Thursday, December 31, 2009

Easy New Year's Eve Appetizer

Who can resist a recipe that:
  • Uses everyday ingredients that you'll likely have on hand?
  • Can be made ahead of time?
  • Tastes good even if you mess it up? (I speak from experience here)
  • Is a big hit wherever you take it?

Well, I'm not sure I've put the last one to the test yet, but this recipe comes from a recent issue of Simple and Delicious and the contributor who shared it says she takes it everywhere and is always asked for the recipe. That's the definition of success for me.

I made this a couple weeks ago, and while it didn't turn out quite right, it was still extremely tasty. I'm making it again tonight for New Year's Eve. Try it. I think you'll love it.

French Quarter Cheese Spread

1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 TB grated onion

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/4 c. butter, cubed

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. prepared mustard

1 c. finely chopped pecans, toasted

Assorted crackers

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, onion and garlic. Transfer to a serving plate; shaped into a 6-inch disk. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Cook and stir over medium heat for 4-5 minutes (do not cook this too long...that was my mistake the first time around) or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; stir in pecans. Cool slightly. Spoon over cheese mixture. Serve with crackers.

If you make it ahead of time, just bring to room temperature before serving.

Head over to Life as Mom for other New Year's Eve treats.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pepperoni Cheese Tortellini

I had a hard time deciding what to post for this week's Ultimate Recipe Swap over at Life as Mom. The theme is "Quick Fix Meals", a great idea during this festivity-filled month. However, sometimes my idea of what is quick to fix doesn't necessarily meet others' expectations.

For example, last night I made baked taquitos. And, I really thought that I would share that recipe today. We love it. But, it involves using leftover roast (not so quick if you don't have some of that stashed in the freezer) and rolling each taquito (probably doesn't qualify as speedy prep work).

So, I'm sitting here trying to think of something I make that is truly quick to fix. This easy skillet pasta dish came to mind, just a few simple ingredients and the result is a warm, satisfying meal, especially delicious if you add some garlic bread and a salad.

Pepperoni Cheese Tortellini (from Quick Cooking, years ago)

1 package (20 oz apprx.) frozen cheese tortellini
1 package (3-1/2 ounces) sliced pepperoni, diced
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon butter
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup sour cream

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute pepperoni and onion in butter until onion is tender. Stir in tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, basil, oregano and cayenne; heat through. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream. Drain ravioli; toss with cream sauce. Yield: 4 servings

**The original recipe called for mushrooms (add with the pepperoni and onion). It also called for ravioli instead of tortellini. Feel free to substitute if you prefer.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Best Biscuits

Biscuits were not a big part of my life or my cooking before I met and married Phil. But, for Phil, biscuits were a staple in their family's diet. I learned early on that breakfast at Phil's parents' house would likely be biscuits, enjoyed with butter and jelly or, his dad's favorite, light corn syrup. They like their biscuits fairly small and barely browned. And that is breakfast.

Well, for most of our marriage I have been on a quest to find a biscuit recipe that I like and that meets Phil's biscuit standards, though I must confess, that I prefer my biscuits a little more golden brown with some crispness to the edges. This summer, I found a recipe on one of my favorite sites, Dine and Dish, that we like a lot and have now enjoyed several times. The buttermilk biscuits are great for biscuits and gravy and flash freeze really well.

But, this morning, I tried Smitten Kitchen's Cream Biscuits, and they are awesome. They're really good with butter and jelly or honey, but with the optional sugar included, they don't even need either one. (They are almost like the biscuits I make for strawberry shortcake, so it's not surprise that they are good plain.)

If you like biscuits, try these!

Cream Biscuits
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small pot or microwave dish, and set aside. Sift two cups flour, the baking powder, salt and (if using) sugar into a large bowl. Fold in 1 1/4 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little. (I ended up using two additional tablespoons, or half the unused cream.)
Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball and, using your hands, press it to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. (I used a rolling pin.) Cut into rounds, 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Gather dough scraps and continue to make rounds. Dip the top of each round in melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet or just brush on with a pastry brush. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or flash freeze for future use. [Biscuits can be baked straight from the freezer, and additional few minutes baking time will be needed, usually around 3 to 5.]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love Christmas. And this year, I actually started everything early, shopping, decorating, etc., in the hope that we would have more time to actually enjoy the season instead of running around like crazy people every weekend in December. We'll see how it turns out.

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is the baking and candy making. In fact, it's definitely become a tradition at our house. It all started the first year we were married. We made a bunch of different Christmas goodies and delivered them to the other couples in our small group. We showed up at their houses singing "Feliz Navidad". It was fun, and we have tried to continue the tradition, though we don't always sing these days.

One year, I made "Cookie Dough Truffles" to include in the goodie bags. We delivered them to a newly married couple in our church, and I think she ate all the truffles before her husband even knew they were there. So, at least in that family, these truffles are a BIG hit! (And now she makes her own.)

Cookie Dough Truffles
1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 c. flour
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 1/2 lbs. semisweet chocolate candy coating, chopped

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flour, milk and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Shape into 1-inch balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until firm.
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating (or use a double-boiler), stirring often until smooth. Dip balls in coating; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. If desired, remelt remaining candy coating and drizzle over candies. Store in refrigerator.

Visit Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom for more food gift ideas! I think her granola sounds awesome. Interested in more holiday recipes? Check out this exchange out.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ultimate Recipe Swap

I'm participating again in Ultimate Recipe Swap hosted at Life as MOM. This week's theme is Thanksgiving dishes. A couple years ago I posted a corn casserole recipe that is a staple at our holiday meals. The best part(s)'s fast, easy and delicious.

Here it is again in case you missed it the first time. And, as I mentioned the first time, the thing that sets this corn casserole apart from others like it is the sauteed onions. They give it really great flavor!

Corn Casserole

1 onion, chopped
1/4 c. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can creamed corn
2 eggs, well beaten
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Saute the onion in butter, seasoned with salt and pepper. Combine the sauteed onions and the remaining ingredients. Mix together and bake in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish/3 qt dish at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Another dish that would be great on your Thanksgiving table:

Southwest Cornbread Salad

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I could have said something

Anything at all would have been better than nothing. But, I basically chose nothing.
On Monday I went to KC with some friends to meet Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, and get a signed copy of her recently released cookbook, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks". I had been looking forward to this outing for weeks (if not months).
Thanks to Les (another contributor on this blog), I've been reading PW's blog for a couple years now and am totally hooked, mostly on her recipes but also on her humorous take on country life.
Because I'm such a fan, I've been thinking about what to say to her since I bought my ticket in early October. And, I could never think of anything...even right up to the minute I sat down next to her, I still had nothing. So, what did I say? That's right, nothing.
Well, not exactly nothing. She did ask me a couple questions. I responded with one-word answers. And then said nothing else. I'm sure she was wondering if I had any social skills whatsoever. I just sat there and smiled. Here are some pictures...

Here's my friend Jade and I waiting in line.

And my friend, Heather, who drove us to KC through the nasty weather.

And finally, me and PW

It almost looks like I'm talking, right? Well, the conversation went something like this:

Ree: Are you Jimi?
Me: Yes.
Ree: That's a neat name.
Me: (silence...seriously)

Oh well, even though I was quiet literally tongue-tied, it was a fun experience. She was super nice and at the end when we took a group shot of the six of us. She said, "What cute girls!" Weird, but cute. Ha.

If I had it to do again, I would at least say, "I really like your cinnamon rolls."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Make Ahead Meal

Last year a friend and I would each make several meals for the freezer (x2) and then swap. It was a great way to save time in the kitchen and came in especially handy for me on days I had to work late. As long as I remembered to set the meal out to thaw, my husband could just throw it in the oven and dinner would be ready by the time I got home.

Lately I've been researching Once-a-month-cooking, freezer meals, and the like. The thing is, I like the act of cooking enough that I don't really want to do it all in two days (though that sounds like a fun and exhausting two days), but I would like to find a handful of things to keep in the freezer for those busy nights (and sometimes mornings). So, the research continues.

I do have a few of those types of recipes up my sleeve, though, especially after a year of experimenting. I must say that I think it's hard to find a dish that is not compromised by a month or two in the freezer. I typically prefer to prepare part of the dish ahead and save the assembly for later (i.e., meatballs, cooked chicken or ground beef).

However, I do make this Spaghetti Casserole pretty much anytime I need to take a meal to someone and don't have much time to prepare. It goes together quickly, and the best part is that it makes 2 for the new parents and one for us. It's nothing fancy, but it's cheap, easy and good.

(I'm adding this to Life as Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap that she does each week...what a great way to get new recipes!)

Spaghetti Casserole

1 package (16 ounces) angel hair pasta
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 jar (26 ounces) spaghetti sauce
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce. Remove from the heat.
Drain pasta. Combine soup and sour cream. In two 8-in. square baking dishes, layer half of the meat sauce, pasta, soup mixture and cheese. Repeat layers.
Cover and freeze one casserole for up to 3 months. Cover and bake the remaining casserole at 350° for 55-65 minutes or until cheese is melted.
To use frozen casserole: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed. Yield: 2 casseroles (6 servings each).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fall Cooking

This week's menu definitely reflected my excitement about the cooler temps. I love what fall means in the kitchen: soups, cinnamon-scented baked goods, heartier meals, fresh apples...and finally, it's not too stinkin' hot to enjoy cooking. (I must admit I am a little sad to say goodbye to strawberries, though!)

So, on tap this week: Italian Wedding Soup, Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings, Shepherd's Pie, Tilapia (my first attempt...we'll know tomorrow how it turned out) and Chili Chicken Tacos.

Last night we enjoyed the Shepherd's Pie, also a first for me. The recipe was great for anyone who works outside the home. Phil and I actually made both the filling and the topping the night before, refrigerated them seperately and then all I had to do last night was put them together and pop it in the oven.

C also enjoys time in the kitchen. Last night, he made a salad with lettuce, spinach, diced apple (I cut those), halved grapes (he did these), cranberries and honey roasted almonds. It may have been better than my Shepherd's Pie.

This recipe makes at least 8 servings. (Next time, I may make a 1/2 recipe.) We'll be eating it around our house for a few more days! Oh, and one other recommendation: Season the meat/vegetable mixture liberally with salt and pepper.

Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie (from Everyday Food)

2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)
Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 1 inch with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set beef filling aside.
Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring, until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1 cup cheese. Mash until smooth; season cheddar-potato topping with salt and pepper.
Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Using a fork, make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes (if topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Where did the summer go? I really thought I would blog more this summer and knowing my desire, Phil and C often commented after dinner that I should blog the particular recipe. Aren't they kind? Time just seemed to slip away, though and here we are at the start of another school year.

Well, we kicked it off in the best way imaginable. On Sunday, C was baptized at our church and we had a cookout afterwards to celebrate his baptism and the baptism of our good friends' son. We had hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni salad, fruit salad, watermelon and homemade ice cream. And, the day was beautiful (except for the flies).

I also made Corn Bread Salad. This is one of my favorite things to make when there will be lots of people eating. It makes a lot and can be made ahead of time, the perfect thing for a party.

Southwest Corn Bread Salad

1 (8.5 oz) corn bread mix
1 can green chilies, lightly drained
1/8 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
pinch rubbed sage (left this out on accident)
2 (15 oz) cans corn, drained
2 (15 oz) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. chopped green onions (I use probably closer to a 1/2 cup)
1 c. chopped green pepper
3 small tomatoes, chopped
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix, dry
1 c. sour cream
1 c. mayonnaise

Prepare corn bread batter according to package directions. Stir in chilies and spices. Spread in greased 8" square baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool completely and then crumble.
In a small bowl, mix mayo, sour cream and dressing mix. Refrigerate. In a large dish (I use a big square dish, but you could also use a 9 by 13 inch baking dish), layer 1/2 of the following in order: corn bread, beans, sour cream mixture, corn, tomatoes, green pepper, green onions, bacon and cheese. Repeat layers. Dish will be full.
Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. It can be made the night before as well.
This can be served as a salad, but it's also good as a dip with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

First Day on the Job

So, today was my first attempt at being a (pt)SAHM (I'm working part-time for the summer, which means I'm pretty much at home on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays). I actually started the new schedule two weeks ago, but because Phil had a few days off of work during that time and then CJ was sick for a couple days, today was the first REAL day at home.

Let me tell ya, I think I'm more exhausted from a day at home than I am after a day of work! If you could indulge me, I would like to share with you what we did today. Please feel free to let me know if what we did/didn't accomplish is reasonable. I'm new at this and not sure how to balance my time...and I'm not sure what a practical pace is.

So, today's events:
1. Early morning trip to the dentist (for me, CJ sat quietly and watched)
2. Came home and made a batch of pumpkin muffins (recipe follows, after all this blog is supposed to be about recipes)
3. Ate breakfast/muffins
4. Took CJ and one of his friends to the bank, where we cashed in $111 worth of coins. Isn't that cool?
5. Gas/Car wash (thanks to the newly received cash)
6. Let CJ play with friends
7. Oh yeah, in the midst of this, stripped the beds, washed the sheets and did 4 additional loads of laundry
8. Lunch with Phil and CJ
9. After lunch, while CJ practiced math on the computer (, I read a little on my book, "The Thirteenth Tale" (continued laundry)
10. Made a big ol' batch of meat sauce (to be used in multiple recipes...lasagna rolls, tostadas, chili)
11. Took CJ to swimming lessons at the Y, worked out briefly.
12. Went to yoga class...instructor didn't show.
13. Made dinner (lasagna rolls) and headed to CJ's baseball game
14. Game was rained out...led to time for blogging. :)

That's it, so far.

So, to the recipe. I've kind of been on a muffin kick lately. Last week, I made crumb-topped banana muffins from I'll post that recipe next. It was great!

Today, we made pumpkin muffins, not particularly in season, I know, but we still had some in the pantry. I found this recipe on two of my very favorite blogs: and I figured they had to be good...and they were!

Pumpkin Muffins
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 can (15 oz) canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I subbed cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg)
1 1/4 c. + 1 TB sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in 12 muffin cups.

In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Then, whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Stir together 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 TB sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter amoung muffin cups (I filled 12 and had a little extra), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golder brown and a toothpick or skewer insterted into the middle comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool.

Eat and enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Menu Planning Mania

As mentioned previously, one of my goals for this new year was to do a better job planning menus and grocery shopping on the weekends. Well, so far, so good. For five weeks, I've been grocery shopping on Saturday mornings. Even though I spend a chunk of time either Friday evening or Saturday morning planning our menu and preparing the list, it's worth it to not be worrying about it on Sunday evenings!

I'm not a picky eater, per se, but I am typically rather particular about what I eat. I like to be "in the mood" for things. Well, one thing I've had to learn through this, in order to not waste food, is to stick to my plan, even when it doesn't fit with the particular cravings I may have. This has been good for me!

So, without further adieu, I'm going to list my menus for the past few weeks. (Sides may or may not be included...depends on my memory.) If you want any of the recipes, let me know and I will post them. I'll share a few in the coming days, when I start to tackle another resolution...updating this blog more frequently.

Week 1
Mon. - sandwiches, chips, oranges
Tues. - mac & tomatoes (C's favorite thing), grilled cheese
Wed. - sesame chicken & broccoli, rice, pineapple
Thurs. - breakfast for dinner (waffles, bacon, eggs)
Fri. - hot dogs, homemade mac & cheese
Sat. - lasagna Rolls, salad, bread, triple layer brownies

Week 2
Mon. - tomato soup & grilled cheese
Tues. - chicken and dumplings, apples
Wed. - leftovers
Thurs. - Italian wedding soup
Fri. - tostadas
Sat. - dinner out

Week 3
Sun. - baked spaghetti
Mon. - red beans & rice, bread
Tues. - leftovers
Wed. - bbq meatballs, smashed potatoes, glazed carrots
Thurs. - ordered pizza (I cheated this night)
Fri. - chicken enchilada soup
Sat. - brisket, roasted potatoes, green beans, apple crostata

Week 4
Sun. - leftovers
Mon. - YH event (my work)
Tues. - paninis with leftover brisket & cheese, sweet potato fries
Wed. - breakfast for dinner
Thurs. - meatball subs, broccoli slaw, chips
Fri. - chicken & wild rice soup, fruit smoothies
Sat. - sandwiches, chips, fruit

Week 5
Sun. - white chicken chili, cornbread
Mon. - spaghetti, bread
Tues. - sandwiches, chips, apples
Wed. - homemade tomato soup, grilled cheese
Thurs. - crispy apricot pork chops, red potatoes, salad
Fri. - chicken stir-fry wraps, rice, pineapple
Sat. - biscuits & gravy (breakfast)

A few things to note about my menu...Phil and C are responsible for Monday nights, because I work late. Thus, that evening is usually something easy. I also realized as I type that there are only a few nights a week where cooking anything more complicated is an option. Most nights we need fast meals, either because we've got somewhere else to be or because we are eating later in the evening. All that to say, it's working for us...and hopefully, it continues to. I'm a little stuck for the next week's menu and always appreciate suggestions.