September 29, 2010

Poached Pears in Wine

Not being much of an alcohol drinker, I'm not against it - I just never learned to like the taste of alcohol. Still, in some social occasions I still like to attempt to drink a glass of wine and I don't tell friends or guests to my home 'no thank you' when they come bearing a gift of wine. For this reason we do have some wines in our home that are opened, but I can guarantee you they will not be finished. While looking at two opened bottles of red wine on my counter (both given to me) I decided to find a new way to use them up. Something different than a marinade or a salad dressing.

In the end I took about 3 versions of poached pears and mixed them up to come up with this recipe for my collection. I can use up a half bottle of wine with this recipe and make at least 3 pears out of it.

Wine Poached Pears

3 pears, peeled, stem left on to make it easy to poach and serve

1 1/2 cups red wine (I used remnants from two open bottles)

1/2 t cinnamon

2 whole cloves

1/2 c sugar

1/3 c crumbled bleu cheese

1/4 c chopped toasted walnuts

Scoop out the center of the pear by using a melon baller and start to whittle away at the bottom. Work your way up, scooping out the inside so the pear is much like a bell.

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, cinnamon, cloves and sugar. Stand the pears upright in the mixture, then bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, uncovered, turning the pears often, for about 35 minutes, or until the pears are just tender.

Serve warm, room temperature or chilled. Scoop a dollop of whipped cream on them for children or for adults, sprinkle with crumbled bleu cheese and chopped toasted walnuts.Print Friendly and PDF

September 28, 2010

Sugar Free Vanilla Spread for Toast or Crackers

Almost 9 years ago I discovered and started to use Splenda - the sugar alternative. It was part of discovering the low-carb lifestyles and the effects of sugar and flour in our systems.

Although we don't regularly follow any low-carb way of life, we do do a detox version about twice a year and I keep a huge file of low-carb, sugar free recipes on hand as well as two cookbooks I wouldn't be without.

During this time I also signed up for the Splenda email newsletter and once in a while you'll find a real gem. This recipe is one that has been around forever... and used to use a different sugar-free alternative LONG before Splenda hit the American markets. I know of people who were making similar versions 20-30 years ago. (There is one that uses cinnamon that people seems to absolutely love!)

This is just a simple sugar free vanilla spread - great on graham crackers, fruit or delicious on toast.

Sugar-free Vanilla Spread
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • ¼ cup Splenda
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup diced walnuts
Mix all. Print Friendly and PDF

September 27, 2010

Banana Pepper Dip or Spread for Crackers - So Easy it's Almost Embarrassing!

This weekend a friend gave me fresh banana peppers from her garden. Armed with 2 1/2 of them, I chopped them with my Pampered Chef food chopper and tossed them in with a block of cream cheese (1/3 fat style which is softer than regular but doesn't taste as bad as fat free). Let set for the flavors to mingle and served with two kinds of crackers; a thin wheat cracker and a popular brand vegetable cracker. I love this stuff so much I could eat the whole thing!

Banana Pepper Dip or Spread

2 or 3 banana peppers (the long yellow peppers) use as much or little as you like!
*chopped fine or use 1/3 -1/2 cup of store bought, in a jar, chopped fine
1 block 1/3 fat cream cheese or regular cream cheese, warmed in the microwave to soften

Mix. Chill. Serve with crackers.

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September 25, 2010

We have a winner!


Cowboy Joe!
A reader from Canada who has
been waiting PATIENTLY for
a contest that ships to Canada.
My marketing connection assures me
they would...
Congratulations to JOE!

Your Crispy Buffalo Shake N'Bake, Football Plates, hints for a great
party and $50 American Express Gift Card
will be on its way soon!

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September 22, 2010

It's CONTEST TIME! It's time to throw a FOOTBALL PARTY!


Our household has two die hard football fans but all five of us love game days because one of our favorite meals is what call, 'football food'! Basically it's a day of fun foods like a crock pot of nacho dip, cheese and crackers, buffalo wings, stuffed jalapeno poppers and other finger foods.

Shake 'N Bake provided a free sample of one of their new products and I couldn't wait to pass it along. New Crispy Buffalo style! It's exactly what my family loves; the crisp and the spice without the mess of ooey, gooey sauce.

Start with 1 pound wings or boneless chicken tenders
1/3 c hot sauce of your choice (optional for more kick)
1 Shake N'Bake seasoning mix

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Dip your chicken in the hot sauce to moisten (or skip this part if you want a mild buffalo flavor). Shake the chicken pieces in the coating using the bag provided in the mix. Bake on a foil lined baking sheet for 15 minutes for tenders or up to 35-40 minutes for wings until done. Serve with celery sticks and ranch dressing on the side.

A prize pack that includes; Shake N' Bake, ceramic football plates and more... a little something that I'm not going to mention and make it a REAL surprise! Delivered to your door just in time to host a great football party! All you need to do to enter is tell me if you are ready for some football fun!

Email me to let me know you are ready to serve some Shake N'Bake Crispy Buffalo tenders or wings at your party. All entries must be in by 8:am Saturday, September 25th (CST). Winner will be drawn around noon my time (as soon as our out-of-town guests leave around 11:30 or 12:00!). *Canada is included in this one! I just heard from the company this morning that they'll ship to addresses other than the USA!

You MUST give me a working email when you enter so I can contact you if you are a winner. If I cannot contact you by email to get your name and shipping address to give to the Kraft marketing crew, I'll have to draw another name and you forfeit your prize. Your email will not be saved nor used for anything other than one entry into this contest. (I was going to use comments to enter as well but blogger is being persnickity and comments aren't showing up right now so EMAIL ME to enter and that way I KNOW I'll get it!).
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Homemade Caramel Apples

A few years ago I started to make incredible Caramel Apples in the Autumn. Not just caramel apples, but apples like you can buy for $15 each on gourmet websites with chocolate, and white chocolate drizzled over and candies and mini chips.... these became a much requested school fund raiser for their Fall bake sales.

I'm almost frustrated to admit that my full time work schedule coupled with doing the finances, cooking, errands, cleaning, laundry, school functions and other life-chores has kept me out of the kitchen as I would like to be. Most things are done spur-of-the-moment and not up to my usual standards.

But still... last night at 8:00 pm I started to make caramel apples. If you don't go crazy with the gourmet decorations they really are quick to make and easy... as long as you don't mind getting a little gooey!!

Start with a package of caramels
Sticks of some kind (either Popsicle sticks or candy making sticks, etc.)
*optional; mini chocolate chips, toffee bits, sprinkles, etc.

Melt the unwrapped caramels with 1 tablespoon water in a microwave safe bowl on 50% power for about 2-3 minutes depending on how strong your microwave is. Stir until completely smooth and the water is incorporated. Push a stick in a clean, washed and dry apple and dip into the melted caramel. Hold upside down for a bit, swirling as the caramel cools quickly so it doesn't all puddle down around the apple. Place on parchment paper, foil or plastic. If you want to add sprinkles or candies do so before the caramel sets too much so they will stick.

I hate unwrapping caramels.

Ready to start dipping and rolling the apples.

Mmmm... my family started to gobble them up before they were even cooled down!

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September 13, 2010

Chicken and Smoked Gouda Pizza with Creamy Basil Garlic Sauce

Arriving home last night after working an event all day, I was starving, it was 6:pm and my kids were waiting for me to make dinner. While I would have loved to have picked up pizza on the way home I knew it was neither frugal nor needed when I could make my own.

I immediately got the ingredients for pizza crust mixing in the electric mixer with a dough hook while I pulled random ingredients out of the cupboard. Craving a pizza with smoked cheese and chicken I knew the perfect sauce - a creamy garlic sauce I had made previously for pizzas. Because I had just arrived home at 6:pm since being gone that morning at 8:30 am I had neither cooked nor thawed chicken at my disposal. As I went to the freezer to see what I could improvise with I saw that I had picked up a package of Tyson's grilled fajita chickens trips on my last trip to the store. Yeah for me! (Or yeah for my 14 year old who asked me to keep some on hand for after school snack wraps, chef salads and mini pizzas).

I improvised on the sauce and added minced basil this time instead of parsley and the end result was fabulous! - Remember - improvise and use more/less ingredients based on your own personal tastes.

Grilled Chicken and Smoked Gouda Pizza with Creamy Garlic Basil Sauce

Pizza Crust - dough or store bought* (your choice of course)
4 T butter
1 T fresh minced or chopped garlic
1/4 t garlic salt
1 1/2 T flour
3/4 heavy cream or milk if you want to cut some of the fat (won't be as thick)
1 T fresh minced basil or about 2 t jarred variety
1 c smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
1 c provolone or mozzarella, shredded
3/4 c diced cooked chicken (I used fajita style this time from Tyson and diced the strips)

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the garlic and flour. Whisk or stir briskly about a minute or two but don't burn it (burnt garlic is gross!). Add the cream and basil. Whisk til smooth. Spread on pizza dough in pan.

Top with grated cheeses and chicken. Bake at approximately 410 degrees for 20 minutes or as you usually bake your pizzas as everyone's pans and ovens are different. When the top is golden, remove, set for a minute or two and slice and serve.

whisking in the basil and waiting to thicken over medium high heat

Spreading on top of the dough

Top with cheeses and chicken and bake!

*if you use a store bought pre-baked pizza crust like Boboli - then only bake about 8-9 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.Print Friendly and PDF

September 09, 2010

Italian Pasta Salad with Chicken or Tuna

Over the past few years a simple tortellini pasta became a staple at many summer meals as I knew I always had ingredients on hand to throw together. I don't have to worry about a recipe because I never make the same salad twice! Sometimes with cucumbers, sometimes tomatoes, I've used balsamic vinegar in place of of the Italian when it's what was already made in the refrigerator... the basics stay the same (pasta, dressing, black olives, cheese of some sort) but add artichokes if you want or perhaps capers this time or change the cheeses from provolone to mozzarella or even feta.

When it comes to chicken or tuna based pasta salads I almost always use a mayonnaise based or 'creamy' binder. I rarely use an Italian dressing and pasta paired with tuna or chicken. This recipe does. What do you think?

Summer Pasta

2 cans tuna or chicken, drained
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can (12 oz.) black olives, sliced
3/4 cup Italian dressing
1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb. tortellini , cooked, drained and cooled

Mix the tuna, green pepper, onion, and black olives in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing, mixed herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and add the pasta. Toss, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.Print Friendly and PDF

September 06, 2010

Last But Not Least... Potato Salad!

Thanks to Google for an image of potato salad

I think it was almost 2 (?) years ago now that I went looking for the best potato salad... and felt like I found it! However, many potato salads have tarragon in them, and mine didn't. Because I know when it comes to recipe there is always going to be one that you like even better than your old tried and true, I never turn away a new version. If you like tarragon or your Mom or Grandmom always used it in their potato salad then I'd try this one. It's an all American version of a very popular side dish. Enjoy.

Potato Salad

3 pounds whole small round potatoes
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 c chopped scallions, white and green parts
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T minced fresh tarragon
1 T minced flat-leaf parsley
2-3 T lemon juice
1 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and cool completely. Slice the potatoes about 1/4-inch thick.

In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, scallions, mustard, tarragon, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add the potatoes and toss gently to combine. Chill until serving time. Print Friendly and PDF

Grilled Steaks with Avocado Salsa

While I love the Chimichanga idea today I also wanted to share a yummy grilled recipe for those lucky enough to have good weather today (Labor Day) and need an outdoor recipe. This fits the bill!

Grilled steaks are a favorite of my husband. Sometimes we top them with a spicy rub, other times I soak in a marinade. A delicious way to serve is just to season with salt and pepper and serve with a mound of sauteed onions and mushrooms. A blue cheese sauce is another way I love them.

This one uses a favorite food of ours; avocados. Enjoy!

Grilled Steak with Avocado Salsa

4 sirloin steaks
2 t chili powder
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t ground cumin
1 avocado
1 plum tomato
1/4 c diced onion
2 T diced fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeno pepper
1 T lime juice

Mix the dry spices and rub into the steaks. Cover and refrigerator for 2 hours. Make the salsa by peeling and dicing the avocado and adding the diced tomato and jalapeno with the cilantro, lime juice, onion and salt to taste. Chill. Grill your steaks to desired doneness and serve with a scoop of salsa on the side.Print Friendly and PDF

Chicken Chimichangas with Green Sauce

By now most of us know how to make the deliciously easy 'cheaters' version of chicken enchiladas with cream soup and cream cheese. This is similar but the extra step of making them into chimichangas, fried in oil and served with a sauce instead of baked makes them different than an enchilada but similar and oh so good!

Chicken Chimichangas with Green Sauce

2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup
2 small (4.5 oz) cans diced green chilies
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced fine
2 T fresh lime juice
1 package 8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 of a single package of taco seasoning (1.25 oz. pkg)
Cooked and shredded or diced chicken - about 3 cups or 1 pound
8 flour tortillas - 10 inch size
vegetable oil for frying - about 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup
2 c shredded monterey jack cheese
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 bunch green onions
1 8-0z. container sour cream

Mix the soup with the chilies, jalapeno pepper and lime juice in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. . Warm in the microwave or saucepan to heat gently. In a bowl mash the cream cheese with the monterey jack cheese and taco seasoning until blended. Stir in the chicken. Divide the mixture into the 8 tortillas. Fold the sides in, then roll it up to make a secure packet. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the chimichangas a couple at a time, seam side down, until golden brown. Flip and do the same on the other side. (About 1 1/2 minutes per side should do it). Drain on paper towels. Place on a plate, ladle warm sauce over, sprinkle with cheddar, top with green onions and sour cream.Print Friendly and PDF

September 05, 2010

Labor Day Weekend Recipes!

OH NO! I've been so busy working overtime at my job the last few weeks that I've completely and utterly FORGOTTEN it's a holiday weekend! I actually worked yesterday as well (Saturday) so my weekend is completely 'off' and I keep thinking today is Saturday when in fact it's already Sunday.

Confused yet?

So in honor of the American holiday and all the backyard bbq's and camping trips going on... recipes with Labor Day in mind!

Let's start with dessert first! Any canned fruit filling will work; peach, apple, blueberry, etc. I love CHERRY best of all for this recipe.

Easy Fruit Cobbler Dessert

2 cans of fruit pie filling
1 box of yellow cake mix
1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted

Spread pie filling in the bottom of a baking dish. Sprinkle dry cake mix on top of the fruit filling. Drizzle butter over all. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden. Serve warm or cold - it's amazing warm with vanilla ice cream!

Another 'dessert' of sorts - and it's an old Granny recipe! Remember that fruit salad Grandma served with macaroni in it? It's baaaaack!

Fruit Salad Dessert with Pasta

1 pound of macaroni, cooked and cooled (tiny sized or pasta shape)
1 can (15 oz.) fruit cocktail
11 oz. can mandarin oranges
1/2 bag of miniature marshmallows
20 oz. can of crushed pineapple
1 jar maraschino cherries
16 oz. tub of whipped topping such as cool whip

Drain fruit and save all juices. Place drained fruit in a large mixing bowl. In a large saucepan, combine the fruit juices and 1 cup of sugar, 2 beaten eggs, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, and 3 tsp. vinegar. Cook until thick over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cool in refrigerator. In the large bowl, mix fruit juice mixture, the cooked pasta, and the whipped topping. Chill.

For a REAL macaroni salad for a 'side dish' choice;

Mom's Macaroni Salad

1 cup dry macaroni, cooked according to directions to make about 2 cups
1/4 c rice vinegar
1/2 small red onion, diced fine
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c mayonnaise
2 celery stalks, diced fine
2 hard cooked eggs, diced
pickles or green olives (whichever your family prefers - mine like both but only dill pickles. Some like sweet) 2 tablespoons or so
Cheddar cheese or Velveeta cheese diced in small cubes - about 1/2 cup

Rinse pasta in cold water to cool. Combine all ingredients. Let stand at least 30 minutes if you can for the tastes to combine.

More 'main dish' recipes coming in the next post!Print Friendly and PDF

September 02, 2010

Spicy Cheese Sauce

Alas! I'm reduced to using photos from search engines because my college aged daughter has the battery from my camera and I'm 'camera-less'.

Although some cooks would hold a cheese product such as Velveeta in disdain, the rest of us know that it's the cheese that melts perfectly and smoothly and tastes delicious and there is no reason not to use it. Much easier to work with than greasy cheddar or preshredded cheeses that have a coating that helps it to not clump in the package, but makes it difficult to work with if it's being heated. Velveeta is a favorite for many cheese sauces and this is one of them.

If you leave out the jalapeno completely and instead of heavy cream, use white wine, it will give this sauce a different flavor, but still just as good! Try this on broccoli or asparagus or mix with a pasta for a yummy pasta and cheese dish!

Spicy Cheese Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup light cream or milk
1 small jalapeno, minced
1 cup (8 oz) Velveeta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

In a heavy skillet, combine oil, garlic, onion and pepper over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent. Stir in tomatoes and cilantro. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add wine, and cook over low heat another 10 minutes, or until mixture has slightly thickened. Stir in cream, and Velveeta; cook over medium heat until Velveeta has melted, stirring until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste and serve right away.Print Friendly and PDF