Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ranch Turkey Pizza

Okay, another quick and easy dinner made up from some of the leftover turkey from the big feast.

This one takes a shortcut and uses one of those pre-baked pizza crusts that we can buy at the grocery store. I picked up a package of whole wheat crusts this time and got the bonus of two crusts for the price of one. Since the crust is already baked this dinner can be on the table in about 30 minutes which is fantastic with all the extra activities that seem to hit from now until Christmas.

Ranch Turkey Pizza

1 pre-baked pizza crust (12” size)
3 Tablespoons of your favorite Ranch Salad dressing
1 ½ cups diced cooked turkey
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
2 chopped green onions
½ teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
1 ½ cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

On a greased pizza pan (or flat cookie sheet) place the pizza crust.

Spread the Ranch dressing evenly over the top of the crust. Top with remaining ingredients.

Cook in pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turkey Nacho

Okay so this is really more an idea than a recipe. Make a nacho and toss some leftover cooked turkey in it. Easy and quick and you add some low fat protein to a favorite snack.

Here's a quick run down on how I built the nacho in the photo.

On a microwave safe plate scatter a layer of your favorite tortilla chips.
Top with about ½ cup of cubed cooked turkey and a handful of shredded cheese.

Microwave this on high for about 30 seconds just to get the cheese starting to melt.

Add another layer of chips, another ½ cup of turkey, a sliced green onion and a handful or two of cheese.

Microwave on high for about 1 minute or until most of the cheese is melted.

Top with you favorite toppings, we used: salsa, sliced olives, guacamole and sour cream.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Turkey Pot Pie

This is comfort food at its best, a wonderful warm dish that tastes like it came from grandma's kitchen. Okay, so it isn't low fat but once in while we need to treat ourselves. My feeling is if we eat healthy most of the time and we indulge once in a while we will be happier and less apt to go wild and eat badly all the time.

Since we are talking about leftovers from Thanksgiving this week I had to include this one. I used a pre-made pie crust from the grocery store. I usually have a couple of these in the fridge to use when I am short on time. Also if you just spent the last several days making a big dinner for the holiday you deserve to take a few shortcuts now. If you want to make a pie crust go for it! Use your favorite recipe, or plan ahead if you make pumpkin pie for the holiday and make an extra crust then.

I used thawed frozen mixed veggies in my pot pie but if you have some veggies leftover use those up first. I love this with leftover broccoli in it but it is good with whatever veggie you have on hand.

I made my pot pie with half and half but feel free to use any milk you have on hand, I like the richness of the half and half with the broth. My gravy mixture came out a little thin so I added a bit more flour to the recipe here so yours will should be thicker and richer than mine in the picture.

Turkey Pot Pie

¼ cup butter
1 medium onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic (minced or grated)
½ teaspoon dry sage
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups broth (turkey or chicken)
1 cup half and half (or any fat level milk)
2 cups mixed vegetables (thawed if frozen) or leftover veggies
2 cups cubed cooked turkey

1 pie crust, unbaked

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and saute until softened. Add the garlic, dry sage and salt and pepper, continue to cook a few minutes more, just until the garlic starts to cook and release its aroma.

Stir the flour into the butter and onion mixture and allow to cook a minute or so. Slowly stir in the broth and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Allow to boil for a minute or so then stir in the half and half. Bring back to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Add the veggies and turkey to the mixture in the saucepan and allow to come back to a simmer stirring occasionally

Pour the mixture into a large (10") glass pie dish. Top with the pie crust.

Be sure you have the pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes.
Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. 


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Pies in a Jar

I am sure you have seen the cute little pies in jars around. I think they are just adorable and I decided way back over the summer I wanted to adapt one of my pumpkin pie recipes to use in jars for Turkey Day. Over the last month or so we have tried a couple of variations and this was our favorite (and will be on the table on the holiday)

I have made the original recipe a few times with whipped cream instead of Cool Whip but found we like the flavor and the texture better with the Cool whip.

One of my favorite things about the pies in jars is they seem to take up so little room in the fridge. Face it on Thanksgiving the average fridge is way too full and a big pie takes up a lot of valuable real estate in there. The jars can be stacked up and spread to small free spaces to they are much easier to work into the already full fridge.

I like to make these the day before I am going to serve them so they are nice and cold and set up. If you don't have time the day before you will need to get them done early in the day so they have some time before you want to eat them.

I used the 4 oz quilted jelly jars made by Ball for my pies. It is much easier in the straight sided jelly jars than if you got ones that are curved. I like the small size too, just right after the huge holiday meal.

Pumpkin Pies in a Jar


1 cup Graham Cracker crumbs
2 Tablespoons sugar
¼ cup melted butter


2 cups cold milk
1 (3.5 oz) package instant vanilla pudding
1 teaspoon pumkin pie spice
1 small can pumpkin

1 (8 oz) tub cool Whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place 12 (4 oz) jelly jars on a rimmed baking sheet.

Combine the cracker crumbs and sugar then add the melted butter. Divide this mixture evenly between the jelly jars and press down firmly to make a nice flat crust. I used the bottom of a narrow juice glass.
Bake the crusts for about 5 to 8 minutes until lightly browned. Set these aside to cool completely.

When the crusts are cool you can begin making the filling.

Combine the milk, pudding mix and pumpkin pie spice in a mixing bowl. Stir until thickened and smooth (about 2 minutes) Stir in the can of pumpkin.
Measure out 1 ½ cups of this filling reserve the remaining fillign for the next step. Divide the 1 ½ cups of filling among the jelly jars.

Add 1 ½ cups of Cool Whip to the reserved pudding mixture and add this as your next layer in the jelly jars trying to divide it as evenly as possible.

Put the lid/rings on the jars and place them in fridge for at least 2 hours.

At serving time remove lids/rings and top each serving with a dollop of the remaining Cool Whip. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

I have to admit this recipe is a last minute change in my menu this year. I do always serve sweet potatoes but mine normal recipes feature orange juice and maple syrup. I was looking for a recipe for something totally off topic for the holiday in my cookbook collection and ran into this recipe. The flavor profile intrigued me so I decided to give it a last minute “audition” as a replacement player for Thanksgiving dinner. These are incredible! We loved them, in fact my 14 year old son ate almost half the recipe by himself, he kept going back for more. I know these are going to be a regular on our table long after the holiday is gone. I think they will pair wonderfully with almost any roasted meat especially poultry or pork.

Just a hint, for the big dinner next week I will be making these the day before and heating them back up. I tend to do most of my cooking for big dinners the day before, I don't want to be stuck in the kitchen while my guests are all in the living room having a good time. I'll try to get my game plan typed up and post it here on Friday so you can see what I mean. Hopefully you will get some hints you can use to make your day easier too.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

3 pounds dark sweet potatoes (about 4 large ones)
8 slices of bacon, cut up
1 large (or 2 medium) onions, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ cup half & half
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Thyme sprig to garnish if desired

Begin poking some holes in the sweet potatoes and baking them on a rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (or until tender)

Allow to cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove the bacon from skillet to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve enough of the bacon fat in the pan to cook the onions (about a 1 Tablespoon)

Cook onions in the bacon fat in skillet along with the ground cumin. Cook until the onions are tender.

Peel the sweet potatoes and mash them until smooth. Add the bacon, cooked onions (with cumin) and thyme leaves. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve now or place in a casserole dish and refrigerate up to 24 hours. To heat place in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through.

Garnish with some sprigs of fresh thyme if desired. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Basic Bread Machine Dinner Rolls

This is my all time favorite recipe for dinner rolls year round. It's the recipe I pull out almost everytime I need to make some basic rolls. Not only are they a very tasty dinner roll but the bread machine does most of the work for you.

You can make these ahead; shape the dough as directed, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for anywhere from 4 to 48 hours. Take them out of the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours then bake as directed.

If you want rolls that a are crispy all around put them on a rimmed baking sheet to rise and bake as directed.

If you want rolls that are soft on the sides use a 13”x9” baking dish.

I've also used a muffin tin to make rolls that were more muffin shaped.

You can brush the tops before you bake with beaten egg for a chewier, brown crust (also this will allow you to sprinkle them with sesame seeds) or with milk if desired. Or do like I do and brush them with melted butter after they bake for a wonderful buttery crust. (wrap them in a damp towel briefly too for a softer crust)

You can make these the day before and simply re-heat them in the oven wrapped in foil too. Like I said they are really versatile.

showing 3 variations on shape

Basic Bread Machine Dinner Rolls

1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons room temperature butter
1 egg
3 ¼ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon yeast

Measure all the ingredients into your bread machine in the order specified in your owner's manual. If you don't have the manual anymore the order I listed them in is the order my machine calls for.

Use the dough cycle on your machine to form the dough.

At the end of the dough setting remove the dough from the machine to a floured surface. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Grease your pan (see above)
divide the dough into 15 equal sized pieces, shape each piece into a ball. Place in prepared pan. Cover and rise in a warm (draft free) place for 30 to 40 minutes or until double in size.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Brush the tops with melted butter if desired.

Serve warm or cool on a wire rack.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Apple Juice Brined Turkey

Well, Turkey Day is almost here do you have your menu all figured out yet? Do you go with a very traditional menu or do you modernize those traditional flavors a bit?

At our house we start “auditioning” recipes for the big day sometime in mid October. I actually start looking for recipes and collecting ideas in about January but things start to come together about a month or so before the holiday. This auditioning of the recipes is a long standing tradition and we take it very seriously. If you happen to be at our house for dinner on one of the nights we are doing this you will be expected to join in the conversation. We discuss at length the merits and downfalls of each dish over dinner. We compare it to other recipes in the same category that we may have tried recently and with those recipes we have served other years. We discuss if the recipe will “play well” with the rest of the meal. It really is a fun tradition, you should try it at your house.

This year I had run into this different brine recipe for the turkey, I always brine my turkey (actually any poultry I am going to roast/ grill whole) and I have shared my traditional recipe on this blog in the past (check it out here  just double the ingredients for a turkey) This year I wanted to try something a bit different, a bit more special. I was looking through my cookbook collection and found this recipe well, I found the starting point for this recipe since I can never leave any recipe alone. I did make some changes from the original. Last week we gave it a try with a turkey breast and it was amazing! The only really problem I found was that the skin got very dark very quickly. I think because of the higher sugar content of the brine from the one I use normally. It still tasted fantastic not burnt at all it was just dark in color. The flavor the brine gave the meat was so fantastic definitely worthy of a place on the holiday menu this year.

I also now have my gravy for Thanksgiving Day in the freezer waiting for me. This is important since we almost always cook our turkey on Thanksgiving on the grill. We love the flavor that the charcoal grill gives the meat but it doesn't work very well for gravy because the drippings always get ashes in them. For this reason I always make my gravy up a week or two before the holiday and freeze it. I then defrost it the day before and put it in my small (1 quart) slow cooker to re-heat for dinner. So easy and one less thing to have to think about when company arrives.

You will need a large container to hold your turkey and the brine, I use my cooler. I add plenty of ice and let it sit in my kitchen which tends to be a pretty cold room. If you have a garage that would also be a good place to let your turkey do its time in the brine.

Remember to allow plenty of time for the turkey to defrost if you are buying a frozen one. I find that since I keep my fridge a bit colder than most people do I need to allow an extra day or two from what most of the websites say. Also you will need to have your turkey thawed out the day before you are going to cook it since it will need to sit in the brine for a good 18 hours.

For the apple juice in this recipe you don't need anything fancy just make sure it is actually apple juice and not a “juice cocktail” with a lot of added sugar. You do need a 100% juice for this. I am going to probably use the correct amount of frozen concentrate with water for mine depending on what is the better value. I am assuming you are oven roasting your turkey so I am including the recipe for the fantastic gravy.

Apple Juice Brined Turkey

Brine and turkey

1 gallon of apple juice (no sugar added)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup chopped fresh (or 2 Tablespoons dry) sage
½ cup fresh thyme leaves (or 2 tablespoons dry)
2 Tablespoons whole peppercorns

1 Turkey, thawed if purchased frozen (rinsed, neck and giblet package removed)
water and ice as necessary to cover turkey

1 onion (cut in quarters)
1 lemon (cut in quarters)
a few springs of fresh thyme
a few sprigs of sage
melted butter or oil to coat turkey

Gravy and basting sauce

½ cup butter
1 Tablespoon fresh sage
5 cloves garlic (minced or grated)
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 cups chicken or turkey broth
salt and pepper to taste

Reserve 1 cup of the apple juice to use in the basting mixture (be sure to refrigerate)
In a large container combine the rest of the apple juice, the brown sugar, kosher salt, ½ cup fresh sage (or 2 Tablespoon dry) ½ cup fresh thyme (or 2 Tablespoon dry) and the whole peppercorns. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the turkey to the brine mixture and add enough water to completely cover the turkey. If you are brining in a cooler add ice with the water.

Allow to brine for about 18 hours.

Remove turkey from brine 1 hour before time to begin cooking. Rinse turkey to remove excess brine and allow the skin to dry. Place quartered onion, lemon and sprigs of fresh herbs in cavity of turkey.

Tuck wing tips under back of turkey and tie legs together. Coat skin well with melted butter or oil.

Roast at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for time needed for the size of your turkey. (there are many charts online and in cookbooks to find the correct time)

Combine the reserved apple juice with the remaining ½ cup butter and garlic in a small saucepan. About an hour before the turkey is expected to be done begin basting the skin with this mixture about every 15 minutes, using all the mixture.

Check the temperature of the turkey in the thigh to be sure it is cooked. Don't rely on the pop up timer, I have rarely had them give me an accurate indication of doneness.

When your turkey is done remove from oven allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile pour the drippings into a measuring cup. Skim off and reserve the fat.

In a medium saucepan combine ¼ cup of the fat from the drippings with the flour to form a roux. Add the liquid from the drippings along with the 2 cups of broth stirring to make a gravy. After the gravy comes to a boil taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Meat and Pasta Casserole

This has always been a dish that lands on our dinner table on a regular basis. When my oldest son was little he absolutely loved this so that was one reason (we all actually have loved this one from the first time I made it) Another reason I have always made it a lot is that it is just so versatile, it really is what you want it to be each time. Feel like Mexican food this casserole can give you that. What if you want Italian, no problem, this casserole will go there too. The reason is this is really just a basic road map, you fill in the blanks and make it just the way you want it.

First you choose what ground meat you want to use this time. I have made this with all of the following: ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey, ground pork, bulk Italian sausage, bulk pork sausage and Chirizo. All of them worked wonderfully! So whatever you have on hand or in the mood to use.

The canned soup: any of the condensed cream of whatever soups, cheddar cheese soup, nacho cheese soup, or tomato soup. Just so it is a condensed soup (you know the ones you would add water or milk to) and it has a creamy base.

Seasonings: dried herbs, (whatever goes with what you have in mind) some ideas: basil, tarragon, dill, oregano, Italian seasonings, etc
Spices: chilli powder, cumin, caraway seed, etc

Pasta: whatever shape you have on hand elbows, ziti, egg noodles just about any shape.

Crumb topping: dry bread crumbs (mix with a bit of melted butter), Parmesan cheese (mixed with bread crumbs), fresh bread crumbs (mix with a bit of melted butter) crushed tortilla chips, crushed potato chips, chow mien noodles (crushed)

So you see you really can go anywhere with this. I love to do the following combinations:

Ground beef, chilli powder, cumin, cheddar cheese soup and top with crushed tortilla chips.

Any ground meat, Italian seasonings, tomato soup and topped with a mixture of dry bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and butter

Meat and Pasta Casserole

4 oz pasta
1 pound of ground meat
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
(1 clove garlic, chopped optional)
1 (10 to 11 oz) can condensed soup, cream based
½ cup sour cream
½ cup milk
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
½ to 1 teaspoon seasonings of your choice

Crumb topping, about ¾ cup total or to cover your casserole dish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Cook pasta according to directions on package, drain when cooked

Brown meat until cooked through and set aside. In the same skillet sweat the vegetables until slightly tender.

Combine canned soup, sour cream and milk until mixed well. Add seasonings, cooked meat. Cooked pasta and vegetables.

Pour mixture into an 8” x 8” casserole dish

Top with topping

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes until heated through and top is browned.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sweet and Sour Chicken

This is yet another of my recipes for chicken in the slow cooker. I know a lot of us are always on the look out for new ideas for both chicken and slow cooker recipes. I will say that for my taste this is really too sweet but I know other family members that absolutely love it. I have a feeling a lot of the sweetness level also depends on the brand of sweet and sour sauce you use. My grocery store only carries one brand and it is very sweet. Also you can always add some heat to this too.

Since this recipe requires you to pay a bit of attention at the end of the day plan it for a day when you have some time before dinner. Also it gives the perfect opportunity to out some brown rice in the rice cooker while dinner finishes up.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

1 ½ to 2 cups carrot sticks
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 medium onion sliced
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 jar (about 9 oz) sweet and sour sauce
1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks

Place the carrots, bell pepper and onion in the slow cooker. Top with the chicken and sprinkle with the pepper flakes.

Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours until cooked through.

Drain off and discard the liquid that has accumilated in the slow cooker.
Add the sweet and sour sauce and the pineapple chunks to the chicken and vegetables in the slow cooker and heat on low for an additional hour.

Serve over rice

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Salmon Chowder

There is nothing like a warm bowl of soup for dinner on a cool fall evening. This one is so wonderfully creamy and tasty that I know you will love adding it to your meals this fall.

I am starting with a salmon fillet but if you want to use a couple of cans of salmon feel free to do so, just skip the first part of the recipe. It will be just as good and a bit quicker too.

Salmon Chowder

(poached salmon)
½ cup water
¼ cup dry white wine
1 carrot, sliced
½ onion, sliced
1 sprig parsley
salt and pepper to taste
½ pound salmon fillet (cut to fit pan)

In a medium size skillet combine the water, wine, and veggies bring to a simmer and add the salmon fillet pieces. Cook at a low simmer until fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove fish from pan and allow to cool. Strain liquid and reserve for chowder.

salmon and its cooking liquid (or a large can of salmon)

4 slices bacon, chopped
½ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
reserved salmon cooking liquid
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups finely diced potato

2 cups half and half

Cook bacon until crisp and remove from pan. Sweat the onion and garlic in the bacon drippings until softened. Add the salmon cooking liquid, water, chicken broth and potatoes bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are cooked through and very tender.

Meanwhile flake cooked salmon (I like to use my finger for this to be extra sure I don't miss any bones)

When the potatoes are cooked add the half and half and the cooked salmon.
Heat through
Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pumpkin Cookies

Okay, I have to admit these are one of my favorite things to make in the fall!! I love these and they are pretty easy to make. They have all the wonderful spices you would normally find in a pumpkin pie. So good and since I only make them in the fall they remain special. I usually make a batch sometime in the month of September or October and that is it. If you missed them you have to wait for next year (well, if you asked really nice I might make another batch)

These also freeze really well so some years I divide the dough up and use fall cookie cutters for part of it and Halloween for the rest and then freeze the Halloween ones for a few weeks.

Because there are no eggs or dairy products in these they are vegan so if you need to come up with a good cookie that is either vegan or dairy free these are wonderful. The combination of the pumpkin and the shortening along with the brown sugar and molasses gives these cookies a wonderfully chewy (almost cake like) texture.

You will want to roll the dough out to be ¼” thick before cutting with your favorite fall cookie cutters. Have you ever been unsure about how thick you are rolling the dough? I have a little trick that will help with that. Just go to the craft store and buy a basswood strip that is ¼” x ¼” and cut it into 2 pieces and you can lay them on each side of your dough. When your rolling pin reaches the level of the strips of wood it won't go any further and your dough is the perfect thickness. I have several sizes so I can easily roll dough to any thickness I want. I store them with my wooden spoons so they are easy to find when I need them. Just as easy and much cheaper than those rubber rings they make to put on your rolling pin.

Pumpkin Cookies

¼ cup vegetable shortening (I only use Crisco for this)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup mashed cooked pumpkin
¾ cup molasses
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice

Colored decorating sugars and/or fall sprinkles if desired.

Cream the sugar and shortening in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the pumpkin and molasses and stir to combine well.
Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices and blend into the cookie mixture.

Wrap in plastic and chill for 3 or 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a well floured board roll dough to ¼” thick and cut with a well floured cookie cutter

Carefully transfer to a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with decorator sugar and/or sprinkles if desired. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

You should get around 2 dozen cookies depending on the size of your cookie cutter.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cajun Chicken

It always seems like once the month of September rolls around I get way busier. After all school has started which translates to lots more driving and planning. And then all the late summer produce it getting ready and begging me to do something with it. With all that going on some days I just don't feel like making a big dinner. Unfortunately, my son still thinks he needs to eat (didn't I just feed him yesterday?? just kidding) Days like this need quick and easy dinners from the slow cooker.

And this brings us to today's recipe. Yes it is yet another chicken in the slow cooker recipe. I love these because I can put them on to cook and then get other stuff done. Also like a lot of my favorites this goes over some rice at the end of the day. That means all I have to do is get my rice cooker to cook the rice portion of the dish and I am done. If I choose to make a salad or cut up some raw veggies great if not, what the heck this has some veggies in it and we tend to snack on fruits and veggies a lot anyway. Some days you just need to have a one dish meal that you don't have to fuss over.

This is called Cajun Chicken for a couple of reasons, first off you start off the dish with the Cajun tradition of the holy trinity (bell pepper, onion and celery) and secondly the dish utilizes one of the commercial brands of Cajun Seasoning available in the grocery store. Use whatever brand your store carries (there are probably a ton of recipes online for a dyi version too)

This dish does require a few minutes of prep time to cut up the veggies, cook the bacon, sweat the veggies and brown the chicken, it took me about 15 minutes to get all that done. Once the dish cooks all day in the slow cooker (at least 8 hours) it really needs nothing else done to it so other than getting the rice cooked you are set to sit down and eat.

Cajun Chicken

3 slices bacon, chopped
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped celery
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning blend
1 (14 ½ oz) can diced tomatoes (with the liquid)

Cook bacon in skillet until crispy. Add the bell pepper, onion and celery and cook just to soften.

Place bacon and veggies in the bottom of a 3 ½ to 4 quart slow cooker.

Sprinkle chicken on both sides with about ½ the Cajun seasoning. Brown the chicken in the remaining bacon fat in skillet.

When chicken is nicely browned (not cooked just browned on the outside) add it and any drippings in pan to slow cooker.

Stir the remaining teaspoon of Cajun seasoning into the canned tomatoes and pour over chicken in slow cooker

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours.

Serve over a bed of rice

Serves 4

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

I know that some of my friends planted both tomatoes and bell peppers so this recipe is especially for you! When September rolls around I start trying to use up the tomatoes that are ripening and this is a fantastic year for tomatoes. The plants I planted are absolutely loaded with them. If you didn't plant any that's okay make a trip to your favorite produce department or better yet to the farmer's market and buy some while they are so wonderful. This is the best time of year for both the peppers and the tomatoes.

Now for a little confession I don't even like tomato soup and I love this one,. It's that good. The roasted red peppers go a long way in the flavor and they are so easy to make.

You are in control of how smooth or chunky your soup is, I like mine to have some texture so I simply run the ingredients through the blender and then back to the soup pot. If you want it to be smoother feel free to use a strainer to get some of the texture out. For a truly smooth soup you would probably have to peel the tomatoes but I don't. Like I said I like a bit of texture and they do add a lot of nutrients to the soup.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

2 large red peppers, seeded and cut into strips
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ pounds tomatoes, chopped (about 10 to 15 tomatoes depending on the variety)
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry basil
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (I always use a mixed one)
2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
Optional garnish: sprig of fresh oregano or basil

Preheat oven to 450.  Line a small baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray and arrange red pepper strips on it in a single layer. Roast the pepper strips for about 15 minutes until they are tender and start to brown.

Meanwhile in a dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until soft (just sweat them don't brown) about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the onions and cook until tender. 

Process the tomato mixture with the chicken broth and the peppers in batches in the blender until smooth.

Return to soup pot and add the salt, pepper and dry herbs. Be sure to taste for seasoning levels. Stir in balsamic vinegar and serve.

Garnish with a sprig of fresh herb if desired.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Creamy Scallops with Angel Hair Pasta

OK, first let's get the fact that this is really rich and loaded with calories out on the table. Oh yeah, this one is definitely not an everyday dish but it is so good, so luscious and so worth being in your recipe file for special occasions. So save this recipe for a special occasion and enjoy it then go back to healthier fare the rest of the week.

One thing I have noticed about cooking with scallops is that sometimes they seem to give off a lot more liquid into the pan than other times. I am not going to try to figure out why and explain it to you. Instead I will tell you how to deal with it. If you do find that your scallops are really wet and you end up with a lot of sauce use a slotted spoon and remove the scallops from the pan and let them join the pasta in the serving bowl while you cook the sauce down a bit. One of the worst things you could do to this dish is over cook the scallops. They are very delicate but will turn to little wads of rubber if you overcook them.
Don't be concerned about them getting cold sitting there waiting the sauce will warm them up just fine when you pour it over them and toss them and the pasta in it.

I do use a white wine in this sauce my preference for this dish is a nice chardonnay. It doesn't have to be very expensive to be good either. If you are going to serve wine with the dish I would recommend the same bottle of chardonnay to with it. It will stand up to the richness of the dish just fine. If you don't want to add the wine just leave it out no problem I just add it because I like the added layer of flavor it gives.


Creamy Scallops with Angel Hair Pasta

8 oz angel hair pasta
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¾ pound small scallops (fresh or thawed)
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
4 oz crumbled feta cheese

Cook the pasta as directed on the package. When cooked drain well and reserve in a large bowl.

While the pasta is cooking heat the oil in a large skillet then add scallops, tomatoes and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the scallops just begin to turn opaque. Add the wine and cook to reduce. (If the scallops cook before the sauce reduces to about half remove the scallops and add them to the pasta in the bowl)

When the sauce has reduced to about half add the cream and oregano and heat through (just to bubbling)

Pour sauce over pasta and toss. Add the feta cheese and toss again

Monday, September 17, 2012

Creamy Ranch Dip/ Spread

I think we probably all have a favorite go to recipe for a quick dip for veggies, pretzels or chips. I thought today I would share my favorite one and tell you a bit about how you can change it up a bit.

First off I almost always have some kind of fresh herb either growing or in the fridge and I think that makes a huge difference in how this dip tastes. If you must use dry go ahead (use about a 1/3 as much dry as fresh) but you will be missing the wonders of the fresh flavor.

One of the things I really love about this dip is that is equally good made with fat free or full fat products. So use whichever version fits your lifestyle best. I have also used Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream and it is just as good. So definitely use what you have in this.

In addition to being a fantastic (and quick) dip I love this recipe as a spread on sandwiches. Just use it like you would the mayo, the added flavor will really perk up that simple sandwich. The version I give here is really great with either chicken or fish.

Depending on what I am going to serve this with I do change up the herbs from time to time. For example if I know we will be making some roast beef sandwiches this week I would use thyme and rosemary in place of the basil and dill. So good, the perfect match for beef and still every bit as good with some pretzels and veggies for a quick snack.

You will notice that I use grated onion in this. I use whatever type of onion I have on hand (usually yellow or white) and the medium size holes on my box grater. Do this over the bowl you will be mixing in you want to catch all those juices too.

This is by the way one of those recipes that is really better if it sits for a few hours in the fridge so the flavors can blend together a bit.

Creamy Ranch Dip/ Spread

½ cup sour cream (any fat level)
¼ cup mayonnaise (any fat level)
1 teaspoon each: chopped fresh dill
chopped fresh basil
chopped fresh parsely
chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon grated onion

Mix all the ingredients. Store covered in the fridge.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pesto Tomato Bread

This has quickly become a favorite bread to go with some of the wonderful soups I that we all tend to eat more of this time of year. And the fact that the bread machine does all the work of mixing and kneading and getting it ready for you shape and bake it makes it fairly easy too.

The touch of sun dried tomatoes and pesto give the bread just a hint of those flavors making it go so well with soups. The sun dried tomatoes also lend it a beautiful color that would make it stand out in a bread basket.

Besides going wonderfully with soup this makes some of the best grilled cheese sandwiches too!

Pesto Tomato Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ Tablespoons dry yeast
1 cup Plus 2 Tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup pesto
1/3 cup coarsely chopped oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 egg beaten with a small amount of water
shredded Parmesan cheese

Add all ingredients except the egg and Parmesan cheese to your bread machine in the order directed by your owner's manual.

Set the bread machine for a Dough setting.

When the cycle is complete roll dough out to a 16” x 12” rectangle and cut in half crosswise. Roll up each half of the dough into 12” long loaves.

Using a sharp knife make 3 diagonal slices across the tops of each loaf.

Place on a well greased baking sheet and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes or until doubled.

Brush the loaves of bread with the egg/ water mixture and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree (Fahrenheit) oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 2 loaves

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Curry Chicken

This is definitely one of the recipes that falls under the heading “torture by slow cooker” because it just smells wonderful as it cooks. The house will be filled with the wonderful warm aromas of curry by day's end.

This is a fairly quick cook as slow cooker recipes go, about 6 or 7 hours so it is more for one of those days when you are busy running some errands or such rather than a day off at work. If left much beyond the 7 hours the chicken will dry out. You might give it a try with chicken thighs in place of the chicken breast if you want to let it sit longer.

Be sure to pair this with a nice bed of rice, you don't want to loose any of the wonderful sauce this cooks in.

And speaking of that wonderful sauce, the base of it is a jar of mango chutney. I usually find it in jars that hold about a cup and that is perfect for this recipe.

Curry Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds total)
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion sliced
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 cup fresh sugar snap peas
1 jar mango chutney (about 1 cup)
¾ cup water
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Layer the chicken, beans, onions, bell pepper, and sugar snap peas in the bottom of your 3 ½ to 4 quart slow cooker. I usually do 2 layers of each

Combine remaining ingredients stirring to combine and pour over chicken mixture in slow cooker.

Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or until chicken is cooked through.

Serve over a bed of rice.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pumpkin Soup 2.0

If you hang around my house for very long you will soon discover that I can never leave a recipe alone. Even after we have declared that a recipe can't get any better I am still adding this or that or taking out something or just adjusting it in general. This Pumpkin Soup is a prime example. We love this soup and have ever since the first time I made it. It is fantastic but I had to play with it this week to make it just a bit better and that is what I am sharing today.

One of the small changes I made was to subsitute some fresh sage for the dry sage in the original recipe. You see the sage plant on my back porch is threatening to take over the pot from the other herbs. I love to use fresh herbs whenever I can and the flavor of the fresh combines so nicely with the other flavors in this soup. If you don't have fresh simply use a teaspoon of dry and it will still taste fantastic.

The other minor change I made on this version was that I had just purchased some nice fresh ginger. I love the bite of fresh ginger in soups so I added a Tablespoon to the pot. Oh my, it is so delicious in there! On this on dry just won't cut it so if you don't have any fresh ginger I would say leave it out. However, it is so worth having that you really should pick up some ginger next time you go through the produce department. (it freezes really well and is actually easier to grate frozen than not)

Pumpkin Soup (2.0)

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (15 oz) can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz) can vegetable broth
1 (14 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dry)
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
½ Tablespoon soy sauce
dash hot sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Lime wedges (1 per person)

Combine everything except the lime wedges in a medium to large saucepan. Heat through over medium heat.

Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze into the soup at the table.