Friday, December 23, 2011

Breakfast Casserole

This is so easy and very yummy!  

6 slices white bread cut into cubes
1 pound sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Put the first three ingredients in a buttered 7x11 casserole dish. Combine the eggs, milk, salt, and dry mustard and pour over the mixture in the casserole dish. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight. Bake for 1 hour or longer, until puffy and golden brown at 350. Serve hot.

French Toast Casserole

This is a delicious breakfast treat!  It comes from my dear friend Amanda Bratu.  I've had the privilege of having it twice but I admit I've never made it.  

1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
15 - 17 slices of bread
6 eggs
2 cups milk
maple syrup

Melt butter and add brown sugar and cinnamon.  Make a paste and spread over the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Remove crusts of bread.  Layer two slices over sugar mixture.  Fill in sides and ends with smaller pieces

Beat eggs and milk together and pour over bread.  Bake for 30 - 35 minutes at 350.  Drizzle with syrup and place under the broiler until brown and bubbly.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Three "Bark" Candy Recipes

I love “Bark” candies because they’re easy and yet they have an elegance about them.  These are three very different but great recipes.  They freeze very well and they make a lot too.  Great for gifts!  Great for serving if you have last-minute company!  Great for taking to a party! 


Pringle Candy

This comes from my dear friend Delores Bailey.  It’s such a great alternative to the super-sweet stuff around the holidays since it’s more salty-sweet. 

2 packages white chocolate chips, melted 
1 can Spanish peanuts (with red skins) 
1 can regular flavor Pringles (Lays Stacks work okay too), crushed   

Stir ingredients together.  Spread on wax paper until cooled and firm.  Break into pieces.


Peppermint Bark

I honestly don’t know where this recipe came from but I have fond memories of helping my mom make it when I was a kid.  I don’t remember the crushing part (we probably used a hammer and a gallon ziplock bag).  But I do remember having to put the paper tray of almond bark in the oven to melt it (this was before microwave ovens…sure am dating myself here!).  We usually crush the peppermints very fine but if you prefer bigger pieces, that’s fine too.

1 pound white almond bark 
12 ounces peppermint candy, crushed to desired size (I use an old Oster blender for this—a food processor works well, as does a hammer!)  

Melt almond bark and stir in crushed candy.  Spread in a thin layer on wax paper until cool and firm.  Break into pieces.

You can use spearmint as well (I’ve done a batch of each so I could have some green, some pink—beautiful together!)..  The bark can also be molded in candy molds, if desired.  Try to avoid reheating the bark once you’ve stirred the peppermints into it because they will melt and become stringy.


Cranberry and Macadamia Nut Bark

This comes from my dear friend Lisa McAmis.  I have never made it so I’m uncertain of exact measurements so just pour some in.  Lisa swears by this recipe and says it’s delicious…with the given ingredients, I believe her!!

1 pound white almond bark 
Dried cranberries Macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped  

Melt bark, stir in cranberries and nuts.  Spread on wax paper until cool and firm.  Break into pieces.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rocky Road

This is my mom’s go-to recipe for gifts and Christmas.  It came from her best friend’s mom.  A friend of ours submitted it in a contest and won first place!  It’s one of the best easy candy recipes I’ve ever made. 

11 or 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips 
11 or 12 oz. bag butterscotch chips 
1 cup chunky peanut butter
10 oz. bag white mini marshmallows

Melt the chips together in microwave, adding peanut butter during last 20-30 seconds.  Stir until smooth.  Stir in marshmallows (if chocolate mixture is hot enough to melt the marshmallows, allow to cool 10 minutes or so--I usually use medium heat on my microwave to prevent this).  Pour into buttered 9x13 pan.  Refrigerate until firm.  Cut into pieces at room temperature.

This freezes great but be sure to freeze in slabs, not little pieces because the marshmallows will get stale.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nestle Fudge with a Peppermint variation by Tammy

This is by far the best fudge recipe I've tried.  The texture is wonderful and while you do cook it, it's not an overly difficult recipe to make.  It's honestly the only recipe that's been no-fail for me!  Be sure to check out the Peppermint Fudge variation at the bottom.

1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cup (5 oz. can) evaporated milk 
2 tablespoons butter or margarine 
¼ teaspoon salt 
2 cups miniature white marshmallows 
1 ½ cups (9 oz.) Semi-sweet chocolate chips 
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional) 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract   

Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with foil   Combine sugar, milk, butter, and salt in medium heavy-duty pan.  Bring to a full-rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.   Stir in marshmallows, chips, nuts, and vanilla.  Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows and chips are melted.  Pour into prepared baking pan.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.  Lift from pan; remove foil.  Cut into squares.  

Peppermint Variation:  Use white chocolate chips, omit nuts, use peppermint extract instead of vanilla, and add a little red food coloring.  I had to microwave the mixture for 2 minutes on medium heat to melt the chips completely.  Follow the directions as written above.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Don't you love it how you gain the neatest recipes through people whose paths you may only shortly cross?  This came from my brother's speech therapist when we were really little.  This is one of my favorite Christmas cookies.   

In my opinion, these are not your run-of-the-mill thumbprint cookies!  They have such a rich flavor.  I used to only make them at Christmas but I've made them some through the year for special occasions for a couple of years now.  Every time I do, people really comment on them.

1 cup butter softened (no substitutes) 
1 cup sugar  
2 eggs, separated 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 cups flour 
¼ teaspoon salt 
1 ½ cups chopped pecans.   

Cream butter and sugar.  Blend in egg yolks and vanilla.  Add flour and salt and stir until combined.  Chill at least 2 hours.  Shape into balls (I usually use my small cookie scoop and scoop the dough out before chilling...the dough is a bit easier to deal with that way).  

Beat egg whites lightly and drop balls into egg whites, roll in pecans.  Place on greased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart and make an imprint in the center with your thumb.  Bake at 325 degrees for 15-18 minutes.  Cool and ice with icing below.   

2 cups powdered sugar 
2 tablespoons soft butter 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2-3 tablespoons hot water food color (optional)   

Beat until smooth.   When we make these at Christmas, we color half the icing pink and half green.  They are definitely worth the effort!  Have extra pecans on hand…sometimes it takes more than it calls for.

Sometimes I make more of a butter cream icing so I can pipe it onto the cookies.  Both ways are tasty and pretty!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cranberry and Apple Casserole

This is a side dish, breakfast, or dessert (it's wonderful with ice cream!).  

If you have a surplus of cranberries, they freeze beautifully (just store them in ziplock baggies).  If using cranberries that don't come in the little bags, use 2 to 3 cups in this recipe.

1 package fresh cranberries, washed and picked
3 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Mix ingredients and pour into greased 9x13 casserole dish.

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
½ cup flour
1 cup quick oatmeal
1/3 cup margarine, softened

Stir together sugar, flour, and oatmeal. Cut in margarine. Sprinkle on top of fruit. Bake for 1 hour at 300.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quiet Book

Because I have a very active 3 year old who is learning to sit in church, I decided to start a “Quiet Book” for her.  While it looks pretty rough, I’ve been pleased so far with the results and she adores it.  It’s a work in progress and I hope to add more pages as time goes by.  So far it’s been pretty easy. 

I’m using felt with fusible webbing (Wonder Under is a great brand).  I’ve learned that it’s best to also sew the pieces so that they don’t try to pull up when being played with.  I’ll give an explanation for each page/spread and what I would change.

Using felt has its pros and cons.  It’s so easy to use, it’s pretty cheap, and there’s no need to finish the edges.  Some of the cons include: it tears up pretty easily (this book will likely only last for one child, instead of the three I was hoping for! LOL), Wonder Under doesn’t work completely well with it, and there’s only one texture to it (though I did see some the other day with some texture for the first time but I didn’t feel like any of it would fit in with the book and it was pretty expensive).

I used a pattern for the shoe, corn, and flowers (Simplicity 3709).  There are some other cute ideas in the pattern but some of them aren’t so “quiet.”  Also, a lot of the pages online called for Velcro and I used snaps instead since Velcro isn’t exactly “quiet.”  The other pages were ideas I got online and designed myself (I’m sure you can tell!).  I used a number puzzle that the girls have to do the number pages.

As you will notice, I didn’t put a whole lot of details into this book.  There are two good reasons for this.  1.  I simply don’t have time and 2.  Josie is 3 and I’m pretty sure the details would be lost on her.  So for me, simple is better.   Feel free to embellish a lot more than I did!

Cover:  If you have an embroidery machine, I’m sure you can make yours much cuter than mine.  Obviously I don’t have one so mine is pretty bad looking.  But it serves its purpose.

Numbers Pages:  I learned the hard way that the numbers need to sewed down (Josie took them all off the page the first day she used it in church).  I was originally going to let her just match the numbers up.  However, I’ve decided snaps will make it more interesting.  This page still needs a lot of work:  I will add snaps and blanket stitch all the numbers down.  I made the moveable numbers two-ply with Wonder Under between the pieces (I will blanket stitch these as well).

Shoe Page: I used the Simplicity pattern for it and it was the first page I made.  I bought some eyelets that were very easy to install (and on sale the day I got them!).  I do, however, need to get a real shoelace so it’s more authentic.  The ribbon is not working well for teaching her how to tie.

Flower Page:  When adding buttons in the future, I’ll apply some fusible interfacing to the back of the page, then sew on the buttons through all layers.  They are already showing signs of pulling the felt apart.  I added a ribbon at the bottom of the page to thread the flowers on…I’m thinking it’s not necessary but it could be a good lesson on threading I suppose.  The stems are just some remnant ribbon I had.  The flowers are two-ply with Wonder Under between but one-ply might have worked better because they’re a bit difficult to button and unbutton.

Caterpillar Pages:  One of Josie’s favorites!  I ended up blanket stitching everything because they came apart during the first use.  This was another easy page.  The face on the caterpillar is just hand embroidered (and pretty rough, I admit!).  I could have put a lot more detail into it (each circle could have a number that she has to place in order, etc.).  I used gripper type snaps (installation requires a hammer and special little tool).  These seem to be more difficult for Josie to use and they tend to really pull at the felt.  If I use them again, I plan to add some fusible interfacing to the back of the page and install the snaps through all layers.  Sew-on snaps honestly seem to work the best (size 2/0 seems to be the best so far).  I added a “pocket” on the facing page for the pieces.  At first it seemed a waste but Josie really likes the pockets I’ve put in the book and she uses them!

Apple Tree Page:  Josie’s absolute favorite!  The apples are two-ply with snaps installed.  She loves the “basket” to put the apples in.  She informed me that she needed more apples so I hope to have some other fruit trees/flower trees/leaves on trees type pages in the future.

Corn Page:  This is the one page I wish I had embellished more.  It’s from the simplicity pattern and the pattern calls for some quilting on the corn itself and a tassel.  I also think different material would have been better than the felt.  Josie’s known how to zip for awhile so maybe that’s one of the reasons it’s not her favorite page.  I may try to embellish this page more but I may not.

To put the book together, I used large eyelets (the kit was pretty inexpensive and they are easily installed).  I wanted to be able to add pages as I made them so I used ribbon to hold it together.  Then I found two rings in my craft supplies so I may use them.  It’s not a “fancy” way of doing things but it works for us.  You could sew on a spine and make it look more professional.

These are some pages I hope to make:

Fish bowl with fish 
Butterfly with different shapes to snap on 
More trees with stuff to snap on 
Some more pages with buttoning and threading   

Here’s some of the places I receive inspiration:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

I realize I’m late in posting this for Thanksgiving but thought I’d post it anyway. This recipe came from my dear friend Carol James. It’s the best sweet potato casserole recipe I’ve found so far and it’s my husband’s favorite. It’s sweet enough to be a dessert and it’s even delicious cold out of the fridge! You can fix the casserole the day before (including putting the topping on) and then bake it the next day.

You can use boiled sweet potatoes or you can bake them. My preference is baking them because it’s so much easier and the potatoes have more taste when baked (it also makes your house smell so yummy!). I place the washed potatoes (about 3-4 large ones for this recipe) in a 9x13 pan and cover with foil. Bake at 350 until done (1 to 1 ½ hours). Allow to cool about an hour and remove skins. Proceed with recipe.

3 cups sweet potatoes cooked and mashed (I usually do 3-4 large potatoes and it turns out to be more than 3 cups but I just follow the recipe as it’s written)
¼ to ½ cup white sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1 stick margarine or butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional ingredients: 1 teaspoon salt and a few sprinkles of cinnamon

Mix together using an electric mixer. Spread into a greased pan (I usually do a large casserole dish or 9x13).

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
1 stick margarine or butter, cold

Stir together sugar, flour, and nuts. Cut margarine into sugar mixture. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until hot throughout.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two Jello Salads, One "Fluffy" Salad

These are my three favorite sweet salads we usually make around the holidays.  Each are easy to prepare and taste wonderful!  

Grape Jello Salad   

Jello Layer: 
3 oz. concord grape jello 
2 cups boiling water 
12 ounces crushed pineapple with juice 
1 can blueberry pie filling   

Stir together jello and water until dissolved.  Add pineapple and blueberry pie filling.  Pour into glass 9x13 pan.  Refrigerate until firm.   

8 oz. cream cheese, softened 
1 cup sour cream 
½ cup sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla 
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)  

Mix everything except nuts together.  Spread on top of jello.  Sprinkle with nuts.       

Orange Cream Salad   

Jello Layer: 
1 ½ cups boiling water large orange jello 
1 cup cold water 
11 oz. mandarin oranges, drained   

Mix boiling water and jello until well dissolved.  Add cold water.  Stir in oranges and pour into 11x7 pan.  Refrigerate until firm.   

8 oz. cream cheese, softened 
1 cup sour cream 
½ cup sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla   

Mix everything together.  Spread on top of jello.        

Cherry Salad   

1 can cherry pie filling 
1 large can crushed pineapple 
1 can sweetened condensed milk 
8 oz. cool whip   

Mix together, cool, serve.    You can add some chopped pecans or walnuts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Swedish Almond Puff (coffee cake)

This is one of those recipes that isn't really difficult and yet people think you're a gourmet cook!  I took this to Bible study yesterday and they acted like I had really slaved...and I didn't!  

1 cup flour 
1 stick margarine or butter, melted 
1 tablespoon water   

Stir until mixed.  Divide into two parts.  Pat on ungreased cookie sheet in 2 strips.   

1 cup water 
1 stick margarine or butter 
1 cup flour 
3 eggs 
½ cup sliced almonds   

Place water and margarine in a medium saucepan over medium high heat until melted.  Remove from heat.  Quickly stir in flour.  Then stir in one egg at a time.  Spread over two crusts.  Sprinkle with almonds.  Bake 375 for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown.   

1 cup powdered sugar 
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla flavoring 
few teaspoons milk   

Stir together, adding milk as needed to reach drizzling consistency.  Drizzle on warm puffs.  Cut into pieces.   If taking these somewhere, do not cover tightly after you have iced them.  Cover loosely or ice them upon arrival.   These are good with walnuts and pecans too (use vanilla if you use nuts other than almonds).    

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Éclair Dessert

This is a recipe that my Grandma Bonner gave me years ago.  It’s super easy and very delicious!  For the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve requested it for my birthday.  My mom even called me after making it last week and thanked me for being so easy about my birthday dessert.  I was quick to thank HER for making it for me!    It's important to let the dessert sit overnight or all day so that the crackers get soft (which, in this recipe, is a good thing!).

You can make your own chocolate frosting if you prefer.  While I normally do make my own frosting for cakes, etc., I always use the canned for this recipe.  It just tastes so good that way!  

For a lighter version, you can use fat free milk, sugar free pudding, light cool whip, low fat graham crackers and frosting.   

2 small packages vanilla instant pudding 
3 cups milk 
1 8 oz. cool whip 
1 package graham crackers 
1 can milk chocolate frosting, room temperature 
2 tablespoons milk   

Mix pudding and milk thoroughly.  Fold in cool whip.  Line 9x13 pan with whole graham crackers.  Spread half of pudding mixture over crackers.  Make another layer of whole graham crackers.  Spread the second half of pudding mixture over crackers.  Make a third layer of whole graham crackers and refrigerate until firm.  Stir milk into frosting.  Spread over crackers.  Refrigerate overnight.      

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cheese Chowder

This is a recipe that an internet friend (Donna) gave me.  It's super easy and quick and very yummy!  One batch makes enough for a small family...double it for company or a larger family.   
1 box Julienne potatoes (I think Betty Crocker makes it) (you can use any type of boxed type potatoes, such as au graten--we just prefer the shape of these)
2 cups water 
2 cups milk 
4 ounces cheese (I like mild cheddar but just about any cheese will work), cut into small cubes or shredded 
4-8 pieces bacon cooked and crumbled 
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn   

Place the water and potatoes (not seasoning mix yet) in a medium pan over medium-high heat.  Cook until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Stir in the seasoning mix until well combined.  Slowly stir in the milk.  Add the cheese and stir often until cheese is melted.  Add bacon and corn and cook until heated through.   

NOTES:  You can use up to 8 ounces of cheese (which is what my original recipe called for) but we just prefer 4 ounces.  You can add one small sautéed onion if you like.  Ham or some other type of meat can be exchanged for the bacon or omitted all together.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cajun Corn Soup

This recipe comes from my dear friend Dawn Whittington.  She made it the first time I came to her house for lunch one Sunday.  It's easy and delicious!  I must admit that I honestly don't know if this really follows her recipe...I've used it for so many years I'm sure it's changed (as all recipes do with me).  But it's the gist of her recipe.

Beef tips (1-2 pounds) 
1 small onion, chopped 
1 can tomato paste 
1 can roasted garlic Hunts tomato sauce (it’s a small can)
16 oz. frozen yellow whole kernel corn
2-4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes 
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste 
Colby/jack marbled cheese, shredded (optional)   
4-6 small corn cobs (optional)

Sauté beef tips and onion in a skillet with a little oil until beef tips are browned (but not done).  Don’t worry about the onions being done.  Drain off excess fat.  Place tomato paste and about 6 cups water in a large pot.   When paste is mixed into the water, add tomato sauce and stir.  Add meat, onion, and seasoning.  Cover and cook over medium heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.  When meat is almost tender, add potatoes and cook for 30 minutes.  Add corn and cook until corn is hot.  If needed, add some water (we like ours thick).  To serve, add some cheese to each bowl and dish the soup over the cheese.  Serve with cornbread or French bread and salad.   

If you want to freeze this, do so before adding the potatoes.  To prepare, remove from freezer, heat, add potatoes and corn as directed above.  For some reason freezing soup or stew with potatoes just doesn't work for me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Bars

This is a combination of two recipes. One from Paula Deen and one from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  I made this today and it's so easy and really yummy!  It's more like cake than "bars." 

2 cups flour
1 2/3 cups sugar 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
2 teaspoons cinnamon 
½ teaspoon salt   

Combine in a mixing bowl.  Stir (I use a whisk) together well.   In a separate bowl, stir together:   
4 eggs 
1 can pumpkin (15 or 16 ounces) 
1 cup oil   

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Stir together well.  Pour into ungreased jelly roll pan (15x10)—I used a 17x12 pan and it worked really well (I only baked for 20 minutes).  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until done.  It’s done when it’s touched and the surface bounces back and does not retain an indention.  Cool completely and frost.   


6 ounces cream cheese, softened (8 would be better but I only had 6) 
½ margarine or butter, softened 
1 teaspoon vanilla (I didn’t use this because I didn’t have any—gasp!) 
3 ½ cups powdered sugar   

Beat the cream cheese, margarine or butter, and vanilla until fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating until smooth.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cinnamon Bread (yeast bread)

This is adapted from The Southern Living Cookbook.  It makes two loaves.

This bread was much easier than I thought it would be!  I admit that I’m downright lazy when it comes to kneading…this recipe requires very little kneading!  It’s not super sweet like a cinnamon roll but it’s a nice flavor combination of bread, cinnamon and sugar.  The bread is soft with a crusty outside.  It literally melts in your mouth!

1 package dry yeast 
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees) 
3 tablespoons sugar 
2 tablespoons shortening 
1 egg 
½ teaspoon salt 
3 to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour   

Place the yeast in a large mixing bowl.  Add water and let stand for 5 minutes (this “proofs” the yeast).  Add sugar, shortening, egg, salt, and about 1 ½ cups flour.  Using a mixer, mix until smooth on low speed.  Slowly stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.   

Grease a bowl (I prefer glass for this), place dough in bowl and turn to grease top.  Cover (I use a flour sack for this).  Let rise in a warm place about an hour or until doubled.  A  cold oven with the light on works beautifully!  You can refrigerate the dough for 5 days.  If you do, allow it to warm to room temperature before proceeding.   

Punch dough down and place on a lightly floured surface.  Knead 4 or 5 times.   

2 tablespoons melted butter (you may need 1-2 tablespoons more but I only needed 2) 
¼ cup sugar 
4 teaspoons cinnamon 
2/3 cup raisins (I did not use these but probably will next time, pecans would be good too)   

Divide the dough in half.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 8- x 14-inches.  Brush dough with 1 tablespoon butter and sprinkle half of cinnamon and sugar mixture over butter.  If using raisins, sprinkle 1/3 cup over the cinnamon and sugar mixture. 

Roll up, starting at narrow edge (like you’re making cinnamon rolls).  Pinch seams and ends together the best you can.  Place into a greased 9x5 loaf pan.  Repeat with second loaf. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes (I placed the loaves on bottom rack of the oven).  To check for doneness, tap the top and it should sound hallow.  Remove the loaves from the pans and place them on wire racks to cool.     

Topping:  (I did not do this) 
2 cups powdered sugar  
2 to 3 tablespoons milk 
½ cup chopped pecans   

Stir the sugar and milk until smooth.  Drizzle over cooled loaf.  Sprinkle with pecans.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grilled PB&J and Dessert Sandwich

I know it's silly to post this but it's our new favorite at lunchtime so I thought I'd share!  Also, my friend Delores gave me the dessert sandwich idea.  I've tried it once and it was so yummy!  

Grilled PB&J
Spray one side of one piece of bread with Pam or spray margarine (if you spread margarine or butter on it, the sandwich is really thin, greasey, and hard to handle).  Place into warmed non-stick skillet that's been over medium heat.  Quickly spread peanut butter on other piece of bread, then spread the jelly on.  Place over bread in pan to make sandwich.  Spray the top with Pam or margarine.  Turn when first side is browned (you might be turning it immediately after spraying the second piece).  Cook second side until browned.  Serve.

Grilled Dessert Sandwich
Spray one side of one piece of bread with Pam or spray margarine (if you spread margarine or butter on it, the sandwich is really thin, greasey, and hard to handle).  Place into warmed non-stick skillet that's been over medium heat.  Sprinkle a few milk chocolate chips or thin pieces of chocolate on piece of bread.  Quickly spread peanut butter on other piece of bread.  Place over bread in pan to make a sandwich.  Spray the top with Pam or margarine.  Turn when first side is browned (you might be turning it immediately after spraying the second piece).  Cook second side until browned.  You can sprinkle the sandwich with some powdered sugar if you desire.  Serve.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Crusty Italian Bread

Adapted from “at home café” by Helen DeFrance and Leslie Carpenter (I swiped it from the Swap Table at MOPS the other day!). I’ve been on the lookout for a better homemade French bread recipe (the one I’ve been using can be fickle and doesn’t have very good texture). This one not only tastes great and has good texture (the “crusty” part is slightly crusty, not hard like some store-bought breads…it’s a nice, happy medium) but it’s really easy too, with little kneading!

I’ve found the best place for rising bread is in a cold oven with the light turned out. Stick the oiled bowl in there while you mix up the bread. It’ll be nice and warm when you’re ready for it!

When making bread, bread flour is an absolute must! Believe me, it DOES make a difference!

1 package rapid-rise dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 ½ cups bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil with ½ teaspoon salt, warmed
cornmeal, for sprinkling—about 2 teaspoons

Place the yeast and sugar in warm water and leave for 5-10 minutes (when it has a little foam on top, it’s ready).

In a food processor, using the mixing blade, put in the salt and flour and pulse to mix. Add the yeast, sugar, and water mixture and vinegar. Process 15-20 seconds, until the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a lightly oiled board (no flour) and hand-knead a few times.

Place dough in a bowl that’s been oiled and turn the dough to coat. Cover and rise until doubled, about an hour. Punch dough down and cut into 2 pieces. Shape into 2 slender loaves.

Place the two halves on a greased (sprinkle with some cornmeal) stone or other baking sheet (or you can use French bread pans, greased and sprinkled with cornmeal). Brush with warmed oil and salt. Make 2-4 slits in each loaf (a sharp, serrated knife works great for this). Allow to rise until doubled again, 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 425 (preheated) for 15-20 minutes or until brown. I baked for about 15 minutes on the middle rack, then moved the loaves to the bottom for 5-8 minutes so the bottom would get a little crusty. Next time I’ll probably bake the loaves on the bottom rack or next-to-the-bottom rack.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

This recipe comes from my friend Gina Montealegre.  She claims she’s not a good cook but this recipe is wonderful!  I love chicken parmesan but I never attempted to make it before this recipe came along.  This is easy and delicious AND my girls love it!  I serve it with spaghetti noodles.  Gina serves it with rice, which is delicious too!

6-8 chicken breasts 
1 egg 
Progresso Italian bread crumbs (I use Wal-Mart brand)  
olive oil (I use canola)  
6-8 slices mozzarella cheese (I buy a chunk and slice it)
jar of spaghetti sauce (Gina and I agree that Prego is the best; she likes the mushroom, I prefer traditional)

Dip chicken breasts in beaten egg.  Roll in bread crumbs.  Brown in small amount of oil (both sides).  Don’t cook the chicken through, just brown.  Place in 9x13 greased glass pan.  Put a folded slice of mozzarella cheese on each piece of chicken.  Pour spaghetti sauce over chicken.    

Cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes (or until chicken is done and tender).  

This is great with chicken strips too (perfect size for little ones).  I prefer using a 9 inch square pan with enough chicken to fill the bottom (4 breasts or 7-8 chicken strips) and using the whole jar of sauce.  I like mine saucy!   

You can make the chicken ahead and put the cheese on top.  Refrigerate until ready to bake.  Pour sauce over it, cover and bake.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Justin's Favorite One Pot Creamy Chicken & Noodles

This recipe comes from Rachel Knight.  It’s so delicious and easy!  My kids love it!  You can use any veggies that you want and of you can also add more than a cup if you want (I usually do).

3 cups water 
1 tablespoon chicken flavor instant bouillon 
1 8 oz. package wide egg noodles 
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables 
1/3 cup chopped onion (optional) 
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use cream of chicken) 
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
½ cup milk 
2 small cans chunk chicken, drained (I use 1 to 2 cooked chicken breasts) 
salt and pepper to taste   

In medium saucepan, bring water and bouillon to boil (you can use 3 cups chicken stock instead).  Stir in uncooked noodles.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Add veggies and onion.  Cover and simmer 5 minutes or until noodles are tender and most of the liquid Is absorbed.  Add soup, cheese, and milk.  Mix well.  Stir in chicken and pepper.  Heat through.  

For making your own cream of chicken soup:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lemon Butter Meltaways (cookies)

This recipe came from my dear friend Carol James. I think she brought them to a tea party or she had them at her house when we had tea. Either way, after trying them, I simply HAD to have the recipe! They’re made up of pretty basic stuff but they’re definitely not your basic cookie! Great for tea but also great for any other time you want to make folks feel special.

1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened (I use salted)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup cornstarch

Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating well. Combine flour and cornstarch; gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Shape dough into 2 (6 inch) logs and wrap in wax paper dusted with powdered sugar (or cornstarch). Chill at least 6 hours or overnight. Can be made ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator for a few days (Place wrapped logs into a ziplock).

Unwrap dough, cut each log into 18 slices and place slices 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheets immediately. Cool completely before icing.

Lemon Frosting:
¼ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind (I usually don’t use this)
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar. Add lemon rind and juice, beat until spreading consistency. Spread onto cooled cookies.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pear Jelly Fiasco

We aren’t really big on pear jam so I decided to make some pear jelly. I did my research and discovered that when making pear jelly without pectin (which I prefer doing), it’s best if you use the core. It’s also best if you include the peels because it adds color and flavor to the juice. Simple! Just wash pears really well, cut off the stem and bottom part, and chunk them up! I boiled them in about 1 cup apple juice until tender. Then I mashed them and strained them (three times!). Got about 3 ½ cups of juice and I added a little apple juice to make it 4 cups. By the way, when making pear jelly, there’s a LOT of waste (won’t do it again!).

I put the juice in my large saucepan, completely forgetting that jelly foams terribly. I added my sugar (3/4 cup to one cup of juice) and lemon juice (1 ½ tablespoons to one cup of juice), stirred, and set the pan on to boil.

Let me say at this point that I had jars and lids boiling and I was also prepping pears for my pear butter at the same time. Multi-tasking when making jelly is NOT a great thing to do…

The pear mixture began to boil and very quickly outgrew the pan! So I had sticky pear stuff all over my stove and of course it was burning on the eye. Quickly, I carefully removed it from the stove and was able to pour it into my stock-pot sized pan. I cleaned the stove the best I could and put the much-larger pan on the eye. At least it wouldn’t boil over in this pan!

So, I would stir it every few minutes while working on my pear butter. When you use pectin, the cooking of jelly is just a few minutes. Without pectin, you have to cook it awhile. My second mistake was not using a thermometer. I’ve never used one when cooking jelly—I always look for the sheeting sign. So I would stir and hold the spoon up and every time it would pour off the spoon in a thin strand. Not ready.

I’m not sure how long I cooked it—probably 20-30 minutes or so (stirring every few minutes each time) but I began to smell something strange. I looked over at the jelly and realized it had turned from a pretty very light yellow color to a deep amber color. When I stirred it that time, it sheeted off the spoon—jelly’s ready! I began pouring the mixture into jars and sealing them. I let the spoon cool and tried to get the mixture off to taste. It was so hard—like a piece of hard candy!

So instead of pear jelly, I have burned pear jelly-candy…in jars. Yuck! I may even have to throw the jars away! It has taken a lot of soaking to get the thin film out of my glass measuring cup and off the spoon!

Lessons learned: No multi-tasking when making jelly, use an over-sized pan for the jelly, and use a thermometer!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pears Pears PEARS!

This is in response to a request I received from my friend (and canning companion!) Stephanie Kinard.  Instead of just giving her the recipes, I decided to make them available to all of you too.

Austin's Mammy gave me the recipe for Pear Preserves.  It's easy and delicious!  The Canned Pears recipe comes from my Southern Living cookbook.  Be sure to follow the directions for canning food safely (look them up here:  It's the National Center for Home Food Preservation).

Pear Preserves   

2 ½ measures of pears (peeled, cored, and sliced or chopped) 
1 measure of sugar 
some lemon juice (maybe about 1 tablespoon per 2 ½ cups pears)   

Cook until tender.  Process in a boiling-water bath canner for 10 minutes.     

Canned Pears   

Peel fruit.  Cut in halves or quarters, and remove cores and pits.   Cut in slices, if desired.  I prevent the fruit from darkening, immerse the cut fruit in a lemon-juice solution (3/4 cup lemon juice to 1 gallon water.   

Prepare the syrup:  3 cups sugar + 4 cups water = about 5 ½ cups   Pack raw pears into sterilized hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace.  Cover fruit with boiling syrup, leaving ½ -inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and wipe jar rims.  Cover at once with sterilized metal lids and screw on bands.  Process in boiling-water bath for 25 minutes for pints; process 30 minutes for quarts.    

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Banana Pudding

This is the southern way to make banana pudding. Or is banana pudding itself southern? Perhaps this is simply the “old fashioned” way of making it. Either way, it’s cooked and has a meringue (I prefer eating it warm but cold is good too). The recipe came from Southern Living with a few modifications. This is one of those recipes that if you have farm-fresh eggs and pure vanilla extract, you’ll want to use them. I like to throw in an extra egg (for a total of 4 eggs). It gives it a richer texture and thickens it a little more…and it gives you extra meringue for the top! But you’ll have to do your own experimenting.

If you don’t like bananas in this pudding, it’s equally delicious (at least I think so!) without the bananas. But the vanilla wafers are a must!

Don’t let the meringue scare you from trying this recipe. It’s pretty forgiving. I can never get the egg whites truly stiff, they end up more at the “soft peak” stage. I just slap it on top and smooth it out. It turns out fine.

¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
dash of salt
3 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12 oz. package vanilla wafers
3-6 medium bananas

Stir together flour, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan. In a separate bowl, beat together egg yolks and milk. Slowly stir into dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool until just warm. If you are not using bananas, then you could proceed without the cooling process (the bananas turn black if the pudding is too hot—yes, I know this from experience!). If you’re in a hurry, place some ice in a large plastic or metal bowl and put the saucepan on top. Stir occasionally until warm.

Layer 1/3 of the wafers in a 3 quart baking dish (or smaller individual dishes). Slice bananas and place 1/3 of them over wafers. Pour 1/3 of the custard over bananas. Repeat layers twice.

3 egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat egg whites (at room temperature) until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and beat until blended. Spread over custard mixture, sealing to edge of dish. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown (about 10 minutes).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chicken Roll-ups

This is one of those dishes that looks and seems elegant (well, as “elegant” as I get! LOL) but is extremely easy.  I usually make it when I have company or need something to take to a potluck.  It even warms up well in the microwave.

I usually use sliced American cheese but you can use your favorite cheese or omit it altogether.  Same goes for the cheddar on top. 

I really like serving wild rice with this.  You usually have some sauce in the pan that you can either spoon over each roll-up or over the rice.  Any green veggie or salad goes well.  You really don’t need any bread or rolls since it’s already in the casserole.

For a lighter version, use low-fat items (soup, rolls, cheese, etc.).  If you want to make your own crescent roll recipe, you can.  I did this yesterday and I noticed it takes more liquid to keep it saucy.  I prefer using the canned rolls.

2-3 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 can crescent rolls 
4 slices cheese of choice (optional), cut diagonally to make 8 triangles 
1 can cream of chicken soup 
1 can milk (use the soup can to measure regular milk, not evaporated) 
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (4 oz.)   

Separate the crescent rolls, place a piece of cheese on top of each roll, add some chicken, roll up (depending on how much chicken you use, you may only be able to overlap the wide end with the point).  Place in a greased 11x7 casserole pan (spray with non-stick cooking spray), with the most open part down.  If you have extra chicken, you can place it loose around the roll-ups.  Heat the soup and milk over low-medium heat (stirring constantly—a whisk is great for this).  When it is warmed and smooth, pour over the roll-ups and bake at 350 for 25 minutes (or until rolls are browned).  Sprinkle with cheese and bake another 5 minutes or until melted.