Archive for May, 2010

Vegetable Pizza

I love Vegetable pizzas.  Mark turned up his nose at this, until he tried it. It’s easy to make, semi healthy (Vegetables are great, the crust and sauce, not so much). But it does taste good and makes a Great appetizer!

Vegetable Pizza

2 Rolls of Crescent Rolls

1 8 oz. pkg. Cream Cheese, softened

1 Tbsp. Mayonnaise

1 tsp. Minced Garlic

1/2 tsp. Dill Weed

1 Tbsp. Dry Ranch Seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Unroll Crescent dough onto a greased cookie sheet, to completely cover pan. Press your fingers over the dough to seal the seams. Bake the dough for 12 – 15 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, Combine Cream cheese, Mayonnaise, garlic, Dill and Ranch Seasoning in a bowl.

Spread the sauce over the cooled dough, and add desired vegetables.

Green and Red Pepper, Cauliflower, Broccoli Slaw (that’s what I used, has the cabbage, broccoli and carrots already in it!!) etc. Cut into squares and serve.

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Cheater Chili

It’s rare that I open cans and make something. But, somethings and sometimes it works.  This is really good chili and I will definitely make this again. This is when you want dinner quick and it’s even better when it tastes this good! No need to feel guilty, get the can opener out and have at it!

Cheater Chili

2 lbs. Ground Sirloin

1 Large Onion, diced

6 stalks Celery, diced

1 (15 oz.) Can Tomato Sauce

6 Cans (15.5 oz.) Bush’s Best Chili Magic Chili Starter – Traditional Mild (you can of course, pick hotter beans)

2 Cups Water

In a large dutch oven, saute’ ground sirloin until no pink remains. Drain grease. Add Onion and celery and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. About 10 minutes.  Add Tomato sauce, water and beans. Bring to a  boil, turn heat down, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Scoop into bowls, Grate cheese over the top of chili and add a dollop of sour cream if desired.

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Recently I was sent “The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson to review and try some recipes out of. I must say that this is another book that absolutely delights me!  I am a Meat and potatoes gal, but try hard to incorporate lots of veggies into our diets.  This book has made that endeavor so much easier, giving me a lot of inspiration.  There’s plenty of recipes and variety to choose from, making it hard to pick just a few to get started.  The first recipe I choose to make and post here is the Tomato Jelly with Basil Goat cheese. The description and the picture of it, made it too hard to pass up!

Tomato Jelly with Basil Goat Cheese

Serves 4

3/4 Cup Stock

2 Heaping Teaspoons Agar Flakes

1 lb. Ripest Tomatoes (cherry, small plum, or very ripe summer tomatoes) minced or processed to a mush

1 Scant Maldon Sea Salt

1 Scant tsp. Sugar

Pinch of dried chili flakes

1/4 lb. Soft Goat Cheese

1 Heaped Tablespoon Sour Cream

1 Small Clove Garlic, Crushed to a paste with a little Maldon sea salt

Small Handful Basil Leaves, minced

Freshly Ground White Pepper

Put the stock into a stainless steel pan, sprinkle the agar flakes over, but do not stir in.  Allow to come to a gentle simmer and then swirl the pan around over the heat, until the flakes begin to melt. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes and then add the tomatoes, salt, sugar and chili. Bring up to just under simmering point and then pass through a fine strainer suspended over a bowl.  Initially, simply allow the juice to drip through, then carefully move the tomato pulp around with a spoon to coax more juice out, but do not force or press it.

Meanwhile, thoroughly mix the goat cheese, sour cream, garlic, basil, and pepper together in a bowl. Spoon into the base of four small glass tumblers (or similar) dividing it equally. Now take the bowl of tomato liquid and place it over a large bowl filled with ice cubes and water. Taking a metal spoon, gently stir the liquid around until it just begins to gel; this will take about 10 minutes, but note that when it starts to gel, it will happen quite swiftly.

Spoon the jelly over the cheese mixture and refrigerate for about 1 hour. The jellies are best eaten then and there. Serve with teaspoons and eat with  thin, hot buttered toast. An elegant summer first course, best eaten out of doors.

Note that you can use unflavored Gelatin powder in place of agar, measurements staying the same, but gelatin is made with animal by products where the agar flakes are made with seaweed. Many vegetarians rely upon this seaweed derivative as a substitute.

Verdict: This was delicious! Smooth, creamy, melt in your mouth and extremely refreshing to me. The flavors and textures perfect, one complimenting the other. I will definitely make this again. This would be great for a dinner party.

The second recipe I choose was: Mum’s Potato Cakes.  I simply love potato cakes. I almost always peel and cook more potatoes than necessary for mashed potatoes just so I can enjoy potato cakes the next day. So my choice to make this was for pure indulgence and comfort on my part.

Mum’s Potato Cakes

Serves 4, for tea

1 1/4 to 1 1/2  pounds waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

Salt & Freshly ground Pepper

about 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour

Vegetable Oil

Plenty of Butter, to serve

Warm the oven in advance and put an ovenproof serving dish to warm up. Steam (for preference) or boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. If boiled, drain well and dry out in the pan over low heat for a few minutes.  Tip the cooked potatoes into a roomy pan, then immediately mash until fluffy, but not super smooth by any means. Tip out onto a counter or tray and allow to cool and dry out for about half and hour.

Once they are ready to handle, sprinkle the potatoes with salt and grind the pepper over them. Now, little by little, sift the flour over, working it into the potatoes with your fingers, using a gentle kneading movement, until the mixture is workable but with a slight trace of stickiness. You will almost certainly need the full 3/4 cup of flour, maybe a little more.

Roll out to about 5/8 inch thick and then cut into cakes the size of small cookies.  Take a skillet, add a little oil and gently heat. Dust each cake with a little flour and begin to fry them, 3 or 4 at a time. Do this ever so gently until pale golden, about 3 minute s on each side. Slide them directly into the warmed serving dish and put back into the oven to keep the potato cakes warm while you finish cooking the rest.

Once they are all cooked, cut slices of butter directly from the package and place one upon each potato cake. By the time you serve them, the butter will have reached that perfect state of half melted. You will need a small plate, a fork, and big napkins.


Pure Comfort Food! Absolutely Delicious!  Exactly as potato cakes should taste. Sometimes the simplest of recipes are the best. These didn’t last long at all.  Mark (Mr Fire) loved these! “Wow, these are good”,  were his exact words.  Next time I’d like to add a little onion to them and cook em up that way.

What I liked in the book was the wide variety and selections of vegetables, and for the most part, easy to find ingredients. (Although you will need a little more up scale market for some ingredients and produce.) While not every recipe has a picture, there is enough to give you the visual aid of what most of the recipes outcome should look like.  I also liked the ease of preparing the recipes, and is for all skill levels providing enough information to make the recipes work for even novice starting out cooks.  The quality of the book is first-rate, using the highest quality materials to ensure the book lasts a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will use it often. I highly recommend this as a needed book to round out and add to your kitchen arsenal of recipes!

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Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh.

When I seen this challenge, I was excited to get going on this. Both my husband and I enjoy Mexican dishes and looking and reading the challenge made us both salivate. Promptly I went to the store and bought the Anaheim Chilies and the Tomatillo’s. Lit the Barbecue grill and got busy!


1. Roasting the Anaheim chiles is a critical part of the Green Chile sauce. More information about how to do this is included below, but please resist the temptation to rinse the chiles to remove the skin or seeds. You will lose lots of flavor if you do this!!
2. If using a broiler to roast the chiles, lining the broiler pan or baking sheet with foil greatly simplifies the clean-up process!
3. You may want to consider using gloves when peeling and removing seeds from the chiles. I keep a set of gloves in the kitchen for just that purpose. All it takes is one hand to the eye or nose for a lot of pain to set in!

Variations allowed:

If you have already mastered a chile-tomatillo enchilada sauce or would rather try something else, feel free to make any homemade Mexican-style sauce that will make you feel daring, whether it is a complex mole sauce, a tomato-based sauce or simply uses ingredients that you have readily available in your area. For ideas, see the links below.

Instead of chicken you are free to use any pork, beef, bean or vegetable filling you’d like. If you don’t have access to ready-made tortillas and don’t want to make them, you can use other kinds of wraps (dosas? savory crepes?) or omit them and just do the filling and sauce.

Thanks to Natalia in Rome, Kris in Thailand, and Audax in Australia, we recognize that some of you may not have access to fresh or canned tomatillos. Audax has offered the following alternatives to tomatillos:

I’ve done some research on substitutes for tomatillos and came up with green gooseberries (which you can easily get in Australia and New Zealand) which look and taste very similar to tomatillos but gooseberries can be tarter than tomatillos so use only 3/4 of the recipe amount or add some sugar. A number of recipe sites in Australia mentioned this substitute and they stated it was a good sub for tomatillos.

I just got a phone call back from a mate of mine who does a lot of Tex-Mex cooking he suggests green tomatoes with tamarind paste (1 kg tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste) which he says is the best sub he has found – the tamarind paste is very tart and adds that unique taste. Also he says that green tomatoes with equal amounts of lime juice and prune juice (no added sugar) is better than lime juice alone.

Be sure to season your filling if you are not using boneless, skinless grilled chicken. While the sauce is flavorful, the chicken or other filling you use should be seasoned if you are not using boneless, skinless grilled chicken.

Preparation time: Below are the approximate prep times for each step of the process. The sauce is the most time-intensive, but it can be made ahead and several of the steps can be done simultaneously. See additional information below for more preparation times and tips.

Roasting/preparing chiles and tomatillos: 30 – 60 min.
Assembling/simmering enchilada sauce: 30 min.
Grill chicken: 10 – 15 min.
Assembly/ baking enchilada stacks: 30 min.

Equipment required:
• Grill, broiler, or gas stove to roast Anaheim chiles
• Grill, broiler, or saucepan to cook tomatillos
• Bowl and plastic wrap to cover the bowl or a paper bag to steam Anaheim chiles
• Blender or food processor to puree tomatillos (or very finely chop)
• Small frying pan (for frying tortillas)
• Baking dish – either one large (10×15 inch) or individual gratin dishes
• Cheese grater
• Knives for cutting chicken and roasted chiles
• Spoons for stirring sauce
• Tongs are helpful for turning chiles as they roast, chicken as it grills and tortillas as they fry


1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chiles (about eight 6 to 8 inch chiles) 24 ounces 678 grams – roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely. Other green chiles (NOT bell peppers) could probably be substituted but be conscious of heat and size!)
7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium)212 grams – peel, remove stems
4 cups Chicken broth (32 ounces/920 grams)
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)
¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)
2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)
Hot sauce, your favorite, optional
2 Boneless chicken breasts (you can also use bone-in chicken breasts or thighs)
3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)
Kosher salt and pepper
12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)
6 ounces grated Monterey Jack, 170 grams (other cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican cheeses) can be used. Just be sure they melt well and complement the filling)
Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional


Roasting Fresh Chiles

1. Coat each chile with a little vegetable oil. If you are doing only a couple chiles, using the gas stove works. For larger batches (as in this recipe), grilling or broiling is faster.
2. Lay the oiled chiles on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.
3. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove them to a bowl and cover with plastic, or close up in a paper bag. Let them rest until they are cool.
4. Pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.

Green Chile Sauce

1. Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil and remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos. Boil the tomatillos until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. You can also grill the tomatillos until soft.
2. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.
3. Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken broth, chopped green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.
6. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.

Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

1. Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal Coat the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes a side for boneless chicken breasts.
3. Cool and then slice into thin strips or shred.
4. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.
5. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).
6. Drain on paper towels.
7. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.
8. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
9. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.
10. Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
11. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese.
12. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.
13. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
14. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.

Additional Information:

Roasting chiles: Whether you roast the chiles on a grill, under the broiler, or use the gas burner element on your stove will affect the time it takes. If you do all the chiles at once on a grill or using the broiler, it will take 15- 30 minutes, plus time to steam (10 minutes) and time to peel and remove seeds (20 minutes).

Cooking tomatillos: If you boil the tomatillos, it will take 5 -10 minutes. If you grill them, it will take 2-5 minutes. If you broil them, it will take 8-12 minutes. This can be done the same time the chiles are roasting. After they are cooked, they need to be pureed, which takes a few seconds in a blender.

Cooking chicken: If you grill your chicken, it takes about 5 or 6 minutes per side for boneless chicken breasts- depending on thickness of breasts. Other pieces (thighs, for example) or bone-in chicken will take longer. If you roast your chicken, a bone-in breast takes about 30 minutes (depending on size). Be sure chicken is done but not overcooked, since it will be in the oven in the last stage of the recipe. http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-to-make-juicy-grilled-chicken.html

Corn Tortillas (from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen)
Makes about 15

1 3/4 cups masa harina
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water

Pour hot water over masa harina, cover and let sit 30 minutes. Add (additional) cool water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky. Divide the dough into 15 balls and cover with plastic wrap.

Heat a large (two burner) ungreased griddle or two large skillets, one on medium-low and one on medium-high.

Put a ball of dough between two sheets of plastic. If you don’t have a tortilla press, press to a 5-6” circle using a heavy frying pan or bread board or other heavy, flat object. Put the tortilla into the cooler pan or cooler end of the griddle. The tortilla will probably stick, but within 15 seconds, if the temperature is correct, it will release. Flip it at that point onto the hotter skillet/griddle section. In 30-45 seconds, it should be dotted with brown underneath. Flip it over, still on the hot surface and brown another 30 seconds or so. A good tortilla will balloon up at this point. Remove from heat and let them rest while cooking the remaining tortillas. Use quickly.


Flour tortillas:

Traditional New Mexico Red Chile Cheese Stacked Enchiladas: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/traditional-new-mexico-red-chile-cheese-stacked-enchiladas-recipe/index.html

Quick Chicken Mole

Chocolate Mole

Verdict:  These were delicious!!  We enjoyed them very much. We will make these again, only next time I’d like to try the red Enchilada Sauce, only because I made the Green Sauce this time around.  Thank you ladies for a great challenge this month, I’m looking forward to June’s.

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Pea Salad

My Grand kids, Father absolutely loves this salad!  He would eat the bowl all his self without sharing with anyone else.  It really is a good tasting salad and is very easy to make.  I made this recipe for him the other day thinking that nobody would eat that much of it and he would be able to take home the remaining salad. The funny part of the whole thing is he doesn’t like cucumber or tomatoes. They share a supporting role to this dish.  Poor guy only got a couple of spoonfuls to take home.  My Grand kids will make this for him for Father’s day and he won’t have to share at all.

Pea Salad

4-5 Slices Bacon, diced and fried til crispy.

1 Can (15 oz.) Very young small Sweet Peas, drained

1 small Onion, diced

1 cucumber, diced

1 tomato, diced

1/2 Cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt

1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper

1/2 tsp. Dill

In a small skillet, fry bacon pieces until crisp.  Remove bacon pieces from skillet and drain on paper towels. Set aside.  Combine peas and remaining ingredients in a medium size  bowl.  Add bacon. Taste to adjust seasonings.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

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I came across this delightful recipe in a hospital  magazine.  It looked like it might be a great recipe.  The original recipe calls for Chinese Style Long Green Beans, but I didn’t have that on hand so I used regular green beans.  It turned out great and I got rave reviews by all of those that tried it. I bet this would be great with waxed beans and were gonna try it next time with them, and a handful of grape  tomatoes in there too just for color. I will definitely make this again and again.

Green Bean Salad

Salad Ingredients:

16 oz. (1 lb.) Whole green beans, trimmed

4 Large Oranges

1 Small Red Onion

4 1/2  oz. Pkg. Sunflower seeds, shelled

1/2 tsp. Salt

1/4 tsp. Pepper

Sherry Mustard Vinaigrette

1 tsp. Cornstarch

1/2 cup Low Sodium Chicken Stock

3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Sherry Vinegar (I used Red Wine Vinegar)

2 Tbsp. Orange Juice

1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard

1 Tbsp. Light Brown Sugar

2 tsp. Shallots, minced

1 Clove Garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt

1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper


Bring a quart of water to a boil; add 1/4 tsp. salt. Blanch beans for one or two minutes until they are barely tender.  Drain the beans and immediately plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process.  Trim the peels of the oranges, making sure to remove all of the white pith.  Working over a bowl, section the oranges, allowing the juice to be caught in the bowl.  Save the juice for the dressing. Remove any seeds.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the cornstarch with one teaspoon water to form a slurry or thick mixture.  Bring stock to a boil and ad the slurry and stir until the stock has thickened and turns clear.  This should take about two minutes.  Cool to room temperature and whisk in the remaining vinaigrette ingredients until blended.  Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl, toss with the vinaigrette and place in your favorite bowl or on a large platter.

Yields: 8 Servings

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Spaghetti Sauce

My Grand Kids LOVE spaghetti and ask for it quite often. Generally, I think all kids usually like spaghetti.  This recipe is so easy and fast you can have dinner on the table in a pretty short time. It uses a jarred Spaghetti sauce, BUT it really is good.

Spaghetti Sauce

1 1/2 – 2 lbs.  Ground Beef

1 Can Hunts Spaghetti Sauce (Whatever flavor you’d like)

1 Jar Marinara (I used Paul Newman’s)

1 Medium Onion, diced

4 Stalks Celery, diced

1 Red or Green Pepper, diced.

1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced

Mushrooms, if desired, chopped

Pinch of Sugar (Taste first though, depending on what kind of sauce I buy, I may or may not use it)

Salt, to taste

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Add other seasonings if desired, such as: Oregano, basil, parsley, etc. (But taste first)

Velvetta Cheese, cubed  ( I add a little bit at a time and keep tasting until I have the cheesy taste I’m looking for, so to taste)

In a dutch oven, brown hamburger on medium high heat until no pink remains. Drain the grease and remove the hamburger.  In the same pot, melt 1 Tbsp. Butter and 1 Tbsp. Olive oil and saute the onions, celery and pepper cooking until crisp tender.  Add the garlic. Cook stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the sauces and the spices. Bring to a boil, and turn heat down to low.  Let simmer for at least 30 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally.  Turn heat off, and add the velvetta cheese. Let it sit, covered until all the cheese is melted. (Make sure to taste, to correct seasonings and cheesiness.


Desired amount of Pasta


Olive Oil


Meanwhile, cook spaghetti noodles in a pot of salted water. (Add enough salt to the water to make it taste like the sea). Bring water to a boil and add spaghetti. Stir to keep the noodles from sticking together. Bring the water back up to a boil.  Lower heat slightly (you want to keep a soft boil) and cook and stir occasionally until noodles are al dente. Drain, but do not rinse the spaghetti noodles.  In a large serving dish or pot, ladle the sauce over the noodles and stir. Add more sauce as needed to achieve your desired consistency.

Serve with a salad and bread sticks!


In order to achieve the taste that I’m looking to convey to you, you need to have 1 jar of regular (canned/Jarred) spaghetti sauce  and a jar of Marinara Sauce. (Any brand you prefer is fine.)

I realize that a lot of my recipes have “to taste” in the ingredient lists instead of measurements.  I believe that in order to achieve the results you are looking for, you need to taste what your cooking and adjust the seasoning to fit you and your families tastes. I promise, it works!

One more tip for you. When cooking pasta & potatoes, you need to add enough salt to make the water you are cooking them in, taste like sea water. Try this and let me know if you don’t find a difference in the taste of the final product. I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you don’t already season your water for these dishes.

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