Friday, December 21, 2007

Almost Perfect Pecan Pralines

This is a recipe I made up, and want to get down before I forget my mistakes. I've been on a quest recently to create a clear hard candy shell around a pecan - one that is not so thick it breaks molars, but not so thin it doesn't lend any flavor. I've had mixed success. On the one hand, these have a good flavor, and bit of the crunch I'm seeking. On the other, the sugar doesn't completely melt, so the pecans look like they have raw sugar on them. Trying to turn up the heat or increase the time results in burned pecans, and trying to melt the sugar in a saucepan results in something more akin to the pecan brittle - tasty, but not the result I want. Trying to go all sugar or all corn syrup doesn't get the results either. I think I'm done with tinkering for now. I have pounds of pecans in varying stages of "candification." Perfection will have to wait till those are gone.

2 cups whole pecans, unroasted
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. 5 spice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fold all ingredients together, taking care not to break too many of the pecans. Spread into a single layer on a large baking sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes. Leave in pan to cool.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cheese Straws

A must for holiday baking. Though instead of the cookie press, I just roll the dough into small balls and flatten with a fork or I roll the dough flat, and cut with a pizza cutter into strips.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a food processor, add the butter, cheese, flour, salt, and cayenne and process until a smooth dough is formed. Scoop it into a cookie press, fitted with a flat ridged tip. Pipe the dough in 2-inch strips onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. (Alternatively, refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes and roll on a lightly floured surface into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Cut into smaller rectangles, about 2 by 3-inches, with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.)

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to racks to cool.

--Adapted from Paula Deen

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sausage-Cranberry Balls

These are really good. They would work equally well as an appetizer or as a side dish, in place of dressing. I'll definitely be making these again soon.

1 lb. bulk country sausage
1 pkg. (6 oz.) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
3/4 cup cranberry sauce (about half a can)
1 egg
1 cup water (or as much as needed)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cook sausage in large skillet until cooked through, stirring frequently; drain. Place in large bowl; cool slightly. Stir in dry stuffing mix.

Add cranberry sauce, egg and water; mix well. Shape into 16 balls; place on foil-covered baking sheet. Brush evenly with butter.

Bake 20 min.

--Adapted from Kraft Food and Family

Broccoli and Bowties

This is a fantastic side dish. The lemon gives it a very bright, light flavor. Cooking everything in the same pot makes it as easy to clean up as it is to make.

Kosher salt
8 cups broccoli florets (4 heads)
1/2 pound farfalle (bow tie) pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lemon, zested
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted pignoli (pine) nuts
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional

To toast pignolis, place them in a dry saute pan over medium-low heat and cook, tossing often, for about 5 minutes, until light brown.

Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water. Remove the broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon or sieve. Run the broccoli under cold water to stop the cooking, and ensure the broccoli retains its bright green color. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In the same water, cook the bow-tie pasta according to the package directions, about 12 minutes. Drain well and add to the broccoli.

In the still-warm pot, heat the butter and oil and cook the garlic and lemon zest over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Add 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, and lemon juice and pour this over the broccoli and pasta.

Toss well. Season to taste, sprinkle with the pignolis and cheese, if using, and serve.

--Adapted from Ina Garten

Chicken Scallopine with Sage and Fontina Cheese

This recipe really isn't as much work as it first appears. Just make you have every set out in little piles, so that you don't cross-contaminate. Set up a little assembly line, and they go together quickly. Also, you need a big pan to fit the roll-ups - and the toothpicks.

6 (4 1/2 to 5 1/2-ounce) chicken cutlets, pounded thin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 sage leaves
3 ounces grated fontina cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup of bottled spaghetti sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Special Equipment: toothpicks

Place the chicken cutlets on a clean work surface, narrow end facing you. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place one sage leaf crosswise on each of the pieces of chicken. Sprinkle each of the pieces of chicken with 1/2 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) of fontina cheese. Roll up the chicken and seal with one or two toothpicks.

Warm the olive oil and smashed garlic clove in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.

Remove the chicken from the pan and remove and discard the garlic. Add the wine and deglaze for 2 minutes while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the spaghetti sauce to the reduced wine in the pan, and stir to incorporate.

Return the chicken to the pan. Simmer the chicken in the tomato sauce for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over and simmer until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan. Season the tomato sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon the tomato sauce onto serving plates or a serving platter. Remove the toothpicks. Place the chicken over the sauce and serve immediately.

--Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Monday, December 17, 2007

Castilian Garlic Soup

Don't be intimidated by the lengthy process. You can easily do it all at the same time. This soup gets amazing flavor from the simplest of ingredients. I used saffron because I had it on hand, but I'm sure you could go without. Also, I didn't realize I only had one can of chicken broth. I used water in place of the other two cans, and it was still very flavorful. We didn't miss it at all.

Note: baking" the soup to set the eggs causes it to bubble rapidly - use a big baking sheet to avoid making a mess.

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 ounces Spanish serrano ham, diced (I just used smoked sandwich ham)
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika or sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
3 (15.75-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 cups (1-inch) cubed hearty country bread (about 4 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika or sweet paprika

Remaining ingredient:
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare soup:
Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 4 crushed garlic cloves; sauté 1 minute. Add ham and 1 teaspoon paprika; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in cumin, pepper, saffron, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes

To prepare the croûtons:
Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and 1 crushed garlic clove in a large bowl. Add the bread cubes, tossing to coat. Place bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until toasted. Sprinkle bread cubes with 1/2 teaspoon paprika; toss well.

Increase oven temperature to 450°.

Break 1 egg into each of 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the broth mixture evenly among bowls. Place bowls on a baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until the eggs are set.

Top each serving with croutons.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Brown Butter

I generally like asparagus best with the simplest of preparation - just grilled with a squeeze of lemon. This recipe is a close second. One note though... be prepared for splatter when you add the vinegar to the hot butter. If you are not careful, you can make a real mess.

40 asparagus spears, trimmed (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange asparagus in a single layer on baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until tender.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat; cook for 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Drizzle over the asparagus, tossing well to coat. The sauce will further reduce in the hot baking pan.

Serve immediately.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bacon and Egg Casserole with Tomato/Scallion Relish

Pay attention to the bread in this one. As it is the primary ingredient, you want to make sure you use one that will add a lot of flavor. The casserole is good by itself, but the tomato/green onion relish really takes it to the next level.

1 (16-ounce) french bread loaf, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 cups (8 ounces) finely shredded Mexican four-cheese blend
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled (8 slices)
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Arrange bread cubes in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and crumbled bacon.Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over prepared dish; press down bread cubes with a spoon to allow bread to soak up liquid.

Cover and chill 8 hours. Let stand 30 minutes before baking.

Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until set and golden.

Tomato/Scallion Relish
1 large tomato - peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup scallions
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper (or chipotle powder)
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients; serve immediately.

--Adapted from Southern Living magazine

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cracked Potatoes

I was skeptical of how this was going to turn out, but everything seemed to work well. You need to smash the potatoes into large chunks, rather than leaving them mostly whole. A medium Yukon Gold broke into 3 or 4 pieces. Smashing them gives it a nice rustic feel that slicing them just wouldn't have. If you have some kind of flavored oil, that would be an excellent addition here.

12 small-medium Yukon potatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced

Special Equipment: a rolling pin or heavy pan

Using the rolling pin or a heavy pan, gently smack the potatoes, 1 potato at a time, until the potato breaks into large chunks. You may need to pull some apart, once they have split.

Over low heat, add the olive oil to a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan, then add the potatoes and thyme sprigs and season generously with salt and pepper. Place the lid on the pan and allow to cook, undisturbed, shaking the pan every 5 minutes or so, until the bottoms of the potatoes are browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. (Check occasionally to make sure the potatoes aren't browning too quickly and adjust heat accordingly.) Turn the potatoes to their second side, replace the lid, and continue cooking undisturbed a further 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove the lid and cook a further 2 to 3 minutes, for the condensation to evaporate.

Remove the thyme sprigs and add the sliced garlic and chopped fresh thyme and cook until the garlic is caramelized and chewy, about 2 minutes. Serve hot.

-- Adapted from Amy Finley

Apricot-Herb Chicken

This recipe needs some work. It has a good base, but the final product is disappointingly bland. I still think it is worth working with, but I'm not sure what to add to fix it. It needs a much stronger punch of flavor. The sauce is a bit runny, so maybe a cornstarch slurry would tighten it up a bit.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds chicken breasts and boneless thighs, cut into large chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
2 cups chicken stock
20 to 24 dried apricots, chopped
5 to 6 sprigs thyme
A generous handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped chives
1 lemon, 2 teaspoons zest and the juice

In a large skillet with high sides, heat the oil, 3 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper liberally. When oil ripples, add chicken and brown it on both sides, 7 to 8 minutes total. Add balsamic vinegar and stir 30 seconds, add stock, apricots and thyme and reduce heat to medium-low to low. Place a lid on the pan and simmer 10 minutes. Take lid off, stir in the parsley, chives, lemon zest and juice and turn off heat. Let stand a couple of minutes, remove the thyme sprigs and serve.

--Adapted from Rachel Ray

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Quick Chiliqueles

This is a really quick dish that is amazingly tasty. While we just mounded it up on a plate, it might be easier to serve it family style from a casserole dish. This would be a great recipe to use up the last of a big bag of tortilla chips.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 pkg taco seasoning
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup chunky salsa
1/2 taco sauce
1 bag tortilla chips
1 cup shredded cheese

Brown the ground beef, drain. Return the beef to the pan, add the spinach, cook over medium-high heat 1 minute. Add the taco seasoning and water, cook 3 minutes (or just follow the directions on your particular brand).

Remove the taco mixture to another plate. In the warm pan, add the salsa and taco sauce. Cook 5 minutes, adding a large handful of chips each minute. The chips will have varying levels of texture and crispiness.

Spread a layer of chips, top with cheese and ground beef mixture. Repeat.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Cheddar Rice Fritters

These things are very rich. Very tasty, but wow... rich. Make them as an appetizer, because you won't be able to eat more than few. Still, they're a great way to use up leftover rice.

2 cups wild rice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Vegetable oil

If using leftover rice, microwave till piping hot. If using fresh rice, use immediately. Stir in cheese, butter, and onions. Cool.

Combine cooled rice mix with beaten egg.

In a separate pan, combine bread crumbs with salt and pepper (to taste).

Working in small batches, drop rounded tablespoonfuls of rice mixture into bread crumbs, rolling to coat and knocking off excess, then transfer to a tray. Refrigerate for 5 minutes, or until the cheese firms up.

Heat 1 1/2 inches oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until it registers 365°F on thermometer, then fry fritters in 4 batches, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 365°F between batches.

--Adapted from

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wild Rice Pancakes

2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup scallions
2 cups wild rice mix, cooked (or leftover from the day before)
Tabasco (optional)

Whisk together the milk and eggs. Add flour, and whisk until smooth. Add rice, scallions, salt/pepper/Tabasco to taste. Stir to combine.

Drop the rice mixture on a preheated non-stick griddle, using a 1/4 cup measure. Leave plenty of room as the pancakes will spread when cooked. Cook one minute, then flip. Cook an additional minute.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

This makes enough to feed an army. You'll need to use a punch bowl, as opposed to a trifle dish. This dessert is a regular at holiday meals.

2 (14-ounce) packages gingerbread mix
1 (5.1-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon or Chinese 5-spice
2 (12-ounce) containers frozen whipped topping
1/2 cup gingersnaps, optional

Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely.

Prepare the pudding per package directions. Before the pudding sets up, stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cinnamon into the pudding. Crumble 1 batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a large bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Refrigerate overnight.

Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingersnaps, if desired.

--Adapted from Paula Dean

Orange-Cranberry Veloute

For extra flavor, try stirring in turkey drippings. Just make sure to adjust the salt.

1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 can cranberry sauce (whole berry or not, your choice)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, and whisk to form a thick roux. Cook until the roux begins to brown.

Whisking constantly, add the orange juice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and reduce 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Whisk in cranberry sauce. Bring back to a boil, and reduce 5 minutes until the sauce is thick.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Citrus Marinated Mushrooms

These have a strong sesame flavor if you make them as the recipe suggests. Still, the citrus gives them a bright, clean flavor that goes well with a main dish. The brine that the mushrooms marinate in is fantastic as a salad dressing - maybe even better than the mushrooms themselves. We served these over a bed of mixed greens and leftover steamed asparagus, with a few spoonfuls of the brine. Incredibly tasty.

1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 pound mushrooms, halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Microwave 2 minutes, or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in orange rind, oils, and lime rind. Combine vinegar mixture and mushrooms in a large bowl; toss well to combine. Cover; refrigerate overnight (though 48 hours wouldn't be bad, these get better the longer they sit). Add parsley; toss to combine.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Bourbon Salmon

This is a great salmon recipe. It goes together quickly and easily. It would be great to serve to a larger group, since you cook it with the marinade. Just dump in a skillet and go. I made this with the bourbon, but I bet it would be good with amaretto (or any other sweet cordial). The sauce is thin, but sticky, and great to serve over rice.

3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
Cooking spray
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 1 1/2 hours, turning occasionally.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish and marinade to pan; cook fish 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

Place 1 fillet on each of 4 plates; drizzle each serving with about 2 teaspoons sauce. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon green onions and 3/4 teaspoon sesame seeds.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tiramisu Pie

This is a family favorite. While it is possible to substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone - don't. Cream cheese is just too strong.

1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
3/4 cup warm water
1 (10.75-ounce) frozen pound cake, thawed
1 (8-ounce) package mascarpone or cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1 tablespoons Kahlua
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
2 (1.4-ounce) English toffee candy bars, coarsely chopped

Stir together coffee and 3/4 cup warm water until coffee is dissolved. Cool (or you can use espresso).

Cut cake into 14 slices. Cut each slice in half diagonally. Place triangles in bottom and up sides of a 9-inch deep-dish pieplate. Drizzle coffee mixture over cake.

Beat mascarpone cheese, sugar, Kahlua, and chocolate syrup at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add 2 1/2 cups whipped topping, and beat until light and fluffy.Spread cheese mixture evenly over cake. Dollop remaining whipped topping around edges of pie. Sprinkle with candy. Chill 8 hours.

--Adapted from Southern Living magazine

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Skewers

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Thai chile paste
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips, or 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes to 8 hours.

Prepare grill. Remove chicken from bag, and discard marinade. Thread chicken strips onto 18 (8-inch) skewers. Place kebabs on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 2 minutes on each side or until done.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Green Rice

So this is another that isn't really a veggie. But I don't care.

1 cup dry rice
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 pound spinach leaves, deveined and coarsely chopped
4 scallions, coarsely chopped
2 limes, zested, juiced

Heat 1 1/2 cups broth in a sauce pot with a bay leaf to boiling. Add rice, cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer 18 minutes until tender.

Place the cilantro, spinach, scallions, lime zest, half a cup of stock and a tablespoon of oil in food processor and process into coarse green paste. Stir into the rice pot in the last 3 to 4 minutes of its cooking time.

--Adapted from Rachel Ray

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

This is a thick and rich soup. It's not as sweet as you might think, but is very hearty. The best part is, if you use a stick blender, the whole thing can be done in one bowl in the microwave. The bright color makes it perfectly suitable to serve while entertaining, and it won't take up valuable burner space. It also doesn't require any attention while the microwave is humming away, so you're free to spend that time on something else.

2 cups (1/4-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 1 medium)
1 1/4 cups fat-free chicken broth, divided
2/3 cup evaporated skim milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of white pepper
Dash of ground nutmeg
Chopped leek (optional)

Combine sweet potato, sliced leek, and 1/4 cup broth in a 1 1/2-quart casserole; stir well. Cover, and microwave at HIGH 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes.

Place sweet potato mixture in a food processor (or use a stick blender); process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients except chopped leek; process 30 seconds or until blended.

Garnish with chopped leek, if desired. Serve warm.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stuffed Baked Potatoes with Corn and Sour Cream

A stuffed baked potato is always a great side dish. This is a flavorful version that isn't nearly as heavy as one stuffed full of butter and cheese.

4 medium baking potatoes
1/4 cup bottled salsa
1/4 cup sour cream (more if you want)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeño pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen corn, cooked
1 garlic clove, minced
sour cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°. Pierce potatoes with a fork, and bake at 375° for 1 hour or until tender.

Cool potatoes slightly. Scoop out potatoes, leaving the skins intact. In a separate bowl, combine potato, salsa, and sour cream. Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine cumin seeds and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl; stir well. Spoon the potato mixture back into the skins. Top each potato half with 1/4 cup corn mixture. Garnish with sour cream.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

I'm taking the traditional Southern approach to this and calling it a vegetable. And this stuff puts most of the stuff they serve in restaurants who do the same to shame. This stuff is rich. It's really a bit excessive. However, when you are in the mood, excessive is a food thing.

Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni
4 cups milk
2 or 3 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, smashed and divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar (or whatever cheese you like)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
1/2 cup green onions (mostly the white parts)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
Leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh thyme

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small saucepan heat the milk with the thyme sprigs and 2 garlic cloves. Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, to keep lumps from forming. Strain the solids out of the milk and whisk it into the butter and flour mixture. Continue to whisk vigorously, and cook until the mixture is nice and smooth.

Stir in the 4 cups of the cheese and continue to cook and stir to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked macaroni and the parsley and fold that all in to coat the macaroni with the cheese mixture. Scrape into a 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly (45 minutes if you like the crust)

While that bakes, heat a saute pan. Add the bacon, render the fat and cook until crispy. Add the green onion, garlic and thyme leaves and cook for about 5 minutes to soften the onion. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, scatter the bacon mixture over the mac and cheese. Use a big spoon to scoop out servings, making sure you get some of the smoking bacon mixture on each spoonful.

--Adapted from Tyler Florence

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ham and Potato Frittata

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes (such as Ore-Ida)
1/2 cup green onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup diced Canadian bacon (about 2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tabasco
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs
4 large egg whites (or 1 cup of pre-separated egg whites)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded smoked cheddar or smoked mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, onion, and bacon; saute 8 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown. Remove from pan.

Wipe pan clean with paper towels; recoat with cooking spray. Combine salt, hot sauce, pepper, eggs, and egg whites in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in potato mixture, cheese, and chopped green onions.

Heat pan over medium heat. Pour in egg mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 3 minutes or until bottom is lightly browned, lifting edges and tilting skillet as eggs cook to allow uncooked portion to flow underneath cooked portion. Wrap handle of pan with foil. Bake 8-10 minutes or until top is lightly browned and set. Garnish with green onion strips, if desired.

-- Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Hot and Sour Pork

This is great recipe. It has a perfect level of spice, it's cheap to make, and it cooks in a flash. What more could you want?

1 (1-pound) boneless pork chops, trimmed and cut into strips
1 tablespoon cornstarch, divided
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Sriracha or chile-garlic sauce
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
1/3 cup chopped green onions

Combine pork, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, white pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Combine remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl; set aside.

Combine ketchup and next 3 ingredients (through soy sauce) in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork mixture and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Remove pork from pan; set aside.

Add cabbage; sauté 2 minutes.

Add ketchup mixture; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in pork; sauté 1 minute. Stir in cornstarch mixture; cook 30 seconds or until thick.

Remove from heat; stir in onions.

-- Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Chopstick Noodle Soup

This is a great recipe to use up leftovers. While I didn't use any meat, you wouldn't go wrong with some adding some grilled chicken, steak, or salmon. The same is true of the vegetables. I used what I had on hand.

6 ounces udon or soba noodles (dried, from a packet)
3 cups chicken or vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 cup bean sprouts
3/4 cup sugar snaps
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced carrots
2 heads baby bok choy, finely sliced (or left in large leaves if you like that look)

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions and while the water is boiling fill a nearby saucepan with stock, brown sugar, 5-spice, ginger and soy sauce. (When the noodles are done, just drain them and put half in each bowl.)

When the flavored stock comes to a boil, add the vegetables. They should be cooked in about 2 minutes

Pour half into each bowl, over the cooked and drained noodles and sprinkle with cilantro.

--Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Chocolate Cupcakes

This are some fantastic cupcakes. They are fluffy and light, which is a perfect compliment to the heavy ganache glaze.

1 pkg. (18.25 oz.) chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. (4 oz.) chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 container (8 oz.) sour cream
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup warm water or coffee

Preheat the oven to 350*F (180*C). Line cupcake pans with 18 to 20 paper liners. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cake mix, cocoa powder, sour cream, oil, water or coffee, eggs, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans, filling each cupcake liner three-quarters full.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes and cool completely on wire racks.


16 oz. bittersweet chocolate
8 oz. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Microwave cream for 3-4 minutes or until just simmering. Add chocolate, let stand 2 minutes.

Stir until t
he chocolate is smooth. While the chocolate is still warm, dip the cupcakes to coat. By the time you have finished all of them, the first should be hard enough to dip again.

Repeat as many times as you like.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Spicy Pinapple Sauce

This is an Alton Brown recipe which really shines. It's a great dessert sauce. While he recommends ice cream, I prefer pound cake. It's good on pretty much anything.

1 can pineapple chunks, undrained
1 habanero pepper, minced
4 fresh mint leaves, cut into chiffonade

In a small saucepan, combine pineapple chunks and habanero pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes. Cool thoroughly. Garnish with mint.

Serve pineapple salsa over ice cream.

--Adapted from Alton Brown

Pineapple-Jalapeno Cranberry Sauce

This is a great twist on the usual Thanksgiving dish. It really shines, however, on turkey sandwiches the next day. All the sugar in the pineapple really cuts the heat, and just leaves a nice pepper flavor. If you like heat, add Tabasco or use a spicier pepper.

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 can crushed pineapple, well-drained
1 jalapeno chile, minced (seeded if you want to reduce the heat)
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. lemon juice
Tabasco sauce, to taste (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste.

Mix everything together. Let stand for at least an hour.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

All Purpose Grilling Marinade

This makes a great marinade for pork chops/tenderloin or chicken breasts.

2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cloves (or Chinese 5 spice)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Stir together ingredients; rub onto meat. Allow to marinate overnight.


--Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Complete Grilling Cookbook

Bean and Sausage Stew

This is a quick stew that tastes like it took a long time to make. If you want to make this spicy, try using a can of Rotel tomatoes in place of the diced tomatoes.

tablespoon olive oil
1 16-ounce package smoked sausage links, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 19-ounce can white beans, drained
1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg. prewashed spinach
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Crusty bread (optional)

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, without stirring, until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn, add the garlic, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the beans, broth, and tomatoes and their juices. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.

Add the spinach to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with the salt and pepper and spoon into individual bowls. Serve with the bread (if using).

--Adapted from Real Simple magazine

Beef and Spinach Pita Pockets

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 10-ounce package sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup brandy
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmesan
4 pitas (white or whole wheat), warmed
1/4 cup mayonnaise (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook until no trace of pink remains, 5 to 6 minutes. Spoon off and discard any fat. Add the brandy and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until heated through, about 1 1/2 minutes. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan.

Cut a 2-inch strip off the side of each pita and pull open. Spread the inside with the mayonnaise (if using). Fill each pita with the beef and mushroom mixture.

--Adapted from Real Simple magazine

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Crooks Corner Shrimp and Grits

Crooks Corner is one of the best restaurants in Chapel Hill, and has a special place in my heart. This is the recipe for their signature dish, as printed in Southern Living.

2 cups water
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth
3/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup regular grits
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 bacon slices
1 pound medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
Lemon wedges

Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until thickened. Add Cheddar cheese and next 4 ingredients. Keep warm.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon, and set aside.

Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and salt; dredge in flour.

Sauté mushrooms in hot drippings in skillet 5 minutes or until tender. Add green onions, and sauté 2 minutes. Add shrimp and garlic, and sauté 2 minutes or until shrimp are lightly brown. Stir in chicken broth, lemon juice, and hot sauce, and cook 2 more minutes, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet.

Serve shrimp mixture over hot cheese grits. Top with crumbled bacon; serve with lemon wedges.

--Adapted from Bill Neal and Southern Living magazine

Sun-Dried Tomato Mixed Bean Salad

This is another great potluck/tailgate dish. It's best at room temp. The recipe makes enough to feed an army.

1 (8-ounce) jar oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15.8-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Drain sun-dried tomatoes in a sieve over a bowl, reserving oil. Place 1/4 cup reserved oil in a medium bowl. Return the remaining oil to sun-dried tomato jar; reserve for another use. Chop drained tomatoes; place in a large bowl. Add parsley and next 6 ingredients (through onion) to chopped tomatoes, and stir gently to combine.

Add vinegar and remaining ingredients to 1/4 cup reserved oil, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over bean mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Best BBQ Chicken

The name says it all.

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
6 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Cooking spray

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add ketchup and next 4 ingredients (ketchup through hot sauce); bring to a boil. Partially cover, and cook until reduced to 2/3 cup (about 15 minutes), stirring often.

Prepare grill.

Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 12 minutes or until done, turning and basting with 1/3 cup sauce after 8 minutes; serve with remaining 1/3 cup sauce.

-- Adapted from Southern Living magazine

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hoisin Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry

I have to confess that I made this without the chicken. I went straight veggie. It's pretty good. It has a nice light sweetness that is very tasty, without the bold statement that soy sauce makes. If you have any leftover rice, you can toss that in to cook for the last minute. If you wanted to use other leftover raw veggies, this would be a great way to use them.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Cooking spray
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons bottled minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pound chicken breast tenders
2 cups broccoli florets
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 cup shredded carrot

Heat vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Combine broth and the next 7 ingredients (broth through sesame oil). Add chicken to pan, and sauté 2 minutes. Add broccoli, mushrooms, and peppers; sauté 5 minutes. Add carrots, and sauté 2 minutes. Add broth mixture, and cook 1 1/2 minutes or until sauce is slightly thick, stirring constantly.

Serve over rice.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spicy Orange Beef

This is a great alternative to traditional beef stew. It's sweet, with a subtle orange flavor. As listed, the dish has a noticeable level of heat, but it is not spicy. If you want more, you can add more.

2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 orange, zested
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups (1-inch-thick) slices carrot
1 1/2 pounds lean beef stew meat
1 cup water
1/2 cup fat-free low-salt beef broth
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups hot cooked rice
green onions, sliced thin

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chiles, zest, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes or until garlic is lightly browned. Add carrot and beef; sauté 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup water, broth, soy sauce, Grand Marnier, and honey; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour and 10 minutes or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

Add marmalade. Combine 3 tablespoons water and cornstarch, stirring well with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to beef mixture; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Garnish with a wedge of orange and green onions

Serve with rice.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Monday, October 22, 2007

Party Sangria

1 orange, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 1/2 cups simple syrup
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
1 bottle red wine

In a large pitcher, combine the fruit. Muddle. Add the rest of the ingredients, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Serve over ice with fruit garnish.

--Adapted from D. Clougherty

Broccoli Casserole

2 boxes frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained completely
1 Tbsp. mayo
1/2 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
salt and pepper (to taste)

24 saltine crackers, crushed
1/2 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.

Brown hamburger; drain. Combine the mayo, mushroom soup, and egg; stir till thoroughly mixed. Combine broccoli, ground beef, cheese and soup mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the butter and crackers.

Top casserole with crackers. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until crackers are golden brown.

Best Baked Beans

These are the best baked beans I've ever had. No question.

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 can (16 oz) pork 'n' beans
1/2 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350.

Brown ground beef; drain. Add the rest of the ingredients into an oven safe dish. Bake at 350 for at least 30 minutes.

--Adapted from Rita Willett

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Backyard Sesame Chicken

Sesame Chicken Marinade

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 T. instant minced onion
2 T.sesame seeds
1 T. sugar
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. instant minced garlic
1/8 t. ground red pepper
1 lb. chicken tenders

Combine ingredients. Mix well. Marinate chicken in refrigerator
at least 12 hours, turning occasionally.

Grill for 8-10 minutes over medium-high heat, or until juices
run clear.

Catalina Chicken and Pepper Lollipops

Great easy recipe that scales up to feed a crowd. As written, this will feed about 4.

1 bottle Catalina Dressing
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Tabasco sauce (optional)
1 lb. chicken tenderloins
1 red bell pepper
6-8 slices of bacon

Mix the dressing, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and Tabasco sauce (to taste, if desired) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces; add chicken to marinade. Marinate 8 hours to overnight.

If using wood or bamboo skewers, soak for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling.

Cut the bacon pieces in half; Chop the pepper into large chunks. Thread a piece of the pepper onto the skewer. Wrap each chicken piece in bacon, and thread onto the skewer.

Grill skewers 6-8 minutes over medium high heat, or until juices run clear.

--Adapted from Janice Pierce

Sausage Balls

Traditional Southern snack.

1 lb. hot country sausage (like Neese's)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3 cups Bisquick

Preheat oven to 350.

Blend the ingredients together by hand until the Bisquick is completely incorporated. Roll into golf ball sized balls.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Tailgate Oyster Crackers

These are a great snack for any event. Believe me, they are addictive. Once you have one, you'll find yourself drifting by the bowl again and again.

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 pkg dry Ranch dressing mix
1 Tbsp. dried dill
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 bag oyster crackers

Place oyster crackers in a container with an air-tight lid. Stir together first four ingredients, and pour over crackers. Shake to ensure even coating. Over the next day, shake occasionally. These crackers are best once they've sat for a few days, and the flavors have had time to meld.

-- Adapted from Jan Cheek

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Snow Peas with Lemon and Toasted Almonds

Sugar Snap peas are equally delicious in this.

1 cup water
2 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed (about 8 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add peas; cook 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain peas in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 teaspoon cooking water.

Combine peas, reserved cooking water, butter, and lemon zest, tossing gently to combine. Sprinkle with almonds, salt, and pepper; toss gently to combine.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges

These are a good twist on normal oven fries. I like to use chipotle powder, as I think the smokiness adds a nice touch. But I like things spicy. It might be a bit much for some.

4 sweet potatoes
cooking spray
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 500.

Peel potatoes, cut each lengthwise into strips. Place potatoes in a bowl, coat with cooking spray sugar mixture. Toss to evenly coat.

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil.

Bake for 8 minutes, turn, bake for another 8 minutes.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Rice, Asparagus, and Cheese Frittata

This is a great way to use leftover rice and veggies. It doesn't have to be made with the asparagus, that's just how I made it.

2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 large eggs
Cooking spray
1 cup (1-inch) slices asparagus (about 1/4 pound)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine first 4 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk; set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add asparagus and garlic, and sauté 2 minutes. Add onions, and sauté 1 minute or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Add rice; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Reduce heat to medium. Pat mixture into an even layer in pan; sprinkle with cheese. Pour egg mixture over rice mixture; cook 4 minutes or until almost set.

Wrap handle of pan with foil; bake 4 minutes or until golden brown and set.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Soba Noodles with Shrimp

This is a great recipe for precooked frozen shrimp. This recipe is great when served immediately or when chilled and served the next day.

4 ounces uncooked soba (buckwheat) noodles
6 cups water
1 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup chopped cooked shrimp (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add noodles; cook 4 minutes. Add carrot to noodles in pan; cook 2 minutes or until noodles are done. Drain.

Combine vinegar, oil, soy sauce, garlic sauce, and sugar in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add noodle mixture, shrimp, onions, and cilantro; toss to coat. Cover and chill.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Salmon with Sweet-and-Sour Pan Sauce

Serve this dish in a bowl with plenty of rice. If you don't want to saute the salmon, you can roast it (see Indian Spiced Salmon on this blog).

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat.

Combine broth and next 5 ingredients (broth through garlic).

Increase heat to medium-high, and heat 3 minutes.

While pan heats, sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper. Add fillets to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove fillets from pan.

Drain fat from pan, and discard fat. Add broth mixture to pan, scraping to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil; cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Serve sauce over fish.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Skillet Stuffed Peppers

There isn't much skill or skillet involved in this recipe. It's very tasty and very easy.

2 large green bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
Cooking spray
3/4 pound ground round
1/2 cup water
1 (1.25-ounce) package taco seasoning
1 (20-ounce) package refrigerated mashed potatoes (such as Simply Potatoes)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Place the bell pepper halves, cut sides down, on a microwave-safe dish; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes and 30 seconds or until pepper halves are crisp-tender. Let stand, covered, 3 minutes (peppers will soften).

While the peppers cook, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add beef to pan; cook 3 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add water and seasoning, and stir to combine. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 5 minutes or until done.

While beef cooks and peppers stand, cook the potatoes in microwave according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

Spoon 1/2 cup beef mixture into each pepper half; top each with 2/3 cup potatoes. Sprinkle each pepper half with 1 tablespoon cheese. Garnish with black pepper, if desired.

-- Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Sweet Glazed Carrots

Using the carrot chips (you can find them on the produce aisle with the rest of the carrots - they are nothing more than crinkle cut raw carrots) makes this dish a snap.

2 cups carrot chips
1/2 cup Catalina dressing
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. dried parsley

Cook carrots in boiling water in saucepan until crisp-tender; drain. Return to pan.

Add dressing, sugar, Worcestershire sauce; stir until evenly coated. Cook on low heat 5 minutes, or until sugar is completely meleted and carrots are evenly glazed, stirring frequently.

Add parsely during last minute of cooking.

--Adapted from Kraft Food and Family

Cream Cheese Bacon Crescents

These go fast. You might want to make two batches. Or three. These are also perfect finger food for any social gathering from wedding/baby showers to birthday parties.

1 tub (8 oz.) Chive & Onion cream cheese spread
3 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled
2 cans (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix cream cheese spread and bacon in small bowl until well blended.

Separate each can of dough into 8 triangles each. Cut each triangle in half lengthwise. Spread each dough triangle with 1 generous tsp. cream cheese mixture. Roll up, starting at shortest side of triangle and rolling to opposite point. Place, point sides down, on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 12 to 15 min. or until golden brown. Serve warm.

--Adapted from Kraft Food and Family

Molten Chocolate Cakes

4 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup thawed Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter four 3/4-cup custard cups or soufflé dishes. Place on baking sheet (See below for muffin cup instructions).

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1 min. or until butter is melted. Stir with wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar until well blended. Blend in eggs and egg yolks with wire whisk. Stir in flour. Divide batter among prepared custard cups.

Bake 13 to 14 min. or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 min. Carefully run small knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto dessert dishes. Serve immediately, topped with whipped topping.

How to to Bake Cakes in Muffin Cups:
Prepare batter as directed; pour evenly among nine well-greased medium muffin cups. Bake at 425ºF for 7 min. or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 min. Loosen cakes and remove from pan as directed.

--Adapted from Kraft Food and Family

Mini Meatloaves

You can't beat this for quick and easy. No point in fussing about meatloaf if you don't have to, from my point-of-view. The individual portion sizes keep from eating too much, and they slice up great for sandwiches the next day.

1 lb. ground beef
1 (6 oz.) pkg Stove Top stuffing
1 cup of water
1 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 cup BBQ sauce
3/4 cup shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix meat, stuffing mix, water and garlic powder until well blended. Press evenly into 12 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray.

Make an indentation in the top of each with a spoon and add the BBQ sauce.

Bake 30 minutes or until meatloaves are cooked through. Top each with cheese, and return to to oven for 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

--Adapted from Kraft Food and Family

Oreo Truffles

These are fantastic. They are easy, but it does take a while to roll them all out, and coat them all with chocolate. While you can eat them right away, let them sit for a day in the fridge so that the flavors can meld and the chocolate can harden.

1 pkg. (1 lb., 2 oz.) Oreo cookies, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted

Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. (Cookies can also be finely crushed in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin.) Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.
Dip truffles in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs or with cocoa powder.
Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.

-- Adapted from Kraft Food and Family

Pork Medallions with Balsalmic-Honey Glaze

This recipe is also a great way to cook those thin boneless pork chops that are always on sale. Serve with couscous, rice, or potato cakes - you'll want something to catch the tasty sauce.

For the balsamic-honey glaze:
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pork:
1 3/4 to 2 pounds pork tenderloin
Canola oil, for searing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the glaze: Put garlic and rosemary in a small bowl. Add the vinegar, honey, olive oil, mustard, and salt and pepper, to taste, and stir to combine.

For the pork: Slice the tenderloin into 1-inch thick medallions (rounds). Cover the bottom of a medium skillet with a light film of canola oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the pork slices in 1 layer, season with salt and pepper, and sear for 1 minute. Turn and sear for 1 more minute, until lightly browned. Transfer the slices in 1 layer to a shallow baking dish (or just use an oven-proof skillet from the beginning).

Pour the glaze over the slices and turn them to coat.

Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, until a thermometer inserted reaches 140 degrees F for medium. Remove from the oven and keep warm, loosely covered until ready to serve.

To serve place pork medallions on a platter and spoon the balsamic-honey glaze over them.

--Adapted from Amanda Cushman and Sara Moulton

Stir Fry Sauce

This is a perfect recipe for when you need a quick dinner. You can stop by the grocery store salad bar, and pick up all the ingredients you need. I usually use carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, bell pepper, and anything else that looks good. A pound of prepped vegetables goes a long way in this recipe. If you want something heartier, you can mix in any protein (tofu, chicken, beef, shrimp).

I like this sauce over bottled sauces because you have more control over the ingredients. I almost always have all of these things on hand, so I just don't see the need to keep a bottle of store-bought sauce.

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup ketchup
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced green onion

In a wok, stir-fry vegetables over high heat for 4-6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add sauce, and cook for 3 minutes more.

--Adapted from Kathleen Daelemans

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

This recipe generates more requests than any other. Everybody wants to know what's in it, and how to make it. It is such a unique twist to traditional sweet potatoes. I usually make it year-round to serve with with ham, but it is great for Thanksgiving as well. Give it a try.

If you are taking this somewhere, you can assemble each of the pieces and combine right before serving. This dish is great at room temp. It's a staple at potlucks.

4 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped scallions (green and white)
1 cup julienned roasted red pepper (or use fresh for more crunch)

6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup orange marmalade chutney
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil

Make the Salad: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a roasting pan, combine the potatoes, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper, cumin and ginger. Stir to combine and bake until the potatoes are fork-tender and golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the cranberries, scallions, and red pepper and set aside.

Make the Dressing: Prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients (except for the olive oil) in a small saucepan and heat. Remove from heat and whisk in the olive oil.
Assemble salad by gently tossing the roasted potatoes with the red pepper mixture. Add enough of the dressing to coat and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve with extra dressing on the side.

--Adapted from Devon Delaney and Sara Moulton

Sausage Apple Cornbread

I've always wondered how this recipe would perform if made into muffins, rather than in a casserole. Maybe some day I'll find out. Until then, this is a great dish. It's great to make and take to breakfast potlucks, as it doesn't have to be piping hot to still be tasty.

1 lb. block country sausage
4 to 5 tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 (7 1/2-ounce) package yellow cornbread mix, batter prepared according to package directions
1 cup maple syrup, for serving

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Cook sausage in a skillet until done, crumbling it as much as possible. Drain and then arrange in a 9-inch square baking dish. Layer sliced apples on top. Pour corn bread batter over all and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until corn bread is done. Serve with warm maple syrup.

--Adapted from Paula Dean

Scallion and Egg Tortillas

The Missus and I seem to have breakfast foods for dinner on a regular basis. I'm fine with that, as there too many tasty things to be contained to one meal alone. That said, I'm not sure this qualifies as breakfast food.

1 tablespoon light oil, plus some to drizzle
4 scallions cut into 1-inch lengths
4 eggs beaten
4 large plain flour tortillas

Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat with 1 tablespoon oil. When the oil smokes, add scallions and sear them, crisping them at edges and charring the greens, 2 minutes. Pull pan from heat and add egg mixture seasoned with salt. Toss and scramble the eggs, putting the pan back over the heat briefly if necessary, then remove eggs to a plate. Wipe pan clean and add a drizzle of oil to skillet and a tortilla. Blister the tortilla, 30 seconds, turn it and add 1/4 of the scallions and eggs to top the tortilla. Fold the tortilla into quarters and crisp the outsides then remove, repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

--Adapted from Rachel Ray

Red Wine Beef Stew with Potatoes and Green Beans

This is a pretty good beef stew recipe. I abhor white onions, but if you like them, the original recipe called for 3 diced onions. I feel sick just typing that.

2 pounds beef chuck for stew, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
4 medium carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans reduced-sodium beef or chicken broth
2 cups dry red wine
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 medium russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 handfuls green beans, ends trimmed

Season the beef cubes lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the butter starts to turn brown, add half the beef and raise the heat to high. At first, the beef will give off some liquid, but once that evaporates, the beef will start to brown. Cook, turning the beef cubes on all sides until the pieces are as evenly browned as possible, about 5 or 6 minutes after the water has boiled off. If the pan starts to get too brown at any point, just turn down the heat a little. Scoop the beef into a bowl and brown the rest of the beef the same way using the remaining butter.

Scoop out the second batch of beef, then add the carrots and a splash of the wine to deglaze. Raise the heat to medium-high, and stir in the flour, adding more wine if necessary, until it the flour is completely absorbed.

Transfer the mixture to a crockpot set to high. make sure you get all of the browned bits out of the saucepan. Pour the beef broth, wine, and crushed tomatoes, and rosemary into the crockpot. Slide the beef back into the pot and simmer for at least an hour on High.

Stir the potatoes into the stew, and cook on High until the potatoes and beef are tender, stirring occasionally, about another 45 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another 5 minutes until the green beans turn bright green and are cooked through but still have a nice snap.

--Adapted from Dave Lieberman

Smothered Mushrooms and Spinach

Honestly, I no idea what the "smothering" is supposed to accomplish. This tastes the same to me whether you cover it or not. Still, I assume it does something, so I continue to follow the recipe. If you don't have the right kind of lid, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
24 small crimini mushrooms, wiped clean, halved
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained completely
1/4 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper

Heat a medium skillet with extra-virgin olive oil and butter over medium to medium-high heat. When fat is hot, add garlic and mushrooms and place a lid which is too small for the skillet down into the pan, pressing and smothering the mushrooms. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, stirring once, then add the spinach, turning it with tongs to combine with mushrooms. Smother the greens for 1 to 2 minutes, then deglaze the pan with the wine. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.

--Adapted from Rachel Ray

Roasted Brocolli

This is one of my standby dishes. It goes together in a flash, and allows you to focus on something else. There's not much to say, except that this is about as perfect as recipes come.

1 pound fresh broccoli (sorry, can't use frozen)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground
black pepper
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and drain broccoli. Pat dry. Cut into florets. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with the oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange florets in a single layer on a baking pan and roast, turning once, for 12-15 minutes, or until just tender.

Sprinkle with cheese before serving. If desired, squeeze a few wedges of fresh lemon.

Potato Cakes

This is an updated version of one of my favorite things growing up. It's simply the best way to use up mashed potatoes. These are great as a side dish standing alone, however, these have the potential to turn any meal into a special one. The potato cakes are a great base for steak, or shrimp, or anything where you might serve something like a rice pilaf. Since they look fancy, you can fool everyone into thinking you did something more than just serve them leftovers.

The best part is that if you make flavored mashed potatoes - you get flavored potato cakes! Just omit the blue cheese.

2 cups cold mashed potatoes
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, plus extra for coating
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (any anything else for extra flavor)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Panko crumbs, for dusting
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine the potatoes, bread crumbs, egg and blue cheese in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Form the mixture into eight 2-inch cakes. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Dredge the cakes lightly in more panko crumbs. Heat the oil in a large pan or electric skillet over high heat.

Fry until golden brown.

Spicy Citrus Broccoli

I'm not sure where this recipe came from, but I know I like it. I'm not the world's biggest fan of broccoli, so I have to dress it up with all kinds of flavors. This recipe is great because it is light enough not to overpower a main dish, but it still packs a punch. Depending on your taste, you may want to use more or less pepper.

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (not minced from a can, you have to use real garlic)
1 pound broccoli, cut into spears, lengthwise
6 ounces dry white wine
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 lemon and 1 orange, zested

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and garlic until just sizzling. Add the broccoli and cook, tossing regularly for 8 to 10 minutes, until the stem is tender. Use the wine to slow the cooking down if the garlic begins to brown. When the broccoli is tender, add the red pepper flakes and zests and place on a platter.

Crab Cakes with Herbed Aioli

To me, crab is one of the great wonders of the culinary world. How can an animal so fundamentally nasty taste so great? The world may never know. These crab cakes work well with canned crab, though of course, they work better with fresh. Since they are only minimally fried, they aren't heavy or greasy.


1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced

Crab cakes:
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
1 teaspoon canola oil
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare aioli, combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

To prepare crab cakes, combine bell pepper and next 7 ingredients (through black pepper) in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add panko and crabmeat; toss gently. Divide the crab mixture into 12 equal portions, shaping each into a 1-inch-thick patty.

Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add patties; cook 2 minutes. Carefully turn patties over. Place pan in oven; bake at 350° for 6 minutes.

--Adapted from Cooking Light magazine