Showing posts with label New Beginnings-college and missionary meals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Beginnings-college and missionary meals. Show all posts


Funeral Potatoes 101 or What Mitt Ate Last Night (part two)

Did you see the debate last week? I'm not a big fan of politics in general. In fact, every time we see a politician make a speech, see a campaign commercial, or watch a debate, the conversation usually goes like this:

me: sheesh, I would never want to be a politician.
grant: you could not pay me enough to be a politician.
me: being the wife of a politician would be the worst.
grant: that job would stink.
me: you know, people say the same about lawyers.
grant: no they don't.
me: yes they do.

That said, newsflash- we are Republicans.
I know, you're shocked. Mormons and Republicans.
And we like Mitt.  Mittens, as we affectionately call him. Not that we know him, but you know how that goes. We talk like we do.
Anyway.  Remember when I posted that JELLO recipe several months ago? I titled it "What Mitt Ate Last Night". This is the second recipe in the installment of "What Mitt Ate Last Night".
Classic Mormon food.
This will either make you :
a) feel warm and fuzzy inside, and run to the nearest grocery to buy some Cream of Chicken Soup.
b) stop subscribing to this blog.

Everyone needs a recipe for this dish in their files. Guaranteed to comfort and clog the arteries. This is my favorite version of Funeral Potatoes. Been making it for 30 years. Funerals, family parties, neighbor dinners, you name it, this dish goes with it.
Bon Appetite :)

Funeral Potatoes
A Bountiful Kitchen
print recipe

12 large Russett potatoes, boiled, then peeled and grated or
1 large  24-32oz package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup  melted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, each
Topping options:
1 cup Panko Crumbs or 2 cups crushed Corn Flakes + 2 tablespoons melted butter (optional)
1/2 cup grated cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in middle of oven.
Place butter, chopped onions, salt and pepper in a sauce pan over medium heat. Cook just until onions are softened. Place soup, sour cream, 2 cups of the grated cheese in a large bowl. 
Pour the cooked onion/butter mixture over the soup mixture in the bowl. Mix well. 
Add grated potatoes.  Fold ingredients together. 
Pour the mixture into a 9x13 greased pan. 
If using topping, spread the Panko or cornflake mixture or additional 1/2 cup of cheese over the top of the casserole and bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly and golden on top. 
Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
About 16  side dish servings.


-This recipe has oodles of variations, here are a few:
  • You may cut ham into cubes and place in the casserole. 
  • I have used low fat sour cream and low fat soup with good results. It is better with regular  soup and sour cream, but is fine with low fat. 
  • Some people use part cream cheese, cut into cubes, and cut some of the sour cream and or cheese.
  • The onions may be substituted with green onions.   
  • You may use flavored cheeses such as Smoked Gouda or Pepper Jack in place of the cheddar cheese.
-Almost everyone makes this recipe with frozen hash browns. That's fine in a pinch, or if you are making it for the masses. Make sure if you use frozen potatoes to thaw them before using.
Funeral potatoes taste best when you take just a little more time and cook your own potatoes. Scrub the russets, boil them until tender. Peel the potatoes and grate them before folding in the soup mixture. Make sure to always boil the potatoes with the skins on, to avoid watery tasting potatoes.

-I like to use Russets when making funeral potatoes. Never use Yukon Golds, the texture is too waxy.

-This recipe freezes well. Follow the recipe and cover with foil or saran wrap. To cook, place in oven at 325 for about 1 hour. You may take it directly from the freezer and bake. You may need a bit more or less time depending on your oven. Sometimes I put it in my oven at 275 for 2-3 hours.  When I bake a frozen dish, I cover it tightly with foil until it's done so it does not dry out. I remove the foil the last 15 minutes of baking or broil for a couple of minutes to get a golden top. 


Cobb Salad with Creamy French Dressing

Don't you love a good Cobb Salad? Cobb Salad usually consists of a combo of bacon, chicken, avocado, tomatoes, green onion, eggs and cheese on top of a bed of greens. I love the way it looks with the toppings lined up in neat rows.  Why is this appealing to me?
I like to make Cobb Salad without chicken, because I usually serve it with a main dish. Traditionally it is served with French or Roquefort dressing. I made three dressings last month: French, Roquefort, and Balsamic. All keepers.  I'll post the Roquefort and Balsamic soon, so you can whip some up on your own.
I know you want to make your own dressing.
Yes. You do.

Cobb Salad with  Creamy French Dressing
A Bountiful Kitchen
print recipe

1 lb bacon, cooked crisp, drained, cooled and chopped
6 eggs, hard boiled, cooled and chopped
Green, washed, dried and chopped about 12-15 cups or two large heads of lettuce
4 medium tomatoes or grape tomatoes, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
3-4 avocados, chopped (still fairly firm)
two cucumbers, seeds removed and chopped
2-3 chicken breast halves, cooked and chopped (optional)
Roquefort cheese or other grated cheese (optional)
green onions, chopped, (optional)

Place the greens in a large bowl. Layer all desired ingredients in rows on top of the greens.  Chill thoroughly and serve with home made dressings.
Serves about 25 as a side dish.

French Dressing

4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
1/4 teaspoon  red pepper
1 1/2 cups vegetable, canola or olive oil

Place all ingredients in blender or bowl and blend on medium or using beaters or immersion blender for about 2-3 minutes. Mixture will thicken. Cover and store in fridge for up to three weeks. Stir before serving.
Makes about 2 2/3 cups or twenty-two 2 tablespoon servings.

-Make sure to wash and dry the greens and toppings thoroughly. You don't want water in the bottom of the bowl.
-I like to use either Romaine or a combo of Romaine and other greens. Although Cobb Salad is traditionally made with Iceberg lettuce, I think it looks better when made with a dark lettuce. And it's better for you :)
-If at all possible, serve this with a home made dressing. Trust me, you will be glad you took the extra two minutes to make your own.


Sour Cream Biscuits

Are you still making biscuits with a mix or (gag) eating biscuits out of a can?
Biscuits are one of the easiest recipes to experiment with if you are feeling uncertain about trying your hand at baking. Here's the scoop- these are absolutely melt in your mouth delicious. And simple. What more could you ask for?
Oh, Strawberry Jam. Get some.

Sour Cream Biscuits
adapted from

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons water

Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in medium bowl. Add sour cream and mix to a soft dough. Add additional water if necessary.
Turn dough out onto floured surface. Pat dough to about one inch thick. Cut with biscuit cutter or glass about 3 inches in diameter.
Bake at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 12 minutes.

-a review on Allrecipes said the tester used fat free sour cream and loved the result.


Team USA Crepes

What's better (and easier) for brunch than home made crepes?
Don't say cereal.
Never made crepes? If you have a blender, they take about 2 minutes to throw together.
Hello Olympic crepe brunch party. Ready for 17 days of TV in the summer?
Shoot. Should have thrown some blueberries in there.

Team USA Crepes
A Bountiful Kitchen
print recipe

2 eggs
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk (any type skim to whole)
1/3 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons melted butter

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse 10-12 times.
At this point, batter may be stored in fridge for up to two days.
Refrigerate batter for one hour if time allows. This will allow the batter to thicken a bit and produce a crepe that is easier to handle.
Heat a crepe pan* or small pan (6-8 inches) coated with teflon over medium high heat. Once the pan is heated, spray with non stick cooking spray or drop a small amount of butter into the pan and coat the pan evenly. Pour just enough batter into the pan to coat the bottom of the pan. Tip the pan until batter is evenly distributed.  If the pan is heated properly, the batter should cook quickly.   After about 20-30 seconds flip the crepe and cook on the opposite side. Cook for about another 20 seconds and remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Continue to cook the crepes until all of the batter is cooked. Stagger the crepes on the paper towel so they cool and the paper towel absorbs the moisture from the cooked crepes.
To serve, roll up fresh fruit in crepes and top with sweetened whipped cream and more fresh fruit.
See other topping ideas below.

-*No need for a fancy electric crepe cooker. I use a simple 6 inch teflon-coated crepe pan that I've had for about 25 years. You may also use a small teflon pan.
-Other toppings: Nutella, a popular chocolate spread in Europe is wonderful drizzled (heat up the Nutella a bit)  on top of crepes or spread inside. Top with fruit and more Nutella and cream if desired.
-Cook several crepes ahead of time and have a crepe bar for brunch. Crepes may be served at room temperature. Serve with fresh fruits, nuts, Nutella, whipped cream, yogurt,  powdered sugar, cocoa powder, etc.  Let everyone build their own crepe.


Italian Oven Fries

We had these at River's Run last time we visited Mary and Will in Mississippi.  I use this recipe when I'm short on time and want to whittle away at the 50 lb bag of Idaho potatoes in my garage. It's a quick, kid friendly side dish that goes with almost any meal. YUM.

Baked Italian Fries
adapted slightly from Mad Hungry
print recipe

6 or 7 Idaho Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch-thick French fry-style strips, soaked in cold water
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or some combo of dried oregano, thyme, marjoram, and basil
2 cups freshly grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) salted butter, cut into cubes
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400* degrees.
Drain the potatoes and pat dry with paper towels. Spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on each of 2 rimmed baking sheets and spread out the potatoes. Overlapping is fine.
Sprinkle the dried herbs evenly over the potatoes. Liberally spread the cheese and parsley on top. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the cheese. Scatter the cubed butter around the pans.
Bake until the potatoes are golden brown, rotating the pans after 30 minutes, for 45 to 50 minutes total. Use a spatula to lift off the potatoes with all the crusty cheese adhered to them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. 
Potato Prep: For a French-fry cut, peel the potatoes and slice lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Stack the slices on top of one another, a few at a time, and slice lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick strips. Peeled and sliced potatoes can turn brown pretty quickly. To avoid this, try floating the peeled, cut pieces in cold, salted water. When you're ready to cook, drain them and pat dry.

-Soaking the potatoes in water is not necessary if you are in a hurry. I have made this recipe several times and skipped this step.
-You may also skip the peeling step. Just scrub the potatoes clean before slicing. 
-* I turn the oven to 425 convection and bake them for about 20 minutes total.


Super Simple 5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm probably the last person on the planet to try this recipe. I saw it the other day on my new found love, Pinterest, and pinned away. My comment was something like "Serious? 5 ingredient cookies?"
I wondered how good they could really be, without flour, and only 5 ingredients. I showed them to Jake and he said, "If these are good, I'm making them every weekend for girls, they'll think I'm a genius".
Hello, Jake, I hate to break it to you but it will take a lot more than this...
So we whipped up a batch. The skeptic in me thought -these will probably be awful.  Guess what? Pleasantly surprised. I followed the directions exactly, and in less than 1/2 hour we were sampling some pretty tasty cookies.
I'm thinking my friends (who will remain nameless)  that have cooking/baking challenges will be able to throw these together in a flash, and succeed in the kitchen! Great for peeps with gluten issues too. And college students. How about those living abroad who have trouble buying ingredients for treats? Everything except the egg can be packaged and sent.
Super simple, pantry-ready, yummy homemade cookies in just a few minutes. Yum.

5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
print recipe

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp baking soda
½ heaping cup milk chocolate chips ( I like Guittard brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips. When blended, mix in the chocolate chips. Using a small scoop, form 1 1/2 inch balls (dough will be very wet and sticky) and place onto an un-greased parchment  or Silpat (silicone) lined cookie sheet*. Don't  make them too big because they spread. 
Bake for 9 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely before removing. 

-I also baked one pan without a liner of any type, ungreased on the cookie sheet, they did not stick and turned out just like the other pans. 
-I did not pat the scoops of dough down at all before baking. 
-Yield about 24 cookies. 


Peanut Butter Scotchies and Happy Bday Stephen!

How to make Mother sad:

Mother sends package to Mexico to son on mission, in November, with Christmas gifts inside. December 25th. No package received.
Mother sends package to son mid-December with home made treats, hoping it will get there close to Christmas/New Year. No package received.
Mother sends package end of December for missionary son's January birthday.
Seven weeks after first package sent. Still, no packages received. Sob. Sob. Sniff, Sniff.

How to make Mother happy:

Mother talks to son on SKYPE (greatest invention, EVER) on Christmas day. Son doesn't care he didn't receive package, he is just beaming and so thrilled to be able to talk and see his family online!
Mother sends email just before son's birthday.
The email starts off with- Questions: PACKAGES????
Son's response in email later that day: "No packages, yet. Don't worry about it. I love you! I miss you a lot." 
Also in Mother's email to son: Do you need anything?
Missionary son: "I just want some homemade cookies or something haha." 
"And maybe some potato salad." 
Well at least HE still has a sense of humor about the packages not being delivered!
I'm grateful to have a son who has lost himself in service, and doesn't think it's a big deal to celebrate Christmas or his birthday without a gift.
Note to me: It's just stuff. 

I tried to send this treat( the recipe I'm posting today) a month before his b-day. I even saved one square, wrapped it up, taped a little note on it and set it next to my computer. The note said "do not eat till December 29th". A few of my friends saw my note taped to the treat, and were really amused by this. Do you think this is funny? Doesn't everyone do this?   I wanted to see/sample for myself how fresh it would taste if he received it two weeks after I sent it. Um. Well, whatever. For the record, it was still decent. Not super fresh, but if you were, say, living in a foreign country, and you hardly ever got home made treats, you would probably think it was wonderful :), even if it was a little less than fresh. That is, if you ever received your mail.   
Ok, enough of my rant about mail, treats and the lack of timely, or any delivery.
**Update 1/23  Letter home from Stephen. He received two packages on his birthday! His Christmas gifts were a little late. Next Christmas, Ill send in September. Yay! 

On to wishing Stephen a happy birthday!

How did you grow up so fast?? 

About 19 years later....Stephen (on the right) with his last companion, Elder Gallan. 

I'm posting these, because last year when Stephen left on his mission (yes, it's been 11 months!)- He requested Peanut Butter Scotchies for his farewell celebration. You can look back here to that day...
I thought his birthday was an appropriate day to post one of his favorite treats!
Happy birthday, Stephen.
love and miss you,

Peanut Butter Scotchies
aka, Chocolate Scotcheroos
print recipe

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
4 cups Rice Krispies*
1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips (or one 11 oz package)**
1 1/2 cups  semi sweet chocolate chips (or one 11-12 oz package)**

Bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil . Add peanut butter and cereal.
Remove from heat, and press into a greased 9x13 pan.
Place the butterscotch and chocolate chips in a glass bowl in microwave for about 1 1/2  minutes, stirring  and place back into microwave for 30 seconds and repeating stirring until all chips are melted. This usually takes about 3-4 minutes total.
Spread the melted chips on tops of the cereal mixture in the pan. let cool and cut into bars.

*The original recipe from Kellogg's uses 6 cups of cereal, I have always used 4.
**They also use only one cup each of the butterscotch and chocolate chips. I like to have a really thick layer of topping, so I use more chips.
-Don't over cook the sugar and Karo Syrup mixture, just bring to a boil and remove from heat. If you over boil, the bars will become very hard and difficult to cut.


Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

Soup. I love it because it usually takes 30 minutes or less, prep-to-table and I can throw together some buttermilk biscuits or simple cornbread muffins while the soup is cooking.  This one's a combo of some of my favorite Minestrone recipes. Dinner doesn't get much easier than this. Remember that "New Beginnings: College and Missionary Meals" category? This one qualifies.

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
A Bountiful Kitchen
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3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (yellow or sweet)
2 cups chopped carrots
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each salt and fresh ground pepper
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
14 oz can vegetable OR chicken stock, if you aren't concerned about going meatless (check to make sure it's MSG free)
1 cup water
1 cup "ditalini" pasta or other small pasta shape
2 cups chopped zucchini or fresh spinach (optional)*
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1- 15 oz can Great Northern beans, drained
1 tablespoon basil, dried
additional water, if needed

Using a large, heavy stock pot, saute onion and carrots in olive oil on medium heat about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add fresh tomatoes, fresh zucchini or spinach, chicken stock, and water. Bring to boil. Add pasta and cook for 7-9 minutes until al dente.
Stir in tomato paste, beans and basil.  Cook just until combined.
If needed, add a little more water to the soup.
Serve immediately with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves about 4-6.

*I add a variety of vegetables to this soup. Adding one to two cups of whatever is in your fridge, such as zucchini, other squash, spinach works well.


Make Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole

If you are into planning ahead, and want to get some of the cooking out of the way before the big day, you may want to try out this recipe. It's simple and really yummy. The great thing about this recipe is all of the work is done before your holiday meal is in the final stages of preparation; leaving you free to worry about other items like where to place Aunt Edna's Porkbelly and Egg Aspic.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
print recipe

8 large potatoes, I like Russets
8 ounces sour cream, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp- low fat or regular (I used regular)
1/2 cup milk, warmed
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1-2 teaspoon salt

Place potatoes in large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 45-50 minutes or until potatoes are tender and skins split.
Drain potatoes, peel and place in large bowl. Mash with sour cream, cream cheese, warmed milk, salt, and butter, stirring until butter and cream cheese have melted.
Spread potatoes into greased 13 x 9 baking dish.
Dot top of casserole with butter if desired.
Cover with foil and refrigerate until ready to use.
Let refrigerated potatoes sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
Bake covered dish at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

-If you like mix-ins with your potatoes, add some crushed garlic, bacon, cheese, and or chives before baking.
-You may prepare these up to 5 days before serving. 


Goodbye Summer Fresh Tomato Toast

My mom in law introduced me to tomato toast years ago. Her favorite breakfasts are: a Diet Coke and a brownie, or a Diet Coke an a piece of tomato toast. So I guess you can say this is an old family recipe :)
Whenever I can get my hands on tomatoes out of the garden, I make tomato toast. Jake and I make entire meals out of this. He eats four or five, I eat two. If my baby will eat this, maybe yours will too...
Essentials: Fresh tomatoes, mayo, fresh ground pepper, and preferably, kosher salt. It seems silly to post a recipe, but I decided this qualifies as a meal under our Seriously Simple and New Beginnings college and missionary meal category.
Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it. WAAAAY better than ramen.

Now this is loving your neighbor. Sharing tomatoes. Thanks Susan :)

Fresh Tomato Toast
print recipe

1 fresh garden tomato
Best Foods or Hellman's mayo*
fresh ground pepper
dense whole wheat bread (my local fave is Aspen Mills)

Slice the tomato, thick, about 1/4 inch slices.
Toast the bread.
Spread mayo over bread as soon as it comes out of the toaster.
Lay on two to four thick slices of tomato, depending on size of tomato.
Top generously with fresh ground pepper and salt.

*-It's Best Foods west of the Mississippi, Hellman's east of the Mississippi. Same product. 


Caesar Pasta Salad

This is my new favorite super simple go-to salad. It came about when I was making a salad for a missionary farewell a few months ago.  Farewell food is kind of like funeral food. It has to be able to stand up to sitting on a table for a while without wilting or melting. It has to appeal to a large crowd, young and old.  And doubling or tripling the recipe should be easy.  I know your Aunt Edna's gonna love it.

Caesar Pasta Salad
A Bountiful Kitchen
print recipe

1 lb pasta, any shape (I like Radiatore) cooked al dente
1 envelope Good Seasons Italian dressing, dry
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halve them if you like
2 large or 6 hearts of Romaine lettuce, washed, chopped
4 cups croutons, home made or store bought
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese*
1/2 to 3/4  (32 oz) bottle Cardinis Original Caesar Dressing*, refrigerated before using if possible

Make ahead- if possible, the night before serving:
Place cooked pasta in a bowl.  Sprinkle with dry Good Seasons Italian dressing and about 1/2 cup of the bottled Cardinis dressing.  Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, before serving:
Place the prepared pasta, grape tomatoes, chopped lettuce, croutons and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl.  Toss with about 1/2 of the bottle of dressing.  Let sit for a few minutes, add additional dressing to taste just before serving.

-I purchase the grape tomatoes, Romaine, croutons, Parmesan cheese and Cardini's dressing at Costco.
-*I usually prefer fresh grated Parmesan, but in this case, I like the bagged grated Parmesan. It holds up better and won't "fade" into the salad. A big bag will last forever, and can be frozen, if needed.  Found in the refrigerator section next to other bagged, grated cheese.
-*If you can't find Cardini's, any other name brand of Caesar dressing will work. Also, it's best to refrigerate the salad dressing before adding to the salad. Helps keep the salad cooler.
-If grape or cherry tomatoes aren't available or too expensive, use chopped Roma tomatoes instead.
-Adding chopped or sliced chicken makes this a nice main dish salad.
-This makes a huge salad, enough to serve about 30-40 as a side dish. Depending on how polite your peeps are.


Pasta Al Pomodoro!

Remember last fall, when I had to accompany Brookie to Europe? We traveled through Spain, Italy and France on our two week vaca. I could go on and on, and bore you about every bite of pastry, pasta and gelato we consumed, but I'll spare you and just say, Italy was the highlight of our food experiences.

When I received my May, 2011 Bon Appetit, I was delirously happy to see the entire issue was dedicated to ITALY.  Yips!  The cover photo, Pasta Al Pomodoro is our recipe of the day.  BA shares some of Italy's cooking secrets in their article "Pasta Perfect, A  BA Cooking Manifesto".  Their 10 point guide to the "simplest, most luxurious sauces imaginable" is at the very least, informative. Here are five of their ten pointers:

1. Forget the pot, use a pan-   BA points out the difference in pasta you get in "top flight" restaurants as opposed to everywhere else.  The key - a saute pan. The reason pasta in a top quality restaurant tastes better- "the pasta is cooked till almost done, then transferred to a saute pan, where the pasta and sauce are cooked together, therefore insuring each strand of pasta is coated with the sauce."
Brilliant!  I've never thought of this. 

2. You're not using nearly enough salt-  You should use about 1 tablespoon of salt- per quart of water. Well, this one I did already know, blogged about that here. Yes, this really makes a difference in the way your cooked pasta tastes.

3. Don't dump the pasta water- Starchy, salty pasta water is the secret ingredient in most sauces. Always save some of the cloudy, starchy pasta water to add to your sauce.  It gives your dish body and flavor.

4. Everything is better with butter- This goes without saying.  BA says-the secret to "rich, silky sauce" is extra fat.  They also share this tidbit of info (not sure if I needed to know this) "Yes, all of the restaurants use it. "  Andrew Carmellini of NYC's Locanda Verde restaurant says "In Italian its called mantecare which means to make creamy" .

5. Cheese is not just a garnish-  "Restaurants also always enrich pasta sauces with cheese before grating it table side. When a little is added to the sauce, it melts and becomes a binder that lends to texture and flavor."

So there you have it. If you want to read the rest of the article, click here.  The article, written by Oliver Strand is a wonderful mini-education on how to make perfect pasta in your very own kitchen.

Oh yes, the recipe! Why you'll love this dish:  It's easy on the budget, but tastes like a million bucks. It's not complicated. It takes less than an hour start to finish (most of the time is simmering on the stove top, not actual work). I've made it twice, and we've loved it both times.  Last Sunday, I started this at about 5.  Served it before 6 with some crusty rolls, olive oil, balsamic and fresh green beans. It was almost like being back in Firenze.

Venice, Florence, Siena and Pisa

Pasta Al Pomodoro
Serves 4
Bon Appetit, May 2011
print recipe

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped or minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1-28 oz can peeled tomatoes, pureed
kosher salt
3 large fresh basil sprigs
3 quarts water
12 oz bucatini or spaghetti
1/2 cup pasta water, reserved from cooking pasta
2 tablespoons cubed unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium low heat.
Add one minced or chopped onion, stirring until soft, about 12 minutes.
Add minced garlic cloves and cook, stirring for 2-4 minutes.
Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for about 1 minute. Increase heat to medium and add can of tomatoes that have been pureed in a food processor or blender. Lightly season with kosher salt.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly and the flavors meld, about 20 minutes.
Remove pan from heat, stir in fresh basil and set aside.
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a 5 quart pot. Season with salt. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally until about 2 minutes before tender.  Drain pasta, reserving at least 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Discard basil and heat skillet over high heat.
Stir in reserved pasta water to loosen sauce, bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook stirring until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente about 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and add the cubed butter and grated cheese. Toss with metal tongs until the cheese melts. Transfer to warm bowl or plates; serve with more grated cheese if desired.

-Long (12" or longer) metal tongs, get some. Cost just a few dollars. You need them for this dish.
-Both times I have made this, I chopped my onion, because I usually like my onions chunky. In the future, I think I'll mince. It would lend to an even smoother sauce.
-One time I was out of whole peeled tomatoes, and I subbed chopped tomatoes. No prob.
-If fresh basil is unavailable in your area, go ahead and use dried basil. Of course, you won't be retrieving it from the sauce before serving, as you would with the fresh sprigs. I would try about 1 tablespoon of dried basil leaves. Fresh is best, if at all possible.
-I'm not a huge garlic fan ( upsets my tum) so I cut back and used only 2 cloves. Still plenty of flavor.


Claudean's Cherry Jello or What Mitt Ate for Dinner

So, you know I'm a Mormon, right? Well, I am. I know, it's hard to believe...
Have you ever heard of a Mormon woman who can't make at least 5 different tried and true Jello dishes without looking at a recipe?  Call me to repentance. I don't know why, but I've never had good luck with Jello. It's always too runny, or not mixed up enough, with that rubbery layer on the bottom of the pan. Or the outside sets up, but not the middle. I'm a failure in the J-E-L-L-O dept. I had all but written off Jello, and my ability to be a perfect Mormon homemaker, and then a few years back, I found this recipe in a local school cookbook.
Here's the deal:
No Fail.
Sets up in two hours.
Creamy topping.
No carrots.
Jello Perfection. This is it.

Claudean's Perfect Cherry Jello
print recipe

1 large (6 oz) box strawberry, raspberry or cherry Jello
2 cups boiling water
1- 21 oz can cherry pie filling (low sugar or regular)
1- 20 oz can crushed pineapple
2 cups heavy whipping cream*
1 cup milk
1 small (3.4 oz) box instant vanilla pudding

Boil the water. While water is heating up, pour the large box of Jello into a 9x13 pan.
Pour the 2 cups of boiling water over the jello in the dish. Using a whisk, slowly mix the jello and water together until all of the Jello is dissolved.
Pour the contents of the can of pineapple and the can of cherry pie filling into the pan with the Jello and water. Mix with large spoon.
Place pan into refrigerator. Let set up for about 2 hours. It's usually set after 1- 1 1/2 hours.
Whip the cream in a large bowl until stiff, set aside. In another bowl, whisk together 1 cup of milk and the box of pudding. Fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream.  Spread the whipped cream mixture over the set Jello mixture in the pan.  Serve immediately, or return to fridge.

-You may sub any flavor of Jello. I've used anything from Strawberry to Cherry. Anything red works.
-I've never tried using sugarless Jello or sugarless pudding in this recipe. Leave a comment if you experiment.
-*The original recipe calls for Cool Whip. A medium size container works. I'm not a fan of Cool Whip.  And since I'm not a huge Jello fan either, I use real whipped cream and it improves the dish in a big way. If after reading this you still want to use Cool Whip-  mix the pudding in a bowl with 1 cup of milk. Then fold in the Cool Whip.


Skillet Biscuits

You all know how I love a good biscuit. Seriously, l could live on biscuits alone. Well, not totally alone. Butter and jam. And biscuits. Maybe in that order.
I've never owned a cast iron skillet- until now. My mom had one when I was a kid. My dad thought he was a cook. And he thought everything should be cooked in that cast iron pan. Bacon. Spam. Hash browns. Eggs. I absolutely hated my eggs cooked in the cast iron pan. Especially if the pan wasn't wiped out after the meat was cooked. I hate specks on my eggs. I like them to be clean.
And yellow.
Maybe a bit of salt and pepper.
I didn't want residual specks of- whatever was left in the cast iron skillet after cooking the rest of the meal on my eggs. I know, I have issues. 

Somehow, I associated my less than perfectly (in my opinion, as a 7 year old)  cooked eggs with a cast iron pan.  Bad feelings/cast iron skillet.  I need therapy. Years later, as a grown up (that's me, now)  I have heard,  you can't be taken seriously as a cook if you don't own a cast iron pan. Pfshhhh. Whatever.
Then I saw a recipe or two showing biscuits cooked in the oven, using a cast iron skillet. And the benefits of using one. The nice all around golden color.

I loved that way the cooked biscuits looked in the pan. So cozy. I imagined their bottoms, sides and tops browning perfectly.  Next thing I know, I bought one (at my favorite, TJMaxx) $11.99 for a Lodge brand pan. Love it.
This recipe is a bit different from my tried and true buttermilk biscuit recipe. The difference- sugar.  I've tried lots of biscuit recipes. The best ones are made with shortening, in my opinion. The combo of sugar, shortening, buttermilk, along with my new cast iron pan?
Tender, flaky, slightly sweet, golden browned perfection.

Skillet Biscuits
adapted from Paula Deen
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2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening (Butter Flavor Crisco)
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the shortening with a fork or pastry cutter, until it looks like cornmeal. Add the milk, a little at a time, Just until all dry ingredients are incorporated.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly two or three times. Roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin to about 1 inch thickness.  Cut with a two inch cutter.
Place the biscuits in a greased iron skillet. Biscuits will be touching each other  in pan.
Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden browned.
After the biscuits are done cooking, remove from oven and brush with remaining butter.

-Don't get all worked up if you can't fit the biscuits in the pan perfectly. I cut one biscuit into two and formed two little biscuits.
-Don't over handle the biscuits, this will make them tough.
-Keep the ingredients cold.
-Keep the oven HOT. This allows for a high rise on the biscuits.
-I bake these on the lower third of the oven so the tops won't over brown.
-You may use regular Crisco, I prefer Butter Flavor Crisco. I've found TARGET has the best price on the Crisco sticks. So easy to use when making biscuits or pies.


Super Simple Cream Cheese Brownies

When time is short, and I need to make a treat, I throw together these super simple, seriously rich cream cheese brownies. The base is from a cake mix, the rest is up to you. My favorite basic chocolate frosting gives this dessert an extra special home made touch.

Super Simple Cream Cheese Brownies
print recipe

1 Butter Recipe Chocolate Cake Mix*
1/2 cup melted butter
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix and spread into a 9x13 greased and floured pan.

8 oz. cream cheese (not low fat) softened
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons flour

Beat soft cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs. Beat in powdered sugar and flour, until all ingredients are incorporated.  Pour over brownie mixture in pan.
Bake at 350 degrees  for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
After cooled, frost.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened (room temperature)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup half and half or milk

Beat butter until smooth, and add dry ingredients. Add vanilla.  Mix in half and half a little at a time, until frosting is desired consistency.

See note below about the cake mix...

-* I have used various types of chocolate cake mixes, all work well in this recipe.
-Don't be worried about the appearance of the brownies after they are finished baking.  Once you frost the brownies, the top is covered in frosting.
-If you are in a hurry, place the brownies in the freezer (after they have cooled enough to handle the pan). They will cool in about 20 minutes.
-Don't be tempted to use canned frosting. One word. Sick.


Baked, Spiced Sweet Potato Fries

Mom will love these sweet potato fries, and you will too. They're delicious, nutritious and colorful.  You can cut them up while your chicken is baking or on the barbecue, or prepare earlier in the day, and let sit on counter, covered until ready to bake.  They take about 10 minutes to prepare and another 15 to bake.  Or if you love to grill, you can cook these over the grill along with the chicken.  They're good hot, but also great at room temp.
How's that for 100 options, and no excuses?

Baked, Spiced Sweet Potato Fries
A Bountiful Kitchen
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4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced and cut into long thin slices
olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1-2 tablespoons rosemary fresh or dried
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional

Place cut sweet potatoes on baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle with all dry ingredients.
Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes on upper third of oven.

-If you like the potatoes to get a little browned and crispy, use the convection setting if available, or just switch to broil setting and place the pan on top rack for about 1 minute after initial cooking, watch closely, so your fries don't get too charred.
-If you are on a budget, and don't have the spices listed, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle a little oil over the top.  Bake as directed. Experiment with spices you may have in your kitchen.  Anything with garlic (garlic salt) works well too!


Pasta with Creamed Leek and Spinach

It's baseball season again.  Caught me by surprise, again.  You would think I'd get the hang of this after years and years of boys playing ball, but it always sneaks up on me. The first night of the regular season, there I was sitting at a game, 7 PM, eating mini Reese's and Red Vines for dinner.  Then, the "after meal" on our way home at 9:30.  The choices were fast food and fast food.
Ok, so now I'm resolved to get my act together.  Either start dinner early in the day, in a slow cooker, or find some quick and easy meals to make. I found this one in a new cookbook "Food and Wine Annual Recipes 2011".  It's a compilation of all of the recipes found in their 2010 magazines.  Remember this recipe for Sweet Potato Meringue Pie with Ginger Pecan Crust we made in November?  Same magazine.  Wonderful recipes.  I threw this dish together in a matter of minutes. Served it with a simple salad and bread.  The guys liked it so much they ate seconds when we returned from the game.  This is my kind of fast food.

Pasta with Creamed Leek and Spinach
Food and Wine Magazine 2010
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3/4 pound fusilli, penne, ziti or other pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups packed baby spinach 4 oz, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves, finely chopped
pinch of nutmeg, optional
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
shaved Parmesan

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente, drain, reserving a bit of the water for thinning sauce.
Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet, heat the oil.  Add the chopped leek and cook over moderate heat until softened about 10 minutes.  Add the cream and simmer over moderate heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss over medium low heat until the pasta is coated with the sauce.  Remove from heat and add the basil.  Season with salt pepper and nutmeg if desired. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little bit of the warm pasta water to thin the sauce.  Top with fresh Parmesan cheese.

-This is a creamy and rich dish, if you want to cut some of the calories, you may use half and half.  The sauce will not be as thick, but the flavor will still be great.
-To shave the Parmesan cheese,  simply lay the wedge of cheese on a cutting board and take a sharp knife and run it from the top to the bottom of the piece of cheese.  The cheese will come off in large pieces.
-Great side to serve with chicken or fish.


Veggie Lover's Quesadilla

Super Bowl XLV.  Our menu: Chili with Brats and beans with toppings, Mexican Salad with lime- basil and honey dressing, mini taco tartlets with guac, fresh salsa, corn and avocado salsa, cheesy jalapeno dip, fresh fruit, little smokies in cinnamon-clove BBQ sauce, crab and shrimp spread, bruchetta,  sausage and cheese stuffed mushrooms, roast beef sliders,  fresh veggie quesadillas, frosted chocolate and yellow cupcakes, brownie marshmallow cookies and  lemon bars. Brookie said she was ready to birth a "food baby" after we finished eating. Yikes.
My attempt to make something semi-healthy was a fresh and super simple quesadilla. Not that I'm all about healthy, but when I thought about the menu, I started to feel a little guilty. I had a cholesterol test a few years ago. It said my cholesterol was slightly elevated.  I told Grant, he asked to see the test results. Uh, well, after a month or so, I couldn't find the results. So now, he keeps telling our kids I'm HIDING it from him. Serious? Ok, well I'm not "hiding" it, I just couldn't find it. So now it's time to have another test. I need to make sure my cholesterol is in the healthy range this time. 
I looked up ideas for semi-healthy appetizers. Took ideas from a few different sources and came up with my own veggie appetizer.  The boys scoffed at first and gave me the usual " Whaah Mom, no MEAT????"  Imagine me giving them "the look".  I cooked the quesadillas, cut them up and served. Within a minute, all of the slices were gone. 
Then they asked for more.  Imagine me giving them the other look.
The really good news- You can make this for a party, dinner or after school snack. It took about 5 minutes (or less)  to prep. Another 5 (or less) to cook. Seriously simple and fresh. And not too bad for you. 
Or me. 

Veggie Lover's Quesadilla
A Bountiful Kitchen
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Remember when we made Pesto Veggie Lasagna, and Sheri came up with the idea to use pesto in the lasagna to give it an extra flavor punch?  It works the same way here. 

Zucchini, washed and sliced thin
Mushrooms, washed and sliced thin, stems on
Roma tomato, chopped
Red onion, chopped
Spinach, fresh
Pepper Jack Cheese, grated
Tortillas, Flour ( I used huge burrito style) any size
Pesto, store bought or home made
Olive oil or cooking spray
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Prepare all vegetables and grate cheese.
Turn griddle (or fry pan that will fit tortilla) onto medium high or about 350 degrees.
Spray pan lightly with cooking spray.
Spread one tortilla with about 2 tablespoons of pesto. Place on grill or pan.  Cook over medium high heat. Layer a small amount of cheese, then all desired vegetables, topping with a bit of cheese again. Place other tortilla on top.  Flip the tortilla onto other side, being careful to not let vegetables spill out. Use either one large or two small spatulas. After turning, brush top of tortilla with a little Olive oil, and sprinkle generously with Kosher salt and ground pepper.
Remove from pan to cutting board or serving platter when cheese is melted.  Using pizza cutter or large sharp knife, slice into wedges and serve immediately, or keep warm in 250 degree oven until serving.
May be served with guacamole and salsa.

-you may alternate and use any vegetables desired. I sliced fresh vegetables really thin and did not pre-cook the vegetables.
-To cut the amount of fat and calories, use a small amount of cheese.  For a large burrito size tortilla, I used about 1/3 cup grated (packed into a measuring cup) cheese total.


Basic Fruit Muffins with Streusel Topping

Questions I get almost weekly from young'ins (as Jake, age 14, likes to call them)  are: "Can you give me some recipes I can make when I move out? Easy recipes for college students, missionaries or newly married peeps? Low cost, quick and easy recipes?  I'm posting a new category, starting today called
"New Beginnings"-college and mish meals, for all of the above.  Hello. Yes, there is life beyond Del Taco or your mom's kitchen.
This is a great basic muffin recipe. If you don't have blueberries, try canned. Drain the fruit well and chop it up. No fruit at all? (did you spend all of your money on ice cream?)  Leave it out. No butter for the topping? Leave the topping off, and sprinkle with a little sugar. Most of the ingredients should be in your pantry. If not, and you're a student, load up next time you are home. Your mom won't mind.
I like this recipe, because the batter doesn't require butter.
Don't tell me you don't cook. I'm not listening. lalalalalalallalalalalalala.
Still not listening.
Get busy. Start cooking. Let me know how it goes.

Basic Fruit Muffins with Streusel Topping
A Bountiful Kitchen
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1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 cup blueberries or other fruit (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries)

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper liners.
Combine 1 1/2 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Pour oil, beaten egg and milk into center of dry ingredients.  Mix with large spoon or fork just until wet and dry ingredients are incorporated. Fold in fruit.  Spoon batter into muffin cups. Fill to top of cup.
Make topping- cut butter into all dry topping ingredients. Spoon topping on top of unbaked batter.
Bake for 20-25 minutes on middle rack of oven until tops are golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.