Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Mint Fudge

This easy fudge recipe came from my mom. She made these at Christmas when I was growing up. I added the creme de menthe baking chips and it gives the fudge a perfect hint of sweet mint flavor. These are easy and tasty treats to share with friends during the holiday season.

18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (good quality)  
1 (12-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips

Line 8x8 pan with foil. Combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir continuously with a silicon scraper or wooden spoon until all the chocolate chips are melted. Transfer to foil lined pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the Andes mint baking chips over the top and lightly press them in with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, or until set. Remove foil and cut into squares with a sharp knife. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Copycat Baked Spicy Chick-Fil-A Sandwich

I LOVE Chick-Fil-A and even worked at one in college. Unfortunately I live far away from one now, way too long to drive when I have a craving. So after discovering this recipe, I decided I needed to figure out how to make it myself. Plus this is baked, so it's a wee bit healthier! Reduce or omit the cayenne pepper and chili powder if you don't want it to be spicy. Makes 6 sandwiches.

6 (4-ounce)s chicken breasts (flattened)
2/3 cup Heart Smart Bisquick
1/2 cup dried parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon white or black pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
6 hamburger buns
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
smart balances spread

Preheat oven to 450. Mix dry ingredients in ziplock bag. Whisk egg and milk with a fork. Dip each piece of chicken into the egg mixture using a fork, letting excess drip off, and place in the ziplock bag. Shake and transfer chicken to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Repeat with rest of chicken. Drizzle melted butter over the chicken, using a tiny spoon. Bake for 6 minutes, turn and bake for 6 minutes more, or until chicken is done (165 degrees internal). Remove chicken from oven and set the pan on the counter. Turn off oven. Lightly butter the inside of the buns with smart balance. Place buns in oven on a baking sheet for 5 minutes to lightly toast. Serve chicken on toasted buns with your favorite dipping sauce and two pickles slices :)

Inspired by and adapted from here and various online Chick-Fil-A copy cat recipes. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Crispy Oven Baked Fries

1 1/2 pound light russet potatoes (cut into french fries)
3 tablespoons canola oil
salt (kosher or seasoned)
dried parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 475 and adjust oven rack to approximately 5 inches below the top heating element. Soak french fries in bowl of HOT tap water for 10 minutes. Drain water and dry potatoes thoroughly with clean dish towels. 

Spread 2 tablespoons of oil over large cookie sheet (12 x 16 inches). Toss the french fries in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread potatoes onto the baking sheet making sure the fries are in a single layer and not on top of each other. 

Bake for 10 minutes, then turn and stir fries with spatula. Repeat. Then repeat every 5 minutes until desired crispness is achieved. Total baking time should be between 25 and 35 minutes. Season fries with additional salt and dried parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Adapted from here. Main changes were reduction in amount of oil and change in location of oven rack.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Oriental Chicken Salad (Applebee's Copycat Salad)

1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup mayo
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon honey mustard (optional)

Romaine lettuce (chopped)
cabbage (purple and or green, chopped)
breaded chicken breast (sliced)
mandarin oranges
sliced almonds
crunchy rice noodles

Adapted from here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Cooking time may need to be adapted for your elevation/humidity levels. If the cookies are dry and crumbly reduce the cooking time by 15-30 seconds. If the cookies do not harden, increase the cooking time by 15-30 seconds. Makes approximately 20 cookies.

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
pinch salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cup quick oats

Stir the first set of ingredients (sugar through salt) in medium saucepan over medium heat. Once you see the first bubble forming, start the timer for 1.5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the timer goes off, immediately remove the pan from heat and stir in peanut butter. Stir in oatmeal for one minute or until it starts to thicken a bit. Scoop quickly with small cookie scoop onto wax paper. Let cool at least one hour until set. Store in airtight container.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Creamed Corn

16 ounces frozen corn (premium quality)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white sugar
pinch white pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour (dissolved in cold water)  

Combine all ingredients except for flour in saucepan. Heat to low boil, stirring frequently, until corn is fully cooked. Slowly stir in flour/water mixture and keep stirring until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat and serve. Note: 3/4 cup evaporated milk is half of the can. I usually freeze the other half and use it the next time I make this recipe.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

1 (12-ounce) can Sam's Club canned chicken, drained (or 9 oz equivalent chopped/shredded chicken)
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise (start with 3)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small apple, peeled and diced
1/4 cup chopped pecans
fresh cracked pepper

Shred chicken with fork. Combine with rest of ingredients. Season to taste with pepper. Chill until ready to use. Serve on sandwich bread, rolls, croissants, or crackers.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Baked Boneless Wings

Can be tossed in buffalo, barbecue, honey barbecue, or any of your favorite wing sauces. These taste just like what you get at a restaurant but for a fraction of the cost and without the fat and mess of deep frying. Serves 4 people.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
3 medium chicken breasts, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine the flour, panko breadcrumbs, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a small mixing bowl. Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl.

Double batter the chicken pieces (dip in egg, then in dry mixture, then repeat both steps). Place pieces on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spray pieces with cooking spray. Bake 8-10 minutes, turning each one over halfway through the cooking time (and spray the other side with cooking spray).  

Turn oven to broil. Broil chicken for 1-3 minutes on each side to crisp them up. Toss to coat in sauce. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Source:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Easy Garlic Alfredo Sauce

Serves 4 people, makes about 2 cups of sauce.

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into 6-8 pieces
1 cup milk
3 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (or combination with asiago)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste

In a medium pot or deep skillet, melt the butter over medium low or low heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly, taking care not to let the garlic burn. Add the cream cheese, stirring carefully with a whisk until the mixture is smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the milk gradually, about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Stir in the Parmesan cheese (and or asiago), and pepper and stir until the cheese is melted. Continue to simmer until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste and add desired amount of salt. Serve immediately over hot, cooked noodles or cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Adapted from

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sweet and Sour Sauce

It took me awhile to optimize this one but now it's perfect. Use for dipping, as a sauce, or when making sweet and sour chicken. Whenever I open a can of pineapple in juice I just save the juice and freeze 1/4 cup amounts so that I have it on hand to use in this recipe. 

1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup pineapple juice (+ water up to 2/3 cup total volume)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
1-2 tablespoon cornstarch (dissolved in cold water)

Whisk all ingredients except cornstarch in sauce pan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to simmer. Slowly add dissolved corn starch while whisking sauce. Continue to simmer and stir frequently until sauce reaches desired thickness. Keeps in fridge for a couple of weeks. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Quick Refrigerator Dill Pickles ("Claussen Like")

I finally optimized my quick pickle recipe this summer and they are very close to a Claussen refrigerator pickle. You can use canning jars or clean recycled jars (i.e. jam, pickles, salsa). For maximum crunch, it is best to make your pickles within 24 hours of picking the cucumbers. This is a great beginner "canning project". 

6-12 pickling cucumbers (depends on size)
6-8 clean pint jars and lids (or similar size)
1 teaspoon minced garlic (per jar)
1/2 teaspoon dill seed (per jar)
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds (per jar)
pinch crushed red pepper flakes (per jar)
pinch black peppercorns (per jar)
6 cups filtered water
2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1/3 cup pickling salt

Wash cucumbers, removing all thorns. Cut ends off cucumbers and cut into spears or slices. Set aside. Add spices to bottom of each jar. Fill jars with sliced cucumbers (depending on the size of the cucumber you should be able to fit 1-2 cucumbers per jar). Combine water, vinegar, and salt into large pot. Bring to boil. Ladle or pour the boiling brine into each jar until cucumbers are covered. Wipe the rims of each jar with a damp towel. Place lid on top and screw on band until finger tight. Let jars sit on counter for 10 minutes. Place jars in fridge. Pickles will be ready to eat in 2-4 days and should last for at least a month in the fridge.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Macaroni and Cheese

Smooth and creamy comfort food. Leftovers reheat very well. Great dish to take to a party or potluck. Recipe can easily be doubled. Serves 6.

2 cups elbow macaroni noodles (9 oz by weight)  
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded orange cheddar cheese
1 can condensed cheese soup
1 cup milk (2% or whole)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper (white or black)
1/2 teaspoon mustard

Bring large pot of water to boil. Measure two cup of elbow macaroni (9oz by weight) and cook for 6 minutes exactly. Remove from heat and drain. While cooking the macaroni, combine the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and heat over medium low heat until melted and well combined. Add noodles to cheese sauce and stir. Keep covered and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until noodles reach desired tenderness. Should take about 10 minutes.

If making for a potluck or party, keep warm in a slow cooker.

Slightly adapted from Sis Sister's Stuff.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Paprika Chicken (Slow Cooker)

Easy spin on a traditional Hungarian dish. It is important to use Hungarian Paprika as the flavor is much stronger and better than American Paprika which only adds color and not much flavor. Serves 4-6 people.

2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts (fresh or frozen, coated in flour)
1 onion, chopped or grated
1 carrot, finely shredded
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons Hungarian Paprika
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup sour cream
egg noodles or rice or mashed potatoes

Arrange onion on bottom or slow cooker. Place chicken on top of onions. Sprinkle carrot and spices over chicken. Pour chicken broth over the top. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken is done and shreds easily with a fork. Shred chicken. Stir in sour cream. Salt to taste if needed. Serve over egg noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes. Garnish individual servings with extra sour cream if desired.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Shredded Chicken from Baked Split Chicken Breasts (Cooking Tip)

Easy technique for making tender, juicy pulled chicken for soups, enchiladas, Hawaiian haystack sauce, and other recipes. Portions freeze well for quick addition to soups, etc. 

baking dish
salt and pepper
olive oil
split chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 350. Rub each split chicken breast with a teaspoon of olive oil. Place in baking dish (lined with parchment paper or foil for easy clean up). Sprinkle salt and pepper on top and cover dish with foil or lid. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool. Once chicken breasts are cool enough to handle pull the chicken off the bone and shred or chop to desired size pieces. Freeze in freezer zip top bags for quick use in soups and other recipes.

Slow Cooker Option: Cook in slow cooker on low in 2 cups water, season with salt and pepper, until internal temperature reaches 165. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hawaiian Haystacks (with slow cooker option)

This recipe is SO easy and one of my favorites! Some people call these Chinese Sundaes. Everyone makes their sauce differently but this is my optimized version, not too thick, not too thin, just perfect. The best part is that each person can easily customize their own toppings. Serves 4-6 people. 

1 (12-ounce) can shredded chicken (or 9 oz homemade shredded chicken + 1/3 cup water)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 can milk 

Suggested Toppings:
shredded coconut
crunchy rice or chow mein noodles (I like La Choy Brand Rice Noodles)
slivered almonds
diced tomatoes
diced green onions
maraschino cherries
shredded cheese

Combine sauce ingredients in medium saucepan (including water from can of chicken if using canned, the only kind of canned chicken I use is Sam's Club brand). Simmer for at least 5 minutes and keep warm until ready to serve. Spoon over white rice (I love jasmine rice for this) and top with favorite toppings.

Slow Cooker Variation: Cook with raw or frozen chicken in slow cooker on high or low until chicken easily shreds. Removed chicken to shred, then add back to sauce and stir before serving

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cranberry Pecan Breakfast Pie

It's a cobbler like pie and would be perfect for breakfast or brunch or dessert! Serves 6-8.

2 cups fresh cranberries (can use fresh frozen cranberries too)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick melted butter or margarine
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
2 beaten eggs

Grease large pie pan. Put cranberries in pan and sprinkle with pecans and brown sugar. Combine butter, white sugar, almond extract, flour, and eggs, and spread evenly over contents in pan. Bake at 350° for 40–45 minutes, or until light brown. Can be served with sweetened vanilla yogurt as a topping.

Adapted from Recipe Hall of Fame Quick and Easy Cookbook

Monday, May 4, 2015

Split Pea Soup with Parmesan and Sweet Potato Hash

I've always loved split pea soup, but adding the parmesan and roasted sweet potatoes just takes it over the top!

1 pound dried split peas
1 box chicken broth (32 oz)
2 cups water
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 pieces bacon or ham, optional, used for flavor during cooking
1/2 cup dried dried parmesan cheese (optional)
1 large sweet potato peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
olive oil
dried thyme

Combine peas, broth, water, carrot, onion, and garlic in large stock pot. Add ham or bacon if desired for flavor during cooking only. Bring to boil then simmer with lid on for 45 minutes - 1 hour. Stir occasionally. While soup is cooking toss cubed sweet potato in olive oil and spread onto a lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are tender and well roasted. When the soup is done remove ham or bacon and discard. Stir in parmesan cheese (optional), remove from heat, and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Add additional water or broth to thin, if needed, to desired consistency. Rewarm soup and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve soup with a scoop of sweet potato hash on top and garnish with thyme and more parmesan cheese. Reheat leftovers by warming on stove or in microwave and adding a little bit of water to thin.

Adapted from

Monday, April 27, 2015

Teriyaki Beef

1 pound beef sirloin steak (tenderized, thinly sliced strips)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Kikkoman Soy Sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3 green onions cut into long pieces (optional)
sesame seeds (for serving)
canola oil
jasmine rice (cooked)

Toss strips of meat in corn starch to coat. Mix ingredients from ginger to vinegar in small sauce pan. Bring to low simmer, cover, and keep warm. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of canola oil over medium heat in a large wok or frying pan. Lightly brown the outside of the meat but do not actually cook it. This will only take a minute or two. Pour the sauce over the meat and turn heat to low. Stir frequently until sauce begins to thicken and meat is just cooked. Be careful not to overcook or the meat may become tough. Add green onions and stir. Add green onions and stir. Serve over jasmine rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Adapted from

Monday, April 20, 2015

Jalapeno Cornbread Topped Taco Bake

Recipe can easily be doubled for a 9x13 casserole dish. You can also use a packaged taco seasoning mix in place of what is listed in this recipe.

1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
1 can black beans (well drained)
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheese
Taco Seasoning Mix
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cornbread Topper
1 box Jiffy Cornbread Mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 jalapeno, diced

Preheat oven to 400. Brown ground beef in deep skillet and drain if necessary. Add rice, black beans, tomato sauce, water, sour cream, and seasoning. Stir until well combined and heated thoroughly. Spread into lightly greased 8x8 casserole dish. Top with cheese. Prepare Cornbread topping by combining mix, egg, milk, and jalapeno. Spread evenly over the cheese. Bake at 400 until cornbread is golden brown (about 20 minutes). Serve with extra sour cream and salsa if desired.

Recipe inspired by Taste of Home Magazine. Taco Seasoning Mix adapted from Homemade Taco Seasoning on The Recipe Critic. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Oven Baked Corn Dogs

Servings 8

1 cup milk
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or 1 teaspoon paprika)
8 bun length hot dogs (I like BarS Premium All Beef)
1 egg
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add oil, brown sugar, and cornmeal with yeast mixture into a stand mixer with dough hook at speed #2 (Kitchen Aid). Add flour, salt, soda, and cayenne or paprika. Add small amounts of additional flour if necessary until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Dough should be like soft play dough, slightly tacky, not sticky. Knead 5 minutes at speed #2. Cover bowl with cloth and let rise 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 450. Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll and stretch each piece into a 14-16 inch long rope. Wrap each piece around a hot dog and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each one with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 450 for 5-12 minutes until golden brown. The baking time really depends on placement of your oven rack. I find that when my rack is about 3/4 height they are done in about 5 minutes.

Slightly adapted from

Friday, April 10, 2015

Crispy Baked Breaded Eggplant

three parts panko bread crumbs
one part dried parmesan cheese
Italian seasoning (about 1 tablespoon per cup)
olive oil

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch thick slices. Salt the slices on both sides and lay out on a large cookie sheet. Cover the eggplant slices with another cookie sheet and some heavy books. Let sit for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 475. Mix bread crumbs, parmesan, and Italian seasoning in shallow dish. Prepare baking sheet by greasing with a thin layer of olive oil. Mix egg with one teaspoon cold water in a shallow dish. Give the slices a quick rinse in cold water and pat dry well with towels. Dip eggplant slices in egg, letting any excess drip, and dip in bread crumb mixture, pressing crumbs onto each side. Set on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown, then turn slices over and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until golden brown on the second side. Serve hot with ranch dip.

Adapted from and

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Savory Meatloaf Muffins

I was a meatloaf hater until I discovered this recipe! The muffin shape makes them super easy to serve and the recipe can easily be doubled. Picture shown was served with baked breaded eggplant and green beans.

1 pound ground beef
3 ounces Stove Top Stuffing Mix (half of package)
1 egg
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons barbecue sauce, divided

Mix ingredients in large ziplock bag, using 2 T of barbecue sauce. Scoop into muffin tin. Top each muffin using the remaining 2 T of barbecue sauce. Makes 6 medium muffins in a medium muffin tin or 9 in regular muffin tin. Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees and the glaze is set with a few blackened spots.

Slightly adapted from here.

Pictured with baked breaded eggplant

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Secrets to Great Mashed Potatoes

There are two points at which you can stop if you want to do some preparations in advance of your dinner. You can stop after you peel and cut them and keep the potatoes in a bowl covered with cold water in the fridge until you are ready to cook them (up to 24 hours) or you can stop after you drain the cooked potatoes and keep them in a covered bowl in the fridge until you are ready to return them to a pot to heat them up again and add the butter.

5 pounds potatoes
1 stick butter
sour cream (optional)
salt and pepper

Bring large pot of salted water to full rolling boil. You want the potatoes to have lots of room and water to boil in. While waiting for the water to boil, peel the potatoes. Then cut small potatoes into 4 pieces, medium potatoes into 6 pieces, and large potatoes into 8 pieces. Transfer to colander and rinse with cold water to remove any dirt.

Boil potatoes, in a rolling boil, for approximately 10-20 minutes. Start checking them at 10 minutes and every 2-5 minutes after to prevent overcooking. Potatoes are done when very easily pierced with a fork but not mushy or completely falling apart. Drain water off potatoes.

Return potatoes to dry pot and return to burner on low heat. Add butter (I usually use about 1 stick of butter for 5 pounds of potatoes) and continue stirring to melt butter and to evaporate excess water from the potatoes. You want the moisture to come from the butter and milk, not from the water. When potatoes start falling apart and getting a little dry and powdery you can turn off the heat and start adding milk and continue stirring and mashing. Continue adding small amounts of milk (and or sour cream) while stirring and mashing until desired consistency is reached. Salt and pepper to taste.

Use a hand masher for 80-90% of the mashing. Then transfer potatoes to a large plastic bowl and use a hand mixer (on medium to high) and whip them for about 30 second to fluff them up and remove any big lumps. Overmixing with the electric mixer will result in a glue like texture. Transfer to serving dish and enjoy! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Beef Stew Over Mashed Potatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 pounds beef stew meat, cut smaller if necessary
salt and pepper
1 (small or medium) onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 box beef broth (32 oz)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or Steak Sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
1/2-1 cup frozen green peas
1-3 tablespoon cornstarch (dissolved in water), optional
1 tablespoon dried parsley
mashed potatoes (from approximately 5 pounds of raw potatoes, see tips at bottom of post)  

If you are using prepackaged stew meat I would suggest cutting the pieces once or twice to make them more bite sized, since they usually come quite large. Salt and pepper stew the meat. Heat oil and butter in large pot over medium heat. Brown just the outside of the stew meat (do not cook) and remove from pot. Add onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add broth, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and celery.

Bring to boil and reduce to low simmer. Add back stew meat. Cover and simmer for 1.5-2 hours. Add carrots and peas and simmer covered for the last 30 minutes. Add 1-3 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in cold water to bring stew to desired thickness, if desired, or add more beef broth to thin, if desired. Salt and pepper to taste and stir in parsley. Serve over mashed potatoes.  

How I Make My Mashed Potatoes

5 pounds potatoes
1 stick butter
sour cream (optional)
salt and pepper

Bring large pot of salted water to full rolling boil. You want the potatoes to have lots of room and water to boil in. While waiting for the water to boil, peel the potatoes. Then cut small potatoes into 4 pieces, medium potatoes into 6 pieces, and large potatoes into 8 pieces. Transfer to colander and rinse with cold water to remove any dirt.

Boil potatoes, in a rolling boil, for approximately 10-20 minutes. Start checking them at 10 minutes and every 2-5 minutes after to prevent overcooking. Potatoes are done when very easily pierced with a fork but not mushy or completely falling apart. Drain water off potatoes.

Return potatoes to dry pot and return to burner on low heat. Add butter (I usually use about 1 stick of butter for 5 pounds of potatoes) and continue stirring to melt butter and to evaporate excess water from the potatoes. You want the moisture to come from the butter and milk, not from the water. When potatoes start falling apart and getting a little dry and powdery you can turn off the heat and start adding milk and continue stirring and mashing. Continue adding small amounts of milk (and or sour cream) while stirring and mashing until desired consistency is reached. Salt and pepper to taste.

Use a hand masher for 80-90% of the mashing. Then transfer potatoes to a large plastic bowl and use a hand mixer (on medium to high) and whip them for about 30 second to fluff them up and remove any big lumps. Overmixing with the electric mixer will result in a glue like texture. Transfer to serving dish and enjoy! 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Crustless Quiche with Veggies and Bacon

Great for brunch or dinner. Serve with a side of hash browns and fruit. Recipe is very versatile and vegetables used can be varied. Quiche pictured has steamed zucchini instead of spinach. Serves 4-6 people. 

2 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 cup broccoli cut into tiny florets and steamed for 3 minutes
1 cup spinach broken into bite size pieces
1 cup monterey jack cheese shredded
3 slices thick cut bacon cooked and crumbled
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Generously grease bottom and sides of 9 inch glass pie pan with butter. Add bread crumbs to pan and tilt until completely coated. Layer with broccoli, spinach, cheese, and bacon. Whisk eggs, milk and seasonings together and pour evenly over the layers. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and egg is set when toothpick is inserted. Serves 2-4 people.

Adapted from 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My Pizza Tutorial (Dough and Sauce) aka How to Make an AMAZING Pizza at Home

I have been optimizing this recipe for a couple of years now and I've finally have what I believe is a foolproof way of making amazing pizza at home. It does require some advance planning and a stand mixer, but other than that it is very easy.

The Dough
This recipe requires some advanced planning but it is well worth it! It needs to be made at least one day in advance. Instead of using gluten you can use 3 cups of bread flour. Makes two small to medium pizzas. The unique thing about this recipe is that you add water to the flour instead of flour to water. Also, you use cold water and let the dough rise in the fridge. The slow rise results in a more flavorful crust and adding cold water just until no dry flour remains makes the recipe almost fool proof. Partially prebaking the crust ensures that the crust will be done in the middle and browned in the bottom without overcooking the toppings.

3 cups white flour (minus 3 Tablespoons)
3 tablespoons wheat gluten
1/2 teaspoon rapid rise yeast (or 1 teaspoon active dry)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil (or canola oil)
1 1/3 cup ice cold water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons melted butter
garlic salt
pizza sauce (see recipe below)
8 ounces mozzarella cheese (good quality)
dried Parmesan cheese 

Combine flour, gluten, yeast, and sugar in stand mixer. Mix with a whisk or wooden spoon. With dough hook attachment going (I set my kitchen aid at speed #2) add oil then slowly start adding water. Add water until the dough is just combined and no dry flour remains  (you probably won't need the entire amount listed). You must watch carefully so that you don't add to much water, making the dough gooey. Cover and let dough rest for 10 minutes. Add salt and knead with dough hook for 5 minutes (I use speed #2 on my Kitchen Aid). Shape dough into ball and transfer to lightly greased large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in fridge for 24-72 hours.

Approximately 1.5 hours before you are wanting to bake the pizza, remove dough from fridge, divide in half, shape into two round balls, cover, and let set on counter to reach room temperature (at least 1 hour). Preheat oven to 475. Roll out each half into circle (work from the center out). I like to roll out my dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. If the dough is not very elastic let it rest for 10 more minutes. Stretch dough to to desired thickness, tossing if necessary. For this recipe I roll each half into a 9-12 inch circle. 9 inches gives me a thicker crust and 12 a thin crust.

Transfer dough to pizza pan. I use this non stick air bake pan and I love it. Poke holes with fork all over crust. Don't be shy about this, you want a lot of "pokes" to prevent big air pockets from forming. Bake for 4 minutes and remove from oven. Relieve any remaining air pockets with fork or toothpick and push them down with your finger.

Brush edges of crust with melted butter (about 1 teaspoon per pizza) and sprinkle with garlic salt. Top with sauce, cheese (I like the shredded mozzarella from Sam's Club, it is very good quality), and toppings. I use 4oz of cheese per pizza. Bake at 475 at 3/4 height in oven for approximately 8 minutes or until cheese in center of pizza is just beginning to brown. Sprinkle with dried parmesan cheese and serve.

Inspired by America's Test Kitchen, Your Homebased Mom, and Pioneer Woman pizza dough recipes.

The Sauce
This is very simple and inexpensive to make. I use 1/8 tsp garlic salt if my toppings are going to be salty (like pepperoni) but I use 1/4 tsp if all my toppings are going to be vegetables.

1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/8-1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

Combine ingredients. Use about 1/2 of sauce per small/medium pizza. Can also be used as dipping sauce for pizza rolls or breadsticks.

Favorite Topping Combinations
pepperoni and zuchinni
pepperoni and fresh pineapple
pepperoni, fresh pineapple, and jalapeno
kale, zucchini, and tomatoes
barbecue sauce (instead of tomato pizza sauce), bacon, chicken, and kale

Friday, February 27, 2015

French Onion Soup (with Chicken Broth)

This soup can be finished on the stove or in a slow cooker. The longer it cooks the softer the onions and richer the flavor. This recipe is a great variation from the traditional recipe made with beef broth. Serves 6 people. 

4 large onions, sliced into thin rings
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 quarts chicken broth
French bread, sliced and toasted
mozzarella or romano cheese, shredded

Melt butter in large soup pot. Add onions and cook over medium heat, for at least 15 minutes, stirring often until onions are tender and golden brown. Add sugar and cook while stirring for 1 minute. Add broth, cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 15 minute or transfer to slow cooker and cook until ready to serve. Ladle into bowls and top with toasted french bread slices and shredded mozzarella or romano cheese.

Adapted from here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Baked Chicken Strips

This is one of my favorite recipes! It's so easy and they turn out perfect every time. You can also cut the chicken into cubes to make chicken nuggets or add some cayenne pepper to spice them up. Serves 4-6 people.

2/3 cup Heart Smart Bisquick
1/2 cup dried parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1-2 eggs, beaten
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into strips or nuggets)
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 450. Mix dry ingredients in ziplock bag. Dip half of chicken pieces into the egg, using a fork, letting excess drip off, and place in the ziplock bag. Shake and transfer to a parchment paper or foil lined cookie sheet. Repeat with other half of chicken. Drizzle melted butter over the chicken. Bake for 6 minutes, turn and bake for 6 minutes more, or until chicken is done. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Slightly adapted from

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Summer Squash and Carrot Wheat Muffins

You can use zucchini or yellow squash in this recipe, both are great. and you can omit the carrot if you don't have any on hand. This is a fairly healthy recipe that tastes moist and delicious. I cannot even tell they have wheat flour in them. This is my new go to recipe and lately I've been making them almost every week. I have even frozen 2 cup quantities of shredded squash and carrot so that I can quickly whip up a batch. Makes 12 muffins.

3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 medium summer squash, finely shredded   
1/2 cup carrot, finely shredded or chopped

*additional water if needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, squash, and carrots (carrots and squash should be about 2 cups total volume). Add the wet mixture to the large bowl of dry ingredients and stir with fork to combine well. *Depending on how much water the zucchini releases, you may need to add some additional water if your batter is too dry.

Divide the batter into 12 muffin cups until about 2/3 full. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.

Slightly adapted from

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentines Chocolates - Peanut Butter Filled

Will make 30-60 chocolates depending on size of mold. I use Aldi brand semi sweet chocolate chips. They are very good and affordable. Quite easy to make and fun to give to friends. 

1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons softened butter or margarine
24 ounces chocolate, chips or chopped (or more)

Make peanut butter filling in small bowl with hand mixer. Prepare peanut butter filling inserts and set on wax paper. Melt and temper chocolate (I would only temper 10-12 oz at a time). Fill piping bag with tempered chocolate. Fill bottom of mold. Place peanut butter filling on top of chocolate and fill rest of mold with chocolate. Tap the mold to settle and smooth out the melted chocolate. Look underneath mold to make sure the peanut butter filling is not showing but completely covered with chocolate. Place molds in fridge until hardened (doesn't take more than 30-60 minutes). Pop out of mold and store in airtight container in fridge.

How I tempered my chocolate:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thomas the Train Cake

The picture below shows the basic construction. I used a skinny loaf, a small loaf, and one cupcake. I cut the small loaf into three pieces. I used my cake paint for the blue and gray but used frosting dye for the black, red, and yellow. I used cream cheese frosting (had cream cheese and butter, no shortening) and discovered that the cake paint did not work well on it and the cream cheese frosting was hard to spread out completely smooth. The cake paint might have worked better if I let the frosting dry out overnight, but I think straight buttercream just works better since it crusts more and faster. I used mini chocolate chips for the eyes and double stuff fudge oreos for the wheels. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Elmo Birthday Cupcakes

I made these this weekend to take to my son's preschool class for his birthday. Made zuchinni muffins instead of cake to make them a little bit healthier and used a cream cheese buttercream frosting.

Mouth - 1/2 of a oreo cookie (gently) sawed in half with a sharp steak knife
Nose - 1/2 of an orange smile fruit snack (walmart brand)
Eyes - mini chocolate chip pressed into a mini marshmallow

Frosting - used a #17 star tip

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Summer Squash Bake Over Rice

5 cups thin sliced, quartered summer squash (zuchinni or yellow mix)
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons melted melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
herb seasoning blend (fish spice or other favorite other herb medly)
French-fried onions (optional)
white rice (cooked)

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle bottom of little smaller than 9X13 casserole dish with herb seasoning. Combine squash, minced onion, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, melted butter, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Pour over seasoning in the casserole dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle top with herb seasoning. Sprinkle top with fried onions. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Let sit at room temp for at least 5 minutes with lid off before serving. Spoon over white rice.

Alternate version: use 1 box stuffing mix instead of herb seasoning mix and omit all onions and rice.