Saturday, December 29, 2012

Smoked Salmon Pasta

This was a really delightful surprise.  I had run across some salmon in the freezer which  I had smoked a few months ago and knew I needed to use it immediately.  I also had some fresh dill on hand I wanted to use, so I did a quick search for a recipe.  

And I hit the jackpot.  This is truly a lovely, light dinner.  It would make a great summer meal.  I served it with steamed asparagus on the side, but you could certainly just add it directly into the pasta dish.

Use hot-smoked salmon for this dish.  Also, personally, I would probably double the amount of pine nuts, and add more lemon juice and zest.


8 oz spaghetti
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsp EVOO
1/3 cup chopped shallots (or finely minced sweet onions)
2 cloves (2 tsp) garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp lemon zest, divided
2 Tbsp (or more) freshly chopped parsley or dill (use the dill!!!)
4 oz smoked salmon, cut into bit-sized pieces
Freshly ground, coarse black pepper

Heat to boiling a large pot with at least 4 quarts of water in it.  While the water is heating, brown the pine nuts (optional).  Put the pine nuts in a single layer in a large skillet.  Heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned.  Remove pine nuts from pan and set aside.

Once the water is boiling, salt with 1 Tbsp of salt for every 4 quarts of water.   Once the water returns to a boil, add the pasta to the pot.  Leave uncovered, on high heat and let cook with a vigorous boil.  Put the timer on for 8-10 minutes, or whatever your pasta package says is appropriate for al dente (cooked, but still a little firm).

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.  In a large skillet heat olive oil on medium-high.  Add the shallots and garlic, cook for 2 minutes, then add white wine, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp of lemon zest.  Increase the heat and let boil down by half.  If you want a slightly creamier sauce, add the cream and let boil a minute more.  (The sauce should be done about the same time the pasta is done.  If you get done earlier with it than the pasta, take it off of the heat.)

Once the pasta is done, and before draining the pasta, scoop out one cup of the pasta cooking liquid and reserve.  Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the sauce.  Add back some of the pasta cooking liquid to the pasta if it is a little dry.  Add the smoked salmon, pine nuts, parsley or dill, and the remaining lemon zest.  Season with black pepper. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Very Easy Mushroom Barley Soup

I had some leftover mushrooms I wanted to use up and I love having soup in the frig, especially during cold weather.  Looking through my vegetables and grains, I found I had enough to make this recipe.  You can either use regular barley or quick-cooking barley.  It's a great meal by itself or with a salad and some crusty bread.  Personally, it makes a fantastic breakfast for me!


1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp minced garlic
1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
6 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup barley
S&P to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic; cook and stir until onions are tender and transparent.  Stir in the mushrooms and continue to cook for a few minutes.  

Pour in the chicken broth and add barley.  Bring to a boil; then reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer until barley is tender (about 50 minutes for regular barley, 10-15 for quick-cooking barley).  Season with S&P before serving.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce

After the last month of Thanksgiving, Christmas, turkey, turkey, turkey, I was much in need of some seafood.  Here is an incredibly easy, delicious entree.  No need to fire up the grill (although you certainly could), but I had this dish (with Christmas leftover side dishes) on the table within half an hour.  I made the sauce this afternoon, giving it time to blend the flavors.

I served it with leftover Brussels sprouts (with some of the leftover chopped fresh dill) and the three cheese potatoes (cheddar, Parmesan, bleu cheese.....oh so good!)


1 salmon fillet, 1/2 to 3/4 pound (skin left on)
lemon-pepper seasoning
onion salt
1/4 small onion, thinly sliced and separated
3 thin lemon slices, cut in half

Line a baking dish with heavy-duty foil; grease lightly.  Place salmon skin-side down on foil.  Sprinkle with lemon-pepper and onion salt.  Top with onion and lemon.  Fold foil around salmon; seal tightly.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Open foil carefully, allowing steam to escape.  Broil 4-6" from the heat for 5-8 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve with dill sauce. 

Dill Sauce:
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp mayo
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp capers

Combine all ingredients.  Prepare several hours or the day before to allow the flavors to blend. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cheeseburger Potato and Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup

This is a great quick and easy meal to make, especially when you're in the midst of working on a Christmas dinner.  The soup only took a few minutes and just top a baked potato with ingredients you'd find on a burger!


In a skillet, season and cook 1/4 pound of ground beef (I used ground turkey breast).  Top 4 baked potatoes with beef, shredded cheddar, chopped tomato, chopped onion, and shredded lettuce.

Recipe Source: Everday Food, December 2012


Heat two 10 3/4 oz can of condensed tomato soup, one 12 oz can and one 5 oz can of evaporated milk (I used fat-free), and one 14 1/2 oz can undrained  fire-roasted diced tomatoes until hot.  Serve with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and bacon bits.

Recipe Source: Taste of Home, October 2012

Now, back to working on Christmas dinner.  Merry Christmas, everyone!!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Easiest Ever Chicken and Dumplings

I love chicken and dumplings.  Unfortunately, Jim doesn't share my enthusiasm.  But every once and I while I'll prepare something just for me.  He's a sport, though, and will always join me.  So I was shocked when he commented on just how good this is.  I'm I can confidently make chicken and dumplings and not feel like I'm cheating him out of a good meal!

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to try a pressure cooker so I pick up a digital Cooks Essentials pressure cooker.  And I love it.  I cook a roast or chicken every week for The Girls and with a pressure cooker it cooks in a third of the time.  And anything you cook in it comes out moister and infused with flavor.  The new-generation pressure cookers are so safe and easy.

So this is a Pressure Cooker recipe.  And it's a great excuse to try something new!


3 Tbsp butter
1 to 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs
1 sweet onion, diced
6 cups chicken stock or broth
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 1/2 cups baby carrots
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 3/4 cups Bisquick baking mix
2/3 cup milk (I used 1%)
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used half-and-half)

With the cooker's lid off, heat butter on HIGH or "brown," until melted and sizzling.

Generously season chicken with S&P, place in cooker, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add in onion, chicken stock, celery, carrots, thyme, poultry seasoning, and pepper.  Securely lock the pressure cooker's lid and set for 8 minutes on HIGH.

Perform a quick release to release the cooker's pressure.

With the cooker's lid off, set to  HIGH or "brown."  Add in corn kernels and let simmerr.

Meanwhile, whisk together Bisquick baking mix and milk, and drop by the spoonfuls into the pot.  Let dumplings simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Turn off heat, stir in cream and add salt to taste. 

MAKE IT BETTER: Try mixing 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese into the dumpling mixture in step 6 for ever better dumplings.

Recipe Source:  Great Food Fast by Bob Warden  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Upside Down Sausage and Onion Corn Bread

My friend and former neighbor, Pat, sent me the most thoughtful cookbook for Christmas.  It's called "The Pioneer Lady's Country Cookbook" by Jane Watson Hopping.  True foodies love these kind of cookbooks.  It's not just recipes, but stories that go along with the recipes.  And even better, it's divided into 12 sections focusing on the 12 months and seasonal meals.

I was making my favorite navy bean soup last night and spotted this cornbread recipe knowing it would go perfectly.  Plus, with the leftovers I can make what I know will be the best-ever cornbread dressing for Christmas!  Thank you, Pat!


2 medium-sized sweet onions, chopped
1/2 pound ground fresh pork sausage, crumbled (I used one mild and one hot Italian sausage)
1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup minced mushrooms
1 cup yellow cornbread
1 cup AP flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a 9 or 10" cast-iron skillet, saute the onions and sausage in 3 Tbsp of butter until the sausage is cooked.  Remove from heat and drain off any excess fat, leaving just enough to grease the skillet, about 1 Tbsp.  Add the mushrooms.  Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; mix well.  With a pastry blender, cut the remaining 1/2 cup butter into the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg and buttermilk together and add to the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to blend; do not overbeat.  Pour batter evenly over sausage mixture in the frying pan.

Bake until light golden brown on top and firm to the touch, about 25-30 minutes.  Immediately turn onto a serving plate; cut into wedges and serve while hot.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chicken Lo Mein

I love lo mein.  I love the flavor and the versatility.  You can add/subtract what appeals to you.  More vegetables?  Great!  Shrimp instead of chicken?  Perfect.  This is a fantastic starting recipe to begin with.  Adjust this basic recipe to your liking.  I served this with potstickers.

P. S.  Make the entire makes for great leftovers!

CHICKEN LO MEIN (4-6 servings)

1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp beef broth
1 Tbsp sugar

8 oz linguine or lo mein noodles, prepared to al dente
1 tsp sesame oil

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup chopped cabbage
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1-2 cups bean sprouts
3 green onions, sliced into 1" segments, white and green parts

Combine marinade ingredients with the chicken and allow to sit for 20 minutes.  While the chicken is marinating, prepare the remaining ingredients.

In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, beef broth, and sugar.  Set aside.

Boil noodles as per package instructions.  Drain the noodles and toss with the sesame oil.

Heat a wok or large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the 1/4 cup of oil.  Add the chicken.  Stir fry chicken until cooked, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add another Tbsp of oil to the pan if needed.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic.  Stir fry until garlic browns, then add the carrots.  Stir fry for about 1 minute, then add the shredded cabbage and mushrooms.  Cook for 2 more minutes.  Add the noodles, bean sprouts, and green onions and cook for about 2 more minutes.

Add the sauce to the pan.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Mix everything together and serve hot.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Salmon Croquettes

I grew up on salmon croquettes.  Granted, it was Oklahoma in the 60's, so of course it was canned salmon.  They were ok and met our needs, but nothing exceptional.

And then I discovered "Cook's Illustrated" salmon croquettes.  Using fresh salmon and Panko breadcrumbs.  Oh my!   All the difference!  This is a standard "comfort food" dinner in our home.  And I always serve it with mac 'n' cheese (any recipe...homemade, of course) and green beans.  It is a meal you can count on.....year after year after year.

SALMON CROQUETTES (makes 4 patties)

3/4 pound salmon fillet, finely chopped
1 Tbsp mayo
2 Tbsp finely grated onion
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
3/4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt to taste

Egg or Egg Beaters
Panko Breadcrumbs

Mix all of the ingredients together.  Divide the mixture into four parts.  Pat into equal-sized discs.

Place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper and put into the freezer for 15-30 minutes (30 minutes works better for me......they're not quite frozen, but much firmer than just at 15 minutes.  Makes them much less messier to handle).

Have three plates or bowls ready with the flour, egg, and Panko.  First dip the patty into the flour, then the egg, then the Panko.  Fry in a skillet with either vegetable oil or a pan sprayed with vegetable spray.  Cook until brown on both sides.

Recipe Source:  Cook's Illustrated

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Crab Louis

Yea!  Jim is back on a regular schedule meaning we'll be having dinner together everynight.  And I can get back to regular recipe postings.

He wasn't sure what time he'd be in last night so asked for a light dinner.   Soup or salad.  I don't know why, but Crab Louis jumped to mind.  This is a salad you can pretty much add what you like, but there are some basics you must include.  For this the magic is the dressing.  You can look it up, but there's not too much of a variation.  I found this recipe in the South Beach Diet cookbook.  It is heavenly....good enough on its own.  We even used it to dunk our bread in.

So, for the salad, use what you like.  Here are some standards if you look at a bunch of recipes.  The must-haves are iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and of course crabmeat.  Other additions:



1/2 cup mayo
2 Tbsp chili sauce
1 Tbsp grated onion
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp cream or half-and-half
hot sauce

Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Let stand for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Baked Mozzarella Bites

OK, really.  Who doesn't just love fried cheese.  It is a decadent, once a year indulgence for me but really.....fried cheese.  Call the cardiologist!

So what a wonderful, a tad bit healthier version of this great snack.  And so easy and so fast!  3 ingredients (plus the marinara sauce).  And a tad bit less guilty!


Mozzarella sticks, cut into 1" pieces
Panko bread crumbs (do not substitute regular bread crumbs)

Preheat oven to 425F.  Dip the cheese pieces in the milk and then roll in the bread crumbs.  Bake for 8 minutes (I like mine a bit "meltier" so I will try 10-12 minutes next time).  Serve with marinara sauce.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Name That Dog

Well, guess what?  Yep, there's a new member of the Fulton family here on Stepping Rock.  Jim called Sunday and said someone at work had a stray that they couldn't keep and "Did I want another dog?!!!!!"  Really?

So that night this little one joined our family.  I'm waiting for Jim to be able to spend some time with us so we can get to know her and give her a name.  She had her first vet appointment this morning.  The veterinarian believes she has a bit of Boston and Jack Russell terrier in her.  She's 14 1/2 pounds (the smallest dog we've ever had).  Her heartworm test was positive so we've already started treating that.  She has a large tumor on her belly and the vets believed it would be better to take care of it right away (heartworm treatment is a 3-month process).  So she'll go back on Thursday for surgery and then hopefully, we be on the path to many more years together.  Oh, they believe she's probably about 8-years-old.

Jim should be back on a regular schedule next week which means.......dinner every night!  So I should be back to regular food postings (and occasional dog info) very soon.  I'm so looking forward to getting back into the kitchen.  I already have a list of "can't wait to try" recipes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Artichoke and Spinach Dip

This is the classic "as-found-in-many-restaurants" artichoke/spinach dip.  I served it in a bread bowl from Panera, but you could absolutely serve it with chips or crackers.  A basic recipe that is good for just about any occasion.

ARTICHOKE and SPINACH DIP (makes 4 cups)

1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, room temp
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup (1 oz) Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup (1 oz) Pecorino Romano
note:  instead of these two cheeses, I used 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 garlic clove, minced (1 tsp)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp garlic salt
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (I use artichoke bottoms, much more meat, without the prickly leaves) 
1 (10 oz) pkg chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained, and squeezed dry
1/3 cup (2 1/2 oz) shredded mozzarella
Bread bowl or chips or crackers

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a 1 quart ovenproof baking dish.

Mix together the cream cheese, mayo, cheese(s), garlic, basil, garlic salt, S&P in a medium bowl.  Gently stir in the artichoke hearts and spinach.  Transfer the mixture to prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the mozzarella on top.

Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned on top.  Transfer the dip to a bread bowl (if using) or serve warm with pita chips or small toast. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

White Bean and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

Once again, not the best photo (Thanksgiving was very hectic), but this dip was a big hit with everyone.  Easy to make and perfect for big events because you can make this days ahead.  I made a double batch and, over a week later, I still have some left and it's as good, if not better, than the day it was made.


1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup EVOO
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp onion powder
Pinch cayenne
1 (3-4 oz) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, drained and patted dry
1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh chives
Pita chips

Put the beans, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, onion powder, cayenne, sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, S&P in a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture is smooth.

Put the dip in a serving bowl.  Before serving, garnish with the chives and serve with a basket of toasted pita chips.  

Recipe Source: Comfort Foods that Take You Home (David Venable)  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Salmon Cups

First, apologies for the terrible photo.  I was so busy on Thanksgiving, I wasn't able to get a photo of everything and I only got this one after most of the appetizers were gone.  These were the first to go.

The idea of the recipe came from David Veneble's "Comfort Foods that Bring you Home."  Originally, I was going to do Guacamole Cups, but he suggested other options, including salmon and cream cheese.  I've been making a salmon dip for years which Jim and I just love.  Usually, I serve them on crostini, but I decided to try the eggroll wrappers suggested in his recipe.

The rest of the recipe is really no recipe at all....just mix in the amount of stuff to your tasting.

SALMON CUPS (made about 24 cups)

Canola oil spray
6 egg roll wrappers
8 oz cream cheese (regular, lite, or fat-free), or for something truly lucious, use half cream cheese and half chevre (goat cheese), room temperature
1 package (4 oz?) smoked salmon (it's not the soft salmon that is used in lox, but the firmer salmon.....I can't remember if it's cold or hot-smoked....I find it in a sealed package at Publix)
1-2 Roma tomatoes, depending on size
finely minced red onion
minced capers

sliced black olives, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray a 24-serving mini muffin pan with the spray.

Cut the egg roll wrappers into quarters.  Place a square in each muffin tin.  Gently press the wrappers against the bottoms and sides.  Bake for 7-9 minutes until light golden brown.  Remove the cups from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  These can be made a day or two ahead of time and, after cooling, sealed in an airtight container.

Smush the softened cream cheese (and goat cheese, if using).  Add the tomatoes, onions, and capers.  Garnish with olives, if desired. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cheddar Broccoli Poppers

These will be great appetizers for a Super Bowl party.  But let me warn you, they are messy to make!  This could be because I only use Panko breadcrumbs.  I think a regular breadcrumb would make them a bit easier, but I just love the crunch that Panko provides.  A BIG plus is that you can make them up to a week before you fry them (I just fried a week after I made them for Thanksgiving).  You can also make the basic recipe up earlier also and then roll them the day you're going to serve them.  So they're very versatile time-wise.  Serve with Ranch dressing for the perfect appetizer.

CHEDDAR BROCCOLI POPPERS (makes 20-30 poppers, depending on the size)

1 16 oz pkg frozen chopped broccoli
3 cups (12 oz) finely shredded cheddar cheese
3 plus 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp kosher salt (1/2 tsp table salt)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups dry bread crumbs
Canola oil for drying
Ranch dressing

Cook the broccoli according to package directions, about 5 minutes.  Drain and dry the broccoli in a salad spinner or with paper towels to remove excess water (very important).  Chop finely.  Broccoli should be warm when adding other ingredients.

Mix together the broccoli, cheddar, 3 beaten eggs, S&P, and garlic powder in a large bowl.  Using your hands, shape the mixture into 1" balls.

Put the bread crumbs on a shallow plate.  Dip the balls into one of the bowls with the 2 beaten eggs, then roll them in the bread crumbs.  Refrigerate the balls for 20 minutes.  Dip the balls back into the bowl with the beaten eggs, then roll them again in the bread crumbs.  Place the balls on a baking sheet and keep refrigerated until ready to fry.

Clip a deep frying thermometer to the side of a heavy, deep pot (I use a Fry Daddy frier).  Add 3" of canola oil to the pot and slowly heat to 375F.  Using a slotted spoon, add 6 poppers to the hot oil and fry until golden brown on one side, 1-2 minutes.  Turn them and fry for 1-2 minutes more.  (Cook the poppers in batches or the oil won't stay hot and poppers will be soggy rather than crisp.)  Using tongs, remove the fried poppers to a wire rack or paper towels.  Season with S&P.  Cook the remaining poppers.  Serve hot with Ranch Dressing.

Recipe Source:  Comfort Foods that Take You Home, David Venable

Monday, November 26, 2012


We lost our little Spot today.  She had a tough year.  Liver surgery this spring, but she miraculously rebounded.  But she'd been struggling and had lost 10 pounds.  We were expecting this, but it didn't soften the blow.  We had 13 1/2 wonderful years with this temperamental pooch and we are going to miss her sorely.  The refrigerator will forever be called "Spot's Pantry."  We love you, sweet girl.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cheesy Crab-Stuffed Mushroom

I love mushrooms (sorry, Marietta).  And I really  love stuffed mushrooms.  And I really, really, really love crab-stuffed mushrooms.  

This is a basic stuffed mushroom recipe from "In the Kitchen with David" (QVC) cookbook.  I made a bit of an adjustment to this recipe, but it's a great standard if you are a stuffed-mushroom lover.


1# mushrooms, 1-1 1/2" in diameter
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1/2 cu fresh, soft bread cubes, or breadcrumbs
4 oz fresh crabmeat, picked over and finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded Cheddar
White truffle oil, optional

Preheat oven to 400F.  Remove the stems from the mushrooms and set aside the caps.  Finely chop the stems.

Melt the butter in a small skillet oven medium heat.  Add the onion and stems and saute for 4-5 minutes.  Add the bread cubes/crumbs and crabmeat, stirring constantly until lightly brown.  Stir in the salt, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and parsley.

(Personally, at this point, I chose to lightly salt the mushroom caps with a bit of salt).  
Fill the mushroom caps with the crab mixture.  Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer in a shallow baking dish.  Pour the white wine in the bottom of the baking dish.  (Optional:  Drizzle with white truffle oil at this point.....oo la la!!!!)  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with cheddar.  Bake for 8-10 minutes more until the cheese melts.  Serve hot.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Little Smokies

This was a wonderful treat Diane brought to go in the appetizer pool with several other dishes.  And they are wonderful and oh so easy!  In fact, she prepared them before she came over and we only had to re-heat them in the oven for maybe 5 minutes.  You could also make them ahead of time and microwave for the less than a minute.

There's no recipe.  None needed.   Simply take the little smokies, cut a pound of bacon in strips and wrap the bacon around the smokies, securing it with a toothpick.  Put some brown sugar in a ziplock bag and put around half a dozen smokies in and just shake it until they are covered.

Bake in a 350F oven for about half an hour.   Serve immediately or keep and reheat later.

This would be a great football game appetizer.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pumpkin Cream Trifle

How was your Thanksgiving?  I hope you were able to join with family or friends and enjoy the company.  We had a houseful and although it was busy and chaotic (for me!), everyone seemed to have a really good time.

I had been cleaning house for a few days and then started my prep work the day before.  Before long, I knew I had planned way too large of a menu.  By Thanksgiving morning, I was in full panic-mode.  It didn't help that I really didn't know how many people to expect or what time they would be showing up.  I decided to plan on serving two separate seatings, so I split the entire menu in two, planning on serving Group 1 then clean up and start on dinner for Group 2.  It didn't quite work out that way!

Thank goodness for Diane!  A friend of ours had volunteered to come over early to help out.  I never would have made it without her help.  Not just by helping in the kitchen, but by substantially reducing my level of stress!  In fact, it was Diane that put this beautiful and utterly lucious trifle together.  This is an incredible holiday dessert if you're going to have a crowd.  Absolutely melt-in-your-mouth!

NOTE:  If you don't have a trifle bowl, you can pick one up at Wal-Mart for $7.


First Layer:
1 pkg spice cake mix
1 pkg (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
3 large eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray 9x13 baking pan with vegetable oil spray.  Place all cake ingredients in large mixing bowl.  Blend with electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.  Scrape down sides and then increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more.  Batter should look think and well-blended.  Pour into prepared pan and bake 32-39 minutes or until cake tests done.  Cool completely (cake can be frozen at this point.  Thaw at room temp before assembling trifle.  When ready to prepare trifle, cut or tear into approximately 1" cubes.

Second Layer (cream):
2 pkgs (3.4 oz) cheesecake-flavored instant pudding mix
2 cups cold milk
8 oz heavy whipping cream, whipped (unsweetened)
Combine pudding mixes with milk and blend with whisk until it starts to thicken.  Fold in whipped cream, then quickly assemble trifle.

Third Layer (toppings)
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans or almonds (I prefer pecans)
1/2 cup Skor or Heath toffee bits

To assemble the trifle:

Place 1/3 of the cake cubes into trifle bowl.  Top with 1/3 of the cream mixture and sprinkle with 1/3 of the nuts and toffee bits.  Repeat layers two more times, ending with nut and toffee bits on top.  Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered no longer than 24 hours (actually, my expereince shows this will keep for days, just as lucious and delicious as the first).


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Southern Cornbread

I love cornbread.  Just about any kind.  But when I ran across this recipe in "The Joy of Cooking" several years ago, I couldn't believe it.  It SO reminded me of my maternal grandmother's recipe (Grandma Barton).  This is about as basic, home-made, down-south cornbread as you could ever imagine.  Slathered with butter (and honey, if you like), it's a meal in itself.

I'm getting ready for Thanksgiving and Jim won't have anything but cornbread sage dressing so I had to get a batch ready for Thursday.  It might be a tad short this year.  As you can see, I kinda had a bit of it for a snack, just to make sure it came out alright.

SOUTHERN CORNBREAD (1 8" square, 1 9" cast iron skillet, or 12 muffins)

1 Tbsp bacon fat
1 3/4 cups cornmeal (preferably stone-ground white.....if you use yellow, add 1 Tbsp sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450.   Once temp is reached, put the bacon fat into your dish/skillet and  into the oven to let the bacon fat melt.

In the meantime, whisk together in a mixing bowl the cornmeal, baking powder and soda,  and salt.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs.  Whisk in the buttermilk.  Add to the dry ingredients and whisk until just blended.  Pour into the hot dish/skillet.  Bake until the top is browned and the center feels firm when pressed, 20-25 minutes.  Serve immediately from the pan, cut into wedges or squares.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jim's New Cast

Imagine my surprise when Jim came home with his new HOT PINK cast!!!  How in the world did that happen, you ask?  Turns out he was telling someone at work he would be getting his new cast on the next day and they told him how their grandson had broken his arm last month and had picked the pick cast in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.  He kind of felt shamed into it.  He said he's going to tell in the guys it is in honor of Breast Awareness month (not Breast Cancer Awareness)!!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Standing Rib Roast

We are not a beef-eating family here.  But the other day while at the grocery store, my friend Dianna told me that Publix had their Standing Rib Roast on sale, which they only do once a year.  So what the heck.....I thought I'd give it a try.

Now, for me, the Standing Rib Roast tastes like every other piece of beef I've ever eaten.  The difference is the tenderness.  If you are a beef eater, you will love this.  It if fall-off-the-bone tender.  You won't need a knife.  And if I'm going to eat beef, I want it medium-rare.

I researched a couple of recipes and the #1 thing I found out was don't use salt.  Apparently, the salt will draw the moistness out of the roast.  So, compiling several recipes, this is what I came up with and it came out perfectly:

1 (3 pound) standing rib roast
coarsely ground black pepper
garlic powder

Most importantly:  Have roast at room temperature.  Dry roast with a paper towel.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Rub roast with pepper and garlic powder.  Place roast on a rack in the pan with the rib side down and the fatty side up.  Roast for one hour.  Turn off oven.  Leave roast in oven but do not open oven door for 3 hours.  About 30-40 minutes before serving time, turn oven to 375F and reheat the roast.  Do not remove roast or re-open the oven door from time roast is put in until ready to serve.

NOTE:  I baked some acorn squash at the same time as I cooked the roast.  It came out perfectly.  Just cut a squash (any squash) in half, drizzle a little olive oil in the baking dish, and cover with aluminum foil.  It's a perfect side dish to the roast. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Peanut Butter Butterscotch Cookies

I don't have a sweet tooth.  But if I had to pick a cookie that was my favorite, it would have to be peanut butter (weirdly enough, I don't care for peanut butter on its own).  And then I ran across this recipe at  If you are a peanut butter cookie fan, you must try these.  Absolutely lucious.  Decadent.  Oh So Good.

Maybe because you melt butterscotch chips into the dough, and then add butterscotch chips to the final process.  These will melt in your mouth.  They are so good.

PEANUT BUTTER BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES (makes approximately 4 dozen)

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup butterscotch chips, melted (1 cup chips)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter with sugars. Add peanut butter and melted butterscotch chips, beating until combined.  Add egg and vanilla, beating to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to the mixing bowl, mixing just until combined.  Stir in butterscotch chips.

Using a spoon or your (clean) hands, take 1" balls of dough (20 grams) and roll in granulated sugar.  (I refrigerate my dough at least 10 hours or overnight, or dough will be very wet).  Place on baking sheet about 2" apart (cookies spread very slightly).  Bake for 9-12 minutes, until cooked through.  Allow cookies for 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cook completely.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chicken and Butternut Squash Quinoa Stew

This "stew" incorporates just about everything I love!  Quinoa, butternut squash, tomatoes, and spinach.  You could easily make this a vegan meal by omitting the chicken and using vegetable broth instead of chicken.  This is a soup that will fill any hollow leg.  Hearty, great cold weather soup!

CHICKEN AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH QUINOA STEW (6 bowl servings/12 cup servings)

1 Tbsp EVOO
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1 can (14 oz) petite or regular diced tomatoes
3 cups chopped butternut squash (about 1 medium squash) peeled and seeded
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
1-2 cups chopped fresh spinach

In a large 4 quart pot heat the olive oil until hot.  Add the chopped onions, oregano, and garlic.  Saute for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is softened.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken and boil until the chicken is cooked, 7-9 minutes.  Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add the tomatoes, butternut squash, and quinoa.  Simmer for 15 minutes until the squash is tender and quinoa is cooked.  If desired, scoop out some of the squash, mash it and return it tot he pot.  Shred the cooked chicken and return to the pot.  Add the S&P, adding more salt to taste, if needed.

Stir in the spinach.  Cook 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Serve warm.