Cooking With Patricia

Cooking Archives


Summer Salads

I am one of those people who have been stuck in a rut for years when it comes to salads.  It would inevitably be just lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and occasionally a green pepper or red onion thrown in for color.  That has changed.  I now go out of the box.

A few years ago, a friend of mine had been to a wedding and told me of the most delicious salad that had gone over well with everyone there, with only four ingredients.  I tried it and have been making it at least every month or two.  It is simply baby spinach leaves or romaine lettuce, sliced green apple (peel on), dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts.  The dressing they used was a creamy sweet Vidalia onion dressing that can be purchased in the market, or any creamy ranch dressing.  There is no actual recipe, just start with the amount of lettuce you need, and add the other ingredients as desired.

One other salad I make now is just as easy.  A bag of spinach; washed, stems removed, and dried very well.  (Tear large leaves.)  Add two to three sliced hard-cooked eggs, one pint of halved cherry tomatoes, a few strips of crisp bacon (broken up), and one cup of sliced fresh mushrooms (any kind).  I occasionally add sliced avocado for a change.  Delicious with any kind of ranch dressing.

Enjoy your summer!

Here's a good home-made dressing:

  • 2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons honey or sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar or tarragon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh-ground black pepper, to your taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients well.  Will keep in refrigerator for up to three weeks.

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Mixed Grill Shishkabob

Makes about 10 servings

I like combining beef and sausage in a shiskabob, and plenty of vegetables.  Everything is marinated together, which makes it simple.  Cut everything up the night before, make marinade and place all in a large plastic bag, and refrigerate overnight.  When you get home from work the next day, just fix a pan of rice pilaf and you are pretty close to having supper ready.

Marinade:

  • 3 cups pineapple juice
  • 1 cup of each; cider vinegar and vegetable or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of each:  sugar and soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of browning sauce is optional
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning (or use some lemon zest and black pepper)

Mixed Grill:

  • 2 pounds of beef tenderloin, cut into large cubes
  • 1 pound fully cooked sausage (I like kielbasa or polish sausage)
  • 4 - 5 tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 medium green peppers, quartered or cut into good-sized chunks
  • 1 jar whole mushrooms, drained
  • 5 medium onions, quartered

After marinating overnight, drain and discard marinade.  Alternate meat and vegetables onto metal skewers, or soaked-in-water wooden skewers.  Grill covered, over medium heat, 6 - 8 minutes on each side, till beef is cooked to your liking.

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Tropical Chicken Salad

Makes 8 - 10 servings

Undeniably a great summer salad

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups cut-up cooked chicken
  • 1 can (16 ounces) pineapple chunks, well drained
  • 1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup of each:  seedless green and red grapes
  • 1 cup, or 4 ounces, of shredded Monterey jack cheese or mild cheddar
  • 3/4 cup salted cashews
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions (green onions)

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons apple juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine dressing ingredients, mix well, and set aside.  In a large bowl combine all salad ingredients.  Add dressing and toss to coat well.  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Cover and refrigerate at least four hours before serving.  When ready to serve, line a salad platter or bowl with red leaf lettuce (or any lettuce you choose), pile on the mixed chicken salad, and enjoy.   

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Quick Rhubarb Cake

Rhubarb is one of my favorite things.  It’s seasonal, here for May and June, and I do look forward to using it. 

I have a couple of my father’s rhubarb plants in my garden that I transplanted here after he died.  My Dad transplanted about 10 of my grandfathers’ plants after he died.  My Mom always had a dozen or more ways to cook rhubarb and they were all delicious recipes, which I have now inherited.  One of the most popular recipes that I put in my column was for a Rhubarb - Caramel Cobbler dessert, about two years ago.  I received more comments from readers on how delicious that dessert was, than any other that year.  So if you are not familiar with how delicious rhubarb desserts are, I encourage you to give it a try.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow or white cake mix (I like to use white, especially if making for a special occasion)
  • 3 cups thinly sliced fresh rhubarb (most supermarkets have this in the produce department at this time of year)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 pint whipping cream, not whipped

Mix cake as directed and pour into a greased and floured 9” x 13” baking pan.  Sprinkle rhubarb and nuts over the cake batter.

Sprinkle sugar over the rhubarb and nuts.  Pour un-whipped cream over top.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. 

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Baked Asparagus

Serves 4 to 5

We are in the asparagus season, and boy has this vegetable become popular over the last 10 years or so.

Some interesting tidbits that I recently read … asparagus are considered gourmet vegetables, both the green and white, and rightfully so.  It takes two to five years to cultivate the land, grow the seedlings, transfer the crowns to the field, and finally to harvest it, and much of it is done by hand, including selecting and cutting the most mature spears.  Asparagus roots grow deep into the soil, at least 6-feet, and up to 20 feet has been known.  At the height of their growth stage, when the weather is warm, you can almost watch the shoots grow - sometimes 3-inches in one day.  Most of the asparagus we buy in the supermarkets is grown in the states of California, Washington, and Michigan.  But there are some local farm stands that grow it.

There are so many ways to cook asparagus.  The most popular  is simply to roast or grill it with olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper.  But here is another delicious way to serve it

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (you can also make your own white cream sauce if you wish by melting 2 tablespoons butter, stirring in 2 tablespoons of flour, then slowly whisking in 1 cup of milk.  Add salt & pepper to season.  Simmer till thickened and add to recipe)
  • 1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs (or any like cracker

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Layer well-drained asparagus, eggs, almonds and cheese in greased baking dish, cover with the soup.  Sprinkle on the cracker crumbs.  Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until thick and bubbly. 

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Fresh Strawberry Parfait

Growing up on a farm also meant having access to our own strawberries.  We had eight acres of corn, potatoes, and most other vegetables, but we only grew strawberries and rhubarb for fruits.  I don’t know how my father did it, he could plant anything and it really grew prolifically for him.  Our strawberry patch was pretty good sized, enough so, that during picking season he would even hire on some neighborhood kids to help.  My mom would freeze as much as she could, and than of course, always think of different ways to serve strawberry treats.  The all-time family favorite was strawberry shortcake; the dispute was some liked it topped with fresh whipped cream, and some preferred vanilla ice cream. 

This recipe doesn’t take a back seat though to being delicious, and everyone loves it, from young to old.  So take advantage of all the strawberries that are on sale now in the grocery stores, and also at the farm stands.  Makes 5 - 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups fresh strawberries hulled and quartered.
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, or any other orange-flavored liqueur.  (You can also use orange extract, but a few drops at a time until flavored to your liking)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)

Combine strawberries and sugar, stirring gently.  Cover and let stand at room temperature at least one hour.

Beat whipping cream until foamy; add liqueur and almond extract, beating until soft peaks form.  Fold strawberry mixture into whipped cream mixture.  Spoon into individual dessert dishes.  Top with slivered almonds that you have lightly toasted in a dry small non-stick fry pan.

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Angel Hair Pasta with Pine Nuts and Basil

Make it a point to go to “Little Italy” in Boston (the North End), and look for this on the menu in one of the restaurants there, or any restaurant where you know they cook authentic Italian.  When cooked with fresh ingredients, from scratch, this is delicious.  It’s simple and easy enough for you to also do at home.  It calls for a lot of garlic, but it turns out delicious.  Makes 6 - 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, slightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
  • 18 cloves of garlic, crushed (this is about one small head)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 (16 ounce) package angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Combine first five ingredients in a skillet and cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated.  Meantime cook pasta and drain well.

Place pasta in a serving bowl, add hot pine nut mixture, and toss.  Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

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Peanut-Pecan Pie

For over 100 years, the Kentucky Derby has been synonymous with spring in Louisville, Kentucky. It is tradition to run on the first Saturday in May at the Churchill Downs Racetrack. It has become the most revered victory for horsemen. Derby Day traditions include drinking mint juleps, eating “Hot Brown sandwiches,” and for the ladies, wearing the most elegant and large spring hats. The socialization and parties have become as important as the “big race.”

The recipe below comes from a small community cookbook called Kentucky Kitchens. It was put out years ago by a group in Louisville. This is an easy and perfect way to celebrate the Kentucky Derby this Saturday.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (9-inch deep-dish graham cracker crust) store purchased or your own recipe
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups of each: chopped pecans, semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips.

Combine flour, sugars, and cinnamon. Mix vanilla extract and beaten eggs and add to dry ingredients; stir well. Add melted butter. Stir in pecans, chocolate and peanut butter chips till mixed well. Spoon filling into graham cracker crust. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.

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Pennsylvania Dutch Chops and Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless pork chops, at least 1/2- inch thick
  • 1 can apple pie filling

Bread stuffing:

  • 2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Small amount of milk to moisten

Grill chops till brown on each side. Put chops in a 10-inch square pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour pie filling evenly over chops. Mix and divide stuffing into four equal portions. Place one portion on each chop. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

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Really Good Bran Muffins

This recipe, as it was given to me, makes 4 to 5 dozen muffins. The batter keeps very well in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to six weeks, allowing you to make what you need. Of course you can always cut the recipe in half which will make 2 dozen large muffins, and they freeze well, too. I decided to put the recipe in as is because it might come in handy if you are baking for a church brunch, a family reunion, etc.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 ounce) box any brand raisin bran cereal
  • 3 cups sugar (the person who shared this recipe with me says she makes these all the time with 1/3 less sugar, and likes them just as well)
  • 5 cups flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 quart buttermilk

In a very large bowl, mix raisin bran, sugar, flour, soda, and salt. Add eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Mix only until all blended and moistened. As you are ready to use it, fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full and bake at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes, depending on muffin-tin size.

“Muffin tid-bits” - Many state legislatures declare an official “state food” for their state. New York has claimed the apple muffin as their official food; Massachusetts, the corn muffin; and Minnesota, the blueberry muffin.

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Herb-Butter Baked Fish

I try to have fish at least a couple of times a week … I love it that much, and I cook it many different ways.

My love for seafood came from an uncle who bought an old sea-captain’s house in Chatham on Cape Cod.He loved the sea and loved fishing.When he retired, he started his own charter company for deep-sea fishing excursions.We spent a lot of time on the fish pier in Chatham listening to a lot of “fish stories” from the old-timers, and most everyone in my family developed a taste for all kinds of fish.

Use any whitefish for this recipe; suggest haddock, cod, halibut, orange roughy, trout.Also use fresh or frozen (but if frozen, thaw), and dry well to remove excess water.

One pound of fish fillets serves 2 - 4 people.

This recipe is heavenly tasting-absolutely melts in your mouth.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fish fillets
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup finely crushed saltine crackers
  • 1/2 teaspoon each:basil, oregano, salt (if you have fresh herbs use 1 tablespoon of the basil and oregano)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Melt butter.Mix cracker crumbs, herbs, and parmesan cheese.Dip fish in butter, then in crumbs.Arrange in baking dish (pieces not touching), and bake 25 - 30 minutes.

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Cherry Torte with Ladyfinger Crust

This Sunday is Easter and this would be a delicious choice for a dessert.It needs no cooking, just making the cream cheese mixture and beating the whipped cream, than assembling it.You do need a 9-inch springform pan, and plan to make the day before as it needs to refrigerate overnight.Makes 10 - 12 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages (3 ounces each) ladyfingers
  • 1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream
  • 1 can (21 ounce) cherry pie filling (blueberry works well, too, if you prefer it)

Place a layer of ladyfingers on the bottom and around the sides of an ungreased springform pan.In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until smooth.Add lemon juice and peel; mix well.

In a small mixing bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken.Add remaining sugar and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form.Fold into cream cheese mixture.Spread half over crust.Arrange remaining ladyfingers in a spoke pattern over the top.Evenly spread with the remaining cream cheese mixture.Top with pie filling. Cover and refrigerate overnight.Remove sides of pan just before serving.

I have loved Easter since I was a little girl; shopping for just the right outfit, including a new Easter hat and shoes.My seven brothers and sisters and I would start the day at church with those beautiful Easter hymns, and always coming home with our begonia plant.

Easter dinner was always special; always a country baked ham, always candied sweet potatoes, and always my Mom’s Coconut Cream cake.To this day, my grown brothers and sisters and I will get together at one of our homes for Easter and have this same menu with a few new additions.

Whether you are celebrating Passover or Easter, I hope it’s a lovely time for you.

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Chicken Provencal

Serves 4

This is a great family night supper.  It’s very flavorful when made a day or two ahead.  I know a lot of working parents who like to make some dishes on the weekend to serve on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights.  All it takes to go with this is perhaps a green vegetable or a side salad, and a fruit dessert.

I first saw this recipe 10 years ago when a national magazine had a recipe contest using beans.  Over 6,000 recipes were received, and this won second place.  It’s seasoned really well and with the chicken and the beans, is high in protein and fiber.

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 pounds cut up chicken pieces, washed and dried well
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (29 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 medium/large carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon instant chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large skillet, brown the chicken in the oil, remove and set aside.  Sauté onion and garlic in the drippings until tender.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Spoon into a three-quart baking dish; top with the chicken, pushing down into the beans just a little.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees 60 to 75 minutes.

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Oven Baked French Toast

The first day of spring was this past week, and even though most of us are still looking at a lot of snow out there; I know that spring fever is touching a lot of us.  This weekend is supposed to be in the 60s and sunny, which makes me want to celebrate the end of winter.  One way is to have a Sunday brunch, or just a big breakfast for your family, where you can take some time with each other and the Sunday paper.

This recipe is perfect, as it is quick and easy to throw together.

Note:  If you want to do bacon with this, separate the room-temperature bacon on a baking sheet, and put in the oven with the French toast, it takes about 20 minutes to cook.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 8 slices sourdough bread, cut thick (about 3/4-inch), or use Texas toast

Use a baking pan large enough for all eight slices.  Preheat oven.

Pour melted butter into the pan and swirl around to coat.  Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the butter.  Beat eggs with orange juice and dip each slice of bread for about 15 seconds on each side.  Lay in pan.  Bake 425 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes.

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Watergate Salad - A Classic

Makes 4, one-cup servings

Note:  I first ran this recipe for St Patrick’s day in 2005.  It was so well liked that I am offering it again.  Its pastel green color makes it pretty and it is light, good for a dessert after a corned beef and cabbage dinner.  It is delicious and the kids love it because of the pudding and the mini marshmallows.

This recipe made its debut in the 70s, and became extremely popular nationwide.  Pistachio pudding had just come out on the market, and this recipe used it as its main ingredient, and everywhere you went people were serving this.

Kraft Company just re-published it and also did some research on where it got its name.  According to the Website, it was named either for Watergate (of the Nixon era), or the Watergate Hotel, newly built at that time.  I guess we will never know.

But the main thing is that this is really good, and takes just minutes to throw together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (4-serving size) Pistachio instant pudding mix
  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups whipped topping, (such as Cool-Whip brand)

Mix dry pudding mix, pineapple, marshmallows, and pecans in a large bowl until well blended.  Gently stir in whipped topping.  Cover and refrigerate.

This was very attractive served in a glass bowl with large dollops of whipped cream on top and a few sprinkled chopped pecans.

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Shrimp with Bowties

Approximately 4 servings

  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced (I like mixing in a few portabellas)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 pound shrimp, cleaned and cooked
  • 1/4 cup white wine or sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups cooked bowtie pasta farfalle (any pasta you choose is fine)
  • Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, sauté mushrooms, garlic, and parsley in butter until tender.  Add shrimp, wine, and salt, and toss until heated through.  Pour over hot pasta and toss with parmesan cheese to taste.

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A Favorite ... Decadence Layer Bars

This recipe comes from the” Favorite Recipes” (booklet), of an Inn in New Mexico.  I quote the innkeeper who says “what takes minutes to make, combines my guests’ favorite cookie ingredients, and disappears in seconds?  Why, Decadence Layer Bars, of course!”

I have several cousins who live in and around Albuquerque, and though they haven't stayed at this inn, apparently it is quite popular and in a beautiful part of the state.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) coconut
  • 1 (12 ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a 9-inch x 13-inch baking pan.  One layer at a time sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, chips, and pecans over the melted butter.  Pour sweetened condensed milk over all.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool and cut into squares.  Makes 18 large bars.  These are rich so you may want to cut into smaller squares.

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Sour Cream Chicken

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 large or 12 small/medium boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 large carton sour cream
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • Ritz crackers or cheese crackers (such as cheese-it brand)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

    In a large zip-closure plastic bag or bowl, mix sour cream with Worcestershire, lemon juice, and all the seasonings.  Add chicken and marinate all day or overnight.  Roll in cracker crumbs (1/2 Ritz and 1/2 cheese or all Ritz).  Place in single layer in baking pan or on cookie sheet.  Drizzle butter over chicken.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour (if chicken breasts are small will only take 40 minutes).

    This usually brings compliments and is quick to make.  It's a great do-ahead dish.  If you are trying to lower the fat content, try using reduced-fat sour cream and reduced-fat crackers.  There's enough seasoning to carry the flavor, but you could add another teaspoon of Worcestershire.  Don't be afraid to make the recipe work for you and fit your needs.  That's the fun of homemade cooking for you and your family.

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Peach Coffee Cake

    This is so quick and easy to make; great to bring to work to have with coffee, or over to a friend’s for a visit.  Surprise someone.  It's delicious served warm or cold, either the peach or the apple.  Offer fresh whipped cream or whipped topping.  Makes about 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 (18 ounce) package plain yellow cake mix
  • 1 (21 ounce) can peach pie filling
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Mix together by hand, the cake mix, pie filling, and eggs.  Spread in a 9 x 13 inch pan that has been sprayed with vegetable oil.  Stir together sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over cake batter.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or till a toothpick inserted near center comes out dry.

    For Apple Coffee Cake, substitute spice cake mix and apple pie filling (you may want to cut up the apples a bit).

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    This recipe came from a person who used it mostly for church potluck dinners and family parties.  It makes 4 dozen brownies as is, so you may want to half the recipe, if so, use an 8-inch pan, and lessen the baking time.

    The bottom layer is moist and fudgey and then has a topping that tastes just like chocolate chip cookie dough.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butter or stick margarine, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Cookie Dough Layer:

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or milk chocolate chips

     For brownie layer; in a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips.  Cool slightly.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.  Stir in melted chocolate.  Combine flour and baking soda; add to batter.  Stir in walnuts.  Spread into a lightly greased 13"x 9" baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 16 - 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

For topping, in a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars.  Beat in milk and vanilla.  Gradually add flour.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop by tablespoonfuls over the cooled brownies; carefully spread over the top.  Cut into small 2-inch squares.  Store in refrigerator.

Note:  The top layer is not baked, does not contain eggs.

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Make Ahead Cheese & Hamburger Pasta

This would be perfect for Super Bowl Sunday.  If you are having a party, this is put together the day before and you can use uncooked penne pasta.  If you are not having a party, this is just a good casserole to have on a cold Sunday.

I love watching the Super Bowl.  I come from a family of football players, and it's in my blood.  My father played in college and after, on a semi-pro team.  When he was roasted by some old friends at a birthday party, they called him a "legend" in Marlboro, Massachusetts.

My four brothers played football in high school; my oldest brother, who went to West Point, didn't make the Army team, but he was a game announcer, so going to the Army - Navy games every year was a family tradition.

And my youngest son played for four years on the first Pelham High School team, when football finally came to Pelham.

So, for all you football lovers, I hope your team wins!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground round
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • One 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
  • 6 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (28 ounce can) whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Combine first three ingredients in a large skillet.  Cook till browned.  Add mushrooms, cook about 5 minutes, or till tender.  Add tomato paste, sugar, thyme, oregano, pepper, and tomatoes.  Stir well.  Bring to a boil, than let simmer for about 30 minutes, uncovered.

Meanwhile, put flour in a medium saucepan.  Very gradually, stir in milk with a whisk till blended.  Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes till thick, stirring constantly.  Stir in cheeses till they are melted.  Reserve 1/2 cup of this cheese sauce.  Pour remaining cheese sauce, beef mixture, and uncooked pasta into a 13" x 9" baking pan.  Mix together gently.  Drizzle saved cheese sauce over all.  Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 1 1/4 hours, covered.  Sprinkle with parsley when ready to serve if desired.  Makes about 8 servings.

Note:  The penne doesn't have to be cooked beforehand because it absorbs the liquid when refrigerated overnight.  If you want to cook it the same day, cook the pasta ahead.

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Chicken Pita Sandwiches with Yogurt Sauce

Marinate 2 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken in the following marinade for about 8 hours or overnight:

  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon each:  ground cumin and ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt & pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves minced

Place all in a zip-top plastic bag and shake well to coat.  Place in refrigerator and turn bag a couple of times.

Yogurt Sauce: 

Combine 1 3/4 cups thinly sliced cucumber, 1 cup thinly sliced onions-separated into rings, 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint, and one 8 ounce carton plain low-fat yogurt; stir well.  Cover and refrigerate.

Remove chicken from bag, reserve marinade.  Sauté chicken in fry pan or grill on your grill until chicken is no longer pink (coat pan or grill with cooking spray).  Baste occasionally with reserved marinade.  Remove chicken and slice into 1/4 inch slices; set aside.

Make sandwiches: 

8 -  6 inch whole-wheat pita bread rounds, cut in half, 1 cup shredded lettuce, 1 cup chopped tomato

Divide chicken evenly into pita halves.  Top with 1 tablespoon lettuce and 1 tablespoon chopped tomato, and 1 1/2 tablespoons yogurt sauce into each pita half.  Should serve 8 people 2 pita halves.

This is tasty, heart healthy, and good for anyone and everyone.  This would be a great addition to your super-bowl party; everything can be done ahead of time.

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Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake

Yes you can have dessert!  Eating healthy doesn't mean giving up everything totally.  This cake is a little healthier because it is only one layer, uses unsweetened fruit, rather than frosting, and sugar is cut to a minimum.

In the 1940s and 50s, pineapple upside-down cake was a popular dessert.  On the Dole Website, it states this was officially invented in 1925 when a contest called for creative dishes using pineapple.  Out of 60,000 entries, pineapple upside-down cake was entered.  That started it all, but today’s upside-down cakes are topped with mangos, pears, apricots, etc.

So make and enjoy this traditional American dessert; it's quick and easy and can fit into a healthier lifestyle.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted (toast in a dry non-stick fry pan for a few minutes till golden brown)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce can) unsweetened pitted tart or dark sweet cherries, drained well.
  • 1 1/4 cups white whole-grain flour (or all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup white sugar (may use half of Splenda® if you wish)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with the melted butter.  Evenly sprinkle in the brown sugar and almonds.  Arrange the cherries over the brown sugar mixture and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir well and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix softened butter with the sugar till well blended.  Add the egg and extracts, beating till light and fluffy.

Starting with the flour mixture, add alternately with the milk to the butter mixture.  Beat well after each addition.  Pour batter over the cherries.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

After removing from the oven, let cool only for five minutes and loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a knife or narrow metal spatula, than place your cake plate on top and turn over to invert cake.  Great served warm, cut into wedges.

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Sweet Potato Minestrone with Turkey Sausage

My goal this month is to present some recipes that just happen to be healthy; low in fat, sodium, and sugar.  No-one will know it though because they taste good.  This minestrone soup is loaded with what nutritionists call the "power veggies"; spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes.  This makes about 6 servings.  I like to double it and put half in a container in the freezer.

We've had some warm weather lately when I wanted to grill outside, but the cold weather is coming and this will be "just the ticket," as my mom would say.

More memories, soup simmering on the back of the stove on a cold day.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound smoked turkey sausage, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 cup each; chopped onion, chopped carrots
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups diced peeled sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (Optional if you don't like it a little spicy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans no-salt-added whole tomatoes, un-drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce) can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach- washed well

Combine sausage, carrot, onion, and celery in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat.  Sauté for about 7 minutes or until sausage is browned.  Add water through beans.  Bring to a boil; cover, lower heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Stir in spinach and cook an additional few minutes.

Hint:  If you like your soup a little thickened, save out 1/3 of the beans; mash or put into blender till blended.  Add to soup.

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Creamy Veggie Dip

This is a nice snack when you are trying to eat light.  Fix a bunch of cut-up veggies for yourself and your family and mix up a batch of this dip to go with them.  If you want to include some crackers, there are some good crackers in the supermarket that are whole grain, reduced-fat, and low in sugar, and taste good.  The whole point is healthy, lighter snacking that tastes good.

Ingredients:

  • 1 carrot
  • 2 radishes (and/or 4 scallions)
  • 1/4 each-red and green pepper
  • 1 celery stalk;

all cut into chunks and pulsed in food processor or in food chopper till fine.

  • 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 16 ounce low-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon of each; salt & pepper

Mix until smooth cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, lemon peel and salt and pepper. Add finely chopped veggies.  Store covered in refrigerator until ready to serve.

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