Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cheesy Ham and Vegetable Chowder

In one last effort to get rid of Christmas ham, I made a hearty ham and vegetable chowder.

Cheesy Ham and Vegetable Chowder
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 c. water
2 c. chopped potato (2 medium)
1/2 c. chopped carrot (1 medium)
1/2 c. chopped celery (1 stalk)
1/4 c. chopped onion (1 small)
1/2 c. butter or magarine
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. black pepper
2 c. milk
2.5 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 15-ounce can cream-style corn
2 c. cubed cooked ham

1. In a large saucepan combine water, potato, carrot, celery, and onion. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Do not drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt butter. Stir in flour and pepper; add milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.

3. Add cheese to milk mixture. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Add cheese mixture to potato mixture. Stir in corn and ham. Heat through but do not boil. If desired, season with additional pepper.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Farmer's Casserole

In my family, we have a ham every Christmas. My mom's Christmas bonus from work is a coupon for a free ham or turkey, so they brought one down with them when they came to celebrate Christmas with me and my husband. As delicious as that ham was, it was also over 10 pounds, so we are faced with a lot of leftovers despite sending some ham home with my parents. Due to the overabundance of ham in our lives, I now present to you Farmer's Casserole, a simple and delicious way to use up some of your leftover ham. Since it can be prepared ahead, it makes a great dish if you're having people over for brunch, in addition to being a tasty dinner.

Farmer's Casserole
loosely adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

Nonstick cooking spray
3 c. shredded potatoes (frozen hashbrown potatoes or fresh)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (or other favorite cheese)
1 c. diced cooked ham
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
1/2 c. chopped onion
4 eggs, beaten
1.5 c. milk
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. salt
Additional shredded cheese for top (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange shredded potatoes evenly in the baking dish. If you are using fresh potatoes, I would recommend squeezing some of the moisture out with a paper towel. Sprinkle with cheese, ham, green pepper, and onion.

2. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, pepper, and salt. Pour egg mixture over layers in dish.

3. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If desired, sprinkle additional shredded cheese on top for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Make-ahead directions: Prepare as above through Step 2. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

As a kid, orange rolls and sausage were the traditional Christmas Day breakfast. Since my husband isn't a huge fan of orange rolls, I made cinnamon rolls to go with maple sausage for Christmas breakfast.

Cinnamon Rolls
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book

4 3/4 to 5 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 t.)
1 c. milk
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. salt
3 eggs
1 recipe Brown Sugar Filling (below)
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 T. half-and-half or light cream
1 recipe Vanilla Glaze (below)

1. In a large mixing bowl combine 2 1/4 cups of the flour and the yeast. In a saucepan heat and stir milk, butter, granulated sugar, and salt just until warm (120 to 130 degrees) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture to dry mixture along with eggs. Beat with electric mixture on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl. beat on high speed 3 minutes. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can..

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl, turning once. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour).

3. Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Lightly grease two 9x1 1/2-inch round baking pans or two baking sheets. Roll each half of dough into a 12x8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle Brown Sugar Filling over dough rectangles. If desired, sprinkle with raisins and/or pecans. Roll up each rectangle, jelly-roll style, starting from a long side. Seal seams. Slice each roll into 12 pieces. Place, cut sides down, in prepared pans or on prepared baking sheets.

4. Cover dough loosely with clear plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Uncover, let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. (Or, to bake rolls right away, don't chill dough. Instead, cover loosely; let dough rise in warm place until nearly double, about 30 minutes).

5. Break any surface bubbles with a greased toothpick. Brush dough with half-and-half or light cream. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown (if necessary, cover rolls loosely with foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning). Remove from oven. Brush again with half-and-half or light cream. Cool for 1 minute. Carefully invert rolls onto wire rack. Cool slightly. Invert again onto serving platter. Drizzle with Vanilla Glaze. Serve warm.

Brown Sugar Filling: In a medium bowl stir together 3/4 c. packed brown sugar, 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, and 1 T. ground cinnamon. Cut in 1/3 c. butter until crumbly.

Vanilla Glaze: In a small mixing bowk stir together 1 1/4 c. sifted powdered sugar, 1 t. light-colored corn syrup, and 1/2 t. vanilla. Stir in enough half-and-half or light cream (1 to 2 T.) to make drizzling consistency. (I used 2 t. of vanilla; you may want to start with 1/2 t. and add vanilla to taste).

Candied Sweet Potatoes

I didn't get to have any sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving this year and dearly missed them, so I knew I had to make them for Christmas. Aside from the deliciousness of butter and marshmallows, this recipe has pure maple syrup, which makes pretty much anything better in my opinion. I added both mini marshmallows and walnuts for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time.

Candied Sweet Potatoes
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds) or two 18-ounce cans sweet potatoes, drained
1/4 c. pure maple syruup
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted if desired or 3/4 c. tiny marshmallows

1. Peel the fresh sweet potatoes; cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Cook fresh sweet potatoes, covered, in enough boiling water to cover, for 10 to 12 minutes or until just tender; drain. (Cut up canned sweet potatoes).

2. Transfer sweet potatoes to a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Add maple syrup and melted butter; stir gently to combine.

3. Baked, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until sweet potatoes are glazed, stirring gently twice. Sprinkle with nuts; let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Creamed Corn Casserole

I made this dish last year for Thanksgiving and it was a big hit so I thought I'd make it for Christmas this year. I like anything that can be prepared in the slow cooker and free me up to work on other dishes and the fact that is has red and green peppers makes it festive and appropriate for Christmas.

Creamed Corn Casserole
from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 16-ounce packages frozen whole kernel sweet corn
2 cups chopped red and/or green sweet pepper (2 large)
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of celery soup
1 8-ounce tub cream cheese spread with garden vegetables or chive and onion
1/4 cup milk

1. Coat a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray; set aside. Place corn in a colander. Run it under cool water to thaw; drain. Set aside.

2. In a large saucepan cook sweet pepper and onion in hot butter until tender. Stir in corn and black pepper. In a medium bowl whisk together soup, cream cheese spread, and milk. Stir soup mixture into corn mixture. Transfer to the prepared casserole.

3. Bake, covered, in a 375 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until casserole is heated through, stirring once.

Slow cooker directions: Prepare as above, except do not thaw the corn and omit the butter. In a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker combine frozen corn, sweet pepper, onion, and black pepper. In a medium bowl whisk together soup, cream cheese spread, and milk. Pour over the corn mixture in cooker. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Stir before serving.

Simple Wheat Rolls

I chose these rolls for Christmas Eve dinner because the dough could be left in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours before baking.

Simple Wheat Rolls
from The Better Homes and Gardens Better Baking Book

makes 24 rolls

4 1/4 c. all-purpose lfour
1/3 c. sugar
2 envelopes active dry yeast (4 1/2 t.)
2 t. salt
2 eggs
2 c. warm water (120 to 130 degrees)
3/4 c. cooking oil
2 c. whole wheat flour
Nonstick coating spray or shortening

1. In a large mixing bowl mix 3 cups of the all-purpose flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt. Stir together the eggs, water, and oil; add to flour mixture.

2. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping side of bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in remaining all-purpose flour and the whole wheat flour.

3. Transfer dough to a very large greased bowl; turn once. Cover; refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

4. Stir dough down. Let dough rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, spray a 13x9x2-inch baking pan and a 8x8x2-inch baking pan with nonstick coating, or lightly grease pans with shortening.

5. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Roll dough to a 12x8-inch rectangle; cut with a knife or pizza cutter into 24 2x2-inch rolls. Transfer rolls to prepared pans (put 16 in the 13x9-inch pan and 8 rolls in the 8x8-inch pan). Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 40 minutes).

6. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.

Reuben Dip

This year, my husband and I had my parents over for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning. I wanted some simple appetizers that I could prepare ahead of time to go with Christmas Eve dinner. Shrimp with cocktail sauce is a staple appetizer for my family, but I also wanted something warm and hearty. Reubens are one of my, my husband's and my dad's favorites, so I thought reuben dip was an excellent choice for an appetizer. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures since I was too busy cooking and eating.

The recipe called to bake this in the oven, but I layered it in my mini slow cooker instead so the dip would stay hot.

Reuben Dip

16 oz. sauerkraut
8 oz. shredded corned beef
16 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup Miracle Whip (or mayonnaise)
1/2 cup Thousand Island dressing

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (if cooking in oven).

2. Drain and rinse the sauerkraut, then squeeze out excess moisture with paper towel. Spread in the bottom of 9x13-inch baking dish if baking in the oven or the bottom of slow cooker insert.

3. Layer corned beef and Swiss cheese on top of sauerkraut.

4. Mix Miracle Whip and Thousand Island dressing together and pour on top.

5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. If using slow cooker, heat for a few hours and stir before serving.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hamburger Pie

This recipe is similar to my last one: complete meal in one dish (has protein, starch, and vegetables), is simple but satisfying, and helps me make more room in my freezer and cabinet for all the supplies I'll be picking up for Christmas dinner this week.

Hamburger Pie
adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1.5 lbs potatoes, mashed or one 24-ounce package refrigerated mashed potatoes
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed*
1 can green beans, drained and rinsed*
1 10.75-ounce can condensed tomato soup
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Prepare mashed potatoes if necessary; set aside. In a large skillet cook meat and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat. Add salt and pepper. Stir in corn, green beans, and soup. Pour into a greased 2-quart rectangular baking or casserole dish.

2. Spoon mashed potatoes onto ground beef mixture and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle cheese over potatoes. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and cheese begins to brown.

*Alternatively, you can use about 2.5 cups total fresh green beans and corn or frozen green beans and corn, thawed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Banana Bread

When I buy bananas, I rarely eat them raw and usually save them for banana bread. It's not that I dislike bananas, but I definitely prefer them as part of something else instead of on their own. I got a really good deal on bananas last week and have been eagerly anticipating making banana bread ever since.

I often like to switch out part of the all-purpose flour for wheat flour and add flax seeds for a boost of omega-3s.

Banana Bread

adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (4 to 5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil or melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9x5x3-inch or two 7 1/2x3 1/2x2-inch loaf pans; set aside. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, banana, sugar, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in walnuts.

3. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes for 9x5x3-inch pan or 40 to 45 minutes for 7 1/2x3 1/2x2-inch pans or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. If necessary, cover loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Cool in a pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creamy Chicken, Broccoli, and Brown Rice Bake

It's been too long since I had a new recipe to share! This past week has been full of chaos and unexpected expenses, so I've been cooking really quick and easy food like tortellini or grilled cheese and tomato soup because I haven't had the time for anything more complicated. Also, my husband was gone this past weekend and I usually eat simple things like soup and sandwiches when he's not around. I've still got a lot to do before Christmas, so here's a quick and easy recipe that makes enough for dinner with plenty of leftovers (at least it does when you're only feeding two people). This recipe is an amalgamation of many recipes I've seen before, and can easily be switched up depending on what protein, vegetables, soup, and cheese you have on hand.

Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Bake

1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
4 oz. cream cheese
1 can (10.75) oz. condensed cream of chicken or cream of broccoli soup
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
16 oz. bag frozen broccoli, thawed
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups instant brown rice
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 baking dish.

2. Combine evaporated milk and cream cheese in baking dish, whisking until smooth. Add soup, water, garlic powder, and black pepper; mix well. Add vegetables, chicken, and rice; stir to combine. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

3. Bake for about 60 minutes or until rice is just a little underdone. Remove foil and top with cheese. Continue baking, uncovered, for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Oven-Fried Chicken

Although I'm usually game for KFC, I rarely fry chicken myself because it takes so much oil, which gets expensive, and is so unhealthy. I also usually only have boneless, skinless chicken breasts around the house unless I bought a whole chicken to make chicken noodle soup. This is an easy, low-fat chicken dish that makes a good alternative to fried chicken.

You may also want to dredge the chicken in flour before dipping it in the egg, but I usually don't. I use whole-wheat Ritz crackers instead of cornflakes because I'm likely to have crackers around and am not a big fan of cornflakes for breading (or as a cereal for that matter). I use only boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which cuts down on the cooking time. If you do this, keep an eye on them because they can easily dry out. I cooked 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and they were done in less than 25 minutes at 375 degrees. This will, of course, vary greatly depending on the thickness of chicken breasts you use. This coating also makes excellent chicken strips.

Oven-Fried Chicken
from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/4 cups crushed cornflakes or finely crushed rich round crackers (about 35 crackers)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 1/2 to 3 pounds meaty chicken pieces (breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks)

1. In a small bowl. combine egg and milk. For coating, combine crushed cornflakes, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper; stir in melted butter. Skin chicken. Dip chicken pieces, on at a time, into egg mixture; coat with crumb mixture.

2. In a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan, arrange chicken, bones sides down, so the pieces aren't touching. Sprinkle chicken pieces with any remaining crumb mixture so they are generously coated.

3. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 F for breasts, 180 F for thighs and drumsticks). Do not turn the pieces while cooking.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spaghetti Pie

Spaghetti Pie
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

4 ounces dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces ground beef or bulk Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped green sweet pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese, drained
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)

1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain. Return spaghetti to hot saucepan and keep warm.

2. Stir butter into hot past until melted. Stir in egg and Parmesan cheese; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet cook ground beef, onion, sweet pepper, and garlic over medium heat until the meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat. Stir in tomato sauce and oregano; heat through.

4. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Press spaghetti mixture onto bottom and up sides of pie plate, forming a crust. Spread cottage cheese on the bottom and up the sides of pasta crust. Spread meat mixture over cottage cheese. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and heated through. To serve, cut into wedges.

Friday, December 4, 2009


I knew this recipe would be good when I saw that it had 4 teaspoons of vanilla extract (the 12 tablespoons of butter couldn't hurt either). I am of the opinion that one, you MUST use pure vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla flavoring, and two, it never hurts to add a little more to a recipe. I know that pure vanilla extract is far more expensive than imitation vanilla flavoring, but it is definitely worth it. The last time I bought vanilla extract at a grocery store I believe it was $3.99 or so for a 2 oz. bottle, while imitation vanilla extract was $0.99 for a 4 oz. bottle and that's why I don't buy it at the grocery store anymore. At Sam's Club you can buy a 16 oz. bottle for only $6.48! I think I get my Sam's Club membership's worth from vanilla extract and tires alone. I've never checked out Costco, so they might have a great deal like that as well. But I'd still buy pure vanilla extract over imitation vanilla flavoring any day, even at grocery store prices.

Now, as much as I adore America's Test Kitchen, I don't follow all their recommendations, mostly because I'm lazy. Because weighing is more accurate the measuring out ingredients, the America's Test Kitchen Baking Book provides weights for many of the ingredients. Despite the fact that I have a digital kitchen scale, I still use measuring cups. Although toasting nuts gives them a deeper flavor, I don't always do it, usually because I don't have the time. The foil sling works well if you're going to remove the bars from the pan you baked them in for cutting and serving, I rarely am, so I just make sure to grease my pans well. My 9x13-inch pan has a cover, so I see no reason to remove them from that pan to serve or store them. Why create extra dishes? It's also a rare occasion that I can wait until a baked treat is completely cool to try it, unless I need to frost it first. Who doesn't love a warm brownie or cookie?

from the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (3 ounces) white chocolate chips
1 cup (4 ounces) pecans, toasted* and chopped

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with a foil sling** and grease the foil. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the chips and nuts.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the blondies until a tooothpick inserted near the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

4. Let the blondies cool completely in the pan, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the blondies from the pan using the foil, cut into squares, and serve.

*You can either toast nuts in a skillet or in an oven. To toast less than 1 cup of nuts (or seeds), heat them in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking periodically to prevent burning, until the nuts are brown and fragrant, 3 to 8 minutes.

To toast a large quantity of nuts, spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven until they are browned and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Shake the baking sheet every few minutes, keeping a close eye on them because it doesn't take long to go from toasted to burnt.

**To make a foil sling, fold or cut two pieces of aluminum foil so they are as wide as the baking dish, but longer. Lay the sheets of foil in the pan, perpendicular to one another, with the extra length of foil hanging over the edge of the pan. Push the foil so it is as flush with the pan surface as possible, ironing out any wrinkles and making sure to get it pushed into the corners. Grease the sides and bottom before you add the batter. When your bars are finished baking and cooling, you can easily lift the bars out of the pan using the foil overhang as handles to cut and serve them.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwiches

Traditional Chicken Cordon Bleu is a boneless, skinless chicken breast is pounded thin and rolled around ham and cheese, then breaded and either fried or baked, very similar to Chicken Kiev. As you can imagine, these are both quite fatty and indulgent dishes. My sandwich version is by no means a health food, but it's not breaded or friend, and doesn't have any butter unless you want to toast the bread. My personal choices for condiments are Light Miracle Whip and some kind of spicy or tangy mustard, but I'm sure there are many other excellent choices out there I haven't tried yet. As far as veggies, I usually add lettuce, but tomatoes, onions, and peppers could also make great additions if you like them. I despise raw tomatoes and won't eat anything with them.

Half of the sandwich pictured was one serving for me. If you have something as a side you'll probably only eat half, unless you're really hungry.

There's no cookbook credit for this recipe, as I came up with it myself, but I'm sure there are many similar recipes out there.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwiches

1 recipe French Bread or other bread or rolls
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices deli ham (I used honey ham; you may want to use more if your ham is really thin)
2 slices cheese (I used provolone; Swiss is another favorite)
Mayo or Miracle Whip (I used Light Miracle Whip)
Spicy mustard (I usually use spicy brown mustard, but used Wollersheim Winery wine mustard this time)
Lettuce, or other vegetables if desired

1. Slice the bread to an appropriate size for the chicken breasts you are using. I cut the bread once horizontally and then sliced it length-wise into appropriately sized pieces. Butter and toast the bread under the broiler if desired. Spread bread with your favorite condiments (you could also add these at the very end).

2. Meanwhile, grill the chicken breasts (I used the George Foreman). Alternatively, you could bread and fry them if you want something a little closer to the original dish, but this is obviously less healthy.

3. Place the cooked chicken on a slice of bread. Add two slices of ham and one slice of cheese. Put under the broiler until the ham is warm and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Add lettuce and any other veggies if desired. Top with the other slice of bread and enjoy!

French Bread

Yesterday I decided to make chicken cordon bleu sandwiches for dinner. I went to the grocery store and was planning on picking up a baguette or nice rolls, but I decided I was not willing to pay $3 or $4 just for a loaf of bread when I can easily do it myself. With a KitchenAid mixer, there really isn't any excuse not to at least try your hand at making bread since it does all the kneading for you, the most time-consuming step. Of course, if you don't have stand mixer you can do the kneading by hand.

I halved everything and only made one loaf since that was all I needed. I baked it for 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on it since I didn't know how much the time would change for one loaf versus two. My oven also tends to run a little hot and I was worried the outside would get too dark. Fortunately for me, thw bread turned out chewy and moist on the inside and crusty on the outside.

French Bread
from the KitchenAid Baking Companion

makes 2 loaves

2 packages active dry yeast (one package=2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cold water

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in the warmed bowl of electric stand mixer. Add salt, butter, and flour. Attach dough hook to mixer. Turn to low and mix until well-blended, about 1 minutes. Knead on low about 2 minutes longer. Dough will be sticky.

2. Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

3. Punch dough down divide in half. Roll each half into a 12x15-inch rectangle. Roll dough tightly, from longest side, tapering ends if desired. Place loaves on greased baking sheets that have been dusted with cornmeal. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

4. With a sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Beat egg white and cold water together with fork. Brush each loaf with egg mixture. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes longer. Remove from baking sheets immediately; cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Sweet potatoes were only $0.40/lb the week of Thanksgiving, so I bought a couple bags to cook myself once the family Thanksgiving celebrations were over. I really like sweet potatoes, but I want to broaden my horizons beyond covering them in butter and marshmallows.

Next time I might try using maple syrup in place of brown sugar because I love anything with a maple flavor and I make my candied sweet potatoes using real maple syrup. I also thinking I'll throw in some walnuts or pecans for crunch and heart-healthy omega-3s.

Sweet Potatoes and Apples
from The Joy of Cooking

6 medium sweet potatoes
1 1/2 to 2 cups thinly sliced all-purpose apples
Fresh lemon juice (optional; use on apples that are not tart)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons raisins (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped pecans (optional)
Dash of ground cinnamon or grated lemon zest
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1. Cook, covered, the sweet potatoes in boiling water until nearly done; drain. Once cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1/2-inch slices.
2. Meanwhile, cook, covered, the apples in very little boiling water until nearly tender; drain. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. If the apples are not tart, sprinkle them with lemon juice.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x9-inch baking dish and place in it alternating layers of apples and sweet potatoes, sprinkling each layer with a portion of brown sugar, cinnamon and/or raisins and pecans if desired.
4. Dot the top with butter. Pour reserved apple cooking liquid or 1/2 cup water over the top.
5. Cover and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Meatballs

This recipe is another classic from The Joy of Cooking. It can also be made into chicken meatballs or turkey/chicken loaf, which is equally as delicious.

I used ketchup instead of tomato paste because I always have that around an am not willing to open a can of tomato paste for 1 tablespoon.

Turkey Meatballs
from The Joy of Cooking

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound ground turkey or chicken
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Heat 1 T. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add chopped onion and garlic and cook, stirring for 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Transfer onion and garlic to a medium bowl and add ground turkey, egg, Parmesan cheese, milk, bread crumbs, tomato paste, basil, salt and pepper and thoroughly combine*.

3. Make into 1-inch meatballs and roll in cornmeal.

4. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the meatballs and cook until brown, about 10 minutes (internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees).

5. Serve with a vegetable or pasta and tomato sauce.

*To make turkey loaf, transfer the mixture to a lightly oiled 8x4-inch or 8 1/2x4 1/2-inch loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees until the center feels firm when pressed, about 35 minutes (internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees). Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pumpkin Bars

Although it pained me not to make a Thanksgiving feast this year, I had to at least bring something to Thanksgiving with my husband's family. At his request, I made pumpkin bars, one of his favorite treats. I would have chosen something much more complex if it had been up to me, but it turned out to be a wonderful thing that I only had to make these very simple (and delicious) bars amidst the rush of getting packed up and ready to go.

Pumpkin Bars
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs, beaten
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup cooking oil (I used canola)
1/2 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cloves. Stir in the eggs, pumpkin, and oil until combined. Spread batter in an ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan.

2. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 2 hours. Spread with 1/2 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting. Cut into bars.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 1/2 to 6 cups powdered sugar

1. In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar to reach spreading consistency. This frosts tops and sides of two 8- or 9-inch layers. Halve the recipe to frost a 13x9x2-inch cake.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Meat Loaf

Meat loaf is the ultimate comfort food, especially when served with a hearty helping of mashed potatoes. This is my favorite meatloaf recipe that I've come across so far, far better than meat loaf made with condensed vegetable soup. Although it's a subtle change, adding brown sugar and dry mustard to the ketchup glaze really makes a big difference.

Meat Loaf

from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or 2 cups soft bread crumbs (2 1/2 slices)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons dried leaf sage, basil, or oregano, crushed
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef, ground lamb, or ground por
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard

1. In a medium bowl combine eggs and milk; stir in bread crumbs, onion, parsley, salt, sage, and pepper. Add ground meat; mix well. Lightly pat mixture into an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan.

2. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until internal temperature registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Spoon off fat. In a small bowl combine ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard; spread over meat. Bake for 10 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into eight slices.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

My dad came down to visit yesterday and watch the Packer game with me so I whipped one of my favorite appetizers/snacks, spinach and artichoke dip. It's quick, easy, and delicious!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

10 ounces frozen chopped spinach
1 1/2 cups canned artichoke hearts
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
4-5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Chop the artichoke hearts.
3. Squeeze excess water from spinach.
4. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
5. Spread into a small glass baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the dip is hot. Serve with tortilla or pita chips or veggies.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Carrot Cake Cookies

Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts, but I don't often make large cakes unless there's a special occasion. This cookie recipe makes sandwich cookies that are like tiny, inside-out carrot cakes. My dad is coming to visit tomorrow and watch the Packer game with me, so I thought these would be a nice sweet treat in addition to the salty snacks I'll be making for the game tomorrow.

Carrot Cake Cookies
from Martha Stewart's Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flattening cookies
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 large carrots)
1 cup raisins
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well-combined.

2. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger; stir to combine. Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture; mix on low speed until just blended. Mix in oats, carrots, and raisins. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape tablespoons of dough into balls and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.

4. Bake until browned and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Using an offset spatula, spread about 2 teaspoons of frosting onto flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich together with remaining cookies. Cookies can be refridgerated in airtight containers up to 3 days.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add butter and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in confectioners' sugar and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ranger Cookies

I found the recipe for Ranger Cookies when I was looking for a high-energy treat that my husband could bring along with him when he goes hunting this weekend. Packed with coconut, raisins, and rolled oats, Ranger Cookies are an amped-up version of oatmeal raisin which should help keep the munchies at bay.

Ranger Cookies
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

makes about 48 cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. quick-cooking rolled oats
1 c. coconut
1 c. raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, or mixed dried fruit bits

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Stir in rolled oats, coconut, and raisins.

2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are light brown and centers are set. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to wire rack and let cool.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Now don't get me wrong, I like boxed macaroni and cheese (except for Kraft for whatever reason), but homemade baked macaroni and cheese is on a whole different playing field. Although it's not as cheap and easy, it's definitely worth it once in a while.

This is another of those dishes that is wonderful because it is so customizable. I use whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta. One of my personal favorite additions is cooked, crumbled bacon, but if you want to make it a little more healthy peppers are an excellent addition. Add chunks of ham or hamburger to make this a hearty and filling main dish (you may want to increase the amount of sauce if you add quite a bit of extra ingredients).

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
from The Joy of Cooking

makes 4 to 6 main-course or 8 to 10 side-dish servings

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a deep 1.5 quart baking dish. Prepare 2 c.
White Sauce (recipe below, you will need to double it).

Stir into the prepared white sauce:
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 t. sweet paprika

Simmer gently, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Have ready:
2.25 c. grated sharp cheddar or Colby cheese (9 ounces)
Remove the sauce from heat, discard the bay leaf, and stir in 2/3 of the cheese. Reserve the rest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender:
2 c. (8 ounces) elbow macaroni, small shells, or tubetti

Drain and remove to a large bowl. Stir in the sauce. Pour half of the mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese. Top with the rest of the macaroni and the remaining cheese. Sprinkle over the top: 1/2 c.
Buttered Bread Crumbs (recipe below).

Bake until the crumbs are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

White Sauce
yields 1 cup

Melt 2 T. butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.

Whisk in 2 T. flour until well-blended and smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in 1 c. milk.
Return the pan to heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue to cook, whisking, until the sauce is smooth and hot and has thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Buttered Bread Crumbs
Use dry bread crumbs. Season with salt, allowing 1/2 t. for each cup of the bread crumbs. Brown them slowly in 4 T. butter. Use at once. You may season with bits of crumbled cooked bacon, chopped nuts, grated cheese, ground or crumbled dried herbs, garlic or onion powder, salt, or pepper. Cook until butter is absorbed and crumbs are golden brown.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Apple Cake

The treats I've made of late have been quite indulgent, especially the Oatmeal Fudge Bars, so I thought my next treat should be something a little healthy. I found this simple and delicious gem that uses apples, walnuts, and whole wheat flour.

Tart green apples with the skins left on are recommended. I used Granny Smith, which I happened to have on hand, but I think any tart cooking/baking apple would work well. This recipe calls for buttermilk, and I rarely, if ever, have fresh buttermilk on hand. I was also out of powdered buttermilk, so I used sour milk as a substitute. To make 1 cup of sour milk, add one tablespoon of lemon juice to a glass measuring cup and add milk to a total volume of 1 cup. Mix and let sit for 5 minutes before using. I also used canola oil instead of vegetable oil and omitted the brandy/rum, although I probably would have added it if I had it on hand. This cake is moist and delicious plain, so I opted not to frost it, although it would be delicious with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Apple Cake
from The Joy of Cooking

Makes one eight-inch square cake

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan or line the bottom with wax or parchment paper.

Whisk together thoroughly in a large bowl, pinching out any lumps in the brown sugar:
1.5 c. all-purpose flour or 1 c. all-purpose flour plus 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. grated or ground nutmet
1/2 t. salt

Add and stir together until smooth:
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
(2 T. rum or brandy)
1 t. vanilla

Stir in:
1 c. chopped apples
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack. Serve warm, plain or with vanilla ice cream or let cool completely and frost with white or butterscotch icing.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I love Chinese food, from the deep-fried Americanized version you'll find in a food court, to authentic recipes passed down by generations of Chinese grandmothers. My childhood favorite was always sweet and sour chicken so it was the first Chinese food I ever attempted to cook from scratch, starting with this recipe from The Joy of Cooking. I don't know how authentic the recipe is, but The Joy of Cooking is an eternal classic, so it's always a good place to start in my opinion.

This sweet and sour chicken turns out a little more on the sweet side if you use the whole 1/3 c. sugar. I don't like things terribly sweet, so I usually use less. I used red pepper flakes instead of ground red pepper since that's what I had on hand, using the full 1/2 teaspoon. I always serve it over brown rice, but I'm sure it would be delicious with chow mein noodles as well.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

from The Joy of Cooking

makes 4 to 6 servings

Although I made this recipe using chicken it is also very well-suited to be pork and can easily be made vegan by substituting 1.5 pounds of firm diced tofu for the meat, vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and margarine or oil for the butter.

Mix together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup and set aside:
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. cornstarch

Melt in a large skillet or pot over medium-low heat:
2 T. butter

Stir in:
1 large onion, diced
1 large red or green bell pepper, diced
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. salt
1/4 to 1/2 t. ground red pepper

Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Add:
One 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, with their juice
3/4 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. distilled white or cider vinegar
1/3 c. sugar

Stir in the reserved cornstarch mixture (you'll want to stir it up again). raise heat to high and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Add:
3 to 4 c. diced cooked pork, chicken, turkey, or tofu

Return to a simmer, then turn the heat down as low as possible and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Serve over rice or chow mein noodles.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crusty Pizza Dough

My pizza, loaded with veggies and cheese.

Who doesn't love pizza? Frozen pizza is often a cheap and easy go-to dinner for busy days, gourmet and specialty pizzas a real treat. One of the best things about pizza is that it is infinitely customizable to individual taste. Vegetarians, vegans, and hard-core carnivores alike can all find a pizza right for them. It can range from the healthy, made with whole wheat crust, tons of veggies, and a little cheese, to the heart attack-inducing meat lover's pizza drenched in mozzarella.

I've made pizza at home frequently in the past, but always with store-bought whole wheat crust, probably due to my hesitance to make yeast breads that required kneading. With my new-found determination to make more yeast breads, I decided to tackle pizza crust. Since it was my first try with this recipe and pizza crust in general, I used all white flour, but in the future I'm going to use half whole wheat flour and make multiple batches so I can freeze some. This recipe makes a pretty thick crust, so if you like thin crust better (as I do), I'd recommend either rolling it out into a much larger pizza or dividing the dough in half for two thin crust pizzas. I used a KitchenAid mixer to knead mine, but you of course can knead it by hand if you don't have one.

Crusty Pizza Dough
from the KitchenAid Baking Companion

1 package active dry yeast (2.25 t.)
1 c. warm water (105 to 115 F)
1/2 t. salt
2 t. olive oil
2.5-3.5 c. all-purpose flour, divided
1 T. cornmeal

Step 1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed bowl of electric stand mixer. Add salt, olive oil, and 2.5 c. flour. Attach dough hook to mixer. Turn to low and mix 1 minute.
Step 2. Continuing on low, add remaining flour, 1/2 c. a time, and mix until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Knead on low about 2 minutes longer.
Step 3. Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down.
Step 4. Brush 14-inch pizza pan with oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Press dough into bottom of pan, forming collar around edge to hold toppings. Add toppings as desired. Bake at 450 F for 15 to 20 minutes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

Oatmeal Fudge Bars
from The America’s Test Kitchen Baking Book

Makes 16 bars

Old-fashioned oats may be substituted for the quick-cooking oats, although the bars will be more chewy.

1 c. (3 oz.) quick-cooking oats
1 c. packed (7 oz.) light brown sugar
¾ c. (3.75 oz.) all-purpose flour
¼ t. baking powder
¼ t. baking soda
⅛ t. salt
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

¼ c. (1.25 oz.) all-purpose flour
¼ c. packed (1.75 oz.) light brown sugar
2 t. instant espresso or instant coffee
¼ t. salt
1.5 c. (9 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips*
2 T. unsalted butter
1 large egg

*Although they’re not semisweet, I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao chocolate chips, as they were what I had on hand and I prefer darker chocolate.

Step 1. For the crust and topping: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8-inch baking pan with a foil sling and grease the foil.
Step 2. Whisk the oats, brown sugar, flour, baking soda, and baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter until combined. Reserve ¾ c. of the oat mixture for the topping.
Step 3. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake the crust until light golden brown, about 8 minutes. Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack, about one hour.
Step 4. For the filling: Whisk the flour, sugar, instant espresso, and salt together in a medium bowl. Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in the egg until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
Step 5. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the filling even over the cooled crust and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the reserved oat topping. Bake the bars until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached and the filling begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
Step 6. Let the bars cool completely in the pan, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil, cut into squares, and serve.

These bars are decadent and delicious and are definitely on my list of desserts to make again. It only takes one little square to satisfy a sweet tooth, but you may find yourself going back for seconds as I did.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Baked Spaghetti

I love pasta. The Atkins Diet will never be for me. Spaghetti is a great quick meal when you don't have time to make anything fancy or time-consuming, but still want a filling meal that isn't just sandwiches or fast food. As a kid, I always looked forward to spaghetti night. My family even had special Fiestaware bowls we used for spaghetti; they were even in Poppa, Momma, and Baby Bear sizes.

I recently got a bunch of free whole wheat pasta from the grocery store (thank you BOGO sales and coupon doubling), and was searching for ways to use it other than regular spaghetti. I love baked spaghetti, though for whatever reason, I've never tried to make it myself. My staple cookbooks didn't have a recipe for it, so I browsed a few recipes on various website and decided to make up my own.

This dish can be fairly healthy, or really indulgent. I chose to stay more at the healthy end of the spectrum, using whole wheat pasta, ground turkey, and not a huge amount of cheese (although being a born-and-bred Wisconsin girl, I was mighty tempted). Next time I think I'm going to throw in some mushrooms as well. If you want to go all out, use ground italian sausage, white pasta, and as much cheese as your heart desires. I was very pleased with how this turned out and will definitely be making it again in the future.

Baked Spaghetti

1 lb. angel hair pasta or spaghetti noodles (or almost any other pasta of your choice)
1 lb. lean ground beef, turkey, or Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
½ c. green pepper, chopped
2 t. minced garlic
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
1 t. salt
1 (10.75 oz.) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 (10.75 oz.) can condensed tomato soup
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 c. water
1 c. mozzarella cheese
½ c. mild cheddar cheese

Step 1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain.
Step 2. Meanwhile, cook ground beef, onion, green pepper, and garlic in a Dutch oven until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add soups, tomato sauce, water, and seasonings to meat mixture; stir well.
Step 3. Add spaghetti to meat sauce, along with ½ c. mozzarella cheese; stir well. Transfer mixture to greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Sprinkle top with cheddar and remaining mozzarella cheese.
Step 4. Bake at 350 °C for 25 to 30 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly and cheese is golden brown.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Classic Swedish Meatballs

A less-than-healthy comfort food, Swedish meatballs bring up memories of church suppers and big family dinners. Although these take a while to prepare, they are simple, delicious, and definitely worth the effort.

Swedish Meatballs
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. milk
3/4 c. soft bread crumbs (1 slice)
1/2 c. finely chopped onion (1 medium)
1/4 c. snipped fresh parsley (I used approx. 1 T. dried)
1/4 t. black pepper
1/8 t. ground allspice or nutmeg (I used nutmeg)
8 oz. ground beef or veal (I used beef)
8 oz. ground pork or lamb (I used pork)
1 T. butter or margarine
2 T. all-purpose flour
2 t. instant beef bouillon granules
1/8 t. black pepper
2 c. milk
3 c. hot cooked noodles (I used egg noodles)
Snipped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Step 1. In a large bowl combine the egg and 1/4 c. milk. Stir in bread crumbs, onion, parsley, 1/4 t. pepper, and allspice. Add the meats and mix well. Shape into 30 meatballs.
Step 2. In a large skillet cook half the meatballs at a time in hot butter over medium heat, for approx. 10 minutes until the meatballs reach 160 F, turning to brown evenly. Remove meatballs from the skillet and drain on paper towels. Reserve pan drippings, adding cooking oil if necessary to make 2 T.
Step 3. Stir flour, bouillon, and 1/8 t. pepper into drippings. Stir in 2 c. milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, then cook and stir for 1 minute more. Return meatballs to skillet and heat through. Serve over noodles. If desired, sprinkle with additional parsley.

The first time I made these I was surprised by how good they are, as was my husband. They remind me of going to Harvest Supper at church when I was a kid and scarfing down meatballs and mashed potatoes and gravy. The plain meatballs also make an excellent appetizer with the dipping sauce of your choice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies

I wasn't a big fan of oatmeal-raisin cookies as a kid, but as an adult I've grown to like them quite a bit, as long as they're homemade. It doesn't hurt that I can delude myself into thinking they're at least a little bit healthy since they have whole grains (oatmeal) and fruit (raisins). These cookies are a slight twist on the traditional oatmeal-raisin cookie, courtesy of Martha Stewart.

Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies
from Martha Stewart's Cookies

for the cookies:
4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c. chunky style applesauce*
1.5 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1.25 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. coarse salt
1 c. golden raisins**

for the icing:
1.75 c. confectioners' sugar
3 T. pure maple syrup
3 T. water

*I didn't have any chunky applesauce, so I used some smooth homemade applesauce.
**I didn't have any golden raisins, so I just used regular raisins.

Step 1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined. Add egg and applesauce, mix until well-blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix in raisins.
Step 2. Using a 1.5-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are golden and just set, 13 to 15 minutes, rotating half-way through. Let cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack over parchment paper to cool completely.
Step 3. To make the icing, whisk confectioners' sugar, maple syrup, and water until smooth. Drizzle over cookies and let set. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to three days.

These cookies are wonderfully chewy and soft, but I'm not a big fan of the icing. It doesn't have as strong a maple flavor as I would like, as I love all things maple. Next time I might skip it, although my husband likes the extra sweetness.

Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup

Although the weather here has been unseasonably warm the past few days, fall is an ideal time to make a big pot of soup or stew for dinner. Hearty and healthy chicken noodle is a simple, easy, and delicious dinner that makes plenty of leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup
from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook

1 3.5- to 4-pound chicken, cut up, or 2.5 pounds meaty chicken pieces
8 c. water
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 bay leaf
1 c. chopped carrot (2 medium)
1 c. chopped celery (2 stalks)
1.5 c. dried egg noodles
2 T. snipped fresh parsley

Step 1.
In a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven combine chicken, water, onion, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for approx. 1.5 hours or until chicken is tender.
Step 2. Remove chicken from broth. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and cut into bit-size pieces. Set chicken aside. Discard the bay leaf and skim fat from broth.
Step 3. Bring broth to boiling. Stir in carrot and celery. Simmer, covered, for approx. 5 minutes. Stir in noodles and simmer, covered, for approx. 5 minutes more until the noodles are tender, but still firm. Stir in chicken and parsley and heat through.

Each time I've made this I've used a whole chicken and cutting it up myself, and each time I swear I'm going to buy chicken parts next time. I hate cutting the chicken apart, but my frugality wins out every time when I see how much cheaper whole chicken is per pound. If you are going to cut up the chicken yourself, I recommend following the instructions in The Joy of Cooking.

I served this with the herb garlic baguettes (recipe in previous post). Enjoy!

Herb Garlic Baguettes

I love pretty much any kind of cooking and baking, but I've always been a little hesitant when it comes to making yeast breads, other than with a bread machine. I'm always worried that the dough was kneaded too much or little or is too sticky or too dry. Eventually I want to master making bread completely by hand, but I thought I'd get my toes wet using the KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment.

Herb Garlic Baguettes
from KitchenAid Baking Companion

Makes 2 baguettes

1 package active dry yeast (or 2.25 t., if you buy yeast in bulk like I do)
1 t. sugar
1/4 c. warm water (105 to 115 F)
3.25 to 3.5 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. chopped fresh basil or 1 t. dried basil
2 t. chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 t. dried oregano
2 t. chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 t. dried thyme
1 t. fresh minced garlic
1 t. salt
3/4 c. cold water
1 egg
1 t. water

Step 1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water.
Step 2. Place 3.25 c. flour, spices, garlic, and salt into bowl of electric stand mixture and attach the dough hook. Mix on low for 30 seconds, then stop and scrape the bowl. Continue mixing on low, slowly adding the yeast mixture and cold water, mixing approx. 30 secs. If the dough is sticky, add the remaining 1/4 c. flour (I didn't need to add this). Knead dough on low until dough is smooth and elastic, appoximately 3 minutes.
Step 3. Cover, let rise at room temp. until doubled in size, approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.
Step 4. On a lightly floured surface, punch dough down several times to remove all air bubbles. Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a 12-inch-long loaf. Place each loaf on a greased baking sheet or in a baguette pan (I used a baking sheet). With a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 shallow diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf. Combine the egg and water, brushing the top of each baguette with the egg/water mixture (save the remaining mixture). Cover the loaf with greased plastic wrap and let rise at room temp. until doubled in size, 1 to 1.5 hours.
Step 5. Brush the top of each baguette with the egg mixture again. Bake at 450 F for 15 to 18 minutes until a deep golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet or baguette pans and let cool on a wire rack.


Welcome to my cooking blog! Cooking is one of my passions so I thought I'd start a cooking blog to share my favorite recipes with anyone who is interested. I'm also an avid amateur photographer, so most recipes will be accompanied by pictures I took of the final product. Bon appetit!