Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Quick and Easy: Calzones!

Everyone needs a few quick and easy dinners in their arsenal. Tonight was one of those nights. We were busy all day running around and then when we were getting ready to head back home, the battery in the car died. Did I mention the last errand of the day was my BIG grocery shop? No? Let me tell you I was worried about all the meats and frozen vegetables I'd just bought. You see I usually do a really big shop every 6 weeks or so and just fill in as needed. Do you see why I was stressing? Luckily we were shopping at the commissary on a military base and there were lots of guys around willing to help. It didn't take too long, so I am glad to say my groceries survived.

All this excitement got us home late and we needed a quick dinner without going for take out. I just couldn't see going out for dinner while bringing all those groceries home. Luckily I'd picked up stuff to do a couple of quick and easy dinners. We decided making a calzone would just the thing.

Shhhhhhh, don't tell the food snobs, but this was more of a put together deal than actual "cooking". A can of Pillsbury pizza dough, jarred sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. To fancy it up, I brushed it with olive oil and gave it a sprinkle of oregano and grated parmesan. It was so simple and so good. Plus it was a lot cheaper than a calzone from the local pizza joint. Not to mention, I still get credit for cooking.

*I've heard calzones are not served with sauce, but around here they are which is good because I like a lot of sauce.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spicy Orange Grilled Chicken

Chicken, chicken, chicken. We eat a lot of chicken here because let's face it, it's cheap compared to the rising costs of everything else. This week at IGA, they have leg quarters for 59cents a pound. In a 10 pound bag, there were 15 leg quarters. Divided up, we will get 3 meals with leftovers for $5.90. You just can not beat it. I'll probably be picking up several bags and give my food saver a work out to stock our freezer.

On to the first meal out of this batch of chicken. We love orange, the color (it's my husband's favorite) and the flavors. We also love spicy so this is what I did for this meal:

Spicy Orange Grilled Chicken

6 oz orange juice concentrate
1/2 jar spicy pepper jelly
1-2 Tablespoons butter

Melt these together in a small pot until thickened.

Salt and Pepper for the chicken.

Grill the chicken and when almost done, brush the glaze on both sides. Use remaining glaze for a dipping sauce. Make sure you have lots of napkins handy because the glaze gets sticky on the grill. Serve with lots of grilled vegetables.

Check out the sauce, it's a pretty orange. I think that makes it even better.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A is for Apple! J is for Jacks!

Apple Jacks. Those two words bring grown folks begging in our family. In our corner of the world apple jacks is not a sugary cereal but a delicious fried apple pie.We can not wait for the county fair or county Relay for Life because there is always a local church selling apple jacks as one of their fund raisers. You should see the lines just to get one of those fried pies of apple goodness.

Usually I leave the apple jack making to the experts and just have them as a treat those two times a year. I am lucky enough to have had a wonderful Grandmother who will make them occasionally. Just this week, she made some for us and we were eating them as fast as they came off of the stove. I learned how to make the apple filling and the dough is just refrigerator biscuits. I'm not sure why we have considered them twice a year treats. After all they are filled with fruit, so doesn't that make them a health food?!

For the filling:

Dried apples

It is hard to give exact measurements because as you know with fruit, it can vary in sweetness. Just cook it together until the apples rehydrate and it gets thick and sweet like a pie filling. Some people may want to add spices like cinnamon, but we're purists. Nothing but apples and sugar in our filling.


Refrigerator biscuits (Grands or bigger biscuits work best)

Pat out biscuit and roll. Fill with apples, fold dough over and crimp with a fork. It really is that simple.

Waiting for the frying pan.

In a frying pan (preferably cast iron) pour in about one inch of oil. Be careful not to get the oil too hot or the outside will burn and it will be doughy on the inside. You want it to cook through. It only takes a couple of minutes. Drain them on a paper towel and eat them as quickly as possible. They are best right out of the pan.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cheddar Cheese Pan Biscuits

I'm a southern girl and no self respecting southern girl can say no to a biscuit. Add cheese and you will hear me screaming OH YEAH! It's a cool spring night and what could be better than a hot flaky, cheesy biscuit. Biscuits hot out of the oven are one of the world best in comfort food. We won't think about the pounds they will also bring. Tonight is all about comfort and taste.

Maybe there will be a biscuit or two left over for breakfast tomorrow morning. I wouldn't plan on it though.

Cheddar Cheese Pan Biscuits

1/3 cup butter
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded cheddar cheese (the sharper the better)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Heat oven to 400. In a 9 inch square baking pan melt butter in oven (3-5 minutes). Meanwhile in a medium bowl combine all ingredients except milk. Stir in milk until just moistened. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead 10 times or until smooth. Pat or roll dough into a 12x6 inch rectangle. Cut into 12 strips (1 inch).

Dip each strip into melted butter in pan. Fold strip in half. Place folded strips in 2 rows in the same pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Bake Cookies

These are one of my favorite childhood cookies. They have so many different names. I've heard them called Carolina Delights (I'm a tarheel, it's to be expected we would name them for ourselves), No Bake Cookies, Boiled Cookies, etc. If you were taking them some where or serving them to guests, we called them Carolina Delights. If you were making them for a snack at home, they are boiled cookies.

I usually called them Boiled Cookies because that is how they are made. I made them for friends when we lived in New Jersey and told them they were Boiled Cookies. They had a big laugh and I could not figure out why. Keep in mind, I have a very southern accent so they thought I was saying "Bull Cookies".

I guess considering what they look like, Bull Cookies work.

You decide what you want to call them, other than delicious.

2 Cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1 stick butter
1 pinch salt
3 cups oatmeal (quick cooking)

Mix sugar, cocoa, milk and butter together in a pot. Melt on medium. Heat until it comes to a full boil. Boil for 1 minute without stirring. Remove from heat. Add vanilla, salt, peanut butter and oatmeal. Stir well. Drop on wax paper. Let cool. Eat.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sausage and Mushroom Pizza - Hold the crust

Sausage and mushrooms are our favorite pizza toppings. It seems there are never enough of those toppings when you order a pizza though. I saw some great looking portobello caps at the store and thought they would make a great dinner. I usually just grill them and serve them as a side. I know some people use them in place of meat because they are so meaty tasting, but with my husband it would be hard to have a meal without meat.

I found hot italian sausage on sale and a bell went off. Sausage and mushrooms. It's a combo we love so I knew this would be dinner one night. Plus since I love pizza and my husband only eats it because I like it, I knew it would be a chance for me to have those pizza flavors without it actually being pizza.

Portobellos stuffed with sausage:

6 large portobello caps
1 lb bulk hot italian sausage (you could use sweet, but we love hot)
your favorite tomato sauce
lots of mozzarella cheese

Grill or bake the mushroom caps until just tender. Brown the sausage and drain off fat. When the mushrooms are done, put just a little tomato sauce on then add sausage and cheese. Bake until bubbly.

Serve with a salad and bread sticks. It's a different take on the normal pizza.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Greek is the word!

Delectable is also the word which can be used to describe our dinner. Greek salad, souvlaki, potatoes roasted with garlic and feta, and pitas made up our Greek feast. It sounds so fancy but it's so simple. I decided it would be a good meal for dinner with family over. I think I may have dinner guests again if the empty plates at the end of the meal were any indication of how they enjoyed their food.

First up: Greek Salad

Romaine, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, kalamata olives, banana peppers, and lots of feta make up the salad itself.

The dressing is easy to make in your food processor. Everything comes together quickly.

3/4 cup olive oil (you may reduce the oil slightly if desired)
1-2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried basil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1-2 teaspoon sugar

I put it all in the small bowl of my food processor and whirl until it becomes almost creamy


Chicken breasts in a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic. Before I do my grocery shopping, I usually make up a batch or two of the marinade. I'll take a pack of chicken, put it in a freezer bag, pour in the marinade and freeze. When I'm ready to make this for dinner, the chicken will then marinate as it thaws. Depending on how much time I have (and if I'm trying to impress) I'll put the chicken on skewers. If I do not have a lot of time, I'll just throw the breasts on the grill. Either way, it's wonderful. Any left over chicken makes a great topping for a salad.

I also butter or brush olive oil on the pita and throw it on the grill at the end of the cooking time for the chicken.

Don't forget the Tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice).


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring time tart: Asparagus and Gruyère

Three delicious ingredients when put together make a tart so divine you can almost hear the angels sing. Or wait, maybe that was just us in a chorus of mmmmmmmm's. It made a terrific appetizer to our dinner but I can also see this as our main course during the summer with a salad for a light meal.

Ever since I picked up Everyday Food: Great Food Fast I've wanted to make this tart. It is so simple. With the tiny spring asparagus out now, this was so tender and the pastry was so flaky.


* Flour, for work surface
* 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
* 5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) Gruyère cheese, shredded
* 1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* Salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
2. Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with Gruyère. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over Gruyère, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins: The Breakfast of Champions

or at least champion shoppers. There were a few of us going on a shopping trip and we were going to meet at my house. What kind of hostess would I be if I didn't have a delicious treat waiting for them? Not to mention how great they made my house smell. These muffins were easy and wonderful. These provided all the sugar energy we would need for our day of shopping.

They are to die for hot out of the oven and freshly rolled in the cinnamon and sugar. They are still very good when they cool, but you can pop one in the microwave for a few seconds if you prefer them warm.

I found this recipe here: The Pioneer Woman. My changes are in red.

French Breakfast Puffs
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup shortening (Crisco)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 sticks butter (I only used 1 1/4 sticks of butter and it turned out to be just enough)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside. Pray. In a different bowl, cream together 1 cup sugar and shortening, then add eggs and mix. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden. In a bowl, melt 2 sticks butter. In a separate bowl combine remaining sugar and cinnamon. Dip baked muffins in butter, coating thoroughly, then coat with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Eat. Faint.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Move over Little Debbie: Oatmeal Creme Pies

Everyone grew up with Little Debbie products in their homes. We did, from swiss cake rolls to raisin creme pies (or flycakes as my dad calls them) to oatmeal cream pies. Even as an adult, I still love them all. It's a taste of childhood. Like everyone else, we're trying to watch transfats and foods full of words we can not pronounce. It put me on a search for recipes I could make at home with whole food ingredients (even if they are not the most wholesome ingredients; but who doesn't love butter and sugar!). I found this one for oatmeal creme pies which is one of my husband's favorites. These will make great lunch box snacks.


1 1/4 cups butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl, stirring well. Add oats; stir well. Add to butter mixture; stir until well blended. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Cool on pan 2 to 3 minutes. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

4. Spread 1 tablespoon Cream Filling over each bottom side of half of cookies; top with remaining cookies, right side up.

Makes 3 dozen oatmeal cookies or 18 cream pies

Creme Filling


1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, scraping bowl. Beat on high until light and fluffy.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A spring favorite: Asparagus

I love spring and I love the things spring brings, like asparagus. In spring the stalks are small and tender. Plus they are so good for you: full of folic acid, potassium, and fiber. Our favorite way to have them is grilled with just olive oil, salt and pepper. They get a bit crispy and are just delicious. Who needs french fries when you can have crispy asparagus.

Asparagus was something I never had growing up. I can credit my time in New Jersey for my love of asparagus. Between a friend who loved them and watching hours of food network, they became a regular at our table. I hear so many people say they do not like them, then I find out they were forced to eat the canned ones growing up. Please, if you hated the canned ones, give fresh a try. Asparagus has become a favorite vegetable in our house.

We had grilled baby back ribs to go along with our asparagus tonight. Just a little salt, pepper and a bit of Scott's Barbeque Sauce, and adding mesquite smoke chips to the grill.

Do you see the pink smoke ring around the edge of the meat? That is what adding mesquite will do for your meat besides adding extra deliciousness.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sweet potato crusted flounder

I always say all my memories are about food. If I was eating when any event happened, it's usually the food I remember first. Sad but true. I was sitting around the other day thinking about all the places we've been (and of course the food we ate!). We started talking about one of our favorite place to go when we lived in New Jersey. Mastori's diner, where you could sit at the bar or a booth and get diner food or you could sit in the restaurant area listening to the piano man while having a fine dinner.

On one of our visits there, I had a delicious sweet potato crusted fish. After thinking about it more, I decided it was something I wanted to try at home. I was unsure how to go about it, but I was going to give it a try.

I think it turned out pretty good.

I had some flounder filets in the freezer and some sweet potatoes, so it seemed like a good time to try my hand at making this meal.

There is no real recipe. I just put together what I thought would be tasty. Here's a basic idea of what I did.

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and grated in the food processor
5 flounder filets
cajun seasoning

I put the grated sweet potatoes in the microwave for a couple of minutes. This made them hold together better as a crust on the fish. Plus since the flounder I was using was a little on the thin side, I didn't want the fish to be over done before the sweet potatoes were done.

I dipped the fish in an egg wash and seasoned it with cajun seasoning. As a tablespoon or so of oil heated in a pan, I pressed the sweet potato into the fish. I started sweet potato side down in the pan. After a few minutes, turned it so the fish could finish up.

It was served up hot with garlic green beans and a slice of home made bread.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Fun with leftovers: Chicken Taco Cornbread

It's just the two of us here and we love roasted chicken. The only problem with roasting a whole chicken is all the leftovers. It's not really a problem because we like leftovers. I hear there are some people who will not eat leftovers. They would not fare well in this house. We really try not to waste anything.

I did a Mt Dew can chicken (we don't usually have beer here) on the grill a couple of weeks ago and after dinner, picked the chicken and froze it in a food saver bag. I figured there would be chicken soup or chicken casserole in our future until I came across this recipe. We love all the flavors so we decided to give it a try, even though earlier this week we had a new recipe flop.

The recipe's official name is Chicken Taco Cornbread Wedges with Ranchero Cilantro Drizzle. It won the 2007 National Cornbread Festival Cook-off sponsored by Martha White, Lodge Cast Iron and Brown Stove Company. I pretty much followed the recipe with a few changes.

1/2 cup ranch dressing (I used Marie's Jalapeno Ranch)
1/2 cup salsa verde
1 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
(I added a couple handfuls of real bacon bits and a little taco seasoning. Next time I'll probably add a bit of chipotle in adobo for some added heat and flavor)

1 egg
1 (7 oz.) pkg. Martha White® Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup crushed corn tortilla chips (I didn't love the chips in the bottom but hubby did, maybe next time I'll crush them up more and see if I like it better)

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
3 cups shredded romaine
1 cup chopped tomatoes (the tomatoes looked horrible at the store so I left them off and we added a sprinkle of chopped black olives)

Heat oven to 400° F. Combine ranch dressing, salsa and 1 cup cilantro leaves in small food processor or blender. Process until well blended. Cover and refrigerate.

In 10-inch Lodge® cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Stir in chicken, 3 tablespoons cilantro, salt, cumin, pepper and tomatoes with green chilies; cook 5 minutes. Remove from skillet. Wipe out skillet with paper towel; grease.

In large bowl, beat egg. Add cornbread mix and milk; mix well. Place tortilla chips in greased skillet. Pour cornbread mixture over chips. Spoon chicken mixture over cornbread mixture; sprinkle with cheeses.

Bake at 400º F. for 16 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges. Top with romaine and tomatoes; drizzle with dressing.
6 servings

We both agreed this will be added to our rotation for when we have leftover chicken. It'll be easy enough because I almost always have all the ingredients needed, but even if you didn't and left out or switched out something I think it would be equally as tasty.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday so I didn't do any cooking today. My family took me out for dinner. We went to Fuji's, a Japanese steak house. It was very good and so much fun being with my family.

Filet Mignon and Shrimp, hibachi style.

Now I'll be in search of a recipe so I can recreate this at home.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I love having my oven back

I went 6 months with a broken oven. All I could use for that time was my cook top. No baking at all. I was going through withdrawals. I'm still trying to catch up from not baking during that time. Today I got a good start.

First there is the Five Minute Artisan Bread
It was so good, I ordered the book. Not to mention we ate half the loaf. I only used half of the dough. I can't wait to see how the next batch bakes up.

Because it was such a nice day, it was time for grilling. Grilled chicken marinated in Scott's Barbeque Sauce and potato salad. I guess I'm skipping spring and going right for summer meals.

Earlier in the day, I'd made a chocolate sheet cake. It's a simple recipe I remember my mama making when I was younger. It's so rich and so so good.

Sometimes a firecracker can be a dud

I saw this recipe for firecracker beef and it sounded delicious. I had everything on hand to make it except for the skirt steak but I knew I had a sirloin roast I could grill and slice. We substituted jasmine rice for the noodles because my husband would rather have sticky rice. Those are the only two changes I made and the meal didn't turn out as good as our expectations. We had Thai neighbors who set the bar pretty high for us as far as Asian food goes.

This will be one recipe I won't repeat without some changes. (I was so disappointed with the flavor of this dish, I forgot all about taking pictures)