Monday, December 31, 2012

Fruitcake! Don't Knock It!

Everyone has heard those fruitcake jokes about fruitcake being the least desirable of all the Christmas gifts. Well, I like fruitcake! No, I LOVE fruitcake! There, I've said it!

My Mom found an amazing fruitcake recipe this year. It was supposed to ripen in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. I decided I would try just one slice (because I couldn't wait to try it) and then I would let the rest ripen in the refrigerator. Well, it was fantastic after one day...and it only made it three or four days in my refrigerator. I'm sure I gained a couple of pounds that week just from that fruitcake. It was that good.

We made ours without nuts since my son is allergic to them...but the cake didn't suffer from it. The fruit in the cake held it together and kept it dense. In fact, the fruit took on a somewhat nut-like texture.

Ooooh. It was good.

Christmas Fruitcake

Chopped pecans (the original recipe called for 4 cups, my Mom's friend used 1 1/2 cups, and we didn't use any)
1 lb. candied cherries (red, or green, or mixed)
1 lb. candied pineapple (my Mom and her friend used 1 lb. mixed chopped fruit and 1 small pineapple container)
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 lb. butter
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons lemon extract (we didn't use the full amount because we didn't have enough and it was still great)


Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Grease a 10 inch tube pan; line with waxed paper, and then grease again. Or, you may line and grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.

Chop nuts and fruit into medium size pieces; dredge with 1/4 cup of the flour. In a medium size bowl, sift together remaining flour, and baking powder; set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well blended. On low speed, fold in the flour mixture; mix well. Add vanilla and lemon extract and continue beating on low speed until mixed well. By hand with a spoon or spatula, fold in fruit/nuts, and mix well.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 3 hours for tube pan, or 2 hours for loaf pans. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Note: After fruitcake has completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and then cover well with foil. Place in refrigerator. Allow to ripen about a week or two before serving (if you can wait that long!)

Source: My Mom got this from a friend, but I'm not quite sure where she got it from. As mentioned above, we didn't use nuts because of my son's tree nut allergy, but it was still so good. The texture of the candied fruits kind of took on a nut-like texture as it baked. I didn't miss the nuts at all, to be honest with you.


Above: 2013 update: Last year, we baked this in a loaf pan. This year, we made it in a tube pan. It works great both ways! We also added almonds this year since my son grew out of his almond nut allergy. Yummy stuff! I would say that the almonds were nice, but didn't make a huge change in the taste or texture of the bread. It is great with and without nuts.

Christmas Flavors: Ginger

Mmmm. Ginger. Isn't it amazing how different a flavor can taste depending on the other flavors/ingredients it is paired with? Ginger in Asian cuisine tastes completely different from the ginger flavor that we love and associate with Christmas...and yet it is so tasty in all of its forms. I'm really quite grateful for the variety and the different routes that each culture took flavor-wise.

When ginger comes into Christmas territory, it is quite often paired with molasses. Mmmm. What a wonderful combination!

Gingersnap Cookies


1/2 cup Oleo (80 percent vegetable oil margarine) or butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda (if you use 3 cups of flour instead of 2, increase the baking soda to 2 heaping teaspoons)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/3 cup mild-flavor molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour (for a more cakey cookie, add 3 cups flour)
1/4 cup coarse white, granulated, or colored sugar


In a large bowl, combine oleo (or butter) and shortening. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 3/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and molasses until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer (I have always been able to incorporate all of the flour with a mixer, whether I used 2 cups or 3 cups of flour). Cover and chill for 2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the 1/4 cup coarse sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven about 10 minutes or until tops are crackled and edges are firm. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. Makes about 50 cookies.

To store: layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Source: I found this recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website. You can find it here.

Notes: I searched out this recipe because my next door neighbor treated us to some of the best ever homemade gingersnaps when we moved into our house. I begged them for the recipe and all they would say was that it was a Better Homes and Gardens recipe. So, I searched their site and this is what I found. The taste was right on...but the texture was different from the ones they gave us. This recipe, as written, makes flat, soft, and chewy cookies. However, the cookies my neighbors gave us were cakey. So, I made the recipe as written a few times. They are delicious just like that. However, if you want them to be more cakey, add 3 cups of flour instead of 2 and add two heaping teaspoons of baking soda. Those two changes made the cookies almost identical to the ones I remembered our neighbors bringing to us. These are sooooo good!

Granny's Gingerbread Cake with Caramel Sauce


9 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water

Caramel Sauce:

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream, optional


In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with water.

Transfer to a greased 9-inch square baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack.

For caramel sauce, in a small saucepan, combine brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in butter and vanilla until smooth. Serve with warm cake. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Yield: 9 servings.

Source: This is a Taste of Home recipe. You can find it here.          

Notes: I didn't try the caramel sauce this year. I thought the whipped cream would be enough, and while I had all of the ingredients for the sauce, I felt like I had cooked with enough butter over the Christmas season so far. :) Gingerbread cake with whipped cream is one of my all-time favorite desserts. If whipped cream is a little too rich for you, just dust your gingerbread cake with some powdered sugar. This is a yummy, easy, and foolproof recipe.


A New Year, a New Batch of Soups!

I can never get enough of Mexican chicken soups. The supply never ends because there are soooo many recipes and versions out there to try!

Here are two that I tried this year. Yum!

Six Can Chicken Tortilla Soup


1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (10 ounce) can chunk chicken, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers, drained


Open the cans of corn, chicken broth, chunk chicken, black beans, and diced tomatoes with green chiles. Pour everything into a large saucepan or stock pot. Simmer over medium heat until chicken is heated through.

Source: submitted by Terryn. You can find the recipe here.

Notes: I didn't have diced tomatoes with green chile mine turned out to be Seven Can Chicken Tortilla Soup because I used one 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes and one 4 ounce can of diced green chiles. I also added 1 teaspoon of ground cumin.

This was surprisingly good. It was beyond easy and it tasted so fresh. You could use cooked and shredded chicken if you didn't have canned chunk chicken on hand. I literally tried this recipe because I had one can of chicken hanging around my pantry that I didn't know what to do with. It tasted great.

I also didn't simmer this on a pot. I simply mixed it together and put it in a tupperware and popped it in the fridge. Then, we just microwaved individual portions for lunch throughout the week. Yum!

Enchilada Soup


2 cups chicken broth
1 can (19 oz) mild or hot red enchilada sauce
1 can (4.5 oz) chopped mild green chiles
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
1 bag (12 oz) frozen corn, thawed and drained
Shredded Mexican cheese blend, if desired
Chopped fresh cilantro, if desired
Crushed tortilla chips, if desired


Spray 4 to 5 quart slow cooker with cooking spray (or use slow cooker liner). In cooker, mix broth, enchilada sauce, and chiles. Place chicken into enchilada sauce mixture; spoon sauce over chicken.

Cover; cook on low heat setting 7-8 hours.

Remove chicken from cooker with slotted spoon. Stir beans and corn into mixture in slow cooker. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook 5-10 minutes longer. Meanwhile, shred chicken by pulling apart with two forks; return to slow cooker. Cook until thoroughly heated.

Top each serving with cheese, cilantro, and tortilla chips.

Nutrition information: Makes 6 servings. Each serving is 230 calories, 3 g fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 940 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 21 g protein.

Source: I found this one in my Pillsbury newsletter. You can find the original recipe here.

I'm Always Looking For Good Bread Recipes

I've already shared one of my most wonderful bread discoveries ever. You can find that post here. However, just because I found the perfect crusty bread recipe, it doesn't mean that I have given up on finding more great bread recipes.

Here's another great one I found recently. I hope you like it!

French Baguettes


1 cup water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast (or rapid rise yeast)
1 egg yorlk
1 tablespoon water


Place 1 cup water, bread flour, sugar, salt, and yeast into bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select Dough cycle, and press start.

When the cycle has completed, place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16x12 inch rectangle. Cut dough in half, creating two 8x12 inch rectangles. Roll up each half of dough tightly, beginning at 12 inch side, pounding out any air bubbles as you go. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; brush over tops of loaves.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

Source: submitted by Judy Taubert. You can find the original recipe here. Over 900 reviews and a 5 star rating.

Notes: I always, always double this recipe. So rather than making two small baguettes, I made two large loaves of French bread. So, all of the pictures you see are of the doubled recipe.

You don't need a bread machine to make this recipe either. Simply combine the water, yeast, and sugar, and allow to proof. Then add the salt and flour and knead until the dough is no longer sticky. Place in an oiled bowl and allow to rise according to the recipe instructions.

5/24/13 Update: This is the BEST French bread recipe. I will not ever need to find another. This is so easy, and it tastes so good. I LOVE it. It also makes for some fantastic sandwich bread. It tastes very similar to Subway's French bread rolls. It also makes some super awesome cinnamon toast. Practice makes perfect, and it gets easier to make each time. This bread is definitely worth it. Sooooo yummy!

Above: You can skip the egg wash, if you like. This is what your bread will look like without it. It still tastes great...the crust is a little less crispy though. Still fantastic, however!

Above: Did I mention that they make absolutely fantastic sandwiches?

When Two Worlds Collide...

I have said it before, but I will say it again...two of the easiest cuisines to recreate at home are Mexican and Italian.

Every now and then, you will find times when the two worlds collide...such as Mexican lasagna. I'm not going to share a Mexican lasagna recipe today.  Today, I am going to share a Mexican pasta recipe that I found originally on Pinterest. It is a recipe for Chicken Enchilada Pasta. I didn't know what I would think of the combination of a Mexican sauce with pasta, but I loved it.

This is a great recipe to make for a crowd. This recipe makes a TON of sauce. The sauce is so flavorful and trust me, this meal goes a long way!

Chicken Enchilada Pasta


2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 (10 oz.) cans green chili enchilada sauce
2/3 cups red enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cheese (such as Cheddar, or Colby and Monterrey Jack)
1 cup sour cream
Penne pasta, cooked and drained

Topping Options:

Diced avocado
Sliced green onions
Sliced black olives
Diced tomatoes
Sour cream
Shredded cheese


Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet, and cook onions for about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper and cook for another 3-5 minute. Add cooked and shredded chicken, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt, and enchilada sauces. Let sauce simmer for about 8-10 minutes.

Add cheese (I added 1 cup) and stir until the cheese is melted and heated through. Stir in the sour cream, but be careful not to bring the mixture to a boil after the sour cream has been added, or it will curdle. Stir well until the mixture is heated through.

Serve chicken enchilada sauce over penne pasta. Serve with favorite choice of toppings.

Source: As I mentioned, I found this recipe on Pinterest. I found it initially on a blog called Six Sisters Stuff. You can find that post here. They got it from a blog called Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour. You can find that post here.

Notes: I only added 1 cup of cheese to the sauce mixture because I felt that it would be enough. I then topped the pasta with a little additional cheese. I also added a whole can of red enchilada sauce instead of just 2/3 cup. As I said, this made a ton. My boys liked it, but with just the four of us, we had a lot of leftovers. I used them for quesadillas (tasty, but a little on the juicy side) and for some quick enchiladas. It worked perfectly as an enchilada filling and topping. So, if you prefer the more traditional route (rather than mixing your cuisines), add a little more shredded chicken and use it as an enchilada filling. I LOVED this. I just thought the flavor was so good.

Peter Piper Picked a Pepper...

Today, the pepper that was picked is...jalapeno!

My husband loves jalapenos. He especially loves jalapeno poppers. So, I keep my eyes open for some tasty jalapeno infused recipes.

Here are a couple I tried recently!

Jalapeno Popper Chicken (Original Recipe for 1 serving)


1/4 cup Fiber One Original Bran Cereal
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder
Dash cayenne pepper
One 5-oz raw boneless, skinless lean chicken breast cutlet, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
Dash each salt and pepper
1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss Cheese
1 1/2 tbsp. chopped jarred jalapeno slices (about 6 slices)
1 tbsp. fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters Original)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

Place cereal in a sealable plastic bag and, removing as much air as possible, seal. Using a meat mallet (or other heavy utensil), carefully crush cereal to a breadcrumb-like consistency through the bag. Add garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper, and shake to mix. Set aside.

Place chicken cutlet flat on a clean and dry surface; season with salt and black pepper. Spread the upward facing side with cheese and evenly top with chopped jalapeno. Carefully roll up the cutlet over the filling. If needed, secure with toothpicks. Lightly cover all exposed areas of the chicken with egg substitute. Using your fingers or a spoon, evenly coat with breadcrumb mixture.

Place chicken roll in the baking pan. Cover the pan with foil, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Carefully remove foil and return pan to the oven, uncovered, to bake until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Let cool slightly. Remove toothpicks (if using), and dig in!

Makes 1 serving.

Source: I found this recipe in a Hungry Girl newsletter. You can go here to sign up for this daily newsletter.

Jalapeno Popper Chicken (My revised recipe for 4 servings)


1 1/2 cups Fiber One Original Bran Cereal
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Four raw boneless, skinless lean chicken breast cutlets, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped jarred jalapeno slices
1 egg, or 1/4 cup egg substitute, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

Place cereal in a sealable plastic bag and, removing as much air as possible, seal. Using a meat mallet (or other heavy utensil), carefully crush cereal to a breadcrumb-like consistency through the bag. Add garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper, and shake to mix. Set aside. You can also use a blender or food processor to crush the cereal.

Place chicken cutlets flat on a clean and dry surface; season with salt and black pepper. Mix cream cheese and chopped jalapeno peppers together in a small bowl. Dividing the cream cheese/jalapeno mixture into four portions, spread the upward facing side of each piece of chicken with cream cheese/jalapeno mixture. Carefully roll up the cutlet over the filling. If needed, secure with toothpicks (highly recommended). Lightly cover all exposed areas of the chicken with egg substitute, optional. Using your fingers or a spoon, evenly coat with breadcrumb mixture.

Place chicken rolls in the baking pan. Cover the pan with foil, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Carefully remove foil and return pan to the oven, uncovered, to bake until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Let cool slightly. Remove toothpicks (if using), and dig in!

Notes: When I made this, I had cream cheese on hand, but not the Laughing Cow Swiss cheese. I know it doesn't keep things as light as the Hungry Girl version, but since jalapeno poppers are traditionally made with cream cheese, I used it here for this recipe.

I would highly suggest crushing the cereal with a food processor or blender because it is not easy to crush it easily with a rolling pin or meat mallet! I also increased the amount of Fiber One crumbs because I hate it when you are using the dregs to coat that last piece of chicken! I would rather have too much of the bread crumb mixture and throw a little out than have not enough.

This was really good!

Jalapeno Chicken


1 tablespoon 40%-less sodium taco seasoning
4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers (Pepper Jack Cheese)
2 tablespoons sliced jalapeno peppers


Sprinkle taco seasoning over both sides of chicken.

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Coat chicken with cooking spray.

Add chicken to pan, and cook 7 minutes or each side or until chicken is done.

Remove chicken from heat; sprinkle with cheese. Cover and let stand 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese melts. Garnish with jalapeno slices, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half)

Nutrition information: 186 calories, 6 g fat, 29.7 g protein, 1.8 g carb, 0 g fiber, 81 mg cholesterol, 0.8 mg iron, 294 mg sodium, 114 mg calcium.

Source: Cooking Light Superfast Suppers cookbook. ISBN 0-8487-2628-6.

Notes: This was easy and delicious. If you don't have taco seasoning on hand, you could sprinkle the chicken with some ground cumin, a little chili powder, or a Mexican mixture of your own.

Mexican Monkey Bread


1 can (16.3 oz) refrigerated biscuits, quartered
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup drained canned sliced jalapeno peppers
3/4 tsp. parsley flakes
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Dip 1/3 of the biscuit pieces in butter; place in prepared pan. Top with 1/2 cup Cheddar, 1/4 cup peppers, and 1/4 tsp parsley; repeat layers.

Cover with remaining dipped biscuit pieces, peppers, and parsley; top with combined mozzarella and remaining Cheddar.

Bake 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes. Invert bread onto plate; remove pan. Serve bread warm.

Recipe notes: Substitute any flavor shredded cheese for the Cheddar and mozzarella.

8 servings.

Nutrition information: 1 serving equals 300 calories, 18 g fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 950 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 9 g protein

Source: Kraft recipe found here            

A Taste of Summer in the Cold of Winter

Don't you just miss garden tomatoes in the middle of winter? Tomatoes from the store never quite compare with the ones you can grow on the vine...but when it is this cold outside, you will take whatever you can get, right?

So, buy some tomatoes and remember the warmer days...

Marinated Tomatoes with Lemon and Summer Savory


3 tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried savory
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced


Place the tomato wedges in a medium bowl.

Combine lemon juice and remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Pour dressing over tomatoes; toss gently to coat. Let stand 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve with a slotted spoon.

4 servings (1 serving equals 1/2 cup)

Nutrition information: 40 calories, 1.4 g fat, 1.1 g protein, 7.1 g carbohydrate, 1.5 g fiber, 0.0 mg cholesterol, 0.4 mg iron, 153 mg sodium, 16 mg calcium

Source: Cooking Light, May 2005. You can find it online here.

Notes: I had never tried savory before this. It pairs beautifully with the tomatoes. This is a quick, easy, and tasty side dish.

Beefsteak Tomato Salad


3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes
Coarse salt and ground pepper


In a small bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar and olive oil; stir in shallot and capers.

Core tomatoes; cut each into 8 wedges and place in a serving bowl. Drizzle with dressing, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Source: Martha Stewart, July/August 2005 Everyday Food Magazine. Recipe can be found here.

Easy "Baked" Tomatoes


4 tomatoes, halved crosswise
1/4 cup Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
1/4 cup Kraft grated Parmesan cheese


Heat grill to medium heat.

Place tomatoes, cut-sides up, in disposable foil pan. Drizzle with dressing; sprinkle with cheese.

Place pan on grill grate; cover with lid.

Grill 15 minutes, or until tomatoes are softened and cheese is lightly browned.

Oven Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place tomato halves, cut-sides up, in 13x9-inch baking dish. Top with dressing and cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and cheese is lightly browned.

Recipe notes: You can sprinkle 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or parsley before grilling as directed. Prepare using Kraft sun-dried tomato vinaigrette dressing.

Source:, recipe found here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Meat and Potatoes

You never have to go with "same old, same old." Even with meat and potatoes. There's always a way to change it up and make it unique. Check out these recipes as proof!

Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin


2 tablespoons steak seasoning rub (we used Spade-L)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 pounds boneless pork loin roast


Dissolve steak seasoning in balsamic vinegar, then stir in olive oil. Place pork into a resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over top. Squeeze out air and seal bag; marinate 2 hours to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place pork into a glass baking dish along with marinade. Bake in preheated oven, basting occasionally, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, about 1 hour. Let the roast rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sources:, submitted by Melissa S. Recipe found here.

Notes: The sauce is what really makes this pork roast special. Do not skip serving it with your pork! You can even thicken it with a little cornstarch, if you like to make it more of a gravy than just a pan sauce.

Bacon and Maple Scalloped Potatoes


1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 oz (1/2 of an 8 oz package) Philadelphia cream cheese, cubed
1 1/4 cups fat-free reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
3 slices fully cooked bacon, chopped
1/4 cup maple-flavored or pancake syrup
2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes (about 6), cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook onions in large skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender, stirring frequently. Remove onions from skillet.

Add cream cheese, broth, and milk to skillet; cook and stir on medium-low heat 5 minutes, or until cream cheese is melted and mixture is well blended. Remove from heat; stir in bacon and syrup.

Place half the potatoes in 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; cover with layers of onions and shredded cheese. Top with remaining potatoes and cream cheese sauce; cover.

Bake 1 hour 5 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and top is golden brown, uncovering after 50 minutes.

Makes 8 servings of about 1 cup each.

Nutrition information: 240 calories, 11 g fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 3 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar, 8 g protein.

Source:, found here.

Notes: Everyone really liked this, but the guys in our family, particularly, raved about this and went back for seconds, and thirds.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

To Be or Not to Be Vegetarian...

I could never go completely without meat. However, I do enjoy a meatless dinner from time to time (at least one to two times a week). It's a great way to save on groceries and to save a few calories as well.

The recipe I am going to share is originally meat-free. However, I doubled it and added some shredded cooked meat to the second portion just to see what I thought. I liked both versions equally well. My husband, of course, preferred the version with the meat. So, this dinner can go either way. If you want to use up some of your Mexican shredded pork, beef, or chicken that is just sitting there in the freezer, go for it! Or, if you want to go the cheaper, lighter route, skip the meat. Either way, this is easy and yummy.

I'll include my changes in the notes since this recipe was originally made for only three servings--which is an odd amount, so I changed things a little bit.

Santa Fe Foldover (Original Cooking for 2 Recipe)


1 cup Bisquick Heart Smart mix
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 cup very hot water
1 cup canned no-salt-added black beans, drained, rinsed
1/3 cup Old El Paso Thick 'n Chunky salsa
2 tablespoons sliced green onions (2 medium)
1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend (1 oz)
1/2 cup shredded lettuce
1/3 cup chopped tomato
3 tablespoons fat-free sour cream


Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 12-inch pizza pan with cooking spray.

In small bowl, stir Bisquick mix, cornmeal, and very hot water until soft dough forms. Place on surface sprinkled with Bisquick mix, gently rolling to coat. Shape into ball; knead about 5 times or until smooth. Roll dough into 10-inch circle. Fold into fourths. Unfold on pizza pan. In small bowl, stir together beans and salsa; spread over dough to within 2 inches of edge. Sprinkle with onions. Fold edge over. Sprinkle cheese over beans.

Bake 25-28 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Top with remaining ingredients.

Nutrition information: 300 calories, 5 g fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 640 mg sodium, 53 g carb, 6 g fiber, 11 g protein.

Source: Betty Crocker, recipe found here.      

Santa Fe Foldover (My changes)


2 cups Bisquick mix
4 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 cup very hot water
1 can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 cup shredded meat (leftover Mexican flavored pork, chicken, or beef, warmed)
1 cup Old El Paso Thick 'n Chunky salsa
4 tablespoons sliced green onions (4 medium)
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend (1 oz)
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped tomato
Sour cream


Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray two pie plates with cooking spray.

In small bowl, stir Bisquick mix, cornmeal, and very hot water until soft dough forms. Place on surface sprinkled with Bisquick mix, gently rolling to coat. Shape into ball; knead about 5 times or until smooth. Divide roll in half. Roll each dough into 10-inch circle. Fold into fourths. Unfold on pie plate. In small bowl, stir together beans and salsa; spread over both circles of dough to within 2 inches of edge. Top one circle with shredded meat. Sprinkle both with onions. Fold edges over. Sprinkle cheese over beans and meat.

Bake 25-28 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Top with remaining ingredients.

Nutrition information: 300 calories, 5 g fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 640 mg sodium, 53 g carb, 6 g fiber, 11 g protein.

Source: Based on the Betty Crocker, recipe originally found here.    

Notes: I would say that each foldover serves 4 people--unless you have no side dishes, then each foldover will serve 3 people. 


Long Overdue Garden Post

My garden didn't yield much, but I was able to reap the benefits of my Mom's garden--especially the zucchini!

We found many good zucchini recipes. Here are two fun side dishes we discovered.

Zucchini with Corn and Cilantro

Use this vegetable medley as a fresh substitute for salsa or guacamole salad on a Tex-Mex fiesta plate.


1 teaspoon olive oil
3 1/2 cups cubed zucchini (about 1 pound)
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and corn; cook, stirring occasionally, 7 to 8 minutes or until zucchini is crisp-tender.

Remove from heat, and stir in cilantro and remaining ingredients. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup)

Nutrition information: 62 calories, 1.6 g fat, 2.6 g protein, 12 g carb, 2.4 g fiber, 0 mg chol, 0.7 mg iron, 152 mg sodium, 19 mg calc.

Source: Cooking Light Superfast Suppers cookbook, ISBN: 0-8487-2628-6.

Notes: This was soooo good. I added a little more lime juice, to my taste. What a great and easy side dish find!

Oven-Braised Zucchini in Olive Oil


2 lbs. zucchini
4 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (we used fresh tomatoes)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and coat a 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Trim the ends from the zucchini, quarter them lengthwise, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch chunks. Place in a large bowl, then add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and a few generous grinds of black pepper.

Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together in a small bowl, then add to the zucchini mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 20 minutes, remove the foil, stir, and return to the oven uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and serve family style. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Source: My Gourmet Connection, recipe found here.

Notes: Holy cow, this stuff is so good. I was surprised at how much I loved it. I just kept going back for more. The fresh tomatoes (garden tomatoes, in this case) worked beautifully. It's nice to know that you can still make this even if you don't have sun-dried tomatoes on hand.

The Other Holiday Weekend

I think we have posted enough things on here that would lead you to the conclusion that we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I mean, my sisters and I all attended BYU, and my Mom attended LDS Business College.

So, when I speak about the "other holiday weekend," I am actually referring to two--conference weekend which takes place the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October. At that time, we watch four sessions of General Conference (five, if you are a man) where we are able to listen to the Prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as well as our apostles.

We always have Sunday dinner at my Mom's house on conference weekend--and at that particular dinner, there are a lot of us to feed. So, my Mom likes to turn to an easy dinner for that night. The sides tend to change a little (with the exception of funeral potatoes which are a must), but we've found that one of our old favorite recipes works very well for the main course. It is very tasty and I hope this recipe comes in handy for you too!

Parmesan Yogurt Chicken


1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
1 1/2 Tbsp. Parmesan
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
8 boneless, skinless chicken halves
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup melted margarine


Combine Ritz cracker crumbs, Parmesan, garlic salt, and seasoning salt. Beat the plain yogurt in a small bowl until smooth.  Coat chicken in yogurt, then coat the chicken in the crumb mixture. Arrange in buttered baking dish. Drizzle 1/4 cup melted margarine over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Source: This is a recipe that we have had for as long as I can remember. I have no idea where my Mom found it.

Notes: Mmmm. This is good. No changes necessary--except that you might want to double it or triple it to feed that conference crowd!

Oh, and don't forget the Funeral Potatoes! Here's our recipe.

One of My Mom's Favorite Flavors

When I am searching for recipes, I keep an eye out for the different favorites of my family members. If I find recipes for quinoa, beets, squash, or yummy soups, I send them on to my sister, Laurie. Eggnog, macarons, creme brulee, fondue, and great main dish finds that don't have onions in them go to my sister, Emily. One of the things that makes me take note for my Mom are recipes that have chipotle in them. My Mom is definitely a fan of chipotle.

So, below, you will find a fun chipotle potato salad recipe that I found, sent to my Mom, and we all got to try on one of our Sunday dinners.

Chipotle Potato Salad


2 pounds small red potatoes
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 ribs celery, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced seeded chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2-1 cup sour cream, optional (see notes below)


Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add 1 tbsp. salt, bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes (poke with tip of a knife to check). Drain potatoes. when cool enough to handle, cut each potato into quarters and transfer to a large bowl.

Sprinkle warm potatoes with vinegar and let stand 10 minutes. Add celery, scallions, chipotles, and parsley; stir to combine. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Serve at room temperature.

Source: This is an All You recipe found on You can find it here.

Notes: This is a potato salad that is pretty spicy. It definitely has a lot of kick. In order to tone it down for the kiddies, I stirred in a little sour cream to calm the heat of the chipotles. For me, it was hard to say how I liked it better. The recipe, as written, is fun and spicy. However, if you add sour cream to it, it isn't nearly as hot, but you still get the flavor of the chipotle paired with the creaminess of sour cream.

Lazy Days

Sometimes you just don't have the energy to cook. You want something easy and healthy to what to make?

I found this new alternative for a quick and easy meal. Fried rice. Why should it only be a side dish? Huh? It's a great way to use up leftover rice (in fact, fried rice works better with leftover rice than with freshly made rice).

It hit the spot for me. It was easy and it was a fun and different way to use up my leftovers.

Ham-and-Egg Fried Rice


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 thick slice ham (8 ounces), cut into 1/4-by-1-inch strips
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, separated and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/4 cups cooked white rice, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 large eggs


In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add ham, scallion whites, garlic, and ginger; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

Add rice, scallion greens, vinegar, and soy sauce. Cook, stirring, until heated through, 2 to 4 minutes. Divide fried rice among four serving bowls.

Wipe out skillet with a paper towel. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. gently crack eggs into skillet; season with salt, and cook until whites are set, 2 to 4 minutes. Top each bowl of rice with a fried egg.

Source: Everyday Food recipe, published April 2009. You can find it here

Notes: Here are the changes I made: I used sliced Canadian bacon instead of thick sliced ham. I also added broccoli and peas. You could definitely add diced cooked carrots, or snow peas, or a ton of other favorite vegetables. I also scrambled my eggs. I added them separately, however, because my youngest son is allergic to eggs. So, I just topped everyone else's portion with some scrambled egg and left his egg-free.

Above: January 2014 update: I made this for our New Year's Eve dinner (along with some store-bought frozen Chinese dishes). My youngest son has grown out of his egg allergy, so we just mixed the scrambled egg right in. This time, we opted to use diced Canadian bacon, diced carrots, and frozen peas. It was really yummy!