Thursday, December 8, 2016

Egg Muffins

I love a savory breakfast! But I am also somewhat lazy first thing in the morning. I'll generally not eat anything unless it comes together very quickly. I tend to cook lunch and dinner, though, for 5-6 people, so I suppose it's only natural that I don't want to add in a third meal to cook! Anyway, I often make up breakfast meals that I can heat up easily throughout the week. I love quiches, like this Cheese Quiche or this Potato-Spinach Quiche. I love having Breakfast Burritos waiting in the freezer, too. These Egg Muffins, though, are nice to have in the refrigerator, ready to serve one at a time to the little ones, or two (or three ...) for the bigger people in the family.

(For the meat in these, my favorite thing to use is lean ground turkey mixed with a couple of teaspoons of Frying Pan Pork Sausage Spice.)

Egg Muffins

9 eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 pound breakfast meat, cooked and crumbled or chopped (bacon, ham, sausage)
3 cups raw spinach, chopped
1/2 cup finely diced peppers
2 green onions, sliced
1 cup shredded cheese

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sour cream with the salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Divide the mixture between 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 375° for about 15-18 minutes. Yield: 12 muffins

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Apple-Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Maple Cream Frosting

For Jeff's birthday cake this year, I adapted an apple-spice cake recipe. It's full of autumn flavor and would be the perfect cake for Thanksgiving!

 Apple-Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Maple Cream Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon maple extract1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour 

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 medium apples, finely chopped
1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and shredded

Preheat the oven to 350°. Prepare 2 9-inch round cake pans by lining the bottom with wax paper and spraying with non-stick spray. 

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, coconut oil and sugars until fluffy - this will take a few minutes. Blend the eggs and extracts into the mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Alternately add in the flour mixture and the buttermilk, just until combined. Fold in the apple and carrot. Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25-28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for a few minutes, then remove cakes to a wire rack to cool completely. 

For the frosting:

8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
(milk or cream, as needed)

In a mixing bowl, blend together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add in the extracts and cinnamon. Slowly add in the powdered sugar until the frosting is the right consistency. Add milk or cream if it's too stiff.

Garnish the frosted cake with chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Bajan Coconut Chicken

As a thank you for some recipes I had submitted to the site, Savory Spice Shop sent out a variety of spices and seasonings for me to experiment with and enjoy. One of the seasonings I had never heard of before, which made me especially eager to try it. When I ran across a recipe for Coconut Lime Chicken on Pinterest, I knew that was the one I wanted to adapt. 

The seasoning blend is called Bajan (say it so that it rhymes with Cajun) and it originates from Barbados. It's a unique combination of herbaceous, spicy, sweet and tangy flavors. Of course, I recommend ordering it from Savory Spice Shop! I think this recipe features it beautifully.

Bajan Coconut Chicken

1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
2 teaspoons Bajan seasoning
1 fresno chili, finely diced
     (or 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper flakes or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional, but highly recommended!)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 can full-fat coconut milk (shake well before opening)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. In a bowl, combine the chicken, Bajan seasoning, chili, and garlic. Transfer to the hot skillet and cook until the chicken is nicely browned, about 5-7 minutes, turning halfway through. (It's okay if the chicken isn't 100% cooked at this point. It will finish in the sauce.) Stir in the green onions, fish sauce, soy, lime juice and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened and the chicken is cooked through, about another 5-7 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro. (The Bajan seasoning, soy and fish sauce all contain salt, but you'll want to test the sauce and add a touch more salt if necessary.) Serve over rice, rice noodles, cauliflower rice or quinoa.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sausage and Grits Casserole

If there is one meal I could eat all day every day, it's breakfast. I love everything about it. Well, I should clarify: savory breakfast. I don't like anything sweet first thing in the morning. The most I can handle is my coffee, which is hardly sweet at all. Anyway, whenever we have occasions to provide breakfast for gatherings, I usually volunteer to make something savory. This casserole is perfect for just such a need. It can be made ahead of time and baked before serving, and (especially if you keep cooked sausage in your freezer) it comes together in a snap! You can certainly cook the grits in only water, but in my experience every little layer of flavor helps when you're cooking.

This is also a fairly simple recipe that can be customized. Diced green and red peppers, chopped spinach, mushrooms - there are plenty of ways to add variety.

Sausage and Grits Casserole

1 cups grits
1-1/2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ground breakfast sausage
2 green onions, chopped
4 eggs
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan, bring the milk, stock, butter and seasonings to a boil, whisk in grits and turn heat down to low. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the grits are thick. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, cook breakfast sausage in a skillet until browned through, breaking it up as it cooks. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with salt and pepper. Temper the eggs by whisking in about 1/4 cup of the grits, then pour the mixture into the grits and stir well. Add in the sausage, green onions and 1-1/2 cups of cheese. Pour that mixture into a greased 9 x 13 dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Store in the refrigerator until ready to bake, or bake immediately at 350° for 30-40 minutes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

My kids could eat spaghetti every night of the week. Except that one kid who is starting to get tired of it. At any rate, I make a lot of marinara and I like to have different ways to use it rather than just the traditional pasta route. This recipe is a great alternative. It offers a big veggie punch along with the flavors that it seems like everyone loves! This is also my go-to casserole for giving to others because it can be adapted to fit dietary restrictions like gluten-free, dairy-free, whatever. It freezes well so I sometimes give it unbaked. That way if the family has received a lot of food they can freeze it for another time.

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

1-1/2 cups brown rice, prepared according to package directions

1 zucchini, trimmed and shredded
1 carrot, trimmed and shredded
1/2 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 jar marinara sauce (about 1 quart)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large skillet, saute the turkey until brown, breaking it up as it cooks; season with salt and pepper. Remove to a separate dish. In the same skillet, saute the zucchini, carrot, onion and green pepper. Add the turkey back in, along with the rice, marinara, cheddar and eggs. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, seasonings and olive oil. Sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes, until heated through and bread crumbs begin to brown.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Thai Chicken Pasta

I have made variations of this recipe many times over the years. One such simplified variation I submitted to a magazine cooking contest and won 3rd place! My favorite version is one that comes together quickly on the stove top. I'm sharing that one here, including preparing the chicken. Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you! If you keep cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer, or pick up a rotisserie chicken, it makes the recipe even easier! The flavor is really in the sauce, so if you need another shortcut but you're cooking the chicken, simply season it with salt and pepper. I've made it many times for my own lunch and left out the chicken altogether! The sauce also makes a terrific dip for egg rolls or wontons.

One of the wonderful things about Asian-inspired dishes is the layers of flavor they feature : sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, and sour. This dish does a nice job of incorporating each of those elements.

Thai Chicken Pasta

For the chicken:
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons canola oil 

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, mix together the seasonings; sprinkle over the chicken. Add the chicken to the hot skillet and saute for 5-6 minutes, until just cooked through. Remove and keep warm.

For the sauce:
2 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable stock or even water)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional, but it's so good!)

Add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes to the skillet and saute for about a minute. Add in the remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine. Allow it to simmer for 3-4 minutes, until it thickens slightly. If it gets too thick, just splash in a little more stock or water.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, and cook 8 ounces angel hair pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to the sauce along with the reserved chicken. Mix well; heat through and serve topped with chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots and/or chopped peanuts. Yield: 4-6 servings

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rustic Apple Tart

Last weekend my daughter had plans to stay the night with a friend about an hour away. After looking at a map and realizing that we'd only be another hour away from Ellijay, the Apple Capital of Georgia, we knew what we had to do. In addition to eating some fantastic apple cider doughnuts, we picked up quite a few apples. Some for snacking, some for use in recipes. For this Rustic Apple Tart, I used Granny Smith. They stay slightly crisp and their tartness is a lovely foil for the sweet crumble topping.

Rustic Apple Tart
Pastry for a single-crust pie (the roll-out kind, not the one sold already in a pie plate) Here's my recipe!
3 medium-sized tart apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup quick oats
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
pinch of salt

Roll out pastry dough into a circle. Place the apple slices in the middle - fan them out in a spiral pattern if you're feeling fancy - leaving about a two inch border all around. In a small bowl, mix together the streusel ingredients. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples. Fold pastry up over the edges of the apples, leaving the middle exposed. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes, until apples are tender. You may need to cover the tart lightly with aluminum foil to prevent it from browning too much.

Monday, September 19, 2016


I think my family's obsession with bread is pretty well documented on this blog. The recipe I'm sharing today is one that is a great fall-back. I nearly always have these three simple ingredients and it's easy to mix up a batch to round out a meal. One of our family's friends named them "bisclettes" because they're like tiny versions of traditional buttermilk biscuits, and the name stuck.


1 cup sour cream
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups self-rising

In a mixing bowl, stir together the three ingredients. Spoon into mini-muffin tins. Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes, until golden and just beginning to brown.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Lemon Kale Salad with Spiced Salmon

While I was making my grocery list the other day, I typed "salad" into the Pinterest search bar. For a second there, I thought I broke it. I could almost hear the website go, "bzrrp" as it tried to calculate the billions of well-intentioned salad recipes pinned in the database. But then I was flooded with responses and I saved lots of great salads and ideas to develop new recipes. One recipe that inspired me was Simple Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. I don't eat nearly enough veggies and when I find one that I can tolerate, like kale, I tend to use it a lot.

I had plans for a friend to come to lunch and I decided I'd use her as a guinea pig for my new salad idea. I think it turned out beautifully! There are a few elements that come together to make this dish, but every one is definitely worth it. The good news is that the vinaigrette doubles as a dressing and a marinade, plus you can make this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge.

(Salmon not shown.)

Lemon Kale Salad w/ Spiced Salmon

1 bunch kale
2 lemons, zest one and juice both
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used aleppo pepper flakes.)
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

1-1/2 cups asparagus, cut into bite-size lengths

8 ounce salmon fillet
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon butter
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

To assemble: 

Blanch the asparagus pieces (boil in salted water 2-3 minutes, cool in ice water, drain) and set aside.

Rinse the kale leaves well and strip them from the stems. Dry well. Massage the leaves gently for a few minutes. This breaks down the cellulose, making the leaves more tender and less bitter. Chop the kale and place in a large bowl with the asparagus. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, mustard, salt and pepper. On your cutting board, smash the garlic clove, coarsely chop and sprinkle with salt. Using the flat of your knife, smush the garlic and salt into a paste. Add it to your dressing ingredients and whisk well. Pour about half of the dressing onto the kale and toss to coat. Place in refrigerator to chill. Whisk the cayenne pepper and paprika into the remaining dressing and pour over the salmon fillet. Bake at 325° for 18-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Toss in the walnuts and seasonings. Cook, continuing to toss frequently 3-5 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and toasted.

When ready to serve, toss the salad with the walnuts and goat cheese; top with the salmon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Italian Pasta Salad

Over the summer I set out to develop a pasta salad recipe that included some of my oldest daughter's and my favorite flavors. I wanted it to be cold, fairly light, and filling enough to be a meal on its own. I ended up serving this alongside a rotisserie chicken for the family. It was really convenient having the leftovers ready and waiting in the fridge over the next couple of days!

Italian Pasta Salad

8 ounces pasta (macaroni, penne or rotini would work well), cooked al dente and  set aside to cool
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed into bite-sized pieces

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, ricotta, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Stir in the herbs and spinach. Fold in the cooled pasta, then the tomatoes and mozzarella. Allow to chill in the fridge for about 4 hours before serving.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Green Smoothies

Green smoothies are all the rage right now, and it's easy to see why! They're packed with nutrition, taste fantastic, and are ridiculously easy to make. I have one for breakfast nearly every day. My morning routine is pretty consistent: wake up, drink a glass of water while standing at the sink, followed by coffee (with half and half and maybe 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar). Then in the mid-morning, around 9, I have a green smoothie. There are lots of different combinations of fruits and veggies you can use in them, and I'll share my favorites here. It's really more about a method than a recipe, per se.

Using plastic wrap, I bundle up the fruit I want to use into little packets. Several of those fit in a quart freezer bag. I like to make a few different combinations and keep them in separate, labeled bags. If you make all the same kind it's easier to put them all in a gallon-size freezer bag. When you want to make a smoothie, you have a couple of options. 1) Place the packet in the microwave for 15 seconds at half power or 2) Let it sit out on the counter for 5-10 minutes. This softens the fruit just enough to make it easier to pack into the blender cup. I place the fruit/veggies in a blender cup and add just enough orange juice or almond milk to come up halfway. Blend until smooth; drink up! The amount of liquid will vary a little depending on the fruit you used and how frozen solid it is.

(Generally, I freeze only fruit in the little bundles. I keep a bag of frozen kale and a bag of fresh spinach on-hand to add into the smoothies. To freeze kale, wash and dry it well, then place in a freezer bag. Remove every ounce of air and seal. Toss in the freezer. I have been told you can freeze spinach like this, too, but I haven't done it.)

Kitchen Sink smoothie, before adding OJ and blending.
Green Sunshine

Berry Blend
assorted berries: strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry
almond milk or OJ

Simple Green

Kitchen Sink
almond milk or OJ

Monday, September 12, 2016

Making Fresh Herbs Last

Once you bring home leafy green herbs, it's only a matter of time before they're a slimy, unusable mess. Unless, of course, you store them properly! For the long-term, you can always freeze or dry your herbs, but some recipes require fresh herbs. I've tried various methods of keeping them fresh over the years, and this is my favorite:

When your leafy herbs like cilantro (left) and Italian parsley (right) come home, you should process them right away. I rinse them well with water - cilantro especially can trap sand. Shake off the excess water and blot the leaves dry with a clean kitchen towel.

Check the herbs for yellowed or spoiled leaves. Check the stems for any trapped leaves. You want the stems to be as clean as possible. Fill a small mason jar halfway with water - but make sure none of the leaves will be underwater. Depending on how large your bunch of herbs is, you'll need a sandwich or a quart size plastic storage bag to cover them. Store in the fridge.

They'll stay fresh this way for a good 10 days. I've also used this method with small bunches of kale. The leaves stayed crisp far longer than I expected.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Southern Fish Tacos

At the grocery store fish counter one day, I fully expected to pick up a pound of cod or halibut for fish tacos. Unfortunately, they were out of both. As I pondered what I would do instead, the guy behind the counter asked what my plans were, then suggested catfish. Surprised, I took a bit of convincing, but he seemed sure it would turn out well and I decided to trust him. Boy, did that pay off! These fish tacos turned out to be amazing - We couldn't stop eating them. I kept the toppings fairly simple and the catfish was definitely the star of the meal.

Southern Fish Tacos

1 pound catfish fillets, cut cross-wise into strips
1 cup buttermilk (enough to soak the fish)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning (Again, I love Savory Spice Shop!)
Vegetable/canola oil for frying

Corn tortillas

Salsa verde - so tangy and a perfect complement to the lemony fish
Shredded cabbage
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cilantro-Lime Sauce

In a bowl, combine the fish, buttermilk and lemon juice. Let soak for at least half an hour. In a shallow dish, combine the cornmeal, flour and lemon-pepper seasoning. In a large skillet, pour in enough oil to reach a depth of about one inch. Heat to medium-high. Coat the fish in the cornmeal mixture and fry 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden-brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels, keep warm.

In another skillet, heat a small amount of oil over medium-high heat and fry the corn tortillas, 30 seconds on each side. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

Assemble tacos and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Triple Cheese Macaroni

My kids have all at one time or another loved and hated macaroni and cheese, whether boxed or homemade. After years of experimentation, I have finally hit on a recipe/method that pushes all the right buttons for the whole family. The Boy still doesn't like mac and cheese in general, but he'll eat this with minimal fuss. Be sure to shred your own cheese, as it will melt much better than the pre-shredded kind!

Triple Cheese Macaroni

16 ounces dry macaroni noodles
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, cook the noodles according to the package directions. In the meantime, melt two tablespoons of butter in a small skillet. Sprinkle in the flour, cayenne and garlic powder, plus pepper to your liking. Cook for one minute, whisking to combine. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer and allow the mixture to thicken. Once the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and whisk in the cheddar and Swiss. Taste and add salt if it's needed. When the pasta is cooked al dente, pour into a colander to drain and return the empty pot to the stove. Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter; toss the pasta in to coat. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, black pepper and a touch of salt. Stir well; top with cheese sauce and stir again. Serve! Yield: 8-10 servings

Friday, July 1, 2016

Making A List

I've been asked before about how I make out my grocery list, or similarly, how I do menu planning. Typically, I don't have a highly organized list or plan, andI keep most of what I need to know right there in my noggin. Frankly, that's not a super-reliable place to keep information. That thing's like a sieve!

The best advice I give myself all the time is: Write It Down! Sometimes I have to force myself to stop what I'm doing so I can grab a pen or my phone or whatever I need to record my profound thoughts. Things like, "toothpaste" and "make cookies for Jeff's office". Important items I need to remember for my shopping trip. There's nothing more irritating than arriving home only to realize I've forgotten a particular ingredient or event to which I'm supposed to bring food. Recording what I need is preferable to finding myself muttering, "mascara, mascara, mascara" while my teen-aged daughter eyes me warily.

That said, here is how my twice-monthly list-making generally starts out:

Notebook paper (because I've long since outgrown the index card I used to use).
My favorite pen. (Unless I can't find it.)
My day planner.
My phone. (This basically doubles my day planner - but I have to make sure they sync up because I may have written a note in one and not the other. And yes, I need both. Handwritten > digital. But digital is admittedly more convenient at times.)
And not pictured, though it's directly to the left, my laptop - for Pinterest.

So I look over my calendar and see what's coming up over the next couple of weeks. Am I making dinner for anyone? Are the kids going to be gone at some point? Are we having company? Any birthdays or other special events?

I ask for requests. (Why I bother I don't know: Spaghetti. Tacos. Hamburgers. Lather, rinse, repeat.)

I check Pinterest for old favorites and new recipes I'd like to try.

What am I in the mood to make? What haven't we had in a while? 

I glance through my pantry and fridge to see what staples I may be low on. 

I factor all of that in, then write down my menu on the right-hand side of the page. If necessary, I make a note of where the recipe is - cookbook/magazine/Pinterest, etc. On the left, I list out the ingredients I need to buy. I generally list "odd" items - things I don't buy often and will probably only find at Publix/Kroger - in the middle.

I don't use coupons. Practically nothing I buy even has coupons that apply, anyway. I'll hit up three stores on my quest to keep these people fed. Aldi is one of the three stores I go to - it's cheaper there than a regular store with coupons. Bulk purchasing and Aldi are so much easier than dealing with coupons, in my experience and calculations. Plus, ain't nobody got time for that.

I don't write an exhaustive list. Of course I need milk and bread, so I never list out those staples that find their way into my cart every trip.

This is just what works for me! I think the key is to plan ahead which saves time and money, and that's important for any family.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Black Bean Turkey Tacos

This is my go-to taco filling recipe! I use this for soft tacos, burritos, taco salad, rice bowls and casseroles. It makes a substantial amount which I usually divide into three meal-sized portions - one for the current meal and two for the freezer. I love having two quick meals ready to go for another day! Especially if you store the meat flat in a freezer bag, it defrosts in no time at all.

I think it's important to keep easy freezer meals handy for several reasons.

1. Buying in bulk is cheaper.
2. Doubling or tripling a recipe doesn't take much longer to do than a single recipe.
3. You never know what may come up on a given day. Having a frozen back-up plan is much cheaper and healthier than falling back on eating out in a restaurant.
4. When someone you know is in need, you have a meal ready to share!

Black Bean Turkey Tacos

3 pounds lean ground turkey
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
5-6 teaspoons chili powder (to your taste)
3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 - 10 oz can tomatoes with green chilies
2  - 15.5 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained.

In a tablespoon of olive oil, saute the onion and garlic until softened, then add in the turkey. Continue to saute until the meat is browned through, breaking it up as it cooks. Sprinkle with the seasonings and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes longer. Stir in the tomatoes and black beans. Cook until heated through.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Creamy Taco Salad

When I was a kid (and let's face it, even now!) I wasn't a big fan of vegetables. One way my mom got us to eat more was by offering them raw. I loved them that way! Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, celery ... my diet was vastly improved by raw veggies. I don't even remember dipping them in anything, except that we ate peanut butter with our celery. Anyway, these days I have to be creative with salads because I'm still picky about what veggies I like. Often, a good dressing makes all the difference! I like to make my own because I can cut fat, calories and chemicals that way. Cool, tangy Cilantro-Garlic Sauce from Mama Loves Food is the perfect complement in this case. (I modified her recipe a little to suit my taste.) This salad is an easy fix with leftover taco meat. Often, taco salads have corn but I use carrot here to boost the nutrition yet still have that little sweet crunch corn would provide.

Creamy Taco Salad

2 cups romaine lettuce
1 cup iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup prepared taco meat (heated)
1/4 cup black beans
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
1/4 cup shredded cheddar (or pepper jack)

Cilantro-Lime Sauce

8 ounces reduced-fat (neufchatel) cream cheese
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup milk
Juice from 2 limes (about 2-3 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed

In a blender, combine all ingredients except cilantro until smooth. Add in cilantro and blend until smooth again. Keep refrigerated.

For the salad:

In a bowl, layer the lettuces. Top with the carrots, taco meat, beans, and cheese. Drizzle with desired amount of cilantro dressing (reserve extra for another time). Serve!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Strawberry-Lemon Trifle

One of my family's favorite flavor combinations is citrus and berries. For this particular dessert, I was inspired by that flavorful duo and Tiramisu - another favorite. The blend here results in a creamy, tangy, tart, sweet, cool dessert that is perfect for hot summer days!

Strawberry-Lemon Trifle

2 cups sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup water

12 oz lemon curd
12 oz cream cheese, softened (I use reduced-fat "neufchatel")
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons powdered sugar, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided

1 package lady fingers (These are usually found in the bakery section of your grocery store.)

Your first step is to make the strawberry puree (while singing "strawberry puree" to the tune of "Raspberry Beret", because that's how I do it). In a small saucepan, bring the strawberries, sugar and water to a simmer, and cook for 5-6 minutes until the berries begin to break down. Set aside to cool. After it cools, puree the mixture; strain it and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a well-chilled metal bowl, whisk the whipping cream until bubbles form. Add in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3 tablespoons powdered sugar; continue whisking until the cream thickens and forms soft peaks. Set aside; keep chilled.

In a mixing bowl, blend the cream cheese until well softened. Add in the lemon curd, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Blend until completely smooth. With a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into this mixture.

In a clear glass trifle or punch bowl, place a layer of ladyfingers. Top with about a third of the strawberry puree ("the kind you find in a second-hand store...") and a third of the lemon curd mixture. Repeat layers twice more. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or more, until ready to serve.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Waldorf Chicken Wellington

With my oldest daughter going away to camp for a week, I asked her what she'd like for special meals before she left. Her first request was this chicken! It's tender and packed full of flavor, making it totally worth the little bit of extra effort. It was inspired by a dish my brother-in-law made for my in-laws' 30th wedding anniversary - 17 years ago.

Waldorf Chicken Wellington

In a small mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients:

1 apple, cored and finely diced (any variety, though I like Honeycrisp)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 stalk celery (leaves included), finely diced
1 green onion, diced
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning (I love Savory Spice Shop's blend.)
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

This picture is washed out, but the mixture is actually pretty colorful.
3 sheets puff pastry, thawed

1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten
2 chicken breasts, cut into six pieces
additional lemon-pepper seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400°. Working with one sheet of pastry at a time, roll it out slightly. Cut in half and brush with the egg wash. Season the chicken on both sides with lemon-pepper. Place one piece of chicken at a short end of each rectangle (leaving about an inch border); top with about 1/4 cup of the apple mixture. Fold the pastry over and tuck in the edges, using more egg wash to seal if needed. Repeat with the other sheets of pastry, moving the bundles to a greased baking sheets. Brush the tops with the remaining egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden and beginning to brown at the edges.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Jeni's Summer Cake

I developed this recipe several summers ago when I wanted a fairly light dessert. At first I used a boxed cake mix, but a scratch cake makes all the difference! When I made the cake today, I used  this one-bowl yellow cake recipe, with just a few modifications - though you can use whatever your favorite is, even if it's from a box!

With the fresh citrus flavor, cool whipped cream topping and the fact that it's stored in the refrigerator, this cake is perfectly refreshing as a summer dessert!

Jeni's Summer Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt 
zest from one orange
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
Preheat oven to 325º. Grease a 9x13 baking dish; set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, orange zest and salt. Add in butter, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix for 3-4 minutes; add in eggs and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325º for 30-35 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan on the stovetop, combine the following ingredients:

zest of one orange
3/4 cup orange juice (I use the two oranges I zested, plus prepared OJ if needed to equal 3/4 cup.)
1/2 cup sugar

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and let simmer for 10-15 minutes until reduced and thickened. Remove from heat and let cool.

After the syrup has cooled a bit, poke holes all over your cake - I use a sharp steak knife. Carefully pour the simple syrup over every inch of the cake, letting it soak in. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 2 hours. When you're ready to serve it, top with homemade whipped cream!

Homemade Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar

In a well-chilled metal bowl, whisk the whipping cream until bubbles form. Add in the vanilla and powdered sugar and continue whisking until the cream thickens and forms soft peaks. As I told you when I shared my Cinnamon Cream Fruit Dip recipe: I use my stand mixer and it takes just a couple of minutes. If you whisk it by hand it will take a little longer, and it will feel like forever!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sausage & Cheese Muffins

I am not much of a sweet breakfast person ... or a breakfast person in general. A typical breakfast for me is a cup of coffee, followed by a green smoothie a few hours later. But when I do eat, I much prefer something savory, like grits and eggs and/or bacon. One thing I like to do is make a batch of savory muffins to keep in the freezer/fridge. I can pop one in the microwave and in no time at all have a warm breakfast! I really enjoy these Ham and Cheese Corn Muffins, though I modify the recipe a bit, and I recently changed it up by using sausage instead. (Respectable Southern women do NOT put sugar in their cornbread! Bacon fat, yes, sugar, no.)

Sausage & Cheese Muffins

1¼ cups flour
¾ cup yellow cornmeal
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
⅓ cup canola oil
1 cup cooked, crumbled breakfast sausage
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs and oil. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined (still lots of lumps); fold in sausage, cheese and green onions. Spoon the mixture into greased muffin cups, three-quarters full. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Yield: 18 muffins (Store in the refrigerator.)

I reheat these in the microwave for about one minute on 50% power. Your microwave may vary.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Cheeseburger Macaroni

It's never easy coming up with a meal that pleases everyone. Sadly, this is not one of those meals for my own family! But it is pretty delicious and the ones who liked it had more than one serving, then fought over the leftovers.

Cheeseburger Macaroni

1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
8 ounces elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard

In a large saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the beef and onion until the beef is browned and onion is translucent. Season with your favorite all-purpose seasoning, or just salt and pepper. (I love Mt. Elbert from the Savory Spice Shop!) Add the butter to the skillet & stir until melted. Sprinkle in the flour and let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Slowly incorporate the milk, then let it come to a low boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low; stir in the ketchup and mustard, then add the cheese in, a little at a time. Stir in the macaroni and let it heat through for 5 minutes or so. Serve this with a nice side salad of lettuce, tomato, diced pickle and a little crispy bacon and you've got a quick and easy cheeseburger!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

I'm usually very careful when I make a recipe to be certain that I have all the ingredients I need before I begin. In fact, my grocery list is based on the recipes I'll be using over the following two week period. But once in a while, circumstances conspire against me, and I have to make adjustments. Today was one of those days.

I planned to make my Chocolate-Zucchini Muffins, but after I'd already mixed the wet ingredients together I realized that the zucchini I had was spoiled! A quick perusal of the pantry and fridge yielded a couple of apples and a solution. Thankfully, since none of the dry ingredients had been mixed, I just switched gears and made these instead.

Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

3 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract
2 cups shredded apple (no need to peel them)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup quick oats
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar, and extracts. Stir in apples. Combine dry ingredients; add to apple mixture along with pecans and mix well. Spoon into greased muffin cups, 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Yield: 2 dozen muffins