Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Creamy Lasagna

Years ago when I was working in downtown OKC, there was a restaurant across the hall from us that served the absolute BEST lasagna in town.  The secret?  Sour cream.  It added an incredible dimension to this classic dish.  I searched forever for a copycat recipe and lo and behold!  Many years later I ran across the recipe which would result in a dish exactly as I imagined!  Of course, the recipe calls for ground beef, but I tend to always substitute ground turkey breast, resulting in a much lower calorie/fat count, without sacrificing taste or texture.  I used Barilla's flat, no pre-boil noodles for this recipe and I'm telling you, this dish came out wonderfully!  In my quest to load up my freezer with pre-made entrees, I divided this recipe in two.  For tonight's dinner, I made it in a 8x8 dish (using 6 Barilla lasagna noodles) and then made a smaller 1 1/2 quart rectangular glass dish entree, using just three lasagna noodles.  Or if you're serving a large group, use the entire recipe and prepare it in a 9x13 glass baking dish.  Whichever way you go, you won't be disappointed!

CREAMY LASAGNA  (12 servings)

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, turkey, or turkey breast
30 oz tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt
16 oz cream cheese, softened, or Ricotta cheese
8 oz sour cream
1/4 cup milk
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
Minced fresh parsley, for garnish

In a skillet, cook ground meat over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.  Stir in tomato sauce, onion, sugar, salt, Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt.  In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese (or Ricotta), sour cream, and milk until smooth.

In a greased 13x9 baking dish, layer a fourth of the meat sauce, six noodles, and a third of the cream cheese misture.  Repeat layers twice.  Top with remaining meat sauce.  Cover and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Uncover; sprinkle with cheddar cheese.  Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.  Sprinkle with freshly minced parsley.

.Thanksgiving Turkey

OK, so once again, not the best photo.....but in a way it sort of is.....absolute perfection.  Golden brown skin with succulent moist white meat!  The reason?  Brining!   I will never, ever, ever roast a turkey without brining it first.  Makes all the difference.  And I will swear 'til the end, World Market' s Turkey Brine mix (available at World Market from about early November for a month or two) is not only the most convenient, easy brine to use, but just about the most delicious.  Let me know if you'd like a package or need instructions for brining.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I'll have to post a photo of what I know will be my beautiful Thanksgiving turkey later.  Just on the off-chance you have never brined a turkey and choose to do so next time you roast a turkey, I can promise you you will never turn back.  So, so, so moist!!!

But, to last night's wonderful pasta bake.  Oh, my!  This stuff is good.  I wanted to start making a few dishes I could freeze for nights I just don't feel like putting a dinner together.  This dish is delicious.  The flavors come together so beautifully with a bit of a smoky taste.  While you could definitely use frozen spinach in its place, the fresh is just so perfect, I would encourage to go with fresh.  You can either prepare a large pan (9x13) or two (8x8) baking dishes, putting one of them in the freezer.  If you have this dish in the freezer, you can simply toss a Caesar's salad and dinner is easy, peasy!


Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 medium red onino, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic (about 4 tsp)
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes with juice, lightly crushed with hands
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound rigatoni
12 oz baby spinach (more if you have it) or 2 (10 oz) frozen bricks, thawed and squeezed dry
12 oz smoked chicken sausage (I used Jennie-O turkey sausage) halved lengthwise, and sliced 1/4" thick
6 oz Italian-blend shredded cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion; cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Stir in garlic.  Cook for another minute.  Stir in tomatoes and oregano; cook until tomatoes are falling apart, 10-15 minutes.  Add cream; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.  Season sauce with S&P.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400.  Cook pasta in the boiling water until ad dente, according to package directions.  Add spinach, and cook just until wilted.  Drain, and return contents to pot.

Add tomato sauce, sausage, and 4 oz cheese; toss to coat.  Season with S&P.  Divide evenly between the two 8x8 pans or directly into the 9x13 baking dish.  Top with grated cheese and Parmesan.  Bake until browned and edges are crispy, 20-30 minutes.

If you freeze half, you can put it straight into a 400 degree oven from the freezer for about 45 minutes, or until browned and hot throughout.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Double Chocolate Peppermint Pattie Cookies

OK, here you go Round One for Christmas Cookies!!!!  A definite winner.  This is a chocolate cookie dough wrapped around a York Peppermint Pattie.  And if you're lucky enough, you'll miss a complete seal so some of the peppermint will leak out of the side and you'll get an extra ooey, gooey, minty, chocolate mess that is (in the words of Mr. Food) "oh so good!!!!"  Sprinkle on a bit of colored sugar bits to dress it up a bit, like it needs that at all.  And for me, who really doesn't have a sweet tooth, well, let me just say I could make myself sick on these.  One after another after another.  Not only oh so good but a wonderful chewier texture.  This is one good cookie!!!


2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips (semi-sweet if you can't find the Dark Chocolate)
About 30 small York Peppermint Patties (buy them in the bag in the candy aisle...it's the personal size)
Decorator's sugar

Beat butter and sugar in large mixing bowl; add egg, milk, and vanilla, blending thoroughly.  Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Add to butter mixture, blending well.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Refrigerate dough about 1 hour (overnight is best) or until firm enough to handle (dough will be a bit soft).

Heat oven to 350.  Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper or Silpat.  Remove wrappers from peppermint patties.

Roll dough into 1 1/4" balls (22-24 grams on a scale).  For each cookie flatten ball slightly; press peppermint pattie into dough.  Mold dough around pattie so that it is completely covered.  Place on prepared cookie sheet.  Using knife edge press star design into surface of each cookie (I omitted this step); sprinkle with decorator's sugar.

Bake 12-14 minutes or until cookie is set; sprinkle with additional sugar, if desired.  Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.  Cool completely. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Manhattan Clam Chowder

OK, here's a great basic soup for you.  Manhattan Clam Chowder in the crock pot.  Just a few minutes of prep and dinner is ready by the of the day.  I had some ready-made crab cakes in the freezer which I picked up on sale to have on hand for an easy dinner.    I made some zucchini ribbons and voila!!!  A wonderful dinner ready in just minutes.

This is a classic Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe.  There are many variations, but this is the standard from which all the others spring.  Even better the next day, so make sure there are leftovers!


2 (6.5 oz) cans clams (and juice)
1 (14.5 oz) can Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes (and juice)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped carrot
2 cups finely diced peeled potato
1/4 (less for us) tsp cayenne
1 cup chicken broth

Use a 4-quart slow cooker.  Put the clams and tomatoes in the cooker.  Add the chopped vegetables and red pepper.  Pour in the chicken broth.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until the potatoes are quite tender.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rosemary Shrimp Skewers with Lemon Garlic Pesto

Another wonderful, easy, quick dish.  Quite a blessing after an awful dinner I prepared last night (another story for another time!)  After mixing the pesto, this entire dinner came together (cooking time included) in less than 15 minutes.  Now, I did have some leftover plain white rice which speeded the process.  I mixed in some of the pesto with the rice, along with some leftover thyme and rosemary then just zapped it all in the microwave.  I also tossed the asparagus in the pesto and since the asparagus was so thin, it roasted in the oven for just a few minutes after I took the shrimp out and while I was threaded them onto the rosemary skewers.  Everything came together beautifully, each bite complementing the other.  Recipe courtesy of The Fresh Market.


Lemon Garlic Pesto:
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 lemon (juice and zest)
1/4 cup olive oil

Shrimp Skewers:
1/2 lb (16-20 {I used 21-25} count shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
rosemary sprigs, bottom leaves removed

Pulse all pesto ingredients in a food processor until they form a paste.  Remove and set aside.

Place shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, red pepper flakes, and thyme; pour over shrimp.  Set aside for 30 minutes.

When ready to cook, broil shrimp in a single layer for 8-12 minutes (what?!!!  Mine took about 3-4 minutes), turning once, until shrimp are pink.  Remove from oven and skewer shrimp with rosemary sprigs.  Arrange on a serving platter and serve with Lemon Garlic Pesto for a dipping sauce.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roasted Beet Salad/Red Wine Shallot Vinaigrette

This is a salad we made at the restaurant in Minnesota.  It was  particularly favored by the women.  This would be a great entree salad to serve at a ladies' luncheon, maybe with a cup of Potato Tarragon soup or a special homemade soup.  The beets in the market right now are just beautiful and after roasting, simply delicious.  The dressing recipe makes about 2 cups, so cut it in half if you'd like or just save the rest as a versatile vinaigrette on a basic garden salad.


1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/4 tsp sugr
2 1/2 tsp salt

Fresh roasted beets, sliced thinly
Mixed salad green
Ricotta cheese
Italian seasoning
Kalamata olives, pitted (I prefer oil-cured olives)
Roasted red peppers

Cut off tops of beets and wrap in foil.  Roast beets in a 400 degree oven until tender, about an hour.  Cool and slide off the skins.

Blend together all vinaigrette ingredients.

Mix Italian seasoning to taste into some ricotta cheese (I used about 1/4 cup Ricotta per salad, add enough seasoning to the Ricotta to get a good taste, maybe about 1/2 tsp).

Toss salad greens with some vinaigrette, add about a quarter cup of Ricotta mixture and mix in.

Put a thin layer of greens mixture down in the center of the plate.  Top with 3-4 (depending on how large the beets are) beets, more green mixture, another layer of beets, etc. building as high as you would like, ending with sliced beets.  Surround with 5 kalamata olives, put 5 red pepper strips up the sides and sprinkle with a Tbsp of capers over the top.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I have been wanting to try making granola for some time but could never find a recipe that sounded good to me.  I wanted the crumbly kind, not the bars.  I ran across this on Sandy Gluck's blog (she hosts a show on Martha Stewart radio) and it included exactly the stuff I wanted in my granola.  And let me tell you, this stuff is addictive.  I could have easily sat down and eaten the entire batch in one sitting.  I did learn from Sandy that if you want a crunchier granola, use the quick oats.   They are more processed and tend to crisp up better than the old-fashioned oats.  This is a wonderful, easy, very tasty snack to keep on hand.


3 cups oats
1 1/2 cups nuts (I used pecans and hulled pumpkin seeds.....use what you like)
1/2 cup Craisins
1/4 cup chia seeds, optional
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300.  On a rimmed nonstick baking sheet, stir together the oats and nuts.  Bake until fragrant, stirring once or twice, about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and raise the temp to 350.

Meanwhile, in a measuring cup, stir together the maple syrup, oil, vanilla, and salt.  Add the Craisins and chia seeds (if using) to the oat mixture.  Pour the syrup mixture over the oat mixture and stir to coat.  Return to oven and bake, stirring once until the oats are crisp, about 15 minutes.  Remove, cool to room temp, then transfer to an airtight container.  The granola will keep for several weeks at cool room temp.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cole Slaw Vinaigrette

I love cole slaw.  Any kind of cole slaw.  Mayo, mustard, vinaigrette.  Even that yucky grocery store deli cole slaw works for me in a pinch.  This is my favorite vinaigrette recipe.  Make up a batch, keep it in one of those 16 oz containers with a pour-spout and it will keep in your frig until you're ready for a new batch.  And for a two-second cole slaw, pick up a bag of ready-to-go cole slaw mix and you're set.


1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp celery seed
1 small onion, finely diced

Blend oil, vinegar, salt, sugar, and celery seed well.  Stir in diced onion. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Panko Crusted Chicken with Mustard Maple Sauce

Oh yum!!!  This is such an easy, absolutely delicious chicken entree for you.  The sauce is incredible.  Fast, easy, serve it simply with a side salad and baked potato if you'd like.  Piece of cake (and that, too, if you'd like!)


4 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2" thickness
1 egg
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 tsp plus 2 Tbsp dijon
1 cup Panko
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp coarse-ground mustard
1 Tbsp chilled butter

Whisk egg, parsley, and 2 tsp dijon mustard in large bowl.  Place chicken in egg mixture; turn to coat.  Season with S&P.  Dip each chicken piece into the panko; turn to coat.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add chicken; cook until brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes a side.

Meanwhile whisk together broth, syrup, coarse-ground mustard and remaining 2 Tbsp dijon in a glass bowl.

Transfer chicken to plates.  Add broth mixture to skillet; boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.  Add butter; whisk until melted.  Spoon sauce alongside chicken.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Potato Tarragon Soup

We are officially into soup weather!!!  Yea!!!!   Cool, gray, slow rainy day and an extraordinarily wonderful classic soup......could it get any better?  Not for me!  Absolutely delicious.  I served this with a wheatberry salad and a warm, crusty, whole-grain bread.  I'm so glad there are leftovers.  (Omit the cream and yogurt for a dairy-free soup.)


1 Tbsp butter
2 leeks (white and pale green parts only) sliced
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp water
1# red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup plain whole yogurt

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat.  Add leeks, onion, garlic, and 2 Tbsp water.  Cook until leeks are just golden, about 10 minutes.  Add potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Puree half of the soup.  Mix in tarragon.  Cool slightly.  Stir in cream and yogurt.  Season with S&P. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tomato Cream Chicken

OK, first let me apologize for this awful photo.  But I absolutely had to share this recipe!  It is fast, easy, and delicious!  This sauce is so smooth you'll just want to drink it!  Again, fast and easy, too.  I served this with roasted red potatoes and artichokes, but just about any side dish would work nicely.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 oz each)
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp heavy cream

Salt and pepper chicken breast halves to taste.  Heat olive oil in skillet and brown chicken breasts on both sides.  Remove from skillet and keep warm.  Add tomato paste and tarragon to skillet.  Cook briefly, stirring constantly.  Whisk in chicken broth and balsamic vinegar and cook until thickened.  Stir in cream and reheat to simmering.  Slice chicken breasts and fan out slices on dinner plates.  Drizzle sliced chicken with sauce.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Paper Clip Project

This weekend, Jim and I decided to take a foliage tour.  We live in such a beautiful part of the country and our colors were at their peak.  It was absolutely stunning.   It was a lovely day spent meandering along state highways and through a state park.  We are so lucky to live here.  The last small town we went through before returning home was Whitwell, TN.  Years ago I watched a documentary about this extraordinary project begun by a middle-school teacher and assistant principal trying to make an impression on their students about the impact of the Holocaust.  Trying to help them grasp the magnitude of the murders, they decided to collect paperclips to represent each person killed.  It snow-balled into an incredible project.  They were sent paperclips from all over the world.  Their crowning achievement was to acquire an actual railcar used to transport victims to the concentration camps for which the paperclips are now stored.  To step into this railcar is so moving, so sad, but so important.  What an incredible feat these educators mastered.

To learn more about the project, go to www.oneclipatatime.org.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Yep, another black bean and corn salad recipe!  Can you tell we eat a lot of this stuff around here?  I will generally just throw the basic ingredients together, but this time I used an official recipe, courtesy of Rachel Ray.  I served this with my Power Enchiladas (a chicken/zucchini mixture) instead of my traditional Spanish Rice and seasoned black beans or refried beans.  And the leftovers make a wonderful, healthy snack.


1 (14 1/2 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped small
1 1/2 tsp cumin (more for me!)
2 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
1 juicy lime, juiced
2 Tbsp EVOO

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Let stand for 115 minutes for corn to fully defrost and flavors to combine, then toss and serve.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quicker-Than-Take-Out Orange Chicken

I caught a show featuring a new cookbook, "Eat What You Love" by Marlene Koch.  She likes to take favorite recipes and make them a bit healthier by lowering the fat/calorie contents.  Her favorite makeover is this take on "Panda Express'" Orange Chicken.   This entire recipe serves 4 and each serving (1 cup) contains just 290 calories with just 9 grams of fat.  I served this over steamed brown basmati rice and steamed asparagus.  It was absolutely delicious.  Fantastic make-over meal.


1/2 cup water
1/3 cup light orange juice
1/2 cup Splenda granulated sweetener
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch

1+ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into about 1" cubes, or bite-sized
1 large egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute) beaten
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small red pepper, cut into small strips, or chopped
1 small onion, chopped

To make the sauce, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the first nine ingredients (water through pepper flakes).  Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a low simmer.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 Tbsp of water and the cornstarch to create a slurry and whisk into the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a low boil and cook for 1 minute, or until the sauce thickens and clears.  Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer.

Roll the chicken in the egg and toss with flour to coat.

Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in the large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half of the chicken and cook 4-5 minutes, or until well browned on all sides and chicken is cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a bowl and cover.  Heat the remaining oil and cook the remaining chicken pieces.  Add the chicken to the bowl and set aside.

Add the red pepper and onion to pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Add the chicken to the pan and then the orange sauce.  Stir to coat and serve.