Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Comfort Food: Tuna Noodle Casserole

I remember  as I was growing up watching"Welcome Back Kotter," and  Wednesday seemed to be Tuna Casserole Day.  Tuna casserole is in the Top 25 of America's Favorite comfort foods according to an opinion poll conducted by
The classic I remember growing up with consisted of a can of tuna, Cream of Mushroom Soup, milk, and noodles.  I have deviated from this recipe by adding cream cheese, Dijon mustard, and onion powder.

                                         Tuna Noodle Casserole


1- cup dry egg noodles
2 - (7 ounce) cans drained and flaked albacore tuna
1- (10 3/4 ounce) can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1-cup milk
3 ounces cream cheese cut in small cubes
1-tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon pepper
½-cup of French Fried Onions


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 1-½ quart baking dish.  Set aside.
2.  Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
3. Blend together in a medium bowl, Cream of Mushroom soup, milk, cream cheese, onion powder, Dijon mustard and pepper with an electric or rotary beater.
4. Add tuna and noodles.  Stir until well combined.
5.Pour tuna mixture into prepared casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes.  Top casserole with French Fried onions and bake for 5 more minutes or until bubbly.

Serves 4

Cream Cheese Cut In Cubes

Oven Ready

Out of Oven and Ready For  French Fried Onions

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Timeless Classic: Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti is one of those dishes that is always good.  I enjoy making it because it is easy and ever so tasty.  This version has two kinds of meat, a rich tomato sauce with a hint of  spiciness,  and four delicious types of cheese.  You can't go wrong with cheese in my book.   This recipe feeds 10 so it is perfect to take to potlucks, a holiday office party, and other get-togethers.  It also makes a great family meal.

If you have a busy week ahead, you can make the dish on the weekend and  put in the fridge or freezer (do not bake).  Just bring it to room temperature and bake as instructed.

                                                         Baked Ziti


4-1/2 cups Meat Sauce, divided (recipe follows)
1pound ziti or penne pasta
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese - divided
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese - divided
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese - divided
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided


1. Prepare Meat Sauce.  Let cool for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3 Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
4. Lightly spray a 9x13 inch-baking dish with cooking spray.  Spread 1 ½ cups meat sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.
5. Dot the surface of the sauce with half of the ricotta cheese.
6. Mix the cooked pasta with 1 cup of the meat sauce.  Add 1-cup mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup pecorino Romano cheese, and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and mix well.
7. Spoon the pasta mixture into the prepared pan. Pour the remaining sauce over the pasta.
8. Dot the pasta with the remaining ricotta cheese.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese, Pecorino Romano cheese, and Parmesan cheese over the top of the ziti.
9. Bake 30-35 minutes or until top is browned and bubbly.

Serves 10

Meat Sauce:


2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound ground beef
½ pound Sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1-teaspoon salt
1 Bay leaf
1-teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


1. Pour the olive oil in large heavy bottomed pot.  When the oil is hot add the ground beef and Sweet Italian sausage.  Brown the meat over medium heat breaking up any large chunks of meat.
2.  Add the onion and stir well.   Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and Italian Seasoning.  Stir to combine.
3.Cook about 2 minutes.
4. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and stir well.
5.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours stirring occasionally.  For a thicker sauce, remove the lid during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
6. Remove the bay leaf.  The sauce is ready to use.

The Yummy Sauce

Thin Layer of Sauce in Baking Dish

Sauce Dotted With Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

Pasta Tossed With Meat Sauce

Pasta  In Baking Dish 

Ready For The Oven

Baked Ziti

MMM Good:)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Creamy Mushroom Soup

 For my Thanksgiving dinner this year, I plan on making Creamy Mushroom Soup.  I like this soup because it has a delicate earthy flavor,  is creamy, but not too rich.   It makes a nice "Starter" for the  meal.    Cremini or Baby Bella mushrooms are used in this soup.  I like their darker color, meaty texture, and earthy flavor.

When choosing mushrooms, pick ones which are firm, plump, clean, and brown in color.  Do not choose mushrooms that have wet slimy spots or are wrinkled.

Mushrooms have great health benefits.   Cremini (Baby Bella) mushrooms provide:

1. Immune system support
2. Anti-Inflammatory benefits
3.Antioxidants benefits
4. Cardiovascular benefits
5. Anti-Cancer benefits

So make yourself a pot of mushroom soup and enjoy!

                                            Creamy Mushroom Soup


3 tablespoons butter
½ cup finely diced onion
1 ½ pounds Baby Bella ( Cremini) Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
5 cups chicken broth or stock
1-tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
1 bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup cooking sherry
¾ cup sour cream
¼ cup chopped parsley leaves


1. Melt butter in a large heavy bottom pot.  Add onions and sauté until softened.
2.Add mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. 3.Add the chicken broth or stock, thyme leaves, bay leaf, salt, and black pepper to the mushrooms.  Bring to a boil.
4. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
5. Remove the bay leaf.  Stir in the sherry and sour cream.  Mix well.*
6. Mix in the parsley and serve.

Makes 8 servings

*Note:  If you like a thicker soup, puree one cup of the soup mixture and add it back to the pot.  Stir well to combine.

Sliced Cremini Mushrooms

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Spoonful of Goodness

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving: Green Beans With Cranberry Pomegranate Glaze

These green beans are a regular at our Thanksgiving Day table.   I like these beans because they are not in a heavy sauce.   They are tossed with a light and tangy glaze.   The glaze is made with butter, balsamic vinegar, orange and pomegranate juices, orange zest,  a touch of maple syrup and  dried cranberries.   These green beans will add pizazz to your meal.

                         Green Beans with Cranberry Pomegranate Glaze


1 ½ pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-teaspoon onion powder
Grated zest of one medium orange (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup orange juice
¼ cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons dried cranberries


1. Steam the green beans until they are crisp-tender – 5 minutes for small green beans and up to 15 minutes for larger green beans.
2.  Melt butter in a large skillet.  Add the onion powder, grated orange zest, orange juice, pomegranate juice, white balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.
3. Bring to a boil.   Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
4. Add green beans and dried cranberries to the sauce.  Toss the beans and cranberries in the sauce until coated.  Heat through.
5. Transfer the beans to a serving dish.

Serves 6


In the Frying Pan Being Tossed  With Glaze

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Maple Popcorn Clusters

You can tell it is holiday time at my house.  I am going into overdrive making all sorts of sweets.  Last night, I made some Maple Popcorn Clusters.  These sweet treats are  clusters of popcorn, nuts, and dried cranberries covered in a cooked syrup.  The syrup has two types of syrup and two different sugars.

These Maple Popcorn Clusters make a great gift from your kitchen.  I get some holiday cellophane gift bags, put in the clusters, twist and tie with ribbon.  It is easy, quick, and inexpensive.

                                        Maple Popcorn Clusters


4- quarts air popped popcorn unpopped kernels removed
1-1/3 cup granulated sugar
1- 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup dark corn syrup
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup water
½ cup butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1- cup pecan pieces
1- cup walnut pieces
1 cup dried cranberries


1. Lay out several strips of waxed paper on a counter top for cooling the popcorn.
2. Spray lightly a large roasting pan.  Place popcorn in the roasting pan. Set aside.
3. Combine in a 3-quart heavy bottomed pot the granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, water, butter and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring until the sugars melt. DO NOT STIR after the sugar melts.  Swirl the syrup 3 to 4 times as it cooks.    Cook the syrup until it reaches 295 degrees.   Have a bowl of ice water near the popcorn.
4.Remove the syrup from heat and stir in the baking soda.
5. Pour the syrup over the popcorn carefully.  THE SYRUP IS HOT.  If some gets on your hand, put your hand in the bowl of ice water.  Add the nuts and cranberries to the top of the popcorn.
6.Stir the popcorn mixture with a lightly greased spoon until the popcorn, nuts, and cranberries are coated.
7. Spread the popcorn out on the waxed paper with two forks.  Let it cool.
8.  Break the popcorn into clusters and store in an airtight container.

Popcorn in Roasting Pan

Syrup Ingredients

Cooling on Waxed Paper

Maple Pecan Clusters

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Apricot Bread

This sweet quick bread has a rich pumpkin flavor with a hint of holiday spices - cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg.  The walnuts add a nice flavor to the bread.  Add to this goodness, a maple glaze topped with walnuts.  MMMM:)
I make this bread over the holidays and serve it with different types of butter - pumpkin butter, apple butter, almond butter, peanut butter, and just butter.  

                                                        Pumpkin Spice Apricot Bread

Bread Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup unsalted butter
1-cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup canned pumpkin
¾ cup diced dried apricots
¾ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Glaze Ingredients:

½ cup powdered sugar
1/8-teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
¼ cup chopped walnuts

Directions for Bread:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with Baker’s Joy *or similar product.  Set aside.
2. Whisk together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together with a stand mixer using a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
4. Beat together the two eggs in a small bowl.
5. Add the eggs and vanilla to the butter mixture. Mix until incorporated. 
6. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternating with the pumpkin.   End with the dry ingredients.
7. Fold the dried apricots and walnuts into the bread batter.
8. Transfer the batter into the prepared bread pan.
9. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
10. Cool bread in pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Directions for Maple Glaze:
1. Stir together the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup in a small mixing bowl until smooth.
2. Drizzle glaze over the cooled bread.  Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top of the bread.  
3. Slice and enjoy. 

*Bakers Joy is a baking spray of oil and flour.

Makes 1 loaf

Coarsely Chopped Walnuts

Chopped Dried Apricots

Dry Ingredients 
Dry Ingredients Whisked Together

Bread Batter Ready For Pan and Baking

Baked Bread

Maple Glaze

Finished Loaf

Slice of Pumpkin Spice Apricot Bread

Friday, November 11, 2011

Orange Maple Candied Pecans

I make  Orange Maple Candied Pecans during the Holiday Season.  They have the wonderful tastes of the holidays - orange, maple, and sweet.  Not only are they great for munching, they make  a terrific gift from your kitchen.

These nuts are easy to make.  You boil the syrup for five minutes, toss the nuts with the syrup, and bake for one hour stirring every 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with some sugar, let them cool, and you have a tasty nibble.

                                    Orange Maple Candied Pecans


3 cups pecan halves
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoons grated orange zest (zest from one medium orange)
3 tablespoons orange juice
½ cup sugar - divided
½ cup maple syrup


1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Spray lightly with cooking spray a 9x13 inch-baking pan.  Place the pecans in the pan and bake in the oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the orange zest, orange juice ¼ cup of sugar, and maple syrup to the melted butter.  Stir until mixed.
4.Bring the syrup mixture to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly.
5. Boil mixture for 5 minutes.  Do not stir.   Gently swish the syrup half way through cooking.
6. Pour the syrup over the nuts stirring constantly to evenly coat the nuts.  Arrange the nuts in a single layer in the pan.
7. Bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees stirring every 15 minutes.
8. Lightly spray a cookie sheet.  Set aside.
9.  Remove the nuts from the oven.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of sugar over the nuts.  DO NOT STIR.
10. Transfer nuts with a large spoon to the prepared cookie sheet.  Separate into individual nuts with 2 forks.  Cool for 1 hour.
11. Store in an airtight container.

Make 3 cups

Ready for Oven - 5 minutes

Ready for Oven After Syrup Has Been Poured and Nuts Tossed

Out of Oven - Ready for Last Sugar Coating

Last Sugar Coating

On Cookie Sheet Cooling

Orange Maple Candied Pecans

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mexican Food Night: Rolled Chicken Enchiladas

About once a week, we have a Mexican Food Night at our house.    Tonight, I am making Guacamole (see November 7, 2011 post), Rolled Chicken Enchiladas,  and Spanish Rice.  These enchiladas are packed with flavor.  The tortillas are immersed in enchilada sauce and the filling is flavored with it too.  Couple that with chicken and Mexican cheese, and you have a great tasting dish.

                                     Rolled Chicken Enchiladas


8 corn tortillas
6-7 tablespoons olive oil
1-(14 ounce) can red or green enchilada sauce
1-½ cups  shredded cooked chicken breast  (about half a breast)
3 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided
½ cup sour cream
Sour cream


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat the bottom of a 9x13 inch-baking dish with enchilada sauce.
2.  Place 3 tablespoons olive oil in an 8-inch skillet.  Heat oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
3. Place tortillas in oil and cook for about 3-5 seconds  or until soft – NOT CRUNCHY per side.  Remove tortillas with tongs and let the oil drip back into the pan.
4.  Place tortillas on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.  If necessary, blot off excess oil.
5. Repeat with all tortillas adding oil as needed.
6. Mix together ½ cup sour cream and ¼ cup enchilada sauce.  Set aside.
7.  Add 2 ½ cups cheese and chicken in a large mixing bowl. Pour the sour cream mixture over the chicken and cheese.  Mix until well incorporated.
Chicken and Cheese
Chicken, Cheese, and Sour Cream Mixture Combined
8. In a 9-inch pie pan, pour enough enchilada sauce to cover the bottom.  Dip a tortilla in the sauce and turn over to coat the other side.  Place the tortillas on a plate and spoon 3 tablespoons of the chicken filling down the center of the tortilla.
Pie Pan With Enchilada Sauce
9.  Roll up the tortilla jellyroll style.  Place seam side down in the prepared baking dish.
10.  Repeat steps 8 and 8 until all tortillas have been made into enchiladas.
11.  Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes removing the foil the last 10 minutes of baking.  The enchiladas are done when the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly.
12.  Serve the enchiladas on plates with a dollop of sour cream.

Serves 8

Baking Dish With Enchilada Sauce

Tortilla Dipped In Enchilada Sauce

Filling in Middle of Tortilla

Enchiladas Ready For The Oven

Out of The Oven

Ready to Eat