Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks

One of my favorite holidays has always been Thanksgiving, a time for our family to gather together and to cook together while laughing and carrying on.  My fondest memory and probably the one I hold most dear, is the last Thanksgiving I had with my dad, in 2001.  I have always adored my dad, there wasn't anything he couldn't do or make, whether it was in the kitchen or in the garage creating his stained glass works of art or duck carving, he could do it all in my eyes.

Dad was always the 'cook' in our house.  Mom would make dinner, sometimes, but Dad was always more "experimental", mixing different flavors together, never hesitating to try something (ok, well other than mac & cheese - he wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole).

 The night before Thanksgiving was the night we would sit in the kitchen, prepping the ingredients for Dad's sage sausage stuffing.  I'd be at the kitchen table dicing up celery while he took care of the onion (cause I don't do onions) while the sage sausage would be frying on the stove top.  After the veggies were added to the frying pan we'd start cubing the stale white bread into cubes, tossing them into the roasting pan in preparation for our meal the next afternoon.

There was A LOT of taste testing going on those nights, pinching finger fulls of the sausage right from the pan, and the smell, was just amazing.  To this day, the smell of sage sausage brings me right back to that kitchen with my dad.

Now, Thanksgiving is a time for me to reflect on all the great times and memories I have of my father.  Each Thanksgiving I've continued the tradition and have made "his" stuffing, minus the onions, lol.  This week alone, I've made it twice already and it's only Saturday, needless to say, it's a big favorite in our house and the "boy" and the "big boy" can't seem to get enough of it.

I am so thankful for time I spent with my father and for the incredible family and friends that I have surrounding me.  I think about them often, but especially during this time of year and despite what may be going on in our lives, whether that's in Michigan or here in Maryland or beyond, they are always close to my heart.

I hope your Thanksgiving memories are as bountiful and as special as mine are this holiday season.

Moist & Savory Stuffing

Another one of my assignments for November was making Moist & Savory Stuffing, utilizing both Swanson's Chicken Broth and Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing.

I have never used the seasoned bread cubes before. I've always just used good old plain white bread, leaving it out on a cookie sheet inside the oven to get stale before using it in the stuffing recipe I was pretty much raised on, so this was totally new to me.

Other than the seasoned bread cubes, this recipe was really similar to the one I make year after year.  I did leave out the onions because as I've said before, I am not a fan.  I don't use them or buy them although the husband does but since I was cooking, the onions were left out, lol.  I also added a roll of sage sausage, sauteed that up and added that to the broth, celery, pepper and seasoned stuffing mixture.

The stuffing was really quick and easy to make, there was no time spent dicing up stale bread which saved some time, but I found the stuffing to be on the salty side.  I like to be able to season my homemade stuffing to my liking, adding sage and poultry seasoning as much or as little as I want, but while these flavors weren't overpowering in the seasoned stuffing mix, the salt was overpowering.

After looking at the Pepperidge Farm website and checking out the nutritional information, I found that the bagged stuffing has 600mg of sodium per every 3/4c portion.  With the "big boys" high blood pressure we really try and watch our salt intake and so while the stuffing was okay, I would rather make my own and eliminate a lot of the salt content.

To try Moist & Savory Stuffing, head over to Allrecipes!

Swanson's Ultra Creamy Mashed Potatoes

One of this month's Allrecipes requirements was to make the Swanson's Ultra Creamy Mashed Potatoes.  Having never made mashed potatoes using chicken broth, I was a little leery about how they would taste.  I've always just boiled my potatoes in water then mashed them with butter, salt and pepper and milk (or cream if I had it) and they've almost always turned out well.

I followed the recipe as directed and I have to admit, they were really, really good.  The chicken broth flavor was not overwhelming at all and I used heavy cream instead of the light cream since that was all that I had in the fridge.

The potatoes were nice and fluffy, full of flavor, sorta decadent with the heavy cream and butter.  I can't say I'll make them this way every time, but if I happen to have Swanson's Chicken Broth in the cupboard, I'll be using that instead of water.

I'm thinking the next time I make these I'll try using the yukon gold potatoes and see how they turn out, instead of using our usual russet potatoes.

To try this recipe, click here to try Swanson's Ultra Creamy Mashed Potatoes.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Karo Lite Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

During the holidays I make a boatload of pecan tarts. If I make them and take them to work, or they are left at the house, they are quickly devoured.  It's one of the staples in my holiday baking.

When I saw Karo had a recipe for Lite Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, I figured I had to try it.  It contains chocolate (another one of my favorite things) and pecans and I was curious how the lite Karo syrup would be.

I whipped these up for dessert yesterday and I was surprised that they weren't overly sweet, despite having a cup and a half of sugar and the lite Karo syrup in it.

The picture doesn't really do them justice.  The recipe says to let them cool for 2 hours and I just couldn't wait so I cut into them after about 45 minutes.  It also calls for a cup of chocolate chips and I had just about 3/4 c, so I'd recommend adding a full cup if your as big a chocolate fan as I am.

I'm going to make these again and TRY and wait the 2 hours to let them cool completely before cutting into them.  I think they'll be a nice change, and a lot less time consuming this Thanksgiving than making pecan tarts.

Fleischmann's Easy Italian Herb Focaccia Bread

Earlier this week while waiting for "Sandy's" arrival, I made up a pot of spaghetti sauce so just in case we lost power, we'd have one last hot meal.  And what goes better with spaghetti than bread!

I've never baked any sort of homemade bread.  I've used the pre-made bread mixes in my bread machine, but as far as using yeast, I'm a total newbie.  To be honest, yeast has always made me really nervous.  Is my water the right temperature, will the dough rise enough, if at all?  I have always thought it was just too much work, and boy was I completely wrong!

One of this months Allrecipes assignments was to prepare a Fleischmann's recipe and on that list was a recipe for Easy Italian Herb Focaccia Bread.  It looked simple enough.  I had all the ingredients except for the Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast so I picked that up early Monday morning, while everyone else was at the grocery store stocking up on much needed supplies.

Once home, I gathered all my ingredients and then started to heat up my water to just the right temperature.  After a few attempts, I finally got the water to the right temperature, just between 120-130 degrees.  After pouring it into my bowl of flour and yeast mixture I held my breath and crossed my fingers that this would not end up a complete mess.

And it wasn't!  The yummy results are pictured below:

I was really surprised at how easy this was to make and how delicious it was with our spaghetti dinner. From now on, this is definately on my go to list of things to make.  

I 'mostly' followed the recipe, the only changes I made was that I added garlic powder and italian seasoning to my flour mixture and used it as well for the topping.  The recipe also only calls for 1 teaspoon of salt, but in my opinion, I felt like it could have used a little more.  I added a sprinkling of salt to top of the bread once it came out of the oven (only after trying it first) and that seemed to do the trick.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pillsbury Breakfast Quiche To-Go

I love a good breakfast, but during the week I don't have the time or the motivation to make anything.  My son, the broody teenager that he is, will make cereal if he feels like it but if he had his way, I'd be slaving over a hot stove every morning for him.

Since were up so early, trying to get ready for school and then sending the hubby off to work, I wanted something that was quick and easy that we could just grab in the morning, but that was a healthier option than a Toaster Strudel or Poptart.  That's where Pillsbury's Crescent Rolls came into the picture!

I found a recipe for Pillsbury's Breakfast Quiche To-Go on Allrecipes using Crescent Rolls and with some minor alterations, we had a delicious and fast breakfast!

The recipe calls for Garlic Butter Crescent Rolls, which I used, and they added a nice yet not overpowering garlic flavor to the quiche.  I used chopped spinach, added drained (but not marinated) artichoke hearts and instead of mozzarella cheese, I used swiss cheese.  I left out the onions because I am not a fan lol.

I will be using this recipe again in the future because there is so much opportunity to change things up a bit.  I'm thinking ham and swiss, broccoli and cheddar, you could add loose sausage or any variation of vegetables to this recipe and it would be really good.  I'm also going to make a batch using an egg-white substitute to see how those turn out as well.

There are so many options with this recipe, and because its so easy to whip up, I know I'll be making these again.  A lot.

I tend to have more spare time in the evening to cook so I'm thinking if I make a batch of these one night I can store them in a container (once cooled) and then just zap them in the microwave in the morning for a hot breakfast treat!

Find Pillsbury's Breakfast Quiche To-Go on

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pillsbury Marmalade-Glazed Asian Meatball Cups

Tonight was one of those nights.  I had no idea what to make, although I had a few options, boneless-skinless chicken breasts or an oven-roasted chicken, but after having chicken last night, I sure wasn't feeling it tonight.

So instead, tonights dinner was Pillsbury Marmalade-Glazed Asian Meatball Cups made with a roll of Butter Flake Crescent Rolls.  Super easy and really tasty!

They're more of an appetizer, but with a side of rice and some oven-roasted asparagus, it made for a terrific meal!

These little cups of yumminess took no time at all to prepare, and who doesn't love quick and easy?  I know I sure do!  I had Crescent rolls in our fridge already and while I normally make my own meatballs, tonight I wasn't feeling up to it, so I used a bag of some store bought one's that I had in the freezer.  Mix up a few ingredients for the glaze - some marmalade, some plum sauce and a little chili sauce and heat it up in the microwave and your practically done.  

For the Crescent rolls, once you pop the tube (and why does that always scare me a little?) don't unroll it.  Just leave it on your cutting board as just a rolled tube of dough and then take your knife and score it so that you have 12 fairly equal slices of Crescent dough.  Then just slice the dough and set that aside for a minute.

Spray your regular sized muffin tins with Pam (or something similar) and then just drop one piece of dough into each cup.  Using your fingers, create an indentation in the center of the dough for your meatball to sit in and then spoon some of the glaze mixture over the meatball and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  

The recipe says to cook for 10-15 in a pre-heated oven at 375 but I found these were done in about 12 minutes.  Let them cool for a few minutes before removing from your muffin tins and you've got a pretty, quick and easy, and especially yummy appetizer that takes no time and very few ingredients.

I know I'll be making these again with the holiday season upon us!

Monday, September 17, 2012

al fresco Linguine with Roasted Vegetables and Tomato Basil Chicken Meatballs

As an Allrecipes Allstar, this month we received coupons to try and review the al fresco chicken sausage. Tonight I made my first dinner using al fresco Sundried Tomato Sausage and I was surprised at how good it was!  Having never tried it before, my expectations were kind of low but the combination of the roasted veggies, the pasta and the sauteed sausage were really, really good.  The flavors came together really nicely and it was super easy, not to mention quick!  Who couldn't use a quick weeknight meal right?

The actual recipe that al fresco provided called for the Tomato & Basil Chicken Meatballs but I've been unable to find any of their meatballs here in Hagerstown.  I went to 3 different stores looking for the al fresco products and only one store, Martin's, had a variety of their sausages.  I was able to pick up a package of the Sundried Tomato Sausage and I used this as a substitution for the meatballs, just cutting the sausage on a diagonal.

The roasted vegetables called for cherry tomatoes, fresh asparagus and a white onion, but I made some slight tweaks here as well.  I'm not a fan of onions so I eliminated that entirely and a friend of ours has a beautiful garden so we had some nice vine-ripened tomatoes that I diced up and added to the asparagus.  The small portabella mushrooms were on sale this week so I picked up a container of those and included them with the rest of the vegetables.  The smell as the veggies and garlic roasting in the oven was heavenly!

Tonight's dinner was a hit with everyone, the husband and teenage son included!  It was so good that they both asked if there was any left, which hasn't happened lately.

I'm going to be putting this dish on our dinner rotation going forward.  It was quick and easy to put together and during the week when we're working or in school, we need something nutritious and quick that we can throw together without putting a lot of thought into it.  I also like being able to change out the veggies, if you don't have asparagus or you don't like a particular vegetable you can throw whatever you have together into the olive oil and garlic, toss it around, coat the vegetables well and then put them on your cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 15 minutes and your done!  Super easy!

Find al fresco's Linguine with Roasted Vegetables and Tomato Basil Chicken Meatballs at

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Easy Weeknight Chicken Parmesan

I recently became an Allstar for, and part of becomming an Allstar is trying and reviewing new products.

This month I had the opportunity to try Progresso's new Recipe Starters.  I received one of each flavor from AllRecipes and Progresso and my first dish was Progresso's Easy Weeknight Chicken Parmesan, made with the Fire-Roasted Tomato Cooking Sauce.

Of all the Recipe Starters I have tried so far, this one is a favorite.  It was easy to throw together and we had a full meal in just 30 minutes.  I did stray a bit from the recipe, deglazing the pan with a little butter and white wine (it's so good and just adds a little richness to the sauce), but for a quick weeknight meal, this is a nice option!

Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup

What's there to eat around here was inspired by my 17 year-old son, it's something that I hear each and every day tumble out of his mouth.  There is always food in our house, some prepackaged items that he can fix himself as well as plenty of items that are readily available to eat and make. One staple that I do make each week is soup.  We all love soup and although I'll make a large pot full, it usually only lasts about 2 days.  Our favorite lately is Chicken Lemon Orzo, which i decided I had to create at home once Panera Bread decided to stop serving it, and actually I think mine is better!

This soup is easy to make and so good, the lemon adds a nice tartness to the soup and it can be easily adjusted depending on your preferences.  

As far as the chicken, as a shortcut I sometimes will purchase one of those yummy roasted chickens from Sam's Club and just pick the chicken off to use in my soup. It saves time but the last few months I've been roasting my own chickens, seasoning them with a little butter, salt, pepper, minced garlic and slices of lemons under the skin. It adds a nice flavor to the chicken itself but also creates the most amazing chicken broth that I now use to make my soup.

You can find this recipe over at! Enjoy!!!