Pots & Pans – Masquerade Cookies

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Company was coming, I had no dessert prepared. I knew all my guests enjoy Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I had no chips on hand, and zero inclination to run out to the store. Hmmm…what to do? I opened the pantry and my eye fell upon a snack baggie with some leftover pretzels, and another with about two dozen malted milk ball candy. I grabbed these and using the smooth side of a cooking mallet, crushed them into bits inside the plastic bags.

I mixed up some chocolate chip cookie dough and added my broken pieces of pretzel  and candy, crossing my fingers as I put them in the oven. Oh MY! What a delicious experiment. The pretzels tasted just like salty nuts, and the malted milk balls were amazing. I was so pleased. Even better, the faux nut taste the pretzels created was a great treat for one grandson; he has a peanut allergy and is not able to experience the saltiness of nuts in baked good recipes. I’m wondering now what other bits and pieces I can add to my Masquerade Cookies next time. Any ideas for me???

I used a classic Toll House Chocolate Chip recipe for the basic dough. Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Recipe

Pots & Pans – Butternut Squash

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The color is gorgeous, the aroma sublime, the taste delectable…the vegetable…the humble butternut squash. Butternut squash is available in most grocers and farm stands at this time of year. Reasonably priced, the bland exterior hides vibrant orange flesh within.

Roast the squash face down on parchment or in a lightly oiled glass cake pan.
Roast the squash face down on parchment or in a lightly oiled glass cake pan.

Here’s a good recipe I blogged a while ago for Winter Squash Soup. The recipe works for most varieties of winter squash, including the Butternut.

Brown roasted areas of the squash add flavor to the soup.
Brown roasted areas of the squash add flavor to the soup. Scoop flesh away from the outer skin.

Butternut Squash Tip: Did you know most people choose a Butternut Squash by virtue of its round bottom, following the wisdom of the cliché: the bigger the better. This will lead you in the wrong direction when you are buying a butternut squash. The bottom is where the seeds are located. The rounder the bottom of the squash, the more seeds you are buying. Look instead for a butternut squash with a large neck area. This is where you will find the largest amount of edible vegetable.

 

A butternut squash can be roasted flesh-side down on oiled parchment paper, or roasted in a glass pan with a touch of water added.

Pots & Pans – Pork Chops in Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

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Two days ago I cooked a panful of pork chops in fire-roasted tomato sauce. They were delicious. I spoke with my sister about the recipe the next day and told her it was one of my favorites. She asked me to email it to her. I told her I would, and that I thought it would be a good blog post. Since I was serving the leftovers again, I knew I would have a good photograph to include. Hmmmm…as you can see we ate the leftovers before I remembered to take that photo. So, for now, all I have to show for the recipe is an empty plate. That’s the good news though. This recipe is scrumptious and very economical.

PORK CHOPS IN FIRE-ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

1 tbs butter
1- 2 tbs olive oil or vegetable oil
6 -9 Thinly sliced pork chops (The thinner the better, I use boneless)
1/2 C purple/red juice, wine, etc. (I use whatever I have on hand)
1 14.5 – 15 oz. can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 Cup tomato sauce. (I’ve used ketchup in a pinch)
1/4 C water
3 tbs chopped parsley or 1 tbs dried
2 cloves garlic (I use 1 tsp garlic powder)
1/2 tsp minced rosemary
1/2 tsp dried basil or more if you use fresh

(At this point I add anything else that I have a whim to add)

Heat butter and oil in heavy skillet. Add pork chops. Cook uncovered until sides are nicely seared. Pour off all but 1 tbs of drippings (I usually don’t have much in the way of juices in the pan and don’t pour off, especially if I’ve used olive oil.) Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer lightly for 30 – 40 minutes. Enjoy.

The recipe can be made with larger pork chops, but perhaps simmer a little longer if you do use the larger chop. I’ve also easily doubled it and cooked it in a big cast iron Dutch Oven. We like it over rice, but you can serve it over noodles too. Sprinkle with cheese if you like, but we usually don’t need the cheese. Add a touch of water if the sauce seems to thick.

Pots & Pans – Andes Crème De Menthe Slice and Bake Cookies

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When I recently came upon a package of Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips, I knew I had to come up with a cookie recipe to use them in. The back of the bag had a basic recipe for a drop cookie, but I wanted to jazz the chips up a bit.

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I have a recipe for a Neapolitan cookie that is popular in my family, so I adapted the recipe to incorporate the Andes Chips and green food coloring. If you can’t find Andes Baking Chips, a few Andes Mints, chopped up, will work fine too.

This recipe requires four hours chill time in the fridge. Take that into consideration before you begin. I often mix it up and leave it in the fridge overnight for the layers to meld together, then slice and bake with ease the next day. This recipe doubles up easily.

CREME DE MENTHE NEAPOLITANS

Sift together and set aside:

2 1/2 C Flour

1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Salt

Cream together:

1 C butter

1 1/2 C sugar

Mix in:

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Divide the dough into three equal portions. Mix 1 square melted & cooled unsweetened chocolate (substitution = 3 tbs unsweetened cocoa and 1 tbs soft butter or oil) into one portion, a few drops of green food coloring into one portion, and 1/8 to 1/4 cup of Andes Baking Chips into the last portion. (I use the lesser amount because I don’t like the flavor of mint to be overpowering.)

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Cover a rectangular loaf pan with enough wax paper to cover the bottom and hang over all the edges.

Line the loaf pan with the layers of dough in any order that you choose. Use the back of a large spoon or spatula, and the sides of the wax paper to help smooth and flatten the dough into shape. Cover the pan with foil and chill at least four hours.

Turn the dough out on to a cutting board. Gently pull away the waxed paper. I have cut these cookies two ways. Down the middle, dividing the dough in two long rectangles, or I cut it into three long rectangles. Either way works, and they cook at the same temperature and amount of time. Two rectangles make large cookies, three rectangles make a smaller size.

Cut each rectangle into slices, about a 1/4 inch thick. They don’t spread out very far, and stay neat and orderly, so I crowd them onto the sheets.

The cookies after baking
The cookies after baking

Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 9-10 minutes. Take out and let them sit on the cookie sheet an extra minute to firm up. Remove to cooling tray. Enjoy! Large cookies  5-6 dozen cookies  Smaller cookies  7-8 dozen cookies

Quick Tip: I slice all the cookies at one time, but any sliced cookie dough not going directly into the oven should go back into the fridge to stay cool. The unbaked bars are easy to handle when they are cool, they become soft and sticky when they begin to warm up.

These cookies freeze well and are also great for cookie sales or exchanges.

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A sample of unbaked Crème De Menthe cookies alongside a batch of the original recipe. Make the basic dough the same using red food coloring in the place of green and leaving one layer plain. I’ve also made these cookies in the colors of Autumn for social gatherings.

Pots & Pans – Apricot Waffles

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A week or two ago I found Jerry Baker’s Giant Book of Kitchen Counter Cures at a library book sale. I snapped it up. I turned fifty-nine this month, and although I have always eaten well, I want to consider my future health when I buy and prepare food; I know I can do better.

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I’ve recently been dismayed to find these words on the package ingredients of many of my favorites:

‘Partially produced with Genetic Engineering’

In plainer terms this usually means an ingredient in the product contains a modified food or GMO. How did these modern-day horrors slip into our food with most of the public unaware? They should have been banned.

“Unless you’ve been living “off the grid” for the past 10 years or so, you know that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are in just about every kind of processed food on the supermarket shelves. Extensive animal testing has shown that foods containing GMOs cause health problems, ranging from gastrointestinal upsets and infertility to organ damage, immune system impairment, and accelerated aging.” ~ The Ghastly Dangers of GMO’s – Jerry Baker’s Blog

In hopes of making more food from scratch I took a look at the recipe for apricot waffles in the book, adapted the ingredients to make better use of what I had in my pantry, and made a batch of 12 -18 waffles (Amount depends on how full you fill the waffle iron.) For a quick nutrition bump-up on a day when you are in a hurry, add 1/2 can of chopped apricots to your pancake and waffle mix before cooking.

BUTTERMILK APRICOT WAFFLES

1 can of apricots/in fruit juice
Prepare apricots – Chop 1/2 the can of apricots. Puree 3-4 apricots into a smooth sauce in a food processor, or just mash them with a fork until smooth. (I ate any leftover apricots right out of the can!)

In mixing bowl combine:
2 cups flour (you can substitute 1 cup with wheat flour)
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon soda

In small bowl combine:
1 3/4 Cups buttermilk (*substitution at bottom)
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pureed apricots

Add to dry ingredients and mix. Gently fold in chopped apricots. Follow directions for your waffle iron. I think this batter would probably make good pancakes too. ENJOY!
* Use the same amount of milk with a tablespoon of vinegar added. Mix these two ingredients together and let them sit for five minutes before using in the recipe.

I know, I know, canned apricots may be contaminated by ingredients leaching out of the can, enriched flour is loaded with no-no’s, and sugar is deadly…but hey, at least I am eating a food high in natural beta-carotene. I’m also trying to make inroads to finding flour, sugar and other products I cook and bake with in a more natural/organic form.

Jerry Baker’s Blog is filled with health advice, seasonal tips, recipes and garden hints. A terrific blog to visit and browse.

Pots & Pans – Homemade Ice Cream Cake

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We celebrated four family birthdays in May. We all love ice cream cakes, so that was our dessert of choice. Store-bought ice cream cakes can be pricey, so for the last birthday in the month, and because we had repeated the same brand of cake twice; I created an ice cream cake of my own.

The cake turned out sensational. Since I buy my favorite brands of ice cream when they are  on sale, the cake cost half of what I paid for the store bought cake, and fed double the people. Hooray!

Homemade Ice Cream Cake

Ingredients:
2 Cartons of Breyers Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream
1 pkg. Keebler Grasshopper Cookies
2 tbsp melted butter
Rainbow Sprinkles
Redi-Whip Whipped Cream in a can

These ingredient choices are easily changed to make your own custom cake. Half the ingredients will make a smaller cake. (8×8 pan)

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Spray bottom of 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process grasshoppers to crumbs. Mix half the crumbs with melted butter and press into pan. Bake for about five minutes. The chocolate on the cookies will also help the crumbs stick together. Set remaining crumbs aside.

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Let cool. While cooling, take out ice cream and let it soften until it is easily spread with a spatula or back of large spoon. Before I begin to spread the ice cream, I mix it around in a bowl to be sure it is ready to spread.

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When the pan is completely cool you can begin to add the ice cream. I like to space out six to eight dollops on the crumbs, and then begin to spread it. If the ice cream doesn’t spread easily at this point, wait until it softens a bit more. If you try to spread while the ice cream is still too cold, you will break up your cookie crumb crust and create a big mess.

Sprinkle half the remaining cookie crumbs evenly on the top of this layer of ice cream. Gently press into ice cream with back of a spoon or spatula.

Repeat with the second carton of softened ice cream, spread carefully until you have an even top layer.

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At this point I used two large, rectangular container lids I had on hand, and laid them on the top of the pan as a guide. I created diagonal lines of sprinkles, with a line of cookie crumbs alongside each stripe of sprinkles.

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Wavy strips of whipped cream added a third decorative element. A border of whipped cream around the edge of the pan created a nice finished look.

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Cover and freeze your finished cake for several hours. Just like a store-bought ice cream cake, let the cake thaw for about twenty minutes before you attempt to cut and serve. Enjoy!

Pots & Pans – Blondies

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My grandsons visited this weekend, and I had no treat to offer them. These blonde brownies were easy to make and brought forth questions of, “Can I have another one?”

BLONDE BROWNIES

3/4 cup brown sugar (I used light)
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt

Combine sugar and butter, beat until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beat until combined.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Stir into wet ingredients and mix with spoon until combined.

Spread in 9 inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

I don’t have this size so I use a Pyrex 7 x 11 glass pan and it works fine. An 8 inch square would probably work too, just add a minute or two to the baking time.

I add sprinkles or jimmies to the top before baking, or you can stir 1/2 cup chopped nuts into the batter. One of these days I’m going to try some hulled sunflower seeds on top.

Pots & Pans – Creating Rainbows/Sanding Sugars

It’s Christmas Cookie Time! Hooray! Time to unpack my cookie cutters and whip up  a new batch of sanding sugars. Creating your own colorful sugars is easy to do, even better, homemade sugars cost a fraction of what you pay at the grocer or specialty store.

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Ingredients & Supplies:

1/4 C of sugar

Food Coloring – Gel or Liquid

Jar or Plastic Bag

Toothpick if using gel

  • Cornstarch (sometimes needed if using liquid food color)

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Measure out your sugar into a jar or plastic bag. Add gel with a toothpick or drip 12 -24 drops of liquid food coloring into sugar. Start small, more color can  be added later. I found with the gel food coloring, mashing the colorant into the sugar through the baggie combined it quicker than shaking it in a jar. Liquid food coloring might work better with the shaking technique.

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Let the  sugar dry for a few hours. I spread mine on a piece of parchment paper. The flexibility of the parchment made it very easy to lift and pour the sugar into a jar. You can also use a plate or bowl. A funnel is a good tool for pouring the sugar into the jar without mess. If you used liquid food coloring, you  might need a 1/4 tsp of cornstarch worked into the mix  for dryness. I didn’t need any cornstarch in my sugars.

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I think the finished sugars have a brighter appearance than many of the decorative sugars available in the supermarket.

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Pots & Pans – Winter Squash Soup

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I love cream soups. Creating them is definitely an exercise in self-nurturing. This week I was pleased to come upon a display of winter squash in a bin at the grocers. At only ninety-nine cents each, how could I go wrong in experimenting with a new variety? I chose a brightly-hued orange squash. The shape and size reminded me of a small pumpkin.

To prepare the squash for soup, I sliced it in half. Be very careful cutting through winter squash. It is extremely hard-skinned, and the knife could easily slip out and cause you harm. I usually pierce the squash with a paring knife and gently, but firmly wiggle my way around. An alternate method is to cut off the ends, and with a larger knife, cut the squash directly in half.

Place the squash in an ovenproof glass dish, mine has a matching lid. Add about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. Place your onion and other spices alongside the squash. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. The squash is ready to use when a skewer easily pierces the skin and interior. Take care when removing the lid, the steam can give you a nasty burn.

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Flip the squash over. I cool the squash, uncovered, for about an hour. Using a metal spoon with a hard, thin edge, I scoop out the interior close to the skin. Discard the outer shells.

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Place squash and onion in a blender or food processor. Add 2/3 – 1 cup of milk, cream or broth. I used 1/3 cup of buttermilk and 1/3 cup of milk. I also added a teaspoon of brown sugar for sweetness. You could use maple syrup, sugar, other natural sweeteners, or nothing at all. A squeeze of lemon and a dash of garlic powder were also added to the blender. Puree all the ingredients together. Pour into a saucepan and heat. Do not bring to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste. A dash of cinnamon adds even more appeal. Enjoy!

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Here are the ingredients I used. I recommend using an onion in place of the shallot. The shallot has a nice flavor, but did not blend easily and left little bits of purple skin in the finished soup.

Winter Squash Soup (makes 1 serving, ingredients easily doubled)
1 Small Winter Squash
fresh or dried herbs
1 small onion or shallot

Cut Squash in half, half or quarter an onion. Place in glass pan with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water in bottom. Strew fresh or dried herbs over ingredients. (I used thyme and parsley with a dash of oregano.) Cover. Bake in 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool completely.

Place ingredients in blender or food processor. Add additional spices. I used some garlic powder, salt and pepper. I also added a teaspoon of brown sugar and a squeeze of lemon.

Add 2/3 – 1 cup of liquid. (Milk, buttermilk, cream or broth) Broth will create a thinner soup. Heat in saucepan and serve. (Do not boil)

It’s easy to experiment with cream soups. They are good base for combining flavors you enjoy. Add little bits of herbs and spices as you blend. You never know what kind of heavenly concoction you might create.

Pots & Pans – Quick and Easy Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Drizzle Icing

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This quick and easy bundt cake can be created with a box cake mix. Pillsbury Perfectly Pumpkin is available August through January in most larger grocery stores.

Cake
Pillsbury Perfectly Pumpkin Cake Mix
4 eggs
1/2 Cup oil
1 Cup Water
1 pkg Instant vanilla pudding
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Combine ingredients well. Mix until blended, 2-3 minutes.

Topping
4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped nuts,  (walnuts or pecans are good choices)

( I leave the nuts out as we have a grandchild with an allergy to tree nuts. The cake is just as delicious without any nuts in the topping)

Grease and flour (I used Pam instead) sides of bundt pan and sprinkle 1/3 of topping in bottom of pan. Add 1/2 of cake batter. Sprinkle on rest of topping and the rest of the batter. Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees. The cake is delicious without any added icing. Freezes well.

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I used this Pumpkin Bundt Cake as a birthday cake and wanted to dress it up a bit, but was very short on time and energy. I used a can of Duncan Hines Creamy Vanilla Icing as a drizzle by heating it in a glass bowl in the microwave for 5-8 seconds, stirring, and then heating for 5 seconds more. I added a bit of food coloring and the icing was ready to drizzle over the cake. This can be done by allowing the icing to drip from a spoon, or you can do as I did and place the icing in a small zip top baggie, clip a very small hole at one corner and squeeze the icing out through the opening. This technique is much more controlled than just letting the icing run off the spoon.

The cake was pretty and festive, and best of all, becomes even better tasting a day or two after it is made. Here’s a clip about a bundt cake from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The funny thing is I look very much like the poor woman trying to explain the “bundt” cake. Funny!

Pots & Pans – Applesauce

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Apples are plentiful at this time. I thought I would try to create a bit of applesauce with a few that were becoming a bit mealy. I peeled and sliced the apples. Instead of sugar, I added about five strawberries I had on hand for flavor and sweetness. I added a bit of water, about a 1/4 cup, and a squeeze of some type of citrus. I brought this to a boil and simmered lightly until the fruits were soft and on the verge of falling apart. A hard stir, and just like that I had my applesauce. It is absolutely delicious. The applesauce will keep for about three days in the fridge. A sprinkle of cinnamon is also nice.

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Pots and Pans – Carrot-Ginger Soup

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Oh my how this soup made my spirit sing! Have you ever taken a mouthful of pure sunshine? This soup is just that good and so beautiful in appearance. The carrots add subtle flavor and color, the ginger warmth and depth, the lowfat milk a nice touch of creaminess. I found and adapted the recipe in an old cookbook that gave the credit for the soup to the Junior League of Pasadena. I adapted it to my own taste and pantry ingredients. It’s easy and took under an hour to prepare, and also has the added bonus of being low in calories.

CARROT GINGER SOUP

1 TBS butter
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14 – 16 ounce can chicken broth (or 2 cups homemade broth)
1 1/2 tsp. shredded orange peel
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 Cup (10 ounces) lowfat (2%) milk
salt and pepper to taste
can be garnished with a fresh parsley sprig

Melt butter in saucepan. Add carrots and onion & 4 tbs water. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Check and stir often to prevent burning.

Stir in one cup of the broth, orange peel and ginger. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender. In blender or food processor, puree the saucepan ingredients. Transfer back to the saucepan and add remaining broth and lowfat milk. Heat on low heat until warm, stirring as needed. Salt and pepper as needed. Enjoy.

Pots and Pans – Easy Rice Pudding

I often have quite a bit of rice left over when I include it in favorite recipes. A good way to use it up is make rice pudding.

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I don’t know where this recipe came from, so I don’t know who to credit. I think it is probably one of those very basic and timeless recipes that doesn’t have an author.

RICE PUDDING

2 – 2 1/4 cups of cooked rice
3 cups of milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine first four ingredients in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and add vanilla and raisins. Simmer, stirring often, for 30 – 45 minutes, or until all the milk is absorbed. Remove from heat…stir several times as it cools. Sprinkle on cinnamon if desired. I like to eat mine warm or at room temperature. My husband prefers his cold. Refrigerate any leftover pudding. Eat within a day or two. You will have plenty to give away!

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Quick Tip – Leftover Rice can be frozen. I package one cup portions in snack-sized zip bags and store in a freezer safe container.

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Pots & Pans – Soup in Summertime/Italian Pasta & Bean

Even though it’s summertime, when the air conditioner cools the house to Autumn-like temperatures, I will get a hankering for soup. This was the case last night. I found a recipe for ‘Italian Pasta & Bean Soup’ tucked away in a stash of recipes. I have dozens upon dozens of these clipped out recipes in various places in my home. Every now and then I will pull one out and give it a try. I changed the recipe up a bit when the jar of chicken stock I was planning to use lost it’s bottom. (Don’t ask…a bit of broth leaked out, but it could’ve been much worse.) I had to choose between running to the store or making a broth of my own without any chicken thawed out. I decided to use some scraps of onion I had in the freezer, and a few stalks of fresh celery and carrots. I threw in a bouillon cube and ‘Voila,” I had a broth.

You can find the Woman’s Day recipe here: Woman’s Day Italian Pasta & Bean Soup

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Here’s a photograph of mine and the changes I made to the recipe.

6 Cups of cold water
Onion, Celery and Carrot Scraps
1 -2 Beef or Chicken Bouillon Cubes
1 1/2 Cups Bowtie Pasta
1 15 oz can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
1 14.5 can diced tomatoes (I used Hunt’s Basil, Garlic & Oregano)
Several leaves of fresh parsley chopped/you can use a bit of dried if you don’t have fresh
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring water and vegetable scraps to a boil. Simmer for about a 1/2 – 1 hour. Strain away all solids and discard. Add a bouillon cube/cubes to broth.
Bring broth to a boil once more, add bowtie pasta and simmer at medium until cooked al dente, about 8 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes and parsley. Heat through for about two minutes and serve. I sprinkled my soup with packaged grated 4 cheese pizza cheese. It was so delicious, I added a bit more cheese halfway through my meal.

QUICK TIP – The Woman’s Day recipe calls for cooking onion and garlic to add to the soup. I was able to skip that step by adding tomatoes flavored with herbs. This soup was light and had a bright flavor. Next time I might add a squeeze of lemon for an even brighter tasting broth.

Produce & Pots and Pans – Beets!

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I have eaten beets throughout my life, but in my time as a cook, I don’t recall using beets fresh from the farm market. If I have attempted at some point in my life to prepare them for a meal,  they must’ve been such a disaster, I blocked it from my memory. 🙂

•Beets are high in many vitamins and minerals. Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid. …
•Beets cleanse the body. …
•Beets help your mental health. …
•Beets are used as a stomach acid tester. …
•Beets are a high source of energy.
~ Fullcircle.com

This week, when I saw a bundled bunch of beets in the farm market for a good price, I thought, ‘Why not?’ Beets are full of vitamins and minerals, and are something different to serve with meals…at least in our house. I often make RED BEET EGGS as a side dish, but use canned beets for that recipe.

Because I am sensitive to red food coloring, I wanted to try a red velvet cake recipe of some kind using the beets as the coloring agent. I found a link for a good Red Velvet Beet Cupcake. Yummy, Healthy Easy’s Blog – Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes. This recipe turns out well and has great directions for roasting the beets in the oven.

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I roasted an extra beet and devoured it when it was cool. Delicious! I will be roasting beets for our dinners in the near future.

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Roasted beets processed according to the cupcake recipe directions. What a yummy pink the beets created.

I modified the recipe a bit to suit what I had on hand, substituting cake flour, apple cider vinegar for white vinegar, sugar in place of stevia, and dark chocolate cocoa powder in place of regular. The use of the dark chocolate is probably why there is no trace of the red beet color in my cupcakes. I also did not use food coloring as this was the point in me using the red beets.

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Simple Cream Cheese/Sour Cream Frosting

  • One 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese, such as Neufchatel
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

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Blend together with beaters until smooth. I like to refrigerate these cupcakes to keep the frosting fresh.

Delicious…give this recipe a try, easy and healthier than boxed cake mix.

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Produce, Pots and Pans & Product – Plums, Cheesecake Cupcakes & Peas in a Pod

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The choices in the supermarket were slim this week for sampling a new fruit or vegetable. There were a few novelties such as dragonfruit, but at 7.99 each, I passed on this one. I chose instead yellow plums. I’ve eaten golden plums in the past, but these were a brilliant lemon yellow when I purchased them. I set them on my windowsill to wait for them to ripen. Little did I know they would sunbathe and “tan” to a beautiful coral color. The flavor was delicious, but since plums are rather an ordinary fruit I wanted to do something different with them. I decided to stew them down until just tender, caramelize them and sprinkle with coarse salt.

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I didn’t have a recipe to follow. I peeled the plums since they were imported (possible unknown pesticides) and sliced them. I added a bit of water to the saucepan and lightly simmered the fruit until they were barely soft. At this point I added brown sugar and cooked them until the water and sugar became syrupy. I turned the heat off and sprinkled with coarse salt and let everything cool.

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I decided to make my recipe for cheesecake cupcakes and place the cooled plums on top. The recipe calls for a vanilla wafer, but I used half an oreo, minus the cream, in the bottom of the cupcake liner. The recipe for cheesecake muffins follows:

CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES

6 Oreos halved, cream removed
2 8 oz Cream Cheese (softened)
1/2 Cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
Fruit Preserves ( I used my carmalized plums)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in 12 regular sized muffin tins. Cover bottom with Oreo half. Combine cream cheese and sugar in bowl. Beat until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat again until blended and without lumps. Scoop into muffin tins. I use an ice cream scoop. Fill about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes…a few minutes longer if they are too loose in the middle. Chill in the fridge. Top with preserves.

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I also top with chocolate chips when hot. These melt and create a chocolate disc on top.

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These are super easy, delicious, and low in sugar. I can’t say they are low in calories, but they are VERY good!

The adorable Peas in a Pod Salt and Pepper Shakers in the first photograph in post can be found at Amazon.com. I bought several of them at Christmas and everyone who received a set loved it.

Pots & Pans – Amish Piggies in a Blanket

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Once in a while I stumble upon a meal that is so yummy in appearance, I have to disengage my “Eating Healthy” rule and give into the joy of bacon or other unhealthy food. This week the food that enticed me was “Piggies in a Blanket,” purchased at the local Amish Market.

The sweet Amish lady at the counter told me to bake the piggies at 375 degrees for one hour. I did so, and my husband and I were really pleased with the taste. Even better, they were very inexpensive. I bought the piggies in a blanket premade, but they would be easy to put together. The inner layer is loose sausage shaped into a half sausage shape. The next layer is stuffing, packed tightly around the sausage and held in place with tightly wrapped bacon. I baked the piggies uncovered for an hour. They bacon got a little dark, and dried out a tad, so next time I will cover the pan for about a half hour, and uncover for the final half hour. The bacon keeps the inside moist. Delicious!

Pots & Pans – Twice on Tuesday/Pumpkin Cookies

It’s a perfect day for a rerun blog post. Many people bake these delicious cookies during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I bake them whenever the craving for pumpkin grabs ahold of me. They are delicious and the pumpkin makes them very nutritious. They are perfect with a cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy!

My Grandmother Broadwell always baked these amazing pumpkin cookies for family and friends. I can’t bite into one without thinking of her. Every year, especially around the holidays, I bake up a batch or two. They are scrumptious, and best of all pumpkin is loaded with vitamins.

Pumpkin Cookies

Sift together:

2 Cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together:

1 Cup shortening (I use butter)

1 Cup sugar

1 Cup pumpkin (canned)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional:

1/2 Cup nuts, and/or 1/2 Cup raisins

Mix together. Add nuts or raisins if desired. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.

While the cookies are baking make up your frosting.

3 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons milk (2% is okay)

1/2 Cup brown sugar

Heat this and bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook for 2 minutes taking care not to burn. Cool. Add 1 Cup powdered sugar (add more if needed, icing should not be thick, but rather runny) Add 3/4 teaspoon of vanilla and spoon over cookies.

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Pots & Pans – Bobby Flay’s Soup

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In the January issue of Food Network Magazine you will find a terrific recipe for Bobby Flay’s Spanish Chorizo, Kale and Cranberry Bean Soup.

I cooked up a batch of this soup last week and it was delicious and hearty. I did make some changes though. I used leftover sparkling cider in place of the wine. I also substituted chicken cutlets, marinated for several hours in a strong vinegar, olive oil and spice solution, in place of the chorizo. After I baked the chicken and cut it into small cubes, I added it to the soup for a minute or two before serving. Next time I will use boneless thighs, the breast meat became a bit dry.

I also cooked the beans and kale separately to cut the cooking time for the other vegetables down a bit. When everything was cooked through I combined the ingredients in a big pot. Scrumptious!

Pots & Pans – Fidget Pie

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One of my goals for 2015 is to sort through all the outdated magazines I have stored in my closets. Some issues of Victoria are over twenty years old. I know there is a market for vintage magazines, but I have been down that road in the past, and it’s not worth the aggravation to me. Instead, I’m determined to take a look at each page before I recycle them.

At night, while watching television, I do double duty and leaf through the contents. The beautiful photographs are fading, but there are still good ideas to be found. One of these is a recipe for “Fidget Pie.”

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There are only a few ingredients in Fidget Pie, a fact I love, and better yet, it is a good way to use leftover ham.

•1 pound potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 3 and I use Yukon Gold)
•Salt and pepper to taste
•4 chopped fresh sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
•1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
•3 cups diced cooked ham (12 ounces)
•1 medium onion, thinly sliced
•1 pound cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced (about 3)
•1 1/4 cups chicken broth or stock
•Pastry for single crust 9-inch pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a deep, 2 quart casserole. Layer potato slices in the bottom of the casserole. Season with salt, pepper, sage, and nutmeg. Continue layering and seasoning. Cover with pie crust. Cut vents for steam to escape. (I used premade piecrust) Bake at 425 for 15 minutes ( I added 15 more minutes to this and covered with foil for those minutes, I find potatoes take longer to get soft than most people realize. Remove foil for last hour.) Lower the temperature to 350 and bake for 45 minutes more.

I used a deep dish and did not need to put it on a tray to catch overflow and drips.

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A good step by step recipe with lots of tips can found at Welcome Company.

The pie smelled sensational while it baked. The juices did stay very thin as the recipe suggested. Will I make it again…you bet! It is a delicious meal for a wintry night. The recipe is also very budget friendly.

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