Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pumpkin Praline

Welcome back to cooking! I'd like to pretend I haven't cooked a meal since I last posted here in May, but I've just been too busy doing everything else. Now that I'm just a stay at home mom again with lots of time on my hands (ha! don't we all wish...) I'm back to enjoying my quickie meals in the kitchen.

This is a GREAT one, and a perfect fall/holiday/Thanksgiving/Make your house smell like Yankee candles dessert.

Pumpkin Praline

16 oz. pumpkin
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
3 tsp. pumpkin spice (I use pumpkin pie spice)

Whip all ingredients with a wisk. Set aside.

1 yellow cake mix (dry)
3/4 cube of melted butter
3 oz of your favorite nut, chopped (I put them in a ziplock bag and smash with a rolling pin. my toddler loves this part)

Spray a 9 x 13 pan. Pour pumpkin mixture on the bottom. Spread the yellow cake mix on top. Sprinkle with nuts and spread the butter on top of the entire cake. Bake for 55 minutes at 350 degrees.

I've already made this twice since discovering it last week. It makes your house smell amazing and is great with vanilla ice cream, whip cream, or just plain. I bet it would be great with a spice cake. Try adding a tsp of cinnamon for extra holiday flavor!

Happy baking.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Italian Marinated Chicken

Don't have any good marinade on hand? This is a simple marinade that tastes great!

Italian Marinated Chicken

1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp. canned diced tomatoes, drained
1 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning, crushed
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Mix everything but the chicken in a resealable plastic bag. Add chicken and shake gently to coat. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grill chicken for 15 minutes or until cooked through, brushing often with stock mixture.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oriental Chicken

Another Campbell's recipe that's worth trying.

Oriental Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 pkg. (10 oz) frozen green beans
2 green onions, chopped

Saute chicken in oil over medium-high heat for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, heat to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes. Serve over rice.

*Try assorted oriental veggies or add carrots!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Campbell's Week: Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas

Super easy!

Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup salsa
2 tsp. chili powder
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup shredded cheese (Monterey Jack is great!)
6 flour tortillas, warmed
1 small tomato, chopped (opt.)
1 green onion, sliced (opt.)

Heat oven to 350. Stir soup, sour cream, salsa, and chili powder in a medium-sized bowl.

Stir 1 cup of the sauce mixture with chicken and cheese in a large bowl. Divide this mixture up between the six tortillas. Roll tortillas and place them seam-side up in a 2 quart shallow baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the rolled tortillas. Cover.

Bake for 40 minutes or until enchiladas are hot and bubbling. Top with tomato and onion.

Add a little protein and fiber by stirring in 1/2 cup rinsed black beans with chicken before filling tortillas.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Campbell's Week: Lemon Asparagus Chicken

Lemon Asparagus Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can condensed cream of asparagus soup
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
lemon slices (optional)

Saute chicken in 1 Tbsp. oil until brown. Add soup, milk, lemon juice, and pepper. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook 5 minutes on low heat. Serve with lemon slices. Serves four.

Serve with pasta!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Campbell's Week: Citrus & Salsa Pork Roast

Citrus & Salsa Pork Roast

1 jar (11 oz.) chunky salsa
1 large can (11 oz.) Mandarin orange segments, drained
2 lbs. pork tenderloins (or chicken, if that's what you've got!)
1 tsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges (optional)

Heat over to 425. Stir salsa and oranges in a small bowl. Place meat in a shallow 3 quart pan. Rub meat with oil, pour on salsa mixture. Bake for 35 minutes or until meat is cooked through. Remove from pan and let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime.

Try this with peach slices or pineapple chunks! Serve with rice.

On a budget? Check the manager's special section of the meat department for great deals on cuts you wouldn't normally buy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Campbell's Week: Tomato-Basil Chicken

Another Campbell's recipe--a great way to turn basic soups into great dinners!

Tomato-Basil Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
4 cups hot cooked tube pasta

Saute chicken in 1 tbsp. oil until browned. Add soup, milk, cheese, basil, and garlic. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Serve with pasta.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Campbell's Week: Green Bean Casserole

This week features some Campbell's recipes that are on my "to try" list.

Green Bean Casserole

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. soy sauce
4 cups cooked green beans (use 1 16-20 oz. frozen package or 2 cans)
1 1/3 cup french fried onions
dash of black pepper

MIX soup, milk, soy, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in 1 1/2-qt. casserole.

BAKE at 350°F. for 25 min. or until hot.

STIR . Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 min.

Serves 6.

Try this with broccoli instead of green beans, or omit soy sauce and add cheddar cheese instead. This can be made a day ahead--just cover and refrigerate!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cocoa-Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothies

This is a Betty Crocker recipe. Perfect for adding some health into dessert, right?

Cocoa-Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothies

1 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt (buy a 2 lb container)
1 cup chocolate milk (or skim milk and chocolate syrup)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 small bananas, sliced
3-5 ice cubes
1 cup Cocoa Puffs cereal, coarsely crushed (optional)

Place all ingredient except cereal in blender. Cover, blend on high speed about 30 seconds or until smooth. Pour into four glasses, sprinkle with cereal. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Microwave Fudge Pudding Cake

Fudge Pudding Cake (microwave!)

1 c. all purpose flour
¾ c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. baking cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ c. milk
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. packed brown sugar
¼ c. baking cocoa
1 ¾ c. boiling water

1. Mix flour, granulated sugar, 2 Tbsp. cocoa, baking powder, and salt in 2-quart
microwavable casserole.
2. Stir in milk, oil and vanilla. Stir in nuts. Spread evenly in casserole. Mix brown
sugar and ¼ c. coca; sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water over batter.
3. Microwave uncovered on medium (50%) 9 minutes; rotate casserole ½ turn. Microwave
uncovered on high 5-6 minutes or until top is almost dry. Serve warm with ice cream or
whipped cream.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stuffed French Toast

Another twist on a traditional recipe. Great for an easy dinner or breakfast in bed (*hint* Mother's Day is coming up! *hint*)

Stuffed French Toast

12 slices French bread (we just used regular and it was still good)
6 Tbsp cream cheese
¼ c. jam (any flavor)
3 eggs
½ c. skim milk
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Cinnamon and/or vanilla as desired

1. Spread cream cheese on one slice, jam on the other, and make 6 sandwiches.
2. Mix everything else together, dip both sides, and cook.
3. Great with syrup and powdered sugar!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chicken Enchilada Pizza

Chicken Enchilada Pizzas

4 flour tortillas (10-inch)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 c. chopped cooked chicken breast
½ c. green salsa (red also works)
1 can (2¼ oz.) sliced ripe olives, drained
1/3 c. sour cream
1 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Heat oven to 400, place tortillas on ungreased cookie sheet, bake about 5 minutes or
until crisp.
2. While tortillas are baking, heat oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Cook onion in oil, stirring frequently, until tender; remove from heat. Stir in chicken,
salsa and olives.
3. Spread sour cream on tortillas. Top with chicken mixture and cheese. Bake 5-6 minutes
or until cheese is melted.

I'm not really a fan of olives, so I substituted a small can of diced green chilis to add some zest!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back in Business! Thai Chicken Pizza

Sorry for the recipe hiatus: it was finals week here and both computers bit the dust! My rented desktop had to be returned before my husband could graduate (congratulations Eric! I love you!) and my husband's laptop suddenly gave up the ghost.

NOW it's time to get back to cooking (the easy way!). I love pizza, but homemade pizza either requires a lot of work to make everything from scratch or money to buy all of the ingredients. I was so excited when I found these recipes for variety pizzas that use tortillas and other easy to find ingredients.

Thai Chicken Pizza

6 flour tortillas (10-inch)
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
2 c. chopped cooked chicken breast
1 lb. frozen (or canned) stir-fry vegetables, thawed and drained

1. Heat oven to 400. Place tortillas on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 5 minutes or
until crisp.
2. Mix peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar; spread over tortillas. Top each with 1/4 c.
cheese. Spread chicken and vegetables evenly over tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining
3. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until pizzas are hot and cheese is melted.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting

I've been baking to drive away the stormy gray weather outside, and I stumbled across the perfect mix for cream cheese frosting.

Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese (1 pkg.), room temperature (I use fat free to induce less guilt!)
2-3 cups powdered sugar (depends on the humidity)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (works better if you have a clear extract or the frosting gets darker)

Mix butter and cream cheese on medium speed until very smooth (about three minutes). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness.

Want to add decorative frills or writing but don't have the equipment? add a few drops of food coloring into a plastic bag, mix in frosting, and cut a tiny hole in the tip. No messy cleanup--just throw away the used bag!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Crock Pot Lasagna

Ok guys, here's a new one that I waited a LONG time to try! My husband loves lasagna but I can never make it like his mom did and it's just a lot of work....until this recipe! I found this from A Year of Crockpotting, and am seriously coveting her new cookbook.

Crock Pot Lasagna

1 box of regular lasagna noodles
1 jar of pasta sauce
ricotta cheese
1 pkg of Italian mix shredded cheese
1/4 cup water
assorted veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms--even hard boiled eggs work great!)
optional meat

If you decide to add meat, brown 1/2 lb meat with minced onion first. Pour in entire jar of sauce with meat (don't rinse or throw away the jar!) Simmer for a few minutes. Spoon one ladle-full into the bottom of the crockpot. Top with a layer of dried noodles (you'll have to break them!). Smear on a layer of ricotta cheese. Add a layer of veggies and a handful of shredded cheese. Repeat layers until the crockpot is full! Put 1/4 cup water in the empty pasta jar and shake; pour the tomato-water over the entire mix. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4.

Check noodles an hour before serving and push them down into the water if they are getting hard or curling up.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Quick Chocolate Cake

Here's a quick single serving size cake you make in the microwave! It's not the BEST cake ever, but it's still good and extremely simple. Thanks to Linds for passing this one on.

Quick Chocolate Cake

4 Tbsp. flour
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1 Egg
3 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. oil

Mix flour, sugar and cocoa in a microwavable mug. Spoon in 1 egg. Pour in milk and oil, and mix well. Put in microwave for 3 minutes on maximum power (1000watt). Wait until it stops rising (it will rise over the top of the mug!) and sets in the mug. Tip contents out of mug onto saucer and enjoy!

For an extra boost, add a Tbsp. of powdered sugar to the dry ingredients and add a handful of chocolate chips or a drizzle of chocolate syrup before cooking.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cheesy Mostaccioli and Giveaway Winner!

This recipe was submitted by Rachael Wood--thanks for contributing! Want to send in your own favorites? shoot me an email: <5thingscooking@gmail.com>

Cheesy Mostaccioli

1 pkg mostaccioli pasta, cooked and drained
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 can (10 3/4 oz) cheddar cheese soup
1 jar (26 oz) spaghetti sauce
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Combine cooked pasta, cooked meat, cheddar cheese soup, and spaghetti sauce. Add pepper, seasoning and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese. Mix to combine. Place in 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese on top. Bake for 25 minutes.

Rachael W. was the winner of Mary Ellen's Best of Helpful Hints books! I also have a special bonus prize for Sam B., so Sam, let me know when I can drop it off!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fruit and Veggie Muffins

These muffins are a great way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into a food that's perfect to snack on! Recipe courtesy of $5 dinners (see the button in the sidebar!).

Fruit and Veggie Muffins

1 cup flour*
3 Tbsp. canola oil**
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs***
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup mashed or grated fruit or veggie

Healthy tips!
*use 1/2 cup white flour and 1/2 cup wheat flour
**use half oil and half applesauce
***substitute mashed bananas for eggs if you want to eat the batter raw

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together eggs, oil, sugar, and mashed fruit or veggie. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Pour into muffin cups.
Mini-muffins: bake 8-10 minutes.
Regular muffins: bake 15-20 minutes.
Tops will turn golden brown.

Make a double batch and freeze the extras! Mini-muffins thaw in just a few minutes of sitting out, or in the microwave (10 seconds). Some fruit/veggie ideas to try: mashed banana, grated apple, peeled and grated zucchini, mashed blueberries. Or, double the recipe and try carrot + raisin, squash + apple, banana + strawberry...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Updates and Cake Wrecks

I hope you've gotten a chance to try some of the recipes from the past few weeks! They're all tried and trued but up for tweaking. Please let me know if you change something and love it! I made the Taco Quiche the other day with a few revisions and it was great! I prepared the meat the same way, but added a can of corn, a can of black beans, and mexican rice (if you haven't tried the cheapo rice sides mixes, you're missing out!). It was delicious and much improved.

Second bit of news: the 5 Things Cooking giveaway is still going for one more day! Thanks for those of you who have submitted recipes and keep them coming! Please add your votes to the poll in the sidebar as well. I'm always looking for new things to try so they might as well be things that interest you as well...

Third, I have to pass on one of my favorite blogs, which isn't really a cooking blog, but celebrates the worst of professional cake decorating. If you're looking for a good laugh on a gray day, this is it. Cake Wrecks. Check it out--I promise you won't regret it! Click on the "best of" links in the sidebar to see some of the most popular wrecks.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

BBQ Potato Wedges

This one is a little bit more than 5 things, but it's so perfect with grilled meat!

Barbecued Potato Wedges

2 lbs. small red potatoes, cut into wedges
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. honey

Seasonings (use whatever you have, but I like these)
3 tsp. chili powder (I use about half that--these are spicy!!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper

Place potato wedges on large cookie sheet sprayed with pam or covered in aluminum foil. Drizzle with butter and honey. Sprinkle with seasonings. Toss to coat. Bake uncovered at 450 for 25-30 minutes, turning once.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Classic White Sauce

Everyone should have a basic white sauce handy at all times. It can be used with chicken broth for gravy, with cheese for alfredo sauce, or for topping any type of meat or pasta.

Classic White Sauce

4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cup milk

Over low heat, melt butter. Add flour, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth. Gradually stir in milk. cook on low till thick, stirring constantly.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Homemade Brownies

I'll admit it, I usually use brownie and cake mixes. Let's be honest, though, mixes only save you a few ingredients! So here's an easy recipe for great homemade brownies that don't require a mix.

Homemade Brownies

2 squares butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
dash salt

Beat together everything except the flour and salt. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

For an extra treat, sprinkle chocolate chips on top before baking!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is the perfect side dish for any picnic or meal. It's one of my mom's best. Happy birthday, Mom! I love you.

Sweet Pasta Salad

2 12 oz. packages rainbow Rotini
4 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 cups mayo/salad dressing
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar

Boil rotini till barely tender (don't overcook!) Drain. Whisk together mayo, sugar, and rice vinegar. Add veggies to pasta, stir in sauce. Chill.

Best served chilled. Make sure you don't overcook the pasta or the entire salad will get mushy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rice Pudding

This is a classic dessert that's a great way to use leftover rice. This one comes from my mom, which means it's tailored for a quick fix in the microwave!

Rice Pudding

2 cups cooked rice
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Raisins (optional)

Beat eggs and milk well. Add sugar and cinnamon, beat again. Stir in rice and raisins. Microwave covered on high for 15-20 minutes or until it's the texture you prefer!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Broccoli, Rice, & Chicken

This crockpot recipe received an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up!

Broccoli, Rice, & Chicken

2 lb. boneless chicken, cut in strips
1 1/4 cup uncooked rice
1 can cream of broccoli soup
1 can water
pepper and minced onion to taste

GREASE CROCKPOT WELL. Add rice. Sprinkle with onion and pepper. Top with chicken. Pour soup and 1 can water over chicken and rice. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

This recipe cooks the rice well and is moist without being runny. Would be great with extra veggies--simply add frozen veggies before pouring on the soup.

P.S. Don't forget to submit your recipes and vote in the poll!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A little contest

Ok, fellow 5 Things Cooks. It's time for a little contest. Think for just a second of that recipe. The never-fail dish you always fall back on when you need to cook unexpectedly for a large group, or it's too late to run to the store and you need to make something. The recipe you know off the top of your head that tastes good and is super quick to throw together. I know you all have at least one!

I have an extra copy (used) of Mary Ellen's Best of Helpful Hints book that I'd love to giveaway in exchange for your recipe ideas. All you need to do is email your recipes to <5thingscooking@gmail.com>. Send as many as you want! Each recipe counts as one entry, so the more you send, the better your chances of winning this amazing book.

Want more chances to win? Get one extra entry for following my blog (post a comment letting me know).

Hopefully you've had a chance to try some of the recipes you've found here! I know it's been good for me to find new recipes and try new things in order to post them here, so hopefully it's been useful for you as well.

What recipes have you tried? What have you liked best? What would you like more of? Vote on the poll in the sidebar and let me know! (post a comment letting me know you voted and you'll get ANOTHER entry!)

Giveaway ends March 31, 2009 at 12 pm MDT. Winner will be picked by random.org from all the comments and recipes received. Make sure you leave me a way to contact you!

Easiest Ever Bean Dip

This bean dip is super quick to make and tastes great every time! Perfect for dipping chips or making nachos.

Bean Dip

1 pkg cream cheese
1 can chili with beans

Place cream cheese in a microwavable container and heat until soft. Stir in chili. Microwave until warm.

Not the best looking, but oh so tasty!

P.S. this recipe is honoring my best friend's birthday--Linds, ever wonder how many pounds of this we ate back in high school?!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cream Cheese Frosting

This frosting is super simple and quick to make--great with spice or carrot cake!

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pkg cream cheese
powdered sugar
milk/evaporated milk

Beat cream cheese (helps if it's slightly warmed). Add milk and powdered sugar until it reaches the desired consistency--it should be spreadable but not liquid.

The actual amounts of milk and sugar depend on your taste (some people like things sweeter) and the temperature and humidity. This one requires lots of tasting to know when it's right!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Swedish Delight Casserole

This is a family favorite recipe for a beef, noodle, and veggie casserole. It's quick to make and bake and hearty. Hope you like it!

Swedish Delight

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 green pepper (chopped)
1/2 onion (chopped)
2 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 lb. corn
1 lb. pasta (wide is better--I usually use elbow macaroni)
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 cup cheese, grated

Brown beef with pepper and onion. Mix everything together in a casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake 15 minutes at 375 or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chicken Divan Casserole

I think it's time for a break from dessert. This is a traditional chicken broccoli and cheese casserole.

Chicken Divan

4 chicken breasts
1 onion (green or white)
1 pkg. frozen broccoli
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup mayo or salad dressing
1 cup grated cheese
2 Tbs. lemon juice

1. Boil chicken with onion. For a faster fix, cut and saute. Place cooked chicken in a casserole dish.
2. Cook broccoli according to package directions. Microwaving preserves more vitamins and nutrients than cooking on the stove top! Put over chicken.
3. Mix soup, mayo, cheese, and lemon juice. Pour over chicken and broccoli.
4. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

This casserole can be microwaved for an even faster meal!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Orange Creme Cake

Ready for a variation on sponge cake? Try an orange twist!

Orange Creme Cake

1 round 10" angel food cake (buy one or use this easy 5 things recipe)
2 6 oz. containers of orange creme yogurt
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
2 tsp. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate

1. Cut cake in half horizontally; separate layers.
2. Spread yogurt between layers and re-stack.
3. Beat cream and sugar to stiff peaks. Add OJ concentrate until just blended. Use as frosting or serve by the side.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blue Ribbon Sponge Cake

This is a no fail recipe--works every time and super easy!

Blue Ribbon Sponge Cake

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 heaping tsp. baking powder
1 cup hot water

Beat eggs, add sugar, and beat well. Mix flour with baking powder (don't skip this step!) and add to egg mixture. Pour in hot water all at once and beat until smooth. Pour into bundt pan sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes until cake springs back when touched lightly. Cool 15 minutes and tip out of pan.

Serve with strawberries and whip cream!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dessert Fondue!

Variations on a theme, perhaps? This chocolate marshmallow fondue is irresistible!

Chocolate Fondue

16 oz. chocolate (chocolate candy bars or regular chocolate chips work great)
30 large marshmallows
1/3 cup milk
1/2 pint whipping cream

Grease crockpot with 1 tablespoon butter. Cook marshmallows, chocolate, and milk on high for ~10 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. Gradually add cream. Cover and cook on low 2-6 hours.

Can also be made in a fondue pot. My favorite treats to dip are graham cracker (reverse s'mores!), strawberries, bananas, and mangoes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cheese Fondue

Ready for a week of great recipes? I'll be posting a ton this week to get everyone inspired...pick out your favorite recipes and get ready to win!

We'll start with a party favorite: fondue.

Cheese Fondue

1 lb. grated cheese (typically swiss or cheddar, but the pre-grated mixes can be great too!)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
2 cups white grape juice

Toss the cheese, flour, and salt together. Heat grape juice to a gentle boil and gradually add cheese mixture. Remove immediately from heat. Serve with breads, broccoli, ham, apples, grapes, celery...

A fondue pot works great to keep the cheese warm but prevent it from burning. Or, pour the hot mixture into a greased crockpot for insulation! This can be a great party food where you provide the fondue and ask your guests to bring dipping food.

Add a spicy twist: my family has a rule that if you drop something into a fondue pot someone has to kiss you before you can pull it out!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Creamy Mustard Sauce

This sauce is great for meats (especially pork chops or grilled chicken) and also works as a twist on gravy for potatoes!

Creamy Mustard Sauce

1Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 can cream of mushroom soup (use the reduced salt/fat free to make it healthier!)
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard

1 1/2 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning

Sprinkle the meat with lemon pepper seasoning if you're using it. Heat butter in a skillet and brown meat for ~10 min. Add soup, milk, and mustard and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes or until meat is cooked.

Best served with steamed veggies and egg noodles or with a side of mashed potatoes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sweet and Sour Sauce

This recipe is great for chicken or stir-fry veggies. You can pour it over chicken in the crockpot (cook on low 7 hours or high 3.5 hours) or coat breaded chicken for a quick but classy meal.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1/4 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 c. pineapple juice (open a can of pineapple chunks to serve with your chicken or veggies and just pour the juice in)

My favorite combination of veggies includes green and red peppers, thinly sliced onion, and pineapple chunks. Serve over rice and top with low mein noodles for extra crisp!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Keeping Food Fresh!

I have a wonderful book called "Mary Ellen's Helpful Hints" that covers topics from stain removal (getting anything out of just about any material!) to food preparation and everything in between.

She includes some great tips for keeping food fresh!

Toss freshly peeled bananas in lemon juice and they won't darken. If they've already darkened, peel and beat slightly. Put into a plastic container and freeze until you have enough bananas and time to bake bread, cake, muffins, etc.

If your bread dries out or gets stale before you use it, or you want to stock up while it's on sale but won't use it all right away, put a rib of celery into the bag--it will keep it fresh and appropriately moist!

Cottage cheese will keep twice as long if you store it upside down in the fridge.

Press a piece of waxed paper against the surface of your ice cream after it's been opened to prevent freezer burn or film.

Lettuce and celery keep longer if stored in paper bags in the fridge instead of the cellophane ones.

Lining the vegetable drawer of the fridge with paper towels will keep all of your fruits and vegetables fresher longer!

Before opening a can of soup, shake well and open it at the bottom end instead of the top. The soup will slide out nicely.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Peach Crisp

This is a perfect pick-me-up dessert that works great with any type of fruit!

Peach Crisp

1 quart fruit, sliced
1 box cake mix (spice or yellow work best)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine

Pour fruit--with juice--into 9" by 11" baking pan or casserole dish. Pour cake mix (just the dry portion!) on top. Slice butter into small chunks on top of the cake mix to help it brown. Bake at 375 for ~10-15 minutes until the top is nicely browned.

Best served warm with ice cream, but also great cold. Can even be microwaved! Again, this works with any kind of fruit: peaches, pears, plums, cherries, etc.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Taco Quiche

This one comes from a great website geared toward kid-friendly food. Check out Recipes for Moms for more tips and tricks!

Taco Quiche

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 c. shredded cheese
1/2 c. biscuit mix (i.e. Bisquick)
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. milk

Brown meat with onion, pepper, and taco seasoning. Spread into greased 9" pie plate. Sprinkle with cheese. In a bowl, combine biscuit mix with egg and milk; mix well. Pour over cheese and meat. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

**To make this one healthier and cheaper, use half of the meat and add beans (refried or black) after browning. Less cheese provides the same flavor with less fat! Serve with a side salad and use fat-free plain yogurt instead of sour cream for an extra boost.

***Remember, you can save yourself prep time by dicing a whole onion and storing what you don't use in an air tight freezer bag for next time! Using frozen vegetables lets you saute without adding oil. Also works great for bell peppers--cut a whole pepper into strips and dice before using.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Make any recipe healthier!

One of my old chemistry friends runs a "healthy eating" group back east. Last month they talked about how to make any recipe healthier. There are so many great ideas that I want to share them here (with credit to the Beans)!

1. Make a food goal - Don't try to switch everything at once, but start with a simple goal, like reducing refined sugars, adding more fiber, eating more vegetables.

2. Start with small changes - Make tacos with less ground beef (if any) and more beans. Instead of mixing cheese into a recipe, shred it over the top. You'll get the same flavor (sometimes more!) with less.

3. Quick Breads - Anything made with baking powder and/or soda rather than yeast is considered a quick bread. That includes pancakes, muffins, cornbread, etc.
  • Generally, you can substitute up to 1/2 whole wheat flour without much of a difference. That means if the recipe calls for 2 cups all purpose flour, you can use 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour.
  • You may need to use 7/8 c. whole wheat flour for 1 cup of all purpose flour, or add a bit extra liquid if you find the end product too dry. I seldom need to do this, however.
  • The #1 complaint with whole grain baked goods is the texture. They have a tendency to be dense, chewy, or heavy. In my experience, this can be avoided almost entirely by using proper technique. Always follow the recipe and combine dry ingredients together and keep wet ingredients separate. Make sure your pans are ready to go and your oven (or griddle) is preheated. Then, combine wet with dry gently and with as few strokes as possible. Pour into pans promptly and bake immediately. Overstirring develops the gluten (the stretchy strands of dough you’re used to seeing in yeast breads) and that will create a dense, chewy result. Baked goods should be light and tender. The instant you mix wet with dry, the acid and base contained in baking powder (or the base in baking soda and the acid found in the liquid ingredients) combine and start generating gas. The batter will go “flat” much like a bottle of soda pop if you don’t get it into the oven fast. You want to keep all those air bubbles safely inside the batter so the heat can expand them and give your baked goods a desirable texture.
4. Oil substitutes -
  • Use applesauce for up to half the oil, but realize the flavor will change. I do this routinely for things like banana bread and muffins and have no problem. If you go 100% applesauce the result may be gummy. The fat from the oil contributes to the “tender” texture and it’s hard to do away with it entirely.
  • Believe it or not, pureed black beans are a great oil substitute--and added protein! They can chance the color, so they work best in "chocolate" or "grain" colored foods.
5. Reduce sugar -
  • Cut down on sugar and salt by 1/2 to 1/3. I do that automatically and seldom notice a difference in the final product.
  • Cutting down on sugar gives us our tastebuds back and we appreciate more subtle flavors such as ground almond or sprinkled orange zest, so take advantage of that! Dress up your baked goods with something fun. Try sprinkling brown sugar on top and using less in the batter. The sweetness will be noticed and appreciated on top and you can get away with using less inside. Try adding almond extract or toasted pecans. Even adding some chocolate chips to the batter can make the healthiest muffin (packed with zucchini and whole grains) seem like a special treat.
6. Use less meat -
  • Calorie for calorie, meat is much less nutritionally dense than any vegetable. Use half the ground beef you usually do in your spaghetti sauce. It’ll be more economical and your family won’t notice. Add extra of the other ingredients and the meat will take a backseat. It’ll be flavoring, not the main attraction.
7. Reduce salt -
  • Cut added salt by half; in some dishes you can even eliminate it entirely. A lot of the ingredients that you’ll use for recipes (e.g., canned tomatoes) come to your home pre-salted. You can salt stuff to taste on the table or just before serving. You’ll use less and you’ll be more conscious of it when you do add it.

Banana Muffins

Ok, i'm violating my "5 things" rule but these are worth it. A nice but reasonably healthy treat.

Banana Muffins

1 stick butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
2 medium bananas, mashed
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. water
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and bananas. Dissolve baking soda in water, add with flour. Stir in vanilla. Bake at 400 for 12 minutes. Makes 12 medium-sized muffins.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kyoto Salad Dressing

This salad dressing is amazing! It's a personal favorite as it looks classy, goes on anything from chicken to fruit salad, and has a bit of ethnic flair.

Kyoto Salad Dressing

1/2 c. rice vinegar (sold on the Ethnic aisle--NOT white vinegar!)
1/3 c. yellow mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar (scant)
1 c. canola oil
1 tsp. black pepper

Blend rice vinegar, mustard, salt, and sugar until well mixed. Add canola oil and blend again. Stir in freshly ground coarse black pepper. Pour into glass bottle or salad dressing bottle. Refrigerate.

Takes less than 5 minutes in a blender, chills quickly. Try it with anything!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mini Spinach Quiches

Again, another recipe I've been drooling over for weeks now, but finally got around to trying and giving a wholehearted approval too. I know, I'm breaking my "5 things" rule but these are great, and SO easy!

This is a picture from the Pillsbury website where I found this recipe, but I was proud to say that mine turned out looking just as good!

Mini Spinach Quiche

2 cans crescent rolls (garlic butter is perfect)
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1/4 c. chopped onion
9 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Prep 16 muffin cups with cooking spray. Separate each can of crescent dough into 8 triangles, press one into each muffin cup.

2. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in onion, spinach, salt, and pepper. Fold in cheese.

3. Fill each cup to the top (but don't overfill, they rise when they bake!).

4. Bake at 350°F for 15-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in center comes out clean and edges of rolls are golden brown. Best served warm. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

PF Changs Lettuce Wraps

I think I have a new favorite recipe! I've been waiting to post this one until I tried it--and it really is THAT good.

Lettuce Wraps

4 chicken breast halves (boneless, skinless, frozen is okay)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. white wine (I used white vinegar, rice vinegar, and a pinch of sugar)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
garlic powder (or 5 chopped cloves)
dash of allspice

Put chicken in crockpot with onions and garlic powder. Mix everything else together and pour the sauce over the chicken. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 4-6, stirring occasionally. Shred chicken ~30 minutes before serving. Serve buffet style in lettuce wraps.

I added chow mein noodles for a bit of crunch and some stir-fry veggies and rice to balance out the meat. Add hoison or plum sauce if needed!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stay Soft Caramel Corn

I love this recipe because it stays pull apart soft and just a touch chewy...*sigh*

Caramel Corn

1 c. Karo syrup
2 c. brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 stick butter
2 batches of popcorn

Boil Karo syrup and sugar for 2 min. Add sweetened condensed milk and butter. Stir until melted. Pour over popcorn!

Best if you let it set up for about an hour before trying to eat it...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Menu-planning Monday! (+ Cacciatore recipe)

Ok, I've been menu-planning off and on for a year, and I've decided to get back into it. In fact, I found a great site that has an official "Menu Plan Monday" and links to everyone's menu's for the week, so if you don't find something interesting here, go to the Organizing Junkie and check out more links.

I try to plan my weekly menu with some variety, but using similar ingredients and incorporating leftovers into new dishes. I cook with my crock-pot at least once a week because it's so easy and makes my house smell great!

Week Menu

Monday - Chicken Salsa Fajitas served in tortillas with cheese and lettuce. YUM!

Tuesday - busy day, so I'm sticking with a simple veggie stir fry served over rice (make extra to use later in the week)

Wednesday - Mexican leftovers. We call these "burrangos" in our house. Essentially, any of the leftover fajitas in addition to some extra corn, spanish rice, and green peppers, or whatever we have handy! You can crisp them in a frying pan, similar to a chimichanga. The perfect sauce for these is a half and half mix of salsa and ranch dressing--trust me!

Thursday - Take a break from ethnic and make a simple pasta dish, such as spaghetti, or this amazing Fettucine Cacciatore (see recipe below!)

Friday - go for something easy, like crockpot chili--and throw in any mexican leftovers from earlier in the week! or, try this crockpot chicken teriyaki and serve it over leftover rice.

Saturday - BBQ honey mustard chicken with stuffing and baked potatoes. I use the easy box stuffing :o) Mix sauces with a few tablespoons of margarine, whisk together, and pour over chicken. Bake at 325, basting every 15 minutes until cooked through. Also works great in the crockpot, but I like to cook my potatoes in the crockpot and I only have one... You can also try this homemade BBQ sauce!

Sunday - homemade meatloaf! and of course, no-bake cookies for dessert.

Fettuccine Cacciatore

1/2 lb fettuccine, uncooked
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 c. Zesty Italian dressing
1/2 c. shredded Italian cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, etc.)
1 c. green pepper strips
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil

Cook pasta as directed. Saute peppers and mushrooms in oil for 3 min, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes and dressing. Reduce heat to med, simmer 5 minutes. Drain pasta, toss with veggies and dressing. Sprinkle with cheese and basil.

If you like a LOT of cheese, it's easiest to dish each serving first and then top with cheese and basil. Makes four 2 c. servings.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

No Bake Cookies

There are lots of no-bake recipes out there, but this is my personal favorite. Despite my addiction to peanut butter, I prefer the plain "fudge" variety. This recipe only calls for things I usually have handy and always sets up.

No Bake Cookies

2 c. sugar
1/2 c. evaporated milk
1 stick butter/margarine
3 Tbs. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. oatmeal (not instant kind!)

Heat everything except the oatmeal on medium, stirring regularly to avoid burning the sugar. Boil one minute. Remove from heat, add oatmeal. Drop by spoonful on wax paper.

Makes 2-3 dozen.

Some of my favorite recipes call for evaporated milk (see: Meatloaf, fudge frosting) so I try to make these in the same week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken

Tried and tested!

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken

4 lb. chicken
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 Tbsp. red vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Mix sauce, pour over chicken in crockpot. Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours. Serves 6.

I halved this for my smaller family. Can be shredded as it cooks. Best served over rice with steamed veggies. Add pineapple for extra zest!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One Easy, One Gourmet

Apologies for being so slow to update--I just got a new cookbook and I was waiting to test these out before I posted them!

Crock Pot Italian Chicken

3-4 chicken breasts
1 pkg. Italian dressing seasoning mix
1/2 c. water
1 (8 oz) block cream chese

Place the chicken, italian seasoning, and water in the crock pot, cook on LOW for ~3 hours (longer if using frozen chicken). When chicken is fully cooked, use a fork to shred it, add the cream cheese and mix thoroughly. This makes a creamy chicken topping that is great over rice or noodles. Serves 6-8.

Wedding Chicken - a la Chicken Cordon Bleu

6 chicken breasts
6 slices of ham
6 slices of Swiss cheese
6 slices of bacon
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 c. sour cream

Lay chicken breasts flat in a large pan. Place one slice of ham and one slice of cheese on each, wrap with bacon and tuck the ends under. Mix together mushroom soup and sour cream, pour over the chicken. Let set overnight. Sprinkle with paprika before baking at 250 for four hours.

Actually a faster recipe than it seems, because you can make them in the evening, make room in the fridge, and then let your house smell wonderful while they bake the next day!

On a side note, I made a two-pan batch of Peanut Butter Fingers last night and they are WONDERFUL, as always. If you haven't tried this yet you're missing out!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Breakfast favorites: french toast and banana pancakes

So it's kind of a tradition in our house to make breakfast for dinner on Sundays when we're feeling lazy, as they take little time, satisfy my sweet tooth, and can be thrown together when there's practically nothing left in the house.

Classic French Toast

1 cup milk
4 lg. eggs (use 5 med.)
10 slices of bread

Whisk the milk and eggs together, add as much vanilla and cinnamon as you want (I've never overseasoned and I tend to add a LOT). Dip bread, cook on griddle or frying pan. Great with syrup, peanut butter, honey, powdered sugar...whatever is left lying around.

Banana Pancakes

2 c. flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 3/4 c. milk
2 eggs
1/4 c. oil

Mix all ingredients except bananas. Pour on griddle or frying pan, and add a few banana slices to each pancake. Cook on medium heat. Best served with peanut butter and syrup, but jam, butter, or just plain syrup also work well.

Even faster: simply use a baking mix like bisquick or generic. Follow instructions on the package, and add bananas as they cook.