Friday, February 27, 2009

Perfect Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a delicious, healthy and inexpensive dish that is very easy to prepare and always goes quicky at parties. I make this all the time in the summer to carry to potlucks and get togethers. I hope you all love it as much as we do!

Pasta Salad

1. 1 pd. tri colored rotini pasta
2. 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
3. black olives (pitted and drained)
4. Italian dressing
5. 1 red, green or yellow bell pepper

1. Boil the pasta
2. In a large bowl add: the can of black olives, the tomatoes which have been rinsed and sliced in half, 1 bell pepper finely diced
3. Once the pasta is done cooking drain and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process and to cool the pasta down.
4. Add the pasta to the bowl with the olives, tomatoes, and bell pepper.
5. I always make my own Italian dressing (simply follow the directions on the back of an Italian Dressing Seasoning packet) but feel free to purchase a bottle if you don't want to do that.
6. Drizzle a fair amount of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
7. Serve with the Italian dressing by the side of the bowl so that people can add more if they want to. For some reason no matter how much you add to the bowl it always seems to need more on your plate.

This salad is very easily adaptable to your own taste. My mom likes to dice half a red onion and put it in hers. Every now and then I will add some fresh broccoli to mine.


Whenever I go home to visit my parents I always stock up on sausage sold at the local market. Everything is raised, slaughtered and processed locally so I know it is fresh and I also know there are no strange bi-products. It is blended with a lot of different spices that give it a wonderful taste and heat. I am down to my last pound of it in the freezer and figured I would use it during the in-law's visit. I also had a leftover pie shell from a chocolate pie I had made awhile back and so I decided the best way to use everything up would be to make a breakfast quiche. Boy howdy this was DELICIOUS! The buttermilk adds an interesting tangy taste to the quiche. I hardly ever cook with it and I've discovered I really like the taste of it.

Cheesy Sausage and Egg Quiche
I found the recipe East Meets West Kitchen blog

1. 1 pound Jimmy Dean Maple sausage I used the pd. of hot sausage I had on hand
2. 1/2 cup onion, diced
3. 1/2 cup green pepper, diced
4. 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
5. 1 tbsp. flour
6. 1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust
7. 4 eggs, beaten
8. 1 cup buttermilk
9. 1 tbsp. parsley flakes To me 1 tbsp. is too much. Next time I will half that amount.
10. 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
11. 1/2 tsp garlic powder
12. 1/4 tsp freshly grind black pepper

1. Cook sausage in non-stick skillet. Drain sausage, reserving 2 tbs fat.
2. Sauté onion and pepper in 2 tbs fat reserved from the sausage.
3. Combine cheese and flour. Stir in sausage, pepper, and onion.
4. Spread evenly in pie crust.
5. Thoroughly mix rest of ingredients and pour into pie shell over sausage mixture.
6. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for 35-40 minutes, until browned and cooked.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Great Gratin!

This recipe is so delicious and easy to prepare. The gratin is quiet rich what with the butter, milk and heavy cream; but I figured it's okay to splurge on calories every once in awhile!

Spinach Gratin
from Ina Garten

1. 4 tbps. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2. 4 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions) This seemed a bit excessive to me so I only used one onion. There was still plenty!
3. 1/4 cup AP flour
4. 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
5. 1 cup heavy cream

6. 2 cups milk
7. 3 pds. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
8. 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
9. 1 tbsp. kosher salt
10. 1/2 tsp. black pepper
11. 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat.
3. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes.
4. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes.
5. Add the cream and milk and cook until thickened.
6. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and add the spinach to the sauce. The best way to do this is to take a clean kitchen towel and put the spinach in it and then wring all the water you can out.
7. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix well.
8. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
I used way more than 1 tbsp of salt and 1/2 tsp. of black pepper. To me it needed it.
9.Transfer the spinach to a baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and the Gruyere on top.
10. Bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve hot.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

In case you don't get my title reference; it's to a fabulous movie with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Katharine Hepburn claimed she had never seen the movie (despite starring in it) because it was Tracy's last film before he passed away. They had quiet the scandalous love affair. You should read up on know you want to. Have I mentioned before how much I adore Katharine Hepburn? She's probably one of my very favorite actresses of all time. If her name wasn't so gosh darn common I would even consider naming a future daughter after her. Below is a picture of her wearing her trademark trousers. In an era when it was considered the height of bad taste for a woman to wear pants she broke the mold and wore them anyway. There is a funny story (who knows if it's true!) where her trousers were stolen by the wardrobe department on set of some movie she was making. They figured if she didn't have pants she would agree to wear the dress they left for her. Well Katharine was going to have none of that and walked about the set in her underwear until the stunned wardrobe department gave her back the trousers. You know how some people just by looking at them you know you would get along famously? Katharine Hepburn is one of those people.

There is a hillarious scene in the movie Adam's Rib in which she also starred with Spencer Tracy. She is trying rather unsuccessfully to be the "little wife" in the kitchen making him coffee and waffles for breakfast. Well of course the whole thing is a mess. The toast flies out of the toaster and onto the floor, her coffee is boiling over, her waffles (due to added yeast) are bubbling out of the waffle maker. You need to watch that movie for that one scene alone. I love the way she looks at the waffle maker with the copious amount of waffle mix gurgling out of it and looks back over her shoulder at Spencer who is sitting at the breakfast table pretending to read his newspaper. She steps infront of the waffle maker to shield her disaster in home cooking. The look on her face is priceless. Apparently in real life though Katharine knew her way around a kitchen. Her brownie recipe is so delicious and ooey gooey. I have only tried homemade brownies once before and the results were kind of "meh" for lack of a better description. These were flawless. Much like Hepburn herself.

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies

Published first in a 1975 issue of Ladies Home Journal. Reprinted by Saveur.


1. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

2. 2 ounces good quality unsweetened chocolate

3. 1 cup granulated sugar

4. 2 eggs, beaten

5. 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

6. 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

7. 1/4 cup all purpose flour

8. 1/4 tsp. table salt


1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8"x 8" baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper; grease the paper. Set pan aside.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a 2 qt. sauce pan over low heat, stirring constantly with a wodden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to make a smooth batter. Add the walnuts, flour and salt; stir until incorporated. Pour the batter into the baking pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Let cook on a rack. Cut and serve.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Southern Essentials

I can still remember when I was in college my roommate came back to our dorm so excited about a recent purchase she had made. You can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be an ice tea maker. do not need to go out and waste your hard earned money on such a contraption. Literally you might as well go flush $20.00 down the toilet. Sweet tea is something that is in my frig about 90% of the time and I have never in my life made it with an ice tea maker. Tea is full of antioxidants and can help to fight free radicals in the body. It gets a bad rap because the trend in the south is to make it sickeningly sweet. As you will see in my recipe I don't follow that trend!

Sweet Tea

1. 3 family sized tea bags - I always buy Lipton Tea Naturally Decaffeinated Family Size Tea Bags
2. sugar (1/2 cup)
3. water

1. In a medium sized saucepan fill halfway full with water. Put teabags in and bring to a boil.
2. Once the water is boiling, immediately turn the heat down to a simmer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.
3. Take a 1 gallon pitcher and pour 1/2 cup of sugar into it.
4. Pour the hot tea into the pitcher and use a wooden spoon to stir the tea with the sugar until the sugar dissolves.
5. Run water to the top of the pitcher. Stir a few times to incorporate the tea with the water.

That's all there is to it! To jazz it up a little, I like to make a gallon of unsweetened tea and mix half a glass of tea with half a glass of lemonade to make an Arnold Palmer.

Teaser Post

I say this is a teaser post because I don't actually have a recipe to impart to you. I have ingested so many pounds of this cornbread during my lifetime and just the smell of it cooking takes me back to my childhood. My granny even used to serve this with a wedge of onion for a "snack" when I was little. As disgusting as that sounds...try'd be surprised! This is the base for so many southern staples (and hopefully future posts!) such as stewed potatoes and cabbage and cornbread. I always shake my head at people in the grocery store buying those boxed cornbread mixes. Cornbread is WAY to simple to make from scratch to buy those Jiffy mixes. To be a true southern woman there are a few food staples which you must be able to make: fried chicken, deviled eggs, turnip greens and of course cornbread. Please try this cornbread so you won't be one of those people I pity in the grocery store! I'm sorry I don't have exact measurements for you but this really is one of those things where once you make it a few times you learn what the mixture is supposed to look and feel like so measurements become obsolete. My mom used to hand me the whisk when she was making this and tell me to stir it a few time to learn how it is supposed to feel. Anyway I will give it my best shot!


1. Cornmeal
- I like to use Martha White Corn Meal, Plain White
2. 1 large egg
3. milk - I just use what I always have on hand which is 2% but I'm sure it would work with regular
4. canola oil

* You are going to need a cast iron skillet to make this cornbread. If you don't already have one and want to purchase one I would recommend an 8 inch skillet. It produces 8 slices of cornbread which is enough for most families. Try to find a skillet which says it is "pre-seasoned" . That means it will already be non stick and protected from rust.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. In a large bowl combine: egg, cornmeal and milk. This is the tricky part since I don't have exact measurements. I just take a regular table spoon and put about a dozen heaping spoonfuls of cornmeal in the bowl along with the egg. Add enough milk so that the mixture is slightly runny. The great thing about this is that if it gets too thin you just add some more cornmeal and if it gets too thick you just add some more milk. Use a whisk to mix everything together. Don't overmix or it will get gluey (if that is even a word!)
2. Turn a stove eye on about medium heat
3. Put about 2 tbsps. canola oil in the cast iron skillet and put the skillet on the stove eye
4. Wait for the oil in the skillet to get warm. You don't want it to be too hot or otherwise the cornmeal will cook too rapidly when it hits the oil. When you think it is warm enough take a pinch of cornmeal and put in the skillet. It should sizzle a little.
5. Pour the cornmeal mix you have made into the skillet on the stove. The oil from the bottom will come up the sides a little bit. Take a spoon and pull some of the oil across the cornmeal so that it will be nice and golden.
6. Put in the oven for about 30 minutes.
7. Remove and run a butter knife around the edge and then invert it onto a dinner plate.
8. Slice and serve. YUM!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Crowd Pleasing Lasagna

As often happens in the kitchen, sometimes the best food is born out of resourcefulness. What is that old saying? Necessity is the mother of invention? I think that anyone who has ever spent any time in a kitchen will tell you how true that is. Many years ago my cousin was making lasagna when she belatedly realized she didn't have the right cheese on hand. She rummaged through her frig and saw she had swiss cheese, cottage cheese and mozzarella. Long story short...the family lasagna recipe was born. I know most of you (and especially any Italians) are thinking, 'Swiss cheese? Cottage cheese? In lasagna! Are you crazy!', but I promise this is beyond delicious.


1. 1 - 1.5 lb. lean ground beef
2. 1 box lasagna noodles - do NOT be tempted into buying the "no boil" pasta
3. 2 jars of spaghetti sauce - you can certainly make your own sauce but I really like the taste of Classico Tomato and Basil
4. swiss cheese- I like Sargento Deli Style Sliced Swiss Cheese. It comes with 12 slices which is more then you will end up using but it's nice to have on hand for sandwiches.
5. cottage cheese- I buy a 1 lb. tub of it and end up using approximately 1/2. My mom makes her's with reduced fat but I like the Horizon Organic best.
6. mozzarella cheese- Again, I'm partial to Sargento brand shredded mozzarella cheese. You certainly won't use up an entire bag since this is only going on the last layer but cheese is always a good staple to have in the frig.

1. Brown the meat in a deep pan and drain off any grease.
2. Add the two jars of tomato sauce. Turn the heat down to medium low and just let it simmer.
3. In a large pot bring water to a boil. Salt slightly and put lasagna noodles in. The noodles should be completely cooked in under 10 minutes. You want to take them out slightly before they are al dente. They will finish cooking in the oven.
4. In a 9x13 inch pan spread a thin layer of tomato sauce out. This will keep the lasagna from sticking to the pan after baking.
5. Put down a layer of lasagna noodles. I can usually fit around 3 or 4.
6. Take the meat/sauce mixture and spoon a pretty good layer on top of the noodles.
7. Take your swiss cheese slices and lay them down on top of the sauce. I can usually fit 4 slices.
8. Take a spoon and dollop out the cottage cheese on top of the swiss cheese and meat mixture. I don't have precise measurements I just eyeball it. Just do about a dozen or so quarter size dollops all over.
9. Over the cheese add another layer of the meat/sauce mixture.
10. Repeat steps 5-9 until you get to the top of the dish.
10. For your last layer after you have added the sauce over the swiss and cottage cheese you will add a heaping layer of mozzarella cheese. Be generous with it. This will brown and become the "crust" of the lasagna.
11. Put into a 350 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes or until the mozzarella cheese has melted into a deep golden brown.
12. Serve hot with garlic bread. This recipe makes enough lasagna to feed a small army so if you are planning on having guests over you should absolutely consider this!

Friday, February 6, 2009


Chili is T.H.'s all time favorite meal. When we met in college I don't think he had ever cooked much of anything other than a hot pocket; but my mom's chili recipe is so easy and delicious that he now makes it all the time. This is the recipe that I grew up on and in my opinion is the ultimate chili.


1. 1 can of kidney beans
2. 2 cans of pinto beans
3. 1 medium onion diced
4. 1 large clove of garlic
5. 1 (14.5) can of whole tomatoes
6. 1 lb. ground beef
7. 2 tbsps. chili powder
8. 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1. Brown 1 lb. of ground beef. Drain off fat
2. Add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is tender.
3. Add can of tomatoes. With a spoon break up the whole tomatoes slightly.
4. Add the beans (do not drain)
5. Add chili powder. The amount is approximate. Despite what you may think, chili powder doesn't actually add a lot of heat it just adds a kind of smokey background taste. The more you add the darker the final product will be.
6. Add red pepper flakes. Again the amount is approximate. A little goes a long way so add a little bit and let it cook for awhile and then you can taste and determine if you want to add more.
7. Add enough water to cover the entire chili mixture.
8. Cook on medium high heat for around 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally to ensure the bottom doesn't scortch.
9. Serve hot

T.H. likes his with lots of shredded cheddar cheese. I like mine with a little shredded cheese a few shakes of Frank's Hot Sauce and some saltine crackers. This and the white bean soup also in this blog are my all time favorite soups ever. When I think of comfort food this is what I think of!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Noble Pig Brisket

One of the food blogs that I love to follow is the Noble Pig. I love to drool over all the food and when I saw this recipe it really jumped out at me. I was a little intimidated at the thought of cooking a brisket since I had never attempted that feat before but looking at the step by step photos I felt confident that yes I could indeed make it! T.H. who is not the standard man who will eat anything gave this two thumbs up and said he wanted me to make it again soon. I hope you all like it as much as we did.

Noble Pig Brisket

1. 1 large onion diced
2. 1/2 cup butter
3. 28 ounces of ketchup
4. 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
5. 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
6. 1/3 cup lemon juice
7. 2 Tablespoons chili powder
8. 1-1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
9. 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
10. 1 teaspoon salt
11. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
12. 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (optional) I did not use it
13. 2 beef briskets totaling 5-6 pounds or one large 6 pound beef brisket (if you can find it) Mine was about 4.2 pds.

1. Saute onion and butter in a heavy saucepan until tender.
2. Add the next nine ingredients; bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat; simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes until reduced to about 6 cups.
4. Place the brisket in a roasting pan. I don't have a roasting pan so I used a sheet pan.
5. Add 3 cups of sauce.
6. Cover and bake at 275 degrees for 3 hours for two smaller briskets, basting occasionally. I forgot to cover the pan with aluminum foil so it didn't get the nice crust it was supposed to. Still delicious though!
7. If you use one large 6 pound brisket bake at 350 degrees for 4 hours, covered.
8. Skim any fat.
9. Remove brisket and let rest for 15 minutes.
10. Thinly slice the beef and pour remaining sauce from the pan and reserved sauce over the beef. Or throw the thinly sliced beef back into the roasting pan with the cooking sauce and add the sauce you reserved and completely coat the meat, then plate it up. It will be so saucy and so good.

I highly recommend you go to the Noble Pig site to see all of the pictures that she took for this brisket recipe. My pics don't come anywhere close to showing how good it is!

Breakfast for Dinner

This recipe has a lot of things going for it.

1. It's quick...literally it can be made in about 30 minutes. Perfect for a day when you come home feeling drained.
2. It's versatile. I usually make it with spicy sausage but it can be made with ham, turkey or even vegetarian (in that case I would recommend adding a green pepper diced and maybe some broccoli)
3. It's delicious! For something that comes together so quickly it's shocking how yummy it is.

So on to the recipe itself.

Frittatas with Ham and Cheese

1. 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2. 2/3 cup chopped reduced-fat ham (about 2 ounces) Again I highly recommend spicy sausage
3. 1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese I always just use regular cheddar cheese
4. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives Omitted
5. 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme Omitted
6. 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
7. 4 large egg whites
8. 1 large egg

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.
3. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes or until crisp-tender.
4. Add ham; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.
5. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.
6. Add ham mixture, stirring with a whisk.
7. Spoon mixture into 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. I don't have a mini muffin pan so I just use a standard cupcake pan. Also I don't coat the pan with cooking spray. I have found that it makes the frittatas too greasy.
8. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until set.