Saturday, May 28, 2011

California Vegetable Casserole

I had a request for some veggie dishes. Thought I would put this one up tonight. This is a recipe I use as a side dish for winter holidays, but I have also made it at other times. It is a rich, cheesy vegetable dish I am sure you will love. As to where it came from, I am not exactly sure. I have been making this dish for well over 20 years. It always gets rave reviews from dinner guests.

California Vegetable Casserole

2-16oz packages of frozen california mixed vegetable
2-cans of cream of mushroom soup (I use Campbell"s)
1-16oz container of sour cream
1- large container of french fried onions ( I use Durkee brand)
1 C. each of cheddar, mozzarella, swiss cheeses, shredded ( I have also used 2 c. of mozzarella and 1 c. cheddar and have also used 2 c. of shredded co jack, which is very good)

Partially thaw the vegetables, then mix with sour cream, soup, 1/2 of the onions and 1/2 C. of each of the cheeses. Place in a 9" x13" baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray or one that is lightly buttered. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Top with remaining cheese, then add remaining onions. Continue baking until cheese is melted and onions have browned nicely.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Almost Cinnabon!

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with the ultimate cinnamon rolls, Cinnabon. If you are not, you should make every effort to find them and try them. There is nothing in the world like them. Warm,soft, gooey, sweet, cinnamony, cream cheesy heaven is what they are. There are several Cinnabon clone recipes out there, but none of them can give you the exact cinnamon roll you were hoping for. The only to get those are to travel to the nearest Cinnabon bakery. In the area I live in, we use to have one at a local mall, Then one day they were gone. I am not sure why they left our local mall as they always had a line of mouth watering patrons, patiently waiting for person in the front of the line to get out of their way.  Now our city is left with nothing but deeply saddened  'Cinnabon Mourners". Try as we may, we will probably never recreate the cinnamon love of our lives. So, in order to have the warm sweet gooey flavor we love, we must either travel over 3 hours or keep trying to perfect the clone recipes we have. Each time I have made this" Cinnabon  close, but no cigar clone"  I think no, there is something missing. Just as each time I am lucky enough to get my hands on an actual Cinnabon, I savor each bite while the thoughts of, what is in here that makes this so wonderful. Is it something in the dough? Is it the cinnamon they use? Is it something in the cream cheese frosting? It is like there is the lightest citrus flavor in the frosting, I think!  All I can say is, "Cinnabon, please come back"! Until that happens, I will keep trying to figure out what that secret is. Actually, if truth be told, even if they were to come back to my area, I will still keep trying to figure out what that one or many ingredients are that makes me smile and my heart melt.
Here is a clone recipe I had found several years ago on a site, which tries to clone many of our favorite restaurant foods. It is not the exact Cinnabon we would love to have, but it is a very good recipe. I use a bread machine for the dough as I am at times, yeast impaired. Besides, it is much easier and quicker. This recipe is very easy. I am sure you will love them as much as my family and I do. I wish I could give credit to the author of this recipe, but like I said, I am not sure which site I had found this on.

Cinnabon Clone

1 C. warm milk (110 degrees)
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/3 C. margarine (melted)
4 1/2 C. bread flour
1 t. salt
1/2 C. sugar
2 1/2 t. bread machine yeast (I use Red Star active dry yeast)
1 C. brown sugar (packed)
2 1/2 T. cinnamon
1/3 C. butter (softened) *do not use margarine for this part*

Place the 1st seven ingredients in the bread machine in the order in which they are listed. When adding the yeast, make a well in the flour to put the yeast into. Select the "dough setting" on your bread machine. As soon as the dough is mixed, remove from bread machine, place in an large bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until it doubles in size.
Turn onto a floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. While dough is resting , in a small mixing bowl combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Once the dough has rested for 10 minutes roll dough out into a 16" x 21" rectangle. Spread with 1/3 C. of softened butter, sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Carefully roll the dough, do not roll too tightly, but tight enough so you do not lose your brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. (I found there was a little too much of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, so you may want to use your judgement as to whether you want to use the entire amount. I would suggest making it as directed the first time and the next time make your adjustments). Cut dough into 12 rolls. Place rolls into a 9" x 13" greased cake pan. Cover and let rise until it nearly doubles in size (approx. 30 min). Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until they are a light golden brown on top. (Do not over bake as this will make them dry).

Cinnabon Clone Cream Cheese Frosting

1-3oz. package of cream cheese (softened)
1/4 C. butter (softened) *do not use margarine*
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
3/4 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt

Mix together cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt, mix on high until creamed. Slowly add in powdered sugar a little at a time. Continue to beat at high speed until frosting is very light and fluffy. Spread frosting over warm cinnamon rolls.  Enjoy!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Boeuf A La Bourguignonne Julia Child's Recipe

Here is the recipe for Julia Child's
Boeuf A La Bourguignonne

6oz. chunk of bacon: Remove any rind and cut into sticks 1/4 inch thick and 1/2 inch long. Simmer the rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Pre heat oven to 450 degrees

In a 9 to 10 inch casserole dish that is at least 3 inches deep and over proof, add 1T. of olive oil
Saute bacon for 10 min until browned lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

3 lbs. of lean stew meat ( chuck roast works very well)  If using a whole roast cut into 2 inch cubes. Dry meat completely, ( as Julia says, your meat will not properly brown if it is not dried well). Make sure it is NOT damp.

Reheat oil until almost smoking before adding beef.

Saute your beef a few pieces at a time until nicely browned on all sides. Once brown, add to the side dish with your bacon.

1 Carrot
1 Onion
Slice both of your vegetables  * I would suggest using 2 carrots, they cook down quite a bit, but Julia's recipe uses only one.

Once all of the beef is browned and added to the side dish with your bacon. Add your sliced onion and carrot to the oil which you browned your meats. Once the vegetables are browned, discard the sauteing fat.

1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 T. flour

Add your beef and bacon back into the dish, toss with the salt and pepper, sprinkle flour over the top and toss again to lightly cover meat. Set casserole dish, uncovered in the middle of the preheated oven for 4 min. Remove and toss meat, return to oven for another 4 minutes. This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust. Remove casserole and turn oven down to 350 degrees.

3 C. of a full bodied young red wine.
2 to 3 C. of brown beef stock or canned beef bullion
1 T. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 t. thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf
The blanched bacon rind

Stir in wine and enough stock or bullion so that meat is barely covered. Add in the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of stove. Cover casserole dish and place in the lower third of the preheated oven. Regulate the heat so it simmers for 2 1/2 to 3 hrs. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

18 to 24 pearl onions brown braised in stock.
1 lb.quartered fresh mushrooms sauted in  butter.
While beef is cooking prepare your onions and mushrooms, then set aside until needed.

When meat is tender, pour contents of the casserole into a sieve over a saucepan. Rinse the casserole dish. Return meat to the casserole and distribute onions and mushrooms over the meat. Skim the fat off of the sauce and simmer sauce for a minute or two continuing to skim off fat as it rises. You should have about
 2 1/2 C. of sauce thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. If too think boil down rapidly, if too thick add a few tablespoons of stock. Taste carefully for seasoning and pour stock over meat and vegetables.

If you are serving immediately, cover and simmer on top of stove for 2 to 3 minutes basting meat and vegetables several times with sauce. Serve in casserole dish or place on a platter and surround with potatoes, rice or noodles and sprigs of parsley.

If you are making ahead of time, when cooled, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, heat in casserole dish to a simmer, cover and simmer slowly for about 10 minutes, occasionally basting with sauce.

Well, there you have Julia's recipe for Boeuf A La Borurguignonne. I hope you enjoy it as much as everyone else has.
Almost everyday I find myself sitting and trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Growing up in farm country in the midwest, I never really had the opportunity to experience not only many ethnic foods, but gourmet foods. I found myself surfing the internet for something different to cook for dinner. I must admit, that many recipes I would look at and would love to try, really intimidated me. I have tried many dishes over the years, but until recently I had not ever tried any French dishes. My knowledge of French cooking is french toast! I thought about what might be a good French dish to start with. Through out my internet searching I had to keep in mind my family. What would they eat? What would not make them run, screaming from the house, heading for the nearest McDonald's or Pizza Hut. I knew it must be meat, as we are carnivores. My search brought me to a recipe that I had not only ran across several times, but one  had recently seen in a movie. I searched many sites and read many different recipes for this dish, most of which were adaptations of Julia Child's. Though, I suppose for beginning French cooking, maybe I was getting ready to take on a bit more that I could handle. After little deliberation I decided if I was going to make a French dish, why not go to the one which obviously was one the best. That is how I decided to make my first true French recipe, Julia Child's  Boeuf Bourguignonne.
 After looking over the recipe for a day or two, I was off to buy the ingredients needed. Some of the internet sites said this recipe was difficult, others said it was moderate. I was, either way ready for the challenge and determined to make this dish, which sounded absolutely wonderful. While this dish was very time commercing to make, I did not feel it was difficult at all. Even though it did take a while to prepare this dish, it was worth every second I spent standing in the kitchen. It was truly one of the most wonderful meals I had ever tasted in my life. My family also agreed that this was a wonderful dish. There were no left overs and now they are waiting for me to make this again, which I know I will be doing very soon. There are many side dishes that could be made to compliment this dish, Julia Child's receipe suggests serving with boiled potatoes, rice or noodles. I decided on potatoes, which I baked with sea salt. The broth in this French stew is so delicious I am glad I decided on potatoes, so that every last drop could be consumed. Another side dish which Julia suggests is buttered peas.
The only real difficulty I ran across was finding the right wine for this dish. I am not a wine person, so it was difficult for me to know what was a good wine to use and which ones would not do so well. Choosing a wine for this dish is something in which, I am sure everyone would have a different opinion on.  I found no recipe that stated using any particular wine, other than a Burgundy. While searching for a Burgundy wine, I found there were an over abundance of those. I ended up settling on a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Next time I make this delicious French dish, I will try another wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon did make a wonderful Boeuf Bourguignonne.
I am sure no matter which wine you choose to use, it will still be wonderful. I hope you will try this dish, I am sure once you do, you will agree that is is one of the best things you have ever eaten. Once you have cooked this wonderful recipe, please let me know what you think and if you found any helpful hints in which I can pass along.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Treats For Your Best Friend

Making treats for your dog is very simple and inexpensive. Why not make some tasty treats for your dog the next time you throw some cookies or a cake in the oven for yourself. I would like to give you a couple of easy recipes for you to make some good and healthy treats for your "best friend". These can be for any size dog, as you can make them as large or small as you want them to be.

Cheesy Hound Rounds

1/2 C. low fat cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 C. low fat cottage cheese
2 1/2 T. vegetable oil
2 C. flour
3/4 C. peanuts, chopped
1/4 C. water

Mix the first five ingredients, add water and mix well. Break off golf ball size pieces and flatten into rounds. Bake on a sprayed cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. If you would like to make smaller treats, adjust the cooking time.  The treats should be very hard when finished.

Banana Mutt Cookies

1 1/2 C. ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 t. vanilla
3 C. oats
1/2 C. peanuts, chopped
1/4 C. applesauce

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Drop spoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Your pet is sure to love these tasty treats and you will know that the treats you are feeding him or her are healthy.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dessert Time! Orange Juice Cake with Glaze

Nothing better than a really good dessert to make everything seem okay again. Doesn't matter if it is hot or cold, desserts are wonderful! Most desserts are a part of a meal that can be made ahead of time.

Some are gooey, some are crunchy, there are so many things a dessert can do. Doesn't matter if it is soft, hard, sweet or tart, chewy, silky, fluffy, creamy,light or heavy. Desserts are something you can have at any time of the day or night and they should always put a smile on your face and make you say YUM!

What is your favorite dessert? Do you have many good dessert recipes? Most of us do. I have many wonderful dessert recipes and there are many I have yet to try. Here is a really good and really easy dessert.  I am not sure where this recipes came from, but kudos to whom ever created this wonderful cake.

Orange Juice Cake with Glaze

1-box of yellow cake mix
1-small box of orange gelatin ( I use jello brand)
2/3 C. of oil (canola works well)
2/3 C. water
4 eggs
2/3 C. orange juice ( can have pulp or be pulp free)
1 C. sugar

Combine the cake mix and gelatin powder and mix well. In another mixing bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Mix cake mixture with the liquid mixture very well. Bake at 350 degrees as directed on the cake mix box. While the cake is baking, make the glaze.

2/3 C. orange juice ( I would suggest pulp free for the glaze)
1 C. powdered sugar
mix orange juice and powdered sugar well until very creamy.
When cake has finished baking and still hot. Poke small holes all over the cake and pour glaze over the cake. Allow the cake to completely cool before serving.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gardening: Herbs, Sweet Basil and Oregano

 Sweet Basil                                                                                                        Oregano

Growing herbs is very easy. They can be grown both indoors and outdoors. All you need is a pot, dirt, water and light. Most herbs are very resilient and take very little to successfully grow. Basil and oregano are two of my favorites. Two basil or oregano plants can give you a very large amount at the end of their growing season, not to mention you can harvest from them as they grow.

Both basil and oregano will produce a much larger crop if planted outdoors and in the ground. if you don't have the room or live in an apartment, don't worry, you can still grow nice plants that will produce a nice crop.

Sweet basil is the most popular of the basil family. It is very easy to grow. it does require a very sunny spot and plenty of water. make sure the soil is rich and well drained. When planting outdoors do not plant in a low lying area where water tends to stand. When plating indoors, make sure you have a large pot with plenty of rocks at the bottom of the pot and make sure the pot has sufficient drain holes. If you are starting basil from seed, which is very easy, germination should be in 5 to 7 days. Do not plant seeds to a depth more than twice the size of the seed. When planting many seeds to be transplanted out doors, plant the seeds about 1/2 inch apart make sure you have sterile soil. Keep the soil moist, but NOT soggy. Cover your post or flats with plastic will help hold in heat and moisture.Moisture is very important to a good basil crop, mulching around the base of the plant will help keep moisture in and help keep weeds down, if planting outdoors. Should you decide to fertilize, do so, very sparingly. as it will decrease the oils of the basil plant.I do not fertilize any of my herbs. Basil can become very leggy, so it is important to prune the plant. I would suggest pinching back about every three weeks, this will produce a very nice bushy basil plant. Pruning will also keep your basil from flowering and going to seed as fast, not to mention, you will get more usable basil from the plant. Basil can be harvested as soon as you have mature leaves. I usually begin harvesting it basil when it reaches about 8 inches.

Oregano can be started about the same way as basil. It will require a little more attention that basil does. I usually by oregano starters from a local nursery. One or two plants is more than enough to give you a harvest which will last you a bout a year or more. Unless you cook with it daily, you will probably have more than enough with one plant.  Oregano also likes moist soil, but needs less sun than basil does. Sun, if too hot, can scorch the leaves of your oregano. Bright morning sun with some afternoon shade is perfect for oregano. This herb will send out runners unlike the basil plant, it is just as important to prune oregano back to assure a nice full plant. The leaves of the oregano plant are, like basil, very aromatic. Cut your oregano plant way back if the stems become too woody. They can be cut back to just an inch or two from the ground. This will produce a nice full plant. You can begin to harvest this plant when it reaches a height of about 5 to 7 inches.

When harvesting your herbs it is best to do so in the morning. Harvest them after the sun has dried up the morning dew. The plant will have the strongest flavor at this time. if you wait until the leaves get too warm later in the day, you will lose a lot of flavor.  Both basil and oregano can be dried the same way. Take a nice cutting, but leave a good two to three inches at the bottom of the plant so it can continue to grow and you can get multiple harvests. Use a rubber band or twine and tie the stems together. Hang upside down in a dark room, warm, well ventilated room. If it is the end of the growing season and you want to try to keep some of you flavor as close to fresh as possible, try freezing the leaves in ice. When thawed you can use them as you would fresh. harvesting for dried herbs, do not crush the leaves, this will allow most of the flavor to exit the leaves because it allow the oils to escape. Once the leaves are completely dried, place them in a brown paper bag and crush them as you need them. I have found that a coffee bean grinder is perfect for herbs. I purchased a small one for this purpose only. I would not suggest using one that you use for coffee bean as your herbs will take on the strong flavor of the coffee.

I hope this information will help you when it comes to growing herbs. Not only is this information good for the basil and oregano, but for most herbs. Thyme, dill and rosemary are also herbs which are easily grown and dried. If you are going to grow fennel, you will probably want to harvest the seeds, though the bulb is very good also. This will be in a later post. As you can see, it takes very little time or money to grow your own herbs and with the price of fresh herbs today, why not give it a try. If you wish to have fresh herbs available all year, You can grow them year round in your home, just have a sunny window, away from drafts and give them plenty of water. Your plants will probably not reach the size they would outdoors, but they will be just as flavorful.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chocolate Marshmallow Bananas on the Grill

Here is a great grill dessert. It takes only a few minutes to prepare, 5 quick minutes cooking time and it is ready to eat.

Chocolate Marshmallow Bananas

Heat your grill to high heat. These are great to throw on the grill after you have cooked your meal, while the grill is still hot.

6-large bananas
2C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-10.5oz bag of miniature marshmallows
6-sheets of aluminum foil (big enough to wrap each banana tightly
cooking spray

Spray each sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray
Cut the ends off of each banana to remove the stem, slice the peel length wise. Pull back the peels carefully so you do not rip it, all you want is enough room to cut, mash and add ingredients. Slice the banana into about 1/2 inch slices, then slice down the middle of the banana length wise. Gently mash the banana slices. Do not mash too much, just enough to make room for your chocolate and marshmallows. Once the banana is mashed up, add chocolate chips and marshmallows on top of the mashed banana. Pull the peel back into place to hold the ingredients in. Wrap each banana in a sheet of aluminum foil, place on the grill or you can place on top of the hot coals or wood. Place them with the seam side of the banana peel upright, so your chocolate and marshmallow does not run out of the banana.  Allow to heat for approximately 5 min. Remove from grill and allow to cool for about 2 to 3 in.  Then grab a spoon, open the aluminum foil, open up the peel and dig in!

Cheddar Bacon Burgers and Macaroni Salad

Here are a couple of great summer barbecue recipes

Cheddar Bacon Hamburgers:

Heat grill to medium high heat

3/4 C. shredded cheddar cheese
1 small finely chopped onion
1T. your favorite barbecue sauce
1T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. seasoned salt
3/4 t. ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs of ground beef
 12 slices of hickory smoked bacon
6 hamburger buns

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cheese, onion, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Add ground beef and mix thoroughly by hand. Form 6 patties.  Each of the six patties will have two slices of bacon. Place one slice of bacon from side to side on each patty and the second slice from top to bottom so the bacon makes a (+) on each of the patties, secure bacon in place with a toothpick. 
Lightly oil the rack on the grill, so bacon does not stick. Place hamburger patties on the grill and cook for approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove toothpicks and place each patty on a hamburger bun.  Top with your favorite burger toppings.

This next recipe is one of my favorites also. It was given to me by a very dear family member.

Diane's Macaroni Salad

1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained ( I use Barilla brand)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of a small bag of shredded carrots, chopped into small pieces
1-14oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1C. granulated sugar
1C. white vinegar
 2C. real mayo ( do not use salad dressing such as Miracle Whip)

In a large mixing bowl, mix together macaroni, onion, bell pepper and carrots. In another mixing bowl mix together sweetened condensed milk, sugar, vinegar and mayo. A whisk seems to work best for mixing the dressing mixture. Add the milk mixture to the macaroni mixture and stir together very well. Your salad will be very thin. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir well before serving.

I am not sure how many serving this actually makes, but it will serve a lot of people. I hope you enjoy these both of these recipes. Happy barbecuing! :)