Friday, December 31, 2010

Almond Cookies

Almond Cookies
2 3/4 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1/3 c. chopped almonds
1/3 c. slivered almonds
2 Tbsp. water

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
Cut butter into mixture until it resembles cornmeal.

In electric mixer, add one egg to the flour mixture, and the white from the other egg (reserving one yolk).
Add the almond extract and the chopped almonds and mix until combined.
Cover and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Once chilled, form balls and place on greased cookie sheet.
Push slivered almonds into the center of the cookies.

Take the reserved egg yolk and mix it with the water.
Brush onto the cookies.

Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Zuppa Toscana Soup

Kale is my favorite green.  It holds up so well in soups!
I am not an Olive Garden fanatic, but supposedly this soup tastes just like theirs.
Zuppa Toscana Soup
Recipe from Kady Dommer
1 lb. Italian sausage
2 large russet potatoes, cut long ways then in thin slices
½ onion chopped
¼ c. bacon bits
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 c. kale, chopped
2 cans chicken broth
4 c. water
1 c. heavy whipping cream

Cook sausage then set aside to drain on a paper towel.
In large pot put water, chicken broth, onion, potatoes and garlic.
Cook until potatoes are almost done.
Add meat, salt and pepper, and simmer for ten minutes.
Add kale and cream.
Warm through and serve.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

Does anything scream Christmas more than cinnamon rolls?
Probably, but these are up at the top of my list.
Perfect for snacking this holiday season!
Cinnamon Rolls
Recipe from Lyn Denna
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
2 Tbsp. yeast
1/3 c. warm water
3 eggs
5 - 6 1/2 c. flour

Place milk, sugar, salt and butter in a saucepan.
Heat until melted (don't let it boil).

Meanwhile, place yeast and warm water in a mixing bowl and sit to dissolve.

Add eggs and 5 c. flour to water and yeast.
Gradually add mixture in saucepan while mixing.
Mix until soft dough forms (about 5 minutes).
You may need to add up to 1 1/2 c. extra flour - dough should come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball in the center.

While mixing, combine the following:
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
Nuts (optional) - I leave them out

Cut dough in half, and roll each piece out to a large rectangle. 
Sprinkle sugar mixture over entire surface of dough.
Roll up and cut into 1" rings.
Let rise on a sprayed cookie sheet for 30 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Top with Glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. softened butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. water

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pot Pie

Did you make my Sunday Roast Dinner this weekend?  If so, here is a good idea for using up that extra meat.
Pot Pie
1 lb. beef (or chicken, turkey, etc.)
4 Tbsp. butter
2 potatoes, cooked and cubed
2 carrots, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 c. peas
1/4 Tbsp. flour
2 c. cubed cooked chicken/steak/roast
1 can chicken or beef broth (depending on meat of choice)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. thyme

Melt butter in large skillet.
Add carrots and onions and cook until onions are tender.
Add potatoes and mix.
Sprinkle flour over vegetables, and stir to coat.
Continue cooking, about 5 minutes.
Pour broth into pan and stir continually, until thickened.
Season with salt, pepper and thyme.
Add cubed meat and peas.
Pour into prepared pie crust.
Top with crust.
Pinch off border, and poke several holes in the top with a fork.
Bake at 425 for 35-40 minutes.

Pie Crust
(Makes 2 double crust pies)
Recipe from Lyn Denna

3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. shortening
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
up to 3 Tbsp. water

Mix flour and salt.
Cut in shortening until well blended.
Add the egg and lemon juice, and enough water to make soft dough.

If you are feeding loads of people, or you are just afraid of making an actual 'pie', you can always pour the meat contents into a casserole dish, and top it off with the pie crust.  Way easier, without sacrificing flavor.

** If freezing this meal:
Let meat mixture cool to room temperature before placing in prepared pie shell.
Top with dough, pinch off the edges, and poke holes in the top.
Freeze for up to 3 months.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Roast, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

This is our classic Sunday Dinner.
We have it at least once a month.
Pretty basic, but this is the way I make it.

**Monday I will post a recipe for using the leftovers**
Sunday Dinner Roast
1 Beef Rump Roast
1 onion
salt, pepper and garlic powder
2 bay leaves

Season each side of the roast with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Slice onion and place over meat.
Place bay leaves on meat (not over or under onions).
**I LOVE to eat the sliced onions once cooked, but even if you don't they still provide the meat with some good flavor.

For the Crockpot:
Cook on low for 5-8 hours (depending on size)

For the oven:
Bake at 350 for 3-5 hours (depending on size) - about 1 hour per pound when frozen.

** I will occasionally peel potatoes and carrots and throw them in on top of the meat. Just season with more salt and pepper.

Mashed Potatoes
3-4 lbs. potatoes (Idaho, Red, Yukon, whatever)
1 stick butter

Peel potatoes if desired (I never do, even with baking potatoes.  I prefer the texture of the skin).
Cut potatoes into equal pieces.
Place in pot and cover with cold water, 1-2" above potatoes.
Generously salt the water (you want it to taste like salt water).

Bring potatoes to a boil.
Boil until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Strain potatoes and return to pan.

Add butter and mash potatoes as much as possible.
Season with pepper (you shouldn't need more salt).
Add milk while continuing to mash, until desired consistency.

Once roast is cooked, remove from pan.
Discard any large fatty pieces that may be in the pan drippings.
Heat drippings over medium heat.

Add flour to drippings, mixing constantly with a whisk, to create a roux.
(You want it to be fairly thick; it should form a ball and stick to the whisk).  The amount of flour depends on the amount of drippings.
Once a ball forms, continue cooking, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes.
Gradually add water or beef broth (I always use water), mixing in slowly, until desired consistency is reached.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Garlic Cheese Twists

These are a nice alternative to regular breadsticks or rolls.
And they are fun to make!
Garlic Cheese Twists
1 loaf Bread dough (I use this recipe)
2-3 Tbsp. butter
garlic powder
Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. milk

Roll dough out into a rectangle shape, about 1/8" thick.
Using the back of a spoon, spread the butter over the entire surface of dough.
Sprinkle garlic powder and parmesan cheese all over butter.
Fold the dough in half, seasoned sides together, and pinch the edges together.

Use a pizza cutter to cut dough into thin strips.
Take each strip by the ends and twist 2 or 3 times.
Place on a greased cookie sheet.
Use a pastry brush and brush milk over each stick (to help with browning).

Let rise for 25 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
1 loaf of bread makes 12-18 twists.

**The bread dough I make uses Instant Yeast, so I only need to let it rise once.  If you use regular yeast, let it rise until double.  Punch it down, roll it out and then make your breadsticks.  You will then have to let it rise again before baking.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Butternut and Kale with Maple Mustard Sauce

Don't be afraid of the sauce!  The flavor combination is amazing!
Plus, the squash is boiled, not baked, so it takes much less time from start to finish.
Butternut and Kale with Maple Mustard Sauce
Recipe inspired by 'Cuisine at Home'

4 c. butternut squash, 1" cubes
4 c. stemmed chopped kale
1 can chicken broth
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. diced onion
1 1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

In medium saucepan saute onions in olive oil until translucent.  
Add broth and butternut to the pan and boil over medium-high heat until squash is almost cooked through, about 3 minutes.
Stir in kale and let stand, uncovered, 3-4 minutes.

Strain vegetables, and move to a serving dish.
Return empty pot to stove and add syrup, mustard, sage and salt and pepper.
Pour over vegetables and stir to combine.

Try this with Maple Glazed Pork Chops (or any chicken dish), and steamed veggies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Swiss Chicken Casserole (Sunday Chicken)

I got this recipe from my mother-in-law and it is a regular go-to at our house.
Swiss Chicken Casserole
(Sunday Chicken)
Recipe from Lyn Denna

4 small chicken breasts
4 slices of Swiss Cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
3/4 can milk
Stove Top Chicken Bread Crumbs
2 Tbsp. butter

Layer chicken breasts in the bottom of an 9x9" baking dish.
Place a slice of Swiss over each breast.

In a separate bowl, combine the soup and milk.
Pour over chicken and cheese.

Sprinkle an even layer of bread crumbs over chicken mixture.
Dot with butter.

Bake at 350 for one hour.
** If you notice your bread crumbs start to brown early in the baking period, cover the dish loosely with tin foil.  This will keep the top from burning.  Remove foil 10-15 minutes before removing dish from oven so crumbs can crisp up again.)

Serve over mashed potatoes or rice.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ham Lasagna Roll-Ups

This is a good alternative to your everyday lasagna.

Try switching ham for salami, prosciutto, pancetta, etc.
Ham Lasagna Roll-Ups
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis

Bechamel Sauce:
2 Tbsp. butter
4 tsp. flour
1 1/4 c. whole milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
pinch ground nutmeg

8 oz. ricotta cheese
5 oz. frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
3 oz. sliced ham/proscuitto/pancetta
1 large egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
12 lasagna noodles
marinara or spaghetti sauce

Prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions.
Prepare Bechamel sauce (like a roux), and spread in the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish.

Mix ricotta, spinach, parmesan, 1 c. mozzarella, proscuitto or ham, egg, salt and pepper in bowl.
Lay out noodles individually, and spread cheese mixture over entire length of noodle.
Roll up noodles, and place on Bechamel sauce.
Cover each noodles roll with a spoonful of marinara sauce.
Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and additional parmesan on top.
Cover tightly with foil.
Bake at 450 for 20 minutes.
Uncover and bake until cheese becomes golden, 10-15 minutes longer.

** For Freezing:
Prepare lasagna rolls but do not bake.  Cool in fridge and then put in freezer.

This picture shows the "assembly line"...
Spreading on the noodle (below)
rolled up and placed on sauce (left)
covered with sauce and cheese (right)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pantry Secrets Wheat Bread

I don't make wheat bread very often, but when I do this is my recipe of choice!
Wheat Bread
Recipe from Pantry Secrets

5 c. freshly ground wheat flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. salt
3 rounded 1/2 Tbsp. Saf-Instant Yeast
2 1/2 Tbsp. (quarters) liquid lecithin
1 3/4 c. hot tap water
1/4 c. applesauce

Combine flour, sugar, salt and yeast and mix.

Combine applesauce with water.

Add lecithin and water/applesauce mixture to dry ingredients.
Mix for 8-10 minutes with kneading blade.
Lay out on greased surface and knead 4 times.
Cut in half.
Shape into loaves.
Let raise for 25 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hash Wraps

Hash Wraps
Recipe from Lyn H. Denna

1 can corned beef hash (or 2 c. leftover mashed potatoes/hashbrowns)
1 can corn
1 egg
1/2 package bacon

Mix potatoes, corn and egg.
Wrap in bacon and place on slotted baking pan.
Bake at 400 for 40 minutes, or until bacon is crispy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reeses Peanut Butter Popcorn

We are on a definite popcorn kick at our house these days.
I have about a billion recipes stashed away just waiting to be made, but this one had the word 'Reeses' in the title so of course it made the top of the list.
Reeses Peanut Butter Popcorn
Recipe from Our Best Bites
1/4 c. popcorn (or about 10 cups of popped popcorn)
1 c. honey roasted peanuts
1 1/2 c. Reese's peanut butter chips
1/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chip
1 1/2 tsp. vegetable shortening or oil

Pop popcorn.
Remove any un-popped kernels.
Place peanuts and popcorn in a large bowl.
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the peanut butter chips and vegetable oil or shortening and heat for 2-2 1/2 minutes or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.
Drizzle the melted peanut butter chips over the popcorn and peanuts and toss to combine.
Spread the popcorn onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet.
In a Ziploc bag, heat the semi-sweet chocolate chips until just melted and smooth (about 1-1 1/2 minutes, mashing the bag every 20-30 seconds).
Cut a small corner in the bag and drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn.
Allow to stand long enough to become solid (you can transfer the pan to the fridge or freezer to hurry this step along).
When done, break the popcorn into small pieces and enjoy!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sugar Roasted Butternut Squash

Sugar Roasted Winter Squash
1 large butternut or acorn squash
2-3 Tbsp. butter
1/3 c. brown sugar

Cut butternut squash in half and remove seeds and string pulp.
Place 1 - 1/2 Tbsp. butter in each half and sprinkle brown sugar all over sides and top.
Place on a baking sheet and cook for 40 minutes at 400 degrees.

Friday, November 26, 2010

O'Henry Bars

O' Henry Bars
1/2 c. karo syrup
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
2 c. rice krispies
1/3 - 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine karo, sugar and peanut butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Add cereal and stir to incorporate.
Press into an 8x8" sprayed casserole dish.
Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.
After chips melt, spread evenly over top.
Let set in freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Cut and serve.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Heavenly Carrots

Looking for a last minute Thanksgiving side dish?
This is not your average carrot or stuffing recipe.
The top gets all crispy after baking... mixed with the butter and the cheese... YUM!
Give it a try, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Heavenly Carrots
Recipe from Lyn Denna
4 c. cooked carrots
1 c. croutons or stuffing mix
1 1/2 c. grated cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt

Place carrots in butter in a 1 1/2 qt. casserole dish.
Stir in croutons and cheese.
Mix remaining ingredients together and pour over carrots.
Bake uncovered in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pork Chops in Creamy Sauce

This looks exactly like a chicken breast, but is really a pork chop, I promise!
Pork Chops in Creamy Sauce
Recipe from Robin Miller

1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 pork loin chops
¼ c. chopped shallots
1 c. milk
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried tarragon
¾ c. white wine or champagne (or substitute 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar with remaining amount broth)
1 Tbsp. flour

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Season pork with salt and black pepper and add to hot pan.
Cook 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.
Remove pork from pan and set aside.
To the same pan, add shallots and cook 2 minutes, until soft.
Add thyme and tarragon and cook 1 minute, until fragrant.
Add sparkling wine and cook 1 minute.
Whisk flour into milk and add to pan.
Return pork to pan and simmer 3 to 5 minutes, until pork is cooked through and sauce thickens.
Serve with mashed potatoes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Coffee Cake (Cinnamon Swirl)

I have no idea why this is called coffee cake.
It doesn't contain coffee.
It isn't even served with coffee.
I guess it could be... just never at our house.
Or anyone elses that I know of for that matter.

Truthfully, we make this for breakfast.
I like it topped with warm applesauce.
Coffee Cake
Recipe from Lyn Denna

Mix and spread in 9x13” pan:

3 c. flour
5 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ c. sugar
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 eggs
½ c. shortening
1 ½ c. milk

Mix, sprinkle on batter and gently swirl into batter:
¾ c. brown sugar
¾ c. nuts
3 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. melted butter

Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Swiss Chicken and Bacon Bread Braid

I really like the idea of making bread braids.
I pretty much love everything about fresh bread, actually.
This idea can easily accommodate whatever filling you want - but be mindful of consistency.
You want the filling to be just right - if it is too wet your bread will get soggy, and that is never a good thing.
This recipe captures the perfect consistency.
And... since everyone in my family also loves bacon it was a real hit.
Mmmmm.... ooey-gooey, cheesey, deliciousness!
Swiss Chicken and Bacon Bread Braid
1 large chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1/2 lb. bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
3/4 c. shredded Swiss cheese
3/4 c. Mozzarella or Cheddar Cheese
1/2 c. finely chopped sweet red pepper
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Italian salad dressing
1 Tbsp. mayo
Combine all ingredients (except dough) in a large bowl.
Roll out bread dough in a large rectangle (11x17"ish) - the size of a large cookie sheet.
Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray and transfer bread dough to it.
Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut slits on the outsides of the dough, about 1" apart, leaving the middle intact, like this:

Now take all of your filling and pour it down the middle.
Now, start 'braiding' the bread from the top to the bottom, alternating sides as you go.

Wrap the bottom pieces underneath the loaf to secure it and close it off.
Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poppy Seed Chicken

Poppy Seed Chicken
Recipe from Sweet Basil

3 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
1 16oz. carton Sour Cream
1 Tbsp. Poppy Seeds
1 Package Ritz Crackers
1 Cube Butter, melted

Heat oven to 350.
Mix soup, sour cream and chicken together.
Pour into a 9x13" dish.

Break up the crackers (not ground up) and mix with the melted butter and poppy seeds.
Sprinkle over the chicken mixture and place in oven.

Bake for 30 minutes and serve over rice.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I haven't tried a ton of Greek food, but my friend made these for me once and I loved them!
I view it as the Greek version of the American BLT.
Only better.
Recipe from Marta Webster

Greek Pita Bread
1 pkg. Gyro meat (looks like bacon)
sliced red onion
roasted red bell peppers
sliced tomato
olives (optional)

1/2 pint sour cream
1/2 cucumber
1 large garlic clove
salt and pepper

Fry gyro meat (as you would bacon).
Meanwhile, slice up veggies.
Combine sour cream, cucumber and garlic clove in a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove gryo meat and set on paper towels.
For each pita:
Spread small amount of sour cream sauce over half of pita.
Layer meat, lettuce, onion, pepper, tomato and olives.
Fold pita in half.
Dip in remaining sauce, if desired.

Friday, November 5, 2010


I used the flour tortillas I posted about last time to make these.
8 large flour tortillas
1 lb. meat (I like to use leftover steak or chicken, but you can use hamburger as well).
2 Tbsp. olive oil (omit if you are using hamburger)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can chili (or beans of choice)
1 bell pepper, chopped
Cooking oil for frying (I just use vegetable oil)

In an electric frying pan, heat oil to 350 degrees - you'll want it around 1" deep.
Meanwhile, saute onion and pepper in oil.
Add remaining ingredients and stir.
Place alarge spoonful of mixture into the middle of a tortilla.
Fold over two sides, and roll the tortilla up (you can secure with toothpicks if necessary).
Fry in oil until golden and crispy (about 45 seconds per side).
Serve with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, etc.

** For Freezing:
Let chimi's cool on wire racks to drip off excess oil.  Once at room temperature move to the fridge.  When cold, freeze individually on a cookie sheet and then move them to a freezer bag.
To reheat, bake at 400 for 45 minutes (frozen), or 15 minutes thawed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Flour Tortillas

Flour tortillas aren't something I make regularly, but it is a good recipe to have on hand for emergencies or for when you are in the mood to make everything from scratch.
They aren't as good as the dough tortillas you can buy and cook at home, but they do taste much better than the store bought flour tortillas in my opinion.
Flour Tortillas
 4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. warm water

Cut shortening into flour until coarse.
Dissolve salt in water and gradually add to flour mixture.
Knead dough well.
Cover and set aside (not in the fridge) for at least 2 hours to enhance the elasticity of the dough (I like to make itin the morning and let it sit out all day).

When ready to make, knead dough again divide into 10 balls.
Work each ball of dough with your fingers to try and stretch it out before using the rolling pin.
Each ball should make around a 10" tortilla.
Cook on a moderate griddle for 30 seconds per side, until brown spots appear.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chicken Mozzarella

This was surprisingly delicious for how easy it was!
I got this recipe from a ward cookbook - a very quick "throw together" meal with great flavor.
Chicken Mozzarella
Recipe by Joy Fair

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can condensed tomato soup
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 - 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper

Salt and pepper chicken, and place in a 2-quart baking dish.
Mix tomato soup, oregano and garlic powder.
Spoon over chicken.
Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.
Sprinkle cheese over chicken.
Sprinkle dried basil over cheese and cook until cheese is melted.
Serve over noodles (we used elbow).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pita Bread

These do take a while to make, but they are pretty delicious.
We use these for all types of meals -
Stuff them with a salad, turn them into a sandwich, pile them with taco and fajita meat, etc.
Whatever you use them for, they always turn out great!
Pita Bread
Recipe from Sweet Basil 
3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 pkg. (2 1/4 tsp.) yeast
1 1/4 c. water, room temperature
2 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil

Mix yeast with flour, salt and sugar.
Add oil and water.
Stir together with a wooden spoon until ball forms.
Knead for 10 minutes.
Place dough in bowl lightly coated with oil and cover with saran wrap.
Let raise till double.

When doubled, punch down and divide into 8.
Roll each into a ball and cover with a damp kitchen towel, resting for 20 minutes to gain elasticity.
Working on a flour surface, roll each ball out about 1/8 - 1/4" thickness, about 6" in diameter.
Let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

Bake individually on a heated baking stone at 450 for 5 minutes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Soften Brown Sugar

Don't you just love it when you go to use your brown sugar and find it hard as a rock?
Here are some tips to keep it fresh and moist, as well as ways to get it back to normal after hardening.
This information was retrieved from

10 Ways to soften Hard Brown Sugar

1.Place the brown sugar in an airtight container with a slice of fresh bread placed on top. Seal and leave overnight. It should be soft and fresh again in the morning, if not just let it sit another day or two.

2.Sprinkle a few drops of water over the chunk of hardened sugar, place in a plastic bag, seal, and let sit for a couple days.

3.Place brown sugar in an open container, then top with a moistened cloth (paper towel works too). Let sit overnight.

4.Place the hardened sugar in an airtight container with a few apple slices. This should soften the sugar within the next day or two. Remove apple slices once sugar is soft again.

5.Use foil or plastic wrap to cover the top of the sugar. Then set a dampened sheet of paper towel (not dripping wet) on top of the foil. Place in an airtight container and seal. Let sit overnight or a few days as needed. Remove foil and paper towel once the towel is dry and sugar is fresh again.

6.Buy a clay disc or if you have a pottery piece on hand (from a broken clay pot, etc.), set it in water for about 30 minutes. Dry the piece so it isn’t dripping wet. Put the clay piece in a container with the sugar and seal. Check after a few days. Keep the piece in with your sugar for months if you’d like–will keep it soft.

Need the sugar soft now?

Quick Tip #1: Put the brown sugar in a container and place in the microwave with a small bowl full of water beside it. Microwave for about 1 minute–check. If it’s still hard, try for another 30 seconds. You can keep doing this until the sugar is soft, but watch that you don’t melt the sugar.

Quick Tip #2: Place the hardened sugar in a baking pan and set in oven (temperature at about 250° F). Check after 5 minutes. If still not soft, continue checking every few minutes until it’s soft and ready to use.

Quick Tip #3: Place the brown sugar chunk in a microwave safe plastic bag. Take a square of paper towel and moisten with water (not dripping wet–wring out excess). Place the wet paper towel in the bag with the sugar and seal. Place in the microwave for approximately 20 seconds. If still not soft, microwave for a few seconds more, repeating until the sugar is ready to use. Be careful not to melt the sugar.

Quick Tip #4: Stick chunks of the brown sugar in a food processor or blender and chop/pulse until useable.

For best results, make sure to store brown sugar in a sealed, airtight container (consider using an oxygen absorber packet). A clay disc kept in the container can keep it soft for months (see tip above for clay disc).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chicken Parmigiana

This is one of my husbands favorite meals.
It's a good thing it can come together in about 30 minutes!
Chicken Parmigiana
2 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
4 chicken breasts
1/3 c. flavored bread crumbs
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
Marinara Sauce (you can use the jarred kind if you wish, or make your own with the recipe below)

Between sheets of waxed paper, flatten chicken to 1/4" thickness.
In a shallow dish, mix bread crumbs and 1/3 c. parmesan.
Dip chicken into egg, then coat with bread crumb mixture.

In 12" skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
Cook chicken in oil 10-15 minutes, turning once, until no longer pink in the center.
Spoon a small amount of marinara onto each chicken breast.
Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the chicken.
Broil on high until cheese is melted and golden.

Serve remaining sauce with noodles of choice (I used whole wheat fettuccine)

2 Tbsp. olive oil 
1 c. chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium heat.
Cook onions and garlic in oil for 2 minutes, stirrin occasionally.
Stir in tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper.
Heat to boiling.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Banana Bread

Nothing is better than fresh banana bread.  This recipe is so easy and delicious - it turns out perfect every time!
Banana Bread
6 mashed bananas
1 c. shortening
2 c. granulated sugar
4 eggs
4 c. sifted flour
1 c. crushed walnuts OR chocolate chips (optional)
4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Cream shortening and sugar.
Add unbeaten eggs and beat until well blended.
Sift together dry ingredients several times.
Mash bananas until thick liquid consistency.
Alternate dry ingredients and banana mixture, beating well after each addition.
Add walnuts or chocolate chips if desired.
Bake in well greased loaf/muffin pans.

2 Large loaf pans: 1 hour at 350
4 Medium loaf pans: 40 minutes at 350
Muffins: 15 minutes at 375.
Did you know that you can also make banana bread with dehydrated banana slices?  Click here to find out how.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie Treats
1/4 c. butter
10oz. pkg. (about 40) regular marshmallows, or 3 c. mini marshmallows
6 c. rice krispies cereal
1 c. fruity pebbles cereal

Melt butter and marshmallows in a saucepan or microwave, stirring occasionally.
Once smooth, stir in cereal, coating evenly.
Press into a greased 9x13" dish.
Cool and cut.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Meatballs

I got this idea from Make It and Love It, and I knew I had to try it.
It did not let me down!
I was worried that the squash wouldn't be as filling as real noodles, but that wasn't the case either.

And remember all that pepperjack cheese I had?
Well it added just the right amount of spice, packed individually into each of those juicy meatballs.
We will be going back to this recipe again and again.

Spaghetti Squash with Meatballs
For the Squash:
Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp.
Put 1-2 Tbsp. of butter in each half (depending on the size).
To cook, either:
Bake (cut side up) at 400 for 45 minutes, or
Microwave on high for 10-15 minutes.
Shred with a fork (squash will naturally take on the spaghetti noodle form).

For the Meatballs:
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 c. seasoned italian breadcrumbs
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/4 c. parmesan or romano cheese
12-16 slices/chunks pepperjack cheese (or mozarella)

Combine all igredients except pepperjack/mozzarella cheese.
Divide into 12-16 chunks.
Place a chunk of pepperjack cheese next to each meat chunk and form the meatball around the cheese.
Bake at 450 for 12 minutes on a greased baking sheet.
(I didn't want to heat up the house so I actually cooked mine in an electric frying pan - just be sure and turn it so it cooks evenly on all sides.)

Serve meatballs over spaghetti squash and top with your favorite sauce.

** Meatballs can be frozen prior to cooking, as well as once cooked **

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spiced 4 Cheese Pizza

I was recently given a LOT of pepperjack cheese (which I happen to love).
So... I've been trying to incorporate it into some of my meals this week.
I started with pizza.
Spiced 4 Cheese Pizza
Pizza dough (found here)
1/2 - 1 can tomato sauce (my hubs LOVES a lot of sauce, so we use a full can)
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 c. pepperjack cheese
1/3 c. mozzarella cheese
1/3 c. cheddar cheese
1/3 c. parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried cilantro

Roll out pizza dough.
Mix Italian seasoning with sauce and spread over dough.
Top with cheese.
Bake at 425 until browned and bubbly, about 12-15 minutes.
Sprinkle with dried (or fresh) cilantro.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Nacho's in a Bag

Whenever we have a big family get together and we are in charge of food, we always make this:
Nacho's in a Bag.
It is perfect for feeding lots of people, and as you can see has very little cleanup.
Plus, it is delicious!

Nacho's in a Bag
Individual assorted chip bags (we like Cool Ranch and Cheddar Doritos, Cheetos and Fritos).
Taco Meat and/or Beans
Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream

Have each person pick their chip bag.
Cut off the top of the long side of the bag, and open it up like a bowl.
Crunch the chips into smaller pieces.
Top with taco meat, and your choice of toppings.
Stir together and eat.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Home Made Sun Dried Tomatoes

I guess more appropriately label "oven dried tomatoes", but you catch my drift.
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Recipe from Tipnut

Tomatoes (preferably roma)
olive oil
herbs de provence
kosher salt

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spread a thin layer of olive oil over entire surface.
Remove tomato stems.
Cut tomatoes in thin strips, removing as much liquid/seeds as possible.
Lay the tomatoes, cut side up, on the baking sheet.
Make sure they do not touch each other.
Drizzle extra oil over the tops.
Sprinkle with a small amount of kosher salt.
Season with herbs de provence.
Cook in a 200 degree oven until tomatoes are shrunken and leathery looking, 4-8 hours (depending on thickness).
They should be firm, but still flexible when done.
Use immediately, freeze, or place in a jar with olive oil in fridge.

**If using in a jar with olive oil:
Cover entire tomato contents with oil to prevent spoilage.
Be sure and bring the jar to room temperature before removing tomatoes to 'thaw' the oil.
You can also add fresh basil, garlic cloves, etc. to enhance the flavor.
The olive oil can be reused for cooking once tomatoes are gone.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Zucchini Tomato Bites

I made this for the first time this year, and immediately LOVED it!
I am always looking for new ways to use up all of the items in my garden and this hit the spot.
And of course they were magnificently tasty.
Zucchini Tomato Bites
Idea from Confessions of a Bake-a-holic

5 small zucchini or summer squash
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
fresh basil leaves
ground black pepper

Cut squash into 1/2" slices.
Use a small spoon or melon baller to scoop out the insides, forming a cup (do not go all the way through).

Fill each cup with cheddar cheese.
Top the cheese with a basil leaf.

For large sqash rings place a whole cherry tomato, half for the smaller ones.
Sprinkle with parmesan.

Bake at 400 for 5-7 minutes, until cheese melts.
Serve immediately.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Basil Pesto Sauce

Pesto is one of those wonderfully magnificent sauces that my husband hates.
More for me.
This year I grew basil.  Specifically for this sauce.
It was well worth it.
Basil Pesto Sauce
Recipe from Our Family Treat

1/2 c. pine nuts
1 large garlic clove
2 c. fresh basil
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil

Pulse everything but olive oil in a food processor.
Add extra virgin olive oil until right consistency.
This is perfect for pasta, sandwiches, pizza, you name it!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cobbler Cake (Peach)

Cobbler always reminds me of camping.
That was pretty much the only thing my mom would make in a dutch oven.
This recipe can be made indoors... and all year round.
It is one of Tate's favorites.
Cobbler Cake
8 c. fresh fruit of choice (in the off season we used bottled peaches)
½ c. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. butter
1-2 Tbsp. sugar

1 egg, beaten
1 c. flour
¾ c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ c. rich cream

Peel and chop fruit into bite sized pieces.
Mix butter with brown sugar and add to fruit.
Grease a 9x13" baking dish and pour fruit inside.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, depending on the tartness of the fruit.
For the batter: beat egg and sugar until thick and creamy.
Add flour and baking powder.
Add cream.

Cover fruit with batter and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
Sprinkle warm cake with extra cinnamon and sugar.
Serve with whip cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Zucchini Bread

Just in case you were wondering... this is the best zucchini bread recipe.
My favorite part?  No oil!  That's right... its even healthier than most!
Zucchini Bread
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. applesauce
2 - 2 1/2 c. grated zucchini
3 tsp. vinegar
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 sp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon

Add sugars, eggs and applesauce, and beat well.
Add zucchini and vinegar, stirring to combine.
Add dry ingredients and blend well.
Grease and flour bread pans or muffin tins.

Cooking times vary for the size of pan.
This recipe makes:
2 medium bread pans (350 for 40 minutes)
1 large bread pan (350 for 60 minutes)
24 muffins (375 for 18 minutes).

**This bread also freezes very well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Carmel Toffee Apple Dip

I am not much for fruit dips.
Usually I find fruit to be best all by its lonesome...
However, I got some tart granny smith apples in my co-op food basket  (I NEVER buy that kind of apple).
So... I gave in and made this delicious dip for them.
Carmel Toffee Apple Dip
Recipe from Our Best Bites

8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 bag Toffee Bits

Allow cream cheese to reach room temperature.
Combine cream cheese, brown sugar, and vanilla.
When ready to serve, stir in toffee bits (reserve some to sprinkle on top).
Serve with tart apples.