Friday, October 31, 2008


1 pkg. oven-ready lasagna noodles
1 lg. jar Prego pasta sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 16-oz. container ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 pkgs. Italian blend shredded cheese
additional seasonings, per your taste
(*I add onion flakes, Italian seasoning, and brown sugar.)

Remove sausage from casings and put into a large skillet with ground beef. Brown well and drain.

In large saucepan, heat pasta sauce, garlic, seasonings, mushrooms, and meat. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

In small bowl, mix ricotta cheese and egg.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In 9x13 baking dish, put a layer of sauce and a layer of pasta. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the pasta, then top with shredded cheese. Repeat layers two more times, ending with cheese.

Cover with a double layer of foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake additional 5-10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, then serve.

Serves 12.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie

2 c. cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 stick of butter, softened
2 eggs, separated
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. white sugar
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, combine sweet potatoes, butter, egg yolks, brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and evaporated milk. Mix well.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; add 1/4 c. sugar and fold into sweet potato mixture.

Pour into pie shell and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until firm.

*You can substitute 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice for the ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

**This makes a thick custard-type pie that doesn't have quite the same texture as a typical sweet potato or pumpkin pie.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chicken & Dumplings

3 large chicken breasts
3-4 quarts water
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. celery, finely chopped
1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
1 pkg. flour tortillas, cut into 2-inch squares (approximately)
season to taste (I use Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning.)

Boil chicken in water. (Add celery and onion trimmings to create a more flavorful broth.)

Remove chicken from broth and set aside to cool. Skim trimmings off broth. Stir in soup, celery, and onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Season to taste.

Cut or tear chicken into bite-size pieces and add to broth. Add tortilla pieces, a few at a time, pushing under broth to keep from sticking together.

Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*This would be great with leftover turkey, too!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

1 box of angel food cake mix
1 20-oz. can of crushed pineapple, undrained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour dry cake mix and pineapple, with juice, into mixing bowl. Stir until well blended. Pour into ungreased 9x13 baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Let cool, then serve plain or with whipped topping.

*Another tasty option is to make it part of a low-fat sundae cake. Top individual slices with fresh sliced strawberries and bananas, chocolate chips, whipped cream, nuts, and maraschino cherries.

Yes, this cake is that easy - probably the easiest one you'll ever bake!

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

1 can tomato soup
1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes (with basil, garlic & oregano)
1/2 c. Half & Half

Pour soup and tomatoes into blender or food processor and blend until smooth; pour into saucepan. Add Half & Half, stirring well. Heat over medium heat until almost boiling, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Thanks for the recipe, Tricia!

*I made a double recipe and had just enough left over for one small bowl of soup.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Chipotle Chicken Alfredo Pizza

Ingredients not measured; make pizza to suit personal taste preferences.

pizza dough
alfredo sauce
shredded mozzarella cheese
shredded chicken seasoned with Pampered Chef® Chipotle Rub
sliced black olives

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out dough to about 15 inches; bake 8 minutes. Top with alfredo sauce, cheese, chicken, and olives. Bake additional 8 minutes or until crust begins to brown.

Note: My sister pointed out that most people don't mix black olives with Alfredo. Feel free to omit the olives and add more seasoned shredded chicken. Onion would be good, too.

Florentine Scrambled Eggs

The original recipe, Florentine Scramble, is from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking Made Light cookbook. I made changes to suit the tastes of my family.

8 eggs
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning Mix (I use Pampered Chef's brand.)
1 Tbsp. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 c. frozen chopped spinach, cooked
1/4 c. red bell pepper, diced
olive oil

In small bowl, stir together eggs, seasoning, and cheese; set aside.

Squeeze excess water from spinach and put in microwave-safe bowl; stir in tomatoes. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 1 minute; set aside.

Heat medium skillet over medium heat until hot; spritz with olive oil. Scramble eggs until almost done; add spinach mixture. Fold until combined and eggs are just cooked.

Serve hot with buttered toast and fresh fruit.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Chutney

8-10 chicken tenders, thawed
3 Tbsp. Pampered Chef® Jamaican Jerk Rub, divided
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 can pineapple tidbits, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

Heat oil in skillet. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. rub evenly over both sides of chicken; cook until no longer pink, turning once.

In large bowl, combine pineapple, beans, and peppers; toss with 1 Tbsp. rub. Pour over chicken and cook 3-5 minutes or until hot throughout.

Serve immediately.

*This goes well served over a bed of brown rice, with a fresh green salad on the side.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

This recipe is slightly varied from the Pampered Chef recipe found in the Delightful Desserts cookbook.

1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 20-oz. can pineapple slices, undrained
10 maraschino cherries, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 pkg. pineapple cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over low heat. Remove from heat; stir in brown sugar until well blended.

Drain pineapple; reserve juice and set aside. Arrange pineapple slices over sugar mixture; place a cherry in center of each slice. Sprinkle nuts over pineapple.

Add enough water to reserved pineapple juice to measure 1 1/3 cups liquid. Combine cake mix, liquid, eggs, and applesauce in large bowl and blend until smooth. Pour over fruit mixture in skillet.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until cake tests for doneness. Cool 5 minutes, then carefully loosen edge of cake and turn out onto large, heat-safe serving plate. Cool slightly; serve warm.

*I'm fairly certain I use more than 1/2 cup of pecans. I know I don't measure them; I just sprinkle them on until it looks good.

Tip: Substituting equal portions of unsweetened applesauce for oil produces a lower-fat cake that's just as moist.

Southwestern Cornbread Salad

1 6-oz. pkg. Mexican cornbread mix
1 bottle Ranch salad dressing
1 small head lettuce, shredded
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
1 15-oz. can whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, drained
1 8-oz. pkg. shredded Mexican blend cheese
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
5 green onions, chopped

Prepare cornbread as directed on package; cool and crumble. Set aside.

Layer a large bowl with half each of cornbread, lettuce, tomatoes, beans, corn, cheese, bacon, and onions. Spoon dressing evenly over top. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients, and top again with dressing.

Serve immediately or cover and chill for a few hours.

*This salad presents beautifully in a trifle or other large glass bowl, but it tends to get soggy if left overnight. When I know the whole thing won't be eaten at one meal, I prepare each serving bowl separately, saving the leftover ingredients to make fresh salads the next day.

*The original recipe calls for Romaine lettuce, but I use whatever I have on hand. I love adding fresh spinach to it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spinach Fruit Salad

1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 pint strawberries, washed, cored, and sliced
1 large can mandarin oranges, drained
1 large can pineapple tidbits, drained
1 c. blueberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. pecan halves or sliced almonds
1 Tbsp. poppyseed dressing

Gently mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and serve.

*Make this an awesome main dish by adding some grilled chicken strips.

If you have a nice glass bowl or trifle bowl, this makes a beautiful presentation.

I made this recipe based on a salad that Panera Bread features in the spring and summer. They use mixed greens, though, and don't take out the hard center veins in the leaves.

Apple Crisp

5-6 large baking apples
1/3 c. water
1 9-oz. pkg. yellow cake mix (Jiffy is the perfect size!)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Pampered Chef® Sweet Cinnamon Sprinkle or ground cinnamon
1/4 c. butter or margarine, melted
1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel, core, and thinly slice apples. Place in 9X9 baking dish; add water.

In large bowl, combine cake mix, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Mix well. Add melted butter and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over apples.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm; top with vanilla ice cream if desired.

*If you want to make this for a large crowd, double the recipe and bake in a 9X13 baking dish.

I like to use a variety of apples for the varying tastes and textures, but it's also good with all the same type apples.

This is probably Caleb's favorite dessert. Every time I make it, he tells me it's better than the time before. :o)

Greek Pita Pizzas

This recipe has been modified from the one found in The Pampered Chef's® Stoneware Inspirations cookbook.

I don't measure my ingredients for this. I just use what I like in whatever amounts I want, based on my family members' preferences.

whole wheat pitas
black or kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
feta cheese, crumbled
Roma tomato, seeded and diced
cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
red onion, chopped
dried basil or PC's Greek Rub*
olive oil
Ranch dressing, sour cream, or tzatziki* (Greek cucumber yogurt sauce)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place pitas on baking stone and slice into fourths; top with olives and feta. Bake 7-9 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned.

In small bowl, combine tomato, cucumber, onion, and seasoning to your taste. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and mix well. Top pitas with mixture and drizzle with dressing, sour cream, or tzatziki, if desired. Serve immediately.

*Since we all like different ingredients on our pitas, I mix up three small bowls according to our preferences. The boys like everything but the onion, Billy likes everything but the tomato, and I like it all. To make the topping come out evenly, I add extra cucumber to the boys' toppings and extra cucumber and onion to Billy's.

We typically use Ranch dressing on ours. I made tzatziki once, but it was complicated, made more than we wanted, and wasn't that great. Now that we have a nearby Greek restaurant where I can buy good tzatziki, I'll do that next time.

If you have toppings left over, refrigerate them and make another pita pizza the next day. I've been known to eat this 2 or 3 times in one week!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Brunch Cups

12 refrigerated biscuits
1 lb. ground sausage, browned and drained
6 eggs, scrambled
shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven according to directions on biscuit can.

Flatten biscuits and mold into muffin cups in pan; fill with sausage, egg, and cheese. Bake according to directions on can.

*Include whatever ingredients you have on hand: bacon, ham, peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. Another option is to use refrigerated crescent rolls instead of biscuits. If you have any filling ingredients left over, wrap then in flour tortillas and have breakfast burritos another day.

Tuscan Chicken

Tuscan Chicken served over angel hair pasta, garlic bread on the side

1 lb. chicken tenders
3 Tbsp. Pampered Chef Italian Seasoning Mix, divided
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 can diced Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
1 can black olives, sliced
1 small pkg. mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c. water
fresh grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Thaw chicken and trim fat; coat with 2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning. Heat oil in skillet and cook chicken until done. Add tomatoes and liquid, olives, mushrooms, remaining seasoning, and water. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer 5 minutes. Serve over pasta and top with cheese.

*The original recipe came from the McCormick One-Step Italian Seasoning jar, but I haven't been able to find it in several months. I copied down the recipe before I threw away my last empty container of it and have added a few ingredients here and there. My friend Kim mentioned putting Parmesan cheese on top of a similar dish that she makes. That was an "Aha!" moment. I hadn't thought of that, even though Parmesan cheese is one of my staples.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
2 14.5-oz. cans chicken broth
1 15-oz. can black beans, undrained
1 15-oz. can Mexican-style chili beans
1 15.5-oz. can Mexican diced tomatoes
1 10-oz. can diced Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 c. salsa
1 4-oz. can chopped green chilies
1 11-oz. can Mexicorn
1 15.5-oz. can white hominy, drained

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 20 minutes. Serve over tortilla chips and top with grated cheese.

*My changes: Instead of using canned chicken broth, I used the chicken stock from boiling the chicken breasts. It was more than 29 ounces, probably more like 3 quarts (96 ounces). I also added some water. Since I made it in my 8-quart stock pot, I would guess I made a total of 6 quarts of soup, including the chicken and veggies. It lasted for several days.

Since Billy doesn't like chunks of tomatoes, I used my hand mixer to blend the larger can of tomatoes. I put the Ro-Tel in as it was, but will blend them next time, too.

I used a 6-oz. or larger can of green chilies, which turned out good.

Instead of Mexicorn, I used fiesta corn and drained it. It's cheaper and has more corn in the can.

Tip: When boiling chicken, add some trimmings from onions, peppers, and celery to the water. As it cooks, it provides a good natural seasoning for the chicken and the stock. If you won't be using the stock immediately, skim out the trimmings, let the stock cool, pour it into freezer bags, and store it for later.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brown Sugar Banana Nut Bread

1/2 c. margarine, softened
1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
4 overripe bananas, mashed
2 c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease loaf pan.

In large bowl, cream together margarine and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Stir in vanilla and banana.

In smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to banana mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips, if desired. Pour into loaf pan.

Bake for one hour, or until bread tests for doneness.

*I like to sprinkle walnuts and/or chocolate chips on the top before baking.

*I recently tried this with chopped peanuts instead of walnuts and it gave a great flavor! I also sprinkled some Pampered Chef® Sweet Caramel Sprinkle on top, which gave it a nice crunch and sweet, flavorful crust.

Tip: When your bananas start to turn brown, peel them, wrap them in foil, and freeze them. When you get ready to make your bread, take four out of the freezer, unwrap them, and place them in a bowl to thaw. They will not look appetizing, but they're perfectly fine. You can make your bread whenever you want and not have to wait for the bananas to be just right.

Mint Chocolate Fudge Cake

5 oz. Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips (about half a bag)
1 chocolate fudge cake mix (+ ingredients needed for cake)
1 can chocolate fudge frosting

Preheat oven according to package directions. Grease and flour Bundt pan or 2 round cake pans.

Mix cake as directed on package. Fold in baking chips and pour into cake pan(s). Bake as directed on package.

Cool 15 minutes, then carefully remove from pan(s). Cool completely before frosting.

*I used a stoneware fluted pan and drizzled heated frosting over the cake instead of frosting it completely. Then I sprinkled a few mint chips on top.

mint chocolate fudge cake with mint chocolate chip ice cream

Tip: When flouring a cake pan, you can use dry cake mix instead of flour. This is especially helpful when baking chocolate cakes, as it prevents white spots on the outside of the cake.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

broccoli cheese soup paired with tomato basil bread from Panera

My sister Lindsay gave me this recipe. It's from a lady we went to church with long, long ago.

1 8-oz. block of mild Mexican Velveeta cheese, cut into small cubes
1 large bag of frozen broccoli florets, cooked according to package directions
1 large onion, chopped and sauteed
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
3 large cans evaporated milk

Combine cooked broccoli and sauteed onion in large pot; add cheese and stir until almost melted.

Stir in soup and evaporated milk; cook over medium-low heat until hot throughout, about 20 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent soup from scalding on the bottom.

Season to taste.

Stuffed Strawberries

strawberries stuffed with cheesecake-flavored filling

1 qt. large strawberries
1 pkg. cheesecake or white chocolate pudding mix
1 8 oz. container whipped topping

Rinse strawberries and pat dry. Cut stem end off flat for base; cut an X on berry end, slicing about 3/4 of the way down the berry.

Mix pudding mix and whipped topping. Spoon mixture into decorator bag and pipe into center of strawberries. Place in container with deep sides, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tip: Don't have a decorator bag? Use a zipper-seal plastic bag instead. Fill with mixture, press out air, and seal. Cut a small hole in one corner and squeeze out gently. When you're finished, just toss the bag.

Tip #2: To fill the bag more easily, push the open bag down into a cup and fold the edges over the rim. That way you don't have to try to hold it open while you're filling it and get a big mess all over the bag opening.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!

We love pizza at our house! I make it at least once a month, sometimes more. We also keep a few frozen pizzas around just in case we want one for a quick lunch one day. And I take the boys out for lunch to Cici's Pizza once a month. That way they can eat some of their favorite varieties that I don't make at home. (Caleb loves Alfredo cheese pizza; Jacob loves pepperoni.)

When I make my own pizza, I make my own crust as well. My friend Amy gave me the recipe she uses, but I made a few changes.

Pizza Dough

4 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
2/3 c. olive oil
1 1/3 c. water

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Measure oil and water into one large measuring cup; pour all at once into flour mixture. Stir to form a ball.

Divide dough in half and press or roll out each half to about 15 inches. (If dough is too sticky, add a little extra flour.) Prick crust with fork to prevent air pockets. Bake for 8 minutes.

Top pizza with desired toppings and bake additional 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Makes 2 15-inch pizzas.

Canadian bacon, mushroom, and black olive pizza

Our typical pizza has mushrooms, black olives, and onions. If I have some Canadian bacon or ham on hand, I'll add it, too. The boys like that pizza really well, but I don't put as many onions on theirs.

Garden Veggie Pizza

One of my favorite spring and summer pizzas is a Garden Veggie Pizza.

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Mix well and spread over prebaked crust. Top with shredded mozzarella or Italian-blend cheese.

Next layer with your choice of garden-fresh vegetables. I use baby spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, black olives, Roma tomatoes (on my half), purple onion, and artichoke hearts. Sprinkle a little extra cheese on top, then bake until the crust is a golden brown. Grate a little Parmesan cheese on top; slice and serve.

Greek-style pizza

The most recent "different" pizza I made had a Greek flavor. I put olive oil, garlic, and basil on the crust, then topped it with crumbled feta cheese, grated Parmesan, sliced black and green olives, and diced tomatoes (on my half). It was good, but I prefer melted cheese on my pizzas. Feta just browns.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Potatoes with Feta Cheese and Olives

recipe from The Complete Book of Greek Cooking

2 lbs. potatoes
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil (Next time I'll reduce this to 1/2 c.)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
10 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (I think I only used 8 oz. I definitely recommend 10.)
1 c. pitted black and green olives (The picture in the cookbook showed the olives halved, but I quartered mine. I think I'd like to use a little more olives next time, maybe an extra half cup.)
1 1/4 c. hot vegetable stock (from boiling the potatoes)
salt and ground black pepper

Scrub potatoes well; cook in large pot of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly, then peel and cut into very thin slices.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush bottom and sides of 9x13 baking dish with oil. Layer potato slices in dish with rosemary, cheese, and olives. (I made 3 layers.)

Drizzle with remaining oil and vegetable stock; season with salt and pepper.

Cook for 35 minutes. The recipe recommends covering the potatoes with foil to prevent overbrowning, but mine did just fine uncovered.