Friday, September 30, 2011

Free Recipe Friday. . .BACONNN!!!

Have you ever had those cheeeesy biscuits from Red Lobster???
Yea well, you will want to throw those in the trash
after you try THESE Cheddar-Bacon Biscuits...
thank you William-Sonoma
One of my FAV stores/catalogs in the whole world!!!!

You should make these for breakfast,
you should make these for lunch
and if you make them right now,
everyone will love you a whole bunch!

So, today's Free Recipe Friday is biscuits.
That's right. Biscuits.
Have you ever made biscuits?
I mean like homemade biscuits?
Don't be scared.  Reach wayyyy back into your memory banks
to those days of Home Ec...when you learned to "cut in" shortening and flour...
do you remember that?!?!??!!!??
 "Cutting in" means incorporating shortening or butter
 into the flour in such a way that little lumps of the raw fat remain whole within the flour mixture.
When the dough is baked, these little lumps create separation in the structure of the product,
which is what gives it that flaky consistency.

The EASIEST way to do this is with a pastry blender/cutter...
but in MY middle school Home Ec years,
we were taught to use two knives. NOT FUN!
No fancy pastry blenders/cutters in those days! Oh nooooo!
It was one of those things that when you are in middle school you are thinking
 'this is the dumbest thing in the world...I will never use this skill, ever!
And to be honest, it's still not my favorite part of biscuit making
or pie crust making for that matter.  But it's oh so easy.
When you're all done you will realize, hey, what was the big stinkin' deal?!
Some people choose to use their fancy food processors for pastry making,
I guess I am just old long as I have a pastry/blender cutter!

So here goes...push your sleeves up...we are going to make biscuits!
You'll be glad you did!


6 oz. bacon, diced
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt (or substitute table salt)
2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces,
plus 2 Tbs. melted butter
3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
(it's the best, but you can use colby)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
(and egads! you can use that cheap powdery stuff in a can...if you must!)
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. buttermilk
(don't have that either? you can add a few spoonfuls
of lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk. voila!) 

See THAT wasn't so hard, was it???


Preheat an oven to 400°F.
In an 11-12 inch fry pan over medium-high heat,
cook the diced bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes.
(You could also BAKE your bacon strips on a sprayed cookie sheet,
drain and then crumble with the same results - make it easy on yourself!!!)
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined drain
Reserve that bacon grease for another recipe! :)
Set crumbled bacon aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour,
baking powder, salt, sugar and pepper.
Using a pastry blender or 2 knives,
cut in the cold butter until pea-size crumbs form,
then use your fingers to pinch the crumbs into flat disks.
Stir in the cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses and the bacon.
Stir in the buttermilk until the dough just comes together.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface
and roll or smoosh it out into a rectangle about an inch thick.
Fold the dough into thirds, rotate 90 degrees
and roll out into the same-size rectangle and same thickness.
This step, though not common with all biscuit recipes,
increases the flakiness of the biscuit.
Now, using about a 2 inch floured biscuit cutter,
round cookie cutter, or empty antique tomato paste can, as I did, 
cut out the biscuits and place on a sprayed baking sheet.
Gather up the scraps, reroll the dough and cut out more biscuits...
repeating this process until all of your dough is used up.
Ours made about 12-15 biscuits.
Hopefully all of your family members will be out of the kitchen
and not be temped to come grab clumps of raw dough!
Be forewarned! :) 
Bake the biscuits until golden brown
and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with the reserved melted butter
as soon as they come out of the oven.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Oh my word, we ate on these all day one Saturday!!!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Free Recipe Friday. . .you GOTTA try these!

Homemade Peppermint Patties!

It sounds impossible, I know...
but these are even better
than those preservative filled 'York' ones!
You can easily go from eating 1 to 12 in just one sitting!
Kidding, just kidding....or am I?!?
The ingredients are amazingly simple
and the process is eeeasyy peazy.

This recipe is not only to die for, but it will give you a reason,
an excuse if you will (if you needed one)
to go to Hobby Lobby or Michael's. 
And you're welcome!
There's one ingredient you may need to pick up there...
it's the Creme de Menthe extract,
or Peppermint extracts/flavoring, whichever you would prefer.
(You can also order from HERE for much cheaper)
Everything else you probably have in your pantry right now!!! 
So go grab you an assortment of those extracts if you'd like...
(you never know when they will come in handy)
and let's get to cooking! 


1 can sweetened condensed milk

5 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon peppermint extract
(we used TWO little bottles of creme de menthe
and it wasn't even quite 1 tablespoon and flavored it perfectly) 

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
(we used semisweet baking squares for half 
and bittersweet baking squares for the other half!) 

3 tablespoons shortening

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Add condensed milk, 2 cups of powdered sugar,
and peppermint/creme de menthe extract to a large mixing bowl.
Mix everything on medium speed using the paddle attachment
until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Add more powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time,
until the dough is stiff but still pliable.

But be careful...sometimes THIS can happen!

Roll 3/4″ balls of dough between the palms of the hands.

Press each ball down slowly
and set the flattened disk on a flat cutting board or plate.
Transfer peppermint disks to the freezer for no longer than 30 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, temper the chocolate coating.

Place chocolate chips (or squares) in a microwavable bowl.
Melt the chocolate in 30 second increments,
making sure to stir after each time until chocolate is smooth.
Stir in shortening to thin the chocolate.
Remove patties from the freezer.

Place a patty on the tines of the fork
and dip in the chocolate until completely covered.
Allow excess chocolate to drip off the patty
before setting each one on top of wax or parchment paper.

Allow the chocolate coated peppermint patties to completely set up.
This can be done quicker by placing the patties in the refrigerator.
The peppermint patties are ready when they are dry to the touch.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Free Recipe Friday...Spinach Anyone???

There's sooo much more to this recipe than just saying it's all about spinach.
It's Spinach Manicotti and it's pure delicious-ness! 

Greens of any kind have never been my first choice,
for any meal or side dish... 
so for me, the spinach in this recipe is a big deal! 
What I have had to do over the years is find ways
to make those vitamin rich greens into something I will eat...
and this one stands quite tall! 
My family on the other hand, really has no problem with greens whatsoever. 
Our youngest daughter has surprised me the most. 
She is a whopping 12 1/2 years old and loves all kinds of 'weird' things.  
The night I made this dish,
she actually requested a separate serving of plain spinach on the side! 
(She LOVES it, along with sardines, brussel sprouts, okra and broccoli!) 
This recipe came from our handy, dandy, treasured church cookbook. 
Aren't those the best!?
The official name for this deliciousness is
'Make-Ahead Spinach Manicotti'
(page 86, thank you Cindy Chessman!!!)
I remember wayyy back in the day
when we all were told we had to boil noodles
for such dishes as manicotti, lasagna, etc.,
before just made me dread making them.
Then I stumbled upon this jewel of a recipe.
You can make it ahead! You don't have to boil the noodles!  Yay!
This recipe opened up a whole new realm for me.
I realized that if I could make this recipe ahead,
I could make lasagna ahead as well - without boiling the noodles!
No more buying the 'no boil' noodles...what a waste!
(Just make sure it's a bit more 'liquidy'
as the noodles will absorb a bit of liquid.)
So, let's get you too, can enjoy this
ooey, gooey-ness, filled with yummy spinach...there, I said it!


1 - 15 oz. carton ricotta cheese
1 - 10 oz. pkg. frozen, chopped spinach
thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (we double this)
3/4 cup parmesan
1 egg
*seasoning have been adjusted to our tastes*
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
 2 cans (or jars) of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 - 8 oz. pkg manicotti shells

Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with vegetable spray
and pour a bit of spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom.
Set aside.  In a large bowl combine ricotta, spinach,
half of the mozzarella and parmesan,
the egg and the spices.  Mix well. 
Here's the fun part. 
If you can incooperate your family somehow in this process,
it would be great.  It can get a bit messy!
Fill, smoosh or stuff the uncooked manicotti shells
with your ricotta mixture.  I just use my hands.
You could put the mixture in a gallon freezer bag,
cut off a corner and squeeze it in the shells...
or use a pastry bag...but sometimes I'm just too cheap and so
I've just found it to be quicker and 'less mess'
to just grab a handful of the mixture
and push it in each end of the manicotti shell. 
Next, place each filled shell on top of the layer of sauce in your 9x13 pan.
Fill remaining shells and place into you casserole pan.
Pour remaining spaghetti/marinara sauce onto shells in pan.
Top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
You can either cover and refrigerate overnight at this point,
as the cookbook recipe states
or go ahead and bake...which is what we usually do.
Just remember if you refrigerate it overnight
you will need to let it come to room temp a bit
before placing it into the oven.

Bake at 350 for appx 45 minutes.
Let it rest and cool down from it's lava hotness a bit.
Serve with a great salad and some crunchy bread! Yum!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Free Recipe Friday.....On Saturday???

So sorry for the delay everyone....all twelve of you that read this blog.
I had started off with it just being an apology
for not having a FRF...on Friday....but as my words grew,
I realized, I might as well make it into the full deal - just released a day later :/

We did actually make French Onion Soup last night...
at the end of an emotional, roller coaster week... 
just not enough free time to upload pics and write.
If you have only even seen one newscast this week
you will know of the craziness of which I speak.
We've almost had too many wildfires to count or keep track of. 
Wondering if wildfires can really spread that fast,
realizing they can AND do.
Wondering if our neighborhood will be the next to be evacuated
as you watch those around you that have been.
Wondering what we would grab if we were given one hour to leave
and realizing out of everything we have,
all we really care about could fit in the trunk of our car!
We've been totally blown away by the many firemen, volunteers
and everyday citizens, who have risked and are STILL
risking their lives for so many...and wondering when it will rain...
as we rest in Psalm 91...
...He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust...
He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings
you shall take refuge... 


"I’m firmly of the belief that no matter what ails you
in the realm of the kitchen, onion soup can cure it.
Never cooked before?
Don’t think you’ll be able to pull off the kind of cooking you believe you need
to go to a restaurant to experience? Start with onion soup.
Have only $5 to spend on dinner?
Refrigerator is almost bare? Onion soup is your friend.
Want your home to have a transcendent aroma bouncing off every wall,
the kind that’s so distracting that you don’t even know or care
what’s on the stove, only that you must have it now?
Onion soup is waiting for you."
- taken from The Smitten Kitchen

What a perfect way to describe French Onion Soup
and the ease of cooking it. 
SUCH a cheap meal as well, yet so so elegant. 
I beg you not to skimp on the very long caramelization process that is KEY -
and it's the hardest part of the whole deal....
just waiting and not rushing the onions.

There are many recipes out there and all are quite similar...please try one!
All you need are onions, garlic, and some beef stock.
Some call for a little white wine or lemon juice to finish it off,
salt and pepper, and maybe some thyme and/or bay leaf...
then top it off with some crusty croutons
or crunchy bread smothered in cheese. 
I have had this particular recipe since the late 80's...
and children, that would be the 1980's! 
Although our kids never really cared for the onions in this soup
when they were younger,
they knew they had to eat what was on the table or go to bed hungry...
so they would usually slurp up the beef broth
and then fill up on the cheesy, crusty bread! 
Now that we are mostly all grown-ups around here, 
everyone gobbles the soup, onions and all. 


3 onions - peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2-3 Tablespoons oil
(vegetable oil or olive oil)
2-3 Tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
beef stock - appx. 6 cups or more
(homemade, canned (low sodium) or paste in a jar,
but please, no boullion cubes!)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
appx. 3 teaspoons salt (will depend on your broth)
ground black pepper to taste
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice

Heat together oil and butter in a large,
heavy-bottomed dutch oven or stockpot.
Add onions; stir to coat well.
Reduce heat to medium-low. 
Cover and cook, stirring occasionally,
until onions are very limp and just beginning to color
(about 20 minutes).  Do not rush this.
Stir in chopped garlic. 
Increase heat to medium.
Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently
until onions are amber or caramel colored.
About 30 minutes.
Stir more frequently toward end of cooking time
to prevent sticking. 
Sprinkle onions with the flour.
Stir to thoroughly combine flour with onions.
Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes,
stirring mixture frequently.
Stir in 1 cup of the broth, scraping up browned bits
from the bottom.  Bring to gentle boil;
Cook 1 minute.  Stir in bay leaves, thyme,
remaining broth and salt, if using.
Simmer partially covered, 20-30 minutes.
Before serving, remove bay leaves and add lemon juice.

In the meantime...HOW TO MAKE THE CROUTONS
1 loaf french bread - sliced diagonally, 3/4 inch thick
chopped garlic
enough cheese to cover your slices of bread
(this recipe calls for Gruyere cheese - we used Mozzarella)
Parmesan cheese

Place bread slices on a cookie sheet.
(Trim if needed, so slices will fit into soup bowls.)
Place in 350 degree oven until golden brown and crispy
(about 15 minutes).  The bread needs a good crunch
to it so it won't get soggy in your soup bowl.
Remove from oven and increase oven temp to 375.
Dab each of the croutons (bread slices) with crushed garlic.
Place cheese on each slice to cover and sprinkle each
with about 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese.
Return to 375 oven and bake until
cheese is melted and golden brown. 

Ladle the soup into soup crocks or bowls.
With a spatula, transfer one 'crouton' to each bowl of onion soup.
Serve immediately! Mmm.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Free Recipe Friday. . .Uhhh

Hello's time for another installment of Free Recipe Friday. 
What on earth will be revealed this week??? 
Oh let's see....ummm, Eggs Benedict anyone??? (with a twist, of course!)
Don't worry about the old fashioned, fancy name....
there's a reason this recipe has never been forgotten!

This Free Recipe Friday installment will consist of
not only one, but two, yes two free recipes....
first, we will learn how to make hollandaise sauce and
THEN how to poach an egg (without any fancy pans)!

I will start off by saying I have never EVER made hollandaise sauce before
nor have I poached an egg in this fashion...SO, no excuses people!!!
Secondly, I will state for the record that after this meal,
I can STILL say that I have never made hollandaise sauce
or poached an egg in this fashion.
How can she do this you say???
Well, you see, we happen to have a resident Sous Chef around here.
And she cooked this whole meal!  Kids are great aren't they?!???
If you ever get flustered because all your kids want to watch on tv
is the Food Network, DON'T!!!! It will pay off! ;)
Thank you Shelby!
What an amazing treat!!!  Especially because life here is so crazy.
But your life doesn't have to be crazy
just to enjoy this recipe!
It makes a great breakfast, lunch, dinner or meal on the fly!

*This recipe is from none other than Tyler Florence*
(a Food Network 'founding father').
This is the yummiest sauce EVER.
For a family of four, we doubled the recipe below. 
We prefer more than a spoonful of sauce,
so by doubling the recipe, it was just barely enough
for the quantity that we prefer....
so adjust according to your needs!

4 egg yolks

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)

Pinch cayenne

Pinch salt

Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together
in a stainless steel bowl until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume.
Place the bowl over a large saucepan (or stockpot, as we did here)
containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler)
the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Continue to whisk rapidly and continuously! 
Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble.
Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk
until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume.
Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt.
Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use for the eggs benedict.
If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.


The Poaching Water:

2 Tbsp vinegar in about 10-12 cups of simmering water.

Bring to a boil

Add salt to taste (about 3 tsp or more)

Bring back down to gentle simmer
(*salt and water ratios are just as you would do for boiling pasta)


The Poaching Process:

Crack egg into a small bowl, then pour into a ladle

Gently plop (technical term) egg into the water.

Poach for approx 5 mins each


Eggs Benedict, traditionally call for a poached egg,
 a slice of ham/canadian bacon and a toasted split english muffin...
with a spoonful of hollandaise sauce on top.

Our Eggs Benedict meal was done with a twist...because
WE just so happened to have some left over chicken AND bagels.
No english muffins or ham at all, but, we had SMOKED chicken!
A rottisserie chicken would be SO easy and perfect for this
if you wanted chicken.  We used chicken because we
do not usually have canadian bacon on you?!?
This is one of those recipes that is perfect for using up those
leftover meats from Sunday lunch as we did....
just as the variations listed below show...the sky is the limit!

So, toast your bagel, english muffin or whatever you decide to use.
Place toasted bread on a serving plate and layer your ham
or whatever meat you choose to use, top with your
poached egg, then top with some hollandaise sauce...voila!

Variations of Eggs Benedict you might like to try...

---Eggs Florentine - replace the ham or bacon with spinach.

---Eggs Maryland - remove the ham and serve poached eggs
    drizzled with Hollandaise sauce on top of crab cakes.

---Waldorf Style Eggs - replace the English muffin with toast
     and serve with poached eggs, sautéed mushrooms and mushroom sauce.

---Norwegian Eggs - replace the ham or bacon with thin slices of smoked salmon.

---Artichoke Eggs - replace the English muffin with cooked artichoke hearts.

---Eggs Blackstone - use streaky bacon (regular bacon)
     instead of back bacon (canadian bacon) and add a slice of tomato.

---Asparagus Eggs - substitute the ham with asparagus spears.

---Country Eggs Benedict - Replace the bacon or ham with sausage slices
     and cover with sausage gravy instead of Hollandaise sauce.