Friday, December 31, 2010

Homemade Pizza

In our area, one of the pizza places offers a large one-topping pizza for $5.99 one day a week. As far as we're concerned, that's a great deal. Not only do we get dinner out of it, but lunch for one or two of us the next day, too! But I've been hankerin' for some homemade pizza for a while, and I finally made it for dinner the other night. I used this recipe for the dough, and it was unbelievably simple. I made several different pizzas to suit the different tastes in my family, and all were really good! I actually ended up making pizza again just a couple of nights later when a good friend of mine came to spend the day with us. Never be afraid to get creative with your pizza toppings! Here's what I made:

Hawaiian - sauce, mozzarella, cheddar, ham and pineapple
Potato-Leek-Ham - (I seasoned and sauteed the thinly sliced potatoes and leeks first) plus mozzarella, feta, and Parmesan
Cheese - sauce, mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan
Spaghetti and Meatball - sauce, mozzarella, cooked angel hair pasta, cooked meatballs, Parmesan
Veggie - sauce, mozzarella, spinach, mushroom, tomato, Parmesan
Barbecue - BBQ sauce, smoked pork, green onions, cheddar

I have also made a close approximation to a Middle Eastern-style pizza called "lahmajun" using ground lamb mixed with Mediterranean seasonings, plain tomato sauce, and cheese. To be truly authentic, I serve it with chopped parsley and lemon wedges for sprinkling the juice over the pizza.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pantry Meal

Well, blogging isn't the only thing I've gotten behind on over this Christmas weekend. There's also laundry and *gasp* grocery shopping! Add in three kids who haven't been feeling well for various reasons and it's completely understandable that the weekly trek to Kroger hasn't happened. The result was that last night I was facing a hungry family and had no idea what to fix for them out of our limited supply. My mind kept going back to chicken chili, which I had planned to make the week before, but I knew I was missing a couple of key ingredients. As I shuffled through my freezer, I was delighted to spy a single chicken breast frozen in a marinade of salsa, lime juice and cilantro. I quickly adjusted my plan to use this instead of the plain shredded chicken. I also grabbed a zip-top bag of frozen green pepper (so glad I saved that!). I ended up sauteeing together onion, green pepper, garlic and the chicken (with the marinade) in a little olive oil. Then I removed that to a bowl and kept it warm. In the same saucepan, I made a simple white sauce with chicken broth from the freezer. I added in some cumin and chili powder, salt and pepper, the chicken and veggies, plus a can of navy beans. Once heated through it was ready to serve! To go alongside, I fried up some corn tortillas that were hanging out in my fridge. I'm always surprised at how good those unplanned meals straight from the pantry can be!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bites

This is one of those great un-recipes that requires no baking yet results in a very tasty treat. You'll just need equal amounts of:

Mini pretzels
Rolo (caramel-center) candies
Pretzel M & M candies

Simply lay the pretzels out on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Place an unwrapped Rolo candy on top of each pretzel. Place in a warm oven for 3-5 minutes, until the candy has softened a bit. Remove from oven and quickly but gently press an M&M in the middle of each Rolo. Allow the chocolate to firm back up (you can pop the cooled tray in the fridge or freezer if you like). Then remove them to an airtight container to store.

Now, you're probably already way ahead of me here, but naturally you can adapt this recipe easily to your family's favorites. I think peanut butter cups would be great in place of the Rolos, and you can top the candies with anything, too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Candy

One thing I always loved about the holidays approaching was that Mom would make candy. She made several kinds that I looked forward to every year. Unfortunately, one day while grocery shopping she left her recipe book in the cart at the commissary. So, the originals are lost forever! Through the power of the internet, though, I've located recipes to my three favorites. I haven't tested them, but they certainly look to be "just like Mom used to make"!

Peanut Butter Balls

Divinity - this is from Paula Deen, and she makes it sound so easy!

Coconut Balls - this is a close approximation, though we always used pecans.

The Peanut Butter Balls and the Coconut Balls freeze beautifully!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spinach Soup

Have I mentioned before how much I love The Pioneer Woman? Here's one more reason to love her:

Spinach Soup.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Being on a diet for the last six weeks has forced me to be very creative with eating! I typically don't eat breakfast first thing in the morning; I prefer to have coffee first, then eat at ten or so. But I have to eat pretty early on this diet, which means being creative for breakfast. I've developed a delicious Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal that's really hearty and satisfying. And I mean really hearty! You may even make this for two, especially if you like bacon or sausage or eggs with your oatmeal. I enjoy it all by itself.

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup water
1/2 apple, diced (no need to peel!)
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons chopped nuts (almonds or pecans are my favorites)
a splash of vanilla extract (maybe a 1/4 teaspoon)
a dash of cinnamon (to taste)
2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar (to taste)

Combine all but the sweetener in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook at full power for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes. Stir in honey or sugar and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals

Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals
This cookbook is wonderful! I checked it out from the library several years ago after becoming a fan of Sara Moulton's show on Food Network. I read it through, loved it, and then forgot (mostly) about it until recently. I checked it out again back in October and I'm still a big fan. Sara's way of looking at food and its preparation is very much like my own, and I've learned a lot from her. I've made several of her recipes over the last couple of weeks; each one has been a big hit with my family. One of our favorites was Asian Turkey Burgers.  I only made a couple of changes. One was to substitute shredded carrots for the red peppers (I didn't have any!). The other was that I served it with a simple coleslaw. My husband ate his burger topped off with the slaw. The whole family ate every bite and loved it! That's a pretty rare feat in any house with at least one child.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Stockings

One Christmas tradition in our house has always been the advent calendar. When I was a child, it was delicious German chocolates in a little cardboard house. My brother and I eagerly awaited our turns to open the tiny perforated doors that held the chocolatey treasures. When I established the tradition in my own home after our first daughter was born, I twisted it a bit ...

We have twenty-four stockings that each hold a special treat! I made these stockings from infant socks and decorated them with ribbon, buttons, beads, pom-pons, and jingle bells. It was really easy and a lot of fun to get to be creative with each one. We've used them for about 8 years now, and the kids look forward to bringing them out every year.
This year the kids are excited to be able to rotate every third day, since they have a new little sister. The big kids get candy cane flavored Hershey kisses and Hershey kisses with caramel centers. The ten-month old gets little plastic-wrapped bundles of Gerber Graduates Puffs. We all get a special treat every day in the form of a few verses from Scripture about the advent of Christ.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Un-recipe - Greek Pasta

A lot of lunches that I make for myself are really not recipes at all, just ingredients I threw together because they sounded good. I pretty much start with pasta and go from there! Case in point, the Greek Pasta I made the other day. I cooked up a couple of ounces of angel hair pasta -- at 2-4 minutes, the timing can't be beat. In a salad bowl, (a low, flat soup bowl) I drizzled about a teaspoon of lemon juice, a bit of salt and fresh-ground pepper, and a half-tablespoon of butter. When the pasta was done, I tossed it in the bowl, mixing well. Then I topped it off with a couple of tablespoons of feta cheese and tossed that together, too. I was too lazy (and it was too cold!) to go out and clip some fresh oregano or parsley, but that would have been great!

Add a simple salad and you've got the makings of a delicious quick lunch. This would also make a good side dish beside baked chicken or fish.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I know apples are more of a fall thing, but with our nation's global network of food resources, it's nearly always a great time of year for any produce. My traditional favorite is Granny Smith: it's perfect for cooking and eating out-of-hand. My husband loves Gala apples; my kids, Red Delicious. If you want the precise combination of sweet and tart, look no farther than Honeycrisp! I've recently discovered those, and I can't stop eating them! Most sweet apples tend to be soft, but like the name says, these are crisp and sweet and juicy. Try them, and as Adrian Monk says, "You'll thank me later."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Family Traditions

Since before Thanksgiving, I've posted some of my favorite recipes for holidays and get-togethers with family and friends. Thanksgiving itself has always been fairly traditional in my family, with ham, turkey and dressing, pumpkin and pecan pies, along with plenty of side dishes. Christmas was where we usually changed things up a bit. Ham was a standard for some years, but more often we served something special that we didn't typically have throughout the year. Meals like steak and shrimp, Italian Heritage Casserole, a buffet of appetizers, brunch, and lasagna have all shown up at our Christmas celebrations. We also would vary the time our family would eat: morning, mid-afternoon, late-night, we've done it all!

One thing my mom did every year, though, was make cookies and candy. Of the candies, Divinity had to be my favorite, unless it was her Chocolate Coconut Balls. Or the Peanut Butter Balls. And she makes the very best Chocolate Chip Cookies, whose recipe I would share with you, but it's a closely guarded family secret!

What are some of your family's holiday (especially Christmas!) traditions?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Nutty Green Beans

It seems kind of silly to post a recipe for something like this because "open can; heat contents" is pretty much how I thought  green beans were cooked until I was an adult. Actually, in the South there's one more step: "heat contents until mushy". But, I never knew I liked green beans until I tried making fresh ones! So I submit to you that if you don't think you like green beans, at least try them slightly crisp with a touch of butter. You may change your mind like I did! This is my standard recipe:

Nutty Green Beans
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups beef broth
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
handful of pecans or almonds

Bring broth and green beans to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat slightly and boil for five minutes. Drain broth, reserving for another use if desired. Add butter; salt and pepper to taste, and the nuts to your saucepan with the beans. Saute for 4-5 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Obviously, you could use chicken or vegetable broth or even water instead, but I like the rich flavor the beef broth provides. It's the little things!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cheesy Turkey Burgers

These burgers are a family favorite! I love a good beef burger, and this turkey burger is almost as good. I got the recipe several years ago from the always faithful Taste of Home. I serve these on wheat buns with Swiss cheese, lettuce or spinach and ranch dressing or olive oil mayo. Add in a bag of your favorite chips and you've got dinner in under thirty minutes! Got more time? Make these delicious roasted potatoes to serve on the side.

Cheesy Turkey Burgers

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend or mozzarella
1 small onion, grated
3 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons minced green onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 pounds lean ground turkey

In a bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Crumble turkey over mixture and mix well. Shape into eight 1/2-inch-thick patties. Cook in batches in large skillet coated with a couple of tablespoons oil. Cook 5-6 minutes on first side, flip and cook for 5-6 more minutes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chewy Peanut Butter Bars

At our house, it's not unusual to have unexpected company in the evenings. Several young singles from our church gladly accept our open invitation for them to drop in. Because of that, I like to have recipes close at hand that can be whipped up quickly. I've definitely done some maneuvering in my time to make a meal stretch farther! One way I do that is with quick breads, like bisclettes or cornbread. Another way is with simple, yummy desserts like these peanut butter bars. They're mixed together right on the stovetop, so there's only one pot to wash!

Chewy Peanut Butter Bars

½ cup peanut butter
½ cup butter/margarine
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large saucepan, melt butter and peanut butter. Remove from heat; add sugar and flour. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Spread into a greased and floured 9x13 baking pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.