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.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bad Day at Black Rock

My Sweetheart had a really bad day today.  He broke his hand!!!  Not only that, but it had to be his dominant right hand.  He'll be in a cast for SIX weeks.  And all during the outage.  Oy!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

I love making different squash soups every fall.  There are only a few recipes I repeated, not because they aren't all good, there are just so many recipes I want to try (there will be a few more coming...I've got a couple of recipes in reserve!)

I found this recipe in last Sunday's newspaper magazine.  I'm used to roasting squash to use in soups but this super fast and simple recipe calls for canned pumpkin.  And although it tastes really rich, it is very low in calories and fat.

This definitely is Indian-inspired and would be a great addition to any Indian meal.

SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP (4-6 servings)

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups reduced-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (12 oz) can evaporated fat-free milk
6 Tbsp plain fat-free Greek yogurt
Parlsey leaves, for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil over low for 30 seconds.  Add onion and cook 3 minutes or until soft.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute.  Stir in spices and S&P.  Cook 1 minute, stirring.

Whisk in broth and pumpkin.  Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add milk and simmer for 2 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender until smooth.  Add a little more broth to thin, if desired.  Ladle into bowls.  Add more black pepper to taste.  Garnish with yogurt and parsley.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween 2012

It took me a while to make about 120 treat boxes....thank goodness I had a big bowl of extra candies, because I ran out of the boxes before the trick-or-treaters quit showing up.  Our neighborhood gets lots of kids, and it's nice because it is 99% youngsters with costumes and always say "Trick or Treat" with enthusiasm.  There were some really great costumes and almost all of them said "Thank You."  Nice bunch of kids and lots of fun for me (not so much for the girls.....they had to spend a few hours in the bedroom.....ohhhh!)