Thursday, December 30, 2010

Auld Lang Syne & Blackeyed Peas

"Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne."

I sing it every year. Don't you? Right there at the stroke of midnight?? After laying your lips on the one you love, hoping to spend the next year with, singing those lyrics brings closure to the old year and brightness to the new one ahead.

New Year's Eve is one of the most fun nights of the year. Our family is known for having a movie fest after eating sushi at the Japanese restaurant in the neighborhood. We always reminisce about the year, the things we are ready to say goodbye to and most importantly the things we look forward to.

Ever wondered why we eat certain foods on New Year's Day?? Here's a little history, taken from several different sources, that I thought I'd share.

Luck, Prosperity, Wealth and Fortune, Fertility, Health, Long Life.....many reasons to celebrate a new year.

Traditionally New Year's foods are thought to bring luck. It's thought that what one does and eats on New Year's Day affects their luck throughout their entire year. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring symbolizes coming full circle, completing a year's cycle. For example, the Dutch eat donuts for good fortune.

Blackeyed peas are a tradition in the USA for luck, often prepared with ham because eating Ham on New Year's Day suggests prosperity.

Eating greens symbolizes fortune, which should bring money throughout the year. In other cultures, cabbage leaves are a symbol of prosperity. Rice is a symbol of luck. And noodles are a symbol of long life and health.

North America, Europe and Asian countries eat fish to celebrate. Fish are considered a sign of moving forward into another year since fish only swim forward. Others think that since fish swim in schools they symbolize abundance.

Pomegranates are eaten in Mediterranean countries for fertility.

At midnight on New Year's Eve, revelers in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries eat 12 grapes — one for every strike of the clock and month in the year. It celebrates the coming of a sweet year.

So there you have it.

I'm excited to embark on a new year. I always make my special Savannah Dip with lots of spinach for good fortune, blackeyed peas via the crock seasoned with ham and rice for luck with these pork chops for prosperity.

Happy New Year to all!!!

New Year's Day Pork Chops
2 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
6 pork chops, trimmed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, thoroughly blend soy sauce, vegetable oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, and ketchup.

Place pork chops in a medium baking dish, and spread with 1/2 the sauce.

Bake pork chops 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Turn, and spread with remaining sauce. Continue baking 30 minutes, or until internal temperature of the chops has reached 160 degrees.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Whopperhopper Cake and Chocolate Glaze

If you have a special occasion coming up, like say a special birthday, anniversary, or if you need a special dessert for welcoming a friend's new baby or for a church dinner this is a must make, because Lordhavemercy this cake is good. And I've said it before, but I really mean it...something this easy shouldn't taste this good.

Next time I think I'll try it in a bundt form, until then a 9x13 pan will just have to do.

1 white cake mix
1 box of instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup water

Mix all ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 28-30 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. If you use a bundt pan, you'll need to increase baking time to 40 minutes.

Chocolate Glaze
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips. Cook, stirring constantly, until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Do not allow it to bubble. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Cool slightly before drizzling over cake. If you want to make this ahead, it can be cooled and reheated in the microwave.

Fajitas Meatas from the crock

My family loves Mexican food. There is a fabulous Mexican restaurant in Virginia Beach that we've eaten at on many occasions when all of the family is together. They have THE largest menu I have ever seen at any restaurant.

In addition to traditional beef, chicken, bean, and cheese options, they also offer many seafood choices as well. And holy smokes, their crab quesadillas are AMAZING.

Well, feeding 5 kids and 2 parents at a restaurant is not exactly affordable! And we all love fajitas. So, I wanted a way I could get that wonderful fiesta flavor with the ease of my slow cooker.

My Homemade Fajita Mix Packet, use this:
1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1-1/4 tsp. crushed chicken bouillon cube
3/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. cumin

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl, set aside.

2 lbs of thin cut stir fry beef or 2 lbs of chicken)

fajita seasoning mix (you can always use 1 store-bought seasoning packet, but I prefer the fresh mix)
1 onion sliced

2 bell peppers, sliced
1/2 cup of water

(you can also use frozen pre-sliced peppers and onions for a bit more ease, although fresh veggies add lots of flavor)

Place all ingredients in the crock and cook on low for 8 hours.

Fill flour tortillas with fajita meat and top with your favorite fixin's. Enjoy!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Banana Bread & French Toast

Banana Bread. I could eat it any time of the day. Although it takes about 45 minutes to bake, it is well worth the wait. I've been using the same recipe for years. Fresh from the oven and topped with butter is just so yummy!!! And if you've ever had my momma's bread, she makes a sweet creamy glaze that's poured over the top and it's so delicious.

When I heard about how Ihop makes banana bread french toast, I mean....shazaaam! Can you think of a better combination??

Nat's Banana Bread
1 stick butter (softened, not melted)
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
3-4 medium bananas mashed
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk at home, you can substitute with 1 tsp of vinegar and enough milk to make 1/2 cup)
2 1/2 cups flour (self rising)

Grease the bottoms of 2, 8" loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together 1 stick of softened butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix until well blended. Add bananas, milk, and vanilla. Slowly stir in flour until it's just blended.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden on top and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Vanilla Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tsp milk

Mix all ingredients until smooth and thin enough to drizzle.

For the French toast:
Slice bread to 1" thick slices

3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 Tb sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
Butter or Oil
Sliced bread

Beat eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt with wire whisk until smooth.
Heat butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Dip bread into egg mixture. Place in skillet. Cook about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Maple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Here is a foolproof and easy twist on refrigerated cinnamon rolls. The maple syrup adds another layer of flavor. These are really delicious.

1 (12.4-oz.) can Refrigerated Cinnamon Rolls with Icing
1/2 cup pecan halves or pieces
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Separate dough into 8 rolls. Cut each roll into quarters; place in large bowl.
In small bowl, combine margarine, brown sugar and syrup; mix well. Add brown sugar mixture to dough mixture; toss gently to combine. Place in pan.
Bake at 350°F. for 28 to 38 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Invert onto serving platter.

A great variation is using 1 cup of chopped apples. Place in pan first then top with the cinnamon roll mixture. Bake...yum!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blog Break

I'm taking a much needed blogging break to enjoy the Holidays with my family, although I'll be cooking quite extensively during that time. I'm incredibly blessed with all of the exciting opportunities that 2010 brought me. And I'm equally excited about the many possibilities that 2011 has in store.

As you enjoy your holiday parties and celebrations with family, remember those who are serving in our military, remember their families, remember those who are less fortunate, and remember that the Lord came to save us all. Curl up with the ones you love and reflect on why it's so important to share Jesus with others. As you eat wonderful and delicious food and treats this holiday week, remember to bless it.

Share a smile. Share a candy cane. Be nice to UPS and FedEx delivery people. Drive carefully. Pray.

Merry CHRISTmas to all!!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chicken Millicent

Here is a delicious Crock dish that everyone will love. It's 5 ingredients and you can come home after finishing up that last minute shopping to a dinner that's warm, filling, and delicious.

Chicken Breasts or thighs
1 pkg dry spaghetti sauce mix
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 4oz can sliced mushrooms, drained

Put chicken in slow cooker. Combine spaghetti mix and wine, pour over chicken. Add mushrooms, then tomatoes. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Christmas Breakfast is one of my favorite parts of Christmas morning, aside from opening presents and seeing the wide eyes and smiling faces of my children.

At our office party every year, we celebrate with a wonderful breakfast potluck. Everyone brings a fantastic dish including, bacon, sausage, ham, hashbrowns, biscuits, grits, eggs, casseroles, cinnamon rolls, pastries, fruit and other amazing and delicious treats. There is always more food than there is people. Well, this year, one of the nice ladies in the office, whom I am fortunate to chat "food" and recipes with, shared this wonderful butterscotch coffee cake with us. It was absolutely my kind of recipe and the result is an extravagant, but NOT too sweet treat. Just perfect.

If you want the wow factor with a simplistic recipe, try this for a great Christmas morning breakfast. Throw everything together the night before and bake for 30 minutes in the morning. It's so easy!!

6-8 Servings

16 to 18 unbaked frozen yeast dinner rolls
1 (3-ounce) package regular butterscotch pudding mix, not instant
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

The night before place frozen rolls in well greased Bundt pan. Sprinkle dry pudding mix over rolls. Sprinkle brown sugar over pudding mix. Sprinkle chopped pecans over brown sugar. Pour melted butter over all. To prevent the dough from forming a hard crust while its rising overnight, cover with a damp towel or tightly wrap with plastic wrap. Let rise overnight at room temperature, about 8 to 10 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Turn pan over onto a serving platter to remove. Serve by pulling apart chunks with forks.

A couple of hints: buy the right kind of rolls. You must get the round frozen yeast rolls. And definitely use the cook/serve pudding.

Cocoa Nut Cookies

There's just something about classic cookies and an ice cold glass of milk. I thought I'd share one of my all time favorite butter recipes for chocolate chip cookies. *NOTE: There isn't anything figure friendly about this recipe. It's just really yummy.*

Here's a note on butter recipes: If your cookies are flat and they spread, it could be because your butter was too soft or it was partially melted. It can also be because dough was placed on a hot or warm cookie sheet. It's a great idea to let your pans cool between batches. It's also a great idea to place cookie dough in the refrigerator between batches which will keep your butter from becoming too soft.

If your cookies don't change shape or are hard, it could be because you over measured your flour..

A couple of other notes on cookies.....I found this note when I was looking through one of my favorite Betty Crocker ensure your cookies are the same size and shape, use a spring handled cookie or ice cream scoop. Scoops are referred to by number. (The number corresponds to the number of level scoops per quart of ice cream; the larger the number, the smaller the scoop.)

Cocoa Nut Cookies
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
3/4 cup butter softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups flour (ap)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup chopped pecans (or your favorite nuts)
1 bag (12 oz) of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, Beat sugars, butter, vanilla, and egg in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Cream

Growing up in Arkansas, there were a few times when it snowed during the winter, but for the most part, we had a very dry cold green winter. Living in south Georgia for a number of years, there was hardly a winter where the temperature was below 50. Now that we've been in Virginia, we've been blessed to see the silvery white flakes fall every winter. This year, the beautiful blanket has fallen much earlier than in years past.

We had an amazing and unexpected snowfall earlier this week and today brings another lovely sheet. I thought it would be appropriate to share my recipe for Snow Ice Cream. In between your snowball fights and making snow angels, celebrate winter with a yummy bowl of fresh creamy snow ice cream.

1 gallon snow
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk

When it starts to snow, place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the flakes. When full, stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk for the desired consistency. Serve at once.

Don't like vanilla snow cream?? Change the flavor!!

Substitute the vanilla for a different flavor:
add 1 tbl rum extract and add a little coconut.
add 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract and top with chocolate syrup for a mint chocolate snow cream.
add 1 Tbl Almond extract and stir in some chopped nuts
add a little Nestle Strawberry powder, to taste, to make a delicious strawberry flavored snow cream.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cinnamon Buns from a cake mix

....Dear Cinnamon Roll, I love to hold you in one hand with a hot Java in the other....Thank you for making me smile with your cinnamony sweetness. Love, Me.

Sometimes, a pastry breakfast is just the ticket. This is a divine recipe provided by one of my favorite families in the world....because they are a lot like family to me. It's actually very easy to make.

In a large bowl, combine 1 boxed yellow cake mix, 2 packages of rapid rise yeast, and 4 cups of flour. Add 2 1/2 cups of hot water heated to the temperature stated on the yeast package (usually 120 to 130 degrees). Mix well, dough will be very thick. Add 1 more cup of flour. Mix well and allow to rise in a warm dry place for about 1 1/2 hours or until dough doubles in size.

Knead and roll half of dough into rectangle. Spread with softened butter, cinnamon, and sugar to your tastes.
Roll into a log and cut into 1 inch thick slices forming cinnamon rolls.

Place in greased 9x13 baking pan. Repeat with other half of dough. Let rise about 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 min or until brown. I was able to get 2 9x13 pans full.


1 box powdered sugar (1lb)

1 tsp vanilla

1 stick softened butter


Mix softened butter with vanilla and powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Add milk or half and half a little at a time until icing becomes thin. You dont want it as thick as cake icing but not too runny. Frost cinnamon rolls while still warm.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seasoning Packets

How often do you use those pre-made seasoning packets?? What about those boxed meals with the powdered cheese mixture?? Ever tried making your own??

I would much rather use them homemade to cut out on the MSG, citric acid and all of those preservatives. Keeping what you would normally use will definitely cut cost at the store and will keep your family a bit healthier....say, if you cook tacos or chili, then you'd wanna have more. And it's much easier than you think.

Making your own seasoning mixes will keep all of the flavor without having to compromise long term effects of all of those "extra" ingredients packed on the label.

Here are a few that you can make and store on the shelf in an airtight container and use when you need them. You probably have most of these herbs and spices in your kitchen already. If not, you can always have an herb swap with a friend and share your spices to make these great homemade packets.

Homemade Sloppy Joe Seasoning Mix

1 tablespoon dried onions
1 teaspoon bell peppers, freeze-dried
1 teaspoon salt -- or to taste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until evenly distributed. Spoon mixture onto a 6" square of aluminum foil and fold to make an airtight packet. Label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6 months. Makes 1 packet or about 3 tablespoons of Homemade Sloppy Joe Seasoning Mix.

Onion Soup & Dip Mix

3/4 cup instant minced onion
1/3 cup beef flavored instant bouillon
4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. celery seed, crushed
1/4 tsp. sugar

Mix all ingredients together well, and store up to 6 months in cool, dry place. Stir before each use. Five tablespoons of the mix equals 1.25-oz. pkg. of purchased dry onion soup mix.

Taco Seasoning Mix

2 teaspoons instant minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon instant minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried red pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried, minced onion

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until evenly distributed. Spoon mixture onto a 6-inch square of aluminum foil and fold to make airtight or store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Label. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6 months. Makes 1 package (about 2 tablespoons).

To make taco filling, brown 1 pound ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain excess grease. Add 1/2 cup water and 1 package Taco Seasoning Mix. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes filling for 8 to 10 tacos.

Creole Seasoning Mix

2 T. plus 1-1/2 t. paprika
2 T. garlic powder
1 T. salt
1 T. onion powder
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried thyme
1 T. cayenne pepper
1 T. pepper

Great for gumbo, jambalaya, and seasoning for baked chicken or steak.

Italian Seasoning

1/3 cup dried, crushed oregano
1/3 cup dried basil
2 tbsp rosemary
1/4 cup thyme , sage and marjoram
Makes 1 1/4 cups

Combine in jar. Stir or shake before each use.

Montreal Steak Seasoning (My favorite)

4 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried onion
1/2 tablespoon dried garlic
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 tablespoon dried fennel

Mix together and store in a shaker. Shake or rub 1 tablespoon seasoning onto 1 pound steaks, pork chops and hamburgers before grilling or broiling.

Bay Seafood Seasoning Blend

1 tablespoon ground bay leaves
2 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground mace (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

Combine all ingredients; store in an airtight container. Use with seafood or chicken.
Yields 1/4 cup

Mild Indian Curry Powder

2 tablespoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons turmeric

Pulverize to a fine powder. Store airtight.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chicken Enchilada Soup

This soup takes all of the wrapped up flavor of an enchilada and blends it in a delicious soup in about 20 minutes. Definitely a family friendly dinner that you can entertain with too!!

2 cans (10 3/4 oz each) cream of chicken soup (fat free and low sodium)
1 can (10 oz) enchilada sauce
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 Cups of shredded or cubed cooked chicken, seasoned with cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and garlic
crushed tortilla chips

In 3-quart saucepan, mix together cream soup, enchilada sauce and milk until smooth. Add chicken and cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted. Top each serving with tortilla chips.

Mmmmm!! It's so good!!

Hot Cocoa..... On A Stick

I came across an idea for hot cocoa on a stick and just couldn't resist making my own. While there are many variations and feel free to expand on your options, here's a quick tutorial on how it's done. The final result is absolutely delicious and it's a great gift for the kiddos in your child's class, daycare, teachers, etc. I plan to share with some people in my office alongside a variety of yummy Christmas cookies.

This is what you need:
12 oz. of chocolate chips (semi sweet or milk chocolate is best)
1 cup of non dairy creamer (I chose Vanilla Carmel, but experiment with the flavor that works best for you. You may want to use French Vanilla, Hazelnut, or Irish Creme. Not crazy about flavor? Make a basic hot cocoa with plain creamer.)
Then, choose something for your stick. Options are endless, you can use craft sticks, bamboo skewers, a decorative pick, or anything that strikes your fancy.
I chose candy canes because I thought they were festive for the holiday season. If you choose a candycane, be sure to unwrap them a few inches from the bottom.

In a medium bowl, pour in 12 oz. of chocolate chips and melt in the microwave until smooth. This will only take a couple of minutes.

Stir in the creamer until well blended. The mixture will be grainy and very thick. That's okay!!

Now it's time to put your cocoa mixture into your mold. Get creative. I chose a mold with deep wells I found at the craft store.
Ice cube trays will work well, a popsicle mold, just find what works for you. I would even say that a muffin tin would even work as long as you limit your amount of "batter".

My trick for easy cleanup is to use a ziploc bag as a piping bag. Place the batter in your bag. With a pair of scissors, snip off a corner, then fill each well of your mold. Insert a stick and allow the chocolate to firm up. About an hour. I added some decorative sprinkles just before inserting my candycanes, but you could leave them plain.

~Here's the end result~

I packaged mine in clear plastic bags I got from the craft store and tied them with a skinny ribbon and instructions on how to make hot chocolate....which is after all the most important part!!

Heat 10 oz. milk and stir chocolate until melted.

What a fun and yummy winter treat!! These would also make a great valentine gift wrapped in a heart bag and using a wooden stick with a paper heart on the top. Just an idea.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Darth Vader Casserole

It's Christmastime in the City!! Have I told you that lately?? One thing I love about our great city is that when I walk from the office over to the parking garage, I'm among these beautiful sky high historic buildings and as the icy cold chill of winter air fills my lungs I'm excited to hear my favorite Christmas carols being played through the speakers all throughout downtown. It makes me absolutely giddy!!

Our first "real" cold wave hit this week. So I have been in the mood for warm hearty dinners all week, but I needed something quick that I could throw together and bake as I wrapped glitzy packages to place beneath our tree.

Darth Vader Casserole is a nice change to a typical lasagna. Made with black beans, cheese, and salsa, this is a delicious meatless casserole that is so easy. Enjoy!!

15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
26 oz. can crushed tomatoes, undrained
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup salsa
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
10-12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded Colby jack cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine drained beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell pepper, salsa, chili powder, and cumin and mix well. In small bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and beat until combined.

Spread 1 cup of the tomato and bean mixture in the bottom of a 13x9" glass baking dish. Top with half of the noodles, overlapping slightly and breaking noodles as necessary to fit. Top with half of remaining tomato mixture. Spoon ricotta mixture over the top, spreading carefully. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Layer remaining noodles and tomato mixture over the casserole. Top with remaining cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Spray sheet of foil with cooking spray, and cover baking dish tightly with foil, sprayed side down.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-65 minutes or until noodles are tender. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer, until casserole is bubbling and cheese begins to brown. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. 10 servings

Why Organic??

Why do health insurance companies send magazines? And who reads them? I guess that would be me. Actually, it was a very specific article in one of those semi annual issues that caught my attention..."What Produce to buy Organic". I clipped out the post and discarded the leftover mag.

No need on me telling you the benefits of eating Organic. That's someone else's blog, but one way to start eating organic is knowing what to buy.

Another great tip to changing into an organic lifestyle is to buy just a few items at each shopping trip. It will be much easier on your budget and eventually you will work your way up to organic eating!!

Here's the low down on the most contaminated with pesticides (definitely wanna buy these organic) and items that are the least contaminated:

Most Contaminated
Sweet Bell Peppers
Grapes (imported)

Least Contaminated:
Sweet Corn (Frozen)
Sweet Peas (Frozen)
Kiwi Fruit

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nothing makes a bad day better than the power of Chocolate!! Here is an amazing Double Chocolate Chip Cookie that is absolutely perfect. You will probably want to make a double batch of these. They're also a LOWFAT cookie, so you don't have to feel guilty eating one of these 70 calorie babes during the holiday season!!

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Dash salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat brown sugar and butter with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, or mix with spoon. Beat in vanilla and egg white.
Stir in flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips. Onto ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart.
Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until set (do not overbake). Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fa la la la la & Magic Sauce

I just can't get enough of this holiday spirit. I sit at my desk all morning and listen to carols from our 24/7 Christmas station and can't help but sing along. A dear teacher of mine from high school gave me this adorable caroler years ago and I absolutely adore it. She said it was because I was always singing and truth be told, I was.

This sweet little caroler has been a part of my Christmas decor for many years now and I will always cherish her and even more, the teacher who influenced me in so many ways.

I reflected on all of this tonight over my pasta I thought I'd share this incredibly MAGIC sauce with you! It's so simple and you won't even believe how good it is. Something so easy shouldn't taste this good, but in fact it's a little dance of fa la la's on your tongue!!

The secret to this magic sauce is BUTTER. Real butter. I could probably eat the entire pot of sauce alone. The tomatoes have such a fresh flavor and the butter makes them so velvety smooth.

1 Can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit just right in a 3-quart) over medium heat. Then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a steady simmer for about 45 minutes. Which allows the tomatoes to break down slowly. The onion will stew slowly and add its flavor to the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste.

Serve with your favorite pasta!! I add cheese, because I really love cheese, although, this sauce alone is amazing and doesn't really need anything to dress it up.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Buffalo Chicken in the Crock

I'm not a big fan of restaurants. We hardly eat out...except for the occasional pizza pie. But there's a great little "Irish pub" just down the street that has a fabulous buffalo chicken sandwich. I love a mild buffalo sauce, so that sandwich suits me perfectly.

When I make my own I like being able to modify the "heat" based on the addition of sauce vs. butter ratio and I like cooking this in the crock because instead of fried chicken like traditional "buffalo" I can use boneless skinless chicken.

Try it for yourself. It's great for a football party! Invite your friends over for the game and serve this alongside potato salad or coleslaw. YUM!!

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 (17.5 oz.) bottle buffalo wing sauce, divided
1/2 (1 oz) package dry ranch salad dressing mix
2 tablespoons butter
6 hoagie rolls, split lengthwise

Place the chicken breasts into a slow cooker, and pour in 3/4 of the wing sauce and the ranch dressing mix. Cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 7 hours.
Once the chicken has cooked, add the butter, and shred the meat finely with two forks. Pile the meat onto the hoagie rolls, and splash with the remaining buffalo wing sauce to serve.