Friday, May 29, 2009

Let me explain

Smoked Ham Hash

1 tablespoon butter
2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes with onions and peppers (such as Ore-Ida Potatoes O'Brien) I used the entire bag
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth ***I'd say use less - or more, if you want soup!
2 tablespoons half-and-half
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons ketchup
1 1/2 cups chopped smoked ham
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, onion, and bell pepper to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in broth, half-and-half, Worcestershire, and ketchup; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in ham and black pepper; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with onions and parsley.

Makes 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

Calories: 206 (29% from fat) Fat: 6.6g (sat 3.4g,mono 1.1g,poly 0.3g) Protein: 13.8g Carbohydrate: 25g Fiber: 3.6g Cholesterol: 41mg Iron: 2.1mg Sodium: 847mg Calcium: 47mg


I didn't think I was going to be blogging about this. It seemed to go very wrong and wasn't very pretty so I thought it would get pushed under the rug. That is why I just took this quick, God-awful picture.

Then, it turned out this wasn't all that bad, taste-wise, and I wish I had taken a prettier picture.

I'm not sure what went wrong. I used a lot more potatoes but this was still so soupy. I've cooked with those frozen potatoes before and they don't give off water. I couldn't cook all the liquid out without turning the potatoes to complete mush. I looked around the internet and saw that others made this recipe with no problem. I can't explain it. 1 1/2 cups of broth is lot and really not necessary. This came out very wet, not quite soup but almost. It was sort of like (God forgive me for using this term) a stoup! One of Rachael Ray's favorite terms, it fits here quite nicely.

It did have excellent flavor though so it's a recipe worth blogging about. It made nice use of some leftover ham. I would use less broth if I make this again or maybe I'd use more and make this a true soup.

How come short weeks are always so long? TGIF! You know, I don't remember the last time I made pizza (or stromboli) on a Friday. We've been ordering out. We found a less expensive place to order from and I just needed a break. I can't seem to break the habit now.

Question of the Day: What are you having for dinner tonight?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Definitely a keeper

Zesty Fish Stick Tacos
Pillsbury Kids Cookbook Copyright 2005

24 frozen fish sticks
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoon taco seasoning mix I used homemade (scroll down in that link)
1 medium tomato I omitted this
1 ½ cups chopped lettuce (from a bag) I used a salad mix
12 soft flour tortillas
Taco sauce, if desired

1. Heat the oven as directed on the box of fish sticks.
2. Measure out the mayonnaise. Use a rubber spatula to scrape it all out of the measuring cup into a bowl. Measure out the taco seasoning mix. Put it in the bowl. Mix them up with a wooden spoon.
3. Put the fish sticks on the cookie sheet. Bake them as directed on the box. While the fish sticks are baking, wash the tomato. Use a sharp knife to cut it into small pieces on a cutting board. Measure out the lettuce.
4. Remove the tortillas from the box. Stack them on a plate. Cover the tortillas with a piece of plastic wrap. Microwave the tortillas on High 1 minute.
5. When the fish sticks are done baking, carefully take the cookie sheet out of the oven with pot holders. Use a pancake turner to remove the fish sticks from the cookie sheet and put them on the cutting board. Use a table knife to cut each warm fish stick into 4 pieces. I just used the whole sticks - less messy that way.
6. Divide the mayonnaise mixture evenly onto the tortillas. Use a table knife to spread the mixture over the tortilla. Top 1 side of each tortilla with 8 fish stick pieces, a little of the lettuce and some of the tomato. Fold the side of each tortilla without toppings over the top. Serve the tacos with the taco sauce.

I love fish tacos. Not living on the coast, they aren't exactly found on every corner here but there is a very good Mexican restaurant in town that serves them. I don't get there very often so I thought this recipe might tide me over until my next visit.

My husband seemed skeptical when I said we were having fish stick tacos. I told him he could eat the fish sticks another way if he didn't want to make them into tacos. I noticed he started with one taco. Then he returned for more. And more. And more. I wish I had that man's metabolism.

I absolutely loved them. I happen to like fish sticks a lot. If I had known how much my husband liked them, we probably would have eaten a lot more of them over the years. We will definitely have these again. They're so simple to make, especially if you have everyone build their own. My son does not seem to like fish sticks anymore (he did try to like them) so he just ate the macaroni and cheese I made on the side.

This is another recipe from a kids cookbook. I like the way they tell which utensil to use, what tools are needed for every step. That's something you take for granted when you've been cooking for a while but helpful for a young person just getting acquainted with the kitchen.

Question of the Day: Do you like fish sticks?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A double whammy

Sloppy Hot Wing Joes
Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book Copyright 2008

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds ground chicken
2 carrots, peeled and chopped or grated
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 to 1/3 cup hot sauce I used Crystal
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock
8 good quality burger rolls, split and toasted
1 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 large dill pickles, chopped

Heat the EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes more. Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire, hot sauce, tomato sauce, and stock in a mixing cup and pour over the contents of the pan. Mix thoroughly, and simmer for a few minutes more.

Split the rolls and toast under the broiler or in a toaster oven. Pile the sloppy Buffalo-style filling onto buns and top with blue cheese crumbles and chopped pickles.

I can't seem to go wrong with any Rachael Ray recipes and I just can't seem to go wrong when it comes to ground chicken recipes either . I love all my ground chicken recipes.

This recipe was excellent - definitely something I will make again. I like that it has a good amount of vegetables right in there. I love blue cheese and pickles but they were just an added bonus to me. The meat is good enough on it's own without any toppings.

I chopped the vegetables rather finely in my mini-chopper the night before I made this so putting this together after work was a breeze. I only wish that I had purchased better buns but I forgot these were on the menu when I was picking out bread for the week.

I halved the recipe you see here and it was plenty for my husband and I (and he eats about enough for 2-3 people). My son wanted dinosaur chicken nuggets. He didn't ask for the nuggets because he didn't think he would like this - the nuggets were a new item in the house and he was excited about them. They were all-natural and he ate five of them so I don't feel too badly about letting him have them. At least it wasn't SpaghettiOs.

I wish I had made the entire recipe so I had a batch to freeze. I'm doing that more often these days and it's great to have a few things in the freezer ready to go. RR's recipes seem to be good for this - she can't seem to make anything with less than 2 pounds of meat - but thankfully so far every recipe I've tried of hers is something I wouldn't mind eating again.

(Check out all of my ground chicken recipes here.)

Question of the Day: Do you like blue cheese? pickles?

A really good pound cake

Brown Sugar-Buttermilk Pound Cakes

Southern Living Annual Recipes 2006 Copyright 2006

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar I had to use a few tablespoons of light brown sugar since I ran out of dark brown
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Non Stick Cooking Spray

1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition.
2. Stir together buttermilk and baking soda. Combine flour and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition just until blended. Stir in vanilla.
3. Spray 5 (5 3/4- x 3 1/4-inch) disposable foil loaf pans with baking spray. Pour batter evenly into pans (about 1 cup batter in each pan).
4. Bake at 325° for 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

I had some buttermilk that I wanted to use up and this recipe seemed to be a good use of it. It's a plain cake but very moist, very tasty. This isn't as dense as other pound cakes I've had. I think this would be great for topping with strawberries and whipped cream. You could make this is one large pan but I happened to have these little mini pans in my baking stash. As delicious is this was, I'm not sure how well this would sell at a bake sale, as the recipe was marketed in Southern Living. In my experience people tend to buy the flashier looking items.

I'm having trouble getting back into my routine after a 3-day weekend. I'm looking forward to the weekend!

P.S. I made about $120 at the yard sale. Not bad considering I didn't have any big-ticket items and we didn't get as much traffic as I hoped we would.

Question of the Day: Is the word 'buttermilk' in a recipe name a turn-on or a turn-off for you? It's a plus when I see 'buttermilk', for me personally.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Big and good

Copycat Levain Bakery Cookies
from Tricia's Kitchen

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (I used 2 tsp)
3 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (I used regular table salt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts (I omitted)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix flour, salt, and baking powder and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

3. Beat the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. The dough will be stiff and thick. Finish mixing by hand if needed until just combined. Gently fold in chips and nuts if using.

4. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to scoop out dough balls. Place dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. You can make smaller dough balls but be sure to adjust baking times as needed to prevent browning.

5. Bake 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your cookies and your oven) or until cookies are pale brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy. I baked my cookies for 22 minutes exactly.

6. Cool cookies on cookie sheets for 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack until cooled completely. Serve or store in airtight container.

I had to give up finding the perfect 'big cookie' in one of my cookbooks, at least temporarily. I turned to the internet and found this one. It seems that everyone and their mother has already made some variation of these cookies so I am late to the party as usual.

I think I should have baked them a little less but they were still an excellent cookie, and just what I wanted - nice and thick. I like all kinds of chocolate chips cookies but this is what I wanted this time. I will definitely make these again someday.

One thing about a big cookie is that, well, it's a big cookie. One cookie will fill you up. You can cut them in half (which I did for my son) but you won't be able to sneak a cookie here, a cookie there, and fool yourself that you really didn't eat that much. Not that any of us do that, right?

Question of the Day: Do you have any big plans for the weekend? I'm not 100% sure what we're doing but I'm going to make sure we do something fun.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Grill season is back

Orange-Ginger Grilled Chicken Thighs
Southern Living 1996 Annual Recipes Copyright 2006

1/3 cup orange juice
3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
8 (4-ounce) skinned and boned chicken thighs

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a shallow dish or large zip-top freezer bag; add chicken. Cover or seal, and chill at least 1 hour, turning chicken occasionally. I left them in the marinade overnight.
2. Remove chicken thighs from marinade, and discard marinade.
3. Grill, covered with grill lid, over medium-high (350 to 400 degrees) 4 minutes on each side or until done.

Makes 8 servings. 148 cal, 5.1 g fat, 22.5 g protein, .8 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 94 mg chol, 161 mg sodium

I don't tend to grill outside during cold weather. Why stand there shivering when I have my handy Cuisinart Griddler inside? While I love the Griddler, it doesn't give you that flame-grilled taste that I love. I was happy to be cooking on the gas grill once again.

This was the first time I grilled chicken thighs and although they don't look as pretty as chicken breasts, they certainly are more flavorful than breasts. I'm not going to give up the breasts but I will be working in thighs more often. This was a nice light marinade that was light on oil and had no sugar outside of what is in the orange juice. It has less sodium than other marinades. It still managed to have plenty enough flavor.

These thighs were boneless. I'm always confused when I see 'boned' which should mean 'having the bones removed' but I think it can sometimes mean 'having bones'. I prefer the terms boneless and bone-in for clarity - boned always stumps me. I can usually distinguish by cooking time - I think bone-in thighs would take longer than 4 minutes per side (I think the boneless thighs took longer than 4 minutes per side.)

P.S. Yesterday I noticed the font on some of my old posts had gone all wonky (very small). I'm not sure how long it's been this way but I tried to fix it and I think I did. If you see anything weird, let me know.

Question of the Day: Do you think the word boned means boneless or bone-in?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jambalaya with a twist

Italian Jambalaya

1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed I used lean chicken sausage
2 skinned and boned chicken breasts, coarsely chopped (about 1 lb.)
2 boneless center-cut pork chops, chopped (about 1 lb.)
1 (10-oz.) package frozen diced onion, red and green bell peppers, and celery I used fresh vegetables
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 (10-oz.) cans diced tomatoes and green chiles (RO-TEL)
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
Hot cooked orzo or other pasta (about 8 oz., uncooked) I used this amount of pasta with half the meat and tomato mixture.

Garnishes: thinly sliced green onions, shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Brown Italian sausage in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring often, 5 minutes or until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove sausage from Dutch oven using a slotted spoon, reserving drippings in Dutch oven.

2. Cook chicken and pork in hot drippings in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Add frozen onion mixture and next 4 ingredients, and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes and green chiles, tomato paste, 1/4 cup water, and Italian sausage; cover, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring often, 20 minutes.

3. Stir hot cooked orzo into jambalaya just before serving, or serve over hot cooked pasta. Garnish, if desired.

This is another one from I really enjoyed it. It had a bit of kick from the green chiles. It was a little bit light on Italian flavor which was a trade-off for using the lean chicken sausage which I picked up on a buy one get one free deal. It was lean and it was good but not as flavorful as fatty pork Italian sausage. I liked it much better than any of the turkey sausages I've tried but it was still too mild on Italian flavor, even for a mild sausage.

This recipe used a lot of meat - no way was I only going to make one meal out of it. I separated it into two batches before mixing it with the orzo. I froze one portion for later use. I made the sauce ahead of time but I made the orzo just before we ate this (sometimes I cook the pasta ahead too but I keep it separate until serving.) When I made the pasta I wasn't thinking that I halved the sauce and I made the full 8 ounces the recipe called for. I thought it was perfect but maybe it was supposed to be soupier? I liked it this way.

You can easily un-Italianize this recipe by using a different sausage (even a smoked sausage) and leaving out the Italian seasoning (maybe adding Cajun seasoning in it's place) and using rice instead of orzo (or not - I really like orzo). I will probably use this as base Jambalaya recipe in the future, keeping the vegetable and tomato base the same and playing with the meats and seasoning.

I found out yesterday that I have to take a class on Thursday evening. That's my grocery night! Of all nights, lol.

Question of the Day: Do you grocery shop on a certain day of the week? Which day?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Simple enchiladas

Beef and Cheese Enchiladas

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/4 pounds ground beef
1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 (16 oz.) jars enchilada sauce
1 3/4 cups shredded Cheddar
1 3/4 cups shredded Monterey Jack

Preheat oven to 375°F. Wrap tortillas in foil and keep in oven for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder; season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer beef to colander to drain.

Pour 1 jar of enchilada sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spoon about 1/3 cup ground beef and 5 Tbsp. mixed cheeses inside each warm tortilla, roll up in cigar fashion and place enchiladas seam side down next to each other in baking dish. Cover evenly with second jar of enchilada sauce and remaining cheese. Bake in 375°F oven until bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Last week when I was reviewing I picked out a menu. This was one of the recipes. Admittedly, I picked it for the simplicity. It was fine but I don't think I'm a huge fan of canned enchilada sauce, at least not the brand I brought home. I tried to hold back on the cheese and also I used a lower fat cheddar so that made the sauce stand out even more. I added some lite sour cream and green onion and it was a good dinner overall. I really liked the rice I freestyled (cooked rice, leftover corn, green onion, butter and a sprinkling of Chamberlain's Steak Rub).

Sorry about the brief post but I'm squeezed for time this week.

Question of the Day: Do you go out for Mexican very often?
We have a great Mexican restaurant near work that we go to whenever we have a group lunch, a few times a year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More rhubarb

Strawberry-Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Martha Stewart Living Annual Recipes 2003

1 ¼ cups chilled unsalted butter (2 ½ sticks) plus more, softened, for pan
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons) I used the juice of 1 large lemon
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 ¾ cups sugar
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 ½ pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a 9x12x3-inch baking pan with butter, and set aside. Make fruit sauce: Combine lemon juice, cornstarch, and 1 cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Add strawberries and rhubarb; cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until rhubarb is soft and liquid has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; let cool.
2. Make crumb topping: Combine ¾ cup sugar and ¾ cup flour in a medium bowl. Melt ¼ cup butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Drizzle butter over flour mixture; using your hands, mix until crumbly. Set aside.
3. Make cake batter: Whisk together remaining 3 cups flour and 1 cups sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry knife or two forks (I used the food processor), cut remaining 1 cup butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. In a separate small bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour into flour mixture; stir to combine.
4. Spread half the cake batter evenly into the prepared pan. Top with half the fruit sauce. Carefully spread the remaining batter over the fruit, and top with the remaining fruit sauce. Sprinkle with the crumb topping.
5. Bake until cake is golden brown, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into squares.

Serves 15.

The rhubarb caught my eye again this week. It was only $1.25 so hard to pass up. I didn't quite have 1 1/2 pounds but I added a few extra strawberries. I think I prefer the rhubarb combined with strawberries rather than on it's own. I thought this recipe was better than the other rhubarb recipe that I tried. This recipe was more time consuming but not difficult.

The fruit sauce would be great just over ice cream too.

I've got plenty to post about this week but I'm getting ready for a yard sale on Saturday so I may fall behind here. Where did all this junk come from? I had the basement practically cleaned out a few years ago but it all piled up again.

Question of the Day: Is your house clutter-free?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another surprise hit

Tuna Burgers
Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls Copyright 1957

1 - 7 oz. can tuna I used a 6-oz can and 3 3-oz cans
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup cheese or processed cheese, diced I used a bit more
1/4 cup mayonnaise I didn't measure but since I used more tuna I probably used more mayo
salt & pepper to taste
6 hamburger buns

Split and butter buns. (oops! I forgot to butter my buns but I don't think it was necessary.) Mix tuna, celery, cheese, mayonnaise and seasonings in bowl. Fill buns with tuna mixture. Wrap in foil and heat on baking sheet at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

I can't seem to get a good picture of anything on a bun. It didn't help that the foil I wrapped these in sort of crushed the bun. I hate when something really good doesn't photograph well.

The only problem I had with this recipe was that I didn't feel that was enough tuna for all that celery and onion so I a bit more than doubled the amount of tuna and added a little bit more cheese and mayo. I still ended up with 6 sandwiches worth of filling. In 1957 sandwiches were a lot thinner, I guess.

I made 5 sandwiches and saved the rest of the tuna for lunch. I wrestled with my conscience over whether or not to eat a second sandwich for dinner but my husband decided for me - he ate the other 4! I was worried that he wouldn't think much of this dinner but I guess I didn't have to worry after all. My son took a pass on these.

I've always loved tuna, especially tuna and cheese. I gained my Freshman 15 with tuna grinders from the Owls Nest. So this recipe was right up my alley and I'm glad that my husband loved them too because I'll definitely make these again, probably on the weekend. I don't usually make sandwiches during the week but I've been doing it more often. We had sandwiches twice this week. We travelled on Mother's Day so I didn't have as much time to cook over the weekend.

This is from a cute reprint of an old Betty Crocker cookbook (or should I say cook book). The recipes are really good, not too much in the way of processed foods.

And yes, I agree these aren't really a burger as most of us think of burgers but I just cook 'em, I don't name 'em.

Question of the Day: Did you have any children's cookbooks when you were young? I seem to remember having at least one from the scholastic book fair. I wonder whatever happened to it. The only recipe I can remember was some sort of ham roll-up.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Bourbon Orange Skillet BBQ Chicken with Cornbread Topper
Rachael Ray's Big Orange Skillet Copyright 2008

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 large red onion, finely chopped I used sweet, white onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons hot sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
Juice of 2 large oranges and 1 tablespoon zest, divided I only used the juice of one very large orange
3 cups chicken stock (use much less - see my post below)
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast and thighs, cut into large chunks
1/4 cup bourbon
2 box cornbread mix, such as Jiffy
2/3 cup milk (per cornbread package directions)
2 eggs (per cornbread package directions)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Place a medium-size sauce pot over medium-high heat with 1 turn of the pan of EVOO, about 1 tablespoon. Add the garlic and onion to the pan, and cook until tender, 4-5 minutes.

Season the veggies with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and add the tomato paste and smoked paprika to the pot. Cook the tomato paste until caramelized and fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add Worcestershire, hot sauce, brown sugar, orange juice and chicken stock to the pan. Bring everything up to a bubble then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, place a large, cast iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Season the chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook until golden brown on all sides, 5-6 minutes.

When the chicken is golden brown, pour the thickened barbecue sauce into the skillet. Add the orange zest and the bourbon, but don't stir it in. Remove the pan from the heat and, very carefully, flame the alcohol using a match or barbecue lighter. Return the pan to the heat and allow the alcohol to cook out of the bourbon – it's ready when the flames die away. Remove the skillet from the heat and reserve on a heat-safe surface while you prepare the cornbread.

I browned the chicken first, then I took it out of the pan and made the sauce, later adding the chicken back in and then I transferred the sauce and meat into two casserole dishes. I don't have a cast iron skillet.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, prepare the cornbread mix with the amount of milk and eggs the package directions call for. Fold in the scallions and 1/2 cup cheese into the cornbread batter and spoon it evenly over the top of the barbecue chicken. Sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese over the cornbread and transfer the skillet to the oven.

Bake until the cornbread is golden brown and baked through, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 6. 6! Three pounds of chicken serves only 6? I made two casseroles out of this one recipe.

Ah, Rachael Ray. I have such a mental block when it comes to her recipes. I see this big long list of ingredients and I get scared. I think she got into this business by coming up with recipes in order to get grocery store customers to buy more groceries and I can believe that.

But I've watched her cook enough times that deep down I know that her recipes aren't that complicated and I need to get past that initial impression. I had everything on hand to make this recipe except the tomato paste and the corn bread mix (and actually, if I dug in my freezer I probably had the tomato paste too.)

I had some trouble. The sauce was way too thin and required a lot longer cooking time than she called for in order for it to thicken up and it never really did get thick.

I certainly didn't want to type this recipe so I tracked it down online where I found some discrepancies that might explain the soupiness. The Rachael Ray Show website list the same recipe as the book with the exception of the beef (it states 2 1/2 pounds instead of 3), the broth (it states 1 1/2 to 2 cups) , the bourbon (it says 1/3 cup instead of 1/4 cup) and hot sauce (it says 2 to 4 instead of just 3 tablespoons.)

The Official Rachael Ray website says 1 1/2 cups of broth, 2 1/2 pounds of chicken and 3/4(!) cups of bourbon.

One of those websites has step-by-step pictures and the sauce is THICK in the picture. I would definitely cut back on the broth if you try this.

So normally that frustration might have turned me off to a cookbook but RR gets a pass on this because I loved the results anyway. Since I had to do my cooking on Saturday this week I froze the casseroles and pulled one out later to thaw and bake. It wasn't too soupy since the liquid soaked up some of the cornbread. The flavor was excellent. I think it helped that I didn't eat this right away and the chicken meat really soaked up the flavor of the sauce. I almost used all thigh meat but the chicken breast was better than I thought it would be so I think you could go all white meat if that's your thing but I do love dark meat in recipes like this.

There was still a crisp layer of cornbread on top (I was worried about how this would freeze). I do love cornbread so that might have a lot to do with my love of this recipe. I can't wait to eat the other one that's still in the freezer.

Of all the Rachael Ray books I either own or have checked out of the library, this is my favorite. I prefer the layout of this book. It doesn't stick to her 30-minute schtick so the variety is better than usual. The recipes just appeal to me more.

Question of the Day: Do you have any Rachael Ray cookbooks? Any favorite Rachael Ray recipes?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I recently received an e-mail asking me to look at and post about a recipe website, no strings attached. Since I didn't have a recipe for today, why not?

So I'm a cookbook addict and that's my blogging schtick. I try not to veer from my cookbooks when choosing recipes to blog about here but planning a menu from my cookbook collection is very time consuming and inefficient. It's definitely a labor of love and I know that I'm probably in the minority by doing it that way. Most people who are planning menus either pull from their repertoire or they turn to the internet. Honestly, I can't blame them. It's a heck of a lot easier.

There are some great recipe sites out there and I've just been introduced to another one, Although this site is new to me, the cookbooks that many their recipes come from include several that I've been cooking from over the past few years so I have confidence in them.

There are so many ways to search for recipes on You can search by ingredient, by course, by occasion, by region, by dietary consideration (gluten-free, low cholesterol, etc) by appliance, even by sponsor. You can even exclude ingredients such as nuts which I think is great since we avoid nuts due to allergies. I love this dinner countdown timer where you input how much time you have to make dinner and it tells you what you have time to make. If only my cookbook collection had a search function like!

They have recipes entertaining, budget recipes and healthy recipes. There's something for everyone.

Just as a test I went in and tentatively planned a week's menu (4 entrees) in less than 20 minutes, even with several distractions. It often takes me longer than that to find one recipe in my cookbooks.

You can take recipes from your own collection or from other sites and save them on along with recipes that are already on the site. You can organize the recipes any way you like. You can add notes to recipes. You can also save menus and make shopping lists. This is going to be great when I'm planning cookouts, parties and holiday baking.

It's not just recipes, there are how-to videos and reviews (of food products and other food-related items).

Hey, it's free and it may be helpful to some of you so I just thought I'd share that site with you in case you haven't already discovered it on your own. I did not get paid or compensated to post about this. I've never made any money off of this blog - never even tried. I recently read that the average blogger makes $6K a year off of their blogs. $6K a year!!?? I think by 'average' they probably mean that if you take the money that Dooce and Pioneer Woman make and divide it by the number of blogs out there, it comes to $6K/blog.

Question of a Day: Do you use or a similar site to organize your online recipes? If not, how do you organize them? I was bookmarking them but since I use two computers, that's not efficient.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One of the easiest recipes I've made

Italian Beef Dippers
Pillsbury Kids Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 can (18.5 ounces) ready-to-serve French onion soup
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
3/4 pound thinly sliced Italian- or garlic-seasoned cooked roast beef I used one labeled 'French Dip seasoned'
6 crusty French rolls (each 3 to 4 inches long)
6 slices ( 3/4 ounce each) provolone cheese

Pour the soup into a saucepan. Measure out the Italian seasoning. Toss it in the saucepan. Mix the soup and the seasoning.

Heat the soup over medium heat until it is hot. Stir every once in a while. Add the slices of beef to the soup. Continue to heat for 4 to 6 minutes, until soup and beef are heated all the way through. Stir every once in a while so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan

Use a serrated knife to cut the French rolls in half sideways on the cutting board. Use a slotted spoon to remove the slices of beef from the soup. Put the beef on the bottom halves of the rolls. If you like onions, put a few onions from the soup on the beef.

Cut each slice of cheese into two pieces. Put two pieces of cheese on top of the beef on each sandwich. Cover the beef and cheese with the top halves of the rolls.

Scoop out 1/3 cup soup and put it in one of the custard cups. Put the same amount of soup in each of the other custard cups. (If there's any soup left over, divide it into the cups.) Serve the sandwiches with the warm soup for dipping.

Makes 6 servings.

Approximate values per serving: 280 calories, 10 g fat, 47 mg cholesterol, 20 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 1,410 mg sodium, 32 percent calories from fat.


I have several children's cookbooks but I tend to pass over them when looking for recipes. They're actually a good source of quick and easy recipes so I don't know why I've been ignoring them.

This recipe wasn't particularly inexpensive (I bought $6 worth of meat plus soup, buns and cheese) or healthy (due to the sodium) but it was ridiculously fast and easy. You can't make a hot sandwich much faster than this. It was tasty too - bread, meat, cheese, and a salty delicious broth to dip it all in? All good. All-in-all I'd say that in a pinch, paired with a salad, this is probably a tinsy bit healthier and a little bit less expensive than eating out.

This particular kid's cookbook is a bit heavy on the processed foods. That does make for supereasy recipes but not the least expensive or healthiest. I think if you're depending on a child or young teen to cook dinner, it's not a bad place to start. I've got some better ones that I hope to be cooking from soon.

Question of the Day: At what age did you start cooking? I honestly don't remember exactly but I was young when I started cooking dinner. My older sisters used to pass the chore along to me (well, at least one of them did). I enjoyed it. I'm sure I baked and tried a few other things before I worked up to making dinner. I used to put a lot of thought into cooking. I only had a few PBS cooking shows and a meager selection of cookbooks to inspire me. Who knows what would have happened if I grew up with the Food Network.

Monday, May 11, 2009

This is what I made for Mother's Day

Strawberry Cake
A Little Byte of DISA Copyright 2000

1 box yellow cake mix I used reduced sugar cake
1 (12 ounce) can strawberry soda I used cherry 7up
1 (3 ounce) box strawberry banana gelatin I used wild strawberry
1 (10 ounce) package frozen strawberries, thawed I used chopped fresh strawberries
1 (5 ¾ ounce) box instant vanilla pudding
1 (4-ounce) carton non-dairy whipped topping I used 8 ounces

Bake cake as directed on box in a 9x13-inch baking pan. Cool; pierce generously with a fork. Bring soda to a boil, then add gelatin and heat until dissolved. Pour over cake. Spread thawed strawberries over cake. Cool completely. Make instant pudding according to directions on box; fold in prepared whipped topping. Spread over cooled cake.

I decided to make this cake for Mother's Day. You guys were killing me with your trifle suggestions - I've had a great urge to buy a trifle bowl and I've been working hard to resist that urge. Fortunately I had no time to go out and buy one.

This cake seems to have a gazillion variations. Some use twice as much 'syrup' which shocked me since this recipe seemed like it had plenty but when I cut it I wondered where it all went. I expected a totally pink cake but as you can see, that wasn't how it turned out. I'm curious if the cake would be soggy with more syrup. I might try that next time.

I couldn't find strawberry soda so I used Cherry 7up. Then I found myself in Wal-Mart a couple of hours later looking at strawberry soda and I had to resist every urge in my body not to start the cake over even though I'm sure it made little difference that I used Cherry 7up instead.

I used the entire 8 ounce container of Cool Whip which was probably excessive but I figured it would end up in the trash if I didn't use it up. I don't believe there is a 4-ounce container of Cool Whip. I think next time I would cut down on the milk in the pudding. It said to make as directed but I think I would remove about a cup of milk (from 3 cups to 2).

This was a big hit. I'm sure I'll be making it again.

Question of the Day: How was your Mother's Day?

Friday, May 08, 2009

No recipe today

I came up a recipe short this week. I have my desire back but I'm still a bit short on time and energy so I had to throw in a few easy meals this week.

Monday we had the Mexican Meat Loaf and Corn Bread Casserole.

Tuesday we had the Chicken and Broccoli with Rice.

Wednesday we had fish sticks and french fries! I had some fish sticks I picked up on a really good sale and they were actually a big hit with my husband. My son lost interest after a few bites. He used to eat fish sticks.

Thursday we had pasta with meatballs and sauce. Last time I made meatballs I made a double batch so I just had to pull those out of the freezer.

Tonight, I don't know. I haven't made dinner on Friday in over a month. I still love homemade pizza but we started getting less expensive subs from around the corner and they're really good and it's so easy. I've started going to the farmer's market on Friday nights again so I like being able to eat and run. But tonight my husband won't be there to pick up the subs so I haven't decided what to do.

I have another dilemma. I can't decide what dessert to take to my Mom's on Mother's Day. I was thinking something fruity but I'm bringing a fruit salad. I'm also bringing Aunt Nancy's Cole Slaw which has pineapple in it. (I'm bringing chicken in my favorite marinade that we'll throw on the grill too.)

I'm torn between making something I've made before and trying something new. Any suggestions? Nothing is hitting me. I was thinking some type of refrigerator dessert but my dad doesn't really like cream cheese (although he likes the Easy Cream Puff Dessert which is on my short list, I'm just not sure. I might want to save that one for Father's Day.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Another one from the Deen Bros.

Corn Bread Casserole with Fresh Corn and Green Onions
The Deen Bros. Y’All Come Eat Copyright 2008

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus additional for coating pan
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears of corn)
1 15-ounce can cream-style corn
1 cup sour cream I used lite sour cream
1 8-ounce box corn muffin mix
6 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the ½ cup melted butter, the fresh corn, cream-style corn, sour cream, muffin mix, green onions, pepper and salt. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

I love corn and I love green onions so I couldn't pass up this recipe. It was good! I was surprised that even my husband scarfed it down. I don't know why I was surprised but I was. My son wouldn't touch it. Picky.

Someone brought something like this to a cookout we attended last year so I know I'm not the only one who likes this kind of thing (people usually bring their favorite recipes to cookouts). I like the addition of the green onions but you could add whatever you like - jalapenos would be good.

I got to use the corn scraper an online friend sent me way back when. I should have taken a picture of it - it looks like a vegetable peeler. It works great. I love when I get to use one of my gadgets.

Question: Do you suffer from kitchen gadgetitis (the inability to pass up a kitchen gadget)? I think I have a mild case of it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My deepest apologies

Chicken and Broccoli Rice Casserole
Women’s Circle Cooking with Taste

½ cup chopped onions
½ cup sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups hot cooked rice
2 cups cubed chicken breast
2 cups chopped fresh broccoli (steamed) or 1 (10-ounce) package frozen broccoli, thawed
1 (10 ¾ ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, condensed
1//2 cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese I used about 4 ounces - 2 ounces mixed in and 2 ounces on top

Simmer onions and mushrooms in large skillet with butter until tender. Stir in rice, chicken, broccoli, and soup. Pour into buttered 1 ½ quart baking dish. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

I owe my deepest apologies to the Women's Circle cookbooks that I have been ignoring for years. No, you don't have flashy pictures but you do have great recipes. I am now 2-for-2. First, yesterday's Mexican Meat Loaf was a standout and now this casserole was absolutely delicious.

I had leftover grilled chicken and leftover rice so I went looking for a recipe that would use those items. I almost passed over this casserole since I still needed to buy mushrooms, broccoli, cream of mushroom soup and cheese but I couldn't find anything better so I put it on the menu, not with a lot of excitement I should admit.

Another reason I chose this recipe is that it only used one can of soup. I don't mind using canned soup in a recipe but it's not so inexpensive that I want to be throwing multiple cans in a recipe. Most casseroles I came across called for more than one can. Then, I made this on Sunday for Tuesday and by the time we were about to eat it I was convinced it would be dry and I should have gone with a multiple-can recipe. Not to worry - it wasn't dry (I used the microwave to reheat it). It was also surprisingly good. I wasn't expecting to like it so much but it was yummy. My husband loved it too but my son has been getting pickier and pickier lately. This just wasn't for him.

I feel like I'm on a roll. I've been having lots of recipe success lately. I hope it continues.

Question of the Day: Do you enjoy making something new out of leftovers? I love it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Meat loaf and a traffic jam

Mexican Meat Loaf
Women's Circle Cooking With Taste

1 1/2 pound ground beef
1 medium onion -- chopped
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup taco sauce
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 egg -- beaten
1/2 cup tortilla chips -- finely crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 dash black pepper

Combine all ingredients; mix well. Pack into an oiled 8 inch loaf pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 1/4 hours or until done.

I wanted something that would go along with a corn dish you will read about later and Mexican meat loaf popped into my mind. It wasn't hard to track down a recipe. I wasn't sure my son would eat this version of meat loaf but he ate two servings. I chopped the veggies very, very fine.
This tasted so good to me but I must add the disclaimer that we were stuck in traffic for an hour and a half last night. I'm sure if that clouded my judgement or not. It's nights like that when I really appreciate the cooking ahead I've been doing on the weekend. We probably would have been eating McDonald's if I didn't have dinner ready to go. I just needed to heat the meat loaf up on the Griddler and I nuked the side dish and we were eating dinner. Finally. I was so hungry on the ride home but fortunately I had to pee really badly and that provided a distraction from my hunger (that and a screaming 10-month old).

The only thing I would change is I would use a taco sauce with a higher heat level next time. I used mild this time and I wouldn't have minded a little more kick in this.

This is a strange sort of cookbook. It was one of the first things I purchased from a dollar store when they first arrived on the scene in Philadelphia back in the 90s. It's built like a crossword puzzle book - soft cover, newspaper-like pages, all black ink, no pictures. I couldn't even find a copyright date. I have two cookbooks like this. They repeat many recipes, even within same cookbook several times so although this one boasts 1200 recipes, that doesn't mean 1200 distinct recipes but there are a lot of recipes. They don't sound like bad recipes either so I don't know why I've tended to pass over these books when looking for recipes. I don't think I will anymore based on this meat loaf recipe. I have another recipe from this book coming up this week too.

Question of the Day: What time do you usually eat dinner?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Muffins from the Deen Bros.

Peaches-and-Cream Muffins
The Deen Bros. Y’All Come Eat Copyright 2008

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted I used salted
1 cup sour cream I used lite sour cream
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (15-ounce) can sliced peaches, drained and chopped into ¼-inch pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, butter, sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Gently fold in the peaches.
3. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let muffins cool in pans for 10 minutes. Serve immediately or transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I'm glad to see that the Deen brothers have been able to parlay their mother's successful career into a profitable career of their own. From what I understand of their history, her boys were a huge part in her restaurant success so I think they've earned it. I prefer their cookbooks over Paula's although I honestly haven't seen any of Paula's besides her first few which were pretty dull stylistically speaking.

I believe this is just a variation of one of Paula's recipes. I've seen a basic muffin recipe attributed to her made from the self-rising flour, butter and sour cream. I had some trouble but I don't think you can blame the Deen Bros. I used a silicone muffin pan which definitely made it easier to remove these from the pan but I didn't get enough browning after 35 minutes. Was it the pan? I don't have much experience with silicone bakeware. I should have cooked them a bit longer I think but it was already over 35 minutes when I took these out. Also, I had several other things cooking in the oven at the same time which might have affected the baking of these muffins.

I love biscuits so I thought these were good with their biscuit-like texture but were they worth two sticks of butter? I'm not so sure. That doesn't mean they weren't good but two sticks of butter AND sour cream?? (I used lite sour cream but, come on, that really didn't lighten this recipe very much). A recipe with that much fat should knock my socks off and I don't think I can say that about this recipe. Very good, yes. Fantastic, no.

Question of the Day: What do you think of the Deen Bros?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Not quite the real thing but still delicious

Orange Beef
Quick and Easy Chinese Copyright 2008

¾ pound thinly sliced beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce I used light soy sauce
2 tablespoons thinly shredded fresh orange or tangerine peel or dried orange peel I used fresh orange peel
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons dry sherry or Shaoxing rice wine
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon dark soy sauce I didn't have dark soy so I used light soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt I think that was a bit much
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup shredded carrots
½ teaspoon Asian sesame oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion

In a small bowl, combine the beef with the soy sauce and toss to season meat evenly.Set aside for 10 minutes.

Combine the orange peel, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl, and stir to mix them together lightly.

In a medium bowl, combine the sherry, orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, dark soy sauce and salt. Stir well to dissolve the cornstarch and mix everything into a smooth sauce.

Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a wok or a large, deep skillet. Scatter in the beef and its marinade and spread the beef out into a single layer. Let it cook undisturbed for about 15 seconds, and then toss well. Add the carrots and cook, tossing now and then, until the beef is no longer pink and the carrots are beginning to wilt, about 1 minute.

Add the orange peel mixture and cook, tossing often, until it releases its fragrance, about 30 seconds.

Add the orange juice mixture, pouring it in around the sides of the pan and toss well. Cook, tossing now and then, until the beef is tender and evenly seasoned with the sauce. Add the sesame oil and green onion, toss well, and transfer to a serving dish. Serve hot or warm.

Orange beef was one of my favorite Chinese dishes to order in Chinese restaurants but due to my son's peanut allergy we don't visit Chinese restaurants anymore. I picked up this cookbook so I could cook some Chinese dishes at home. While this isn't quite the same as what I remember getting in Chinese restaurants, it was quite good (spicy!) and it was 'quick and easy' as the book title says.

I really like this cookbook. All the recipes are very doable at home and authentic enough, although not exactly the same as you would find in a restaurant but home cooking rarely turns out that way.

As simple as this was, it was the most complicated dinner recipe I've made in quite some time. I will probably start cooking more during the week as our weekends get busier. As long as I can find more recipes like this, I'll be fine.

I just realized now how close this was to the Spicy Orange Beef I've made in the past. Today's recipe had a tad bit more depth but they are both great recipes.

Question of the Day: How often do you eat (restaurant) Chinese food?