Tuesday, October 28, 2014


We hadn't had a Halloween Party in several years and so this years party was great.  We had a good crowd, everyone dressed up and on the menu included some old favorites, some new winners and a couple that need a bit of work.

  • Veggie Tray (tie some big carrot and zucchini bundles with trine and stand up): celery, radish, cucumber, bell pepper, grape tomatoes, grapes, jicama 
  • Spicy Pretzels
  • Jalapeno dip with tortilla chips 
  • Enchilada dip, tortilla chips (HOT) 
  • Cheeseburger dip, tortilla chips or sourdough (HOT) 
  • Sweet Bat Wings 
  • Chicken Meatballs stuffed with blue cheese (Buffalo Eyeballs)
  • Winnies and apples 
  • Sweets:  Boo Balls:  Maple cake
  • Drinks:  Jimmy Juice Punch (REDRUM) , Beer / Wine  and Red Hot Whiskey (Homemade Fireball)
The new hits were the Chicken Meatballs.  I liked them because I can make ahead, freeze and then cook from frozen like I do the Sausage balls.  This allows me to have them in the freezer and bring out just a few at a time.  I haven't yet done a meatball that I love and I'm not totally sure what my problems have been.  This one had a soft texture which at first I wasn't sure about, it reminded me of my sister inlaws meatballs, she boils them, which may be why since they did sit in the sauce, but one thing I believe I don't like about my past meatballs was that they were hard.  The feedback from others was they wanted the recipe so here it is.  Unfortunately I didn't take a picture but when I make them again, which will be soon, I'll add one, but you can see them on the Cookie  Rookie site.  The original recipe came from Cookie Rookie.  The only changes I made were to use panko vs Italian bread crumbs and add in the Italian spices because it was what I had and I used dressing mix vs. dip mix.

1 lb. ground chicken
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 egg
½ C. panko bread crumbs
⅛ t. parsley
⅛ t. oregano
⅛ t. basil
1 T. powdered ranch dressing mix
4 oz. blue cheese
2 T. unsalted butter
1 C. Franks red hot sauce

To a large bowl all ingredients except blue cheese and dressing. Mix with a fork. Roll into balls with a 1 oz. scoop or a tablespoon. With your thumb put an indent in center of ball and put ½ t. blue cheese crumbles/chunks in center. Fold meat over cheese and roll back into a ball. Place on cookie sheet or freeze on a foil lined paper plate till frozen then transfer to zip top bag. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400°F and bake 16-18 minutes. Put dressing ingredients in a crock pot or deep saute pan to melt butter and heat sauce, mix. Add meatballs, toss in sauce. Makes about 16 meatballs.

The Enchilada dip was tasty but way too runny.  Once I make changes to this I'll post the recipe.  The Jalapeno dip was good, I think, so again once I try it, I'll let you know.  The Bacon Cheeseburger dip however was perfect and I can't wait to make it again.  It made two small, maybe 5" cassarole dishes so I baked the second one and we ate it on Monday night with the chips and some bread slices but the tortilla chips were best.  It was a tad sweet from the browned onions and ketchup but it was a total cheeseburger taste, not the best pix but taste wise it is excellent.

½ lb. lean ground beef
6 strips bacon, torn into pieces
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
½ C. sour cream
¼ C. mayonnaise
½ C. mozzarella, shredded
½ C. cheddar, shredded
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. ketchup

Cook beef over medium heat, break up while cooking. Drain grease, set aside. In same pan, cook bacon until crispy about 6-10 minutes, remove, drain all but 1 T. bacon fat. Add onion and saute till tender and browned, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic saute another minute. To a large bowl add beef, torn bacon, onion garlic mixture, softened cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mozzarella, cheddar, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. Mix. Pour into a pie plate or two small baking dishes. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20-30 minutes.

I took my teriyaki chicken thighs and modified it to use wings and I can now say I make a great wing. After I baked them I added them to my electric roaster which has three buffet servers over water to keep them warm but they are just as good at room temperature however.

40 chicken wings, 20 per bag
¼ C. Braggs Liquid amino acid or soy sauce
1 C. light brown sugar
¼ t. ground ginger
¼ t. red pepper flakes
1 T. dry sherry
1 T. garlic, minced

The day before, place 20 frozen wings and 1/2 T. of garlic in each zip top bag.  In a 2 cup measure add brown sugar and amino acid or soy sauce.  Add more aminio acid or soy to equal one cup.  Stir in spices.  Pour half of the mixture in each bag.  Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, turning every so often to distribute the marinade.  
To cook:  Cover a cookie sheet in heavy duty foil, top that with a piece of parchment paper.  Remove wings from marinade and place on cookie sheet.  Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 1.5 hours.  Flip wings half way through.  

Note:  It won’t seem like enough marinade but it is so don’t worry.  When you flip the wings if the top cookie sheet is browning more than the bottom one, switch them for even browning.  Check after an hour and see how they are doing.  Two hours is too long because the sugar will burn.  The wings will still be good but some get too dark.

The dessert, BOO BALLS looked so cute and it is proven that any cake and cream cheese frosting works for this recipe.  These were a maple cake with maple cream cheese frosting.  Since they were for Halloween, after I dipped them in the melted white candy coating, I drizzled more on with a fork so they wouldn't be smooth.  Then I quartered a dried cranberry and stuck those pieces on with more melted chocolate to use for eyes.  You can also use chocolate chips for eyes.

I just realized I've never posted my Mini Winnies recipes which is a favorite of mine and others so I will do that in a separate post.  You can find my Spicy Ranch Pretzels here.  The Jimmy Juice was a drink we use to have in NH so I made it into a punch.  It is Spiced rum, white rum, OJ, cranberry juice and 7up.  The Red Hot Shots was made with 3 C. of Segrems 7 and a box of Red Hots.  Those who drink Fireball thought mine was better.

These were made but they didn't make it out that night.  But the sandwiches and the sausage balls did make an appearance for breakfast the next morning for four of us.
  • Baked Ham and Cheese sandwiches on Kings Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

  • Sausage Balls
  • Potato Skins

Friday, October 3, 2014

Good Week for Veggies

This week was a good week for veggies.  All winners.

  • Szechuan Green Beans:  This converts even a non green bean lover to love green beans.

1 ½ lbs. green beans, stems removed, cut in half
2 T. sugar
2 T. corn starch 
2 T.  garlic, chopped
2 T. light soy sauce or Bragg's liquid amino acid
1 T. chili garlic sauce
2 T. hoisin sauce
½ t. white pepper
½ C. water

In a small bowl mix sauce ingredients.  Add washed and stemmed green beans to a 2” deep skillet or wok.  Saute in a drizzle of peanut oil and sesame oil till tender crisp.  Add sauce and heat to warm sauce and coat green beans.  Serve.
  • Mashed Potato Fake Out (Cauliflower Mashed but this time I boiled it in beef broth vs chicken broth for added flavor, drain, mash and 1 T. butter and some pepper)
  • Portabella Mushrooms Stuffed with 1T. pesto and crumbles of goat cheese:  Bake in 375 oven for 30 minutes.  Be sure to scoop out the black gills and cut off the stem.

  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette:  Tossing the warm sprouts with the vinaigrette, feta and dried cranberries make for a great side dish.
Maple Mustard Vinaigrette (add all ingredients to bowl, whisk, add roasted brussels, feta and cranberries, toss)
¼ C. maple syrup
¼ C. apple cider vinegar
2 T. mustard
-Salt & Pepper

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pancake Puff, aka Dutch Baby, German Pancake or Pop Over.. ish

This is a very easy recipe that is like a pancake and a crepe but crispy.  It is thin, light and delish but best of all it takes about 5 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes in the oven, no peeking.

3 T. butter for dish
3 egg
¾ C. non fat milk
pinch salt
¾ C. flour
¼ t. vanilla
-Maple Syrup

Preheat oven to 400°F. Add butter to 10" pie plate and put in oven to melt while it preheats. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk and vanilla. Add salt and flour, whisk to combine. Remove pie plate from oven and swirl butter to coat sides of pan, pour batter into pie plate. Bake 30 minutes, no peeking. Serve with maple syrup. Makes 2-4 servings depending on size and hunger.

  • If adding fillings that need to melt or bake remove after 20 minutes, top and finish baking.
  • You can see from the two pictures adding more eggs makes it puffier (above). The eggs are what give it the lift. Which makes it lighter, thinner and crispier than the savory version (below) and also the fact that you open the oven to add toppings it won't be as puffy.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday Breakfast

I assembled today's breakfast yesterday early afternoon.  I made the pesto the day before and frankly didn't totally care for it but in this strata it worked out great.  This strata was creamy, moist, cheesy with the bright flavors of summer.  I haven't had a lot of luck this year with store bought tomatoes.  They are not as flavorful as my "Sweet Million" volunteer garden tomatoes but for this dish I needed slices.  Since the final layer was tomatoes however the baking process sweetened them.  Next time I'll do two things differently when it comes to the tomatoes.  Slice all 4 tomatoes to keep the prettiest ones for the top layer and use at least one more so that the top layer has them even overlapping unlike shown here.  They were just so tasty and sweet after baking that more will be better.

The original recipe came from Cuisine at Home, #58 2006, pg. 21.  I have been cooking a bunch of recipes out of them ever since I sorted them into seasons and put the summer seasons on my coffee table.  This way I can cook based on what is fresh in the stores.  I didn't make a ton of changes to the original beyond making my own pesto and using non fat milk.  The recipe called for a 2-3 quart round dish but my 2 qt. was too shallow, one layer and it was full.  It needed a deeper dish so I used my oval 3qt. dish which is 5.5" deep and 12⅝”L. 9¼”W and I still had to press it down in order to pour the egg mixture over the top.

1 loaf (1-1.5 lbs.) sourdough bread, sliced ½” slices
8 oz. cream cheese, tiny cubes
½ lb. (8 oz.) ball fresh mozzarella, tiny cubes
¾ C. pesto
16 slices (6 oz.) prosciutto, thinly sliced
1.5 lb. (5-6) roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
Whisk, pour over strata, chill:
5 eggs
1 ½ C. non fat milk
½ t. salt
½ t. coarse ground black pepper

Slice the bread into half inch slices.  Cube the cream cheese and mozzarella into tiny cubes and slice the tomatoes.  Coat a 3qt. at least 3.5 inch deep glass baking  with a good layer of nonstick spray or oil.

Layer the following in order given:
  • Half the bread slices
  • Half the cream cheese, cubed or spread on bread
  • Half the mozzarella
  • Half the pesto, spread
  • 8 slices of prosciutto
  • Half the tomato slices, the uglier ones first
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Repeat with remaining ingredients
The top layer should be covered in tomatoes, overlapping if necessary unlike my first attempt.  Press down the mixture.  Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Pour over top of tomatoes.   Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

When ready to cook, remove from the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before baking.  Bake 350°F for 1 hour-1 hour 15 minutes, till eggs are set.  A knife inserted should come out clean.  Let rest for 10 minutes.

Note:  Since the cream cheese doesn't really melt you want to make sure the pieces are small so you get an even layer and not a big bite of cream cheese.  Unlike the picture shown here add enough tomatoes to the top layer so it is covered, overlapping if necessary.  Here I used 1 pound which equaled 4 tomatoes.  I've increased it to 5 or 6 just cover it.  The top layer of tomatoes are sweater because of the baking process so I wanted more.

PESTO:  I tried two new pesto's the day before and I used the one I didn't like here because by the next day it mellowed out and tasted better and it worked perfectly in this dish.  You can buy it already made, use my new recipe or my standard basil pesto recipe if you like.  I'll post those recipes next.  The second new pesto I made with the soy sauce, wouldn't work here.  It was too strong from the soy but it will work great with the fish I'll be cooking this week.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Canning and Pickling is getting easier with practice

I'm not saying that it is a hard process but once you have done it a few times the nerves go away which make it easier and less stressful and the time to do it shortens.  Also since I got a new stove the time it takes to bring the huge pot of water to a boil has reduced considerably, maybe by about 15-30 minutes.  I'll have to time it next time to make sure.

Most recently I received my free bowls of apricots from my neighbor so I made quite a few differnt things like apricot butter.  The apricot butter recipe was nice because I did it in the oven and although I stirred it about every 15-20 minutes it was more relaxing than doing it on the stove top.

4 lb. apricots
½ C. water
3 T. bottled lemon juice
4 C. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
¼ t. ground allspice
¼ t. nutmeg
¼ t. salt

Clean, pit and chop apricots.  Put in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with water, and lemon juice and cook for 15-20 minutes until apricots are soft.  Using a stick blender puree fruit or if you don’t have a stick blender use a food processor or blender.  Return to pot if you removed.  Add sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Remove to a braising or roasting pan.  Put in oven and cook until thick about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Stir every 15 minutes or so it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom and sides.  The butter is done when a sample is put on a plate and there is no rim of liquid around it.  Ladle into hot jars, wipe rims and seal.  Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Makes 5-6 half pint jars.

I also made a quick Apricot Pastry using last years apricot jam, this years whole apricots and puff pastry.
I used the jam along with cream cheese and a sprinkle of goat cheese for a quick appetizer.
I made this wonderful Cinnamon Apricot bread.
I added some to rum and some to brandy.
I put some in apple cider vinegar for an infused Apricot Vinegar.  And then I had had enough so I froze packages of chopped apricots in 2C portions.  

Before I made the butter I had already started for the second attempt, pickled strawberries and watermelon rind.  The first time I did pickled strawberries they were extremely sour.  Now that I have tried a new recipe I moved my first attempt recipe to the infused vinegar section.  It makes for a flavorful vinegar but eating the strawberries alone were just too sour.  Adding them to a salad helped so I didn't have to toss them out.  My second attempt resulted in sweet strawberries and I can't wait to make them again but I think I'll simplify the recipe and get rid of the 2T measurements.  Not sure why this bugs me beyond a spoon to wash but it just seems unnecessary.  This is a good June/July gift for someone during peak strawberry season.  So here is what I did the first two times.


6 – 8 fresh strawberries, stems removed, quartered
1 C apple cider vinegar
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 sliced or halved jalapeƱo or serrano pepper
½ t whole black peppercorns
¼ t whole coriander

Add strawberries to a jar.  Mix other ingredients.  Pour over jar.


1 lb. strawberries, stemmed, halved or quartered
½ C. + 2T white balsamic vinegar
½ C. + 2T granulated sugar
½ C. + 2T water

Bring to a boil, stirring to melt sugar. Remove from heat. Wash, stem and cut in half or quarter larger strawberries. Place in a glass jar. Pour warm liquid over top. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. Best eaten within 2 weeks.

Note: If you leave larger pieces you can skewer them with mozzarella for a twist on caprese.

Serving Suggestions: Serve over goat cheese, cream cheese, Greek yogurt, pancakes, ice cream, in salads, use the vinegar as part of the vinaigrette in place of the vinegar and sweetener, skewer with mozzarella and basil or mint, serve on toasted bread spread with cheese

Leftovers: Use vinegar liquid in salad dressings.