Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Caprese Salad Bites

Here is another vegetarian appetizer for your New Year’s Eve party tonight.  It can’t get much simpler than this. 

A simple Caprese salad skewered onto toothpicks makes a great appetizer for your New Years buffet.

Cherry tomatoes
Mozzarella balls
Marinated artichoke hearts
Basil leaves
Italian dressing or balsamic vinegar with Italian seasoning

Cut your tomatoes in half for a flat base.  Cut your Mozzarealla balls in half.  Drain your artichokes and cut to the same size as the tomatoes. 

Marinate your tomatoes, mozzarella balls, artichokes and basil leaves in a baggie with a little Italian dressing or seasoned balsamic vinegar for an hour. 

Skewer each ingredient on a toothpick starting with the tomato on the bottom for the base. 

When you serve them don’t forget to bring a small bowl for guests to dispose of their toothpicks.

Here is hoping you have a safe and warm New Year’s Eve.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours all the New Year. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Artichoke Fillo Cups Appetizer

Here is another New Year's Eve super simple appetizer.  I still have one box of fillo cups.

15 fillo cups
Small can marinated artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons sundried tomatoes (chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste

Drain and chop your artichoke hearts.  Chop a sundried tomato.  I get the ones in oil.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix the chopped artichoke, parmesan, mayonnaise, and sun dried tomato.. Salt and pepper to taste. Fill each fillo cup with the artichoke mixture, place filled cups on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes.  Serve immediately. 

It makes a nice vegetarian appetizer.

I have one more New Year's appetizer I'll share tomorrow with you tomorrow.  Meanwhile, have a great Monday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Boston Cream Cupcakes

Sal and I played in the kitchen yesterday and made Boston Cream Cupcakes.  He did most of the work, but I'll share the recipe with you.

1 (3.4 oz) box Vanilla instant pudding
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
Box of yellow cake mix

Note: this pudding mixture tastes like pastry cream.  It can be used as a filling for other pastry calling for cream filling such as cream puffs.

Make cupcakes according to directions on box. Use your favorite yellow cake mix.  Let the cupcakes cool.

Mix together pudding, cream, powdered sugar, milk, and sour cream. Beat on medium speed until stuff peaks form.

Cut each cupcake like below to allow room for the filling and add a dollop of filling.

Put top back on cupcake and frost with ganache.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat cream in sauce pan until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat, pour over chocolate in a mixing bowl. Stir to mix together and melt the chips. Let cool slightly.

Pour over the cooled cupcakes.

Sal loved this recipe.  I'm sending it home with him for his recipe book.  He loved it because he got to eat all the cake he cut off to make the holes in for the centers, plus licking the ganache bowl.  

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Caprese Fillo Cups

Here is a super simple appetizer for New Years using the pre-baked fillo cups.  There are so many wonderful things you can put in these.  

1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar
1 (15-count) package mini fillo cups
15 cherry tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella pearls
Fresh basil leaves

Cut your basil and cut your cherry tomatoes in half.

In a small saucepan boil the balsamic vinegar over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Remove from heat and allow the vinegar to cool.  It should be thick like syrup.

Put a piece of mozzarella and tomato in each cup.  Top with the fresh basil and drizzle it with a little of the balsamic vinegar reduction.   Serve immediately.

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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cranberry Sausage Bites

Here is a simple  recipe for cranberry sausage bites that are a perfect seasonal appetizer.  It is another great idea for the New Year’s Eve buffet.

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
⅓ cup fresh cranberries
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or any substitute you would like)
2 tablespoons minced green onions
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup flour (Any type you like)
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop your cranberries and shallots.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree and line a baking sheet with foil.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with your hands until the ingredients fully incorporated.

Roll the mixture into balls and place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Serve with cranberry sauce for dipping.

Variation – Want it a little sweet, in addition to using the sweet Italian sausage add left over cranberry sauce or chutney.

Friday is here already.  Hope it is a great one for you.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Mozzarella Biscuits

When I was at HyVee this week, I picked up some Mozzarella pearls thinking I would make something new with them.  I have been talking about making some homemade bread but found this recipe and though I’ll let Pillsbury do most of the work for me.  You could do it with homemade biscuits if you like.  It will be a nice dish on your New Year’s buffet. 

2 cans (10 ct. each) Pillsbury refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
20 fresh mozzarella pearls (or you can cut up fresh mozzarella into pieces) 
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 cup marinara sauce

Heat oven to 425°F. Spray 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Separate each can of dough into 10 biscuits; flatten each biscuit into thin round. Place 1 piece of cheese in the center of each round. Fold the edges up and over the cheese; pinch to seal. Place biscuits, seam sides down, in baking dish.

In small bowl, beat egg and water. Lightly brush tops of biscuits with egg mixture. Sprinkle with basil or garlic powder or both.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave marinara sauce on high about 1 minute or until warmed. Serve warm biscuits with marinara sauce for dipping.

Variation – Add a piece of pepperoni with the cheese and wrap in bread dough.  You can also sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese with the pepperoni and mozzarella for even more flavor.     

The next couple of days, I’ll share a few more appetizer recipes with you for New Year’s Eve.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  Have a great Thursday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Oyster Stew

Tradition at my house for well over 40 years has been to have oyster stew on Christmas Eve.  I’m not breaking with tradition.  This year the oysters are extremely high priced so I’m using canned oyster though.  Here is my very simple recipe.

2 tbs. butter
2 tablespoons chopped shallot (l lg. shallot)
1 pint of cream
1 quart 2% milk (or you can use whole if you like)
2 cans undrained oysters
Kosher salt and pepper to taste (I go heavy with both)

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook shallots until shallots are very tender.

Pour the cream and milk into the butter and shallot mixture. Stir continuously. When the mixture is almost boiling, pour in the canned oysters and their liquid. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir continuously until the oysters are heated through.   If you have fresh oysters, put them in at the same time as the canned, but heat until the ends start to curl.

Taste one last time for seasoning.  You may add more salt, pepper or butter if you like.  Serve with oyster crackers or crackers.  

Here is wishing you a warm and wonderful Christmas Eve.  I won't be on tomorrow so also wishing you a very Merry Christmas.  Stay save, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Happy Birthday Jesus.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Melon Salad

Today I'm giving you more of an idea than a recipe.  Our traditional Christmas meal is now going to my oldest son’s home for Christmas brunch.  It became easier for me to go to them than for them to come to me and their home is so much larger.  Traditions can be changed and become as nice if not better.

A Christmas brunch is so much easier to make than a huge Christmas dinner and I’m always for easier.  My job since we started this is to bring the great fresh rope sausage from Fareways, lots of bacon, and smoked salmon along with another gluten free dish.   I’ve taken a simple melon salad but fussed with it to make it a little more special for Christmas.  I found some tiny cookie cutters that I use to cut the melon instead of a melon baller to make it a Christmas melon salad.   

It says Christmas

I picked up just half of a honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and a quarter of a watermelon.  You can also add grapes if you like, but this year I’m going sweeter by adding some Maraschino cherries that look like Christmas bulbs to go with the Christmas tree, candy cane and star.  Pretty simple for something so pretty.

Peel your melons and slice them a little more than a quarter of an inch thick.  A little thinner than the cookie cutters.  Try to cut out as many shapes as possible but don’t worry, I won’t let any of it go to waste.  I use the cantaloupe for the stars.

I use the honeydew for the Christmas tree.

And the watermelon for the candy cane.

Mix the three together.  Drain your cherries, but do not toss out the juice.  We are going to use it later.  Add some cherries and/or grapes and you have a very festive salad to says you cared enough to fuss. 

Do you put salt on your melon?  I do.  So make sure you have a salt shaker on the table for those people like me. 

Do not toss your watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe scraps away.  You can’t let any of it go to waste.  Make a melon frosty.  Toss your melon into the freezer to freeze it.  When it is frozen take out and put into your blender.  Add the juice from the jar of cherries and you have a sweet Frosty.  You can also toss some frozen berries of your choices in there like strawberries or blueberries. 

Melon Frosty

Frozen watermelon scraps
Frozen  honeydew melon scraps
Frozen cantaloupe scraps
The left over juice from your Maraschino cherries

Place all ingredients in the blender. Put on the lid and process until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve with your brunch. 

Variation - You can do so many things with this.  Instead of adding cherry juice, try adding orange juice and ice cream to the frozen melon scraps to make a smoothie.  You can add a banana to make it more traditional.   Just don’t toss those good scraps out.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, we have snow on the ground and I’m counting the hours now.  Hope you have a wonderful Monday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Country Crisp Sugar Cookies

I received an Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook for a wedding gift back in 1969 and I have used a crisp sugar cookie recipe from it ever since.  I love this recipe and have not strayed from it.  I go by the rule, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. You should start the day before and refrigerate it over night.  I double the recipe because it only makes about 2 dozen cookies for me. You might as well have something to show for the time and mess.

Country Crisp Sugar Cookies

½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbs. heavy cream (No cream in the house use another tablespoon of butter)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
Extra sugar or sprinkles for tops of cookies

As always, I like to sit all the ingredients out to make sure I have everything and then put it away as I use it. You don't forget an ingredient this way or forget if you put it in already.  

Cream the butter with sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Add egg, cream and vanilla.  Beat well.  Sift flour with salt and baking powder (I don’t sift but it is an old recipe).  Add to creamed mixture, beating until well combined.  Chill dough overnight for best results (if you are in a hurry, you can chill it for 2 hours, but overnight is best).  If you like you can put the dough in rolls and wrap with Cling Wrap and you can just cut out rounds with a knife to save rolling out the dough. 

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line your cookie sheets with a Silpat or with parchment paper. 

Take your dough out and let it warm up a bit because it will be very hard unless you have made small rolls of cookie dough, then you can cut them right away since you do not roll them out.  Cut them very thin (1/4 of an inch or a little less if possible).  If you are using cookie cutters, roll out a small amount of dough at one time; very thin, on lightly floured board.   Use your favorite holiday cookie cutter or you can make a large circle like a pizza and cut into 8th for Christmas trees cookie shapes.  You may sprinkle cookies lightly with sugar or colored sprinkles.  Place on prepared sheets.  Make sure there is plenty of room between them.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until done (time depends on how thin you get your cookies).  They should just start to turn a light brown around the edge. The recipe says it makes about 36 cookies, but it has never made that many for me.  That is why I double it.  Maybe if they are very little cookies.  I only roll out the dough twice and toss the left over dough after that because it becomes tough.  Maybe that is why.  If you do the roll and slice method there would be no waste in addition to saving time and mess.  You also get a smaller cookie.  I also use small cookie cutters.

I save time by not frosting my sugar cookies.  I like to use sprinkles and/or dragées.  A dragée (pronounced dra-zhay) is a small sugar ball used to decorate cookies, cakes, cupcakes and candy. You can buy them in multicolors and in different diameters. They add a nice accent to the design of your sugar cookies.  If you are making Christmas trees they look like Christmas bulbs.  They do frost nicely if you want to frost them to decorate.  Mine may not win a price for decorating, but they are easy and taste good.  I love the crispness of them. 

This will complete my Christmas baking this year.  I have really cut down.  Giving most of what I have made as Christmas gifts.   I am so anxious for Christmas.  It is my favorite time of year even though we are getting lots of snow.

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bacon, Onion and Mushroom Puffed Pastry

Making a very easy appetizer using that great ingredient puffed pastry.  This would go nice with a cup of French onion soup or as something to take to a party or serve as an appetizer.  It is beautiful and simple.

1 (8-oz.) package whipped cream cheese
1 (8-oz.) can mushrooms
1/4 cup caramelized onions
6 slices of bacon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 package of thawed puff pastry sheets

Bake or use pre-cooked bacon.  Chop into ½ inch small pieces.

Drain your mushrooms and chop. Save the liquid from the mushrooms and set aside.  Add your mushrooms and bacon to the cream cheese and mix well.  Add your caramelized onions*, and parmesan cheese.  Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Whisk together egg and 1 tbs. water in a small bowl. Roll 1 puff pastry sheet into a 16 x 10 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Cut pastry in half lengthwise. Spread 1/2 cup cream cheese mixture down center of each rectangle; brush edges with egg mixture. Fold each pastry half lengthwise over filling and pinch edges to seal. Cut pastries into 10 pieces each, and place on a parchment paper or Silpat lined baking sheet. Repeat procedure with remaining puff pastry sheet, egg mixture, and cream cheese mixture.

Brush remaining egg mixture over tops of pastry pieces; sprinkle with a little pepper.

Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes or until browned. Serve immediately.

*Caramelizing Onions 
Add tablespoon of butter to a cast iron skillet and let it melt. Add the thinly sliced onions, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are wilted and just starting to turn brown. Turn the heat down to low and stir frequently to prevent burning (about 30 minutes). If they are getting too sticky and you need to brown them longer, add just a bit of the liquid from the mushrooms.  Cook until all the liquid is gone and the onions are sweet and caramelized.  

Variation – If you want to add more flavor brush the top with garlic powder and butter instead of the egg mixture.  You may also add garlic powder or hot sauce or both to the cream cheese mixture.  

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Three Fish Soup

This is not a cheap dish, but I love fish and seafood so I splurged last night.  I was in Dubuque and could shop a big market where they have a selection of seafood.  I was surprised at how far some of it had come to get to the mid west.  I was pretty selective in  my purchase and where it came from.   

5 strips of bacon
1 medium onion
4 garlic cloves (3 for soup and 1 for steaming mussels)
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. flour
2 cups chicken or fish stock
1 cup dry white wine (Optional but if you do not use it add another cup of broth or stock)
2 cups peeled and diced potatoes (OK to use the frozen southern hash browns or about 5 potatoes)
1 tsp. thyme (fresh if you can get it).  I had to use my dried thyme from my garden.
1 pound halibut
1 pound small frozen shrimp
1 pound fresh mussels
1 cup heavy cream

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Prep work: Thaw your fish and shrimp.  I use the small frozen shrimp that has no tails and has been cleaned already.  My halibut was also frozen.

Chop your onions and garlic by putting them in a food processor.  Saves tears.  I chop mine until they are mush.

Cut up your bacon.  I like to use a kitchen scissor and cut it up into ½ pieces.

Peel and chop your potatoes into small bite sized pieces and set aside.

Steam the mussels until they open and set aside (if you can’t find mussels, add a can of clams).  To steam mussels add a can of chicken broth, a tsp. of chopped garlic (I buy the jar of pre-chopped garlic for just such occasions) and a good pinch of salt.  Rules in dealing with mussels:  Make sure you check them over carefully.  Make sure the beards are completely gone. If the mussel is open before you cook them tap it on the counter.  If it does not close throw it away. Put the lid on your pot for a few minutes and let them steam. After steaming for a couple of minutes, check to make sure they all opened.  If they did not open, toss them out.   Leave them in the juices on low heat until you need them.  You’ll add them last to the soup.

In a large, heavy Dutch oven, fry up the bacon until it is crisp. Add the butter to the pot. Sauté the onions in the bacon drippings along with the bacon and butter until transparent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the flour, stirring constantly for a few minutes, until the roux turns slightly golden.

Stir in the stock, wine, potatoes and thyme and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 15 to 20 minutes on medium heat).

Stir often to keep the soup from burning or sticking to the bottom of the soup pot. Cut the white fish into bite sized chunks and add to the pot. Simmer on low for 10 minutes or until the fish is just opaque and then add your shrimp and cook a couple more minutes.

Stir in the cream and simmer on low until just heated through, making sure not to let the soup boil (you do not want it to curdle).  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper. You may add the mussels now.  I also add the juices from the mussels with the garlic and salt to the soup for the extra flavor.  Let simmer a little longer to make sure the soup is hot to serve.

Ladle the hot soup into bowls and make sure you top each bowl with several steamed mussels.  If you are using clams to replace the mussels, you can add the entire can when you add the cream.  Honestly though, mussels are one of my most favorite foods and I think they add a great deal even in the presentation.  Hope you can find them.  I got fresh mussels at HyVee.

Serve it up with some toasted garlic bread to sop up all the soup broth.  Sprinkle the sliced bread with a little olive oil and garlic powder and put the bread under the broiler until toasted.  I used a baguette.

Note:  The original recipe called for a pinch of saffron and I decided not to put it in.  It has a very strong taste and I did not want to overwhelm the soup with it by taking away from the delicate seafood flavors.  You may add it if you like.  Also you can use regular milk to replace the cream, but I like the richness of the cream.  You decide if you want to cut the fat.

It is a great soup for a cold winter’s day.  Have a great day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Breakfast Sweet and Savory Bruschetta

I love it when I find a new recipe and I’m inspired because I was looking for a recipe to use an ingredient and I find something that takes me in a completely different direction.  Love this recipe because you can use it for any meal and it is sweet and savory.  

8 sausage patties
2 tomato
½ cup of diced pineapple
¼ cup fresh basil leaves (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
¼ cup fresh mint leaves (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
3 tbs. maple syrup
1 thin baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
8 slices fresh mozzarella (Would make 16)

Prep work:  Chop your tomato and herbs.  Slice your baguette into 16 thin slices.  Slice your fresh mozzarella thinly and again in half to fit the bread.  Set everything aside.

Make the bruschetta topping by mixing together the tomatoes, pineapple, strawberries, basil, mint and maple syrup. Stir to combine. Cover and set aside.

Divide each of the 8 sausage patties in two and pinch to reshape into smaller patties to fit the bread. Cook according to package directions. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Prepare your broiler by placing the oven rack in the top third section of the oven and set it to broil.

brush one side of the bread with olive oil. Place the baguette slice, oil side down and broil until golden but watch carefully so it does not burn.

Using tongs, flip the slices over so the oiled side is up. Add 1 slice of mozzarella; broil until cheese is melted and edges of the baguette slices are beginning to look toasted (about 1 minute).

Top each piece with a small cooked sausage patty and then top high with the bruschetta topping.  Serve immediately. 

Variation -  Since we are talking brunch here, you can let your imagination go wild.  Think about caramelized onions or other fruits as substitutes.  Try a strawberry syrup instead of the maple syrup.  

You can keep it very simple and just do one fruit leaving out the tomato and pineapple and just do the strawberries mixed with a little strawberry jam or jelly, basil and mint.

You can make this completely savory and do scrabbled eggs on top of the mozzarella and sausage. Put a little tomato and basil in the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. 

You can do the same thing on top of English muffins or toast points if you don’t have a baguette.  Hope it has made you hungry.

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Microwave Black Walnut Fudge

I’m going out to lunch today and I still have leftovers so no cooking today.  Time to start making some gift candy though.  My mother loves black walnuts and I have some in the freezer that I’m using to make her black walnut fudge.  You can use any nut you like or leave it plain for those who don't care for nuts.  This is a simple fudge that is microwaved.  Only takes 3 minutes.

Microwave 3 Minute Black Walnut Fudge

1 lb. box confectioners sugar
½ cup cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk
1 tbs. vanilla
½ cup butter
1 cup chopped black walnuts

In 1 ½ quart microwavable casserole dish, stir your sugar, cocoa, salt, milk and vanilla together until partially blended (mixture will be too stiff to thoroughly blend all of dry ingredients). Put butter over top in center of dish.

Microwave at high 3 minutes, or until milk feels warm on bottom of dish. Stir vigorously until smooth. If all butter has not melted in cooking, it will as mixture is stirred.

Blend in nuts. Pour into 8 x 4 inch bread dish lined with waxed paper. This will give you a thicker fudge. Chill 1 hour in refrigerator.  Pull the fudge out with the waxed paper and cut into squares.

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chicken Divan in Puff Pastry Shells

I found Puff Pastry Shells at Fareways and had to get them.  They seldom have them, so I stocked up.  They must have them for Christmas.  You can use them for so many things.  You can put the makings for chicken pot pie in them, or a pastry cream but for today, I’m making something that a friend made for me over 25 years ago and I loved it.  This is not her recipe but it tastes a great deal like hers.  I have just made it super simple by using cans of soup. 

Chicken Divan in Puff Pastry Shells

1 package of Puff Pastry Shells
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tbs. of Worcestershire sauce
2 large chicken breasts
1 can of Cheesy Broccoli soup
1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup
1 cup chicken broth 
Kosher salt and pepper

Add enough water just to cover chicken breasts.  Salt water and poach your chicken breasts until they are done.  Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.  Save a cup of the broth after poaching your chicken.

Heat the oven to 425°F as package directs.  Lay out your shells on a baking sheet.  Do not let them touch. You get 6 in a package.  

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the shells have risen and browned.

Let cool, take the tops off of the shells with a knife.  The centers will have a little raw unbaked dough that I remove with a fork.  Set the shells aside. 

Add your chicken back into the pan and add the Worcestershire sauce, broth, and the cans of soup. Mix well.  Add your cheddar cheese and let it melt while folding it into your mixture.  Taste and see if it need salt.  I just add pepper because the soup has plenty of salt in it. 

Fill each pastry shell with the Chicken Divan.  Put the lid back on.  Serve while it is hot. 

It makes a complete meal or you can serve it with a side salad. 

Variation -  Want to add a little more flavor you can grate some carrot and/or onion and add to the soup mixture.  If you love broccoli, you can use frozen broccoli for bigger bites of broccoli and just leave out the cheesy broccoli soup. Add another 1/2 cup of cheese to the mixture if you leave out the broccoli soup.    

Thanks Connie for introducing me to this and the many years of friendship and memories going back over 40 years.  Connie died from cancer and I miss her and her generous heart.  

Life is short so be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chicken Panzanella Salad

I bought some fresh mozzarella this week and want to use it in a new recipe.  I found this recipe and it has lots of my favorite things in it so had to play with it.  The original recipe calls for olive bread and I didn’t want to make bread and can’t find olive bread around  here so made a spread for the croutons.  I think you will like it.  It is like a disassembled sandwich made into a salad.

½ of a crusty long baguette cut into 1 inch cubes
½ cup oil spread
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbs. honey
2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
Kosher salt and black pepper
5 ounces baby arugula (about 6 cups)
2 cups sliced rotisserie chicken or baked chicken breasts
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces

Heat oven to 350° F. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with the olive spread. Bake until golden and crisp, 14 to 16 minutes.  The recipe for an olive spread is below.

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the arugula, chicken, mozzarella, and bread and toss to combine.

½ cup pitted black olives
½ cup pitted green olives
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 clove garlic
1 ½ tps. balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

Combine the pitted black olives, green olives, Kalamata olives, and garlic in the food processor. Pulse to chop and add balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Process until smooth. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight if possible, before serving.  It can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks. 

Save the rest of your baguette and make small appetizers with it by slicing and putting the spread and a slice of mozzarella on it and put under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and just starting to turn brown.

Variation – You can put the olive spread on the rotisserie or chicken breasts for extra flavor.

Wouldn't this go great with French onion soup?

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Red Velvet Waffles

Here is a great idea for Sunday brunch or Christmas day brunch.

Red Velvet Waffles with White Chocolate Sauce

4 tbs. butter
3 tbs. sugar
2 1/2 tbs. cocoa powder
2 eggs
2 tbs. red food color
2 cup flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 cup milk

2 tbs. butter
4 oz. whipped cream cheese
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
3 tbs. milk
1/2 tsp. clear vanilla extract

Preheat your waffle iron.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar and cocoa. Add in eggs and red food color; mix until well combined. I know that is a lot of food coloring, but if you want the deep red use it all.  

In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet; also adding 1/2 cup of milk. Stir to form a somewhat thick smooth batter, adding more milk if too thick (It should be slightly thicker than pancake batter).

Spray preheated waffle plates with non stick spray. Pour batter, making sure to spread and completely cover them. Close lid and cook for 5 minutes.

While waffles are cooking, melt butter in a small skillet. Add the softened whipped cream cheese and milk. Whisk until the cream cheese is melted and mixture is smooth. Add in the vanilla and white chocolate; stirring until it is melted and incorporated. Pour warm sauce over hot waffles and serve.

Oh your family will love you for this one.

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Messy Meat Sliders

Saylor came last night so I made my messy meat sliders.  I have gluten free small buns for him and I’m using mini hamburger buns for me and making my version of a play on a Maid Rite slider.

Messy Meat Sliders

2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 cup beef broth
1 small chopped sweet onion or half of a large
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce *
½ tbs. soy sauce *
1 tbs. cider vinegar
2 tbs. brown sugar
Pinch of Kosher salt and pepper
Mini hamburger buns (12 to a pack)

* For gluten free, I leave these ingredients out because they have gluten in them. You may also add after you have made up a batch and taken out a portion for your person needing gluten free. 

This is not the Maid Rite recipe, but it is a great loose meat sandwich; what I call messy meat.  You serve it with a spoon to pick up what falls out. 

Chop your onion in a food processor until it is finely chopped.  I have a small processor for just such occasions.

Start the crock pot on high.  I like to add my ground beef and broth together in a bowl and break it up and mix it with my hands first.  It helps make the meat really loose and takes out all the lumps.  I buy my hamburger when it is on sale in 10 pound packages and when I get home I cut the big roll into 5  two pound packages and freeze.  Turn down your crock pot once it is heated.

Add your 2 pounds of meat and cup of broth mixture to the crock pot.  Add all the other ingredients. Stir well to keep breaking up the ground beef and mix all of the ingredients.

Cover with the lid. Cook on low for 4 hours or until ground beef is completely cooked.  Stir occasionally to prevent beef from clumping. The ingredients should have a smooth texture.  Let the juices evaporate until the juices are almost gone.  Don’t let it get too dry though.  If it is getting dry, add a little more broth.

Toast your hamburger buns opened up under the broiler.  Do not walk away.  I leave the door open and watch them.  Top with your favorite toppings.  I like mustard, ketchup and dill relish.  You can turn them into cheese sandwiches by adding a slice of cheese just before putting the top on.  I like to use an ice cream scoop to top the bun with the loose meat.  It helps hold the meat together a little.

Variation -  Add a cup of ketchup to your crock pot and you have a Sloppy Joe.  If you like it a little sweeter, add a bit more brown sugar.  I also add a bit of yellow mustard to my Sloppy Joes meat mix and then I do not top them with anything.

You can use this same process for making taco meat.  Do not add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, vinegar or brown sugar.  Start with the hamburger, beef broth and onion and then add a tbs. of chili powder, 1 tsp. of cumin, and 1 tsp. of garlic powder.  You can use it to make a taco burger, fill tacos or burritos.  My grandsons like to use the Scoop corn chips and fill them with the meat, shredded cheese, a bit of shredded lettuce and a half of a cherry tomato.  They call them mini tacos.

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

White Hot Chocolate

Want something a little different to drink on this cold Friday?  Try white hot chocolate.  It is every bit as good as the chocolate.  

4 cups of milk of your choice (Make it as rich as you like)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. white chocolate chips
Whipped cream or marshmallows for topping

Stir the milk, vanilla and white chocolate together in a medium saucepan.  I used 2%, but if you like you can do a mix of 50% milk and 50% half and half to make it even richer. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly; until the white hot chocolate comes to a simmer (Do not let it come to a boil or it will curdle). Remove from heat and serve immediately, topped with whipped cream or marshmallows.  Today I’m doing whipped cream, but my grandsons will go for the marshmallows. You can also decorate it with some shaved chocolate, drizzled chocolate syrup, red or green sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles or crushed peppermint to name a few to make it more festive.  You can add some additional white chocolate chips.  Serve with a candy cane to stir it.  The peppermint goes great with the drink.

Set up a small bar of topping ingredients and let the kids make their own.  I think theirs will look very different that yours. Serve one of your homemade Christmas cookies with it and turn it into a warm Christmas memory on a very cold winter’s day. 

Adult Variation -  You can add a little somethin somethin to it on a cold winter's eve.  Try a little rum or Peppermint Schnapps.

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tuna Salad Sliders

What for supper?  Do you have a habit of opening cupboard doors and the refrigerator and looking (usually more than once) to help you decide what looks good?  Well I saw two cans of Albacore white tuna in my cupboard and it sounded good, but it was so cold out that it made me remember making tuna salad sandwiches on a bun with melted cheese back in the 60's and have not had them since. This is my take on the 60's version that I've tweaked and turned into sliders since I had Hawaiian rolls.  

2 can of albacore white tuna
1 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons of mayo
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 chopped celery stalk
1/2 of package of Slider buns (Hawaiian buns) or you could use French bread and cut it up into small pieces
Thinly sliced Roma tomatoes
Sliced American cheese

Mash up your tuna in a bowl.  Mix the soy sauce, mayo, chopped celery and red pepper flakes with the tuna. Marinate at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat your oven broiler.  Cut your Hawaiian rolls in half and toast them.  Do not separate them.  Put them all under the broiler opened up all at once to toast both sides.  Watch them so they do not burn.   Pile your tuna salad on the buns and place slices of American cheese on top.  Put them under the broiler again to melt the cheese and heat the tuna salad.  Watch it closely because it only takes a minute or so.  Salt your tomato with a pinch of Kosher salt and top with your tomatoes. Put the other top of your toasted buns on top.  Cut up the buns into individual sliders and serve hot.   

Serve it up with a cups of hot tomato soup.

Variation - You can add a little chopped onion or green or red pepper if you like. Make it the way you make your tuna salad.  The secret is to serve it warm with melted cheese.  

This will help warm up your day.  Make it a great day, be happy and may God bless you and yours.