Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Stuffed Shells

Lemon Zest.  I am constantly being amazed at what wonderful flavor lemon zest adds to food.  Today's surprise was Stuffed Shells.  I have made Stuffed Shells before but never with lemon zest added to the cheese filling and the bottom of the baking dish.  Delicious:)

I found this recipe on "101 Cookbooks" website.  Jumbo shells are stuffed with a simple ricotta cheese filling and smothered in a marina sauce.  Bake for 30 minutes and top with fresh chives.  An easy and delicious meal is ready to enjoy.

Stuffed Shells
From 101 Cookbooks

zest of one lemon

1/3 cup / 80 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
scant 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
1 14-ounce can crushed red tomatoes

1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup / ~5 oz grated mozzarella
1 bunch of chives, minced

25-30 jumbo dried pasta shells

Oil a 13 x 9-inch / 33 x 23-cm baking pan, or equivalent, and sprinkle the zest of 1/2 the lemon across it. Set aside. Get a big pot of water boiling, and preheat your oven to 350F / 180C with a rack in the middle.

To make the sauce, combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant - you don't want the garlic to brown. Now stir in the tomatoes and heat to a gentle simmer, just a minute or two. Remove from heat and carefully take a taste (you don't want to burn your tongue)...If the sauce needs more salt add it now. Let cool.

To make the filling, combine the ricotta, egg, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella, remaining lemon zest, and 3/4 of the chives. Set aside.

Cook the shells according to package instructions in well-salted water - until al dente. If you overcook, the shells will tear as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let cool long enough to handle with your hands - see photo.

Spread 1/3 of sauce across the bottom of the prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes or until the shells are cooked through. Sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve hot.

Serves 4 - 6.

Prep time: 30 min - Cook time: 45 min

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chicken-And-Wild Rice Skillet Casserole

A delicious one-pot meal with a slight twist on this traditional dish.  Chicken -and- Rice has been a favorite for decades.  In this recipe, the rice is a wild rice that has a chewy texture and a nutty flavor.  The rice is mixed with a wonderful gravy that is mixed with mushrooms, carrots, ham, and seasoning.  The rice and sauce are delicious.  I am planning on serving the rice for Thanksgiving.  Back to the recipe.

The rice and sauce are placed in the bottom of the skillet and the browned chicken breast are placed on top. Bake the chicken casserole for 30 minutes or until done.  Cool and and garnish with some parsley and pecans.  I did not have almonds like the recipe called for.   Serve. A perfect meal for both company and family.

I hope this meal will become one of your favorites like it is one of mine.

Chicken-And-Wild Rice Skillet Casserole
From "Southern Living" Magazine

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 (6-oz.) container uncooked wild rice
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped country ham or bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 large carrot, finely chopped
8 ounces assorted fresh mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine
4 skinned and boned chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb.)
Garnishes: fresh flat-leaf parsley, sliced almonds
1. Bring 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 1 qt. water to a boil in a 3-qt. saucepan over high heat. Stir in rice, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and next 2 ingredients. Increase heat to medium, and cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in 1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper.

3. Cook ham in 1 Tbsp. hot oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 6 minutes or until beginning to brown. Stir in onion and next 2 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes or until onions are tender. Stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute. Add sherry, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until sherry is evaporated. Remove mixture from skillet.

4. Preheat oven to 375°. Sprinkle chicken with remaining 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to skillet. Cook chicken in hot oil over medium-high heat 4 minutes on each side or until brown. Remove skillet from heat; transfer chicken to a plate.

5. Drain rice. Stir together rice, ham mixture, and sauce in skillet. Place chicken on top of rice mixture.

6. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and chicken is done. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 Servings

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fully Loaded Cheesy-Potato Soup

Rich, hearty, velvety texture, and very delicious:)  These are the words I use to describe this Potato Soup recipe I recently found.  The soup is thick but not pasty and loaded with flavor from the veggies, beer, and cheese.  Top the soup with  sour cream, bacon, and more cheese and you have one delicious bowl of soup.

The soup starts with veggies-carrots, celery, onions, garlic and potatoes cooked in chicken broth, milk, and beer.  Once the potatoes have cooked, I let the soup cool a bit before I put it in the blender.   Once the soup was pureed, I put it back on the stove and reheated it through.  Then I put in some cheese, added some hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.  I did a quick taste test and seasoned with salt and pepper.  If the soup is too thick, you can thin it with chicken broth.

I garnished the bowls of soup with sour cream, bacon, and cheese.  Doesn't this look good?

Fully Loaded Cheesy-Potato Soup
From Food Network


4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed
1 cup whole milk
One 12-ounce bottle light-bodied beer
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 8 ounces)
Dash hot sauce
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Sour cream, for topping
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp, for topping


Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and onions, and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the saucepan to toast the flour, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the stock, and then the milk and beer. Stir in the potatoes and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to low heat. Add 1 cup of the Cheddar, a handful at a time, stirring until melted and smooth after each addition. Add additional chicken stock if necessary to adjust the consistency. Sprinkle with hot sauce, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Divide the soup among bowls and top with the remaining Cheddar, sour cream, and bacon.

Makes 4-6 servings

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Overnight Oatmeal

Wake up and breakfast is ready.  A great start to a great day.  Serve and enjoy and healthy, nutritious, and scrumptious breakfast.  The oatmeal is cooked overnight in a crock pot for  8 hours on the low setting.  So it is best to make this recipe right before you go to bed.

This recipe uses steel cut oats.  They are my favorite.  I love the nutty flavor and the chewy texture.  The oatmeal is mixed with dried fruit - I used dried cherries (the recipe called for dried cranberries) and dried figs.  Stir in some water and half-and-half cover and cook.

I served my oatmeal with some milk and a dash of sugar.  A wonderful way to start the day:)

Overnight Oatmeal
From Alton Brown


1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried figs
4 cups water
1/2 cup half-and-half


In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and set to low heat. Cover and let cook for 8 to 9 hours.

Stir and remove to serving bowls. This method works best if started before you go to bed. This way your oatmeal will be finished by morning.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Chili-Lime Pecans

A perfect South-of-the-Boarder nibble.    Pecans that have a lime tang mixed with the sweetness of the pecans and the  spiciness of the chili powders - smokey paprika, red pepper, ground chili powder.  I love these nibbles.  Not too spicy, not too tangy,  just right.

To make some Chili-Lime Pecans, begin by mixing together some lime juice, olive oil, paprika, salt, chili powder, and ground red pepper in a medium bowl  Add the pecans and stir until the pecans are well coated.  Place the pecans in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for about 14 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Be sure to stir the nuts occasionally so they will not burn.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the nuts cool.

Serve or store in an airtight container.  These nuts would be a perfect gift for the holidays that are coming up.

Chili-Lime Pecans
Southern Living NOVEMBER 2009 - My Recipes


2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 cups pecans


Stir together lime juice, olive oil, paprika, salt, chili powder, and ground red pepper. Add pecans; toss. Spread in a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan. Bake at 350° for 12 to 14 minutes or until pecans are toasted and dry, stirring occasionally. Cool completely.

Yield: 3 cups

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Cider

It's the time of year I love.  The air is brisk and the leaves are starting to turn.   Perfect for enjoying a hot cup of Apple Cider.  Apple cider is one of my favorite fall drinks.  It is warm and comforting.

Apple cider is heated with a 3-inch stick of cinnamon in a saucepan.  Some  caramel sauce is stirred into the cider.  Mmm.  Next, some whipped cream and salt are beat together until soft peaks form.  Then caramel sauce is stirred into the whipped cream.   I could have sat down and just ate the bowl of whipped cream.    The whipped cream  adds extra flavor to this hot cup of cider.  

Ladle the hot apple cider in a mug and top with a dollop of the whipped cream.  If you wish drizzle some more caramel sauce on top.  In my book you can never have too much caramel.

A wonderful fall beverage to enjoy  and share with your loved ones:)

Salted Caramel Apple Cider
Adapted from "Land O Lakes"


4 cups refrigerated apple cider
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1/4 cup caramel sauce
Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons caramel sauce
Carmel sauce for drizzling, if desired

1. Combine apple cider and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan.  Cook over low heat until heated through.  Stir in 1/4 cup caramel sauce; keep warm.
2. Place whipped cream and salt in a bowl; beat at high speed until soft peaks form.  Gently stir in 2 tablespoons caramel sauce.
3. Remove cinnamon stick.  Serve hot apple cider with dollop of whipped cream; drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired.

Makes 4 servings

Friday, September 12, 2014

Senate Navy Bean Soup

This soup looked and sounded hearty and delicious.  I love a good bean soup and this recipe I found in "Cook's Country" magazine is a good recipe.  It is made with your traditional ingredients of navy beans, ham hocks, onion, celery, garlic, potatoes, and vinegar.  However, this recipe kicks the soup up a bit by using 2 ham hocks and a cut-up potato instead of precooked mashed potatoes.  Finally, instead of using butter this recipe uses vegetable oil.

The result is a very satisfying soup that is both hearty and delicious.  Make a pot of this delicious soup and taste for yourself.

Senate Navy Bean Soup
From "Cook's Country" Magazine


Salt and pepper
1 pound (2 1/2 cups) navy beans, picked over and rinsed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion chopped fine
2 celery ribs, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 whole cloves
2 (12-ounce) smoked ham hocks
8 ounces russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon cider vinegar


1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large container.  Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.  Drain and rinse well.
2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onion, celery, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Transfer onion mixture to bowl.
3. Insert cloves into skin of 1 ham hock.  Add 8 cups water, ham hocks, and beans to now-empty pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered with lid lightly ajar, until beans are tender, 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir potatoes and onion mixture into soup and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes; remove pot from heat.  Transfer ham hock to cutting board and let cool slightly.  Discard cloves, then shred meat, discarding bones and skin.
5. Using potato masher, gently mash beans and potatoes until soup is creamy and  lightly thickened, 8 to 10 strokes.  Add 1/2 teaspoon pepper and shredded meat and return to simmer over medium heat.  Stir in vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

Serves 6 to 8

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Baked French Toast With Raspberries and Maple Syrup

Out of the fridge and into the oven.  Bake for about 35 minutes and breakfast is ready.  That is the convenience of French Toast bakes.  You can make them the night before - three big cheers for not having to get up super early to make breakfast.  Heat and serve.

I found this recipe in "Redbook" magazine.  The original recipe called for strawberries but I did not have any so I used raspberries.  I used a loaf of homemade challah bread.  Just as the recipe instructs, I cut 6 slices of the bread and then cut the remaining loaf into cubes.  The cubes were placed in the prepared baking dish.  The bread slices were used for cut shapes.  I used a leaf cookie cutter but you can use whatever shape you have on hand.  The cut outs are placed on top of the cubed bread.  Next your pour the custard which consists of eggs, milk, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt over the bread.  Be sure the bread absorbs the liquid.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.  Next morning sprinkle some sugar over the bread and pop into a 350 degree oven and bake for about 35 minutes.  Removed from oven, sprinkle with some raspberries and serve with warm maple syrup.

A delicious way to start the day.  Enjoy:)

Baked French Toast With Raspberries and Maple Syrup
Adapted From Redbook Magazine


Butter for pan
1 (1pound) loaf brioche, challah, or pullman bread
2 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 pint raspberries
Warm maple syrup, for serving


1. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish.
2. Cut 6 slices of bread about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut remaining bread into 1-inch cubes.  Place cubes in prepared baking dish.
3. Using a star-shaped cookie cutter (or other shape), cut out shapes from slices of bread.  Place them on top of cubes in dish.
4. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt.
5. Pour custard mixture over bread, pressing down gently so all the bread absorbs the liquid.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to overnight, so liquid is completely absorbed.
6. Heat oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack in the middle position.
7. Sprinkle sugar on top of French toast.  Bake until golden, about 35 minutes.
8. Serve with strawberries and warm maple syrup.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Monday, September 8, 2014

Drop Cracked Sugar Cookies

Time to make another Care Package:)  My oldest, is doing graduate studies at Texas A&M so I send him care packages from home.  Last time I sent some Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies  This time I made some Sugar Cookies.

These cookies are drop cookies but they can still be "decorated" with colored sugar crystals if you wish.  I chose yellow and orange for fall. Tim thought a sprinkling of orange would go good on the yellow cookie - see front cookie.    I also used granulated sugar.    The results were  both pretty and delicious.  A very moist cookie with a slight chewiness that was simple yet elegantly decorated.    

Note:  This is a great recipe to make with kids.

Drop Cracked Sugar Cookies
From Savory Sweet Life

Makes 32 medium sized cookies – Adapted from All


1 1/4 cups white sugar

1 cup salted butter

3 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/3 cup coarse sugar crystals or regular granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream together butter and sugar until it is nice and creamy.  Mix in 1 egg yolk at a time and vanilla extract.   Add flour, baking soda, cream of tarter, and salt until cookie dough is completely mixed.  Be sure to scrape down the bowl to be sure everything is mixed.  Using a medium scoop, form dough balls and roll them in sugar crystals.  Place cookie balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper 2 inches apart from one another.  Be sure not to flatten the dough.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until the surface of each cookies have a cracked like texture.  Remove from oven and allow cookies to remain on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Out-of-the-Oven Goodness

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chicken in Marsala Sauce

Tender, juicy, and flavorful.  A winner chicken dinner.    I have had Chicken Marsala before but it was a little dry.  Not so with this chicken. I found this wonderful recipe in Family Circle magazine.

This is a very easy dish to prepare.  It take about 15 minutes of prep time.  The cook time is 4 hours because this dinner is cooked in a slow cooker.

Start by putting some olive oil, a little chopped shallot, and some chopped garlic in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Coat the chicken with a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper.  Place the chicken in the slow cooker.  Scatter some mushrooms on top and add the Marsala wine.  Cover and cook for 4 hours.

Before serving the chicken, remove the chicken from the slow cooker and place on a platter.  Add the juice to a saucepan and add some cornstarch. I did not strain the juices.  You can if you wish.     Simmer the sauce for about a minute.  Add your chicken back to the slow cooker and pour sauce over the chicken.  I sprinkled my parsley on top of the chicken.

Dinner is ready.  I served my chicken with some mashed potatoes.  Delicious and very satisfying.
This recipe serves 4.

Chicken in Marsala Sauce
From Family Circle Magazine

Special Equipment: Slow Cooker


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup Marsala
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoon chopped parsley

1. Coat slow cooker bowl with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Combine olive oil, shallot and garlic in bottom of slow cooker.  Combine flour, salt and black pepper; coat chicken with mixture and add to slow cooker.  Scatter mushrooms over chicken and add Marsala.
3. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours.  Drain liquid into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Combine cornstarch with 2 teaspoons water and stir into saucepan; simmer for 1 minute and add back into slow cooker.  Stir in parsley.

Makes 4 servings

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Peach Butter

The peaches are gone until next year.  I have eaten, canned, and made all sorts of good spreads with this years peach crop.  Today's recipe is for a delicious Peach Butter that goes great on toast, scones, muffins, biscuits, or just eaten by the spoonful.  I found this recipe on the "Smitten Kitchen" website.

Fresh peaches are first blanched and then peeled.  Cut the peaches into chunks and cook until soft in a small amount of water.  I let my peaches cool a bit before I put them in my blender.  Next, the puree is mixed with some sugar, and lemon juice.  You cook until you have  nice thick fruit butter.  The recipe is great in that it tells you various ways to test for doneness.  I used the ribbon method.

The ribbon on the surface of  the butter

Once done, I transferred my butter to 5 sterilized half-pint jars and processed them in a water bath for 10 minutes.  I let the butter cool completely and then enjoyed it spread over a Bran muffin.
A very tasty and terrific way to start my morning.    Thanks to the Smitten Kitchen for this tasty recipe:)

Peach Butter
From "Smitten Kitchen"

Yield: 4 cups

4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) peaches
1 cup (237 ml) water
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon

Without a food mill: Cut a small “x” in the bottom of each peach. Dip each into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and then into a bowl of cold water for a minute. The peels should slide right off. [If you have a food mill, skip the peeling step and I'll tell you where to use it in a moment.]

Halve your peaches and remove the pits, then cut each half into quarters (i.e. 8 chunks from each peach). Place peach chunks and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until peaches are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure they cook evenly. If you have a food mill, run them through it to puree them and remove the skins. If you don’t have a food mill — i.e. you already peeled your peaches — you can puree in a food processor, blender or with an immersion blender. I like my peach butter very smooth, but feel free to leave any amount of texture you prefer.

Return the peaches to the large pot, add the sugar and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a good strong simmer/gentle boil, cooking them at this level for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally in the beginning and more often near the end, as it thickens up and the fruit masses risk scorching on the bottom of the pot.

There are several methods to test for doneness: You can drizzle a ribbon of sauce across the surface; when that ribbon holds its shape before dissolve into the pot, it is done. Some people use cold or frozen plates; dollop a spoonful in the middle of one and if no water forms a ring around it in a couple minutes, it is done. Others use a spoon; if the butter remains rounded on a spoon for two minutes, it is done. You can also check the pot itself; the butter is usually done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear train when scraped across the bottom.

Let peach butter cool (unless you’re canning it, in which, follow the directions below). If you’re not canning it, keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. It should be good for at least two weeks.

To can your peach butter: First, sterilize your jars, either by boiling them in a large, deep pot of water (which should cover the jars completely) for 10 minutes or washing them in lots of hot soapy water, rinsing and drying the parts well and then place the jars only in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then, divide your hot piping hot peach butter between your jars, leaving a little room at the top. Wipe the rims clean with a dry towel and cover the jars with their lids. Submerge the jars in a large, deep pot of boiling water for 10 minutes, either in a removable basket or using tongs to dip and remove them. Let cool completely on towels, a process that can take overnight. If canned properly, the peach butter should last indefinitely at room temperature.