Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Lunch Menu

For Easter lunch this year, I wanted to branch out a little and use some different recipes. The menu I ended up with was not bad, and my family ate most of it, which always a good sign.

Lamb Stew - a slightly tweaked version of my standard beef stew. I used lamb, naturally, in place of the beef, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a mix of thyme and rosemary.  When I started typing this, I thought I'd already shared with you my recipe for beef stew, but I haven't! I'll get it up here soon.

Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes - I sort of followed a recipe for these from the April issue of Southern Living.

Spinach Salad - Spinach, strawberries, toasted almonds, carrots, Parmesan, and a vinaigrette dressing. The recipe for the dressing is coming tomorrow!

Yeast Rolls - I made a big batch of dough a couple of weeks ago (4 dozen rolls), so these I just pulled from the freezer, thawed, let rise, and baked.

Jeni's Summer Cake - This was Handsome's request - he loves this cake! And the recipe will not be posted, because he wants me to have that traditional one recipe that I don't share, like a 1950's housewife. It's moist and yummy, and light at the same time. Light in flavor, that is, not calories!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Because I've been asked often, I'm pondering having a cookbook printed. Naturally, I don't have the draw to actually get a publisher interested, so I'm looking into using a publishing service. The problem with those is that you have to buy a couple of hundred at a time in order to bring the cost down. Now, I have printed gift cookbooks a few at a time for the girls who have been in our ministry to the college/singles in our church. Those are really nice, expensive books, though, and it wouldn't be worth selling them since the cost would be so high. I'd still try to get the best quality available while keeping to a reasonable price. Depending on the style and the number of recipes, it's looking like I could offer the books for about $10-$12.

What do y'all think? Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions? What would you like to see in the cookbook?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sweet Potato Stacks

My mother-in-law makes a fabulous Sweet Potato Souffle. It's so good, and so NOT good for you. I've spent a lot of time trying to come up with a recipe that captures the flavor yet doesn't have quite so many calories. Her casserole calls for a delicious smorgasbord of butter, eggs, pecans, and brown sugar, and it's hard to re-create the taste while taking out those ingredients.

The best I've come up with is Sweet Potato Stacks:

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (as thin as you can manage!)
1 small apple, cored, peeled and thinly sliced (preferably a sweet but firm one like Gala or Honeycrisp)
3/4 cup apple juice or orange juice
1/3 cup butter (approximately)
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar

In a small bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon and sugar. In each of 12 muffin cups, place about a tablespoon of juice. Layer with a couple of slices of sweet potato, a couple of slices of apple, about 2 teaspoons of the oat mixture, more sweet potato (to top off cup), more oat mixture, and a half-tablespoon of butter. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. You will need to remove the stacks from the cups while still hot, or they'll stick to the pan.

Monday, April 18, 2011


One resource I use occasionally for recipes is Tasty Kitchen. I recently discovered a recipe for homemade bagels on there and thought I'd try it out: I'm so glad I did! They were much easier than I expected. Here's a link for the step-by-step photographed version, and here's the link for the printable version. Like many of my favorite recipes, these bagels are simple but can be easily adapted to lots of different flavors.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Restaurant Redux, Part 2

On the first day of our getaway last week, Handsome and I met my best friend of 20+ years (so surreal!) for lunch at Blue Moon Cafe in Fayetteville, NC. It was a gorgeous day, so we were happy to sit outside in the sunshine. We started with an appetizer of bruschetta, which was really good, despite the fact that I don't like chunky tomatoes so much. I had the Blue Moon Club and Red Pepper Bisque. Neither were as hot as I'd have liked, but the flavor was really good. Handsome and my friend both had the Chicken Apple Brie Panini and both found it pretty bland. The atmosphere of the place was nice; it was steadily busy while we were there.

On our second night away, I was looking for a good Italian restaurant. Unfortunately I didn't find it. We tried Portofino and were pretty disappointed. The salmon I ordered was crunchy on the outside. The asparagus was as big around as my thumb, and nearly as tough. The lettuce in the Caesar salad was on its last legs and turning red. When I was a waitress, I wouldn't have even sent out a salad looking like that! The waitress did comp both of our salads, though Handsome's house salad looked fine.

Anyway, we consoled ourselves by going out for coffee and dessert at Church Street Coffee and Deli in downtown Swansboro. It almost made up for it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sensational Salmon Cakes

This is one of those recipes that is so stinkin' good it's embarrassing how simple it really is. Salmon patties really get a bad reputation for being densely compacted with bread crumbs and mysterious ingredients. When stripped down to essentials, though, so that the salmon is the star, the flavor is out-of-this-world!

Sensational Salmon Cakes

8 oz salmon fillet, baked
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese - shredded (in the bag) or grated (in the green container)
1 egg
1 green onion, diced
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Using a fork, break up the salmon fillet in a bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients. In a skillet drizzled with olive oil, drop the salmon mixture in scoops of about 2 tablespoons. Flatten slightly as you go along. You're just making sure the egg is cooked through, so they should only take 2-3 minutes per side over medium heat.  Yield: about 8 cakes

This is a great way to use up leftover salmon, since it really doesn't matter how you bake it in the beginning. Since I'm the only one in my family who enjoys salmon, I typically buy a one pound fillet, bake it, eat half for lunch, and use the leftovers to make salmon cakes another day. If I'm making the salmon just for these cakes, though, I do it one of two ways:

1) Place the fillet skin-side down on a foil-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

2) Place the fillet skin-side down on a foil-covered baking sheet. Drizzle with lemon juice and spread with Caesar, Italian or really any creamy salad dressing. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

When baked this way, the salmon fillet lifts easily off of the skin when you slide a spatula in just right. You can use the salmon right away to make cakes, or let it cool in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

You can serve these with the dipping sauce I use for Carrot-Zucchini Fritters, too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pizza Joes

I'm a big believer in using up leftovers creatively. Who wants to just heat old chicken casserole in the microwave? It's much more fun to re-create leftovers into new meals. I also like to use things up quickly, partly because I'm just picky and a little paranoid that way about food. I rarely place food in the fridge that doesn't already have a purpose laid out in my mind. For dinner recently, I combined leftover cooked ground venison with leftover spaghetti sauce, with leftover pepperoni, with leftover mozzarella cheese, with fresh sandwich buns to make Pizza Joes!


Just wanted to say it one more time.

Anyway, here's the recipe:

1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 lb ground venison, turkey, or beef
1 26 oz. jar spaghetti sauce (or less if you'd like the mixture to be thicker)
32 pepperoni slices
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

8 sandwich buns

In a large skillet, cook onion, garlic and ground meat until no longer pink. Stir in the spaghetti sauce and heat through. Meanwhile, separate sandwich buns, placing the bottom buns on a baking sheet. Spoon 1/2 cup meat mixture onto each bun. Top each with 4 slices of pepperoni and 1/4 cup of mozzarella. Broil for 4-5 minutes until cheese is melted.  Add the top bun and serve!

This recipe, like most of mine, is pretty easy to adapt to your family's tastes. Any of your favorite pizza toppings like green pepper, black olives, mushrooms, would be great in here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Homemade PopTarts

After seeing a blog post about making homemade poptarts, I knew I had to do it! Here's what I came up with:

Homemade PopTarts

Pastry for 2-crust pie (I used my Perfect Pie Crust)
1/4 cup strawberry jam

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk
drop of food coloring

Colored sprinkles

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry into a rectangle about a 1/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into smaller rectangles approximately 2x3 inches. I just guesstimated, but you're welcome to get out a ruler and be all precise about it if that's how you roll. Anyway, on half of the rectangles dollop about a teaspoon of jam into the center.

Top with the remaining rectangles and press with a fork along the edges to seal. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes at 400. (You'll be on the short end of the time for store-bought dough, and the long end for homemade pastry.)

Remove the pastries to a cooling rack and cool slightly.

 Meanwhile, mix up the ingredients for the glaze. Drizzle over the cooled pastries and immediately sprinkle with the ... um, sprinkles. Allow the glaze to set before serving. This recipe will yield somewhere around 24 pastries.

Feel free to use whatever your favorite jam is for the filling and have fun with the colored glaze and the sprinkles!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Restaurant Redux, Part 1

I don't know about y'all, but our vacations are planned around food. Pretty much the first thing I do right after deciding where we're going is to decide where we'll eat once we get there! This trip to coastal North Carolina was no different. I thought I'd do a breakdown of a few of the places we ate: good, bad and indifferent.

Icehouse Waterfront Restaurant

This place is, as the name suggests, right on the waterfront. It has a great view, and an overall casual atmosphere. Wanting to branch out and try something new, Handsome ordered the lobster ravioli special. I ordered the Icehouse Grouper Royale - described as pan seared grouper in a bacon, potato & herb crust, topped with a chive Beurre Blanc, with mashed potato. While the potatoes were lumpy, lukewarm and generally uninspiring, the grouper was excellent. I highly recommend it! 

Handsome's ravioli looked, and tasted, disgusting. The ravioli themselves were drowned in a sludgy brown sauce and topped with flakes of fishy-smelling "crab meat". After asking the waitress to take away the barely-touched plate and ordering his usual fried shrimp instead, we began looking around at everyone else's plates. Fried shrimp. Fried fish. Fried chicken. French fries. You get the idea. We realized that though they might want people to think of them as upscale, Icehouse is essentially a deep-fried kind of place. And that's okay! Handsome's shrimp and fries were some of the best he said he's ever had. 

Yana's Ye Olde Drugstore Restaurant

This place is kitschy! The walls are covered in Elvis/Marilyn Monroe/1950's memorabilia. But Handsome and I braved it anyway. Lunch there was fabulous. No other word for it. Thick, juicy burgers cooked to order served with handfuls of fried Yukon Gold potatoes -- Don't miss it!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jeni's Perfect Pie Crust

After being an apple pie enthusiast for years, Handsome experienced the apple tart at Shields Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia. After closing his eyes in rapture and being unable to speak for some time, he solemnly announced that the gauntlet had been thrown. THIS was the apple pie to beat.

I quickly started to work, trawling the vast ocean of the internet, looking for THE perfect pie crust. This was how I discovered The Pioneer Woman, as discussion board after comment section after blog kept resulting in:

"PW's is the best!"
"Here's a link to P-Dub's recipe!"
"The Pioneer Woman!"
And even the occasional, "Prairie Woman" reference. Anyway, I spent approximately the next 13 years reading about Marlboro Man and homeschooling and cowboy food on her website and then I got back to my search for pie crust.

Alton Brown figured in at one point. Taste of Home made its obligatory appearance. And I finally developed my own recipe. It's a beautiful thing and I've decided to share it with you. (Please start by purchasing a food processor or you will spend approximately the next 13 years cutting butter and shortening into flour. And nobody wants that for you.) Remember, with pie crust technique is just as important as ingredients.

Jeni's Perfect Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Place the dry ingredients in a food processor bowl that has been fitted with the regular blade. Put the bowl in the refrigerator. Cut the butter and shortening into tablespoon-sized pieces and place them on a small plate in a random-ish pattern. Measure out the apple juice and pour in the vinegar. Place the juice mixture and the plate of butter/shortening in the freezer for 10 minutes.

When the time's up, put the food processor bowl on the base and pulse a few times to combine the ingredients. Add in the butter/shortening, half at a time, pulsing until the ingredients begin to come together. Then turn the processor on, and drizzle in the juice. It should only take about thirty seconds. The dough is ready at this point to be divided in half and placed on large squares of plastic wrap. It will be crumbly, but just draw the edges of the wrap over each portion of the dough, pressing it to make a disk. After this point, you have a few options:

To use right away, place the disks in the freezer for 20 minutes, then use them for your pie.

To use in the next day or two, place the disks in the refrigerator.

To use another time, place the disks, still in their plastic, into labeled zip-top bags and store in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I'm Ba-ack!

In case you didn't notice I was gone, Handsome took me away to coastal North Carolina to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. It was wonderful and Kathy brought us breakfast in our room each morning. Sadly, Kathy did not come home with us.

Caribbean French Toast, Coconut-Pineapple Ice Cream, Pineapple, Starfruit, and Bacon. I didn't get a picture of the Berry-Yogurt Parfait we had first.
This morning for breakfast I had coffee. That I brewed myself. Sigh.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nutty Apple Dip

If you need a fabulous, easy, delicious snack to take somewhere, then you need this dip! I could seriously eat it with a spoon, go into a diabetic coma, wake up ... and eat some more. It's that good.

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese (I always use reduced-fat)

Cream all ingredients together. Then stir in:

1 cup finely chopped pecans

Serve this with sliced apples - I prefer tart Granny Smiths, to balance out the sweet, but Handsome always prefers a sweet apple like Gala or Red Delicious.

Bonus Tip:
When slicing apples to serve with a dip, have a bowl of cold water mixed with a couple of splashes of lemon juice standing by. Soak the apples in the bowl before placing them on a platter for serving.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool!

**** UPDATE ****
For the last couple of years on April 1, I've planned a special "backwards dinner" for the kids. I make dessert look like dinner and serve it first, then have dinner that looks like dessert! Each year has to be more creative and sneaky than the last because my kids catch on FAST. This year we're having Faux Chicken Nuggets for "dinner" and for "dessert" I'm making mini calzones to look like cupcakes. Last year's dinner had a very funny twist!

Dinner was a success! The kids were completely surprised, and really enjoyed the meal.

Here are the "cupcakes":