Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cozy Winter Meals

Do you remember me telling you how I have an embarrassingly large collection of the little cooking magazines (the kind you find in the checkout aisles)? I was browsing through them (again) this week and discovered three things:  my collection of little cooking magazines goes back more than 20 years and the two recipes I'll be sharing with you this week!

Creamy Crab au Gratin

I was pleasantly surprised at how much flavor this dish offers. It's the perfect, elegant alternative to ordinary tuna casserole. Creamy Crab au Gratin comes from Betty Crocker's  January, 2001 Comfort Casseroles.

Serves:  4

6 tbsp. butter, divided

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup sliced celery

1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chicken broth (or stock)

3/4 cup half-and-half

3 tbsp. flour

1/2 tsp. red pepper sauce (Tabasco Sauce)

2 pkg. (8 oz. each) refrigerated imitation crabmeat chunks or 2 cups chopped cooked crabmeat

1 cup soft breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly spray rectangular baking dish (11x7x1 1/2 inches) with nonstick cooking spray.

Over medium heat, melt 4 tbsp. butter and add mushrooms and celery. Cook about 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until celery is tender.  Add the flour and continue cooking for about a minute. Whisk in the chicken broth (or stock) and mix until smooth. Stir in the pepper sauce and half-and-half. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for about a minute. Stir in the crabmeat and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking until sauce is thickened. Check for seasonings and adjust to your taste.

Spoon the crabmeat mixture into the prepared baking dish. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp. butter and mix with the bread crumbs. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the crabmeat. Bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes or until heated through.

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Beer Cheese Soup

I found this recipe the March 4, 2011 edition of Pillsbury's Best One Dish Meals. A wintry-mix of snow and freezing rain was in the forecast for only the second time this winter and this soup seemed to be the appropriate meal for the night. While the weather raged on (kind of) outside, we enjoyed warm bowls of beer cheese soup complete with popcorn!

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

3 cups chicken broth (or stock)

1 cup cream

4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (sharp is best, but any flavor will work)

1 can (12 oz.) regular or nonalcoholic beer

In a 4 quart Dutch oven or stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, and  onion and cook for 10 minutes, until celery and onion are translucent. While the vegetables are cooking, mix the flour, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Add to vegetables when the celery and onion are ready. Add the chicken broth (stock) and stir to break-up any lumps that may form (use a whisk, if necessary). Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil and stir for one minute. Reduce heat and stir in the cream and cheese. Stir occassionally and heat until cheese is melted. Stir in beer.

**  Popped popcorn is the classic garnish for beer cheese soup!  **

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What's in the oven? Frittering Away Time on Pinterest

I'm a day late getting my "What's in the oven?" post done and I apologize. I had BIG plans of sharing a recipe for country loaf-style bread with an additional recipe for a pilgram turkey sandwich. But, alas, I found I was missing a key ingredient for the sandwich, so I've decided to postpone those recipes. In its place, I'm sharing a recipe for Apple Fitters that I found on my new passion - Pinterest!

The fritters are light, fluffy, full of flavor - they remind me a lot of cake donuts,but much less dense. I made them for breakfast as a change to what we normally have. The recipe couldn't have been easier to mix up and make. We were enjoying delicious fritters in no time!

I prefer my pastries plain, so I didn't mix up the glaze, but I did dust the fritters for my son in powdered sugar. This recipe made about 12 golf ball-sized fritters

I followed the recipe to the letter, so rather than copy the entire recipe here, I'll provide you with the link to the site I found via Pinterest (just click on "Apple Fritters" below!):


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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Is there such a thing as "too much pizza"?

I suspect we're like many households in America. We eat a lot of pizza. We eat a lot of pizza-like dishes. And each-and-every one of them have been great! That's probably why I don't hesitate to try any recipe with the word "pizza" in it or if pizza sauce, along with mozzarella cheese, is on the ingredient list.

I've been in a bit of a rut with my menus lately and I decided to go to my collection of little theme-inspired cooking magazines for inspiration. I confess, I can't pass up the magazines while I wait in the checkout lanes of the grocery stores. I found this recipe in a September, 2000 edition of the Betty Crocker New Slow Cooker Recipes magazine, but this is the first time I 've tried it. It reminds me of the classic pork chop/cream of mushroom soup/dry onion soup mix slow cooker recipe that I'm sure many of us have tried (and love). The pork chops were so tender they fell apart as I was lifting them out of the slow cooker. And they were delicious! You can sprinkle as much or as little mozzarella cheese as you like (we like a lot of cheese!) and they're great with almost any kind of potato you can imagine. We had ours with a baked potato and some green beans.

Pizza Pork Chops

6 pork loin chops, 1 inch thick (about 2 1/4 pounds)

salt & pepper

olive or vegetable oil

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cups tomato pizza or pasta sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Remove excess fat from pork chops. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pork in oil about 5 minutes, turning once, until brown. You may have to work in batches, if necessary. Place browned pork chops in a 3 1/2 - 6 quart slow cooker.

Sprinkle sliced onion over pork chops. You may also add slices of green pepper, if you like. Add the pizza or pasta sauce. Cover and cook on low heat setting 4 - 6 hours or until pork is very tender.

To serve, place pork chops on a platter, spoon excess sauce over chops, and sprinkle with cheese.

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And here's a recipe that's definitely not pizza! I love those cooking magazines you find in the checkout lanes at the grocery stores. I have a beautiful collection of them and they're full of menu ideas! This recipe comes from a May, 2000 edition of Betty Crocker Easy Skillet Meals. It's unbelievably easy to make and it tastes delicious - even if you classify yourself more as a non-fish eater!

Lemony Fish over Vegetables and Rice

1 pkg. (6.2 oz.) fried rice (rice and vermicelli mix with almonds and Oriental seasonings)

2 tbsp. butter

2 cups water

1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel

1 bag (1 lb.) frozen corn, broccoli, and red pepper (I made my own blend of frozen corn and
          broccoli and red pepper)

1 lb. mild-flavored fish fillets (about 1/2" thick) (I used cod)

1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

1 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Cook rice and butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat 2 - 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is golden brown. Sitr in water, seasoning packet from rice mix and lemon peel. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in vegetables. Heat to boiling again, stirring occasionally. Cut fish into 4 serving pieces; arrange on rice mixture. Sprinkle fish with lemon pepper; drizzle with lemon juice. Turn heat to medium. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until fish becomes opaque and flakes easily with a fork and vegetables are tender.

To serve, spoon vegetables and rice onto serving plate and lay fish fillets on top. Sprinkle with parsley.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

What's in the Oven? A Valentine's Day Treat

With Valentine's Day almost here, I decided to make one of my children's favorite cookies. I came across this recipe - a long time ago - in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 2nd Edition as a variation to Drop Cookies (like chocolate chip). They instantly became a family favorite. Enjoy! And Happy Valentine's Day!!

Chocolate Drop Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup shortening

1 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 egg, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

1/8 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup cocoa

3 tbsp. milk

1 cup baking chips (we prefer white chocolate, but you can use any flavor)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease or place a sheet of parchment paper on your cookie baking pans.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and shortening until well blended. Add approximately half of the flour, the sugar, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined. Next, add the cocoa and milk; mix until combined. Add the remaining flour. Stir in the baking chips.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 12-13 minutes. Remove pan from oven and allow cookies to remain on baking pan for another 2 minutes before removing them to a wire cooling rack.

Makes about 24 cookies.

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I think it's time for a giveaway, don't you?

A few days ago, I was browsing Stonewall Kitchen's website and discovered they've brought back their Pink Grapefruit Marmalade! This marmalade is something you absolutely have to try at least once in your life - even if you don't like grapefruit. Like all of their other marmalades, Pink Grapefruit Marmalade is delicious, especially in combination with cream cheese on toasted bread, english muffins, or bagels.

I thought "I have to order some of this" and then, it hit me! I'll order one for me and one to giveaway!

So, how do you win Stonewall Kitchen's Pink Grapefruit Marmalade? To be entered in the drawing, answer the question below in the comments section:

"What is your favorite toasted food?"

Maybe it's toasted cheese sandwiches or submarine sandwiches. How about quesadillas? Or even angel food cake. What is your favorite food to toast?

Please note: to enter a comment, just click on the comments link at the end of the post. Please don't put your email address in the comment!

You can also have your name entered (to increase your chances of winning) by doing any or all of the following (be sure to let me know which of these you do in the comments section so I can be sure to enter your name for each one - for a total of up to 5 entries):
  • follow this blog (if you already follow, please let me know in the comments)
  • "Like" us on Facebook (if you follow us on Facebook, please let me know in the comments)
  • share this on Facebook
  • tweet about this post

This contest is open until 11:59 p.m. (CST), Saturday, January 28, 2012. A winner will be drawn at random after the contest closes and will be announced in the Sunday, January 29, 2012 post.

Please note: Comments need to be approved. If you don’t see yours right away, don’t worry…I will get to it as soon as I can!

* This contest is open to anyone with a valid shipping address within the 50 United States *


Sunday, February 12, 2012

When Time is Short

This week's post is going to be rather short because I have a lot of homework to do! One promise I made to myself was that I'd go back and finish college. After almost 25 years, I did! For the past 2 1/2 years, I've been working hard on earning my degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Human Resources. I'll be graduating in May. This semester I'm taking 5 accelerated classes (the kind where a 16 week course is taught in just 8 weeks) - I have 3 weeks left in the first 3 classes and then I'll be down to just 2. I can't wait!

I haven't been doing much cooking or baking these past few weeks (because of my classes) and have been concentrating on quick and easy recipes when I do. Below are a few of the dishes I made this week (and remembered to take pictures of!). I hope you all have a great week and enjoy the recipes - I've got to get back to my homework!

P.S. Do you need help organizing your weekly shopping list? Check out the FREE Gooseberry Patch Weekly shopping list (look right and down just a bit)!

P.P.S. Be sure to check out the blog hop at the bottom of the right column links - lots of great ideas!

Chicken-Apple Salad with Candied Pecans

Quick, easy, and delicious! If you'd like to make the pecans a little sweeter, add some brown sugar and butter to the pan when you roast them. This salad is also great with a little crumbled blue cheese and creamy blue cheese dressing or poppyseed dressing instead of the vinaigrette.

2 cups salad blend (your choice)

1 medium-sized apple, sliced or chopped (you can also use a pear, if you like)

1 tsp. cinnamon-sugar mix

2 tbsp. pecans, rough chopped

1/2 cup cooked chicken, chopped (your choice - I used store-bought rotisserie chicken)

Apple Cider Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Spray a small saute pan with nonstick spray and warm over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, toss the pecan pieces with the cinnamon sugar and pour into the saute pan. Roast over medium-high heat until the cinnamon sugar coats the pecans. Remove from heat and set aside.

Arrange the salad greens on a plate. Add the apples and chicken. Sprinkle the pecan pieces over the salad and drizzle with the vinaigrette.


Apple Cider Vinaigrette

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp. dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. sugar (more if you like a sweeter vinaigrette)

salt & pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk!

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Slow Cooker Pasta Meat Sauce

This recipe makes 24 servings of sauce, but it's a great recipe to freeze for later (up to 4 months). This is a super-easy recipe to make and it won't take more than 15-20 minutes of your time. The sauce has a lot of flavor and a little bit of heat to it. You can tone it down (if you prefer) by omitting the crushed red pepper and using mild sausage or just ground beef. I froze the leftover sauce in 2 cup containers to use at a later time.

2 lbs. Italian sausage or ground beef (I used a blend of mild Italian sausage & ground beef)

2 cups chopped onion

2 cups sliced mushrooms

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 - 14 1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1 - 29 oz. can tomato sauce

1 - 12 oz. can tomato paste

2 tbsp. dried basil leaves

1 tbsp. dried oregano leaves

1 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

Brown meat, onions, mushrooms, and garlic in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Spoon meat mixture into a 5-quart slow cooker. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low heat 8-9 hours.

This sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or 4 months in the freezer. To thaw frozen sauce, place container in the refrigerator about 8 hours prior to use.

Use this sauce over any type of pasta, in lasagna, or even pizza!

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Cocoa Cappuccino Mousse

Let me just say "YUM"! I decided I'd earned a little reward and this mousse fit the bill. Like the salad and the pasta sauce, it's quick, easy, and delicious!

1 - 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

3 tbsp. butter

2 tsp. powdered instant coffee or espresso, dissolved in 2 tsp. hot water

2 cups cold whipping cream

Combined sweetened condensed milk, cocoa, butter, and coffee in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; cool. Beat whipping cream in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold chocolate mixture into whipped cream. Spoon into individual dessert dishes or large bowl for family serving. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Garnish as desired.

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