Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Little Bits of Love!

It was a Sunday afternoon.  Cold out, but the sun was shining.  Dinner was planned but no real dessert ideas.  I did remember a recipe that called for some of my favorite things:  Chocolate and Peanut Butter! OK, better yet, Chocolate Brownies, melted peanut butter, chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.  Very easy and oh so good. 

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies
Recipe adapted from Nestle’s Very Best Baking

Makes 40 brownies as adapted

1 box of your favorite brownie mix
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease  mini-muffin cups. (grease really well)

Prepare boxed brownie mix as directed. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups (about 1 heaping teaspoon). Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top is set and a toothpick inserted into center comes out slightly wet. After brownies are out of the oven, wait for centers to fall. This should happen upon cooling. If not then tap the centers with the back of a teaspoon to make a hole for the peanut butter.

Place peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds then stir. While brownies are still warm spoon about half a teaspoon of peanut butter into the center of each brownie. Top with semi-sweet chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Cool completely in pan.

With the leftover batter I made a min pan of brownies, topped the warm brownies with the leftover peanut butter spread and sprinkled the chips on top.  I had my son take the mini brownie pan across the street to "Giada" and family, just to get the extra temptation out of the house!  But wouldn't you know... my little man comes home with the dish full of homemade granola bars!   OK, they are probably healthier for us. 

Enjoy the little bits of love!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Chef in Training

Our darling daughter is a junior in high school and has already decided that she would like to become a registered dietitian.  That is great news on a couple of accounts.  The first is that she knows now at 16 years old  what she wants to go to school for and second she has an interest in food which equals an interest in cooking. You can't beat that!

So this past Sunday while my handsome hubby and I were watching our little man play basketball I get a text: "I'll make and plan dinner for tonight".  That is good news, however, the main course was already decided, so I respond back :"We are having Chicken Cordon Bleu, work around that".  She came up with Hash Brown Potatoes from Cooking Light. 





Hash Browns (Light)


4 cups shredded peeled baking potato (about 1 1/4 pounds)

    1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

    1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper  ( I don't think she used this)

    2 tablespoons cornstarch

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    1/4 teaspoon black pepper 

    1/4 teaspoon onion powder

    Cooking spray


    Preheat oven to 475°.  Place potato in a large bowl, and cover with cold water. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain and rinse potato. Dry thoroughly in a salad spinner, or pat dry with paper towels. Combine potato, onions, and bell pepper in bowl. Add the cornstarch, salt, black pepper, and onion powder; toss well to coat.
    Line a baking sheet with nonstick aluminum foil; coat thoroughly with cooking spray. Place a 3-inch biscuit cutter on prepared baking sheet. Fill biscuit cutter with 1/2 cup potato mixture (do not pack). Carefully remove cutter, leaving potato patties intact. Repeat the procedure with remaining potato mixture. Coat tops of potato patties with cooking spray. Bake at 475° for 20 minutes. Turn and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown.

    And while she made the potatoes my handsome husband made the green beans we will be serving at an upcoming Dinner Club.

    Something old now something new

    Looking through the refrigerator this weekend I noticed we had a rather large supply of Swiss cheese and sliced ham.  Too much Swiss cheese and sliced ham I should say...  What to make, what to make?  Ah, I remember a recipe I used many, many years ago when we were first married - Chicken Cordon Bleu!  And I even remember when.  It was my handsome hubby's birthday dinner at our apartment back in 1992!  OK, I have a uncanny knack for remembering some of the little details of everyday life, just like my husband's uncanny knack for remember the ladies name who promote the cars on the TV for area dealers years later when they are no longer on TV anymore.

    So I pulled out my old Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook that I got about 25 years ago when I joined one of those book of the month club and found the recipe.   

    Good Housekeeping's Illustrated Cookbook's Chicken Cordon Bleu (just why is it spelled this way?)

    4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
    8 ounces Swiss cheese, sliced thin
    8 ounces cooked ham, sliced thin
    3 tablespoons flour, all purpose
    1 teaspoon paprika
    6 tablespoons Butter
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    1 chicken bouillon cube, Chicken Flavored
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    1 cup heavy cream



    Spread Chicken breasts flat.Place Ham & Cheese slices on breasts. Fold breasts, ham & cheese over.
    Fasten edges with toothpicks. Mix Flour and Paprika.Coat chicken pieces with flour mixture.

    Melt Butter in 12" skillet. Cook chicken til browned on all sides. Add Wine and bouillon. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Simmer 30 minutes or until fork-tender.

    Remove from skillet, remove toothpicks. Blend Cornstarch and Cream until smooth. Gradually stir into skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Serve  the sauce over the chicken.  Welcome back old classic!


    September 1992 - Cake following the Chicken Cordon Bleu Dinner

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013

    Snack Time!

    I was inspired this weekend to make a new snack mix that I saw on Pinterest.  We are big fans of the snack mixes.  I have a running tradition with one of my sisters on making the annual Chex Party mix for the Christmas Season.  Whoever has possession of "the can" is the one who makes the mix that year.  Once you make the mix, you split it up and pass back "the can" to the other one full of party mix.  Once you are done you keep the can until the next Christmas season and it is your turn to make the mix.  I say it this way because it is a running joke on who has "the can".  And there are times my darling hubby has said "Can you sneak "the can" back into to your sister's house so she has to make the mix again this year?".  I think he doesn't think I put in enough bagel chips and mixed nuts in but I do, he just keeps eating them all and leaving the Cheerios and pretzels at the bottom.

    Our other favorite snack mix is from The Noble Pig blog.  This is really my daughter's favorite one, but only made ever so often because it is a bit expensive to make.  It has rice snack mix, peanuts, popcorn, wasabi peas and a ton of sesame seeds.  I had some of the ingredients at home this weekend, but it is so addictive and I am trying to be good and lose the Christmas cookie weight gain.   So I decided to try this one which looks a little cheaper to make, probably lower in calories and had some interesting favors listed.

    Martha Stewart Chesapeake Bay Snack Mix


    6 cups crisp corn, rice cereal, such as Crispix or Chex
    3 cups thin pretzel sticks
    3 cups oyster crackers
    2 cups roasted unsalted peanuts ( I use lightly salted peanuts)
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
    2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    2 teaspoons hot-pepper sauce, such as Tabasco


    Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a roasting pan, combine cereal, pretzels, crackers, and peanuts. In a small bowl, mix together melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay, lemon juice, and hot-pepper sauce. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture and stir until ingredients are completely coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Transfer mixture to two rimmed baking sheets to cool completely.  This can be stored in air tight container for up to 1 week (if it last that long!)

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    Oh, so good! Again!

    I made these again yesterday for dessert and because they were requested by my hubby.  They did not disappoint us the second time. Absolutely delicious and so easy.    I decide to repost them again because they are so good. Also, we really have has time to cook this week.  I sat through 7 games this week which means we didn't get home until after 7 or 8 each night.  This week there is at least 3 games, a business trip out of town and who knows what else.  Maybe tonight we can get some cooking in.

    From my original post.....

    It is no secret that my darling husband would love to live next door to Ina Garten and have her send over some culinary treats every now and then.  On the other side he said Giada could live and share her kitchen creations too. But he is stuck in suburbia with just me in the kitchen and across the street from our favorite "I am not from this country, Giada" who does share her culinary treats with us.

    So while looking through Pinterest the other day I stumbled upon a recipe for Ina's Raspberry Crumble Bars.  That is right up his alley and a special treat I could make now that all of the Christmas sweets are gone.  So while he was picking up our darling daughter from practice, I ran to the grocery store to gather the items I needed.  The granola she recommended is in the Nature's Pantry of the store and a bit pricey, but well worth it.  I now just have to hide it so it doesn't end up in someones cereal or yogurt because there is enough in the bag to make a couple more batches. 

    Raspberry Crumble Bars

    ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    ¾ cup sugar
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    10 to 12 ounces good raspberry jam
    2/3 cup good granola without dried fruit - I used bare naked granola
    1/4 cup sliced almonds

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper going each way. (I took one good size sheet and split it and it fit perfectly.)

    Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed just until combined. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla.

    Sift the flour and salt together and, with the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter mixture, mixing until it almost comes together in a ball. 

     Lightly pat two-thirds of the dough evenly on the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan and about ¼ inch up the sides.

     Spread with the jam, leaving a ¼-inch border.

    Mix the granola into the remaining dough with your hands. Break the dough into small bits, and distribute it on top of the jam, covering most of the surface. Sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake the bars for 45 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool Completely. Then enjoy.

    Golden Brown

    Ready for the oven

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    Aunt Liz's Chicken Casserole

    I looked in my freezer the other day and thought wow, we really need to clean this out.  The door didn't want to shut and there was a few things that we had forgotten about.  so I began to look through and get rid of some things that had been around too long, but low and behold in the bottom drawer there was a package marked Casserole Chicken. Date was still good and we needed to have a few items ready to cook that week with all of the kids activities going on.  I pulled out our handy binder of favorite meals and found this little gem.

    Aunt Liz's Chicken Casserole


    2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast 
    2 cups uncooked spaghetti noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces,about 7 ounces (make sure they are about 2 inches in length to make it easier to stir)
    1 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices celery
    1 cup chopped red bell pepper
    1 cup chopped onion
    1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    2 (10.75-ounce) cans condensed 30% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
    Cooking spray
    1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided


    1. Preheat oven to 350°.
    2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine broth, salt, pepper, and soup in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add soup mixture to chicken mixture; toss. Divide mixture evenly between 2 (8-inch) square or (2-quart) baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over each casserole. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

    This is from Cooking Light so less guilt when enjoying!

    Now doesn't a nice casserole sound delightful?

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    Yummy Broccoli Casserole

    Remember when Paula Deen first started out in the small little kitchen on Food Network?  Her recipes were her own from her Restaurant The Lady and Sons.  It was a simpler Paula Deen slathering on the butter that made her  recipes so delicious.  I have to admit we watched her a lot back then and found a whole slew of fattening recipes to try.  This is one of our favorites...

     The Lady and Sons Broccoli Casserole

    One 10-ounce package chopped broccoli
    1 small onion, chopped
    4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
    1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
    1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers
    1/2 cup condensed cream of mushroom soup
    1/4 cup mayonnaise
    House Seasoning to taste

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Steam broccoli until limp, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; drain. Saute onion in butter and add to broccoli. Add all remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour mixture into a casserole dish. Add topping.


    1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers
    1 tablespoon butter, melted

    Combine crackers and melted butter for topping; sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

    House Seasoning

    1 cup salt
    1/4 cup black pepper
    1/4 cup garlic powder

    Mix well. Store in shaker near stove for convenience.

    Onions sauteing in butter

    Ready for the oven
    Yum Yum!  So delicious and buttery.  I used the garlic butter Ritz Cracker's for more flavor. 

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

    It's Soup Time!

    Roasted Tomato Soup!  Doesn't that sound delicious?  Luck for me I had all of the right ingredients on hand to whip this up for lunch today.  OK, with the exception of fresh basil.  No one knew I used dried basil, so I guess it was a success. 

    My darling daughter had requested tomato soup earlier in the week.  I have a few recipes that I like.  One is an old one from a cook book called "The Old-time Brand Name Cookbook" and the other is from Michael Chiarello's show that used to be on Food Network called Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello.  Love that show and love his recipes.  We actually met him a few years ago when my handsome hubby and I and our foodie friends made a trip out to Napa and Sonoma.  We made it a point to eat at his restaurant in Yountville called Bottega.  Very surprised to see him there and we even got our picture with him.   

    October 2010








    Michael Chiarello's Homemade Tomato Soup


    1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
    3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 stalk celery, diced
    1 small carrot, diced
    1 yellow onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 cup chicken broth
    1 bay leaf
    2 tablespoons butter
    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves or 1/2 tsp dried basil
    1/2 cup heavy cream, optional


    Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

    Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste, drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic, cook until softened, about 10 minutes.

    Add the roasted chopped canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, bay leaf and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

    Add basil and cream, if using. Puree with a hand held immersion blender until smooth.
    Soup and serve.  This makes about 4 servings!

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    Updated Comfort Food

    Macaroni & Cheese - America's Favorite Comfort Food

    When I think comfort food, I am thinking Meatloaf, Pot Roast or Macaroni and Cheese!  I have a number of recipes that I fall back on when I have a hankering for one of these delights.  There is the basic meat loaf or my turkey meatloaf wrapped in Pancetta.  There is the basic Pot Roast I make with Progresso Soup or the Paula Deen Crock Pot recipe that is pretty darn good.  For Macaroni and Cheese we have a number of really good recipes, from the very basic to this one... 

    Macaroni and Blue Cheese with Chives (From Epicurious)


    1 lb uncooked spiral tube-shaped pasta
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    2 tablespoons butter
    1/4 cup flour
    2 cups whole milk
    1 cup whipping cream
    3 cups grated cheddar cheese
    1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese, divided (Maytag or Danish)
    salt & freshly ground black pepper
    1 dash cayenne, to taste (optional)
    1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook the pasta according to package directions until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally; drain and set aside (about 8 minutes).

    While the pasta is cooking, in a large heavy saucepan over medium low heat, melt the olive oil and butter together; add the flour and, stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute (don't let it brown), then gradually whisk in the milk and cream.  Simmer mixture until it slightly thickens, whisking occasionally, for 3 minutes.

    Reduce the temperature to low, then gradually stir in the grated cheddar and 1 cup of the blue cheese and cook, stirring, until the cheese melts. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper, and cayenne (if using). Stir in the cooked pasta, making sure it's well-coated with the sauce. Pour mixture into the buttered baking dish, sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

    Sprinkle with the minced chives and serve.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    Comfort Food!

    Ahh!  January 1, 2013!  What a better way to ring in the new year that with a nice big bowl of Beef Barley Soup!  My father would be proud of me today.  He made the best soups in our family diner growing up.  Even the simplest Tomato Macaroni tasted wonderful when Dad made it.  Like my father would of done with some left over ingredients, I took our Christmas primerib and created a hearty bowl of my favorite soup. 

    My version of Beef Barley Soup!

    2 lbs of cooked prime rib, cut into small pieces
    1medium onion, chopped
    1/2 cup chopped carrot
    1/2 cup chopped clery with leaves
    3 cloves of garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon of Vegetable oil
    4 cups beef stock and 1 cup water
    1 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and dried thyme leaves
    1 bay leaf
    1/2 teaspoon of pepper
    1/3 cup medium barley, not quick cook
    1 can of french style green beans, drained

    Saute onion, carrots, celery and garlic in vegetable oil until tender (5 minutes) in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add beef, stock, water, salt, thyme, bayleaf and pepper.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add barley and cook 50 to 60 minutes or until barley is tender.  Add green beans, return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer an additional 5 minutes.  Remove bay leaf and serve!

    Enjoy the soup and have a wonderful and healthy New Year!