Thursday, December 31, 2009

Doughnut Recipe

(Recipe yields 1 dozen doughnuts)

My kids were craving Krispy Kreme doughnuts, so rather than spend a lot of money, I scoured the internet for a great doughnut recipe. I had tried the copy cat Krispy Kreme recipe on Recipezaar, in the past, and I was going to use it if I couldn’t find anything better. But, like most of the people, I thought that recipe was a little too bready. Then I came across a site advertising “The Secret Donut Recipe” by Brad Flickinger located at . Secret Donut Recipe This recipe is the best for homemade doughnuts that I have ever come across. They are not bready. They taste as close to bakery version as possible. The texture was excellent – not to mention the taste. I felt that the only thing I would change is they could have been a little sweeter. I don’t know if using 2% milk versus whole milk may have been the cause for this or not. I think next time instead of ¼ cup of sugar I might try ½ cup. But, regardless, Brad’s recipe was very detailed and he was right on about the cooking temp. They turned out great. I also tried his glazes, both the vanilla glaze and chocolate glaze. I definitely will be making this again, but I might try making eclairs or jelly donuts next time, too.

Brad’s recipe calls for very few ingredients, most of which you already have at home. One unusual ingredient, and this almost made me change my mind about making these doughnuts, was the use of ½ cup mashed potato. But, I couldn’t even tell it was in the dough. Also, by cooking it in the microwave, this recipe is quick, easy, and delicous. I have to give Brad a huge “Thank You” for coming up with this recipe.


1 cup warm milk (not hot)
2 packages yeast
2 cups of flour (and extra for kneading and rolling dough with)
½ cup of mashed potatoes
½ tsp salt
¼ cup of sugar
dash of sugar for yeast mixture
2 Tbs cooking oil


Microwave a decent sized potato which will yield ½ cup when mashed. I cooked mine for 10 minutes – flipping it after 5 minutes. The skin just peeled right off. Then mashed it well and placed it in a measuring cup. Set it aside - you will mix this in with the dry ingredients.
Microwave 1 cup of milk until it is warm, not hot and combine with 2 packages yeast, and a dash of sugar. Let this sit for about 5 minutes until bubbly while you get the dry ingredients ready. In a large bowl, combine the 2 cups of flour, salt, sugar, and mashed potatoes. Mix the dough well. Add the yeast and milk mixture and more flour to form a nice dough. Next, you can move it to a flour board for kneading (I just kneaded mine in the bowl, but you will have to add additional flour because it is very wet and sticky. Keep kneading and adding flour until it resembles regular dough. If you come across any potatoe lumps, use your fingers and they will combine with the dough. I didn’t have much trouble getting the lumps out as I kneaded it. I did a taste test at this point and couldn’t even tell it had potato in the recipe.
Roll the dough out to ½” thickness and using a biscuit cutter or a large glass (which is what I did) cut doughnuts out. Then I used a pill bottle lid for the center, cut small doughnut holes out of those doughnuts. I floured a cookie sheet and set the doughnuts on that. Leave them alone for 10 minutes. Brad’s recipe indicates that you should let your oil heat up while doing this. I agree. You need the temp to be 360 degrees and this will be at Medium High. It will take 5 minutes for the oil to reach that temperature.
When frying the donuts, start with the little doughnut holes first, that way you can make sure the temperature is right. They should take about 1 minute to turn golden brown.

Don’t just plop them in the oil or you may get splashed with hot oil. When frying, try to get as close to the surface and let them slide in the oil. This will avoid splashing hot oil everywhere. Fry the doughnuts on both sides until lightly golden. This will take just a minute or two. After frying the doughnuts, place on a paper towel. Then dip each one in the glaze of your choice. I had my son do the dipping while I did the frying. You may need help here, too.

Now for the glaze recipes.

Heat ½ cup of milk with 1 Tbs butter for both glazes until warm.

Vanilla Glaze

In a bowl mix:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs of milk & butter mixture (above)
¼ tsp of lemon juice (optional – I left this out)
¼ tsp of vanilla extract

If you need a thinner glaze, add more milk mixture.

Chocolate Glaze

In a bowl mix:

1 cup of powdered sugar
2 Tbsp of Hersheys Unsweetened Cocoa
3 Tbsp of the milk and butter mixture mentioned above

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Beef and Cornbread Shepherd’s Pie Casserole

This recipe can be topped with cornbread or mashed potatoes.  It is a great way to use up those left-over mashed potatoes.  While you are preparing the meat mixture, you can roast your peppers in the oven.  The smell of the roasted peppers will drive everyone in the household hungry.  For this recipe, I use 1 red bell pepper, 1 poblano, and 2 jalapenos.  When I use cornbread for the top, I prefer the Martha White pre-packaged “Sweet Yellow” cornbread mix.  I like it, not only because of the flavor, but because I only have to add milk and egg and stir.  No sifting or measuring of ingredients with the exception of the milk. Only one package of cornbread mix should be used here, I made it one time using two packages and it came out too dry for our tastes. If you make your own cornbread, you may need to adjust the sauce with flour and water to make a gravy so the dish is not too dry. Also, you can add vegetables to this meat mixture sauce.  Mushrooms, green beans, hominy, almost any vegetable would work.  This recipe can be made without the vegetables, too, but I encourage everyone to try the roasted peppers.  They are the key ingredient for this dish. The meat mixture can be topped with either prepared corn bread mix or mashed potatoes.  Whichever you choose, I hope you enjoy this recipe.


1 lb ground beef
1-2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce or tomato puree (your preference)
1 red bell pepper
1 poblano pepper
2 jalapeno peppers
1 15 oz can whole kernel corn drained (optional)
1 15 oz can pinto or black beans (optional)
½ cup of pre-shredded cheddar cheese (optional – for the cornbread)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ - 1 tsp garlic powder
1 pkg Martha White "Sweet Yellow" cornbread mix
1/2 cup milk
1 egg


If you have a large cast iron skillet, you can prepare the whole meal in it.  If you don’t, you will need to start off preparing the meat on the stove top in a large skillet and then after preparing the sauce, place in a baking dish like a casserole dish prior to topping it with the mashed potatoes or cornbread mixture (whichever you are making).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place your peppers on a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil. Place them in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  I like to remove the seeds and slice them in half prior to roasting them. Either way will work, you will need to remove the seeds and the skin after roasting.

Meanwhile, brown your ground beef in the skillet. Do not season until it is done.  Drain off the fat.  After draining the fat, season your meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add 1-2 Tbsp of tomato paste to the meat and combine well.  Add your tomato sauce, corn and beans.  Chop your peppers and add as well.  Remove any seeds and skin. Turn to low or turn heat off after it is ready while preparing the topping (your mashed potatoes or cornbread mixture).

For Cornbread version of this recipe:

Preheat the oven for 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, prepare the cornbread mix per the manufacturer’s directions. For additional flavor, you can add ½ cup of pre-shredded cheddar cheese and 1 Tbsp of chopped jalapeno and 1 Tbsp chopped red bell pepper. After the sauce has cooked, move the sauce to a baking dish (if not using a cast iron skillet) and dab or spread the prepared cornbread batter over the top.  Bake the casserole for 17-20 minutes, or until the cornbread turns a light golden brown on top.

For mashed potatoes version:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Using left-over mashed potatoes, after the meat sauce has cooked, transfer the sauce to an oven friendly dish (if not using cast-iron skillet).  Spread the mashed potatoes over the top.  Do not add cheese until this is done baking or the cheese will burn.  Cover with foil. Bake for 17-20 minutes. Remove from oven.  Remove foil and add ½ cup of shredded cheese over the top and insert under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the cheese melts.

Recipe for mashed potatoes:

I don’t know anyone other than my daughters who probably don’t know how to cook these, but I am posting this for them.


4-6 medium potatoes
1 tsp salt
water (enough to cover potatoes)
¼ - ½ cup of milk
2 Tbsp butter

Wash, peel, and slice the potatoes into ¼ inch slices.  Place in a 4-quart sauce pan and cover with water.  Add salt.  Cook on high until it begins to boil – I usually place a lid on top to speed up the process, after it boils, turn heat down to Medium-high and take the lid off.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes until they are tender when stabbed with a fork or knife. When they get to this point, it is important to turn the heat down to low or remove them from the fire, over-cooked potatoes will make a sticky gluey mashed potatoes otherwise.  So drain them.  Using a electric mixer, mix them with the milk and butter.  Adjust the taste by adding more salt if necessary or more butter or milk.  Serve immediately. You can also mash them using a hand mixer or potato masher, but I usually make mine with the electric mixer.

Store any left-overs in the refrigerator or freezer and thaw and use for the recipe above.

Pizza Recipe

My sons wanted me to blog about this recipe. To them it tasted like real restaurant style pizza. I just make this often, to avoid the high cost of eating out. I like to keep a lot of these ingredients on hand like the pepperoni and canadian bacon and sausage can be kept in your freezer until ready to use. I usually have the cheese and tomato sauce on hand because I use them frequently in other recipes like chicken alfredo, or my other recipes that we eat often. The tomato sauce is very forgiving. I didn’t have my usual tomato sauce, but I found a can of diced tomatoes in the pantry. I pureed them using my blender. I still had a little tomato paste in the frig, so it all worked out well, they actually like the sauce better that way. I used to make my dough using the Pioneer or Martha White (I can’t remember the actual brand name) packages at the store. You’ll find these located next to the Italian sauces like Prego in the grocery store. And for this recipe, you can do so as well. Just follow the directions on the package. My recipe for the dough is similar in that you bake the pizza in a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes prior to topping it. I think this makes the whole pizza cook faster. You also need to use warm water to activate the yeast. We love how the crust comes out. I include a garlic butter sauce that I use. We love garlic bread, and this gives the pizza extra flavor. This pizza will cook quick. So please turn the temp down from 450 to 425 or 400 when baking it. I left it at 450 once, and it looked like it was ready in 11 minutes, but since my husband used to make pizzas in the past, I know they should bake as close to 20 minutes as possible. That way all the meat toppings are cooked properly.

Garlic-butter Ingredients (for crust) – enough for 2 large pizzas

½ stick of butter (4 tbsp)
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ - ½ tsp dried oregano
¼ - ½ tsp dried basil

Sauce Ingredients – makes enough for 2 large pizzas

1-2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 small can tomato sauce
1-2 tsp sugar
garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil

Dough Ingredients – makes 1 pizza (double recipe to make 2 large)

1 pkg yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
2 cups flour
1-1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Topping Ingredients – enough for 2 large pizzas

1 pkg sliced pepperoni
1 pkg canadian bacon
1 pkg jimmy dean sausage
4-6 oz of uncooked ground beef
1 pkg Italian blend pre-shredded cheese (contains parmesan, romano, asiago, etc)
1 pkg Mozzerella pre-shredded cheese (8 oz minimum)
1 pkg portabella mushrooms
1 small can sliced black olives


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine your yeast with warm water and 1 tsp sugar and let it set for 10-15 minutes. After the yeast is bubbly, add or sift in the flour and salt. Keep extra flour on hand so it doesn’t stick to your fingers. Work this into a dough. On a floured board, roll out the dough. First, form into a large ball, try to roll this into a perfect circle. Grease a cookie sheet and lay the pizza onto the cookie sheet. Prick the crust surface with a fork. Place in the oven for 5 minutes.

If making two pizzas, repeat the above steps. I believe the dough recipe is only enough for 1 pizza and you need to double it to make 2 large pizzas.
Prepare your garlic-butter sauce. In a small container (I use my small liquid measuring cup) melt ½ stick butter and add the seasonings and combine. Using a baster or a rubber spatula, spread this onto the pizza after removing it from the oven. By using the measuring cup, you can actually drizzle the butter onto the crust and spread with the spatula or brush. Also, stir frequently (the garlic tends to sink to the bottom) to ensure that you get an even spread on the garlic flavor. You can use minced garlic instead, but you still will have to stir frequently because the garlic sinks to the bottom. I am guessing at the amount of garlic, too. I usually eyeball my seasonings and don’t measure them. So you may need to add more garlic. Stir and do a taste test with your finger. Avoid using garlic salt. It will make it taste too salty.

Prepare the tomato sauce by combining all the ingredients for the sauce. Taste it and adjust for salt and seasonings. The secret is using a little sugar – it takes the bitterness out. My husband used to make pizzas when he was younger, and I remember him telling me what the secret was, also adding a little tomato paste instead of just using a can of sauce helps to make a thicker sauce. Spread the sauce over the crust after you finish spreading the garlic-butter sauce.

Top the pizza: For a meaty pizza, use pre-sliced pepperoni, canadian bacon, raw ground meat (dab very small amounts all over the crust), the same with the sausage (dab very small amounts – raw or uncooked), sliced mushrooms, black olives, etc. Sprinkle the Italian blend cheese first and lastly, top with the mozzerella cheese. For cheese pizzas, skip the meat and just top with cheese. The sky is the limit. Toppings can be whatever you desire. We cook the meaty version so much, so I am using that as an example here.

Bake this in the oven at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. If making two pizzas, alternate them on the cooking rack so the crusts bake the same half way during the cooking process. The pizza is done when the crust turns a light golden brown and the cheese has melted completely especially in the center and starts taking on a golden tone. Oven times may vary. You want the pizza to cook as close to 20 minutes as possible, so you may need to adjust the heat to accomplish this. That ensures that the meat is fully cooked. You shouldn’t need to turn the heat lower than 400 degrees F. It needs to be hot for the crust to bake right.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Baja Sauce for Spicy Tacos

My son loves Taco Bell.  He had me taste his taco with the baja sauce, and I had to agree, it was delicious.  So I searched around for a recipe that we could make at home. By combining red bell pepper and jalapenos makes for a really spicy sauce for your tacos. I had to make adjustments to the recipe I found because I could taste the mayonnaise.  So I increased the red bell pepper and jalapeno and roasted them in the oven first. Feel free to use this sauce on other things like quesadillas and even as a salad dressing.


1 red bell pepper
2 jalapenos
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. White wine vinegar
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
¼  tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1-2 Tbsp. of olive oil


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place your bell pepper and jalapenos on a cookie sheet with a drizzle of olive oil. Place them in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  Remove them and place them in a bowl, cover with seran wrap, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.  This makes it easy to peel off the skin.

Remove them from the refrigerator.  Peel off the outer thin skin.  Using a small paring knife, slice around the stem and remove the seeds from the inside by using a spoon or knife.  Chop them into small pieces and place them in your food processor or blender.  Puree them until smooth.

In a separate bowl, place 1 cup of mayonnaise.  Add the puree of peppers and the seasonings to the mayonnaise and mix well.  You need to refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours for the flavors to meld together.  The longer you wait the better.  We waited 6-8 hours for ours.

Serve as a taco sauce.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chicken Fried Steak

It had been awhile since we had a steak dinner because of my husband’s problems with his dentures.  He usually doesn’t wear them because they are painful.  This steak was so delicious that even he managed to eat it though.  I served them with a creamy white gravy (recipe below) along with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.

In the past, when making the breading, I used to dip the steaks in buttermilk and 2% milk.  I accidently discovered a secret ingredient when I ran out of buttermilk and didn’t want to run to the store.  I found that by mixing 2 tablespoons of Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing in my milk and egg mixture that it gave it the sourness similar to buttermilk, but that it tasted even better. So now, even if I use the buttermilk and regular milk, I will always add the salad dressing in there too.  This goes for fried chicken, fried fish, fried okra, anything that I need to bread and fry up.  I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.


2-3 lbs of Cubed Steak (round steak that has already been tenderized)
½ cup Buttermilk (optional)
2 cups 2% or whole milk
2 eggs
2 Tbsp Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing (in the bottle – already prepared)
2 – 3 cups of flour
1 –1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon of black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper seasoning
½ teaspoon ground paprika (optional)
Cooking oil


In a large skillet, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, but not so that the steaks are covered on top, allow the tops to stick up out of the hot oil. I’ve never measured my oil, I just eyeball it.  Probably about a cup or so. Heat this on a high setting.  You want it to be hot, but not too hot.  I cook my steaks 5-6 minutes on each side.  I have to play with the heat.  I get it really hot and then most of the cooking is done on medium-high setting.
You can let it heat up while you are working on the breading. So you may want to set it at medium-high. I have to warn you though, if you don’t have it hot enough when you cook your steaks, the breading will fall off and it won’t come out right. You can test the oil by putting a very, very, small drop of water in it, if it sizzles it is hot enough. I’ve gotten to wear I check it by placing my hand over it, I can tell if it is hot enough.  Be very careful either way. If it’s smoking or sputtering, it’s way too hot, get that skillet off the burner and let it cool off!

You need two large bowls.  One to put your egg and milk mixture in, the other to put your dry ingredients like flour, salt, and seasonings in. In one large bowl, combine the milk, buttermilk, salad dressing, and eggs.  Sometimes I add a little salt and pepper to this as well, that is up to you.  Using a whisk, mix them up together.  In another bowl, combine your flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder and mix to combine well.  You will need a platter to set your breaded steaks on as you prepare them.

I like to use the cubed steaks that come in a family pack already cut in serving sizes and tenderized.  So take a steak and dredge it in the flour mixture first.  Then shake a little excess flour off and dredge it in the milk mixture.  Now back into the flour mixture making sure you let any excess egg & milk mixture drip off into the milk mixture before doing this. Otherwise your flour will clump up – you want your flour to be loose.  Make sure both sides are coated well.  Place on a platter.  When you have done 3-4 (enough to fit in your skillet) stop breading and place them in your skillet.  You need to time them.  If you over cook these, they will be tough and hard to chew.  You want a nice golden crispy coat before you turn them over.  This will take about 5-6 minutes.  Once you have cooked them on each side, I usually place mine on a cookie sheet in the oven on a low setting like 250 F while I finish the others.

These steaks are so tender that if you let them soak too long in the milk mixture, they will fall apart.  However, if you want to go ahead and bread all of your steaks at one time, you should refrigerate them while you cook the others.  I noticed on food network that cooks that left their breaded foods too long at room temperature, would have trouble keeping the breading on when they fried them.  So put them on a platter that can be refrigerated if you do this. Basically I think there are two causes for the breading not to stay on – one is not having the oil hot enough when you fry them, two is what I just said, leaving them at room temperature too long.

These steaks taste great with creamy white gravy.  I posted this gravy recipe before, but I will include it below.  My gravy tastes better without buttermilk.  I have tried to make it on more than one occasion – reducing the buttermilk, but it is just too sour for my tastes.  Feel free to add buttermilk if you like, but I prefer it without it.

Gravy Recipe

2 Tbsp bacon fat
2 Tbsp butter
1 tspn Kosher salt
2/3 cup of flour
2-3 cups of milk

In a saucepan, heat your bacon fat and butter until the butter melts.  I usually do this on medium high, but I stand over it so it doesn’t burn.  You may want to do this on medium setting.  As soon as the butter melts and the oil is hot, add your flour.  I eyeball this as well, using my hands and just my finger tips, I put in 3 finger fulls of flour – I’m guessing it amounts to 2/3 of a cup.  You want the same amount of flour as to fat/butter.  So try to shoot for that amount.  Using a whisk, combine the flour and oils together.  Now add your milk until it is the right quantity that you want. You can always thicken it up later.  I use about 2 cups or so.  Bring it up to a boil, stirring frequently, and then down to medium, and all the way down to low.  Allow it to simmer long enough for the flour taste to be removed.  If it is too thin to your liking, you can thicken it by taken a small measuring cup with about ¼ cup of water and adding a little flour.  Stir it up to get the lumps out and pour it in and combine and let it cook.  Or if your gravy is too thick, you can thin it out with water.  Sometimes if I let my gravy sit too long, it gets too thick, so I just add a tablespoon or so of water.  Sometimes you may have to add more.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grandma’s Chocolate Ice-box Pie

This recipe was my grandmother’s as well as my mother’s recipe.  So it has been in the family a while.  It tastes very similar to Luby’s ice box pie.  It can be made with a merangue top or without and served with cool whip or whipped topping. You do need to cook it on the stove top.  So buy the pudding mix for cook-n-serve.  It is very rich.  Just a warning to those who can’t handle rich desserts.


1-5oz or large box of cook-n-serve Jello Chocolate Pudding mix
½ cups of small marshmallows
¼ cup or 2 oz of your favorite chocolate (semi-sweet chips, or milk chocolate chips are fine, too but you only need a little bit!)
3 cups milk
cool whip or can of whipped topping
1-9” pie crust (frozen section)

Bake your pie crust according to manufacturer’s directions.  This is usually thawed for about 15 minutes at room temperature.  Pricked with a fork.  And baked at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until done.
In a 4-quart sauce pan, heat your milk on medium.  Stir frequently to keep from sticking or scorching.  Heat this to a boil.  I cover mine with a lid to speed up the process, but don’t forget to stir. Add your pudding mix and allow this to cook.  Add your marshmallows and chocolate, too.  Going by your manufacturer’s directions, when it is done, poor into a ready baked pie crust and chill until set before serving.
Chill this according to the manufacturer.  Probably 1-2 hours or more. You can prepare a merangue topping, too.  We just top ours with whipped cream as we eat it.  I usually place a sheet of plastic wrap directly touching the chocolate when I refrigerate it.

Tortilla Soup

This has got to be my favorite soup recipe.  I had a bowl of Chili’s Tortilla Soup a long time ago, and that is when it became my favorite.  I’ve had other tortilla soups, even Luby’s, but this one is my favorite.  It has more of a clear broth whereas Luby’s is a creamier texture.  It tastes like chicken enchiladas in a bowl.  I love the fact that you can change up the ingredients, too.  Luby’s adds corn to theirs.  You can add hominy, black beans, pinto beans, whatever you want.  I think the main taste comes from the chili peppers.  I use a can of rotel.  To me, it taste just like Chili’s recipe.  I also add more green chilies and green salsa like I use on my enchilada recipe.  Green salsa is made from tomatillos.  They aren’t spicy, but they have a very distinct and delicious flavor to them.
I’m going to try this recipe with some of my left-over turkey.  The recipe calls for chicken, but I bet it tastes just as good with turkey. One thing that is important, ripe avocado really makes this wonderful.  I had never thought to use avocado in soup, but that’s the way Chili’s serves it.  Prior to serving it, you top it off with crumbled tortilla chips, avocado, and Monterey jack cheese.


3-4 roasted chicken breasts, chopped or shredded into bite size pieces
1 can rotel (hot) (near the canned tomatoes)
1 can green chilies (diced)
1 can green salsa (in the Latin section of your grocer)
4 cups chicken broth
1 can pinto beans or black beans
1 can hominy or whole kernel corn
1 bag corn Tortilla Chips (I buy the generic brand, but similar to Tostitos)
2 cups (16 oz) shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1-2 ripe avocados
1 tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp Cayenne pepper

In a large pot, cook your chicken breasts if you haven’t already done so.  Cover them with water and I cook mine on medium high and then back down to medium, until they are so tender they fall off the bone. Mine are usually done in 40 minutes.  Some people cook their chicken for 2 hours.  I guess if you cook it on a low setting, but make sure your chicken is fully cooked.  You can save the liquid to use in this recipe, but drain it using a sieve to get out any loose skin – to make it as clear as possible.  I season my chicken when I cook it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.  After it is cooked, remove any loose skin, chop or shred it into bite size pieces and add the stock and chicken back to the pot.

If you already have your chicken cooked and cut up, but don’t have any stock, you can add broth and your cut up chicken to a large pot.  Add a can of drained beans, hominy, chilies, green salsa and rotel.  Taste it.  Adjust your seasonings.  You may need more salt, pepper, garlic powder, or cayenne.  Add 1 cup of cheese and some crumbled tortilla chips. Let it cook and let the flavors combine for about 20 minutes on a medium to medium-low setting.  When ready to serve, add soup to a bowl.  Top with more crumbled tortilla chips, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and chopped avocado.

Piggies in a Blanket

Although this is an easy and quick version of a “Kolache”, I have recently been experimenting with different ways to make a delicious, easy, snack which has turned into a favorite in our house.  This recipe is great for left-over meat or lunchmeat that needs to be used up. I haven’t bought canned biscuits in ages, but I recently bought a 4-pack of them and a bag of little smokies.  I made a batch of piggies in a blanket.  We were still craving them when all the little smokies were gone.  So I had some thin sliced lunchmeat.  I sliced the thin ham lengthwise and rolled it up, added some cheese, and they tasted as good if not better than the original recipe.  Still craving the little rascals, but out of ingredients, I made my own batch of biscuit dough, made a meat filling using sausage and sauted potatoes. I wanted to share this recipe, because it is not only easy and inexpensive to make, but very versatile.  With turkey left-overs, this is a great way to use up those left-overs.  Just add a little provolone, mozzerella, or parmesan to the turkey.  I read somewhere where instead of canned biscuits, you can use the canned crescent rolls, because they come out flakier.  The sky is the limit with this recipe.  Only the limits of your imagination will interfere with your creation.


1 bag little smokies (Hillshire Farm’s– near the hot dogs and sausage)
2 cans of canned biscuits (10 in a can)
sliced cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (use the manufactuers settings here)
Open the biscuits and roll it out using a rolling pin or using your fingers, make it very flat and as big as you can.  Place a little smokie and a slice of cheese about the size of the little smokie on the flat dough and fold it.  Pinch the outer sides together to keep everything inside.  Place on cookie sheet. Repeat this step till all the biscuits are used up. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

These taste great when served with creamy white gravy.  Gravy recipe below.

Other Fillings:

Sausage and sauted potatoes

1 package of Jimmy Dean regular sausage
2 medium potatoes peeled and diced
2 Tbsn oil
1 tspn Kosher salt
½ tspn course ground Black Pepper

In a large skillet, break up the sausage into small crumbles and brown until done.  Add the potatoes and a little oil.  Season with salt and pepper. When done, set it aside to cool. You can prepare these like the little smokie recipe above, or make your own dough using the recipe that follows:

Biscuit recipe


4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ cup shortening
¼ cup butter
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups of milk
2 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender or a fork, add the shortening and butter and combine until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add milk and mix until it forms a ball of dough.  Add flour to your hands to keep it from sticking.

Using a lighlty floured surface, place some of your dough and roll it out using a floured rolling pin.  Using a knife, slice it into squares.  Set the squares aside to be used in the recipe above.  Any extra dough can be refrigerated and made into biscuits or more roll-ups. Prior to baking - brush the tops with melted butter and they should come out flakier.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until done, lightly golden on top.

Gravy Recipe

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs oil
3-4 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup milk

In a saucepan, heat the butter and oil until the butter melts. Add your flour and stir with a whisk.  After the flour is absorbed, add 1 cup cold milk.  Place a lid on it – I usually cook this on medium-high, but stir frequently.  When it starts to warm up, turn the heat down to medium (you don’t want this to boil over and ruin your stove top!). Don’t forget to stir frequently.  Once it comes to a boil, remove the lid, turn the heat down some more.  Keep cooking – you want to cook the flour taste out.  Add your salt and pepper.  When it is done, turn down to low or remove from heat and serve. If it gets too thick, add more milk or even a little water should help.  If you need to thicken it up, add a little cold water to a measuring cup and about 1-2 Tbsp of flour, stir to mix well to get the lumps out, then add to the gravy.  I know when I make gravy, and it sits on the stove top, it tends to get too thick, so I just add a little water sometimes to thin it out again. Any extra can be refrigerated and used within a day or two.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey and Dressing

This is my husband’s family recipe for dressing.  I think it is referred to as oyster dressing.  Although today’s version doesn’t have oysters, but giblets and sausage.  It has a variety of ingredients that make it one of the best dressing recipes around.
Like most of the dressing recipes, you do need to add a batch of already baked cornbread.  There are three different ways to do the cornbread:  make it from scratch, make it using Pioneer ready mix, or you can buy a bag of Pepperidge Farm cornbread crumbs. It will taste great with any method.  The hardest thing about this recipe is getting the seasonings right, so I usually get my seasonings adjusted before I add the raw egg, that way, I can taste if it is right or not.


1 bag Pepperidge Farm seasoned bread crumbs
1 already baked batch of cornbread (or Pepperidge Farm cornbread crumbs)
1-32 oz container of Chicken broth
3-4 stalks celery - chopped
1 onion - chopped(optional)
1 apple – grated with peel on
1 package Jimmy Dean sausage with Sage
Kosher Salt
Course Ground Black Pepper
Allspice seasoning
Ground Nutmeg
2 Eggs
½ - ¾ cup chopped Pecans
½ cup of cooked chopped giblets


Cook the sausage in a skillet like you would ground beef.  Drain and reserve the fat for sautéing the celery, onion, and apple.  After sautéing them, add them back to the sausage and set aside and let it cool off (we will be adding egg, so we don’t want it to cook the egg if it is too hot).
In a large mixing bowl, combine ½ bag of Pepperidge Farm seasoned bread crumbs and the corn bread.  Use about the same amount of cornbread and bread crumbs.  Add 2 cups of the chicken broth and combine.  If you need more liquid, add water or more broth.  It needs to be really moist, like a thick batter.  Add your sausage mixture and seasonings before the egg, so you can taste if the seasonings are right.  I always eyeball the seasonings.  I would start with 1-2 teaspoons Kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1-2 tsp Allspice, and go light with the Nutmeg about ¼ - ½ teaspoon.  Taste it. You will probably need more Allspice, salt, and pepper. After you get the seasonings right, add the 2 eggs slightly beaten.  The last step is to add the nuts and giblets. You can bake this in a 13 x 9 pan or a disposable foil pan. If you use a pan larger than 13 x 9, you may need to increase the ingredients in this recipe.

The dressing will need about an hour to bake at 350 F.  You can also stuff the turkey with some of it.  You may need to cover with foil to keep it from over-browning on top and getting too dry.  Take the foil off towards the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

Since we bake the turkey at 325 F, you may need to add more time for the dressing, say 1-1/2 to 2 hours, if you want to bake it with the Turkey.  Just watch that it doesn’t get too brown or dry.

To bake the Turkey:

Allow 20 minutes per lb.  A 16 lb turkey at 20 minutes per lb would take a about 5 hours and 20 minutes up to 6 hours to roast.  The key to roasting a turkey is to thaw it out completely in the refrigerator (this may take 1-2 days) and remove everything on the inside before stuffing it and roasting. When I roast my turkey, I baste it with melted butter and seasoning every 30 minutes of cook time.  Take a turkey baster or a brush and brush the skin so it turns a nice golden brown.  Use the baster to get inside of the turkey.  Some people buy injectors to inject it with flavor.  I think you can purchase them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for under $20. Stuffing is optional.  Add your uncooked dressing to the large empty cavity before roasting. Turkey is usually done when the juices run clear and the thermometer pops out. The ultimate test is if it is falling off the bone – delicious. The easier it is to get off the bone, the better it is, and that is a sure sign that the turkey is done.

Some of the best seasonings to use on a thanksgiving turkey are:  Rosemary, Thyme, Poultry Seasoning, Garlic powder, Basil, Sage (optional).

Once the skin has turned a nice beautiful brown, cover the turkey with foil until it has finished roasting. When I roast a 4 lb chicken, I usually flip it.  I like to allow the skin on the bottom to get golden, too.  I usually roast it upside down first, and then flip it.  If you are unable to flip it, don’t worry about it, just make sure you have the top bake last, so that it is nice and golden. If you have a large, long wooden spoon, you can insert that into the cavity and use tongs to rotate the turkey. Get assistance because it is heavy and it is going to be hot!

You can cook the giblets in a pan of water on the stove until done.  Drain, chop, and set aside to use in the dressing or in the gravy.

I don’t make my gravy from scratch –  I buy the McCormicks packets at the store.  However, if there is any extra juices, they can be added to the gravy or reserve them and make your own gravy.  We like to add hard boiled egg and chopped giblets to our gravy.

Lasagna and Garlic Bread

I love to make lasagna every once in awhile.  This is a great recipe.


1-2 lbs ground beef
½ box of lasagna noodles
Kosher salt
1 –32oz can tomato puree
1 – 15oz can tomato sauce
1-2 Tbsp of tomato paste
1 – ½ tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp Course ground black pepper
1-2 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp dried Oregano
½ tsp dried Basil
½ small 15oz container of Ricotta cheese
1-16 oz bag of pre-shredded Italian blend cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Mozzerella…)
1-16 oz bag of pre-shredded Mozzerella
Non-stick spray or 4 Tbsp of cooking oil


In a large skillet add non-stick spray or 2 Tbsp of oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. On medium heat, cook the ground beef, and drain the fat.  While you are cooking the sauce, place a large pot of water with 2 tspn of kosher salt  cover and cook on high until boiling.  Once the water boils, add the lasagna noodles – don’t force them – they will break.  Allow them to get soft and stir them in.  One half a box of lasagna noodles is enough to prepare 3 layers in a 13 x 9 dish.  If you want to prepare the whole box of noodles you will probably have extra noodles left over.  Cook these according to manufacturer’s directions or uncover and cook on medium-high for about 10 minutes usually does the trick.
Meanwhile, once the meat is done and the fat drained.  Combine 1-2 Tbsp of tomato paste to the meat. Then season the meat with salt, pepper, garlic powder – I also add a little dried oregano and dried basil to my meat.  Add the tomato puree, tomato sauce, and seasonings:  Italian blend, oregano, and basil. You need to taste test this now and adjust the Italian seasonings right.  Add more salt, garlic powder, or Italian blend if you need to. If your sauce does not taste right, nothing will.
Turn the heat down on the meat sauce or you can turn it off – it doesn’t matter while you prepare the lasagna.
Drain the noodles.  Prepare a 13 x 9 dish by coating the bottom with non-stick spray or I drizzle a little oil on the bottom and spread with a paper towel. Lay out 3 strips of noodles side-by-side to cover the bottom of the dish. Add ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp dried Oregano, and ½ tsp dried Basil to ½ the container of ricotta cheese and combine before spreading it.  You will use about ½ container of the Ricotta cheese in this recipe. Spread the ricotta out in a thin layer over the noodles.  I use a small spatula or a fork and my fingers to press it down as I apply it. Add the Italian blend cheese and Mozerella shredded cheeses lightly over that and then 1/3 of  the meat sauce. Remember to use 3 equal portions of the meat sauce or you may run out.  You need enough sauce for each layer.  Repeat this for each additional layer.  Don’t cover the top with cheese until the lasagna is done.  Cover the lasagna with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  When the sauce starts to bubble on the sides. Then when the lasagna is done, remove the foil, and sprinkle some Mozzerella on top and put it under the broiler until the cheese melts, usually about 1-2 minutes.

Serve with garlic bread.  I make my own garlic bread sometimes.  Below is a recipe that I use.

Garlic Bread Recipe


1 loaf of Texas Toast or French Bread
½ to ¾ cup of butter or margarine
2-3 tsp of Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp dried Basil
2-4 Tbsp of olive oil (I use Smart Balance cooking oil – it’s a combination of oils – including olive oil – it’s great if your watching your cholesterol and B/P and don’t want
to sacrifice the taste.)

Combine the butter and seasonings using a small rubber spatula.  You may need to add more garlic powder.  You can do a small taste test first.  I usually eyeball this.  It seems like you add a lot of garlic powder, but you need to.  Also don’t use garlic salt.  I used to wonder why my bread never came out right when I was younger, because we used garlic salt.  I found out quickly that I prefer garlic powder over garlic salt any day.  My husband prefers to use it when he cooks, but I stick to the garlic powder.  If you are using french bread, cut the loaf in half and separate the top from the bottom.  Spread the bread thickly with the butter mixture.  If you are using Texas toast, just make sure you spread the mixture on both sides of the bread.  I like to drizzle a little oil on top. Coat the bottom of your baking sheet with non-stick spray or drizzle a little oil on it. Cook the garlic bread at 400 degrees or place it in the oven with the lasagna towards the last 10 minutes of cook time for the lasagna.  It doesn’t take long to bake the bread.  You don’t want it to get cold.  Make sure you just allow 5-10 minutes to bake it.  The Texas toast will take 5 minutes on each side. If you need to speed up the process, I sometimes put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes – if Texas toast – broil both sides. I like mine soft, but lightly golden.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Skillet Beefy Mushroom with Potatoes

This recipe is a different way to cook ground beef especially when you have run out of ideas and are trying to stretch a dollar.  It is quick, easy, and inexpensive.  I fry my potatoes up before I do anything.  I know you could add them to this and let them cook, but I like the fact that it doesn’t take long to do, and it tastes great.


1-2 lbs ground beef
4 regular size russet potatoes
1 can cream-of-mushroom soup
1-2 tsp Kosher Salt
½ - 1 tsp Course Ground black pepper
1 tsp Garlic powder
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
¾ - 1  cup of heavy cream of milk
½ cup of beef broth (optional)
cooking oil to fry potatoes in
shredded cheese (optional)


Slice your potatoes into very thin oval slices.  You can leave the peel on them – that is optional.   I do this while my cooking oil heats up. Try to make them all the same thickness so they cook the same length of time. Fry them in the cooking oil and set aside. You may have to make two batches, so do this before you prepare the meat.  When you are done, add a little oil to a skillet to lightly coat the bottom of the skillet.  Add your ground beef.  I don’t add any seasonings until the meat has finished cooking so I can drain off the fat without losing all of my seasonings.  So after you brown the meat, drain the fat.  Then season the meat with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper.  Next, add a can of cream-of-mushroom and combine.  Add the cream or milk and the beef broth if you have any.  (I use either cream or milk – which ever I have on hand. If I have broth on hand, I add a little, too.) This will make a gravy.  Add the potatoes and stir.  Allow everything to heat up then serve like that or you can add cheese prior to serving it.  It tastes great both ways.

Mexican Rice

I recently discovered a delicious recipe for Mexican rice that is quick and easy.  You can even use left-over rice. By taking cumin, and chili powder and combining it with a little tomato paste, you can flavor regular white rice to taste like the real mexican rice.


2 cups broth
1 cup rice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1-2 tspn ground Cumin (I usually go light with the cumin, you can always add more later)
1-2 tspn Chili Powder (I usually add more chili powder than the other seasonings)
dash ground Cayenne Pepper
1-2 Tbs of tomato paste


To make your rice, add 2 cups broth to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add 1 cup regular long grain rice and salt.  Bring to a boil then reduce to Med-low and cover and simmer until tender. This may take about 15 minutes or so. Stir often so it doesn’t stick to bottom of pan.

Add the tomato paste and seasonings and mix until combined.  You may need to adjust your seasonings to taste.  Serve with refried beans.

If you have left-over rice, just add the tomato paste and seasonings after you heat your rice up and serve.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkin Bar Recipe

I decided to try a recipe I had printed last year that I had never tried before. The recipe had pumpkin and cream cheese in it, the ingredients also called for a box of yellow cake mix. So the other day I decided to try it. The original recipe came from foodnetwork, Paula Deen, so I knew it had to be good. This recipe was so good that it was almost gone in one day. If you are like me, and you love cheese cake and pumpkin pie, then you should love this recipe. The foodnetwork version, Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes also includes different versions for other gooey cakes, too. For instance, there is a recipe for Pineapple Gooey Cake, Banana Gooey Cake, and Peanut Butter Gooey Cake. The recipe warns you that it should be gooey, not to overcook it.
I altered this recipe a little before I had even tried it for the first time. I didn’t have a lot of butter (thanks to my husband – he’s a butterolic) I have to hide it from him, or he’ll use it all up. So I opted to use my favorite cooking oil “Smart Balance”. I also added an additional egg to the cake mix which forms the crust, and it came out great. So I am posting this recipe the way I cooked it, but I will also include foodnetwork’s version, too and post a link to the original recipe.


1 box yellow cake mix
2 eggs (or you can use 1 – like foodnetwork)
½ cup of cooking oil (or 8 Tbs of butter) Not both – one or the other.

1 8oz package cream cheese
1 can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 box or 16oz of powdered sugar
1/3 cup cooking oil - (Or you can use 8 Tbs of butter) Not both.
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice – (Or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg instead)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Prepare the crust
In a large bowl combine the cake mix, egg, and oil (or butter) and mix well. Spray a 13 x 9 inch pan with non-stick spray and press the batter down to form a crust making sure it is spread evenly across.

Prepare the Topping

In a separate large bowl combine the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Then add the eggs, vanilla, and oil (or butter) and mix well. Then you add the powdered sugar and spices. Spread this over the unbaked crust.

Bake this for 40 to 50 minutes. Remember to leave it gooey. I baked mine for exactly 40 minutes and it was not gooey, but very moist. I think next time I will bake it for 35 minutes. That is about the time I started to smell it in the oven. They say when you smell it baking, that it is usually ready, and that is true for this cake.

Serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Very Meaty Beef Stew

The weather here started to cool off and you can feel the change in the air. I started to crave a home-made beef stew like my grandmother used to make. I decided to try to make this stew very meaty. Since my kids are picky about what goes into the stew, for instance, no green beans, no peas, no mushrooms, no this – no that, I had trouble deciding what to put into the stew besides the meat. I came up with beans, poblano peppers, potatoes, and carrots. They said this is the best stew that I have ever made. If you tried my butternut squash stew recipe and didn't like it, you will probably like this recipe. There isn't any funky new taste - just good ole' homemade stew - like Grandma used to make.


3 lbs chuck roast cut into bite size pieces
2-3 Tbsp cooking oil (olive, or canola, etc)
3 Tbsp flour
1-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder or 2 tsp minced garlic
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2-3 cups beef broth
2/3 – ¾ cup chopped carrots
2 medium-large russet potatoes peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2 chopped roasted poblano peppers
1 can pinto beans (rinsed and drained)
½-1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil

Chop up your meat. Coat your meat with the flour and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and paprika. Prepare a stock pot by drizzling a little oil in the bottom preferably olive or canola, or I, myself use Smart Balance which is a blend of oils (it is delicious and my B/P and cholesterol have never been better) and let this warm up before adding the meat. Add the meat and let the meat brown on all sides at a Medium to Medium high setting. Don’t be tempted to stir it a lot either, leave it alone and let it brown real good, then stir it. You don’t want it to burn, but the longer you leave it the better. After the meat is browned all over, take 2 Tbsp of tomato paste and blend it into the meat. Now add 2-3 cups of beef broth. Adjust the heat so that when you put a lid on – the meat is simmering. I usually have mine at Medium High, then Medium and then between Medium and Medium low. Stir every now and then to get everything off the bottom of the pan. Let the meat cook like this for a good while. Say about an hour or so. The potatoes and carrots need to go in after an hour. You can use more potatoes and carrots, but I wanted this to be a meaty stew. After you put the potatoes and carrots in, you can prepare the poblano peppers while the stew continues to cook.

How to prepare the poblano peppers:

Turn your oven to broil. Place 2 poblano peppers on a cookie sheet. Let the peppers broil for 2-4 minutes per side. When they start to turn black, take a pair of tongs and turn them over. After they have blackened in the oven, place them in a bowl and cover with saran wrap. Place in the frig or freezer for a couple of minutes til they cool down. Using your knife, cut around the pepper below the stem in a complete circle (horizontally) and remove the top as if it were a cap – usually most of the seeds will come off in this manner. Then cut a slit all the way down the side (vertically) and lay the pepper open. Then remove the skins which should peel off easily rinse them and discard any seeds and skin. Then chop them into small pieces.

Add the chopped poblano, peppers and the beans, last but not least, season your stew with the oregano and basil. Add any salt or pepper if needed. Now enjoy!

Note – I didn’t need to add any additional water to my stew, but if you feel it is too thick, then add more broth or water to the stew.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BRATS (indoor method)

I love Brats. A lot of people simmer their brats for 30 minutes or longer in beer, but I think a quick, but delicious method is right on the package. You may also substitute the water for beer.

Place your brats in a 4 quart pan and put water or beer til it barely covers them. Place a lid over them. I like to poke them with a fork so they don’t explode from their skins.
Bring them up to a boil and back down to med-low to simmer them for about 10 minutes. Move them around every now and then to help them cook evenly. After 10 minutes you need to empty the water or beer and then cook them without liquid to crisp them up on the outside on med-low or medium.

I like to eat mine like a hot dog, but with sauerkraut. They can be eaten like your favorite hot dog, or add them to a pot of beans. They are so delicious.

Delicious Cheesy Omelet with Portabella Mushrooms

I love to make an omelet, to me it is so filling and healthy. You can make this with whole eggs or egg whites.


2-3 eggs or egg whites
1-2 slices of lean ham chopped into bite size pieces
1/8-1/4cup of sliced Porte bella mushrooms
2 chopped green onions
grated cheddar cheese
2 TBS oil
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1 pat of butter

Place your eggs or eggwhites into a bowl and mix them as if you are going to scramble them using a fork or a whisk. Drizzle a little oil in a skillet and heat this on medium heat. Season your eggs with a little salt and pepper. Now add your eggs and let them cover the bottom of the skillet. You may pick the skillet up and move it around so that the eggs continue to cook and cover the bottom of the skillet. Using a spatula, lightly run it around the edge to loosen up the eggs so they don’t stick.

In another skillet with 1 pat of butter and a drizzle of oil, saute your ham, mushrooms, green onion until they are slightly tender. When your eggs are almost done - add the ham mixture to one half of the eggs that are cooking in the skillet Sprinkle with a little cheese – I prefer cheddar cheese. Now fold over the eggs to cover them. I usually cut this in half so it is easier to work with. Make sure you flip them over and cook them on the other side. Your eggs may run out and that is OK because they will continue to cook.

I let them cook for about 1-2 minutes like this. Then they should be done. Just make sure you let it cook long enough to cook the eggs inside. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baby Back Ribs or Spare Ribs

Indoor recipe for falling off the bone, delicious, - Baby Back Ribs or Spare Ribs


1-2 racks of baby back or Pork spare ribs
1 bottle liquid smoke
Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Your favorite BBQ sauce

You will need a large stock pot (if making 2 racks, you made need 2 pots)to simmer them in for about an hour. You should not need to exceed 1 1/2 hours. I usually cook mine for 1-1/2 hours. I made 1 rack the first time and everyone wanted more, so I always make 2 racks now). Also, my baby back ribs always come out better than my spare ribs, so I would say to cook the spare ribs a little longer on the stove top and in the oven at a lower temperature. I cut my ribs into thirds so they fit into the pot. You add a little liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce to the pot and cover the ribs with water and a lid bring them up to a boil, then turn it down and let them simmer for at least 1 hour. You can go as long as 1-1/2 hours, but I don’t think you need to go past that. At this point, you can bake them indoors for 40 minutes til done, or cook them on the grill. I love this recipe because it tastes like it was cooked on the grill anyway.

Back to the indoor method. Then you take a roasting pan lined with foil and place your ribs on them. Bake them for 20 minutes each side at 350 degrees F for a total of 40 minutes. I season and spread my BBQ sauce on one side – cook for 20 minutes – turn them and season and spread the sauce on the other side for the last 20 minutes. If you are going to cook them longer than that you may need to cover them with foil and turn the temp down to 325 degrees F.

We like to use Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, but I tried making my own Balsamic vinegar sauce with brown sugar and we liked it the best. This recipe can be made to taste different ways just by changing the sauce, but they will always be falling off the bone delicious. The time it takes to cook them is also the quickest that I know of. Most ribs take 4 hours to get this tender.

Well good luck and enjoy!

Beef Stew with Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes

I saw Giada make this on her Food Network show “Everday Italian” (click here to visit that link)and thought I would give it a try. I did not follow her recipe to the “T”, but I did make mine with the butternut squash and sweet potatoes like she did. It is different.


1 chuck roast about 1.75 lbs cut into bite size pieces or 1 package precut stew meat between 1-2 lbs
1 small to medium butternut squash
2 sweet potatoes
1 bag baby leaf spinach
1 can Northern beans
Chicken bouillon cubes or chicken broth
Beef bouillon cubes or beef broth
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper
1/4-tsp red pepper flakes
Minced garlic
1/2-cup light brown sugar (optional)
3 TBS flour
3 TBS oil
3 TBS corn starch

Take your meat and mix it with about 3 TBP flour and season it with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little oil in the bottom of a stock pot – add your meat. Put it in the pan and leave it alone. But don’t let it burn. Mix it til all sides get evenly browned. You don’t want to keep stirring it. Let it cook on it’s own. Add your minced garlic – I used 2 teaspoons to 1.75 lbs of meat. Either prepare beef broth yourself using bouillon cubes (in another pot 3 cups of water heated with 2 beef bouillon cubes) or pour 3 cups of beef broth into the meat. Put a lid on it and bring it up to a boil then back down to Medium and let it simmer.

Now prepare your squash and sweet potatoes. Peel them and cut them into small cubes. Discard the seeds to the squash. In a separate pan prepare your own chicken broth (3 cups of water heated with 2 chicken bouillon cubes) or pour 3 cups of chicken broth into the stew meat along with the squash and sweet potatoes. You need to bring this up to a boil and then back down to a simmer.

Season with salt, pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Let the stew cook for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

I add about 2 cups of chicken broth to a pan and add almost a whole bag of baby spinach to it. This will cook down. Then add it to the stew, you may not want to add the broth if it will make it have too much liquid. Stews are supposed to be thick. To thicken it up – I take 3 TBS of corn starch and the same amount of cold water and stir til smooth and add it to the stew.

When you notice that the squash and sweet potatoes are done, you probably want to make sure the heat is not above Medium-low or else the stew may turn into mush.

About 15-20 minutes before serving, add a can of beans and your light brown sugar to taste. I noticed that without the sugar, the stew is a little bit tart, but a little brown sugar gives it a nice flavor. If you’re not sure if you want to add the sugar, put some stew in a bowl and sprinkle a little brown sugar on it to see if you like the taste before you add it to the whole pot.

I personally think the squash and sweet potatoes would make a delicous soup if pureed and cooked in chicken broth and seasoned with brown sugar.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this stew. I wanted to make something different than the same old stew with carrots, potatoes, and peas.

Crispy Chicken Tacos with Queso Fresco Cheese


4 cooked chicken thighs cut or shredded into small pieces
corn tortillas
cooking oil
shredded cheddar cheese
queso fresco cheese
1 can rotel tomatoes
kosher salt
ground black pepper
cayenne pepper
garlic powder
Avocado (if available)

Chicken thighs can be cooked on stove top in water or in the oven for about 30-35 minutes on 350 F. You can buy premade taco shells, but I think they taste better with home made taco shells. Heat a pot of oil to 350 degrees and fry your tortillas until crisp. I use tongs to help form a shell. (Bend the tortilla in half and try not to let the sides touch to leave space to fill them). You can also make soft shells, too by cooking them for a few seconds on each side 15-20 seconds or so. Take your chicken and cut or shred it into small pieces.

Making a taco:

Place some chicken in a taco shell. Add some rotel (which is a can of tomatoes with chili peppers) , Queso fresco cheese, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and avocado. I made these without the avocado and they were delicious, but I know they will be perfect with them, too.

Beef Tacos


2 lbs ground beef
3 TBS flour
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2tsp ground black pepper
1/2tsp paprika
1/2tsp Mexican oregano (if you don’t have it – leave it out)
1/2to1 cup of water

In a skillet, brown your meat. Drain off all the fat as it cooks. I don’t season anything until I get rid of all the fat and till all the meat has browned nicely. Add your seasonings above. I hate to put measurements on seasonings. Everyone has their own tastes, but there is a balance to these seasonings. Notice that the salt and cumin are more pronounced than the cayenne, paprika, and black pepper. That is the main thing you need to know about the seasonings. Just play with them yourself till you get the combination you like. Sprinkle in about 3 TBS of flour. Stir until all meat is coated. Then add 1/2to 1 cup of water till it makes a nice gravy. Turn up the heat until it boils then back down to a low temp and let it simmer.

Sometimes I buy premade taco shells at the store in the Latin American section. You can also make your own taco shells:

Taco shells:

Put about 3 cups of oil in a large pan it should only fill up the bottom 2 inches of the pan
Using tongs, dip a corn tortilla in the hot oil (about 350 degrees)
Fold the tortilla in half – try not to let the sides touch and leave a space to fill them with beef and your toppings. Cook until crisp - about 30-45 seconds.
If you want to make a soft corn taco shell, just heat the tortilla on both sides for about 8 – 15 seconds,

Making the taco:

Fill the taco shell with the cooked beef mixture. Add shredded cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, and lettuce. You may want to top with sour cream.

This recipe should make about 16 tacos

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chicken Tamales


You will need the following equipment before getting started: Large stock pot, steamer basket, cutting board, blender or food processor, plastic ziplock bags or plastic wrap for rolling tamales out, measuring cup, spatula, rolling pin.


1 TBS Paprika
1 TBS Garlic Powder (not salt)
1 TBS Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
1/2 TBS Ground Black Pepper
2 TBS Chili Powder
1-2 TSP Cumin seeds to the dough


1 - 2-5 lb chicken
Chicken bouillon cubes or chicken stock need a minimum of 2 cups stock - it depends on how much masa you want to work with I usually start with 2-3 cups of masa - some recipes recommend you use 1/2 bag of masa. My recipe will be based on smaller version which yields 2 dozen tamales.
Corn Oil
Bag of Corn Husks for tamale making
1 lb of Tomatillos – about 8-10
2 poblano peppers


Day 1

The first step is to cook and prepare the meat. This will take one whole day to do, the meat needs to cook for a long period of time so that it is tender, and then you need to shred it either with a fork, or use a blender or food processor. There are various methods of cooking the meat below it is a matter of preference. I usually roast mine in the oven and it comes out nice and tender.

Stove-Top Method

Rinse and place pieces of your chicken in a large stockpot slowly add enough water to cover them. You can start it at a high temperature, but turn the heat down to med-low or med. and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes (depends on how big your chicken is and if it is thawed out or not). To check for doneness, cut a piece of chicken, if it is not pink inside, then it is done. When the meat is done, do not discard the broth. Save about 2-3 cups of broth for the masa dough. Just pour the broth into a pitcher or large measuring cup or container and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to make your tamales. Also it is not necessary to season your meat until after it cooks, the only seasoning I would suggest is salt and pepper. I do like to add a couple of chicken bouillon cubes to help flavor the chicken and broth.

Roasting in the Oven

The chicken needs to cook for at least 1 hour for every pound. If it is over 2 lbs, but less than 3 it will cook for 2 ½ hours. I take a large pan that is about 2 inches deep and line it with foil. Preheat your oven to 325. Melt about ½ cup butter in a microwave safe dish and brush the chicken with butter every 30 minutes as it cooks. This will make the outside crispy and the inside juicy. Cook your chicken at this temperature for at least 1 hour. Turn the meat over after 1 hour. You can cover the chicken with foil once the outside has turned a nice brown so that it doesn't turn out too dry and overcooked. I usually roast 2 chickens at one time, that way, you can feed the family off of one and save whatever is left of it and combine the left over meat to make the tamales.

Preparing the Tomatillos

Rinse tomatillos and remove outer skin. Cut each one in half. In a skillet, add about 2-3 Tbs. Olive oil and 1 clove garlic and roast the tomatillos on both sides for about 15 minutes. I usually do this at a med-high temperature. Turn it down to medium if it starts smoking. When done, allow them to cool off then using the blender, blend them - they will look like green salsa when done. Even though they may taste bitter by themselves, once added to the chicken, they give the chicken a very distinct and delicious flavor. I guess if you wanted to skip this part, you could use store bought green salsa, you can tell on the bottle under ingredients that they will say tomatillos in them. I usually buy green salsa or “salsa verde” when I make chicken enchiladas. Anyway, I have not used store bought when I make tamales, I have only used homemade. I don’t see anything wrong with it though.

Preparing the Poblano peppers

Rinse each poblano. Place each on a cookie sheet lined with foil and place in the oven and broil on high. Watch these very closely. About 1-2 minutes on each side. After the peppers have roasted, place them in a large bowl with saran wrap tightly covering them and wait about 10 minutes. After that, the skins should peel easily off. I cut a slit down the middle and around the stem and discard the stem and any seeds. Then dice the poblano into small pieces and set aside.

Preparing the Meat

Once the Meat is cooked, it needs to be shredded. I prefer to use my blender. This is a matter of preference. You can use a fork, blender, or a food processor. If using the blender, you may add a little stock as you blend. I blend a little at a time and place it in a bowl. Don’t try to blend the whole chicken at once, just small amounts at a time. It takes awhile, but the result is worth it. After the meat is shredded to your liking, you need to season it. I usually add Kosher Salt, Black pepper, Garlic Powder, and cumin seeds to flavor. You may also want to add paprika and chili powder. For 1 chicken I would say about 1 Tbs salt, ½ Tbs black pepper, 1 Tbs garlic powder, 1-2 Tsp cumin seed. 1-2 tsp paprika, 1 Tbs chili powder. Add a little broth to moisten the meat. Combine the tomatillo sauce and diced poblano peppers to the meat and then refrigerate it until the following day. The reason for this is the process of making the masa, spreading it on the cornhusks, and cooking the tamales, will take awhile to do. It is better to do each in steps.


Day 2

Soak the Cornhusks

The first thing you need to do is soak the cornhusks in warm water while you prepare the tamales. I use my stock pot and place enough warm water in there to cover the husks, then I find they stay covered better when I place my steamer basket over them and place something heavy in the steamer basket like 2 large cups. They will tend to float to the top if you don’t hold them down with something. I turn the stove on low heat. I also flip them over to insure that they all get soaked about every 30 minutes or so. As I make the tamales, I get a few husks out and let the others keep soaking, so they don’t dry out. That is how I do it. You will find a method that works for you.

Prepare the Masa dough

I use 2 –3 cups of masa, this will yield 2 dozen tamales. Place masa in a large bowl. I season this with 1 Tbsp. Kosher salt. 1 TBS garlic powder, and 1 TBS paprika. 1-2 Tsp. of cumin seeds. Add 2 cups of broth to this. (If you discarded the broth from the chicken, I just use chicken broth that I make with chicken bouillon cubes; instructions are on the jar) Broth should be room temperature. I then add ½ cup of corn oil to the masa dough. You need to work this all in with your hands. Now just add water till the consistency is moist, but not too moist. Should be something like peanut butter. You don’t want it too dry either, some of the worst tasting tamales are those that are too dry.

Making the Tamales

Now that you have your masa dough. I like to prepare mine on a large plastic cutting board. Keep paper towels close by, the area will tend to get wet and you need to dry it as you go, or the tamales will not come out right. I take a few cornhusks and place them on a plate – shake out the water in the sink. Some people like to make 5 tamales at a time, I prefer to make 1 at a time. I like to work on a gallon size ziplock bag – I take 2 bags and cut off the plastic zipper. I tried using saran wrap, but it is too thin to work with, and I’ve also tried using wax paper without success. I like the thickness of using the ziplock bags. I use one bag for the top and one bag to lay the tamale on top of while I roll it out.

So lay the husk on top of one of the plastic bags, using a spatula, place a scoop of masa dough on the tamale. Holding the husk in front of you, the narrow end on your right, work the lower left corner of the husk. Leave 1 inch of the top husk bare and about 1/3 of the right side bare or empty.

I like to spread my dough as thin as I can. I place the other ziplock bag over the area that needs to be flattened out, and then I use my rolling pin to roll it the desired thickness. I try to get mine as thin as possible, they make better tamales. The first batch I made, they were too thick. You will have to experiment with this.

Unfortunately you will not know until you have completely prepared and cooked a batch of tamales. Try to make them paper-thin. You won’t be sorry. Then take a spoon and place 1 Tbs. or so of meat and using a fork spread it down the tamale. Now, roll the tamale up, and fold the narrow side down. (Again I will try to have pictures) Place the tamale aside, you may want to use a cookie sheet or large dish to place them in until you are ready to steam them. Keep preparing the tamales until you run out of husks, dough, or you just don’t want to make any more. You can refrigerate the dough and meat and even the husks until you want to make more. I just place my husks in a ziplock before refrigerating them or you can let them dry out again and store them in the bag you purchased them in. I also freeze my meat; I just make sure that I put the date on the bag, so I can use the oldest up first. You may want to make 1 small batch a dozen or so just to get the method down that works for you. When I made my third batch, I felt everything was going smoothly and I had made a large batch, then as I was cooking them, I remembered that I forgot to add my cooking oil to the dough. I knew they would not cook properly, and I was right. Some people use lard, but you can make tasty tamales with corn oil. Just don’t forget to put it in the dough or they will not cook right. That was a bitter lesson for me! I won’t forget that again. I had to throw them away. I usually freeze them and let my dog have them as treats – he loves them. My first batch was too spicy; so those made great frozen dog treats. You just microwave them for 2 minutes or so before you give them to your dog, but allow them to cool off first.

Cooking the Tamales

The tamales need to be steamed in water that does not touch the bottom of the steamer basket. I suggest you experiment with a measuring cup now, and see how much water you can add to the stockpot without covering the bottom of the steamer basket. That is how much water you need to add, and as the water evaporates, this is very important – do not let it run out of water.

I check mine every 20-30 minutes and have never run out of water. Place a damp kitchen towel on top under your lid and at first cook at a high temperature, when it starts to steam, drop the temperature down to simmer. I cook mine on Med-Low. It takes 2-1/2 hours to cook at this temperature.

Everyone’s will vary. So you need to pay attention, document, and remember what the cooking time is. You also need to check a tamale towards the end, to check for doneness. If the masa is sticking, that is a sign that they are not ready. Also, don’t forget to re-dampen your towel, just make sure you wring it out good before placing it under the lid. I usually do this every time I check the water level. So every 20-30 minutes.

I hope you try my pork tamale recipe as well. They are definitely totally different tastes. I love to eat the pork tamales with crackers and sliced cheddar cheese. I usually crave them as a snack.

Monday, May 4, 2009

No-bake Cheesecake

Ok, Amanda, this recipe is for you! I am putting Daddy’s secret recipe in writing so we don’t have to wonder if the recipe calls for 1 box of cream cheese or 2 and how much lemon juice it takes! I made it this past weekend and added a little whipped cream and lemon zest to it. It tastes just wonderful either way!


1 – prepared graham cracker crust - 9 inch
1 – can Eagle brand, sweetened condensed milk
¼ - ½ cup lemon juice (or the juice from 1 lemon)
lemon zest from 2 lemons (optional)
½ - 1 cup of whipped cream prepared (I use cool whip) - (optional)
2 boxes of 8 oz cream cheese (softened in microwave – 15 seconds at a time)
1 tsp vanilla extract


I prefer to use a blender. You will need a mixer, food processor, or something powerful to whip it with til all the lumps are removed. My husband makes it by hand with a whisk. I have trouble getting the lumps out with just a whisk. Anyway, soften your cream cheese in the microwave until soft and place in large bowl. Add your sweetened condensed milk and beat until smooth consistency. Add the lemon juice and vanilla. The lemon zest and whipped cream are optional. Poor into a prepared graham cracker crust and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour so that it sets.

This cheesecake will taste wonderful by itself or you may serve with blue berries, or strawberries or make a fruit compote to drizzle over it.

Chicken Salad

This recipe is a take from Luby’s chicken salad. I used to love eating it and the tuna salad with crackers for lunch during my work week. However, I have not seen a Luby’s in Pensacola – just Piccadilly’s. Luby’s used to be my parent’s favorite place to eat. So I am familiar with a lot of their dishes. I have also seen this recipe called “Almond Chicken Salad”, but it doesn’t include the grapes and seasonings. I think you will find that by adding the green grapes and seasonings to this, makes a wonderful light lunch.
The only negative thing I have to say is it will not keep long in the fridge due to the mayonnaise and grapes. So only make what you will eat in about 4 - 5 days.

Chicken Salad

1 ½ - 2 cups cooked chicken cut into bite size pieces or cubes (oven roasted, poached, or rotisserie work the best)
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped green onions
¾ cup green grapes sliced in half
¼ cup toasted nuts (almond slivers, walnuts, pecans, etc)
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 TBSP orange juice


In a large bowl, add your ingredients listed above combine and chill. This salad tastes wonderful with crackers. The curry powder and ground mustard gives it a flavor that will make you crave the taste of this salad.

My serving suggestion is to serve it on a bed of lettuce with crackers.

As always, I make mine without the onions because of my husband’s reaction – heartburn and indigestion, but they really go well with this salad.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Waldorf Fruit Salad

This is a good way to eat your fruits, but if you are like us, this salad will go fast. Everyone loves the taste of the red grapes as they burst in your mouth! Such flavor and sweetness! I add mandarin oranges versus regular Florida oranges because they are sweeter. I have tried adding regular oranges and I just don’t prefer it that way. However, you may wish to add regular orange slices as well. You can also replace the pecans with whatever you have on hand like walnuts. I prefer the pecans, though. You can also leave them out, but they add so much to this salad, they will be missed!


4-5 bananas
1 cup seedless red grapes (make sure they are seedless)
1-2 apples cut into cubes
1 15oz can mandarin oranges
1-2 celery stalks diced (optional)
¼ - ½ cup Mayonnaise (like Real Mayo – not miracle whip)
1-2 cups Cool Whip
½ cup of chopped pecans


In a large bowl, peel and slice your bananas, add your chopped apples, grapes, and mandarin oranges, dice and add celery (optional), Mix together. Add your cool whip about 1 cup and ¼ - ½ cup of Mayo. You may need to add more, you will know by the taste. And finally add your pecans and mix well. I apologize, about the amount of mayo and cool whip, I usually buy a small container of cool whip and use about half of it, and add a little mayo to it (not a lot) til it tastes right. It doesn’t matter if you use light or fat free cool whip either. I use regular mayo because I read that the fat free is actually higher in calories than the regular. So anyway, I hope you enjoy this recipe.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings

I learned this from an HGTV show. I’ll try to find the link and add it here
Cat Cora at Food Network

I’ve adjusted my recipe to feed a family of at least 5 and up. Not sure of the maximum because I usually have some leftovers. This recipe makes wonderful leftovers, too. Cat Cora uses onion and celery in her recipe. I do not cook with onion because my husband gets real bad indigestion. I usually don’t add vegetables, but it would be good also with corn, I think. You can adjust the recipe the way you like it.

1 4-5lb chicken (use 2-3 cups of chicken in this recipe)
1 cup milk (the rule is ½ cup milk for each cup of flour that you use)
2-1/2 - 3 cups flour
2-3 Tbsp Crisco shortening (the solid kind in the can) (the rule is 1 Tbsp for each cup of flour you use)
2-3 tsp salt (the rule is aprox. ¾ tsp for each cup of flour you use)
1-2 tsp (the rule is 1 tsp baking powder for each cup of flour used)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 tsp garlic powder
2-3 bouillon cubes (or 2 cups chicken stock)

Cooking the meat

Cut your chicken at the joints (separate the legs, thighs, breasts, etc.) and place the pieces in a pot and cover with water. Add 1-2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper to the water. You can add 1-2 tsp garlic powder as well. Start by heating on a high setting until it starts to boil. Putting a lid on the pot helps it to boil quicker. Then turn heat down to medium-low setting or Medium setting. I like to add 2 chicken bouillon cubes to the water after it heats up, it will give the chicken more flavor and this is the water that we will use for our dumplings as well. We don’t throw anything away except the chicken bones! The meat needs to cook anywhere from 20-30 minutes. Check it for doneness by cutting it, and if there is no pink in the center it is done. I say 20-30 because you can put the chicken in frozen and it will cook well like this without defrosting it, just cook it longer. No need to defrost it. I usually defrost it a little if it is hard as a rock. Other than that, it won’t hurt to cook it without defrosting it.

Preparing the meat

After the meat is done, I let it cool off in the refrigerator for a little bit. Then remove and discard the bones. Cut the chicken up into bite size pieces. You will need about 2-3 cups of meat for this recipe. You can reserve some of your chicken for other recipes.

Preparing the chicken stock

You can drain the chicken stock if necessary. Just run it through a small strainer and place back in pot. Add your chopped chicken to the pot. Turn heat on simmer or medium setting.

Preparing the dumplings

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 to 2-1/2 cups of flour. Add 1-1/2 – 2 tsp salt. Add 2 tsp baking soda. Mix well. Add 2 Tbsp of shortening (the kind that is not liquid, but solid like butter) then blend or cut this in with a fork until it is distributed throughout the flour mixture. Add 1 cup of milk gradually to form a ball of dough. You can work and knead this with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out til it’s about 1/8” thick or so. Take a knife and cut into 1” strips and then cut each strip so that you have small squares. Do this with the rest of the dough. You can drop these into the pot of chicken stock as you cut them. When the dumplings are done, they will float to the top. This only takes a second or two. Children can help with slicing the dough – because it can be done with a butter knife. They like to help with this part, and I’m sure you can use whatever help you can get!

Also, if you want to make adjustments to this recipe now is the time to do it. You can add herbs like basil, too. Adjust your seasoning, after all the pieces have risen to the top, you may start eating.

Notice how the milk in this recipe changes the stock to a smooth and creamy texture. I always make extra dumplings because the kids love them so much. My husband was surprised that this recipe did not need extra vegetables or anything. He thought he would still be hungry after eating it, but he was pleasantly surprised to find that it is very filling. I encourage you to make this especially when someone is ill. Chicken soup is supposed to be good for the flu and other things. I think you will find it quite satisfying and delicious.