Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spinach Pesto

Last week I found a recipe for homemade ricotta as I was surfing the net.  I had never heard of making ricotta at home before but I used to make yogurt all the time.  After looking at the recipe I decided it looked easy enough.  I would definitely have to try it.  I used 1% milk as I wanted a lower fat version and it turned out great.  It was delicious!   I had just happened to watch a show on Food Network a day or two before that used ricotta in the recipe and decided to pear up the two and make the dish with the homemade ricotta.  The recipe on Food Network was by Sunny Anderson called Ricotta Ravioli with Spinach Pesto.  You can check it out if you desire.  I made the ricotta one day and the next used it to make the ravioli.  I did make some changes to the ravioli filling that I thought we would like better.  I kept out the lemon zest and added some of the pesto to the filling to add in some flavor.  I thought the ravioli were quite time consuming even though I used wonton wrappers which did save some time. But it was very good.  Like a restaurant meal if I must say so myself.  I was impressed.   I also changed the pesto just a bit, and have decided to post this part of the recipe as it was my favorite part.  It could be used on pasta, fish, chicken as a spread on toasted baguette slices etc.   Here is my version:

Spinach Pesto

·         4 cups spinach, loosely packed
·         1 clove garlic
·         1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
·         1/2 cup olive oil
1     3/4 cup toasted hickory nuts, toasted

1 lime,  juiced

To make the spinach pesto:

In a food processor, combine remaining 3/4 cup hazelnuts, lime juice, spinach, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste and puree until smooth.

The original recipe called for toasted hazelnuts, but I didn't have any in the house so substituted the hickory nuts, didn't have a lemon so used a lime.

Stuffed French Toast

My kids loved this recipe growing up.  We got the recipe from a children's cookbook that I bought for my daughter Sadie when she was about 10. I had not thought about this in awhile, until my 20 year old son was here with a friend and mentioned how he would have to make this Stuffed French Toast for them one of these days. I have seen versions of it made in restaurants but usually steer away from items that I can easily make at home. This is simple to make but tastes great.  You can pretty easily make your own variation of this, but this is how we like it.  You can use any flavor jam in this, but we think homemade freezer jams taste best in this.  Strawberry is our favorite but cherry or blueberry are great too.  Depends on what you have in the house.

3 beaten eggs
3/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
10 slices dry white bread
**8 oz. brick cream cheese, softened
**8 oz. jar strawberry freezer jam
powdered sugar

Beat eggs, milk and vanilla in shallow dish.  Set aside. Spread a couple of tablespoons of cream cheese (to taste) on 5 slices of bread.  Spread a couple of Tablespoons of jam (to taste) over cream cheese. Top with remaining 5 slices of bread.  Heat skillet over medium heat til hot. Dip "sandwiches"  in egg mixture. Swirl a pat of butter around in heated pan and fry sandwiches in butter until browned.  Turn over to brown other side.  Serve topped with additional butter and sprinkle powdered sugar over top.

**You may not use all of the cream cheese or jam.  It depends on how much you use according to your own taste.

Friday, February 26, 2010

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

If you love chocolate, cream cheese and Oreos you will absolutely love this cheesecake recipe.  No baking required.  It is quite easy to throw together and you will love it.  It does take some chilling time so plan accordingly.

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 3 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 c. frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
1 8 inch Oreo crust

In small microwave-safe bowl place chocolate chips.  Microwave at HIGH (100)% 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred.  Set aside to cool.  In large mixer bowl beat cream cheese, sugar and butter until smooth.  On low speed blend in melted chocolate.  Fold in whipped topping until blended; spoon cheese mixture into crust.  Cover; chill until firm.  Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings if desired.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tex-Mex Casserole

This is a great potluck dish.  It makes a nice amount and goes fast.  It is always a favorite when I serve it.  Sometimes I add in a can of pinto beans or refried beans into the hamburger mixture. You can use either plain tortilla chips or if you prefer you could use nacho, taco or ranch flavor.  They all work equally well.

Tex-Mex Casserole

2 pounds ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 t. garlic powder
1 10-3/4 oz. can cream of chicken soup
1 10-3/4 oz. can cream or mushroom soup
16 oz. enchilada sauce (hot or mild)
3/4 c. milk
10 oz. bag tortilla chips
8 oz. pkg. shredded cheddar cheese

In skillet, brown beef with onion and garlic powder; drain. Stir in the soups, enchilada sauce and milk. Crush chips and place in bottom of sprayed 13 x 9 inch baking dish.  Spread beef mixture over chips and top with cheese.  Bake in 350 oven for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Top Secret "Shake and Bake" Chicken

My grocery store had bone-in chicken breasts on special this week so I stocked up on them.  This recipe is better made with the bone-in variety than the boneless, skinless.  It just has more flavor.  Serve this up with Easy Rice Pilaf, cooked veggie of choice and a salad and you have yourself a meal.

"Top Secret Shake N Bake Chicken"

2 1/2 # bone-in chicken pieces, (I use breasts)
1/2 c. plus 1T. cornflake crumbs
2 t. all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1/4 to paprika
1/4 t. sugar
scant 1/4 t. garlic powder
scant 1/4 t. onion powder

Combine all ingredients but chicken in a gallon ziploc bag.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and pat dry chicken pieces. Dip chicken in milk and then add to bag.  Shake until coated and remove to foil lined jellyroll pan.  Bake 45 minutes. ( 40 minutes for drumsticks)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blueberry Oat Muffins

I love muffins for breakfast on weekends.  Its not that I don't like muffins any other day of the week, its just that I have more time on the weekends to whip up a batch.  Sometimes I will make extra to have during the week, but usually they are gone in one day.  This is one of our usuals.  I make this one probably the most of all the other recipes for muffins.  I like the idea of the oats and I make it with whole wheat flour, so I think of it as a healthy recipe.  It is also low in fat which makes it healthier, but you would never know it by the taste.  The buttermilk is the preferred liquid, but if you don't have it on hand you can use regular milk with a teaspoon of vinegar added to it and it will turn out fine.  It is just better made with buttermilk.

Blueberry Oat Muffins

1 c. rolled oats
1 c. + 2 T. buttermilk**
1 beaten egg
1/4 c. canola oil
 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

Add buttermilk to oats in small bowl.  Set aside for a few minutes to soak.  In medium bowl, beat egg and whisk in oil till thick and lemon colored.  Stir in brown sugar with whisk.  Dump in oat mixture and add all but blueberries.  Mix and stir in blueberries.  Drop spoonfuls into sprayed muffin tins and bake in preheated 400 degree oven 15-20 minutes.  This makes 14 to 16 muffins.  **(If you use regular milk, just use 1 cup)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Easy Rice Pilaf

This is a good side dish to go with chicken.  It is a homemade version of Rice a Roni.  You could also make this with beef stock.  The original recipe came from The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash, but I cut the butter down from 4T to 2 to save on fat and calories.

Easy Rice Pilaf

2 T. butter
1/2 c. thin pasta, such as vermicell, broken into 1/2 inch pieces (I use orzo)
1 c. rice
2 c. chicken stock

     Heat butter; just before it begins to brown, add pasta.  Stir until lightly browned.  Stir in rice and saute for a moment until lightly colored.  Add stock; stir once.  Cover pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook until all the liquid is absorbed, 15-20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Crockpot Sausage and Pea Soup

I hate winter.  The cold, the snow, the shoveling, the achy back (from shoveling), the icy roads the gray skies...etc. It just lasts too long here in Wisconsin.... I love winter... the warm fire in the fireplace, the sweatshirts and sweaters, the comfy quilts, snuggling up with a cup of coffee and a good book, vegging out and watching movies, building snowmen, sledding, coming in from the cold to hot chocolate with marshmallows.  The seasonal grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes, and of course, soup!  So even though  winter is not my favorite season I can find reasons to love it and be thankful for it.

Crockpot Sausage and Pea Soup

1 1/4 c. dried green peas
1/4 c. pearled barley
1/2 # sliced smoked turkey sausage or kielbasa
1 chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped carrots
1 c. diced potatoes
3 16 oz. cans beef broth
1/4 t. cracked black pepper
1/8 t. nutmeg

     Add all ingredients in crockpot and cook 6 hours on low.  Serve with a loaf of crusty french bread.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chocolate Mousse

I realize that Valentine's Day was on Sunday and I should have posted this recipe last week in preparation for the holiday, but I often wait til the last minute and don't plan ahead. Who says you can only eat chocolate on Valentine's Day anyway?  I didn't think of it actually until the day itself...  Valentine's Day.  I was thinking what could I make today that uses the traditional Valentine ingredient ... chocolate?  Something that is special yet simple.  Something that I don't make everyday but would love to eat everyday.  This is the recipe that came to mind.  I have served this on occasion to company and was embarrassed when they asked for the recipe and  saw how much effort I did not put into this dessert I had made for them.  I had impressed them with the delicious dessert, and ruined it by letting them know how easy it was.
I got the original recipe from the "Back of the Box  Gourmet" cookbook.

Chocolate Mousse

1 10 oz. pkg. Nestle Toll House Mint-Chocolate Morsels
(I used 1 10oz. pkg. Ande's Creme de Menthe pieces
2 eggs
1 c. scalded milk (I used 2%)
Whipped cream (optional)

In blender container, combine chocolate pieces, eggs and scalded milk.  Cover; blend on high speed 2-3 minutes.  Pour into individual parfait glasses.    Chill the mousses for an hour or two or until set.  Garnish with whipped cream.

*Note-I have used semi-sweet chocolate chips also in this and added 2T. Amaretto or Kaluha to the blender as well.  You could also use white chocolate chips or raspberry flavored etc.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chicken Alfredo Lasagna

My oldest daughter and her husband had us over for dinner the other night.  I must say it was delicious!!!  I am very impressed with her culinary skills as she was never much interested in the kitchen while growing up.  I had always wanted to share my love of cooking with my kids and had wanted them to get as excited about cooking as I always was.  It didn't really happen until they were out on their own.  Now occasionally one or the other might call for a family favorite recipe or to share a new recipe with me.  This is one she came upon on  the Food Network site I believe and made for us the other night.  I can't wait to impress friends with this one!

Chicken Alfredo Lasagna

10 lasagna noodles
16 oz. jar alfredo sauce (lite)
1/4 c. milk
1/2 t. oregano
3 c. chopped cooked chicken
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 chopped red pepper
1 finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
3 c. mozzarella cheese
4 oz. pkg. lite feta cheese
2 c. baby spinach

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix alfredo sauce, milk and oregano.  Whisk, set aside.
Coarsely chop chicken and artichokes, pepper, onion, mince garlic and add to med. sized bowl.  Add mozzarella and feta cheese.  Stir this up to mix.  In sprayed 13 x 9 pan, spread 2/3 c. alfredo sauce mixture.  Top with 5 uncooked noodles overlapping to fit them in. Layer 1 c. spinach leaves over noodles, top with 1/2 of chicken mixture, sauce.  Repeat layers ending with remaining sauce.  Pour in 1/2 c. water around sides; try not to disturb layers.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake 10-15 minutes longer.  Let sit 10 minutes, cut and serve.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cowboy Caviar

Super Bowl Sunday is a "big holiday" and we are all looking for easy to serve finger foods that don't require our attention at gametime.  We may need a dish to pass when invited over to watch the game with family or friends or may be having them all over to watch with us.  When I need to bring a dish to pass I often get requests to bring this.  This is a make ahead snack that is delicious, made with healthy ingredients and sure to please.  Serve with Tostitos Scoops which hold it all well.

Cowboy Caviar

2 15 oz. cans black-eyed peas***drained and rinsed
2 cans white shoepeg corn, drained (Green Giant)
15oz. can small diced tomatoes, drained
8 oz. Italian dressing
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin with green part included
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
dash or two of tobasco

Mix all ingredients and chill at least 2 hours or overnight.  If tomato pieces are bigger, cut in half as you want them about the same size as the corn and beans.  In the summer you may use fresh roma tomatoes, 2 or 3.
***I use the Goya brand black-eyed peas as they are cooked without smoked meat.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Southwest Chili Pot

Over the years my friend Janet and I have traded recipes that we discovered to be great and well loved by our families.  They would have us over, she would make something fabulous and I would come home with the recipe.  She is a great cook and has passed many great recipes on to me.  Her mother-in-law is also a fabulous cook and would share recipes with her and she would pass them on to me.  I have many well-loved recipes from them.  This is one of the many and is well suited to Super Bowl entertaining.  Chili is the perfect Super Bowl meal as it can be made ahead, even a day or two.  Then at game time just heat and serve.

Southwest Chili Pot

3 # ground beef
4 c. chopped onions
1 T. garlic powder
4-5 T. chili powder
2 t. cumin
2 quarts tomatoes
6 oz. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 T. salt
1 t. paprika
1 t. sugar
2 15oz. cans chili beans

Slightly brown ground beef.  Add onions and continue to cook until onions are softened and meat is brown.  Drain; add remaining ingredients except beans and simmer 2-3 hours to blend flavors stirring occasionally. Last half hour or so add the beans. Remove bay leaves at serving time.

 At this point you may serve topped with grated Cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped onions, crushed corn chips or whatever you like or you can serve ladled over cooked macaroni topped with the above condiments.
This recipe freezes well if you want to serve it at a later date.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pizza Burgers

With the Super Bowl coming up, we need to be thinking of some easy recipes that can be made ahead and served at gametime without much extra fuss.  This recipe is a crowd pleaser, can be eaten out of hand and is easy enough to please the cook who doesn't want to miss out on the game due to food prep.  Serve with a veggie platter, chips and pickles and you are good to go.

Gametime Pizza Burgers

1 # ground beef
1 can Spam or luncheon meat
1 small onion, finely diced
15 oz.can pizza sauce
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Grind spam in meat grinder or shred in food processor.  Brown beef and spam with onion.  Drain: cool.  Stir in sauce and cheese.  You can refrigerate at this point or spoon onto hamburger bun halves.  Bake open faced at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  Serve.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Coconut Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is the perfect comfort food.  You can either eat it for dessert or sometimes I like it for breakfast.  When we go to the Chinese buffet restaurant, they have rice pudding that tastes a bit coconutty.  I had some leftover coconut milk from the Thai-Style Halibut I made the other night and decided to try using the rest to make this rice pudding.  I think it turned out pretty good.

Coconut Rice Pudding

  • 1/2 c. medium or long grain rice
  • 1 c.  water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 14 oz. can lite coconut milk or 10oz. coconut milk + 4 oz. milk
  • 2T. sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

    1. Bring rice, water and salt to a boil over med-high heat. Turn down heat to low.Simmer covered until water has been absorbed (approximately 15 minutes).
    2. Stir in milk and sugar and cook uncovered over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently--especially towards the end of cooking.
    3. The pudding is done when the rice and milk have amalgamated into a thick porridge-like consistency.
    4. DO NOT OVERCOOK or the pudding will be solid instead of creamy once cooled.
    5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
    6. Serve either warm or cold.  Sprinkle cinnamon if you like or leave plain.