Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Big-Batch Jambalaya

I had wanted to make this dish last week for Mardis Gras, but I just wasn't able to get it done. I won't lie - it's time-consuming! And I don't make recipes like this very often. This is the kind of meal you make on the weekend or when you have some extra time. It's not quick, but it's so delicious, and it makes a large quantity, so it's definitely worth the effort.  And although it's traditional Mardi Gras fare, it would also be great for a church potluck, baby/bridal shower, game-day, or house-warming party. The actual cooking time is not long - it's the prep work that takes time. So if you have some kiddos around the house or a willing spouse, you might want to persuade (or bribe) them to help you. : )

The sauce is slightly spicy, so if you don't like heat, reduce the amount of cayenne to 1/2 tsp. Both of my kids loved the flavor of the sauce. My daughter, extreme picky-eater, picked out the onion, peppers, and shrimp, but ate the rest and went back for seconds. So that's saying something!

I found this recipe in an old Taste of Home Magazine (Feb./March 2010), and adapted it slightly to suit my family's tastes.

Here's what you need:

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided (Sorry, I forgot to include this in the photo.)
  • 1/2 lb. fully cooked ham, cubed
  • 1/2 lb. smoked kielbasa or Polish sausage, cubed
  • 1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) beef broth
  • 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 c. water
  • 3/4 c. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1-1/2 c. uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 lb. uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Phew! That's a long list....

Preheat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the chicken with a pinch or two of salt, and add to the preheated pot. Cook until no longer pink. Remove and set aside.

In the same pot, add the remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Then add the ham, kielbasa, peppers, and onion. Cook until the onion is tender. This part smells delicious!

Add the minced garlic, and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, water, mustard, parsley, Worcestershire, cayenne, and thyme.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Add rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat again; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Stir in shrimp and chicken. Cook over medium heat for an additional 4 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through.

Give it a taste-test and adjust for seasoning. I don't think you'll need to add salt because of the cured meats in there, but it's a matter of preference. This recipe yields 12 (1-cup) servings. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ham Barbecue

This is an easy, low-fat recipe that is great for potlucks - sliced deli ham in a tangy barbecue sauce. It's made in the crock pot, and only takes a handful of ingredients. It's also a nice change for lunch - the leftovers are delicious! Recipe was adapted from Taste of Home.

Here's what you need:

  • 2 lbs. thinly sliced deli ham
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. ketchup
  • 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar if you don't have it)
  • 2 tsp. mustard
  • kaiser rolls
Coat the inside of your crock pot with cooking spray. Place the ham slices inside it. In a bowl, combine the water, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and mustard.

Pour over the ham, and mix well to make sure all the ham slices are coated.

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours, or high for 2 hours - or until heated through. Serve on toasted kaiser rolls. Serves 12.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pasta with Garlic & Olive Oil

This is such a quick and easy dish with so few ingredients - I almost feel guilty for posting it as a "recipe". But since I've mentioned this to some of my friends, and they were curious as to how I make it, I figured it was blog-worthy. The key to making this (as well as any dish that has only a few ingredients) is to make sure you use high-quality ingredients. The quality of your olive oil and garlic will make a big impact as to how this turns out. I'm not a food snob, but I will say that you get what you pay for when it comes to olive oil. Also, you do not want to use that jarred minced garlic stuff (gross!). You want to use fresh garlic cloves here and either chop them up yourself or mash them through a garlic press. (I prefer the garlic press.) Season it to your liking with the red pepper flakes, and top it with as much cheese as you prefer. Leave out the olives if you don't like them. There's no exact formula to this - it's really a matter of cooking to your own tastes, which is what we should always do anyway!

Here's what you need:

  • 6 to 8 oz. angel hair pasta (just estimate a little less than half out of a 16 oz. package)
  • 1/3 c. good-quality, extra-virgin olive oil (You want the dark green stuff.)
  • 4 fresh cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. (to your taste) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. black olive slices (*optional)
  • Parmesan cheese

Prepare your pasta according to package directions, using salt in the cooking water as suggested. And remember, angel hair pasta does not need much time to cook - only about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low. Add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and olives (if using). Cook over medium-low for about 2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown - it will become bitter.

Drain your pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the olive oil mixture over it and toss lightly to coat. If you think you need additional olive oil, (and you may depending on the type and quantity of pasta used), just drizzle on some more right out of the bottle. When plating each portion, sprinkle the tops with grated Parmesan cheese.

This recipe should serve 3. A quick, meatless meal - perfect with a Caesar salad! Enjoy!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sugar-Topped Double Chocolate Cupcakes

A little indulgence here before Lent begins.....super chocolaty, super-moist, melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes. You don't need frosting for these, trust me. When you look at the recipe, you'll notice a lot of coffee goes into the batter. Don't be put off by that - you don't taste the coffee. It only brings out the intense chocolate flavor. A good quality cocoa powder helps too. And of course, the chocolate chips just put this cupcake over the top.

Here's what you need:

  • 1-1/2 c. PLUS 1/3 c. sugar, divided
  • 2/3 c. canola oil
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 c. brewed coffee, brought to room temperature
  • 1 c. semi-sweet, mini chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard-sized muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, beat 1-1/2 c. sugar, oil, vinegar, and vanilla until well blended.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder (if using).

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet sugar mixture. Stir in the coffee until well blended and smooth. Then add in the chocolate chips.

Fill the paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. (Be sure to stir the batter every now and then to make sure the chocolate chips don't sink to the bottom of the bowl.) Then sprinkle half of the 1/3 c. of sugar over the tops of the batter. (This will create a very light sugary crust when it bakes.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in one of the cakes comes out clean. Immediately after you take them out of the oven, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the tops. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the pans.

This recipe should yield about 2 dozen cupcakes. Here is a close-up of one I broke open with a fork..... enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Green Beans with Bacon and Bleu Cheese

I love making green beans this way... the salty bacon pieces, the heat from the red pepper, and the creamy bleu cheese is the perfect balance. Only one pan is used to make this side dish, as the beans are steamed/sauteed in the same skillet you use for the bacon. Easy clean-up, only a few ingredients, and done in about 8 to 10 minutes!

Here's what you need:

  • about 10 oz. fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1/4 c. water (not shown)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. (to your taste) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 c. crumbled bleu cheese
On the stove top, preheat a large skillet to medium heat. Add the diced bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to allow any excess grease to be absorbed.

Reserve about 1 tbsp. of bacon grease in the skillet.

Add the beans and the water to the skillet. Cover with a lid, and allow to steam for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just tender. Remove lid, season beans with a pinch of salt and the crushed red pepper. Saute for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bacon pieces back to the skillet, and saute for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. The water in the pan should have evaporated, and the beans should be tender. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with bleu cheese. Serves 3.

This recipe is linked to The Country Cook's "Weekend Potluck"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pink Lemonade Pie

I have a young guest blog-contributor today.... my daughter! She made this lovely Pink Lemonade Pie and did the food-styling and photography by herself. I think it turned out wonderful. She actually made the pie twice because she wasn't happy with the first result - it was too "puckery", if you know what I mean. The second time, she reduced the amount of lemonade concentrate a bit, and it turned out perfectly. It's so quick and easy to make, and it only uses 5 ingredients. She and I are very fond of pink lemonade, and this was the perfect treat to remind us of those warm summer days that we miss so much. I think this would make a lovely dessert for a little girl's tea party, or Easter (with its soft pastel color), or a refreshing summertime/pool-party treat. This recipe was adapted from Taste of Home Family Favorite Recipes Magazine (2009).

Here's what you need:

  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened (We used low-fat.)
  • 2/3 c. pink lemonade concentrate
  • 1 carton (8 oz.) frozen whipped topping, thawed PLUS additional whipped topping for garnish
  • 1 shortbread or graham pie crust (9 inches)
  • 3 to 5 drops red food coloring (optional, not shown)

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add in the lemonade concentrate and food coloring (if desired), and beat until thoroughly combined.

Fold in the whipped topping.

Spoon into pie crust. Freeze for 1 hour, then store in the refrigerator until serving. Garnish with additional whipped topping if desired. My daughter garnished hers with whipped topping and pink sprinkles. Also, she used 5 drops of Wilton's pink color gel for frosting. Serves 6. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Recipes for One: Coffee Cup Egg Scramble, Panini with Fresh Basil Aioli, & One-Minute Chocolate Cake

The foodie blogosphere is a happy place right now.... Lots of Valentine desserts and romantic dinner suggestions for two. Unfortunately in real life, Valentine's Day isn't so happy for many people. Our last Valentine's Day as a family was a very sad one. And I know I'm not alone. I have spent the last year and half on widows' forums reading stories very similar to mine. So I've decided to dedicate today's post to the grieving people out there who are hating Valentine's Day. I've invited my widow-forum friends to stop by here today. I have 3 different "Recipes for One".... though all of them can be doubled or made with kids. If you are grieving this Valentine's Day...  treat yourself today, even if you don't want to. Take care of yourself. One day at a time; sometimes, one hour at a time. And remember you're not alone... 

Scrambled eggs with bacon and cheddar cheese in a cup - done in about a minute with no greasy pans to wash! What's not to like? Recipe adapted from the USDA. Here's what you need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tbsp. cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp. real bacon bits (optional - not shown, but we use Hormel's Real Bacon Bits w/50% less fat.)
  • salt & pepper to taste
Coat the inside of a 12-oz. microwaveable mug with cooking spray. Add the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Beat with a fork until blended:

Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Stir. If you are using bacon bits, stir them in now.

Microwave for another 30 to 45 seconds. The eggs should be just set. Tilt your mug - if you see any runny or liquid egg in there, put it back in and nuke it for another 10 seconds or until the eggs are set. Sprinkle with the cheddar cheese. Make yourself some toast and a nice cup of coffee to go with it. Sit down and ENJOY a nice breakfast - just for you. : )


Make a restaurant-quality panini for yourself at home! My son rated this 5 out of 5 stars. The Fresh Basil Aioli *makes* the sandwich. By the way, a panini is just a grilled, pressed sandwich - but you don't need a panini maker or an indoor grill to make one. You can cook it on the stove top in a skillet and put another skillet on top of it to press it down...or a brick - seriously, wrap a brick in foil and SLAM IT, I mean - place it on top of your sandwich to press it down while it cooks. And aioli is just a fancy word for a garlic-enhanced mayonnaise. I'll give you the recipe for the aioli first. If you're not up for making the aioli or don't have the ingredients, you can just use Dijon mustard or honey-mustard on your panini.

Fresh Basil Aioli (Recipe adapted from 400 Best Sandwich Recipes by Alison Lewis)
You need:

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise (I used a light version.)
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp. (just a few drops) lemon juice
  • NOTE: you do NOT need olive oil for this - I accidentally included it in the above photo. Sorry!
Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl until combined well. Spread on just about any kind of sandwich. Store any leftovers in the fridge - it will keep for up to 3 days. You can see the finished aioli in the photo below.

Here's what you need for the Ham & Cheese Panini:

  • 2 slices of a good-quality (from the bakery department) sourdough bread or preferred choice of an artisan bread. (I used a roasted garlic version.)
  • 4 slices of smoked deli ham, sliced thin
  • 1 slice Provolone cheese
  • 1 slice of a complimentary cheese such as Mozzarella, Cheddar, or a blended cheese (I used a Cheddar-Mozzarella blend.)
  • fresh basil aioli
  • olive oil
Preheat your panini maker or indoor grill according to manufacturer's instructions. If you will be using the stove-top, preheat a skillet to medium low, and have ready a second skillet (heavy duty) to place on top of your sandwich to press it.

Coat the insides of both pieces of bread with the aioli. Be generous. Assemble your sandwich. Brush the outsides of both slices of bread with olive oil. (I made two of these - one for me, and one for my son.)

Cook in your panini maker or indoor grill according to manufacturer's instructions - about 3 to 5 minutes or until golden and crisp. On the stove top, cook 2 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp.


There are a lot of versions of this on the internet. The most popular one has over 60 grams of fat in it though - and I'm sorry, if I'm going to ingest 60 grams of fat from one dessert, it has to be the most phenomenal dessert ever made and not come out of a microwave. So this one is reasonable. It has about 7 grams of fat, and I think it tastes pretty good. It's not high-end gourmet eating, but it's chocolatey and comforting. The trick is to not overcook it. If you overcook it, it will get rubbery. There are no eggs in the recipe, so undercooking is not a concern. In fact, I think it is better slighly undercooked. I found the recipe on and changed it only slightly to add extra moisture to it. Feel free to add some mini-chocolate chips to it. Top it with whipped cream or ice cream and hot fudge fact, the more Valentine's Day sucks for you, the more you can pile on this cake - no guilt!

Here's what you need:

  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tbsp. AND 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. oil (canola or vegetable)
Coat the inside of a 12-oz. microwaveable mug with cooking spray.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add the milk, vanilla, and oil. Mix until well blended. Pour the batter into the mug.

Microwave at full power for 1 minute. If the cake does not appear done, microwave the cake longer in 10 second intervals until set. Here's a close-up so you an see the texture of the cake:

Wishing you a thoughtful Valentine's Day and a blessed year ahead.  -Adele

This post is linked to The Country Cook's "WEEKEND POTLUCK"