Mar
14
Shepherd’s Pie


Happy 7th Blogoversary to me! Last year (2016) I made a pie for Pi Day. This year is a different kind of pie, a meat pie aka Shepherd’s Pie. I love a good Shepherd’s Pie. A Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb but a Cottage Pie is made with ground beef. Ok, so I guess I love a good Cottage Pie! They both include ground meat, cooked in gravy with vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes.

Last year I decided to switch up our usual St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I saw this Shepherd’s Pie recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network and I had to make it…into a Cottage Pie! It was an instant hit with my family. Recipes that are basically a one pot dish are so easy. Plus, I love the convenience of this classic comforting dish.

Shepherd’s Pie
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For the potatoes:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk

For the meat filling:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8

Kelly’s note: If short on time, it’s ok to use frozen carrots. Just add them with the peas and corn.

Adapted from: Alton Brown

Dec
20
Peanut Brittle


When I was growing up my maternal grandma made a plethora of goodies each Christmas; there was gumdrop bread, peanut butter cups, divinity, fudge and there was always peanut brittle. One year when I was in college, my cousin Michelle and I went for a lesson on how to make peanut brittle. My grandma used her pressure cooker pot because it was thick and heavy enough not to burn the candy while it got to the right temperature. Fast forward to my wedding. I had to register for a pressure cooker just so I could continue making the brittle! 15 years went by and my husband figured out how to use the pressure cooker for it’s intended purpose. One day I might too. Merry Christmas!

Peanut Brittle
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1 cup sugar
½ cup corn syrup
⅔ cup water

Grease a large cookie sheet. Set aside.
In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, boil above ingredients to 270 degrees.

Remove from heat and add:
1 ½ cups salted peanuts
2 T. butter

Stir well. Cook to 300 degrees. Stir slowly. Remove from heat and add:
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda

Stir well until light and foamy and pour onto cookie sheet. Quickly spread out on sheet.
Cool at least 1 hour. Break into bite sized pieces.

Cooks notes:
It is best to have everything measured out before you start.
My grandma used Spanish peanuts (the ones with red skins), but I prefer regular.
My grandma also used dark corn syrup but I prefer light because I like the end result better.

Oct
31
Caramel Apple Cake

Fall! I love when the weather turns cool and crisp. And I love all the flavors of fall. I’ve never been a huge fan of pie, unless it’s chocolate…with a chocolate crust (French Silk Pie). In the fall, lots of people love Apple Pie or Pumpkin Pie. Yeah, they’re ok. I prefer my grandpa’s Apple Betty or this Caramel Apple Cake recipe my mom found in the Taste of Home magazine back in 1996. This is an apple cake with a caramel icing, yep…I love the fall flavors in this cake.

Caramel Apple Cake
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1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. Nutmeg
1 tsp. Baking soda
½ tsp. Salt
3 ½ cups diced peeled apples
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp. Vanilla extract

Caramel Icing:
½ cup packed brown sugar
⅓ cup light cream
¼ cup butter
Dash of salt
1 cup powdered sugar
Chopped walnuts, optional

In a mixing bowl, combine oil and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine dry ingredients; add to batter and stir well. Fold in apples, walnuts and vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan or bundt pan.

Bake at 325 for 1 ½ hours or until cake tests done. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, heat brown sugar, cream butter and salt until sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth; drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.

Yield: 12-16 servings

Recipe from: Taste of Home

Oct
01
Broccoli Salad


I love a good “salad” or a hearty side dish. This happens to be both. My mom got this recipe from Taste of Home magazine many years ago. Oddly enough, you can’t find it on their website now. It is the perfect compliment to most BBQ’s and always a crowd pleaser. Over the years I have seen variations of this salad at Soup Plantation (aka Sweet Tomatoes) and more recently at Costco. I guarantee homemade will always taste so much better. The dressing is tangy but sweet and paired with the crunchy broccoli, the salty crispy bacon, the sweet raisins and mandarin oranges is simply delicious!

Broccoli Salad
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1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sugar
2 T. vinegar

8 cups broccoli florets, raw
1 can (11 oz) mandarin oranges, drained
½ cup red onion, diced fine
8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
½ cup raisins

In a small bowl, whisk mayo, sugar and vinegar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
In a large bowl, combine broccoli, oranges, onion, bacon and raisins. Add dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Serves 12

Jul
28
Gianduja-Stracciatella Gelato


July is National Ice Cream Month! President Ronald Reagan designated it back in 1984. But did you know ice cream can be traced back before 500 BC? In the 13th century, Marco Polo brought “water ice” to Europe from the Far East. In 1686, Italian Francesco Procopio Del Coletti opened a Paris café and debuts frozen ices, custards and creams, marking the beginning of the gelateria. We honeymooned in Italy for 17 glorious days and we ate gelato every single day! Ice cream is probably my favorite treat of all time…with chocolate of course.

When I came across this recipe for Gianduja-Stracciatella Gelato, which roughly translates to Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, I had to try it immediately. As an Italian, I do use hazelnuts in my desserts (Chocolate Zucchini Cake), but not too often since removing the skins can be a little tricky. This gelato is well worth the time and effort.

As Reagan said at his 1984 proclamation, “Ice cream is a nutritious and wholesome food. It enjoys a reputation as the perfect dessert and snack food.” I couldn’t agree more…especially when it is homemade. Trust me, there is a difference.

Gianduja-Stracciatella Gelato
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1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
¼ tsp coarse salt
4 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped
5 large egg yolks
⅛ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Spread the nuts in an even layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring them once or twice while baking. Let the nuts cool completely before using them.

Rub the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible, then finely chop them in a food processor or blender.

Warm the milk with 1 cup of the cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Once warm, remove from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Put the milk chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat the remaining 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan until it just begins to boil. Pour it over the milk chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set a mesh strainer over the top.

Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a strainer into a medium saucepan, squeezing the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnuts.

Rewarm the hazelnut-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl., whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the milk chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Stracciatella

5 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a clean, absolutely dry bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until it’s completely smooth.

Mixing it in: Drizzle a very thin stream of the warm chocolate into 1 quart of ice cream during the last possible moment of churning.

Recipe from: The Perfect Scoop

Mar
14
French Silk Pie


Happy 6th Blogoversary to me (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016)! I guess I hadn’t realized this day falls on 3/14…Pi Day. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, pie as a dessert is just ok for me. I could leave it really. Shocking if you know how much I LOVE desserts. One time many years back on a visit to Marie Callender’s I saw this dark satin-y chocolate pie with a chocolate cookie crust called French Silk Pie. To Die For…really, it’s that good. I searched and searched for a recipe so I could make it on my own. Most recipes I found were for a more chocolate cream pie, definitely not the same thing. Then, Pioneer Woman entered my life and she made this on her show in season 6! It has been life changing! I have made it several times since I first saw the airing of this show and I’ve made a few changes, I thought regular sugar made the pie taste too grainy/gritty so I use powdered sugar. Instead of unsweetened chocolate, I use semi-sweet. And, I only make it with the chocolate cookie crust. French Silk Pie is so creamy and silky good it will literally melt in your mouth.

French Silk Pie
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4 ounces, weight semi-sweet Baking Chocolate
1 cup Salted Butter, Softened
1-1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
4 whole Eggs
pie shell/crust

In small microwave safe bowl melt 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate until stirrable (about 45 seconds on high). Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer and paddle attachment beat 1 cup (2 sticks) of regular (salted) butter and 1 ½ cups of white sugar until fluffy (about 1 to 2 minutes). When melted chocolate is cooled, drizzle it over the butter/sugar mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat the mixture thoroughly until combined.

On a Kitchen Aid mixer, you will be using the whisk attachment. Turn your mixer to a medium speed and over a period of 15 to 20 minutes add in the four eggs, one at a time, leaving about 5 minutes between each egg addition. Once the pie filling is well mixed, pour it into the baked pie shell, scraping every last speck of it out of the bowl. Smooth out the pie filling and place pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours (preferably longer).

Cook’s Notes:
• This recipe contains raw eggs; some stores sell pasteurized-in-the-shell eggs which would work well in this recipe. It is recommended that pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and the infirm do not consume raw eggs.

Chocolate Cookie Crust

25 Chocolate Wafer Cookies
5 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

Finely crush the cookies in a food processor; mix with butter. Press firmly onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Whipped Cream

⅓ cup Heavy Cream
1 Tablespoon Powdered Sugar

In a deep mixing bowl, beat 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle 1 powdered sugar over cream; beat until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat.

Adapted from: Pioneer Woman

Nov
21
Apple Betty

Apple Betty
My paternal grandpa was a great cook. He enjoyed his time in the kitchen making biscotti, ribs, yeast bread or this Apple Betty. I wish I had thought to ask where they got this recipe. I have had a copy since I got married written by my grandpa in his beautiful cursive writing. I have made this for work functions and have mentioned the name to people over the years but no one ever seems to know about Apple Betty. Most of us have heard of Apple Crisp or Crumble or Cobbler, etc. But Betty? I never thought to look up the differences until now. I found a great article that explains these desserts perfectly. Guess what? All this time, we’ve been making an Apple Crisp! But it will always be an Apple Betty to me.

Apple Betty
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5 lbs. Granny Smith or Pippin apples; peeled, cored and sliced in ½” slices (about 10 cups)
¼ cup water
2 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon pulp
⅔ cup sugar
1 T. cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup butter, melted

Spread sliced apples in a 9” x 12” x 2” pan. Mix water, lemon juice and lemon pulp and pour over the apples.

Mix ⅔ cup sugar, and 1 T. cinnamon to sprinkle over the apples.

Mix flour, 1 cup sugar, 3 tsp. cinnamon and butter in a bowl until well mixed. It will become small pebbles. Spoon over apples in a smooth layer.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees about 30 minutes.

Aug
12
Layered Pudding Dessert

Layered Pudding Dessert
I love how food can have memories attached to them (remember Grandma’s Brownies). This layered pudding dessert has so many memories throughout my life. It was my dad’s favorite dessert. My mom always made this for Father’s Day and his birthday. We got this recipe from my aunt, Marcia, who got it out of an Iowa Catholic high school cookbook in the late 1970’s. Although my dad passed away five years ago (remember Nick’s), I like to “celebrate” our loved ones who have passed away on their birthday. I make one food they enjoyed to remember them. This year for my dad’s birthday, I’m going with his very favorite…with chocolate fudge pudding of course. My dad would say, “Is there any other kind?”

Why, yes, there is. The best part of this dessert is not just the different layers but that you can change the pudding flavor to your liking or to the season. Marcia said she enjoys making this with coconut cream pudding. I’ve made this with pumpkin pudding in the fall and I’ve made this at Christmas with crushed candy canes on top. Two of my aunts threw me my bridal shower where they served this dessert. One pan was made with chocolate pudding and one with butterscotch pudding. I made this for my older son’s 3rd birthday but made it with an Oreo cookie crust and sprinkled it with crushed Oreos to make it look like a dirt cake.

There is a story my mom loves to tell about this dessert. One time my mom made it and there were leftovers. My brother and I were probably in high school and we called our mom one night at work to ask if we could have some of the dessert. According to my mom, there was still half a pan left and my brother and I split it and ate the rest! Oddly enough, my brother and I don’t seem to remember this at all!

While this dessert has many different names including: Chocolate Delight, Chocolate Lasagna, Pudding Cake and many more; in my family we just called it dad’s favorite dessert.

Layered Pudding Dessert
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1st Layer
1 cup flour
1 stick butter
¾ cup pecans, finely chopped
Cut butter into the flour. Add nuts. Press into a greased 9” x 13” pan. Bake 20 minutes in a 350 oven. Cool.

2nd Layer
1 large carton (9 oz.) whipped topping
1 cup powdered sugar
1 8oz. Pkg. cream cheese
Allow cream cheese to warm up to room temperature. Measure out 1 cup of topping. Mix cream cheese, whipped topping and powdered sugar with a hand mixer. Reserve remaining topping for the 4th layer. Spread evenly over the crust.

3rd Layer
2 boxes (3.9oz each)
3 cups milk
Prepare 2 boxes of pudding mix according to the package directions except for the amount of milk. Use 3 cups instead of 4. Spread evenly over the cream cheese layer.

4th Layer
Top with remainder of whipped topping and sprinkle with chopped pecans or shaved chocolate.

Jul
06
Frog Eye Salad

Frog Eye Salad
Frog Eye Salad…not a great name or description for our family favorite fruit salad made with…pasta. Stay with me, this is delicious. The pasta is a very small ball shape which is how this salad gets its name. I do buy the pasta at our local Italian market because it is 1/3 the price than the grocery store. The last time we were at the market, my kids noticed they sold Frog Eye Salad just like we make it! There are several versions of this recipe. Mine is made with a scratch “pudding” from the pineapple juice; another version is made with vanilla pudding from a box. One time at a family gathering, my youngest was mentioning he wanted some Frog Eye Salad. My hubby’s cousin said they had it at a friend’s house one time. So we started comparing notes. The one she ate was made without pineapple and coconut and instead had grapes, strawberries, apples, peaches or any fresh fruit you want. This sounds so delicious to me but my family won’t let me make this any other way than the original. In this photo it may look like a lot of marshmallows, that’s because my hubby likes the whole 10 oz. bag added.

My maternal grandma got this recipe on a visit to the mid-West in the 90’s, maybe the 80’s. She raved about it and we too thought it sounded strange but it has been a family favorite ever since. It’s now my hubby and kids’ favorite too. It is usually requested for BBQ’s like the Fourth of July. It’s side dish partner is almost always another family favorite Four Bean Hot Dish aka Baked Beans.

When I first lived alone, I made this recipe…for myself. I should have halved or even quartered the recipe because I was eating this salad for lunch, snacks and dinner for a week! Lesson learned. Yes, take note, it makes 25 servings. It is the perfect dish for a large crowd or leftovers with the family.

Frog Eye Salad
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16 ounces Acini De Pepe pasta (can be called Pastina #75 at an Italian market)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¾ cup pineapple juice (reserved from pineapple cans)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cans (11oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
2 cans (20 oz.) pineapple tidbits, drained and reserve juice
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1 carton (8 oz.) cool whip
1 cup shredded coconut
1½ cups miniature marshmallows

Cook the Acini De Pepe pasta according to package directions. When done, rinse under cold water in strainer. Let cool.

In a saucepan over medium high heat stir together sugar, flour and salt. Gradually stir in pineapple juice and eggs. Cook and stir constantly until mixture thickens and is smooth. Should be the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let cool.

In a large mixing bowl combine the pasta and pudding mixture. Refrigerate overnight. Then lightly but thoroughly fold in the mandarin oranges, pineapple, coconut and cool whip. Refrigerate until serving. Just before serving add marshmallows; mix lightly.

Salad may be refrigerated for as long as a week in an airtight container. It also may be frozen, though the freezing somewhat alters the texture.

Makes 25 servings

May
17
Chicken Corn Chowder

Chicken Corn Chowder
Soup, stew, bisque, chowder…they are all fairly similar and slightly different from each other. Chowders are prepared with milk, cream or a roux and often made with potatoes. I love them all. Plus, it makes a complete meal all by itself, especially when you have enough “stuff” to make it hearty. I used to think of soups as a wintery type meal. You know, warm and comforting on a cool day. Then I realized it is the perfect hot day meal because you don’t have to start your oven. My mom got this recipe many years ago. It was a family favorite then and now my family loves it just as much. My favorite part of this chowder is the cream style corn and the bit of sweetness it adds to the chowder. Or is it the bacon…everything’s better with bacon!

Chicken Corn Chowder
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3 slices bacon, diced
½ lb. potatoes, unpeeled and diced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1” chunks
3 green onions, sliced
2 T. flour
1 chicken flavored bouillon cube
2 cups milk
1 17 oz. can cream style corn (I usually add 2)

Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon; set aside.

Add potatoes to drippings. Cook until tender. Add chicken and green onions. Cook until chicken is no longer pink.

Sprinkle flour over chicken; stir to blend. Add bouillon, milk and corn.

Cook covered until mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with reserved bacon.

Makes 7 cups