Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Wafer Cookies

The other day I watched an episode of Tyler's Ultimate where he made his Ultimate Banana Pudding.  It looked so delicious I decided make my own version this week.  I picked up the ingredients I needed, but then realized when I got home, I forgot the Nilla Wafers.  No problem.  I figured I probably already had everything I needed to make them at home, so I searched and found a recipe online at another blog called Baking Bites .  The dough comes together in minutes and they only take about 11-13 minutes to bake.   I think these had a wonderful buttery, vanilla flavor and were nice and crisp when they cooled, much like the store-bought version.  Once baked, the cookies are a little bigger than a quarter.  Easy to pop into the mouth!  Enjoy!

Homemade Vanilla Wafer Cookies
from Baking Bites


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  In a small bowl,  add flour, salt and baking powder.  Stir with a whisk to combine.  Combine dry mixture with the wet ingredients. 

Add dough to pastry bag (I use the disposable plastic kind from Wilton), that has been fitted with a plain piping tip.  I used my Ateco 805 tip. 

Pipe dough onto the sheet, making each cookie about the size of a nickel.  You can make them bigger or smaller, but will need to adjust the baking time.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size, remove when they turn a light golden brown.  Cool on baking sheets and store in an airtight container. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sweet Crepes

 Last week,  I was talking to a friend of mine about this crepe restaurant she went to in downtown Detroit.  She described the most delicious sweet and savory fillings, which made me want to have one immediately!   Of course I wasn't about to drive downtown when I knew I could whip these up at home easily.   So, I pulled out my handy Joy of Cooking cookbook and decide to just make Sweet Crepes.  The recipe is very straight forward and "easy" to prepare, it's the actual cooking of crepes that can be a little challenging.  Getting the batter in the pan and swirling it around was easy enough, it's the flipping that took some practice.  The books says to "turn the crepes with a spatula or with your fingers" gently holding the edge to pull the crepe off the pan and flip over.  I had to use both a spatula to lift the crepe off the pan, and my fingers to hold and flip.  Word of caution here... It's HOT!  After flipping about 3 or 4 of them, my fingers were numbed enough that the heat didn't bother me as much.  Honestly, they were SO worth it though.  My favorite way to eat these is with some fresh lemon juice and sugar sprinkled over top.  Heavenly!!  For the kids, I served these with some cream cheese and strawberries rolled up inside.  The crepes can easily be cooked ahead of time, then stored between parchment paper and wrapped in plastic.  The leftovers reheated beautifully in the microwave the next morning.  Next time, I think I'll make a savory version... the filling possibilities are endless.  Hope you'll give these a try.  Enjoy!

Sweet Crepes
adapted from Joy of Cooking


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
4 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted (plus extra for cooking)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons sugar


Combine all ingredients in a blender, process until smooth.  Let stand for 30 minutes before cooking, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days (before cooking the refrigerated batter, stir and let come to room temp. first)

To cook crepes: 

In a small non-stick skillet, melt  1/2 tsp. butter over medium heat.  Pour enough batter to cover the bottom with a very thin coating.  (I used a 10" skillet with about 1/4 cup batter).  Quickly, tilt and rotate the pan, then return to the heat and cook until crepe bubbles and bottom is lightly browned, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.   Slide the pan off the burner.  Use a heat resistant spatula, lift the edge of the crepe and grasp with fingers, gentle pull the crepe off the pan and flip it over.  This takes some practice!  Cook on the other side until browned slightly.  Stack onto a parchment or wax-paper lined plate as you prepare the remaining crepes.  Yields about 12.

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin

Sunday night I made a traditional Easter dinner for my family... Spiral Ham, Green Been Casserole, Corn, and these potatoes.  Why a week early you ask?  My wonderful mother-in-law has invited us for Easter dinner again this year.  She is a wonderful cook and always prepares a plentiful holiday feast.  My husband grew up with macaroni and cheese as the usual side dish, however my family always had Au Gratin Potatoes.  Since I won't be cooking this Easter, I wanted to prepare a nice Sunday dinner for my family, making sure to include all of my favorite holiday dishes.  

This recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking, although I adapted it slightly, by adding some onion and a little flour to the sauce to help thicken it.  My whole family loved this dish.   It cooks for 1 hour in the oven, resulting in perfectly tender, creamy, cheesy potatoes.  Enjoy!

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin
adapted from Joy of Cooking


1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 1/2 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
3 cups half-n-half
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Rub a 13x9 casserole dish with the garlic clove, then coat with 1 tablespoon of butter.

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat, add onion and a dash of salt and pepper.  Saute until onion is tender but do not let it brown.  Add all the half-n-half, sliced potatoes, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, nutmeg, and sprinkle in the flour.  Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat, then cook and stir gently until the liquid thickens slightly, about 3-5 minutes.  Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Press down lightly to submerge potatoes.  Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.  Bake for about 1 hour, or until potatoes are tender.  

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Homemade Chicken and Noodles

I have another cold... second time in a month.  My family can't seem to shake these germs, even though I've been cleaning everything with Clorox and Lysol.  Today I needed a chicken soup intervention!   I didn't want to make any old chicken soup though.  While browsing Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen site, I found a recipe for Chicken and Noodles, which sounded perfect.  So... after a short nap this morning, I went to the grocery store to get the main ingredients.   It's important to use Amish Kitchens Extra Thick Kluski Egg Noodles , not the thin ones or regular egg noodles because they will get too mushy.  I modified the original recipe slightly by adding some bouillon cubes to my stock and changing how I assembled everything.  I think it turned out perfectly.  The noodles soak up much of the stock, leaving a thick mixture of pasta, chicken and veggies.  Enjoy!

Homemade Chicken and Noodles
adapted from Tasty


1 whole regular seasoned Rotisserie Chicken
1 (12oz) bag Amish Kitchens Extra Thick Kluski Egg Noodles
5 carrots
4 stalks celery
3 small onions
3 quarts Water
4 cloves garlic

1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
pinch of dried thyme
salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter


Remove all meat from chicken and store in refrigerator for later.  Place all bones, skin and 3 qts. water in large pot, add 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery stalks , 2 small onions, quartered, 3 cloves garlic smashed, parsley flakes, black peppercorns, dried thyme, and 4 chicken bouillon cubes.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour.  Pour through a fine mesh sieve, into a large bowl, to strain out the solids.  I ended up with 7 cups of stock.

Rinse out the original pot.  Add butter, 1 small onion diced, 3 carrots diced, 2 stalks celery diced, 1 garlic clove minced, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Heat over medium until veggies are tender.  Add all the stock and the bag of noodles. Cook for about 10 minutes at a slow rolling boil, until noodles are tender.  Add chicken meat and heat through.  Taste for seasoning.  Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Easy Biscuit Doughnuts

They look pretty good huh?  Well, don't let the picture fool ya.  These babies weren't cooked all the way through.  Yes, I'm posting my first flop here!  Well, they were not a total flop.  My husband saved the day by microwaving them for 30-40 seconds, and they turned out perfectly.  I'm sure it was a "user error", to coin a phrase from my old profession.  I misread the directions and had the oil too hot.   I also used the Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers Biscuits, which may or may not have contributed to the under cooking of these,  I'm not sure.  This recipe is still worth trying, if you want homemade doughnuts without the fuss of a homemade dough. 

Easy Biscuit Doughnuts
from The Dean Brothers Cookbook


1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Vegetable Oil, for frying
1 (12 oz) tube Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit Dough


Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Fill a wide, shallow pan with 1 inch of oil and heat to 370 degrees.

Cut small holes in the center of each biscuit.  I used a 1" round cookie cutter.  Drop the doughnuts into the hot oil and cook for 1-2 minutes, flipping over to brown both sides.  Transfer to paper towl lined baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pizza Dough and Homemade Sauce

Last night was pizza night and instead of going for the usual cheap take-out pizza, my hubby requested homemade pizza.  My go to recipe for pizza dough comes from the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook.  I like it because it uses honey in the dough and I can make this in minutes in my stand mixer.  I usually double the recipe without any problems.  I let the dough rise for about 2 hours while we went to a movie.  The recipe calls for a shorter rising time but I almost always let it rise for 1-2 hours.  We made barbecue chicken pizza's with cheddar jack cheese and barbecue sauce along with smoked sausage pizza's for the kids.  As a kid my family always used sliced smoked sausage instead of pepperoni.  I made a quick homemade pizza sauce to use for the sausage pizza's.  It may take more time and effort than calling the local pizza guy, but it's worth it.  Enjoy!

Pizza Dough
from Barefoot Contessa Parties!


1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 teaspoons kosher salt


For the dough, combine the water, yeast, honey and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Let sit for a few minutes until yeast starts to foam.  Add 3 cups flour, then the salt and mix.  While mixing, add 1 more cup of flour to form a soft dough.  Knead on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling extra flour as needed, to keep it from sticking to sides of bowl.  Turn out on to floured board and knead 12 times.  It should be smooth and elastic.  Place in a large well-oiled bowl and cover with a towel.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.  Divide into equal parts and roll into a balls.  Place balls on a baking sheet covered with a damp paper towel.  Let rest for 10 minutes, then roll out, or refrigerate until ready to use.  

When ready to bake, place rolled out dough on a greased sheet pan, load it up with your favorite sauce and toppings, bake in a 500 degree oven for 13-15 minutes.   ** If you've refrigerated the dough, let it come to room temp for about 30 minutes before using.

Lisa's Homemade Pizza Sauce


1/2 of a small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 (28oz) can tomato puree
2-4 tablespoons sugar  (I like it sweet so I used all 4)
1 1/2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning  
salt and pepper to taste


In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat, add onion and garlic, cook until onion is tender, but not brown.  Add tomato puree, tomato paste, sugar (to taste), Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Let simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.  Taste for seasonings.   ** Can be made ahead of time and stored in refrigerator until ready to use.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cajun Chicken Pasta from Pioneer Woman

I've never made any cajun dish before, so when I saw this recipe on the Pioneer Woman's website I knew I had to give it a try.  I prepped all the veggies early in the day, which made this easy to throw together at dinner time.  The only thing I did different was to thicken the sauce more with a butter/flour mixture at the end of the cooking process.  I loved the flavor of the McCormick Cajun Spice blend and look forward to finding other recipes to use it in.   Enjoy!

Cajun Chicken Pasta
Recipe from The Pioneer Woman


3 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Cut Into Cubes
3 teaspoons Cajun Spice Mix, divided
1 lb. Fettuccine
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
1 whole Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
½ whole Large Red Onion, Sliced
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
4 whole Roma Tomatoes, Diced
2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
½ cups White Wine
1 cup Heavy Cream
Cayenne Pepper To Taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
Salt To Taste
Chopped Fresh Parsley, To Taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain when pasta is still al dente.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun spice over chicken pieces. Toss around to coat.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over high heat.  Add half the chicken in a single layer; do not stir.  Allow chicken to brown on one side, about 1 minute. Flip to the other side and cook an additional minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean plate.  Repeat with remaining chicken. Remove chicken, leaving pan on high heat. 

Add remaining olive oil and butter. When heated, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle on remaining Cajun spice, and add salt if needed. Cook over very high heat for 1 minute, stirring gently and trying to get the vegetables as dark/black as possible.  Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Remove all vegetables from the pan. 

With the pan over high heat, pour in the wine and chicken broth. Cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in cream, stirring/whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until cream starts to thicken the mixture. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and/or salt to taste. Sauce should be spicy! 

Finally, add chicken and vegetables to sauce, making sure to include all the juices that have drained onto the plate. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and hot. Add drained fettuccine and toss to combine.  Top with chopped fresh parsley and chow down!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Product Giveaway- Red Gold Tomatoes

I'm a regular follower of the Real Life Living blog by Annie.   She has a terrific giveaway posted this week from Red Gold Tomatoes.  It's giant canister filled with: a reusable tote bag, 2 cookbooks, 7 recipe cards, a coaster, 2 fridge magnets, an informational CD and an awesome 1:64 scale diecast Limited Production Red Gold Tomatoes Freightliner Semi with certificate of authenticity.  And of course, some Red Gold Tomatoes!  One 14.5 ounce can each of Petite Diced Tomatoes, Petite Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies, and Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano.

I sure could use that, how 'bout you?  

Head on over to her blog to check out the giveaway and leave her a comment to enter.  Good Luck!

Here is a link to the Red Gold website for a coupon worth $0.75 off of 3 cans of tomatoes.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Copycat Recipe: Red Robin's Banzai Burger

Like many people these days, we rarely go out to eat, except for some cheap $5 Little Caesar's pizza once a week.  Red Robin's Banazi Burger is my husband's absolute favorite of all time and I discovered it's extremely easy to make at home.  While browsing the cookbooks at the library one day, I came across Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 which contained a copycat recipe for the Banzai Burger.  Whoo Hoo!  I made it for my hubby's birthday last summer and we just loved it.  Yesterday was such a nice day, I decided to do burgers on the grill and we made this again.  However this time, instead of making my own teriyaki sauce, I took a short-cut and used a jarred sauce, which I already had in the fridge.  It was just as good and very easy.  I hope you'll give this a try the next time you're in a burger mood.  Make sure to have lots of napkins on hand--- Enjoy!

Red Robin's Banzai Burger

2 lbs ground round
1 bottle Teriyaki sauce (recommend Kikkoman's Teriyaki Takumi Collection - Original )
sliced fresh pineapple 
Sliced cheddar cheese
shredded head lettuce
1 tomato, thinly sliced
Burger Buns


Form the beef into patties.  In a shallow baking dish, add some of the teriyaki sauce, place the beef patties on top in a single layer, turning to coat all sides with the marinade. (Be sure to reserve some marinade for the pineapple slices). Cover container and refrigerate 4-12 hours. 

Place pineapple slices in a separate container, add enough marinade to coat well, cover dish and chill.

Preheat grill to medium heat. Cook hamburgers 3 to 5 minutes per side, or to desired doneness. When you flip the burgers, add the pineapple to the grill and cook until grill marks show, turning once.  About 1 minute before the burgers are done, place slices of cheese on top of each patty to melt.  

To assemble burgers:  Spread mayonnaise on the top and bottom of each bun.  Place hamburger patty on bottom bun and top with 1-2 tomato slices, and 1-2 grilled pineapple slices.  Cover with about 1/3 cup shredded lettuce and place top bun on sandwich. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sausage and Spinach Frittata

Egg dishes are perfect for using up leftover meat and veggies in the fridge.  I had spinach, sausage, turkey bacon and green onions that I needed to use up, so I decided to mix these with some eggs.  Typically,  I just make scrambled eggs with meat and veggies thrown in, but a frittata sounded like a good idea, especially topped with some leftover Monterey Jack cheese.  I served this with salsa on top for a little kick.  We even had some of the frittata leftover, so I cut it into wedges, wrapped in plastic and froze it, for a quick weekday breakfast.  Enjoy!

Lisa's Sausage and Spinach Frittata

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cooked crumbled breakfast sausage (I use Bob Evan's Original Sausage)
1/4 cup cooked turkey bacon pieces
1/4 cup chopped, cooked spinach  
2 tablespoons, chopped green onions
9 large eggs
1/4 cup half-n-half
salt, pepper
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese


Preheat oven to broiler setting.  

Using an oven-proof non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium heat, add sausage, bacon, spinach and green onions.  Warm through.  In a bowl, scramble the eggs and half-n-half together.  Add egg mixture to pan and spread evenly.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Let sit and cook over med-low heat, until sides are set and middle is still slightly runny.  Top with cheese and place pan in oven.  Broil for 2-3 minutes until eggs are cooked and cheese is melted. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Snow Ice Cream

Well, with spring right around the corner, I thought I should get this one up before we're wearing shorts and flip flops.  Right before mid-winter break, we had a ton of snow fall, which gave my kids two snow days.  Yea!  We scooped up some fresh snow from the back yard and made snow ice cream.  The idea came from Paula Deen.  I saw her do this on her Food Network show years ago.  Luckily, we had a can of sweetened condensed milk in the pantry already.  The kids really enjoy it.  It tastes very good, but I will not lie, the texture is not smooth and creamy like ice cream, it's a little more icy.  It's a fun thing to do with the kids and that's all that matters.  Enjoy!

Snow Ice Cream
adapted from

8 cups of fresh snow
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbls. half-n-half

Mix everything in a large bowl and serve immediately!  

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Super Chicken

Don't ask me where the name came for this one, other than that's what my mom called it.  She got the original recipe out of a magazine somewhere many moons ago.  I've adapted it slightly by adding onions and mushrooms, but you can leave those out if you don't like them.  Sometimes, I make the chicken pieces bigger than bite sized, to save time on the breading/browning part of the recipe. You can easily adapt the quantities here for your family's needs.  I typically use 2 lbs chicken breasts because we love the leftovers... I eat them for breakfast.  I don't usually measure out the breadcrumbs, I just dump some in a bowl and add more if I run out.  It's really about the method here, more than following the specific amounts. 

This has been a family favorite for years... decades really... man I'm getting old!  The muenster cheese is definitely the key to this dish.  It gets all melted and browned over the top of the chicken.  I like to serve this with chicken flavored rice (yes, I use Rice-A-Roni and I love it!), and a green vegetable.  I hope our family enjoys this as much as we do. 

     hot out of the oven, let it cool a few minutes before digging in.

Super Chicken


2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large bite-sized pieces
Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs, start with 1/2 of a small container, adding more if you run out
3 large eggs
salt, pepper
Canola or Vegetable Oil
3/4 cup chicken broth  (reduce this amount if using less chicken)
8-9 slices of muenster cheese
1/2 cup diced onion (optional)
1-2 cans of sliced mushrooms  (optional)


Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray.

Crack eggs into a bowl and lightly scramble with a fork, season with a little salt and pepper.  Pour breadcrumbs into another bowl, season with extra salt and pepper if desired.  Dip chicken pieces into eggs, then into breadcrumbs.  Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with enough oil to almost cover the botton (maybe 3 tablespoons).  Brown the chicken pieces on both sides, and remove to baking dish.  Keep browning the chicken pieces in batches, wiping the pan clean after each batch and adding more oil (otherwise the leftover breadcrumbs in the pan start to burn and you don't want that in your finished dish.)

Once all chicken is browned and placed into the dish (just pile it in there), sprinkle the onion and mushrooms over top, then add the chicken broth.  Cover with the slices of muenster cheese.  Cover pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then remove foil and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, until all chicken is cooked through and cheese is browned.  Cooking times with vary depending on the size of the chicken pieces. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cheeseburger Soup

Yes, that is lettuce you see popping out from this bowl of delicious soup.  I saw a recipe for Cheeseburger soup at Dine and Dish last fall, which was the first time I heard of it.  Then, last week, I watched an episode of Diners, Drive-in's and Dives on Food Network, and they showcased this soup.  That version really caught my attention because of the addition of lettuce, and mustard.  It's different, but VERY good, trust me, the lettuce really works here.  My husband took one bite and just smiled, he said it tastes just like a burger surrounded by cheese.   I decided to garnish with turkey bacon, but you could add it into the soup for a Bacon Cheeseburger effect.  Either way, it's a winner!  Enjoy!

Cheeseburger Soup

2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, diced
salt and pepper, garlic powder
1 (32oz) box of Chicken Broth
4 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes, diced 
1-2 big squirts of Ketchup and Yellow Mustard (start with less, adding more to taste)
2 cups  Half-n-Half
1 lb of Velveeta, cubed
1/2 of a small head of lettuce, shredded
1 large tomato, diced

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, sweat your onion until it's translucent. Then add your ground beef, season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Cook until browned, drain the grease.
Add chicken stock, diced potatoes, ketchup and mustard.  Let that cook until the potatoes are tender.  Add half-n-half and Velveeta and cook over low heat until cheese is melted.  To thicken, mix equal parts cornstarch & water and add to hot soup (typically 1-2 tbls).  Just prior to serving, add the shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes, warm through.