Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Breakfast Meets Lunch-for Dinner the Monte Cristo Sandwich

Let me first say this is our variation of the Monte Cristo Sandwich and it may differ from the tradition a bit. I am really not sure how close it comes even.

The roots of our house eating this dates back a while. One day I was watching some cooking show or another on TV and the host was making his/her version of the Monte Cristo. It just happened that my daughter walked through the room at that time and mentioned it looked really good.

A couple of weeks later she and I happened to be at the grocery store (on our way home from the ice rink) and I asked her what we should have for dinner the next day. We talked about a couple of possibilities and this sandwich came up. Neither of us could remember exactly how it was made or the exact ingredients but we got ingredients for what we remembered. I put this sandwich together the next night and it was a huge hit. It has regularly been on the table ever since. And you know what I never did go back to see how close this comes to the one we saw on TV that time. LOL

So you may be asking why the title of today's post. Well when you get right down to it that is what this sandwich is: part breakfast part lunch and we usually have it for dinner. The breakfast part is the exterior of the sandwich which is our old friend French Toast. The inside of the sandwich has a nice meat and cheese filling. This is all combined into a wonderfully yummy sandwich that can proudly become your dinner.

The coating for the outside is based on my standard French toast recipe. You will need this much for every one and a half sandwiches. In other words this much will do 1, double this amount will coat 2 or 3 and so on.

So for every 1 and half sandwiches:
1 egg
¼ cup milk
2 Tablespoons Bisquick
a pinch of salt.

For each sandwich you will need:
2 slices white bread- we like either potato bread of a good sourdough
deli sliced ham
deli sliced turkey
deli sliced Swiss cheese
berry jam

Start pre-heating your skillet while you build the sandwiches, I almost always use my big old antique cast iron skillet for this. I also pre-heat my oven to just warm and prepare a flat baking sheet with a wire rack. This way I can cook one sandwich at a time and move them to the oven to stay warm.

I like to line my slices of bread up in pairs for the sandwiches and do this assembly line fashion. First spread a tiny bit of mayonnaise on each slice of bread. This will help to seal it and prevent the outside coating from making it soggy later (don't ask how I know this)
Next layer on Swiss cheese on all slices of bread right over the mayonnaise. Now on half the slices add the turkey and on the other half add the ham. Over the ham spread a bit of the jam, probably about a ½ Tablespoon or so- it's up to you. Now plop those sandwiches together. From the bottom up you should have:
Swiss cheese
Swiss cheese

Now combine those coating ingredients in a shallow dish (I usually use a pie plate) getting the mixture as smooth and lump free as possible.

Add just a tiny amount of butter to your pre-heated skillet.

Carefully dip the first sandwich into the coating turn and coat both sides just like you were making french toast. Now move the sandwich to the skillet and cook until the bottom side is nicely browned. Carefully flip the sandwich over and cook the other side.

Since I always only cook one sandwich at a time- it is much easier this way I now move the cooked sandwich to a wire rack on a baking sheet and stick this into a warm oven. This does two things it allows the sandwich to stay warm while I fix the rest of the sandwiches and also it helps to make sure the cheese is all the way melted without risking burning the outside of the sandwich.

That is really all there is to it. These are sooooo yummy your family will love them, I know mine does.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Blackberry Pie

If you are either from here in Oregon or know anyone that is you probably know we have had a very hot and humid summer. Us native Oregonians just aren't cut out for this weather so we have been whining a lot about it. On the other hand the local blackberries are enjoying and thriving because of it. They seem to love this hot humid sticky weather and are rewarding those of us that take the time to pick them with some of the best berries I have seen in a few years. And lots of them too.

This last week or so I have spent a bit of time out picking berries. I really haven't had to work all that hard at it and was able to come away with around 8 cups of berries each time. Mind you I am not the best berry picker either, that title would have to go to my daughter she and my mom used to both spend hours every summer out picking berries. Both of them were much faster at the picking and ended up picking way more than I ever did. This year however if I want berries to use here in my kitchen I am on my own to do the picking so I get what I can and there are plenty to get.

If you happen to have some berries on your property be sure to go out and pick at least some of them it will be well worth it. If you don't ask around and find someone that will let you come and pick some.

However a couple of things you should never do. Don't go onto someone's property without permission and pick berries. Even if the berries are right next to the road. First off they are not yours and secondly you have no way of knowing if they have been sprayed. Every year I see people pulled over to the side of the roads out here picking berries that they see growing there. Many of these areas have been sprayed for both weeds and bugs and they are risking their health by eating them without knowing.

Next thing to remember is if someone lets you pick berries on their property and you have to go through gates be extra careful to make sure any gates that were closed when you got there remain so and any that were open also remain so. They are there for a reason.

A few things to keep in mind when picking berries. Dress appropriately this is not the time for shorts and a cute sleeveless top or for those cute little sandals you got on sale. You need to wear long pants, long sleeves and real shoes. Okay I admit I break the long sleeve rule most of the time. Remember those berry plants are going to fight back and they have thorns to do that with.

So now you have gone out and picked berries now what do you do with them?? There are so many things that come to mind but today I am going to tell you all about my favorite Blackberry Pie. That's right I said pie!!!

Remember I said I got about 8 cups of berries each time I picked? Well that amount is perfect for 2 pies. What I like to do is make one pie to eat right away and freeze a batch of berry pie filling for another one next winter. It is super easy to do and you will be so happy when you have that pie filling next winter.

Here is my favorite blackberry pie recipe complete with some pictures to help you along the way. After the recipe I'll tell how I go about freezing more pie filling to use later.

Blackberry Pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Sort and rinse 4 cups of fresh blackberries and set aside to drain.


Line pie pan with bottom crust


In a large bowl combine:

¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

stir well then add the berries.

Gently combine until the berries are coated with the sugar mixture. They usually start to release some berry juices during this process.

Dump the berry/ sugar mixture into the pastry lined pie pan.

Cut about 2 Tablespoons of butter into small chunks and add to the top of the filling

Dip your finger into cool water and run it around the edge of the pastry in the pie pan. (this is your glue to hold the top crust to the bottom crust)

Carefully top with the second rolled out crust. Use a fork to press the edges together.
Cut the edge of the crust off even with the outside edge of the pie pan.

Cut some slits in the top crust (these allow the juices to bubble up and the air to escape during baking)

Sprinkle top of crust with a pinch of sugar- optional

Set pie pan on a foil lined baking sheet and place in pre-heated oven.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The pie is done when the crust is nicely browned and there are berry juices bubbling through the slits in the crust.

Cool on a wire rack

Berry pie filling for later.
Measure out 8 cups of berries and rinse them off just like when you made the pie.

Now combine you dry ingredients in a gallon size freezer bag. Add the drained, rinsed berries. Label the bag and seal it (making sure you have gotten as much air out as possible without crushing your berries. Now freeze this bag of berry pie filling. When you are ready to use it simply thaw it out (be sure to place the bag in a container just in case some of the juices decide to escape) 


You can do many things with this bag of filling once it is thawed out. You can of course make a pie following the directions for baking that we used today for our pie. Or you could put it into a casserole dish and cover it with a “crisp topping” (butter, flour and oatmeal) and bake that, you could heat it up and put it into a casserole with some biscuits on top and bake it into a cobbler, or just bring it to a boil (to cook the flour and thicken it a bit) and then cool and put over ice cream.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Diablo Potatoes

In case you don't know Diablo is another name for the Devil and we gave this potato recipe the name Diablo for a couple of reasons.

First it is a quick way to remember how long to cook them- 666- 6 minutes, 6 minutes, 6 -10 minutes. And secondly we almost always serve these with a simple Sriracha Mayonnaise for dipping.

Now before we get to the potatoes I have to ask are you familiar with Sriracha? If you like spicy foods and you aren't you need to run to the store and get some of this wonderful condiment. It will be found on the aisle with the Asian foods, it is a wonderfully spicy sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. It is one of my go to ingredients when I want to add a bit of heat to just about any dish. To make Sriracha Mayonnaise simply add some Sriracha to mayonnaise to taste, a little goes a long way so add it in small amounts and taste as you go. I like to make this up around the time I start the grill so it has time to sit in the fridge. This allows the flavors to “marry” a bit.

Now onto those potatoes. Start with large baking type potatoes, one per person is usually enough but if you think people are going to be really hungry it is certainly easy to add a few extras to the batch.

Wash those potatoes really well and then cut them lengthwise into 6 – 8 wedges each. I normally do e 6 unless the potatoes are really fat. Now immediately toss the wedges of potato with some oil- either vegetable oil or olive oil- whatever is handy. I like to do this in a large plastic bag to make clean up super easy. Now season to taste with salt, pepper and dry herbs/spices. This is where you can get creative use whatever sounds good to you at the time or that you feel will go well with the rest of the meal. If you are using Italian dry herb seasoning in the maindish throw some in with the potatoes, maybe some chili powder or whatever. Remember potatoes are fairly bland and take well to just about any seasoning. The only thing you can really do wrong here is to not season them, at the very least throw in some salt and pepper.

Now over direct heat on the grill- and you want it to be a fairly hot grill- place the potatoes laying on one of the cut sides. Let them cook on the covered grill for 6 minutes. Now turn them all to the other cut side keeping them over direct heat for another 6 minutes. At this point they should be cooked most of the way through and be nicely browned on both cut sides. Now flip them over onto the peel side and place them to the side of the grill (indirect heat part) and cook for another 6 to 10 minutes. This is usually a good time to get the burgers or steaks cooked. At the end of the last cooking time they should be cooked through. They can actually hang out for a few more minutes if need be on the cooler side of the grill. 

on the first side

second side

finishing off on the cool side of the grill while the rest of dinner cooks

Serve with the Sriracha Mayonnaise or whatever you like to dip your fries into.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Gingerbread with Warm Orange Sauce

I love the smell of gingerbread baking; it makes the entire house smell so warm and inviting making this the perfect dessert to make if you have guests coming for dessert. They will be hungry for it the moment they step in the front door. I love to put the chopped candied ginger into the batter; they are such a wonderful little surprise sprinkled through the moist cake. I know that candied ginger or crystallized ginger as it is called sometimes can be very expensive, especially when you get it on the baking aisle. I try to always get mine at Cost Plus World Market; they carry bags of it in the candy aisle. I am sure other stores probably do too. I am also going to try making some of my own in the next couple of weeks, if I get a good recipe I will be sure to share it here.

The warm orange sauce is a wonderful team player with the gingerbread and would also be wonderful on pancakes or waffles too. I store it in the fridge and just reheat the amount we need as we need it in the microwave.


2 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped candied ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup molasses
¾ cup hot water
½ cup vegetable oil
1 egg

Grease an 8”x8” baking dish well.
Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
Combine the flour, sugar, candied ginger, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and stir to mix well. Add the remaining ingredients and mix with a mixer on low for about 30 seconds to combine. Turn the mixer to medium and beat for an additional 3 minutes to thoroughly combine. Be sure to scrape the bowl several times during this process.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until it tests done with a toothpick in the center.

Serve warm with Warm Orange Sauce

Warm Orange Sauce

1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt
1 ¼ cup orange juice
½ cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Combine dry ingredients in a medium size sauce pan and stir to combine.
Slowly whisk in the liquids.
Cook over medium heat whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to whisk constantly while boiling for 3 more minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the butter and grated peels.
Serve warm, store any leftovers in the fridge in a covered container.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mom's Refrigerator Dessert

I have been trying to go through a bunch of stuff from my mom's house and sort through it. One of the problems with that is I keep getting sidetracked. This recipe for example, I found this recipe on a recipe card tucked into one of mom's cookbooks. As soon as I read it I was not only craving it but I was remembering all those pot luck dinners that mom took this dessert to.

For a couple of years of my childhood and into my teen years whenever mom was called upon to bring a dessert to a potluck this was what she made. I think mainly because it was easy to make and carried well to these functions.

I really don't know what the real name of it was because she had just titled the card “refrigerator dessert” I don't know where she got the recipe from either. I just know that when I took a bite of it I was right back there at one of those potlucks surrounded by friends and celebrating whatever event the potluck was for.

I know that mom changed up the cake component depending on what was on hand. Sometimes she used angel food cake and sometimes she used a plain white cake or whatever she had handy I think. Feel free to use whatever your favorite plain light cake is.

Mom's Refrigerator Dessert

1 package (4 serving size) vanilla instant pudding
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 (8 oz) container whipped topping
1 (20 oz) can pineapple tidbits
a couple of handfuls of slivered almonds, toasted

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cajun Stew

I was really at a loss for what to call this dish, I know what it is not (a jambalaya) but stew comes the closest to what it really is. I came up with this one all because of some sausage I tasted at a demo table at a grocery store several months ago. I needed to just pick up a couple of things and the parking lot at the store I normally go to was a zoo so I went to the store down the street that I don't go to very often. As I was walking through there was a very nice lady offering up samples of a smoked sausage from a company that I was not familiar with. I tried all the varieties and decided to take a package of the cajun spiced one home with me. Now I needed to figure out how to serve. I thought about it a couple of days and decided I wanted to play around with it a bit.

Since I live a ways from the nearest grocery store I always have stuff on hand in the freezer and pantry. When you live out here you don't run to the store at the last minute to pick up something for dinner. There is also no delivery any where near here. I started to think about what I had on hand. I knew there was some chicken breasts in the freezer (these are always in my freezer) and I had picked up some frozen shrimp a few days before. Hummmm.....

I mulled the choices over for a few days and decided to combine the sausages with both of the above meats. I knew I wanted to go cajun style so that meant onion, celery and green pepper. I had all of these on hand so now dinner was coming together. I wanted the chicken and shrimp to stand up to the sausage so I decided to coat these two items with some of my homemade cajun seasoning blend (I'll add that recipe at the end of this post). I knew it wouldn't take much of the seasoning, a little goes along way but it is so good on almost all meats. I had just picked up a bunch of cans of diced tomatoes and I like a tomato base to this kind of dish so that went on my mental list of ingredients. My fresh thyme was doing well at that time too and since there's dry thyme in my seasoning blend I thought that would be a good addition too (I like to add some fresh herbs in wherever I can)

The rest of the ingredients came about as I tasted the dish as I made it the first time.

Now all that being said the day I recorded this I couldn't get the cajun sausage and used some smoked sausage that was labeled Spicy Italian. It worked just as well. If you want to cut back on the spiciness of the dish use a smoked Polish type sausage. Really any variety of pre-cooked (smoked) sausage will work just fine.

We really love this one and it is really easy to make in a larger batch to feed a crowd. Since the different elements are cooked separately and come together at the end just increase it to fill up your crew. The recipe as written is plenty to fill up my son and myself and have plenty of leftovers for lunch.

On the subject of servings and more importantly how many servings my recipes make. That is a really tough question since I am trying to fill up a growing teenage boy. I swear at this age (14) they can eat enough for an army and still pop up for a snack 5 minutes later. He is currently 6' tall and still growing. So how many normal people will this feed?? You will have to be the judge of that one.

Cajun Stew

½ lb large shrimp (peeled, deveined and thawed if frozen)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
1 Tablespoon Cajun Seasoning blend
½ lb spicy sausage Cajun style or spicy Italian smoked sausage
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 green pepper sliced
3 ribs celery sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes
a splash of white wine (optional)
3 Tablespoons of a grainy mustard
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

Cajun Seasoning Blend

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon instant minced onion
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon read pepper flakes

combine and store in a jar in a dark place. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pickled Red Onions

I discovered this little gem just a couple of years ago. It seemed like every time I picked up a cooking magazine or tuned into the Food Network I saw someone making/serving pickled onions. I tried a couple of recipes and we fell in love with this one. I think it is a combination of several I found in different places but I am not really sure. All I have is the recipe scribbled on a partial piece of yellow legal paper. I keep it tacked to my kitchen bulletin board so I can make these regularly. Truth be told at this point I could probably make them in my sleep though.

There is pretty much always a jar with some of these in our fridge. We use them all the time. They are great on sandwiches of all kinds and just as fantastic in a green salad. I have thrown them into almost every recipe that calls for pickles or pickle relish and so far they have been a huge hit every time. I know that both my son and I have on occasion just grabbed a few to eat on their own too. They really are that good.

I like to store ours in a quart size canning jar. I do this for several reasons first off I have a bunch of them around from the canning that my mom, my grandma and that I have done over the years. The jars are easy to clean and can withstand the hot brine solution going in with the onions. Also the lids give a nice seal so the pickly awesomeness doesn't invade the rest of the contents of the fridge.

I like to heat the brine up in the microwave for about 2 minutes. I tried doing them without heating the liquid up and we just prefer the results this way. The brine doesn't need to come to a boil, just get it hot enough to steam a bit and to dissolve the salt and sugar. I use Tabasco in ours but use your favorite hot sauce, after a batch or two you will know how much to use. I use about 3 or 4 good splashes of it and we find it to be perfect.

These really are best after a day or so, the onions need some time to get friendly with the brine and begin to break down a bit. I really don't know how long they will keep because they have never lasted long enough to find out. The brine is a wonderful addition to salad dressings and just about anywhere else you would use vinegar. It turns a very pretty magenta color from the onions and takes on the flavor of the onions very quickly.

Pickled Red Onions

½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cold water
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 or 4 dashes hot sauce (or to taste)
1 large red onion sliced