Monday, May 31, 2010

66. Fruit Smoothie, No Added Sugar

 Fruit smoothie is a great food name; it tells the main ingredient and the actual taste sensation...smoooooth. My kids knew what smoothies were before I did...I don't remember where they learned about them, but I do know they wanted me to make some. Although I bought a children's smoothie cookbook at a garage sale for our home book collection...I never made any of the recipes.

I don't know why I was not interested smoothies, but they did not show up on our menu more than once or twice that is, until I bought a Vita Mix machine in late '06. Smoothie samples were handed out during the store demo where I bought my machine...I loved the was thick, cold and really good! The first recipe I made from the VM cookbook was for a smoothie.

Something I learned early in the process of making my own smoothies was that the addition of bananas almost completely masks out any other flavors. Use them sparingly. I also don't usually add any sugar...if these are supposed to be health drinks, they don't need to be pumped up with sweeteners. Some people add milk or tofu...I do not.

I do add ice cubes which are pulverized along with the different fruit; sometimes I add a little fruit juice if I have it on hand, otherwise, the raw ingredients are all that is necessary. The fiber in these types of drinks is amazing...if the blended ingredients are allowed to just sit for a time, they expand greatly.

Strawberry, Pineapple, Banana - Fruit Smoothie

1 C strawberries, fresh or frozen
1 Banana
1 C pineapple

1/2 C ice cubes

Place all ingredients in your Vita Mix or blender in the order listed. Secure lid and pulse to crush ice. Increase speed to 50% and then on to HIGH. Run for one minute or until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes about 2 cups.

Other great choices: Apple, carrots, oranges, clementines, peaches, pear...

Friday, May 28, 2010

65. Eggs Benedictive - Not Duck Eggs!

I grew up eating traditional-white, mass-produced eggs.  Today, we have free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free eggs. The prices are hefty, but they do taste better than the mass produced eggs.

If you are lucky to live near a farm, you might be able to purchase wonderful, fresh eggs. Watch out, though.  An unscrupulous farm woman in Missouri told me the eggs she had for sale, were jumbo chicken eggs. After I returned home, I discovered they were duck eggs!

The flavor was quite different and I could not get past the sight of the huge yolks surrounded by very little egg white; it was visually unappealing.

While today we have more egg choices, my childhood included eggs which were not a salmonella  health threat. In fact, my mother put a raw egg in a glassful of juice and drank it - it was some kind of protein drink - I cannot remember why she thought she needed it, but  I could not have swallowed a raw egg no matter how great it was supposed to be.

Too bad my mother did not have the internet - she would have found out that the protein in cooked eggs is nearly twice as absorbable as the protein from raw eggs.

*Hint: Most restaurants make a poor version of Eggs Benedict, but if you are even in New Orleans, try the Eggs Benedict at Brennan's. Fabulous!

Today's recipe is my own variation of a mock-Eggs Benedict dish. It eliminates many of the offending calories and fat and the sauce is simple and is not temperamental.

Diane's Eggs Benedictive

(This recipe is for one serving; it may be doubled)


2 T Hellmann's mayonnaise
1/2 tsp Grey Poupon
2 tsp Greek yogurt (thick)*
1/4 lemon, juice from

1 multi-grain bagel (to cut calories, 1/2 bagel may be used)
Smart Balance Margarine
1 1/2 slices extra lean ham, chopped (If using 1/2 bagel, use 1 slice ham, chopped)

1 large egg

Paprika (optional)

Combine sauce ingredients well in a microwave safe bowl; set aside.

Heat a med. pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil and lower temperature until it has a slow, steady boil. Break the egg into a small dish and slip the egg into the pot of water. Cook for 3-5 minutes (3=runny, 5=firm).

Meanwhile, toast bagel. Put the cut ham in a small dish, cover and heat for 20 seconds in the microwave on HIGH. Remove, set aside. Heat the sauce, covered,  for 20 seconds in the microwave on HIGH, stir.

Put toasted bagel on a plate, spread well with Smart Balance. Layer bagel halves with warm ham pieces. Remove egg from water with a slotted spoon and set on bagel half. Ladle sauce over egg and second bagel half. Sprinkle with paprika if desired. Serve immediately.

*Note: Greek yogurt is available in most grocery stores.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

64. Ruby Whipped Cream Cheese Pie, Junket Memories

Sometimes the simplest thing can jostle one's is almost like being in a time warp as we are led back. Food does that to me more often than anything else, probably because it combines flavors and odors...a double ticket to memory lane.

Although desserts were not expected after most of our meals when I was growing up, Junket Danish Dessert could be called on in a pinch because it was easy to make, very inexpensive and enticed us with its unusual texture and flavor. It used to be found in every grocery store near our home...over time, vanished!

For years I was unable to find it until recently when I ran across a few boxes of it in a tiny, rural bulk food store and bought them all.  For those not familiar with Junket, it comes in two flavors...strawberry and raspberry.

If Junket is not in a store near you, it can be ordered on-line

When my mother made Junket, she always following the directions on the box for tangy Danish pudding. To describe this product as a pudding is misleading as it does not contain milk or milk products. It is very brightly colored, no matter which flavor is selected, and is fairly transparent. The texture is dense, but it has a tangy coldness to the tongue. It has to be tasted to be appreciated.

My family also loves the pie recipe on the back of the box...Ruby Whipped Cream Cheese Pie. It is a cross between a strawberry pie and cheesecake...wonderful!

Ruby Whipped Cream Cheese Pie

1 box Junket Danish Dessert, strawberry flavor
1 3/4 C cold water
6 oz cream cheese, softened (just go for it and us the whole 8 oz!)
1/2 C sugar
1 C whipped cream or whipped topping
9-inch baked pie crust
Fresh strawberries

Prepare pie crust following directions or purchase a pre-made graham crumb crust.
Stir contents of Junket in cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a full boil. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a small mixing bowl, beat softened cream cheese with sugar until well blended. Gently fold in 1 C whipped cream or topping and 2 T Junket. Spread cream cheese mixture in baked pie crust. Place sliced strawberries on top of the cheese layer. Spoon Danish Dessert over fruit and cheese. Chill 3-4 hours until firm.

Note: there are directions for making homemade Danish Pudding on the internet. I made one of them, and it was suggestion is to just send for the Junket.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

63. Chocolate-Strawberry Waffles - Limit Servings

Breakfast food can range from a piece of toast to a multi-course meal. Ours usually fall somewhere in-between. My mother, however, was not big on breakfasts...she usually ate after we did and only had toast and fact, I recall that she consumed it standing up...that is how little she valued her first meal of the day. She was in line with almost half of our country's population who also think that breakfast is unimportant.

 Current nutritional studies show that those who eat a good breakfast realize better brain power, particularly when it comes to memory. Children who are fed a nutritional breakfast produce better test scores, are not as cranky and attend school more regularly. Surprisingly, those who eat breakfast on a regular basis, maintain better body weight than those who skip that first meal.

Even without the advice from nutritionists, I have always been a breakfast-person. Some of my breakfasts lean more toward fun-food, but those are served on an infrequent basis; pancakes and waffles are on that list as are coffee cakes and sweet rolls. The sugar, fat and carbs in these foods are just too hard on the human body.

On the other hand...if portions are limited and servings are enhaced with fruit...the forbidden food becomes a meal of some value. Today's post is a waffle recipe...a really wonderful chocolate Belgian dessert waffle. Make them along with your breakfast waffles, wrap and save for another day and limit your serving to one waffle...if possible!

Chocolate-Strawberry Waffles

1/4 Cup butter or margarine, softened
1 C sugar
2 eggs or egg substitute
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C milk

Sliced strawberries
Whipped topping
Chocolate syrup

Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Alternate addition of   milk and flour mixture to the butter mixture a little at a time. Mix well. Batter will be thick.

Preheat Belgian waffle iron and spray with Pam if necessary. Fill and bake according to your unit's directions. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Makes 6 Belgian waffles.

*Note: The waffles are more interesting-looking if the iron is not filled to the edges.

To serve: Put Belgian waffle in toaster to re-warm and crisp up. Place on a serving plate, cover with sliced strawberries (or fruit of your choice). Dot with whipped topping and drizzle decoratively with chocolate syrup.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

62. Artichokes, preparation of - The Globe

My dad's Italian heritage gave him the familiarity with artichokes that my mother's Iowa roots did not. Mother, however, had lived in Europe twice during WWII years when she worked for the government; that part of her life gave her a world of taste experiences that were reproduced in our home.
Because of my parents' backgrounds, artichokes were often served in our home. We were taught how to pull the leaves off of the globe and how to dip them into lemon-butter. It was fairly easy to figure out how to gently scrape them through our teeth to remove the softened leaf pulp. The best part, however, was the flavorful and satisfying heart...but, the leaves and the fuzzy choke had to be dealt with, it was almost a labor of love to finally reach that inner reward.

A few years ago, we took a trip to California and eventually found ourselves in Monterey County where 80 percent of US artichokes are grown. We drove into Castroville which proclaims itself to be "The Artichoke Center of the World", and even holds an annual artichoke festival. I was fairly hopping up and down with anticipation as we drove by the signs and saw all the fields growing one of my favorite vegetables.

 I ran into a roadside market only to find sad, old and costly artichokes for sale. A few more stops produced the same large, fresh and economical artichokes were anywhere to be found. What a disappointment. No one could give me any information about fresh produce, so I left empty handed and very, very unhappy.

The Ozarks of Missouri, where I now live, has beautiful scenery and lakes, but definitely lacks food choices; therefore, I am always on the alert for big, fresh artichokes that are not outrageously priced. While this only happens two or three times a year, most often I have to be satisfied with canned, frozen or marinated hearts. Luckily, my husband does not care for artichokes and I can, selfishly, eat all of them myself.

If you are adventurous and want to add a wonderful vegetable to your menu, please try an artichoke the next time you see a bright green, fresh looking one in your produce section.

Artichokes - How to Prepare and Eat Them

1. Select only bright green globes. If they are wilted or brown, pass them by...those are old.

2. Trimming - The leaves have thorns on the ends and should be cut off with a scissors. The top end is also sliced off with a knife. The stem ends are trimmed with a knife. Some people remove the whole stem, but, I leave it on. If the artichoke globe is very large, it may be sliced in half. Immediately immerse it in a pot of water that has had lemon juice added to it. This will prevent the cut edges from turning brown.

3. Cooking: Simmer in a pot of water. I always immerse the globes while some people add a few inches of water and a steamer basket and steam them. Which ever method used, they take around 35-45 min. to simmer or steam until the leaves are tender. Check for doneness by pulling one of the larger leaves off of the globe. If it is easy to remove, hold the cut end between your thumb and index finger and scrape the leaf between your front teeth; if the pulp scrapes off easily, the artichoke is done.

4. Serving: remove globes from the water with tongs and place in a strainer to drain off most of the water. I sometimes give them a little squeeze with the tongs to help this process along. Place globe or globe half on serving plate next to a little cup of half melted butter and half lemon juice.

5. Eating: starting at the stem end, pull on a leaf to remove it from the globe and dip it into the butter mixture. Continue holding the cut end of the leaf between your thumb and index finger with the outside of the leaf facing out. Put the leaf between your teeth so your fingers just touch the outside of your teeth. Close your teeth and gently pull the leaf out while scraping away the tender pulp from the bottom of the leaf with the bottom, front teeth. This tasty, buttery morsel is then swallowed and the procedure continues. The leaves become more tender as you reach the center and the ends may be bitten off without going through the scraping process. Some of the very small inner leaves are just discarded as they are thorny and not tender.

6. Heart: The last part is the most fun and rewarding. You will notice a fuzzy, inner core. It would cause you to choke if you ate it...hence the name...This choke material must be removed and it is easily pulled away from the heart. Use your fingers or a fork to gently pull it away and put it with the pile of scraped leaves. The remaining heart may be cut up or left whole. Dip the pieces in the butter/lemon mixture and savor each wonderful bite. I always eat the stem, although some people find it to be slightly bitter.

Monday, May 24, 2010

61. Mile High Lasagna Pie - Mama Mia!

New cookbooks are like gateways to adventure...almost anything food-related is possible to discover. I recently inherited a highly illustrated collection of recipes. I could hardly wait to see what treasures I would uncover. As I read the ingredients for the various enthusiasm dialed down as I found that there was a certain uninspired sameness to the ideas. Noodles and cheese played a big part in the effort, but the overall theme seemed to have been put together by a bored chef-wannabe who spent days, if not weeks, cleaning out his or her refrigerator of all the leftovers and attaching recipe labels to the mess.

On the other hand, a walk through a grocery store some years ago, gave me access to someone's gifted culinary inspiration with those familiar ingredients...pasta and  cheese. A magazine cover, which had been selectively hung in the produce section, caught my attention. Retailers know that shoppers tend to browse when they are looking and handling fruit and vegetables and they also know that the shoppers are not in as big a hurry at the beginning of their shopping trip where all those bins of fresh foods are colorfully displayed.

That psychology worked on me and I picked up the magazine.The title of the issue screamed - ITALIAN, MAMA MIA!...Mile High Lasagna was a Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest publication...back by popular demand, second printing. A picture of the pie mesmerized me...I turned the pages. Inside, a sidebar said, "With food you can...communicate affection, love and caring..."

 I wanted to communicate affection and love... and I also couldn't wait to taste all those flavors I saw in the photograph of that lasagna pie. Of course, I bought the magazine and all the ingredients in the featured recipe...I was not disappointed...the final product was beautiful to behold and the first bite was more than I hoped for...this is a meatless meal and the flavors are wonderful together.

Note: since posting this recipe, I have made another lasagna pie and changed the filling so it would be easier to use...tasted the same...looked great...see changes and pix below first posting.

Mile High Lasagna Pie

14 dried lasagna noodles
 2 T fresh basil, snipped
2 T olive oil
1 ½ C finely chopped carrot ( 3 med)
2 C finely chopped zucchini (1 med)
4 Cloves garlic, minced ½ tsp salt
3 C sliced mushrooms, button sized (8 oz)
 ¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 6-oz pkgs baby spinach

1-26 oz jar tomato/basil pasta sauce (2 ½ C) (Emeril's is a great choice)

1 egg, beaten
1 15 oz container cottage cheese
1/3 C finely shredded Parmesan

2 C mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
Cook noodles according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 T olive oil over med. heat. Add carrot, zucchini and HALF the garlic. Cook and stir about 8 min. until tender. Transfer vegetables to a bowl. Add the remaining oil to the same skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and remaining garlic. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until tender. Gradually add spinach. Cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Remove with a slotted spoon to another bowl; stir in basil. Set aside.

Combine egg, cottage and Parmesan cheeses, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To assemble pie, in the bottom of a 9x3 inch springform pan, spread ½ C of pasta sauce. Arrange 3 to 4 cooked noodles over sauce; trim and overlap as necessary to cover sauce with one layer. Top with HALF the spinach-mushroom mixture. Spoon half of cottage cheese mixture over spinach mixture.

Top with another layer of noodles. Spread with half of remaining pasta sauce. Top with all of the zucchini/carrot mixture. Sprinkle with HALF of the mozzarella cheese. Top with another layer of noodles. Layer with remaining spinach/mushroom mixture and the remaining cottage cheese mixture. Top with another layer of noodles and remaining sauce. Gently press down pie with the back of a spatula.

Place pan on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for 60 min. or until heated through, topping with remaining mozzarella cheese for the last 15 minutes or baking.

Cover and let stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving. Carefully remove sides of pan. Serves 10.

Note: I do think this dish could be made ahead and refrigerated. Allow for extra time to cook if refrigerated.

Change in filling: I cooked the carrot and zucchini and 2 cloves of crushed garlic until vegetables were tender. Next, I sauteed the mushrooms and remaining garlic until almost done and then, added the spinach...when the spinach was wilted, I chopped it up and added the carrot mixture back...mixed all vegetables well and added basil. Divide filling into thirds and add to layers as indicated. Actually, there are 13 layers not counting the mozzarella on top...vegetables are layers 3,7 and 10. Hope this helps get your pie off the runway! (Picture above shows that it turned out beautifully).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Recipe Index 1-60

Daily recipes are pulled from the following 5 groups. Each group is only used once/week.

(meat/fish) (pasta/veg/fruit) (bread/pastry) (soup/salad/dessert) (eggs/easy)

1. Italian Beef, Follow Your Nose
2. Chicken Artichoke Festiva, Pot Lucky
3. Tuna Potato Patties, Taste Test
4. Soup Au Pistou, Force Fed
5. Danish Potato Bread, Under Your Nose
6. Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner, Cravings
7. White Chocolate Cookies, Cookies Rule
8. Banana Bread, Vanna's Bananas
9. Mussels, Forks on the Left
10. Fruit Slaw, Slaw Laws
11. Oven Barbecue Chicken, Lick Your Lips
12. Carrots in Broth, Plate Confetti
13, Easy Pancake Syrup (2 recipes), Pass the Syrup
14. Chocolate-Pecan Crescent Puffs, The Culinary Wall
15. Sweet Potato Pie, Pride and the Sweet Potato Pie
16. Pie Crust and Pie Crust Secrets, Melt in Your Mouth
17. Fruit Dumplings, The End of the Day
18. Hard Boiled Eggs and Easter Eggs, easy dye method, Cold Water
19. Bunnies on the Lawn, On the Green
20. Crunchy Beef Turnovers, Not a Taco
21. Italian Sausage with Tomato and herbs, A Happy Moment
22. Bacon Potato Patties, In the Red
23. Butter Lamb, Butter vs Margarine
24. Easter Nest Coffee Cake, Easter Nest
25. Lime Pineapple Salad, It Glows
26. Zucchini Casserole, Over-Abundance
27. Shrimp Scampi, Most Popular
28. English Muffin Loaf, Pied Piper Calling
29. Broccoli Salad, Super Food
30. Basmati Rice, Thrown at Weddings
31. Sloppy Joe, What's In a Name
32. Back-Burner Beans, Is It a Fruit?
33. Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Fun Food
34. Pita Bread, Pied Piper Calling
35. Caramel Popcorn, Young Again
36. Chicken Breast Strips, Alektorophobia - NOT
37. Pita Egg Sandwich, Seasoned and Easy
38. Spice and Sweet Potato Squares, Effortless
39. Napa Cabbage Salad, Memory of Napa
40. Praline Cookie Bars, Sweet and Nutty
41. Spaghetti Pie and Spaghetti sauce, Family Favorite
42. Sauteed-steamed Asparagus, Guilty Pleasure
43. Egg Drop Soup, Light Start
44. Cocktail Sauce, Sauced
45. Fruit Flower for Two, Fruit Flower
46. Golden Chicken, Always an Adventure
47. White bread, rolls, buns, Soft and White
48. Strawberry spinach salad, Red and Green
49. Fruit Crisp, microwavable, No Leftovers
50. Hash browns, Sore Subject
51. Chili Meat Cups, Canned
52. Green Onion Biscuits, Sign Me UP
53. Fruit Pizza, Crisp Crust
54. Potatoes in a Bag (Savory Microwaved), Often on Sale
55. Corn bread, microwaved, Poor Man's Grain
56. Ruben sandwich, Could be Good
56-B. Russian Dressing
57. Cream of Asparagus Soup, No Stone Soup
58. Sweet Potato Puree, Hidden Crop
59. Easy Pizza, Easy to Love
60. Chocolate-Striped Orange Slices, Clones

60. Chocolate-striped Oranges - Clones

As mentioned in an earlier post, real family vacations were few and far between when I was growing up. The day my dad told us we would be taking a trip to Florida for two whole weeks during the summer seemed like a dream. My mother proceeded to send for every possible brochure and map that corresponded with our proposed travel route. For months we poured over each picture and page and listed all the places we would would be a jammed-packed trip.

After arriving in Florida, one of the first stops was the Sarasota Jungle Gardens where an unknown heavenly fragrance perfumed the air in their gift shop. As I walked around and looked at all the tourist stuff, I found dull-colored orange balls for sale. They were the source of the perfume...little orange blossom sachets...My mother let me buy a few to bring home. It was a sad day when they no longer perfumed my drawer...but, for a time, they helped to keep that vacation experience alive.

Citrus trees offer more than just a delightful-smelling flower, however, the fruit from them contains antioxidant ingredients and high levels of vitamin C. Go to the following website to read more:

Navel oranges are interesting in that they are actually all clones of the first single mutation from an orange tree in a Brazilian monastary orchard in 1820. The seedless-fruit mutation could only be replicated by grafting cuttings onto other varieties of citrus trees. According to historical data, two such cuttings of the original tree were transplanted to California in 1870, which eventually led to all of the navel orange trees in existence today. (While an occasional seed pops up, most navel oranges are seed-free).

Today's recipe is for a delicious navel orange dessert. It is uncomplicated, inexpensive and looks beautiful. It is a favorite treat in our family and can be taken to any party as a festive contribution. (Chocolate-covered strawberries ( #33) may also be striped).

Chocolate-striped Oranges

2 large navel oranges

4 oz semisweet chocolate
1T shortening
1 oz white chocolate

The coating ingredients will be enough for two oranges, 9 segments each. 6 servings.

Carefully peel the fruit and separate it into segments. Try to not break the membrane, although I have coated broken-skin segments without any problems. Pull as much of the loose pith and white fibers off as possible.

In the top of a double boiler, combine chocolate and 1/2 T of the shortening.When the chocolate begins to soften, stir until smooth. Remove from heat but keep over hot water. Tilt pot to make the chocolate run to one end. Dip one end of each orange segment into this well of chocolate, coating half of the orange slice. (Or use a spoon to pour chocolate over segment). Set segments upright on a tray lined with waxed paper. Do not let segments touch each other. Chill until firm, about 10-15 minutes..

Melt white chocolate and 1/2 tsp shortening using directions above. Stir. If the mixture is too thick, add more shortening. Dip a fork into the white chocolate and fling toward the orange segments to create thin stripes. Chill to just firm. Serve or cover loosely and chill up to 4 hours. Allow 3 segments per person.

Note: the chocolate may be melted carefully in the microwave on MED temp. It must be done carefully. If it is over-cooked, it will be ruined.

 Idea: Before peeling orange, carefully, slice the zest to save for recipes calling for grated orange peel.

The orange-colored rind can be grated or thinly veneered with a tool called a zester, to produce orange zest. Zest is used in cooking because it contains the oil and has a strong flavor similar to the  inner part of the orange. The following site has a video presentation of how to use a zester:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

59. Frozen Pizza - Fix Up - Easy to Love

Pizza is one of the most recognized dishes and certainly one which is often selected by children and young people as their favorite food. Pizza is very easy to love...the crust, sauce and other Italian ingredients smell heavenly as they bake to a golden finish..

Growing up, we did not have pizza delivered to our home very often, but when we did it was an event that caused a lot of jumping up and down. My dad would go to the door and pay for the pizza and tip the driver. As he carried the cardboard box carefully to the kitchen, we surrounded my dad like a hungry, drooling mob. He would lift the lid and the fragrance would perfume the air. Cheese and sausage was what he always ordered; actually, there were't many other choices. Something happened to pizza, however, as interest in it exploded. Today, almost anything can be put on a pizza and enjoyed by someone somewhere.

I have tasted the best pizza Chicago and its suburbs have to offer. I have eaten pizza that was freshly made and pizza that had been frozen and even a few slices ordered on a trip to Italy...I have eaten my mother's homemade pizza as well as my own...but, the best pizza I ever tasted came from...Lincoln, NE. in a restaurant called Valentino's.

 I also remember the state where I had the worst pizza I ever shall remain nameless...but, the crust was like a cracker and the sauce was probably ketchup...I also remember we got up and walked out.

Frozen pizza does not usually measure up to those freshly made, but there are amazing things that can be done with a simple cheese pizza to make it a real treat. There is no reason to buy a frozen pizza and just cook it...adding favorite toppings is just too easy. (I don't like the meat on frozen pizza...too greasy).

Easy Pizza for One or Two

This delicious looking pizza is a little Tony's was on sale for $1.


Black olives, sliced
Green peppers, sliced
Sweet onions, chopped
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Parmesan cheese, shredded

Ingredients are to taste and are added to the Tony's pizza, in the order given. Bake as directed. You might have to add a minute or two to the baking time.

Other choices:

Mushrooms, sliced
Bacon bits
Artichoke hearts, diced
Grape tomatoes, sliced
Pineapple pieces, squeezed to remove juice
Broccoli, cooked and chopped

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

58. Whipped Sweet Potatoes - Hidden Crop

Growing vegetables is a wonderful pastime and a well-tended garden is able to bestow its gifts for many months. Each day of harvest is like getting fresh-food presents and growing a tuber or root crops just adds to the excitement. The plants become large and vibrant, yet the actual fruit of the plant remains a mystery until dug or pulled out of the garden soil.

If you are  lucky enough to have special raised-bed gardens with a loose, rich growing mixture, you will be able to grow almost any type of garden plant relative to your temperature zone. A master raised-bed garden source can be found at the following site:

In my garden, sweet potatoes were one of my favorite 'hidden' matter how many I pulled out, I was certain to miss was like a treasure hunt for grown-ups. While harvesting is fun, using those sweet potatoes can be a challenge. They do not have the long shelf-life that are inherent to real potatoes and have to be dealt with in a timely manner.

Most of my background in eating and serving sweet potatoes used to be relegated to the marshmallow-topped dish typically served withThanksgiving or Christmas dinners. I had not really thought much beyond that recipe until I had deal with my garden abundance. Luckily, I discovered that sweet potatoes make a wonderful side dish when baked in the oven and served with butter and a little salt. I was even more thrilled when I figured out that they could be cooked very easily and with great results in the microwave. Still, one can only eat so many baked potates.

Today's whipped sweet potato recipe was inspired by my sweet potato bumper is so wonderful that it is almost the only way any of us in my family now want to eat these orange roots.

Note: when whipped, sweet potatoes freeze very well and can be vacuum-sealed for use months later.

Diane's Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Wash and dry the amount of sweet potatoes to be used.  Wrap them individually in paper towels and put them, one at a time, into a quilted baking bag for the microwave. It only takes 4-6 minutes to cook one to perfect tenderness. Allow to cool slightly and peel off the skin. *Cut the flesh into 3-4 chunks and place in a food processer or Vita Mix. Add 2-3 T margarine or butter and 2-3 T brown sugar. Process until smooth and creamy. Remove to a serving dish and proceed with the remaining potatoes. Salt if desired. These may be served immediately, covered and refrigerated and reheated for later use or frozen and vacuum sealed as mentioned above.

Note: search potato microwave bags - you will find many sources where the bags may be purchased on-line as well as directions to make your own. Be sure to use bags as directed.

Alternate cooking method: Peel potatoes, put in a large pot of water, cover and boil until tender. Remove and follow directions above from*.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

57. Cream of Asparagus Soup - No-Stone Soup

As a former public school teacher, I often read to my students. One of my favorite stories was Stone Soup. The story tells of a ragged group of travelers who arrive in a village, carrying with them their only empty iron pot. No one in the village will give these poor people food, so the travelers hit upon a plan. They fill the pot with water and put it over a campfire right in the middle of the village square. They also add a large stone to the water in the pot and stand back and wait.

One by one, as curious villagers walk by, the travelers tell them that stone soup is cooking. They are also told that the soup would be much better if it had just one more ingredient. Each of the townsfolk feels impressed to add one thing to the pot. Little by little, with each addition, the soup becomes a delicious, savory meal to be enjoyed by all.

While Stone Soup taught my students about sharing, I enjoyed  the concept of putting a lot of 'nothings' together to make a delicious 'something'. A search through my refrigerator from time to time to often rewards me with little 'nothings' I can pull out and use to make a tasty soup.

Today's post is the result of such a search...I found asparagus and celery that needed to be used. The broth and the lemon juice had been left over from previous recipes and frozen into cubes...I put them all in the pot with a few other things...all I needed was a good, big stone!

Cream of Asparagus Soup

1-2 T oil
1 C asparagus, fresh or frozen
1 green onion, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 C chicken broth
3 T lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 C milk
3 T flour

Cut asparagus into one-inch pieces. Heat saucepan over med-high heat. Add oil and when hot, toss in asparagus, onion and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes until tender. Add broth, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly. Add mixture to a blender or food processer and blend until smooth. Pour mixture back into saucepan. Mix flour and milk with a wire whisk in a small dish. Slowly add mixture to saucepan, whisking continuously. Cook on medium heat for 2 minutes until thickened. Serves 2-3.

Side: Green onion biscuits #52

Monday, May 17, 2010

56. Reuben Sandwich, Russian Dressing - Could be Good

As much as I like to cook, eating out and tasting the flavors other good cooks put together is inspiring and wonderful...I have actually stopped on my way past an open restaurant door to breathe in the tempting food fragrances...beckoning me to come in, sit down and eat.

If a menu includes a great selection of lunch-time sandwiches, I can honestly say, I would never order tuna or chicken salad...too many restaurants use light tuna, which I think is glorified cat food; some also use a poor quality mayonnaise...or...Miracle Whip...which I do not consider a true mayonnaise, at all.

 I might, however, order a Reuben sandwich even though I know that the beef could have too much fat...the sauce might be too lavish and the cheese non-existent...but, it could be good...a great Reuben is a joy to consume. The last one my husband and I ordered was so thick with lean, tender slices of corned beef, we could only eat half of each sandwich. Ahhh...what a way to go!

On the home front, I usually make our own Reuben sandwiches the day after we have our St. Patrick's Day corned beef and cabbage dinner...I buy extra meat just so I can make the sandwiches...two favorite meals, back to, that is a happy thing.

I don't know how thousand island dressing became the new normal for the restaurant-style Reuben sandwiches...but, Russian dressing was used in the original sandwich recipe. Today, it is sometimes hard to find Russian dressing in stores...but, it is very easy to make. I have included my version with today's post...

Reuben Sandwich with Russian Dressing

2 slices rye or pumpernickel bread per sandwich
2 slices Swiss cheese per sandwich
Sliced corned beef
Sauerkraut, squeezed dry with paper towels
Russian dressing (below)

Spread margarine on outside of each bread slice and lay, buttered side down, on a plate or waxed paper. Layer as follows: cheese, beef, kraut, dressing (spread over kraut), beef, cheese. Top with second bread slice, butter side up. Heat griddle, med-high. Place sandwich on griddle and grill until browned and cheese is melted; flip sandwich carefully and grill side two. Remove to plate, cut in half. Serve.

Sides: Slaw (post #10), fries, fresh fruit, dill pickle.

Diane's Russian Dressing

1/3 C Hellmann’s Mayo
1 ½ tsp ketchup
1 ½ tsp horseradish
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
 Salt and pepper to taste; ( I used 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s Grocery store)*

Mix all ingredients well and refrigerate until ready to use.

* 21 Seasoning Salute is a wonderful, salt-free product from Trader Joe’s. It contains the following ingredients: onion, pepper, celery seed, cayenne pepper, parsley, basil, marjoram, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, savory, rosemary, cumin, mustard, coriander, garlic, carrot, orange peel, tomato granules, lemon juice powder, oil of lemon and citric acid.

Friday, May 14, 2010

55. Cornbread, Jiffy Mix, Microwave - Poor Man's Grain

Corn has had a long and interesting history and even, at one time, was considered by many to be a poor man's grain when compared to wheat. It's popularity grew when corn filled the need for a cooked food source that had a longer shelf-life than wheat. As people experimented with corn, the names for the recipes became like a patchwork-quilt legacy. I submit the following:

Johnnycakes were made by pouring a thin cornmeal batter onto a hot, greased griddle. It produced a pancake-like bread. Johnnycakes were popular in New England, the Midwest and the South.

Hushpuppies were a thicker buttermilk-based corn batter which was deep-fried. It was a common accompaniment to fried fish and other seafood in the South. Hushpuppy recipes varied from one state to another; some included chopped onions, beer, or jalapeños.

Corn dodgers were another form of corn cake. They were often used to sustain travelers and Civil War troops. Historical writers often described the hard lives their characters had to endure and sometimes  mentioned corn dodgers as a dietary mainstay.

 Mark Twain spun the well-known story about Huckleberry Finn who witnessed a double murder and  ran away in fear for his life.  His friend, Jim, helped him hide out and even fed the starving boy corn dodgers, buttermilk, pork, cabbage and greens.

In one of the Little House on the Prairie booksthe Ingalls' family ate stewed wild goose, dumplings and gravy, corn dodgers, mashed potatoes, butter, milk, and stewed dried plums for a pioneer Thanksgiving dinner.

Another famous corn-dodger-eater was Rooster Cogburn, played by John Wayne, in the movie, True Grit. He carried a saddlebag full of them on the long trail ride when he set out to catch a murderer. Cogburn's young, female benefactor refused to eat the dodgers when she learned they might be splattered with blood. Rooster did not seem to mind, though, and munched on them anyway.

The cornbread my mother sometimes made for our breakfast was a sweet, fluffy and all-around more modern version of what the settlers and pioneers ate. She baked it and cut it into little squares. These would be placed on plates, sliced through the middle and buttered. Last, and most important, her homemade hot syrup ( post # 13) was poured over each half.

I know there are many cornbread mixes and recipes. If you are not into scratch baking...Jiffy makes an inexpensive cornbread mix; it has a place of importance in our tastes good, it is cheap and certainly is easy to fix. When my kids were little, I figured out how to bake it in the, with my directions...anyone can make this  tender, tasty breakfast treat in just a few minutes.

Jiffy Cornbread, Micro-waved

1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1 egg (or egg substitute)
1/3 C milk


Blend first 3 ingredients. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Spray a small round our square (6x6) microwavable container with Pam. Pour batter into the container and let rest for 3 minutes. Place a sheet of waxed paper on top of the container and put it into the microwave.

Cook on MEDIUM power for 3 minutes. Cook on HIGH for 1 minute. Check for doneness.(If middle springs back, it is done). Cook for another minute on HIGH if necessary. Remove, and cut into squares or slices. Place on serving plates; add butter and syrup; garnish with fresh fruit.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

54. Potatoes in a Bag, Microwave - Often on Sale

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that most of the world does not have the food choices and ease of shopping that we, here in the United States, do. In  many countries, procuring food requires a lot of walking, lugging and paying very high prices; diets are often determined by whatever quality or quantity of food might or might not be in the stores, markets or kiosks. The meals can take on a sameness of flavors and choices that we would find unacceptable.

Our well-stocked grocery stores are amazing in comparison. Even in rural areas, there will often be more than one food store in town and that competition helps shoppers to save money. I always love a good sale when it involves food, especially if it is an item I like to eat! I have learned that grocery stores put many items on sale in a four to six week rotation. If you  want to stock up on certain items, it would be a good idea to watch for these sale-cycles in your area.

It also pays to examine the weekly flyers. Some stores have on-line flyers and that is a great way to find out who has the best pricing on grocery items you would normally buy. Many stores will match pricing on items that other stores post...sometimes proof of the ad is required and sometimes just mentioning the ad will be enough to reduce your price at the check out.

Something I cannot resist buying is one of the huge bags of potatoes when they are on sale. This versatile vegetable has a special place in my menu archives, but I also continue to experiment with new recipes. Today's post is a new favorite because it is comforting, quick, easy and flavorful...and it uses up those potatoes!

Savory Microwaved Potatoes in a Bag

½ C Hellmann's mayo
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt, pepper
2 large baking potatoes, cut into ¼ - inch slices
1 large sweet onion, sliced

Real bacon bits
Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Mix mayo and seasonings in large bowl until well blended. Stir in potatoes and onions to coat. Divide potato mixture evenly among 3 waxed paper rectangles. Fold to seal. Place each packet on a second waxed paper rectangle; fold to seal. Place one packet at a time in a quilted potato baking pouch. Cook on high for 3 minutes.

Remove pouch and without opening it, press potato slices to check for doneness. Continue baking at 1 minute intervals until soft. Remove paper packet to a covered container and cook remaining packets as the first.

Unwrap packets and place contents of each in a serving bowl.

Optional: Sprinkle with desired amount of cheddar cheese and microwave for 30 seconds to melt cheese. Sprinkle with bacon bits to taste. Serves 4-5.

Grilling directions: Seal potato mixture in 4 heavy duty foil packets. Place packets on grill over med-hot heat. Grill, covered, 25-30 min or until potatoes are tender. Remove packets and place contents into a large bowl. Add bacon bits and cheese to taste and mix gently. If serving from foil, just open a packet, add cheese and bacon. Reseal packets and heat for a minute to melt cheese. Remove, open and eat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

53. Fruit Pizza - (V)

Post #45 featured a mini-fruit pizza made with an orange-flavored sugar cookie crust and rum flavoring in the sweetened cream cheese layer.  I loved the recipe, but it was not the fruit pizza I had in mind.

I wanted a dessert with a crisp, tasty crust, a flavored cream-cheese layer and glaze for the fruit on top. I also only wanted to use the fruit I had on hand - some very ripe strawberries - and a can of mandarin oranges.

The recipe I developed met all my requirements. The crust is like a crisp shortbread and the orange peel adds an amazing aftertaste. To cut back on the sugars, the cream cheese was sweetened with Splenda. Orange extract was added to the cream cheese to enhance the orange peel flavors in the crust. While the lemon glaze is optional, it not only added to the overall appearance, but the lemon flavor was an unexpected flavor treat.

Diane's Crisp-Crust Fruit Pizza

1 C flour
1/4 C powdered sugar
1/2 C cold butter (use real butter)
1T grated orange rind

Combine flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut in butter and mix with a fork until crumbly. Put in microwave for 30 seconds. Add orange rind. Mix well. Line a 12-inch pizza pan with foil. ( I used foil because my pizza pan is perforated). Press mixture evenly onto lined pan. Bake 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool pan with crust on wire rack.

Cream cheese layer:
1 pkg. (8oz) cream cheese (you could use a lower fat cream cheese)
1/3 C Splenda
1 tsp orange extract

Combine cream cheese, Splenda and extract in a bowl until well blended. Spread over cooled crust to within 1/2 inch of the crust edge.

Strawberries, sliced
Mandarin oranges, drained
Optional: blueberries, fresh pineapple, kiwi, raspberries, etc.

Arrange fruit in a pattern of your choice.

3 T cornstarch
1 C sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 C cool water
1 C hot water

2 T fresh lemon juice

Combine cornstarch, sugar, salt and cool water in a saucepan. Stir until smooth. Add hot water and cook over med. heat until thick...stir continuously. Lower heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and cook for 1 more minute, while stirring. Place saucepan in ice water, stirring until glaze is cool and smooth.

Drizzle glaze over fruit and exposed cream cheese layer; spread gently with a spoon until pizza is coated well. There will be some glaze left over.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice into wedges.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

52. Green Onion Biscuits - Sign Me Up

I have never seen a class offered to teach biscuit-making. If there had been one, I would have run out to sign up! Most of my homemade biscuits have turned out moderately good to terrible. The recipes I used came from standard, regional and online cookbooks. None of them, however, made it into my recipe archives as a family favorite.

On the other side of the spectrum, however are the biscuits sold with any KFC dinner; they are large, fluffy and tender...everything a biscuit should be...and everything my homemade biscuits never were.

My worst biscuit disaster still sticks out in my mind. It all started when a young nanny from Ireland had been invited over to our home for dinner. I planned a meal that would represent American food and I was out to impress her. I do not remember any other part of the dinner except the biscuits. They were not fluffy and were actually hard and awful. Incredibly, I served those horrid things. Afterward, I realized that I had made a mistake measuring one of the ingredients, but the damage had been done. That Irish gal probably thought American food was pathetic.

The following recipe is a very recent addition to my file and makes wonderful biscuits enhanced by chopped onions. This very moist and delicately flavored biscuit would be great with a light spring meal or even a  hearty fall/winter soup or stew. I wish I had  chance to serve them to that nanny!

(These biscuits are even wonderful the next day!)

Note: a terrific, flaky biscuit recipe will be featured in post #73 next month.

Green Onion Biscuits

1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
Pinch onion powder or other flavored herb mixture
2 T buttermilk powder*
1/2 C water
1/4 C green onions, chopped
1 1/2 T oil

In a medium bowl, combine fist six ingredients. Combine water, onions and oil and stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.

Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 14 minutes or until golden brown. Serve.

*1/2 C buttermilk may be substituted for the 2 T buttermilk powder and the 1/2 cup of water. This recipe may be doubled.

The original recipe came from the Taste of Home Easy Cooking for Diabetics book, TOH kitchen.

Monday, May 10, 2010

51. Chili Meat Cups - Canned

Refrigerated biscuits have not always been around! I remember the first time my mother brought home the kind in a tube. We stood in the kitchen and watched in wonder as she read the directions.

It seemed, the hardest part of the whole process was to try to peel off the outer foil-type wrapper because  the glued-down corner was almost impossible to grab.
The whack-the-tube-step on the edge of the kitchen counter top was the most fun. I loved the noise when the tube popped and split apart.

It is still a mystery how so much dough gets into those little tubes, but no matter how it is done, it is a time-saving wonder. If you want to read the interesting history of refrigerated biscuits, copy and paste the link below in your browser box:

Chili Meat Cups is an easy, kid-friendly recipe which makes use of tube-biscuits.  Use your favorite chili to fill the baked cups and add the suggested toppings. What a fun and tasty meal!

Chili Meat Cups

1 tube refrigerated biscuits (only use name-brand biscuits; they taste better)
Lettuce, shredded
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Tomato, chopped
Sour cream
Avocado, sliced
Cilantro, chopped

Roll or pat each biscuit to a 3 ½ -4 inch circle; fit over backs of well-greased muffin pans. Bake in a 400 degree oven 8-9 minutes. Heat chili.

 With a fork, carefully remove biscuits from pans. They will pull apart from each other easily. Fill with chili.

Suggested toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, avocado, Greek yogurt, black olives.

The original recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens, April 1980.

Friday, May 7, 2010

50. Hash Browns, Shredded - Sore Subject

Road trips might sound fun, but they are usually peppered with boredom, muscle stiffness, too many carb-loaded snacks and some really bad, roadside food. The word going around says that if a truck stop has a parking lot full of trucks, the food will be wonderful. I wish this was true. We have actually gone into such places and been driven out by the grease, smoke and strange people...another part of the adventure.

A few years ago, we made an early morning breakfast stop at an inviting looking roadside restaurant. We ordered hashbrowns and eggs. They were the most delicious, shredded hashbrowns I had ever tasted...and noted it in my car journal so we could remember to stop there again. On a return trip, I could hardly wait to reorder that delicious breakfast meal. I should have been forewarned that it would not be the same by the extreme length of time it took for our breakfast plates to be brought out. The meal was entirely forgettable; whatever the previous chef  had done to those potatoes had definitely not been passed on to his or her replacement.

The whole process of making hashbrowns is a sore subject with me as I had never been satisfied with my versions of them. So, I undertook a challenge to try different methods others had suggested that would lead to hashbrown success. The ratings are from F to A...1 to 5...horrible to wonderful.

#1. The first recipe came from a book called 101 Things to do With a Potato. It suggests frying a raw, grated, russet potato with onions and bacon in a covered skillet...I used real bacon bits, and squeezed the water out of the potatoes, (it did not say to do this), before frying with the onions. It took a long time to brown up and the potatoes were transparent looking. I did add the scrambled eggs and came up with the plateful of food shown above. Rating: C-, 2+, mediocre.

#2.  Grated, peeled, raw potatoes, no water squeezed out. These took a very long time to cook. The potatoes never browned correctly, they were gummy, transparent globs. Rating: F, 0, horrible.

#3. Raw potatoes put through a potato ricer to extract the maximum liquid. Fried up with margarine, both sides. These had an acceptable texture and the taste was good. The downside was the grease and length of time it took to cook...20 minutes... and they were slightly transparent. Rating: B, 3, Not bad.

#4 Partially cooked potatoes, peeled and  grated.
#5 Fully cooked  potatoes, peeled and grated.

 Both of these methods turned out hashbrowns that were more like fried mashed potatoes. They did not taste like shredded hashbrowns, but were not bad. Rating: C+, 2.5, OK.

#6 Last of all, I used a commercial dried hashbrown product that had to be reconstituted with boiling water in the carton in which it was packaged. So easy, no grating. The potatoes fried up in a very short time and actually looked like hashbrowns. I made these on a traditional teflon griddle and the result was edible, but not wonderful. The next attempt was an act of desperation...I was at my hashbrown edge!

I pulled out a very cheap pot...stainless steel with a copper cladding on the outside of the bottom. Oil and margarine were added to the pot which was on med. hot heat. I put in the commercial hashbrowns and patted them to cover the bottom of the pot evenly. The package directions said to only cook one side and to do that for 3-4 minutes. The results almost made me jump up and down. With a little salt added, I was ready to taste. They had a wonderful crunch on the top side and were tender on the bottom. The potato flavor was real and they were not greasy...A...5...Wonderful!

The hashbrown product I used was Golden Grill Russet, by Basic American Foods. They generally sell to restaurants...which is probably why I loved the potatoes at that truck stop...I bought these at a Costco. I have not seen them on the shelves lately. The website for BAF indicates that some Costco and Sam's Club stores do have the product. I have sent BAF an email requesting more information. Will pass it on when received.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

49. Fruit Crisp for Two, Microwave - No Leftovers

Most adults should be aware that something happens to a person's body as it hits middle age...the evidence is all around is called weight gain due to change in metablolism. The sad truth is that we all want the phenomenon to happen to somebody else; we want to be able to eat like a young person and it seems unfair that we cannot. A lucky few seem to defy the logic of this metablolic slow down and remain thin...I guess the most we can hope for is that those people are really cold in the winter with no extra fat to add insulation to their bodies...

For the rest of us, however, the battle lines have been drawn and we wage a daily war with food, exercise and weight gain. While the morsels on our plates should be the target in this is often the bathroom scale that winds up labled public enemy #1. The desserts I used to make for my family tend to be off limits unless we are having a get-to-gether...leftovers are just too tempting.

Recipes for two people have become appealing to today's post which is for a dessert that won't tax most people's sugar limit. There will be no leftovers!

Related link regarding metabolic changes due to age:

Microwaved Fruit Crisp for Two

1 golden delicious apple or soft pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 T brown sugar
2 T quick cooking oats
1 T flour
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 T cold Smart Balance margarine
1-2 T chopped pecans

Put fruit in a microwavable dish. Combine dry ingredients in a med. bowl. Cut in margarine until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Microwave, uncovered for 3 minutes. Sprinkle nuts over mixture. Continue cooking at 1 minute intervals until fruit is tender. Cool slightly. Serve with ice cream or by itself.

Note: golden delicious apples are wonderful for cooking...they soften up well and are not too tart.