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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fruit Delight

This recipe is great because it's good year-round. Use all fresh fruit in the summer. Use frozen berries in the winter. Either way it's super tasty!

Strawberries (fresh or frozen)
Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Blackberries (fresh or frozen)
Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Peaches (fresh or frozen)
Brown sugar to taste
Almond extract to taste
2-3 kiwis
2-3 bananas

Combine berries and peaches. (In the winter I usually use a 1 pound bag of mixed berries and omit the peaches). Sprinkle with brown sugar (I usually use about 2 tablespoons) and almond extract (I usually use about 1 teaspoon). Stir gently to combine. Put in refrigerator to chill/thaw, an hour is ideal. Right before serving add the kiwi and bananas, toss gently.

Breakfast Strata with Sausage, Mushrooms, & Cheese

I made this today for a brunch. AMAZING! Not too dry, not too runny, not too heavy--it really was the perfect texture! And the sausage & mushrooms add just the right flavor. From Cooks Illustrated, Published November 1, 2001. Makes one 8 by 8-inch strata, serving 6. Can be doubled to a 9x13.

8 - 10 slices supermarket French bread (1/2-inch thick) or Italian bread (6 - 7 ounces)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
8 ounces bulk breakfast sausage , crumbled
3 medium shallots , minced (about 1/3 cup)
8 ounces white button mushrooms , cleaned and quartered [I sliced them]
1/2 cup medium-dry white wine , such as Sauvignon Blanc [I used white grape juice]
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese* , grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups half-and-half [I used half half-and-half and half whole milk]
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Arrange bread in single layer on large baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, about 40 minutes, turning slices over halfway through drying time. (Alternatively, leave slices out overnight to dry.) When cooled, butter slices on one side with 2 tablespoons butter; set aside.

2. Fry sausage in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, breaking sausage apart with wooden spoon, until sausage has lost raw color and begins to brown, about 4 minutes; add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 1 minute longer. Add mushrooms to skillet, and cook until mushrooms no longer release liquid, about 6 minutes; transfer mixture to medium bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add wine to skillet, increase heat to medium-high, and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup, 2 to 3 minutes; set aside.

3. Butter 8-inch square baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter; arrange half the buttered bread slices, buttered-side up, in single layer in dish. Sprinkle half of sausage mixture, then 1/2 cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining sausage mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese evenly over bread. Whisk eggs and parsley in medium bowl until combined; whisk in reduced wine, half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread layers; cover surface flush with plastic wrap, weigh down (see note, below), and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

4. Remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Uncover strata and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over surface; bake until both edges and center are puffed and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of dish, 50 to 55 minutes (or about 80 minutes for doubled recipe). Cool on wire rack 5 minutes; serve.

NOTES: To weigh down the assembled strata, CI suggests using two 1-pound boxes of brown or powdered sugar, laid side by side over the plastic-covered surface. They also suggest a gallon-sized zipper-lock bag filled with about 2 pounds of sugar or rice also works.

This recipe doubles easily; use a 9 by 13-inch baking dish greased with only 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and increase the baking time as directed in step 4.

Feel free to substitute any good melting cheese, such as Havarti, sharp cheddar, or colby.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Butterscotch Blondies

This is one of Baldy's FAVORITE desserts. He looks forward to it every February. For some reason I always bake it this time of year! :o) From Martha Stewart Living February 2004

Time: 30 minutes prep time, 40-45minutes baking
Makes: about 1 dozen

• 9 T butter, softened
• 1 2/3 cups flour
• 1 t baking powder
• ¾ t salt
• 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 1 t vanilla
• ½ t salt
• 1/3 cup butterscotch chips
• ½ cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
• ¼ cup toffee bits

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing 2 inched to hang over sides. Butter lining (excluding overhang); set pan aside.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl, and set aside.
3. Put butter and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; cream on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined.
5. Slowly add flour mixture, beating on low speed, and scraping sides of bowl down until well incorporated.
6. Stir in butterscotch chips, nuts, and toffee bits.
7. Pour batter in prepared pan; spread with a spatula. Bake about 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet.
8. Let cool slightly in pan for about 15 minutes. Lift out, and let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Note: The most recent time I made these I forgot to by the macadamia nuts so I just added extra butterscotch chips in their place and they were great too!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

A great chocolate cake that bakes its own fudge sauce. It's amazing! From My Kitchen Cafe.

1 cup sugar, divided
½ cup cocoa powder, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Whisk ½ cup sugar with ¼ cup cocoa powder and set aside.

Whisk the flour, remaining ½ cup sugar, remaining ¼ cup cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk milk, butter, egg yolk, and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips (the batter will be stiff).

Using a rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan and spread into corners. Sprinkle reserved cocoa and sugar mixture evenly over the top. Gently pour boiling water over cocoa. Do not stir.

Bake until the top of the cake is cracked, sauce is bubbling and a toothpick inserted into cakey area comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 22-24 minutes. Cool on rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

(If you have any leftovers, which you probably won't because it's that is also good cold or reheated in the microwave. I know because I ate it for lunch the next day sneaking cold bites while making my girls a real lunch).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Baked Oatmeal and Fruit

This oatmeal is so delicious it should be called cake! And indeed it does have a slightly cake-like texture. This recipe makes a full 9x13 pan. Making it a great hearty and healthy breakfast when you have company. I usually half the recipe in a 9x9 pan for our family. We just love it!

Baked Oatmeal and Fruit
(from Allison Smith)

o ¾ cup oil
o 1 ½ cups brown sugar
o 4 eggs, beaten
o 6 cups oats (old fashioned are better)
o 4 tsp. baking powder
o 2 tsp. salt
o 2 tsp. cinnamon
o 2 cups milk
o 2 apples, peeled and chopped
o 1 cup craisins
o ½ - 1 cup pecans

In a large bowl wisk together the oil, brown sugar and eggs. Add oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and milk mixing well. Then stir in apples, pecans, craisins, or whatever you want. (Try raisins, almonds, orange zest, pumpkin seeds, etc). Pour into lightly greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Best served warm. I like to pour a little cream or milk on mine. Store leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spinach Salad with Berries and Bleu

Most men swoon over a nice juicy steak and potatoes.  Not Baldy.  This man loves a good spinach salad.  Any meal I make automatically becomes amazing if I put a salad like this on the table.  Below is one of his favorites.

Fresh baby spinach and/or mixed greens
Dried cranberries or mixed berries
Candied pecans*
Bleu cheese crumbles
Red onion, chopped
White mushrooms, sliced
Strawberries, sliced
Vinaigrette Dressing (Raspberry or Balsamic is great.  Our favorite right now is Raspberry Cherry).

*I usually make my own candied pecans by cooking them in a skillet with a little butter and brown sugar over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  The butter melts and the sugar begins to caramelize as you are coating the nuts.  Watch carefully so they don't burn.  Then lay them out on waxed paper to cool and break apart as needed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Philadelphia Sugar Cookies

These are my favorite eggless sugar cookie--great for Little Red's allergy, and great for Curly's constant, "Can I eat this scrap?" (Scrap in this case meaning 90% of the dough surrounding the one cut out heart). These cookies are nice and soft with a subtle tang from the cream cheese.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I often use neufchatel)
1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour

colored sugar or frosting to decorate

Beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add flour; mix well. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured surface. Cut into shapes; sprinkle with colored sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350ºF for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tortellini Soup

This is one of my husband's favorite soups.  He loves everything about it--the garlic, the veggies, and the Italian sausage.  From Favorites Cookbook.

1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup water
2 (13.75 oz) cans beef broth
1/2 cup apple juice
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 cup sliced zucchini (optional)
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
8 ounces cheese tortellini (refrigerated or frozen)
fresh grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

In large soup pan, brown sausage.  Drain fat and add chopped onion and garlic and cook until tender.  Add water, broth, juice, carrots, canned tomatoes, basil, oregano, zucchini, parsley, and green pepper.  Simmer for 30 minutes or longer.  Add tortellini 5-10 minutes before serving and cook until tender, but not soggy.  Garnish each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Note:  If you have leftovers fish out any remaining tortellini before storing it in the fridge.  Then just reheat it on the store and add fresh tortellini.

French Hot Chocolate

This is a great make-ahead dessert. I often will make the chocolate mixture up the night before or in the morning. Then put the milk in a crock pot on the low setting for about an hour before serving, so no last-minute prep is needed! Everyone raves about this hot chocolate! I love the fluffy, light, yet rich chocolaty taste.

3 (1 oz) squares of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate
½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cut sugar

1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 teaspoon vanilla
Milk (about 1 gallon)

Cook chocolate and water over low heat until smooth and thick, stirring constantly—be careful not to burn the chocolate. Add salt and sugar; cook for 5 minutes more. Cool completely.

Whip heavy cram and add vanilla. (You could substitute almond or peppermint extract for a little different flavor). Fold into cooled chocolate mixture. Store in refrigerator. To serve, add a heaping tablespoon (or two) to a cup of hot milk. Stir and enjoy.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Homemade Oreo Cookies

These are a hit all year at summer barbeques or in the dead of winter.  I finally settled on the right filling for my taste--a balance of vanilla cream like a real Oreo with a little cream cheese which I think offsets these soft homemade ones beautifully. I also like using some butter and some shortening. They taste good with all butter, but the shortening helps gives it a more authentic room-temperature happy consistency.

1 box devil's food cake mix
½ cup vegetable oil or butter flavored shortening (I usually use vegetable oil)
2 eggs*

Mix well. Roll into small balls and press down with a glass.. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

My Favorite Filling:
1/2 package cream cheese, softened (1/2 of an 8 oz package, I use 4oz).
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese, shortening, butter and vanilla together. Add powdered sugar and mix together. Spread filling on top of cooled cookie, and then top with another cookie.

*I've experimented with different egg substitutions for this recipe. My favorite result was a combination of fruit and flaxseed. I used 1/4 cup mashed banana (which is about a whole medium sized banana) for one egg. The other egg I used 3T of water mixed with 1T toasted flax seed. I then microwaved the flaxseed and water for 30 seconds to help it bind, before adding it to the dough. I do end up using almost a full 3/4 cup of oil when I use egg substitutes. So I add 1/2 a cup oil and then keep gradually adding until it hits that magic spot where's it's neither crumbly nor too sticky. I've also used applesauce instead of banana and really liked that too. But the subtle banana flavor was then gone which can be a good or bad thing depending on your taste.

*If you prefer to do everything from scratch, you could try this recipe which doesn't use a cake mix.  And if you like very detailed instructions, this website has step by step photos. 

Parmesan Corn Chowder

We love this soup, it's cheesy without being too heavy.  Also, it can come together pretty quickly if you prep the vegetables in advance.  It's great served in a bread bowl or with homemade bread.  I usually double the recipe using 2 large russet potatoes, 4-6 carrots, 4-6 stalks of celery, and 1 medium onion.

Time: 30 minutes prep, 30 minutes cooking
Serves 4-6

• 2 c. chopped, peeled potato
• ½ c. carrot, sliced thin
• ½ c. celery, sliced thin
• ¼ c. chopped onion
• ¼ t. pepper
• 2 cups water or chicken/vegetable stock
• ¼ c. butter
• ¼ c. flour
• 2 c. milk (warmed is ideal for a smoother roux, also 2% milk is better then skim but either works)
• 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese (fresh is fabulous, need approx. 4 oz.)
• 1 17oz can cream-style corn or make your own!
• crumbled bacon (optional)

1. In a large pot, stir together 2 cups water (or stock), potato, carrot, celery, onion, pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile in another pot, melt butter in a large saucepan and stir in flour to make a paste. Add warmed milk all at once using a wire whisk to incorporate. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thick and bubbly. Cook and stir one minute more.
3. Add cheese to the milk mixture, stir until melted.
4. Add the roux to the vegetable mixture, stir in the creamed corn. Heat soup through on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  I usually only cook it for a few minutes.  DO NOT BOIL.
5. Serve warm with bread.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cranberry Pie

This pie is so delicious.  It's a refreshing and unique addition to any holiday pie spread.  It's almost like a pecan pie filling with a sweet eggy custardy mixture but using cranberries instead of pecans.  I often stock up on bags of cranberries in November and store them in my freezer so I can make this whenever a craving hits--usually sometime mid-January. From Becky Nielson and good 'ole recipe swap!

• 2½ cups flour
• ½ tsp. salt
• 1 cup lard or shortening
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1 Tbsp. Vinegar
• ¼ cup water

Cranberry Custard Filling
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1 Tbs. Flour (heaping)
• ½ cup water
• 1 tsp. Vanilla (optional)
• Cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1. Mix flour and salt, cut in shortening.
2. In a separate bowl mix egg, vinegar, and water. Combine with flour and shortening mixture. Form dough into a ball. Divide in half. Roll half into the bottom crust and put into pie pan. Roll out the other half into the top lattice crust.
3. Cover bottom of the crust with one monolayer of cranberries.
4. Mix in bowl sugar, eggs, flour, water, and vanilla. Pour over cranberries.
Put on lattice top crust. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes (until the cranberries “pop”). Then reduce heat to 350F and bake for about 40 minutes or until the crust is light brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice-cream or chill and serve chilled.  Both are great!

Cranberry Apple Pie

Slightly tart, crunchy-textured pie with a divine streusel topping.

PREP TIME  50 Min,  COOK TIME  1 Hr,  READY IN  1 Hr 50 Min 


  • 1 (9 inch) deep dish pie crust
  • 6 apples - peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Invert pie shell over another pie pan of equal size. This will keep the crust from shrinking down into the pan. Bake in this position for 10 minutes, until partially baked. Turn right side up, and remove the extra pie pan from inside the crust.  (NOTE: You can parbake the crust anyway you want to, or if you're in a hurry a pat in the pan pie crust recipe works too).

In a large bowl, combine apples, cranberries, and sugar. Cover, and set aside for about 20 minutes. Mix in tapioca, and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes, until tapioca has absorbed fruit juice. Spread mixture into the partially baked pie shell.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and butter. Work mixture with fingertips until crumbly. Spread mixture over the apple-cranberry filling. Brush exposed pie shell with lightly beaten egg.

Place the pie on a cookie sheet to catch drips. Bake 45 to 60 minutes on the bottom rack of the preheated oven, or until apples are tender when tested with a wooden pick.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Citrus Waldorf Salad


• 3-4 apples, unpeeled, cored, and chopped
• ½ cup diced celery
• ¼ cup dried craisins
• ¼ cup chopped nuts (pecans are best)
• ¼ cup mayonnaise (sometimes I use 1/4 vanilla yougurt + 1 T mayonnaise)
• 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed orange juice or lemon juice
• ½ teaspoon grated orange peel or lemon

Combine apples, celery, craisins, and nuts in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and orange peel. Then add the mayonnaise mixture to the apples and toss until evenly coated. Serve immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lemon Basil Chicken and Vegetables

This makes a beautiful presentation.  The chicken is so moist and the vegetables are delectable!

Source:  Betty Crocker Cookbook
Time:  15-20 minutes prep time, 1½ hours  baking, 15 minutes ccoling
Serves 8


  • 3 to 3 1/2 pound broiler-fryer chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 T margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh  basil or 2 t dried basil 
1.  Heat oven to 375˚F.
2.  Fold wings of chicken across back with tip toching.  Tie or skewer drumstricks to tail.
3.  Grate 2 t lemon peel from lemon.  Mix lemon peel, margarine, and chopped garlic; set aside.
4.  Cut lemon in half.  Rub chicken with juice from half of the lemon.  Place sliced garlic, half of the basil (1 t)and remaining lemon half in cavity of chicken.
5.  Place chicken, breast side up, on rack in shallow roasting pan.  Brush margarine lemon-peel mixture on chicken.  Sprinkle chicken evenly with remaining basil (1 t), then press basil into chicken.  Insert meat thermometer in chicken so tip is in thickest part of inside thigh muscle and does not touch bone.
6.  Roast uncovered about 1 1/2 to 2 hours  hours, brushing 2 or 3 times (about every 20-30 minutes) with pan drippings.  When thermometer reads 180 degress and juice is no longer pink when center of thigh is cut the chicken is done.  Let it stand about 15 minutes and cool before carving.

Lemon-Basil Vegetables


  • 6 small red potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 1 large red bell pepper
1.  After chicken has roasted 30 minutes, arrange around chicken 6 potatoes (cut in half), 4 carrots (cut in fourths), and 1 onion (cut into eighths).  Brush vegetables with pan drippings and roast uncovered 30 minutes.
 2.  Add zucchini (cut crosswise, then lengthwise into eights), yellow squash (cut into 1/2-inch slices), and 1 large red bell pepper (cut into 1-inch chunks).  Brush vegetables with pan drippings.
3.   Roast uncovered about 30 minutes longer or until chicken is done and squash and bell-peper are tender.

NOTE:  We also like to add carrots and mushrooms.  I add the carrots with the potatoes and the whole fresh mushrooms with the zuccini.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pecan Chicken Salad

This chicken salad is so tasty.  The fresh herbs and mild vinegar help make it fresher and less heavy then a super mayonnaisey traditional chicken salad.  We love to eat it on a sandwich with whole wheat french bread.  It's also great with baguette, pita, or served a top romaine.

adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings


  • 4 cups cubed (1/2 inch) cooked chicken, (I like to use a rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (I also like almonds)
  • 1 celery rib, diced into small bits (1 cup)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (or any dried fruit according to your preference.  I like golden raisins and cranberries.  But cherries, peaches, apples, raisins, and apricots work too.  You may want to dice larger fruit.)
  • about 1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I always go light on this)
  • 3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar, if you have it, or rice vinegar works well, too
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or herb or your choice (I usually use Italian Parsley because that's what I have around)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Really complicated directions: Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl until combined well. Enjoy!