzes.

It is suppose to rain today.  Will be a good day to play in the kitchen.  Hope you have a good day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cranberry and Mandarin Orange Salad

I'm moving on and starting to look at Thanksgiving ideas.  I love craisens and Mandarin oranges so had to tweak this recipe to say Thanksgiving.

Dried craisins
Can of drained mandarin oranges
Chopped walnuts
Shredded turkey
Baby leaf lettuce
Cranberry vinaigrette

Toss all ingredients together and serve vinaigrette on the side.

Cranberry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup whole cranberry sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all ingredients except the oil in a food processor or blender. Blend until well combined and cranberries are pureed. With food processor running, slowly pour olive oil in a slow steady stream through the feed tube.  (If the dressing is thicker than you like, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until it's the desired consistency.) Chill in the refrigerator.

Cranberry Sauce

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cups (12-oz package) fresh or frozen cranberries
Optional: orange zest, pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or allspice.

Wash and pick over cranberries. In a saucepan bring to a boil water and sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.

At this point you can add the options ingredients.

Remove from heat. Cool completely at room temperature and then chill in refrigerator. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

You may also use this sauce for another cranberry salad.  Just add walnuts and whipped topping.

Hope you have a great day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Stuffed Jack-O-Lantern Peppers

Halloween is only two days away so thought I'd share these stuffed peppers with you for your Halloween feast.  They are simple and fun.

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 cup water
6  bell peppers (you pick the color)
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano 

Clean peppers by cutting out the top and scoop out the inside with a spoon.  Discard the seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers.  Save the top. With a small paring knife, cut out the eyes and mouth to look like a Jack-O-Lantern.  You can put a small cup inside the pepper to give you something hard to help you cut.  Don't put your hand in the pepper and cut yourself.  Slice the bottoms of the peppers if necessary so that they will stand upright.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 20 minutes. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the beef until evenly browned.

In a bowl, mix the browned beef, cooked rice, 1 can tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Spoon an equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper. Mix the remaining tomato sauce and Italian seasoning in a bowl, and pour over the stuffed peppers.

Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, basting with sauce every 15 minutes, until the peppers are tender.

Hope you have a great Monday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Home Made Beef and Noodles

I have had a craving for beef and noodles and when I saw a package of cut up beef stew meat at Aldi’s, I decided a mess or not I was making some.  Josh is home for the week end so making a big batch for him for Sunday dinner.  Will take a quart over to mom also. 

Here in farm country we do starch on starch.  It is very common for people to serve their beef and noodles or chicken and noodles on top of mashed potatoes with lots of butter and I’m not going to be breaking tradition.  They will be served up on top of mashed potatoes.

2 lbs. beef stew meat
2 quarts of beef broth
Kosher salt and pepper
1 tsp. onion powder

I’m going to be out and about today so am using a crock pot and simmering the beef all day to make it tender.  If you wish to speed it up you can do it on the stove top.  I’m also using homemade broth I had in the refrigerator, but you may used canned.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add your onion powder (you may use onion flakes or chopped onion if you like also).  You may also grate 2 carrots and add them to the broth. Check 6 hours later and you should have very tender beef.


4 large eggs
2 cups plus flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt

Put your flour in a large bowl and mix in the salt with your fingers.  Make a well with the flour and add your 4 large eggs in the middle of the well.  Using a fork, slowly incorporate the eggs into the flour until it is all incorporated.  Add a bit more flour and with your hands kneed the dough.  When the dough is no longer real wet pinch it into 4 pieces and let it rest.  It should not take much more flour depending on the size of your eggs.

Coat your surface and rolling pin with a lot of flour.  Roll out one of the 4 balls of dough as thin as you can get it.  The thinner the dough the better.  It will not take as long to cook.  Cut the dough in half and then in half the other way.  Flour the 4 pieces well and place them on top of each other.

I use a pizza cutter to cut the noodles.  I have found it works best in trying to get thinner consistent noodles.  Slice the pile of floured dough into thin slices.  Pull them apart and toss on a plate to dry.  I like to use several paper plates to dry them.  If I don’t need all of the noodles I put them in a large baggie keeping them on the paper plate and toss them in the freezer for another day. 

When you have cut all the balls of dough let the noodles dry for at least an hour.  If you have any left over flour on the table toss it in the noodles to help keep them from sticking together. 

These freeze nicely and are great in a quick casserole. 

When your beef is tender and nearly falling apart, add your noodles while the broth is boiling.  The cooking time will vary according to how thick they are.  They will soak up a lot of the broth.  Don’t be afraid to add more broth or some water.

Taste to make sure the noodles are al dente and it does not need more seasoning.  The broth becomes thick like a gravy and goes great on mashed potatoes.  Serve with a veggie or a salad and you have a great Sunday dinner. 

Hope you have a great Sunday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

This is one of my favorite days of the month.  I have book club today and am bringing the dessert.  I played with a chocolate cake mix and Andes’ mints and came up with this dessert.  If you like mint and chocolate you will like these especially when you get to use box mixes and some of the work is done for you.

Chocolate cake mix (plus eggs, oil and water per instructions on the box)
Whipped topping
1 box Vanilla Instant Jello pudding (plush 1/2 the milk the box calls for)
Andes’ mints
2 cap fulls of mint extract
Green food coloring

Follow the cake mix instructions and make chocolate cupcakes.  I added two cap fulls of mint extract to the finished cake mix to make them mint cupcakes.  Taste for mint flavor.  You may wish to add more.


Mix one pudding packet with half of the milk called for on the package. Whisk until it begins to thicken. Then fold in one container of thawed whipped topping.  Add green food coloring and mint extract and fold in.  I used several cap fulls of extract.  Keep tasting until you are happy with the mint flavor.  I used about 4 drops of green food coloring to get the light green coloring I wanted.  You may wish to add more.  Fill a baggie with the topping and cut a hole in the corner and pipe onto the top of the cupcakes.

Top with one Andes’ mints.

Variations - You may also cut chocolate covered mint cookies into quarters and garnish the top or an Oreo mint cookie.  You may also drizzle a ganache across the top (50/50 melted chocolate chips and cream).

You can also buy Andes’ pieces now.  You can add them to the cake mix or to the topping and have mint chip cupcakes. 

No matter how you mix them, chocolate and mint are perfect together.  Play with it and come  up with your own chocolate mint cupcake.

I'm also taking these to a Halloween party tonight.  Going to be a great day.  

Hope you have a great day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pork Carnitas

I have modified this recipe to what I have available in my kitchen today and I’m very please with the changes.  My version is also simpler and took less time.  The original recipe called for whole oranges so I’m saving money also. I substituted a large can of Mandarin oranges (You can add some dried orange peel if you wish a more intense orange flavor).  It also called for a whole onion and I replaced that with onion powder (you end out tossing the onion out so I saved my last onion from being tossed).  I wanted a little heat so added pepper flakes.  The original recipe did not call for it.  Since it is just me, I am cutting the recipe in half.  I’m giving you the full recipe though.  A pork taco will be a nice change.  I’m making soft tacos with a flour tortilla for today’s lunch.

4 pound boneless pork (you may use a pork butt or any cut of pork you have)
2 tbs. garlic (I use the garlic packed in oil that is already chopped for easy measuring)
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbs. onion powder
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. dried oregano (I’m using the oregano I dried from my herb garden since my fresh died with the snow this week)
1 pinch of red pepper flakes (add more if you like heat)
4 tbs. lime juice
2 tbs. lemon juice
2 cups water
1 large can of Mandarin oranges
Kosher salt and pepper

Cut pork into cubes. Since I had a boneless pork tenderloin roast (on sale), I'm using it.

Add a can of Mandarin oranges to the crock pot.  Add your cut up pork and the rest of the ingredients.  I’m home today so I set the crock pot for higher heat.  I’m using my Presto cooker.

Salt and pepper generously over top, stirring gently.

Simmer for six hours on low in a crock pot or 2 hours on high.

Preheat your oven to 300.

Using a slotted spoon, remove pork from sauce and onto a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil.  Be careful to take out the bay leaves.

Transfer the sauce to a pot on the stove.  I’m using the Presto slow cooker/deep fryer combination so I can leave it in the pot and just turn up the heat.  I had to add a little water because the juices were almost gone.  Stir repeatedly as you simmer over medium heat to reduce the liquid and get it to thicken to a syrupy gravy (about 20 to 30 minutes).

While the sauce is being prepared, place the pork in the oven.

Turn the pork pieces over gently one time while the sauce prepares, monitoring the progression through the oven door.

You should have approximately 1 cup of pork sauce remaining once finished.

Pour the sauce over the pieces of pork.  Coat each piece of pork.

You can separate your pork pieces gently with two forks while mixing if you’d like.

Taste a piece of pork here and reseason with salt and/or pepper, if needed. 
Continue to cook and flip the meat here until the pork is well browned and edges are slightly crisp, about 10 minutes.  The pork is tender enough you can pull it apart if you like it shredded.  I like it chucky.

Remove from heat.  Serve with your favorite taco fixings in a flour tortilla or with white rice.  Use some pepper cheese and lightly fry 2 tortillas filled with the pork and cheese to make a great quesada.  Fill a toritilla with your favorite Mexican cheese(s) and beans and roll a great burrito.  Top with a little lettuce and guacamole or sour cream.  The pork is great reheated.  Just microwave it for a minute of so.

Wish I had an avocado to add to it.  It would have been even greater. 
You can top it with a dollop of sour cream also.
I cut the recipe in half but I will get several meals out of it depending on how I use it.  It will also save me time fixing my next meal. 

Hope you have a great day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pork Tenderloin Medallions or Center Cut Pork Chops with Cider Caramel

I picked up some good looking center cut pork chops and am going to make this cider caramel sauce to put on top of them.  You can fix the pork any way you wish, but I’m just going to fry them in a little olive oil in may cast iron skillet.  I could do the same thing with a pork tenderloin roast I have in the freezer by cutting medallions and pouring the sauce over them.  This is a great fall recipe.

The cider caramel takes about a half hour to cook, so plan accordingly. This dish has amazing flavor because of the concentrated flavors.

Sliced pork tenderloins or 3 to 4 center cut pork chops
4 cups apple cider
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup salted butter
1 tps. thyme
Kosher salt

Pour the cider in a heavy skillet along with the vanilla. Boil until reduced by half (about 2 cups.) This will take 15 to 20 minutes. Add the sugar, thyme, and butter and cook until  reduced to one and one half cups (another 15 minutes.) Stir frequently with a wire whisk.

Serve the cider caramel over the chops or pork tenderloin medallions. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Fry, bake or grill the pork according to your preference.  For time sake, I'm just frying mine.  Now, what to serve them with?  Something fall like baked acorn squash with a little butter and brown sugar.

Have a great Thursday. I’m going to watch my grandson play football today so know it will be a good day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today is definitely a soup day.  Here is a hearty soup you can toss is the crock pot and have it waiting for you tonight for supper.  It will make your nose run, which is a sure sign my mother says that it is good soup.      

1 49 oz. can of chicken broth
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 chopped medium onion
1 seeded and finely diced jalapeno
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. pepper
Kosher salt to taste
1 cup of frozen corn, or a can of corn (optional)
1 14.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

Garnish - You pick but I like it all
Monterey Jack shredded cheese or a Mexican blend
1 Avocado
Green onion
Sour Cream

Salt and pepper your chicken and fry it in a little olive oil until it is done.  Let cool and shred your chicken.  This is a great recipe if you have left over rotisserie chicken.  It saves work for you. 

Chop your onions, pepper and garlic and toss in the crock pot.  Dice up your tomatoes finely (or I just use my hands and squeeze them over the crock pot) and add to the crock pot.

Add the broth, chicken, chili powder, salt and pepper, chili powder and cumin to the slow cooker, and cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours.  I like adding black beans and corn, but do it toward the end of the cooking time just to heat up.

For garnish cut your tortillas into strips and bake in a 350 degree oven until they are browned and crunchy.  Turn once.  This only takes a few minutes.  Don’t let them burn. 

Serve the soup with the tortilla chips, some shredded cheese, chopped green onion, a dollop of sour cream and salsa, and slices of avocado. 

Stay warm, be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chocolate Italian Love Cake

It is suppose to snow today and I have to make a trip to Dubuque with mom.  I think I need a little Love Cake when I return.  The ricotta cheese makes it Italian.  You can substitute cream cheese for the ricotta if you like.  

1 package chocolate cake
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (5.1 oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup cold milk
8 oz. Cool Whip

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 × 13 inch pan with cooking spray.

Mix together your cake mix according to the directions on the box. Set aside.

Using a hand mixer, beat together the ricotta cheese (or cream cheese), eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Once the cake batter is in place, carefully pour the cheese mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter. Spread to cover the cake batter as best as you can.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting.

Once the cake is cool, stir the pudding mix and milk together with a whisk until combined. Carefully, fold the Cool Whip into the pudding until combined.

Spread the pudding mixture over the top of the cooled cake. Cover the cake and refrigerate until you serve.  Refrigerate left overs.  It is even better the next day. 

Wishing you much love and happiness in your life.  May God bless you and yours.   

Monday, October 21, 2013

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

I'm going to give you another way to use the baked pumpkin I gave you Saturday. Try making some pumpkin soup.  You can do so many things with this soup, but I'm keeping it simple today.

2 cups of baked pumpkin puree or 1 15 oz. can of canned pumpkin
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 quart chicken broth
½ cup cream or sour cream
Fresh rosemary
2 tbs. olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg

Use the process I gave you yesterday in baking pumpkin. Roast it with some fresh sprigs of rosemary to add more flavor.  Don't have fresh rosemary, then just sprinkle a pinch of dried on it.

Let the pumpkin to cool. Remove the skin and cut it into cubes and put in a food processor to puree.

Chop your onion and garlic and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a sauce pan. Sauté the chopped onion for 5 minutes and add garlic and sauté for another for 2 minutes. Add the baked pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin puree if you are using it) and sauté for another 3 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Close the lid and leave it simmering for 8 minutes. Take the pumpkin mixture off the fire, and leave the soup to cool down a bit so the cream does not curdle.  Add the cream, half and half or sour cream (What ever you have will do.  You can even use plain yogurt). Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste. Serve hot.

When serving, add a few leaves of rosemary to show it has a rosemary flavor in it and grate a bit of nutmeg on top.  You can also put a few pumpkin seeds on top to replace the rosemary if you like.  

Variations - You can always add other flavors to make it a completely different soup.  Add a bit of curie and ginger for a curried soup or add some bacon for more flavor and texture.  If you are going to make a curried soup, leave out the rosemary.

The cold weather is upon us so it is a great soup day.  Hope you have a great Monday. Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Black Forest Oatmeal

Cold outside and the furnace is working hard.  It is a great morning for a warm breakfast.  I have some black walnuts in the freezer that I’m going to add to oatmeal today.  If you don’t have them (they are hard to find locally in the store), you can use regular walnuts. 

Want to make it even a little healthier?  Add 1 tsp. of flax seed.

1 cup milk
2 tbs. cocoa
2 tbs. honey
Pinch of Kosher salt
2/3 cup oatmeal
¼ cup dried cherries
¼ cup black walnuts
1/3 cup apple juice
¼ tsp. black walnut extract

In a saucepan, combine milk, cocoa, honey and salt.  Bring to a simmer and add the oatmeal.  Meanwhile in a microwave save bowl, combine the juice and cherries.  Heat for 1 minute, add the extract and let sit on the counter while the oatmeal cooks.  Cook and stir the oatmeal until thick.  Remove from heat and add the cherries with juice and walnuts.  Stir to combine and serve. 

To serve you can serve it with a little milk or cream. 

Keep warm and have a great Sunday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.   

Saturday, October 19, 2013

How To Cook a Fresh Pumpkin and Make Pumpkin Butter

I buy pumpkins every year to decorate for fall and just hate the idea of them going to waste so I have to save a least one and bake it off for pumpkin puree.  Thought I would share how you bake a pumpkin and then use it for baking.  I’m sharing a pumpkin butter you can make with it once you have baked it.

Last year I blogged days and days of pumpkin recipes if you wish to go back and pull some more recipes you can use the pumpkin in. 

Smaller pumpkins work best. Leave the peel on and remove it once the pumpkin was cooked.  This gives the pumpkin even more flavor. Cut the pumpkin into small pieces.  Roast the pumpkin in a 350 degree oven until it is fork tender. When it came out of the oven, it is drier and had released some liquid, however it looked more like a dark syrup than water.

At this point separated the pumpkin from the peel with a spoon and mashed the meat in the food processor. This time the mass was not watery at all and it demanded no straining.

Save a pumpkin’s life and use it in your baking. 

Pumpkin Butter

2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves

Simmer everything in a pot until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened.  Store in mason jars. 

To serve put on a great artisan bread, a warm biscuit, a bagel or crackers.  Think I might have to make some Texas Road House biscuits.  Might mix this with a little butter and make it a real pumpkin butter and put it on warm biscuits.  Talked myself into it.  I'll have to do that in the near future.

Can you smell the house?  It will smell like heaven. 

Have a great day, save a pumpkin, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chili Con Carne Recipe

This Saturday there is a chili cook off at the Lakehurst Riverside Campground here in Maquoketa (at Maquoketa Dam).  Great weather to make chili again.  Thought I’d share a hearty chili recipe.  

2 tbs. red chili powder
1 tbs. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground oregano
1 tsp. thyme
4 strips bacon
2 lbs. lean hamburger 
Kosher salt
1 medium white onion
3 cloves garlic
3 tsp. pepper jelly
1 14 oz. can whole tomatoes
2 1/2 cups tomato juice
1 tbs. lime juice
1 14 oz. can red kidney beans or chili bean, drained and rinsed 
2 tsp. of flax seed (optional)
Grated cheddar cheese (or Mexican blend) and chopped green onion for garnish

Finely chop your onions and garlic and set aside.

In a small bowl mix the chili powder, ground cumin, oregano, and thyme. Mix in a little water so that chili forms a light paste. Set aside.

Brown your chopped bacon until crisp and place on a paper towel.  Pour bacon fat from the pan into a separate container, reserve. 

Increase heat to medium, add back in 1 tablespoon of bacon fat. Brown the beef.  Salt and pepper it. Remove beef and set aside.  

Add another tablespoon of bacon fat to the pan. Add the chopped onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño pepper jelly, cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Add the chili paste and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.

Into a 6 quart thick bottomed Dutch oven, put onion chili mixture, beef, bacon, tomatoes (break up the whole tomatoes with your fingers as you put them in the pot), tomato juice, and lime juice. Heat the chili on medium  heat until it comes to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low.

Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Then uncover and cook for another half hour, keeping the temperature at a place where you can maintain a simmer.

Gently mix in the kidney beans. Add salt to taste. Adjust seasonings. Depending on the acidity of the tomatoes and lime juice you may need a little sugar to bring the stew to balance. At this point you can also add a little more chili powder or jalapeño pepper jelly if you desire more heat also.  Chili is one of those dishes I like to toss the flax seed in for all the extra benefits that comes with it. This is optional on your part.  

You may also substitute sugar and chopped jalapeno in place of  jalapeño jelly.  I make a bunch of it each fall and use it for heat and sweet in all of my chili.  Just add a table spoon of white or brown sugar and and finely chopped deseeded jalapeño in place of the jelly.  Taste and see if you think it needs more sugar. I blogged the jelly recipe last month.  Simmer until chili thickens.

Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.  Serve with cornbread or tortilla chips.  The chips make a nice garnish also.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Asian Salad (AKA Lunch)

Cleaning the veggie drawer again to figure out what is for lunch.  I have lettuce and part of an English seedless cucumber I better use up.  Also have some celery to add more crunch.  Have an opened bag of a Pizazz rice noodle medley to top the salad and a can of Mandarin oranges in the pantry.  I have all the makings for a great simple salad for lunch.  

Lettuce (anything you might have in the veggie drawer – mine is iceberg)
1 stalk of celery
¼ of an English seedless cucumber
Handful of Asian Cashew Medley
½ of a small can of Mandarin oranges (Save the juice)

Drain your oranges and save the juice the oranges are packed in for making the dressing.  Chop your celery in small pieces.  Peel and chop your cucumber in small pieces (You can leave the skins on if you like).  Chop or pull your leaves of lettuce apart. 

Add your lettuce, celery and cucumber together and toss.  Top with oranges and a handful of the Cashew Medley.  Salt and pepper to your taste.

You may have other things in the refrigerator that would go good with this.  If you had some cold left over cold chicken it would be great.  I had tomatoes, but wanted it to be Asian so decided not to use them.  Anything Asian would go great like pea pods, green onion or edameme.

For the salad dressing, since it has the Asian flavor of the medley and oranges going for it, I’m going with an Asian flavor dressing I tossed together.  I don’t use a recipe because I just toss it together, but this is pretty close I think.

Juice from the Mandarin oranges you drained (all of it)
1 tbs. soy sauce
3 tbs. of a good balsamic vinegar (You can use a wine or apple vinegar too)
1 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. olive oil
Kosher Salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients into a mason jar and shake it well.  Taste it and see if it is too your liking.  If you think it needs more acid, add more vinegar or add more salt and pepper if you think it needs more.  You will have enough to use for at least 1 or 2 more salads.  Refrigerate any dressing left.

I love salads when I don’t know what to fix for lunch.  There are no rules.  You just need to reach for what you have and toss it together.  I especially love it when there is a product that dresses them up and takes the salad to a whole new level.  I love the packaged salad topping mixes with dried fruit and/or nuts that are on the market that give crunch, saltiness, sweetness, protein and great taste.  I’m in the process of trying them all.  So far I love them all.  It turns a very plain salad into a whole meal including dessert.

Hope you have a great day, be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

BLT Soup

Years ago I had a soup similar to this in Davenport.  I had to try and reproduce it because I loved it and the idea so much.  I think I have come close to it.  Sorry to say the restaurant is no longer in operation.  

8 slices bacon, diced small (Save some for garnish)
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoon butter
Iceberg, bib or any leaf lettuce (I'm using Iceberg)
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cup heated beef broth
3 large diced fresh peeled and deseeded tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and pepper

Heat water until it comes to a boil.  Core 3 large tomatoes and put them into the boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds.  Take out and put into cool water.  Peel the tomatoes and squeeze them to get the seeds out of them.  Chop them up finely and set aside. I’m using some of my heirloom tomatoes.  You could use canned tomatoes here if you want.  I just want to use up my fresh ones while I have them plus there is more nutrition with fresh.  Put in approximately 2 cups of chopped tomato.  I like to use cheap paper plates since I don't have a dishwasher and it saves on lots of dishes. I also use one for a garbage plate. I just toss the plate.

Skinned and squeezed heirloom tomatoes before chopping
In a 3 quart pot, cook the bacon over medium heat till lightly browned. I use pre-cooked bacon to save time and mess so only had to brown a bit more Set some aside for garnish (about 1/3 of the bacon).  Add the onions and cook, stirring, until translucent and soft. Add the butter and stir until melted. Sprinkle the flour into the pot and stir the roux until well blended.
In a separate pan, heat up your beef broth.  Luckily I had some left over from my soup bone I cooked a couple of days ago but you can use canned.  Remove the soup from the heat and add the hot beef broth, chopped tomatoes, and nutmeg. Put back on the heat and heat the soup to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes to let the tomatoes cook down. Reduce heat to low so you do not curdle the half and half.  Add the half and half and mix well. Mix together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.  I add a little.  After I tasted mine, I felt because I used my heirloom tomatoes and they lack acid, I added 3 tsp. of ketchup to give some acidity. Taste and don't be afraid to add small amounts of what you think you would like. Keep tasting until you are happy.  Start small though.  If you like a little heat add a pinch of red pepper flakes.  I tried hard to stick with a standard BLT tasting soup.
You have a nice tomato soup base that you are now going to make into your BLT by serving each portion of soup with some chopped lettuce, bacon and a few croutons floating on top.  I’m using a homemade garlic crouton, but you can use store bought bread croutons or just cut up some toasted bread.  Serves 8 cups or 4 bowls.

It has everything a BLT has from the bread and mayo to the BLT.  It is a wonderful soup for a cold fall day.

Have a great day, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Strawberry Shortbread Cookies

Here is a new recipe to use fresh strawberries with.  You could use other fruits too like blueberries or use both together.

2 cups diced strawberries
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
Extra sugar to top cookies

Mix together strawberries, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl and set aside.

Blend together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Cut the cold butter into small pieces, and blend into the flour mixture using your hands or a pastry cutter.  Stir in the cream, and then fold in the strawberries.

Drop batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with the sugar and bake at 350 degrees for about 20.

Be careful not to over cook.  Watch the cookies toward the end of 20 minutes.  The strawberries can settle and tend to burn if over cooked.  Like a chocolate chip cookie, I like mine ewy, chewy good so I tend to under-cook mine. 

Variation – Speaking of chocolate chips, you can add chocolate chips or white chocolate chip and turn it into a completely different cookie.  

Cold and wet this morning.  Be a great day to make cookies, warm up the kitchen and perfume the house.

Have a great day, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pumpkin Nut Cake

This is one of my favorite Fall pumpkin desserts full of pumpkin spices and cream cheese frosting.  If you like pumpkin, you'll love this.

4 eggs
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin (Not the pumpkin pie in a can)
¾ cup oil
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp.  baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 cup walnut pieces

Cream eggs, pumpkin, oil, sugar, and vanilla with mixer.  Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon and add to pumpkin mixture mixing well with mixer.  Fold in nuts.  Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and add the cake mixture. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 35 to 40 minutes until cake is done in center.  Let cool before frosting.

Once the cake is cooled frost with the spicy frosting.

Nutmeg Frosting
1 (8 ounce) package whipped cream cheese
1 stick soft butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla 

Using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until they are well combined.  Add the vanilla and then add the powdered sugar and mix with the hand mixer until spreading consistency. Add your nutmeg and blend in well.  Spread on cooled cake.  The frosting makes it an exceptional cake.

This cake sure says that fall has arrived.  

Today is to be another nice fall day.  We sure have been blessed with a row of them.  Hope you have a great day and may God bless you and yours.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Olive Garden Lobster Cannelloni With Shrimp Copy Cat Recipe

I went out to lunch with my oldest grandson yesterday and we went to one of my favorite places, the Olive Garden.  They had a new item on the menu that I have not had so had to try it.  It was amazing.  The entire lunch was amazing because I spent some quality one-on-one time with my Sam plus we shared one of my favorite foods, their mussels.  I love them.  Sam and I joked that next time we were getting two because we like them to much to share them.  It was a joke though because we took half of our food home, not being able to eat even half of what we ordered. That is one of the greatest things about going there, taking home left overs.

But back to the lobster cannelloni on the menu that I ordered.  The cannelloni shells are stuffed with cheese and lobster and covered with an amazing sauce with mushrooms and shrimp.  I immediately had to check the internet for a copy cat recipe and found this one I’m sharing with my changes.  I’ll have to go buy some lobster tails to make it for next special occasion.  Maybe book club. 

If you are looking to go out and eat, this get 5 stars (5 out of 5) from me.

One 8 ounce package cannelloni 
12 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound cooked small unthawed frozen shrimp (50% for inside and reserve rest for sauce on top)
1/2 pound cooked lobster meat (I’m using lobster tails)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and thyme
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and white and black pepper (Only use the white if you have it)
1 cup fresh baby spinach
2 cups sliced button mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch casserole with olive oil spray or what ever you have.

To cook the pasta, combine 6 quarts water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain, and gently rinse in cold water. Toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil so it does not stick together and set aside.

Melt 8 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes to make a roux, stirring frequently. Add the milk and half and half (you may add any combination you like of milk/cream) and whisk to combine well. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and cook for 5 minutes, until very thick and the floury taste is gone. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (you may use black if you like), and the nutmeg. Remove from the heat and press plastic wrap onto the surface of the sauce so that a skin will not form; reserve.

Clean and slice your mushrooms and baby spinach and reserve. 

Chop your lobster, ½ the shrimp, herbs, garlic and onion and set each aside.

Combine the remaining 4 tablespoons butter with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the chopped shrimp, lobster, herbs, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of the sauce. Gently toss to combine. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper.  Let it cool slightly.

Stuff each of the cannelloni with the shellfish filling and place them side by side in the prepared casserole.

Sauté your mushrooms in a little butter and add them with your spinach to the remaining white sauce. Pour the sauce over the cannelloni, sprinkle with 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, and bake until heated through, bubbly, and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Makes about 8 servings (2 cannelloni per person). To serve add a little of Parmesan shavings.  Make sure you have bread sticks to complete the meal.

I’ve modified the recipe I found because it did not have the spinach or the mushrooms and I felt it was  an important part of the recipe.  I also know it had some cream in it so I added a little half and half because the copy cat recipe did not have any.  You do not need to, but it makes a richer sauce so I just made it 1/5 half and half.  You could add cream if you have that.  Just keep adding and tasting until you get a total of no more than 5 cups of dairy.

A secret of mine is to use Lasagna noodles to make cannelloni.  I hate trying to fill cannelloni so just use Lasagna  and roll them up with the the ends face down.  Sure a lot easier and I'm all for easy.

Another suggestion is you can also use crab or lobster or both.  See if you don't think this is 5 stars worthy.

I'm going to be out in this beautiful weather today and having brunch with my son and his family so I don’t have to cook today.  Hope your day is special too.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Apple Bacon Stuffed Iowa Pork Chops

Yesterday Iowa chops were on sale for $1.77 a pound at Fareways.  They were put on my shopping list because of it.  We’re so blessed to live in Iowa where you can get these beauties.  Sticking with my need to use up apples, I’m going to stuff them with apples and bacon. 

Apple Bacon Stuffed Iowa Chop

4 Iowa pork chops
2 medium peeled, cored and diced baking apples
8 strips of bacon
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
4 fresh sage leaves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbs. lemon juice
1 tbs. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Prep work:

Dice your onion, sage leaves and garlic as fine as you can and set aside. 

Use a 4 to 6 inch knife and pierce the fatty side of the chop. Wiggle your knife side to side until your pocket is about 5″ long and 3″ wide (about 70% of the chop).

Cut up your bacon into small bite sized pieces and fry it in a cast iron skillet. Over medium heat, add your apples and onion and cook until they are tender and beginning to caramelize (about 8 minutes).  Add garlic, sage, cinnamon, and lemon juice and toss for 2 minutes.  You can use ground sage if you don’t have fresh.  Use about ½ teaspoon. 

Remove stuffing from heat, transfer to bowl to let it cool.

Salt and pepper each side of pork chop, stuff it with as much stuffing as you can fit and use a skewer or toothpick to close and prevent spilling (about half of the stuffing will be leftover).

Insert pork chops into your cast iron skillet you used for the apple stuffing to sear on each side, cook each side of the chops for 5 minutes in hot pan over medium heat.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Transfer the cast iron skillet to the oven and bake uncovered for 35 minutes

Baking until done. Test the chops with a thermometer to make sure they are done. I cook mine to 160. No thermometer, then cut a slice off and make sure you see no pink at all.  Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your pork chop and how much stuffing you have put in them.  

To serve, warm remaining stuffing and spoon on top of each chop.

Be happy we live in Iowa and have Iowa chops readily available.  May God bless you and yours. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Apple Nut Oatmeal Bake

I’m still thinking apples at my house.  They are perfect for a fall day.  This is a new recipe I played with and have tested.  I’m making it up today and I’m going to share some in the form of muffins with my mom.  I’ll take some over to her today when we go to run our errands.  This one takes a little time because you have to let it rest for 3 hours or overnight so you’ll need to plan ahead.  It is great served warm and perfumes the entire house making everyone hungry. Also great for Sunday brunch since it is like an oatmeal almost.

Apple Nut Oatmeal Bake

2 eggs
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup butter
1 can of canned apples or a pint of Apple-Pie-in-a-Jar
1 ¼ cups milk (I used 2%, but you may use whole milk)
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
½ cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup brown sugar for mixture + 1/3 cup brown sugar at the end for topping
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. flax seed (optional)

I like to put all my ingredients out and then I put them away as I use them to help with a clean cooking space.  It also assures me I have everything I need for the recipe.  This is my little table that sits close to my counter so I work from the counter and reach for the ingredient as I need it and then put the ingredient away once added.

Melt your butter.  Combine all ingredients except the oats in a large bowl. If your apples are sliced large, make sure you slice them into small ½ inch pieces. Add oats and mix well.

Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 3 hours (or over night if you wish).  This allows time for the oatmeal to soak up the milk and liquids. 

 Spray your baking dish.  Stir the mixture one last time to make sure all the liquid is soaked in and distributed equally.  Transfer the mixture to the 9 x 13 inch dish.  In my case, I’m going to make it in a 9 x 9 and some muffins from the recipe.  It is nice to have alternatives.

Heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Bake for 30 minutes or until just firm in the center. Remove dish from oven, set oven to broil, and sprinkle another 1/3 cup of brown sugar over top of oatmeal. Broil for a minute, watching very closely until the topping is melted and lightly browned.  This gives a nice sweet crunch to the top. 

Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator if there are any.  You may reheat in the microwave.

If you are making it in muffins cups you can get 8 regular muffins cups or 6 jumbo cups.  Bake the regular ones for approximately 20 minutes.  The jumbo will take 30 minutes.  I also cut the time on the 9 x 9 pan and started checking it after 20 minutes.

Want to make it even healthier?  You can add raisins if you like. 

On my way over to moms with my goodies.  Stay healthy, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cucumber and Heirloom Tomato Salad

This is my lazy day salad that I go to when I don’t want to put much work into it, but want a good salad.  I still have tomatoes I need to eat each day also.  You can use the herb salad dressing I gave you this week or use a Green Goddess dressing to dress it.  Tomatoes and cucumber were made to go together.

Heirloom tomatoes
English cucumber
Dressing of you choice
½ tsp. onion powder
Kosher salt and pepper

Slice you tomatoes into bite size pieces and place on a paper towel and sprinkle them slightly with Kosher salt to get the liquid out of them.  This way you don't have a soggy salad.

Peel your cucumbers.  I like to use the seedless kind but this is a time you can use those huge ones that are all seeds.  Cut the seeds out and just cut bite side pieces of the cucumber to match the tomato pieces. 

Combine the tomatoes, onion powder and cucumber and dress with your dressing and sprinkle with pepper. You could put slices of onion in it and leave out the onion powder if you like.  I just want a little onion flavor.

It can’t get any simpler or prettier than this.

Hope you have a great day.  It is OK to be lazy today.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.