Saturday, September 25, 2010

Potato Pancakes

What defines "Comfort Food" to you?  For me, they are the dishes that my mom, grandma Babchi or my Auntie MaryAnn made.  These amazing homecooks always incorporating our ethnic cuisine into traditional American meals.  My heritage is German, with a bit of Ukrainian and Polish mixed in.  Maybe I am a little biased, but boy does this part of the world know how to cook!

One of my absolute most favorite side dishes of my childhood are potato pancakes.  While I was in college and would frequent a wonderful Jewish Deli, I discovered these are also known as latkes- a term I had never heard before.  Oh was I a happy girl when I found I could get a little taste of home whenever a touch of homesickness kicked in.  Whenever I see potato pancakes on the menu at restaurants I always have to try them.  Sometimes they are wonderful; crunchy, creamy inside a with even a touch of sweetness.  Other times they just taste and look more like either an onion flavored hash brown or even worse, an actual pancake with shredded potato mixed in the batter.

This is my mom's recipe, and the other night it was the first time I ever attempted making them on my own.  You know when you think back to a favorite recipe; you have a very specific memory of the way it should smell and taste.  While frying up these guys I was so nervous that they wouldn't come out like my Mom's.  But guess what- they were perfect.  Now I am kicking myself for waiting this long to make them!

Potato Pancakes
4 large russet potatoes, peeled
1 small white onion, finely grated
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
vegetable oil for frying

Grate the potatoes into a large bowl of cold water (the water helps keep the potatoes from oxidizing). Drain potatoes well, squeezing with paper towels or cheese cloth, removing as much liquid as possible. Add grated onion, eggs, flour, and salt and combine well.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line an oven safe plate with paper towels and set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat a half and inch of oil until hot. Place 1/4 cup of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Be careful not to let the pancakes run into each other. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain and keep warm in oven on prepared paper towel lined plate.

Serve warm with applesauce, jelly, sour cream or my personal favorite, sprinkled with sugar. Scott loves them with ketchup, just proves how everyone has their own favorite topping!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Crab Rangoonies

One of my favorite guilty pleasures when it comes to food is easily Chinese Take-Out, most specifically all of the wonderfully delicious appetizers.  The potstickers, egg rolls, shrimp toasts, and my most favorite- Crab Rangoon.  Ok, I know that none of these items fall under the remotely healthy menu.  But I can't help it, they are GOOD!  So in my attempt to have them be something I could eat more often, I have decided to start trying to make this stuff myself.  I can cross the potstickers off my list and now after Friday night, I can add crab rangoons.  This was another Hungry Girl recipe, so the nutritional stats are amazing.  Plus they were not only super healthy, but they were incredibly easy to make. Awesome!  Now I can eat wayyyyy more of them at one time.....right??

The Crab Rangoonies
1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
2 wedges The Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss cheese
4 oz. imitation crabmeat, flaked
1 tsp. low-sodium/lite soy sauce
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
2 scallions, finely chopped
16 small square wonton wrappers (often stocked near the tofu in the fridge section of the market)
Optional: sweet & sour sauce or Chinese-style hot mustard, for dipping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To make your filling, combine all ingredients except wonton wrappers in a bowl, breaking up the cheese wedges as you add them. Mix until uniform. Set aside. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and set that aside as well.

Lay two wrappers flat on a clean, dry surface. Spoon a heaping 1/2 tbsp. of filling into the center of each wrapper. Moisten all four edges of each wrapper by dabbing your fingers in water and going over the edges smoothly. Fold the bottom left corner of each wrapper to meet the top right corner, forming a triangle and enclosing the filling. Press firmly on the edges to seal. Repeat with all remaining wrappers and filling, gently placing each rangoon flat on the baking sheet.

Spray the tops of the wontons with nonstick spray. Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes, carefully flipping halfway through, until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly.

If you like, dip your rangoonies in some sweet & sour sauce or hot mustard!

PER SERVING (4 "crab rangoonies"): 140 calories, 1.5g fat, 618mg sodium, 20g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 9g protein -- POINTS® value 3*

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Egg Noodles with a Roasted Tomato and Onion Marinara, Garden Leeks, Chicken and Sausage

As many of you probably do as well, I had a large supply of ripe garden tomatoes lining my kitchen counters, waiting to be eaten.  I had been meaning to make a nice marinara sauce with them to freeze for later use. But my numbers were slowly dwindling down until I didn't have quite enough to make a batch large enough to freeze.  The other night, it was as though one of my favorite cooking blogs, For the Love of Cooking, was reading my mind. She mentioned making a marinara sauce for some pasta by roasting the tomatoes first. This is a wonderful idea, for it brings an amazing richness to the tomatoes, that is unlike eating them any other way.  I didn't have all of the ingredients that she listed for her recipe, so I played around with what I had in my own fridge/pantry and came up with this.  Scott and I really loved it and it is a sauce I will return to again and again. Thank you Pam!!

Egg Noodles with a Roasted Tomato and Onion Marinara, Garden Leeks, Chicken and Sausage 

About 6-10 tomatoes, quartered (this amount is depending on the size of your tomatoes of course.  I had huge garden tomatoes so I only needed about 6)
1 head of garlic, unpeeled
1 onion, halved and then sliced into large wedges
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
Dried basil, to taste
2 leeks, light green and white parts only, rinsed well and sliced into 1/2" chunks
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
2 Italian sausages, cooked then sliced into chunks
The meat from half of a roasted chicken, chopped into chunks
8 oz wide egg noodles, prepared as instructed on box
Fresh basil, chopped
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line your baking sheet with foil and spray with Nonstick Cooking Spray. Place all of your tomatoes, onion and the garlic on the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with dried basil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft, juicy and have "deflated" a bit.

While waiting for your tomatoes and onion to roast, saute prepared leeks in 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat until soft but still vibrant in color.

Remove tomatoes and onions from the oven and allow to cool slightly (you don't want to burn your fingers!) Once cooled some, carefully remove the skins of the tomatoes and discard. Many of them will probably have already slid off, and the others should slide off easily with a little assistance. Slip the garlic cloves out of their skins.  Add the tomatoes, onions, garlic and all the wonderful juices to the sautéed leeks.  Bring your heat up to medium/medium high and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add your cooked sausage and chicken to the pot, combine well.

Add the cooked, drained pasta to your marinara and toss to coat.  Garnish with chopped fresh basil, parsley and parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oven Baked French Toast with Praline Crunch Topping and Strawberry Syrup

Last night I enjoyed another amazing Girls' Night In with Bonnie and Dawn for our cooking adventure.  The theme for the evening was Breakfast for Dinner.  Yeah, it really was that good!  I am going to do things a little differently and share each of our recipes in three different posts.  I have Dawn's Aunt already awaiting this recipe (Hi there!) and still need to gather up the recipes from the other girls.  So stay tuned, Bonnie's Quiche and Dawn's Dessert are both worth the wait!!  Yumm!

I apologize that the picture quality isn't so great.  I forgot my own camera, but luckily Dawn's sister Michelle came through and let me use hers.  I didn't know all her camera's bells and whistles, plus the fact that I was really hungry and just wanted to gobble everything up immediately! (Ok, ok... so this was probably the real reason...)  But you get the idea.  And you can just trust me- This. Meal. Is. Delicious.  Heaven, really.  It is rich, decadent, and truly a special dish.  This would be a perfect thing to make for a nice brunch or a holiday gathering with family and friends.  

Oven-Baked French Toast with Praline Crunch Topping
1 loaf of french bread
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter or margarine, softened**
3 large eggs
1 2/3 cups half and half or whole milk (I used fat free half and half.  This stuff is amazing.  Tastes just like the full fat stuff but is fat free!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar (or praline crunch topping, recipe follows below)

Slice the bread into 10-12 (1-inch-thick) diagonal slices, set the ends aside for another use.

Generously butter 1 side of each slice and arrange slices, buttered sides up, in 1 layer in a buttered 13x9 glass baking dish, squishing them slightly to fit if necessary. (**If you are baking this with the praline crunch topping it is not necessary to butter the bread ahead of time.  Just skip this step and jump ahead)

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla until combined well. Pour evenly over bread. Chill, covered, until bread has absorbed all of custard, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day, depending on bread.

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Bring mixture to room temperature and sprinkle bread with the sugar or spread with the praline topping (recipe follows). Bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until bread is puffed and top is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Praline Crunch Topping
1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients and blend well. Spread evenly over bread before baking.

This praline crunch topping I halved from Paula Dean's recipe.  Honestly next time I make it I will use even less butter.  Of course it was absolutely delicious, but really not necessary to use so much.  And to think her original recipe called for 2 sticks of butter!!!  I will probably use about 3/4-1/2 stick of butter next time.

Strawberry Syrup
1 10-oz jar of good quality strawberry perserves
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons apple juice

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer on medium heat until warm and the consistency thins out like a syrup.  Serve warm, drizzled on top of french toast, pancakes, or even ice-cream.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins are wonderfully moist, full of chocolate chips in each bite and are honestly as yummy as a cupcake, but without all the frosting.  A bit of dessert at breakfast- sounds perfect to me!  Ok, so this recipe only makes 3-4 muffins.  I don't know about you, but I'm not one to go through all the effort of baking to only get 3 muffins.  So I made sure to double the recipe.  Trust me, you will want to do the same, or triple it(!).....  These would also make lovely little miniature muffins as well.  I think I will bake them that way next time.  I sprinkled each muffin with some raw sugar for a bit of sparkle and crunch just before baking.  The result was very pretty and delicious. 

Print this Recipe

Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 3-4 muffins (so be sure to at least double the batch!)

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup (2 ounces) semisweet miniature chocolate chips (I used regular sized)
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or chocolate extract (I used vanilla extract)

Position rack in the center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease muffin or line with paper baking cups.

In a medium bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, chocolate chips and salt.  In another medium bowl, beat the egg until thick and light-colored before beating in the sugar, butter and vanilla extract.  Combine the two mixtures, blending until just moistened.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5-7 minutes.  Serve warm, or remove from pan and cool completely on the wire rack.

*recipe from 1,001 Muffins, Bisuits, Doughnuts, Pancakes, Waffles, Popovers, Fritters, Scones and other Quick Breads by Gregg R. Gillespie

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Beverly Reginelli

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Beverly Reginelli
Beautiful Bev and her husband Bobby

For today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I love that I get to introduce you all to my cousin Beverly Reginelli.  One of the best things about getting married is often the amazing new family you acquire because of it, and with Beverly it was no exception!  She is genuine in heart and spirit, and her kindness flows out of her as natural as the air she breathes. When Beverly smiles you see it in her eyes first- it brightens her entire face.  She is beauty, inside and out.

Last summer Beverly married a fantastic man, Bobbie.  Unfortunately we were out of town and couldn't make it to the festivities.  So sad!  But it was a simply gorgeous wedding, the dresses, flowers, and mostly, the people.  I can't get enough of the beautiful pictures and had to share a few of my favorites with you all today.  Beverly and Bobbie are such a great couple, and again through the joining of two hearts in wedded bliss I get to reap the benefits of watching my own family grow.  First I got Bev and now I get Bobbie too.  Pretty cool how things work.  I look forward to watching our families grow even more over time...  So for today's Friday's, Feasting with Friends I am delighted to introduce you to sweet Beverly.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Does baking count?  Cheesecake! (And I did not steal this answer from Aunt Sandy! However, apparently my father likes her cheesecakes better!!!)

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Usually red meat - because I am not very good at it.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Favorite would have to be Shinto in Strongsville (we actually went there for Valentine's Day last year right after we got engaged!) But as a kid - it used to be the Samurai in Beachwood which is now a Benihana - basically any hibachi restaurant! I LOVE all hibachi, the food is sooo good and always a very entertaining time with friends or family.

Dying to try - Greenhouse Tavern on West. 4th St. downtown. We heard it doesn't feel like you are in a restaurant in Cleveland (whatever that means?). And they have Jeni's ice cream from Columbus and I am dying to try that! We may go this Friday night before we see Kathy Griffin at the State Theater. Unless you have a better suggestion downtown!?

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
I am NOT a music person, I listen to the radio a lot however I do cook Italian often for dinner parties and I have a classical Italian dinner music CD, Mangia! Italian Dinner Night, that I received from my aunt as a wedding present so that is definitely my go to CD! My husband and I listened to it this summer while attempting to make homemade spaghetti sauce from our garden harvest!

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
Sadly - pizza and salad! I could eat pizza everyday of the week if my husband would let me!

What are you currently reading?
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards - I can't put it down! And Lady & Son's Savannah Country Cookbook by Paula Deen!

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
My citrus juicer (a gift from my grandma - the best cook I know!) It is a glass gar with an orange lid that gets out every last bit of juice from a lemon or lime without the seeds and then you can pour it! I have been using it lately to make fresh salsa!

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
 It would have to be a sausage, zucchini, & spinach lasagna with a red sauce. Or a homemade chicken pot pie, or a chicken broccoli braid. Basically I love recipes with the protein, veggie & starch all in one dish! Makes it easy to entertain without getting nervous that everything won't be done at the same time!

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area? 
That's easy - my family!

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today? 
From my mom, I would have to say tacos! And now we have started taco night at our house on Tuesdays usually and we make them similar to Chipotle, with jasmine rice and black beans and my fresh salsa! One of our favorites! But from her mom, my grandma it would have to be stuffed cabbage or pigs in the blanket as she referred to them! For years I could never get them right but now I know hers were sweeter because she used a can of tomato soup in the sauce, so I can pretty much recreate them now, but of course they still don't taste like hers!

Top 3 Movies of all time?
This question will age me! Top Gun, Always (with Richard Drefuss & Holly Hunter) & Pretty Woman. And I need to add a fourth - The Wizard of Oz!

What was your happiest moment in life?
So far my wedding & honeymoon but I have a feeling it will be topped pretty soon!
Is this not the cutest picture you have ever seen?!

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Everywhere - Giant Eagle, Marcs, Wal-mart (the one by us actually has great produce), Heinens, & even the West Side Market. We change it up every week.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Pumpkin roll! Specifically from Giant Eagle and it is in season right now - so far I have bought 3!

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
My grandparents - they will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this year!

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Yes to have Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year!

One word that best describes you is: Family
Beverly with three of her sisters and her Dad

The recipe I choose is Surprise Rice Casserole. It is just a great combination of ingredients that go so well together but seem unusual. It is perfect as a side dish or to bring to a party! I have searched the Internet for this recipe and can't really find anything like it, so I don't know whom to give credit. But I can say the woman I got it from said she got it out of The Plain Dealer. Oh and did I mention it is very easy and simple!

Surprise Rice Casserole
1 cup uncooked brown rice (I used jasmine instead)
2 T butter
1 8oz. can of crushed pineapple undrained
1T brown sugar
½ t salt
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup slivered almonds

Cook rice as per directions, stir in butter until melted. Add pineapple, brown sugar & salt.
Spray casserole with cooking spray. Put rice in casserole & sprinkle with cheese and almonds. Cook 350° for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. (Serves 6)

**One great past time I always loved about Beverly is the Cooking Club she belongs to with some of her girlfriends.  I do something similar with my two girlfriends, Bonnie and Dawn (you have read about lots of our dinner nights on here.)   She was sweet enough to tell me more about her awesome club and if this doesn't inspire you to do the same with some of your friends I don't know what would!!  This makes for an incredibly fun Girl's Night In.  

It started in 2003 because one of the girls, a newlywed, wanted to learn to cook dinner for her new husband. It has always been about 6 girls at a time with a few that have left over the years and a few new members. We just decide a theme for the month and cook a recipe and bring that with us along with copies of the recipe to share. Email makes it easy to decide what to bring, usually the host cooks the main dish and then we pick sides and desserts as we go. We rotate houses each month and usually do it on a Sunday night. It is more about 6 girls getting together each month to chit chat and drink a glass of wine than about the food. But we do get great recipes and some are successes and some are failures. We have had so many different themes throughout the years from Indian, to favorite family recipe, to red foods (that one was for Valentine's Day!), to you name it! We also pick one month a year and invite the boyfriends/husbands and they LOVE that month! Through the years we have had about 4 weddings in the group and many children being born with currently 3 on the way! We have done different outings as well when we get bored with the themes. We have cooked dished for the new moms, or went to Cooking Thyme once, also Taste of Lakewood, and the Food Network Show at the IX Center. We also has a great outing recently at Crop Restaurant downtown and sat at the chef's table(which is around the open kitchen) on a Sunday night for their special Sunday supper menu and that ranks in the top - I would have to say! I have tried to keep a list going of the themes and whose house we were at but over the past 7 years I have a few gaps in my records!

 I think the funniest thing was about 5 years ago, well funny now that you look back on it. The theme was Mexican or Spanish something and one of the girl's was attempting to make fried ice cream at her moms house because she was living there while in her medical residency program. So she was heating up a pot of oil on the stove when it caught on fire!! She panicked and grabbed the pot and ran it under water in the sink!! Well it created a bigger fire and the curtains caught on fire and eventually the kitchen! No one was hurt except for minor blisters on her hand where she initially grabbed the pot. But the firemen came and her parents ended up remodeling the kitchen after that, a project that they planned to do someday anyways! So her mom knew how much she loved cooking club and told her to go that night anyways! She planned on keeping the story a secret because she was so embarrassed but blurted it out the second she came in the door! And spent the entire evening with her hand in a bowl of ice! She is now a surgeon and till this day we tease her about it!
~Ciao, Beverly

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Green Fluff" aka Pineapple Pistachio Pudding

While visiting at my parents' home, my mom told me about a delicious dessert she just loved.  It is pretty simple, involving only a few ingredients.  You take a box of instant pistachio pudding mix, a can of pineapple and cool-whip.  Mix it all together and Ta-Da! Creamy, dreamy wonderfulness.  

Once I got home, box of pistachio pudding in hand, Jackson and I just had to make it!  But the thing is, I swore I must have forgotten an ingredient or two.  So off I went on a little hunt and stumbled across this version.  This one involved including yogurt and then all of the other ingredients my mom told me about.  A-ha, this must be it.  I excitedly called my mom after making it to tell her how much I loved her dessert.  Guess what, this wasn't her recipe.  Turns out her version really did only have pistachio pudding, pineapple and cool-whip!  My pregnancy brain really didn't fail me like I thought it did.  

BUT the recipe I ended up using was still sooooooooo delicious!!  It was a mistake that turned out wonderful, creamy and dreamy just like I hoped.  Plus I can feel good because I am feeding my family yogurt in disguise for dessert.  This Pineapple Pistachio Pudding, or as I like to call it Green Fluff, is light and creamy and kinda reminds me of a Yogurt Whips.  All I know is I can eat a lot of this stuff.  

Next time I will make my mom's recipe because she has never steered me wrong before. But until then, we will all thoroughly enjoy this one!  

Pineapple Pistachio Pudding
1 (1 ounce) package instant sugar-free pistachio pudding mix
1 (8 ounce) container plain low-fat yogurt
1 (8 ounce) container vanilla low-fat yogurt
1 (8 ounce) can unsweetened crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
chopped pistachio's for garnish

In a large bowl, combine pistachio pudding mix, plain yogurt, vanilla yogurt and crushed pineapple. Mix until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Cover, and refrigerate until chilled. Serve garnished with chopped pistachio's.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cinnamon Applesauce Muffins

Well, it has been a while since I was on my muffin kick so I thought it was time to try out a new recipe.  These are a nice, basic muffin.  Wonderfully moist and full of flavor.  They are delicious as-is, but also are lovely slathered in butter or spread with your favorite preserves.  I can easily see these being a staple in our house.

Print this Recipe

Cinnamon Applesauce Muffins
makes 7-9 muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup milk
Cinnamon sugar blend for sprinkling on top

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease or line a muffin tin with paper baking cups.

In a large bowl, blend together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs,  applesauce, and milk until smooth.  (I used my homemade chunky applesauce so I didn't try and get the apples smooth, just the batter.)  Combine the two mixtures, blending until just moistened.  Do not over-mix for it will make for a tough muffin.

Spoon the batter in the prepared muffin cups, filling each one about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar over each muffin.  Bake for 15-20 minutes , or until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5-7 minutes.  Serve warm or invert onto the rack to cool completely.

*Muffin Baking Tip: fill one or two empty muffin cups with water before baking.  The steam from the water will insure a nice, moist muffin every time.

Serve warm or let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

I love how there are nice chunks of apples in my muffins since I used my homemade chunky applesauce.  You can buy a good quality applesauce or use my homemade recipe {here}.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Easy Enchiladas

Lately I have had such a craving for Mexican food.  Cheesy, gooey wonderful Mexican.  I was looking back at the April/May edition of Taste of Home Magazine this week and came across this recipe for Easy Enchiladas- and goodness they looked tasty!  The perfect thing to satisfy this pregnant girls' craving.

They were indeed easy- took no time to prep.  And all of us loved them.  Even Jackson enjoyed it.  But then again what doesn't he like that involves cheese and chicken?!  Scott told me I could make this anytime, it was delicious!   These enchiladas were a big hit and I feel they would make for the perfect weeknight meal.

Easy Enchiladas
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese, couldn't tell one bit)
8 Flour Tortillas (8 in)
1 cup (8 oz) plain yogurt or sour cream (I used Dannon Nonfat Plain Yogurt, again, tasted wonderful)
1 cup salsa
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1 can (1 1/4 oz) sliced black olives, drained
Shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes, optional

In a small bowl combine chicken and cream cheese. Spoon about 1/4 cup chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla; roll up tightly. place in a greased 9x13 baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine yogurt and salsa; spread over tortillas. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and olives. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Seve with lettuce and tomato if desired.

*recipe from Taste of Home Magazine

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Retro Recipe: Hot Ham 'n Cheese Wiches

A few months ago I received an amazing package from my cousin Kathleen.  It was jam-packed of fun Vintage cookbooks that she had been collecting over the years.  I was given instructions to make sure I use them for My Retro Kitchen- she doesn't have to ask me twice!  Considering I read cookbooks like novels, I have been having a blast going through each one; picking out some of the strangest recipes and also the ones that we would actually love to eat in our home these days. Scott and I have had many laughs over some of these wild concoctions (just you wait and see!  And if you happen to live around me, be prepared to have some interesting things show up at your parties...)   Thank you so much Kathleen!!  I can't wait to show off each of these cookbooks- so be ready for some Retro Kitchen fun!

This morning for breakfast I thought I would give one of the fun recipes a try for my boys. It comes from the cookbook Children's Choice Cookbook: Nutritiously creative recipes children will love to eat by Pillsbury.

These turned out quite good, and would be fun for an afternoon playdate.  They reminded Scott and I of Hot Pockets- only these are obviously more fun to look at....

Hot Ham 'n Cheese Wiches
"Layers of ham and cheese highlight this sandwich."

1 cup cooked ham, chopped
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon poppy seed, if desired
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened
1-2 tablespoons prepared mustard (I used dijon)
10 oz. can Refrigerated Big Flaky Biscuits
5 slices American Cheese
*olives, carrots, peppers or any other veggies to make the silly faces

Heat oven to 375.  In a small bowl, combine first 5 ingredients; blend well.  Reserve 1/3 cup.  Separate dough into 10 biscuits.  Press or roll 5 biscuits to 3 1/2-inch circles.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Spoon about 1/4 cup ham mixture onto center of each flattened biscuit.

Fold cheese slices into quarters; place on ham mixture.  Spoon remaining ham mixture over cheese.  Press or roll remaining 5 biscuits to 4-inch circles; press lightly over ham mixture.  Do not seal.  If desired, sprinkle with additional poppy seed.  Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Makes 5 sandwiches.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Shirley's Antipasto Salad

Shirley's Antipasto Salad
1 box spiral pasta, cooked, drained and chilled
1 can baby corn, sliced into chunks
1 jar marinaded artichokes, cut into chunks, add the juice from the jar into the bowl
1 jar whole pimentos, cut into chunks
1 can of stuffed green olives (mine were stuffed with anchovies)
3/4 block of colby jack cheese, cut into bite sized chunks
1 summer sausage, cut into chunks
1 celery stalk sliced
1 sm carrot julienned

Mix all together in a bowl. Now, you can do the dressing one of two ways. Shirley doesn't use Italian dressing, she uses red wine vinegar and olive oil and spices, salt & pepper. I used a little of both to make mine, with some Adobo seasoning. I think it tastes just as good as hers. Chill and enjoy! I found it's better to make in the morning or night before to let the flavors come together.

This recipe is courtesy of my sister's friend Shirley.  Bonnie went to visit her in Chicago and came home raving about this pasta salad.  She said that it was colorful, so full of flavor and the perfect side dish for any meal.  She said I just had to try it!  This week I finally did, and she was right.  It has just the right amount of dressing, not to over power everything else and I loved the crunch the celery and carrots added.  This would be a great dish to bring to your Labor Day picnic on Monday- it is sure to be a hit.  Thanks Bon (and Shirley too!)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Irene Pavlich

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Irene Pavlich

The Fruits of the Spirit 
Galatians 5:22-23
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

While sitting here thinking of natural qualities that Irene possesses, I find myself slowly naming off each "fruit".  It isn't until I get to the sixth one that I realize I am reciting Galatians 5:22-23 in my head.  My "grandma" Irene is so completely full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control- more then anyone else I have ever known in my life. You will never hear her say a hint of negativity or raise her voice in an angry manner.   She is always rejoicing in the good news of others, she is modest, and carries a quiet sweetness that makes her such a delight to be around.  

Two years ago, I lost Grandma Trapp.  She was my last living grandparent and it was incredibly hard saying goodbye.  But I am so wonderfully blessed to have all of Scott's grandparents around to wrap me in their love and grandma and grandpa-ness!  Irene is Scott's "step-grandmother" but that is only a technicality.  She is 100% grandma, through and through.  You just feel good being near her, and I feel so blessed to be able to call her my Grandma too.  When Jackson was born he started calling her GiGi (great grandma) and the sweetness of the name suits her personality to a  tee.  So for today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am overjoyed to introduce you to my wonderful GiGi, Irene Pavlich.  

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Haluski (made with noodles and cabbage)

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
beef- roast or even ground beef burgers

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Johnny's is a favorite, someday I would love to try out Overture in downtown Youngstown

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Michael Buble with pasta and a marinara sauce

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
A good Reuben Sandwich with a ceasar salad

What are you currently reading?
magazines... health info, sports, etc.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
My toaster oven

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
ethnic-type dishes

What do you love most about the Cleveland area?
family, excellent restaurants and all the specialty stores

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
My mom made an oven roasted chicken with rice during my younger years, but it is not cooked these days!!

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Dr. Zivago, White Christmas and South Pacific

What was your happiest moment in life?
Too many happy moments in my 78 years to settle with only one!!

Grandma Lois, Gigi (Irene), 
Sandy, me and Jackson- Christmas 2009

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Giant Eagle, and Marc's

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
cheesecake, any flavor!!!!

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
a perfect end result of a difficult situation or task

One word that best describes you is: interest

1 medium cabbage (3 pounds)
1 medium package noodles
4 tablespoons butter
2 strips bacon, optional
chopped onions

Cook noodles and drain. Chop cabbage very fine and fry with the onions in butter, stirring quite frequently until browned. Mix noodles and cabbage and pour about 6 tablespoons melted butter over it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thai Peanut Sauce, two versions

Ok, so remember the last time I made that wonderful Cold Udon Noodle Salad I used a doctored up version of a store bought Peanut Sauce. Well I promised you that the next time I made it I would provide a yummy homemade Thai Peanut Sauce to use instead. So what is even better then one option, but two?! The first one here, Version 1 is the sauce that I have created and the second, Version 2 is one that my sister Bonnie has made. They are both super yummy , and the best part is that they each use a different combination of ingredients. They each provide very similar results, but have their own unique flavor. It is always nice to have choices just incase you don't have coconut milk on hand or you are in the mood for a bit of honey...

Don't restrict yourself to using this only as a sauce for pasta.  These would also be great as a dip for chicken satay skewers, Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls, or even a spread for a yummy wrap.

Print this Recipe

Thai Peanut Sauce, Version 1
1 1/2 cups creamy or crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-3 tablespoon hot chili sauce, like Sriracha (I used 3 tablespoons because I was in the mood for some good kick!)
3 cloves garlic, minced
chili flakes to taste

In a bowl, whisk all of the ingredients until smooth and creamy.

Thai Peanut Sauce, Version 2
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock (or warm water)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon chili flakes

Puree all ingredients in a blender for two minutes, or until smooth

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Oil and Vinegar Slaw

Tonight for dinner I made our favorite Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches.  We love these with a good tangy slaw on top of the sandwich to give some nice crunch and a bit of texture.  I have never been 100% crazy about a mayo-based slaw.  Some are delicious and others are just yuck.  More often then not I feel like they are on the yuck-side.  It seems like they are just full of soggy mayo and not enough actual flavor.  So when I saw this recipe from Rachael Ray for a Oil and Vinegar Slaw I was immediately intrigued.  I love a good vinegar slaw but had never made one on my own.  This one was very simple, using ingredients that are always in your pantry and packed a ton of flavor.  It was the perfect accompaniment for the tangy chicken sandwiches.  We both gave this recipe a thumbs up, definite do again.

Oil and Vinegar Slaw
taken from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals Show "Endless Summer"

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil, eyeball it
1 sack, 16 ounces, shredded cabbage mix for slaw salads
1 teaspoon celery salt
Salt and pepper to taste
*I also added one green onion, chopped

Mix vinegar and sugar. Add oil. Add cabbage to dressing and season with salt and pepper. Toss with fingers to combine. Adjust seasoning. Let stand 20 minutes. Re-toss and serve.


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