Friday, November 22, 2013

Zuppa Toscana, (Copycat Olive Garden recipe)

Ready for another Copycat Olive Garden soup recipe?  Their soups are delicious, and this might be the best one.  My husband says it is.  He says this ties with his all-time favorite soup:  Vegetable Chowder.  Believe me, people, that's saying something!!

Zuppa Toscana
1 lb Italian sausage (can use pork, turkey or chicken sausage)
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2  cup white wine or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste- these are very hot!)
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups fresh kale, chopped
3 more cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large soup pot, crumble the sausage and cook until well done.  Remove the sausage from the pan, but leave the drippings.  In the drippings, cook the onion until tender and translucent.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and blend and cook for another minute or two.  Add the 1/2 cup wine or broth and stir and scrape to deglaze the pan. It will make a delicious smelling reddish onion mush.   Add the potatoes, kale, chicken broth, water, and cooked sausage.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the potatoes are done.  It will take about 20 minutes or so.  Stir in the cream and salt and pepper.   Blend well and heat, but do not boil.   Serve.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chicken Gnocchi Soup (Copycat Olive Garden's)

This recipe claims to copycat Olive Garden's Chicken Gnocchi Soup.  I've only had Olive Garden's once, so I don't know, but I do know it's delicious.  It's full of vegetables and it's creamy and delicious.  You can find potato gnocchi in the pasta section of your grocery store.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup (Copycat Olive Garden)
4 small chicken breasts, cooked and cut up
4 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon (or so) olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1 quart half and half
2 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
1 cup finely chopped celery (use some of the leafy greens- they add a lot of flavor)
2 cloves garlic, minced  or crushed
1/2 cup finely shredded carrots (grate on the smallest holes on your grater)
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Sprinkle of dried parsley
1 - 14 oz.(or so) package potato gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for garnish (fresh grated is best!)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and melt the butter.  Add the celery, onion, carrots, and garlic.  Saute until the onions are translucent and celery softened.  Add the flour and cook and stir for several minutes.   Add the half and half and cook and stir for a couple of minutes.  Then add the chicken and continue cooking until the mixture is thickened.  Add the chicken stock and cook until thick again.  When thickened, add the gnocchi, thyme, parsley, and spinach.  Simmer until the gnocchi is cooked through.  It only takes 7-10 minutes.  Then add salt and pepper and taste to correct seasonings.   When serving, grate parmesan cheese over each bowl.

The grated carrots make it such a pretty, orange color!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sweet Pumpkin Pie

Though I'm not usually a fan of pumpkin pie, this looked so good that I tried this recently at a friend's house.   My husband and I agreed that it was much tastier than any pumpkin pie we had tasted, so I begged the recipe from my friend, Kyra.  The secrets to this sweet pumpkin pie are 1. graham cracker crust (can't beat that) and 2. sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk.

Sweet Pumpkin Pie

15 oz can pumpkin OR 1.5 cups of real pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (or homemade)
graham cracker crust

Preheat oven to 425'F. Beat together pumpkin, eggs, spices and milk. Pour into shell.  Cover crust (sides) with foil but leave center exposed (optional step). Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350'F. Bake 40+ minutes longer or until done (no longer wiggly).

Monday, November 18, 2013

Patty Melts

I've noticed Patty Melts on menus for years, but didn't really know what they were.  The Pioneer Woman had a recipe on her blog, so I gave them a try. They are kind of a cross between a hamburger and grilled cheese sandwich.  They are yummy and gooey, but I'll be honest:  the best parts of a hamburger to me are the tomato and lettuce and pickle on top.  A patty melt doesn't have that fresh stuff, so that's the downside.  But I don't see why you couldn't just add those at the end?  Why not?  I did add mushrooms in with the caramalized onion, so I guess I already cheated.  I don't see how a little more cheating can hurt anything!
This recipe makes 4 sandwiches.
Patty Melts
1 stick butter
1 large onion, sliced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced, optional
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
Montreal Steak Seasoning or Salt and Pepper, to taste
Several dashes Worcestershire Sauce
8 slices Swiss cheese
8 slices bread

Melt about 2 Tablespoons butter in a medium sized skillet over medium heat.  Cook the onions slowly until caramelized.  It will take about 20 minutes.  The onions should be golden and soft.  Add the mushrooms and cook until browned.
In a bowl, mix the beef with the seasonings.  Divide the meat into four patties.  Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in another skillet.  Over medium heat, cook the patties until done.
Then assemble the sandwiches:  Bread, cheese slice, patty, 1/4 onions, another slice of cheese, another slice of bread.  On a griddle or skillet, melt another 2 T. butter and grill sandwiches on one side over medium heat until golden brown.  Remove them and melt the other 2 T. butter.  Grill the sandwiches on the uncooked side.  It should look like a grilled cheese with lots of good stuff in the middle.  Like I said, next time I'm adding a tomato.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sugar Pops

Starting to think about what you'd like to give your neighbors at Christmas?  These sugar pops are delicious.  You just need to fill Christmassy plastic bags and tie them with ribbon.  Attach a note, "Just popping in to wish you a merry Christmas!"
Sugar Pops
2 small or 1 large bag puffed corn
2 cups butter (1 lb.)
2 cups sugar
4 Tablespoons water

Put the corn pops in a large roasting pan and put in the oven at 300 while you make the syrup.

In a large saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, and water.  Bring to a soft boil and boil for about 7 minutes.  Take off heat and add 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Take the pops out of the oven and pour the syrup over them.  It really helps if you have another person at this point- one to slowly pour the syrup and the other to stir and stir and stir and stir.  When the puffs are evenly coated,  put them on waxed paper to cool.  Let them sit out for several hours before storing in an airtight container or bagging for gifts.  I think I will always call them "yellow things"from now on as our two-year-old grandson was with us last Christmas and kept asking for a "yellow thing."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes

Thanksgiving!  It's the best meal of the year!  The turkey is great, but the side dishes and desserts are the stars for me.  Following are some recipes I've posted for great Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts:

A tradition at our house.

Again you'll have to choose which ones to try.  We love both.
Candied Yams 
We've made it this way for years,
 but found this new recipe that is also delicious:

Pecan Pie: 
Choose your version- we like both!

This is a family favorite and always part of our Thanksgiving dinner.
I think we go kind of "pie wild" on Thanksgiving.  We always include my husband's favorite, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Almonds

These beans are delicious on Thanksgiving or any time.  It's a Tyler Florence recipe, so you know it's going to be good.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Almonds
3 lbs. green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup butter
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, sliced thin
2 teaspoons thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the green beans in salted water.   Cook for about 10 minutes.  You can do this in a large skillet, then use the same skillet to finish the dish. Heat the pan and put the almonds in.  Toast, turning frequently for about 3-5 minutes until toasty and golden.  Remove the almonds and heat the pan again on medium heat.  Add the butter and olive oil.  Heat until melted, then add the onions.  Season with salt and pepper.  On medium heat, cook and stir frequently until the onions caramelize and turn golden.  It takes a long time- at least 30 minutes.  Add the thyme and cook another 5 minutes.  Add back the beans and almonds and combine all together.  Add more salt and pepper if needed.   Oh my, these are good!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't be complete without Rotkohl.  Rotkohl is a delicious German dish- a sweet and sour cabbage.  It is a delicious side dish any time of year, but it's been a Thanksgiving tradition in our family for many years.  After my brother served a mission in Germany when I was a teenager, it replaced our previously traditional Sauerkraut on the Thanksgiving menu. . . and we've been eating it ever since.  This is a revised recipe from my sister-in-law, Cindy. (She is married to the brother that served in Germany.)  Every fall, they put on a big Oktoberfest meal that includes this Rotkohl.  She has really perfected it.

1 head red cabbage
About 1/3 cup sugar
About 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup finely diced crispy bacon
About 1 Tablespoon butter
1 apple, shredded fine OR a little apple juice added to the chicken stock
About 1/2 cup chicken stock

Chop the head of cabbage into very fine slices.  Throw away any of the big, woody white parts of the cabbage.  They will never become tender.  Cook the bacon until very crispy.  Drain well.
Put the chopped cabbage, shredded apple and bacon into the bacon pan (that has been drained of grease.)  Salt well.  Add the sugar and chicken stock.  Cook until the cabbage is very tender.  Add the vinegar a little at a time.  The cabbage will turn a bright purple.  Add the butter and stir until melted.  Taste and add more sugar, salt, and vinegar until it tastes just right.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Yam or Sweet Potato Souffle'

After making yams the same way for so many years (Candied Yams), do we dare try a new way?  Well, we did last year and loved it!  This Yam Souffle' is so delicious with the pecan topping.  I think this is how I'll be doing it again this year!

Yam Souffle'

4 medium Sweet Potatoes or Yams
1cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup flour
6 Tablespoons butter

Wash and wrap the yams in foil.  Place on a lined (sil pat or foil) baking sheet and bake in a 350 oven until the yams are done and fork tender.  How long it takes will vary by the size of the yam and your oven, but it will be 40 minutes - an hour.  When done and slightly cooled, remove the skin and put the yams in a large bowl.  Add the white sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla and salt.  Mash with a potato masher.  Mash and combine well, but it's okay if it isn't totally blended and smooth.  Spread them into a 13x9 pan or another casserole dish (I have a large round one I like to use.)
In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans, flour and butter.  The easiest way to do this is with your hands, but you can use a pastry blender.  When blended sprinkle the topping over the yams.  Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes until golden brown.    

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Candied Yams

This is our traditional Thanksgiving yam recipe.  We got it from Grandma Stratford.  Grandma Stratford is my sister's mother-in-law, so I'm not really even related, but we still called her Grandma Stratford.  She is a marvelous cook.  My parents would make this every year and bring it to our Thanksgiving feast.  When I eat it, I think of them.
Candied Yams
4-6 Yams or Sweet Potatoes
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
6 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons water

Cook the yams still in their skins in boiling water on the stove or wrap them in foil and bake them in the oven.  Check often with a fork and take out each potato when it is fork tender. It will take any where from 1/2 hour-1 hour, or even longer, depending on the size.  Let  cool a bit. Peel the yams when they are cool enough to touch. Then slice the yams into a 9x13 pan or large casserole.  In a saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the butter, sugar and water.  Stir until the butter is melted and all is combined.  Continue cooking until the mixture comes to a full boil.  Boil for about a minute.  Pour over the yams, coating all.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. You can make them the day ahead and then just microwave them before serving on Thanksgiving day.  You can serve them in that pan, or transfer to a nice serving bowl.  Be sure you pour the candy mixture over all.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"These Mashed Potatoes Are SO Creamy"

"These mashed potatoes are so creamy."  Name that movie!  NOW I know what recipe Mary used to make those creamy mashed potatoes.  It MUST have been this one.  I will never make them any other way again.  This method really works to make them creamy and never gummy or dry.  I tried them first last Thanksgiving.  I got the recipe from  The Pioneer Woman.   I've been waiting for over a year to post this recipe so you could have it just before Thanksgiving.  I've made them dozens of times, varying the amount of fat added, but not varying the method.  Honestly, you can get by with lots less fat than originally called for.  I also vary what I put in: butter, cream cheese, cream, half and half, milk etc.  All are good.  The important thing is to get the potatoes dried out with the masher before you add back in the moisture and fat.  I LOVE that you can make these ahead, cover them, store them in the fridge and just heat them when ready to use.  This is especially wonderful for Thanksgiving.  

Mashed potatoes are one of my favorite foods.  To these I added a few threads of saffron.  Wow~

Yummy Mashed Potatoes
5 lbs. potatoes (this will make a large bowl of potatoes)
3/4 cup butter (you can get by with a lot less)
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/2-3/4 cup half and half or milk
Salt, Pepper, other seasonings of choice
Peel and cut the potatoes (as shown above, I don't always peel them, but just scrub them )
Cut into cubes.  In a very large pot, bring a lot of salted water to boil.  Add the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are well done and fork tender.
Here's the important part!!!Drain the potatoes through a colander.  Put them back into the pot and put the pot back on the stove.  Turn the burner to low.  Mash the potatoes with a potato masher while on the low heat.  Watch the steam escape!  Mash and mash until there's little or no steam escaping.  Now turn off the stove and add the half and half or cream. Several sources on the Internet suggested that you need to add the milk first so that the potato can absorb the moisture before adding the fat.  Keep mashing.  Then add the 3/4 cup butter and an 8-oz. cream cheese (or less of both or one or the other) and mash and mash until everything is  well blended and creamy.  Add seasoning of your choice.  The Pioneer Woman suggests seasoning salt.  At least put salt and pepper.  Blend well.
Put in a round casserole or baking dish.  Put some butter on the top.  If you're making them ahead, you can cover them and put them in the fridge at this point. A few hours before you need to serve them, take them out to warm  to room temperature, and then bake in a 350 oven until the potatoes are warmed through and the butter is melted.  Perfect mashed potatoes every time!!!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Southern Pecan Pie

I posted Abby's Pecan Pie yesterday.  This is the other recipe that I make regularly for Thanksgiving. It comes from the old Better Homes and Garden cookbook. Try them both and see which you like best!
Southern Pecan Pie 
Beat 3 eggs thoroughly with 2/3 cup sugar, dash salt, 1 cup dark corn syrup, and 1/3 cup butter, melted.  I always add a little vanilla, too.  Stir in 1 heaping cup pecan halves.  Pour into a 9-inch unbaked pie shell.  For my pie crust recipe click here.  .  Bake at 325 for 50 minutes or until it looks set up and doesn't jiggle.  Cool.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dear Abby's Pecan Pie

I clipped this recipe out of the Dear Abby column in the newspaper years ago.  I have two versions of pecan pie that I trade off making at Thanksgiving. We just couldn't decide which was better.  I once made them both and our family did a side by side taste test.  The results were exactly even.  Some liked this one with the light corn syrup and some liked the one with the dark, but honestly they aren't that different. I'll post them both, then you can decide for yourself!   This one has a lighter, more buttery taste, the other, a richer, darker, more molassasy (my spell check says that is NOT a word!) taste.  Either way, Pecan Pie is a MUST for our Thanksgiving feast.

Dear Abby's Pecan Pie
9 inch pie crust (click here for the pie crusts I make about once a year and freeze)
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup pecan halves

Heat oven to 350.  (If you use glass pans, 325).  Using a hand or stand mixer, combine the corn syrup, brown sugar, eggs, butter, salt and vanilla.  Blend well.
Fit your crust to a 9 inch pie plate.  Crimp the edges.  Sprinkle the pecan halves in the pie shell.  Pour the filling over the top.  Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes or until center is set.  (Toothpick inserted in center will come out clean when pie is done)  Cool.  You can top with whipped cream or whipped topping if desired.

I'll post the other version soon.

Monday, November 4, 2013

My Version of Granola

I think it's hilarious that all four of us have published a granola recipe on here.  And one of us (who will remain nameless) published two granola recipes.  I guess it goes to show that there are many ways to make granola.  I thought I'd throw my version into the mix.  I got this recipe from a book that was popular 30 years ago called Make a Mix Cookery.  I still make several recipes from that wonderful, old book, including this one.  The molasses makes this really yummy.  I add a few things that weren't in that original recipe, but for the most part, it's the same.   My husband and I make this together about once a month. I keep many of the ingredients in the freezer to keep them fresher and we just pull it all out when it's granola making time. Ken mixes the dry stuff in a huge bowl while I make the wet part. He eats it almost every morning for breakfast.
10 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ (I keep it in the freezer)
1-3 scoops ground flax seed (This was not in the original recipe.  I also keep this in the freezer)
1/2 lb. shredded coconut (yep!  I keep this in the freezer, too)
2 cups raw sunflower seeds (you guessed it!)
1 cup sesame seeds, opt.
3 cups chopped nuts of your choice:  almonds, pecans, walnuts (we usually mix pecans and almonds and we usually do a little more than 3 cups)

In a saucepan, combine:
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (I usually use coconut oil)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Heat just until the sugar is dissolved and the ingredients well blended.  Don't boil.
Mix the dry ingredients in a very large bowl with a big wooden spoon.  When well mixed pour the wet ingredients over (if you have help, one stir while the other pours) the dry ingredients and mix well.  Spread into four or five large, sprayed pans.  I use the large sided baking sheets.  Bake at 300 for about 20- 30 minutes.  If you like crunchier granola, leave a bit longer.  We put ours in four of those big pans and bake for 30 minutes in our oven.  Let cool.
You can add fruit or other dried fruit after it's cool if you like.  Store in airtight containers.  You should use it within six months (I doubt it will last that long!)

Friday, November 1, 2013

What's For Dinner? - November

The month of Thanksgiving is here!  December is such a busy month, so I try to plan meals in November that I can double and freeze half for next month.  I am trying a few new recipes that all look easy.  I'll share them if they are good.  Here's what's for dinner in November!    Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Ragu Bolognese (That's what I love about this recipe:  it makes a lot and freezes really well.)

Shonna's Easy Chili-  I'll have to post this one, or get Shonna to.  It is super easy and very tasty.  

Bahn Mi Sandwiches

Chicken Stir Fry over Rice
Thanksgiving Dinner
Turkey, Rolls, Rot col, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Pecan Pie 
Turkey Noodle Soup
Chicken (Turkey) Pot Pie Man, I can't wait.  I love this dish! (Double the filling and freeze half.  When ready to use, thaw and just top with the Crescent roll dough.  Easy as pie!)

Recipes to try:
Crockpot Cashew Chicken
Chicken Gnocchi Soup
Chicken Parmesan- Kristen's
Delicious Pumpkin Cobbler