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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

Hi everybody :)

Everyone, I'm sure, has their favorite chicken and rice dish that was inherited from a grandmother, mom, or aunt. But you can never have too many, so with that in mind, I bring you Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole.

This is a really simple recipe. It can also be prepared 1 day ahead, loosely covered and refrigerated until ready to bake. It can be cooked in individual baking dishes, and will make a great welcoming home gift for family or friends.

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole from:  CREATIVE COOK'S KITCHEN COOKBOOK

You Will Need

1 can (10 ounces) cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 cups cooked white rice
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green or red bell pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, divided

1 sheet (1/2 package) frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
1 egg white, lightly beaten

2-inch leaf-shaped cookie cutter rolling pin

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine soup, milk and mayonnaise. In another bowl, combine rice, chicken, peas, onion and bell pepper.

2. Stir soup mixture into chicken mixture. Add half the Cheddar. Spoon into casserole. Sprinkle with remaining Cheddar. Bake until top is golden, about 25 minutes.

1. On a floured surface, roll pastry to 1/8-inch thickness.
2. Using a cookie cutter, mark cutouts in pastry and cut out with knife.
3. With a small paring knife, press along pastry edges and down center of each cutout to make "veins." Arrange cutouts on an ungreased baking sheet; brush tops with egg white.

4. Place pastry cutouts in oven during last 15 minutes of casserole baking time. Bake cutouts until golden brown.
5. Remove cutouts from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Remove casserole from oven.
6. Arrange baked pastry cutouts on top of casserole. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Tips
To save time, place unbaked cutouts directly on casserole during the last 15 minutes of baking time.

Festive Touch
Use special cookie cutters for the pastry topping to echo a particular holiday.

To Spice It Up
Add some heat to this recipe by substituting 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos for the Cheddar.

What I Think:
It was very good. I was surprise that there was no seasoning in the dish itself (but the chicken was seasoned, I used a roastisire chicken breast). I did sprinkled a little Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb Seasoning on top of the pastry leaves after the egg white. So THIS is going in my repeat file.

ENJOY! Come again...

Linking to: 
Melt in your Mouth Blog Hop #79
Showcase Your Talents Thursday # 20

Friday, August 17, 2012

Freezing Lemons: How To

Freezing Lemons: How To

Hi everybody :)

Did you know that you can freeze lemons? It's very simply and easy. I'll show you how.  Freezing whole lemons is not a good idea because their juice sacs will burst. But freezing the juice and the zest is a great idea! You can store it in mini cups or containers to fit your needs, according to your recipes. This works well with limes also. It stays fresh for up to 6 months; so you can have that great lemony taste when they're out of season :)

Freezing Lemons: How To

What you need:

Microplane Zester  (I use my Edgeware )
Lemons, cleaned
Mini Cups or Containers (I got mine from the Dollar Store)
Freezer Bags

Zesting the Lemon



When zesting the lemon, take care NOT to get any of the white part, you only want the yellow peel.
Zest on Grater

Lemon Zest

After zesting the lemon, rolled it on the counter top to soften it or microwave it for about 5 seconds to help release the juice. Cut lemon in half and squeeze it into container. Remove any seeds, top with lid and wrap container in plastic wrap to ensure lid stays on. Place in zip-lock bags, date, and label. Store in freezer.
Lemon Juice

Lemon Zest in Freezer Bag

Lemon Juice in Freezer Bag


Tip: After the juice has frozen, unmold and place in freezer bags to reuse mini containers.

So the next time you're at the store, and lemons just happen to be on sale, don't be afraid to stack-up :)

ENJOY! Come again....

Banana Oatmeal Cookies: 4 Ways

Banana Oatmeal Cookies: 4 Ways

Hi everybody : )

A few weeks ago, I won this lovely Quaker Oatmeal Gift package from Baker Street. It had these Banana Nut Bread Bars chock–full of almonds that was sooooo good I was craving more. So when I saw these cookies on Pinterest, I was hoping I can recreate those delicious bars.

Then I decided to try out some different flavors... so here we go.

From Baking Bites
Banana Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, very soft
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup mashed banana (1 small/medium)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars. Beat in egg and banana, followed by the vanilla extract. Gradually, on low speed or by hand, add in the flour mixture. Stir in the oats (either whole rolled oats or “quick cooking”) and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 11-14 minutes at 350F, until set and lightly browned.
Let cookies cool for about 5 minutes on the pan before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.

What I Did:
I doubled this recipe, divided the dough into 4 parts and added  1/4 cup of the add-ins as follow: 
1/4 cup almonds - 1st. part
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips - 2nd. part
1/4 cup butterscotch chip - 3rd. part
1/4 cup mixed walnut, coconut, and craisins - 4th. part

I used my medium OXO Good Grips Cookie Scoop, pressed them down a little and baked them for about 14 minutes. Tip: Wet hands with water before pressing; dough is sticky. I also sprinkled extra almond on top of the almond ones before baking.

What I Think:
These were DELICIOUS!! I'm soooo glad I tried this recipe, so there will be a repeat! You can really taste the banana in these. I'm going BANANAS over these cookies!!! BTW, the cookies tasted BETTER than the Quaker Oatmeal Banana Bread Bars... sorry, Quaker...I still love you :)

ENJOY! Come again....

Linked to: 
Sweet Tooth Friday @ Alli-n-Son
Friday's Favorites
This Week Cravings: Mom's Crazy Cooking 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pizza-Stuffed Potatoes: Pizza In A Spud

Pizza-Stuffed Potatoes: Pizza In A Spud

Hi everybody :)

Still working on my cookbook mission I mentioned in my earlier post here; I bring you another recipe from my collection, Pizza-Stuffed Potatoes. Similar to a pizza dough made using cooked potatoes in its crust, in this recipe, the potato itself served as the crust. Therefore, eliminating the dough out of pizza :)  hee..hee... When I saw this, I thought it was such a great idea I had to share it. So here we go...


You Will Need


4 large baking potatoes
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced pepperoni, divided
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small green pepper, cut in thin strips (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese ( I also added about 1/4 cup cheddar cheese)
2 tablespoons grated
Parmesan cheese



1. Preheat oven to 450°F Scrub the potatoes; pierce with a fork and rub with vegetable oil. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until fork tender, about 45 minutes.


2. Halve potatoes lengthwise and scoop out flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell with skin. Set flesh aside.
Hallowed -Out Potato

3. Chop 1/2 cup sliced pepperoni. Cut remaining slices in half; set aside.
4. In a large bowl, mash together the potato flesh, sour cream, salt and pepper; add chopped pepperoni.( I add about 1/4 cup cooked ground beef to this)
Potato Filling

5. Spoon potato mixture back into shells and arrange on baking sheet.
Potato Halves with Filling

6. Top potatoes with tomato sauce, mushrooms, green pepper snips, remaining pepperoni, mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until heated through, about 15 minutes. (It took me about 8-10 minutes)
Potato Halve Toppings

Just as on a traditional pizza, you can vary the toppings on these stuffed potatoes for a whole new taste sensation.Try one of the following combinations:

TACO PIZZA: Browned ground beef, taco seasoning mix, salsa, diced green chilies, shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Pineapple chunks, ham or prosciutto, coconut 

VEGGIE PIZZA: Chopped roasted red peppers, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, grated Parmesan cheese

GOURMET PIZZA: Arugula, sliced artichoke hearts, sliced portabella mushrooms, sliced fontina cheese

Mini-shrimp, sliced Greek olives, crushed rosemary, crumbled feta cheese

Pesto, chopped fresh garlic, crumbled chevre cheese

What I think:
THESE WERE DELICIOUS!!! So glad I made them. I did add some ground beef to the potato filling and sprinkled a little cheddar cheese on top with the other cheeses. So this is definitely a repeat! You can also use this method and make Pizza-Stuffed Potato Skins!!!

UPDATE: These were soooo good I made them again, later tonight.


ENJOY! Come again...

Linked to:
Show Case Your Talent  @What's Cooking Love

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Zesty Buffalo Wings - Wings & Things

Zesty Buffalo Wings with Orange Dipping Sauce

Hi everybody :)

I winging out today. Buffalo wings, hot wings, chicken wings... while the name may change, these spicy tidbits remain a traditional favorite. They are often served with celery stalks and a cool, creamy blue-cheese dressing, but I decided to mix things up a little. When I saw this recipe for zesty wings with a orange glaze in my Creative Cook's Kitchen cookbook, I knew I had to give it a try.

You Will Need:

3/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2  cup orange marmalade

24 buffalo wings (about 4 pounds)

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2  tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed


In a medium bowl, combine orange juice concentrate, vinegar, mustard, oil, hot sauce and pepper. Measure 1/2 cup of this orange mixture and combine with orange marmalade; set aside.

The Marinade

1/4 cup of Marinade + Orange Marmalade =

The Pasting Sauce

Pour remaining glaze into a large resealable plastic bag. Add buffalo wings; shake to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Wings + Marinade

Preheat oven to 450°F. Remove buffalo wings from glaze and place in a shallow roasting pan; discard glaze.
Brushing with Marmalade Mixture

Bake until chicken is almost cooked, 20-25 minutes. Brush with marmalade mixture; return to oven and bake until chicken is browned and cooked through, 5-7 minutes longer.
Wings after cooking 7 minutes longer

Dipping  Sauce

In a small serving bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, honey mustard and orange juice concentrate. Serve with hot buffalo wings.

If your a stickler for tradition here a great blue cheese dressing you can try :)
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3  cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/3 cup coarsely crumbled blue cheese

In a small serving bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream and hot pepper sauce. Add crumbled blue cheese and stir just to combine.

Tip: For easier cleanup, bake buffalo wings or other sticky finger foods on a wire rack inside the roasting pan.

This citrus-flavored glaze is great for dressing up chicken. For a simple summer dinner, use as a baste on skinless breasts while grilling.
 Other Meats
Try this recipe with a different type of meat. The glaze gives grilled braised pork ribs an incredible burst of flavor.


What I Think:
If you like wings with a milder flavor, this recipe is for you. I think it needed a little more pop. The next time I make these, I would add some lemon zest to the mix (about 1 tablespoon), use lemon pepper in the place of plain, and up the hot sauce to 2 teaspoons. I had to admit, I was kind of skeptical about the dipping sauce after reading the ingredients, mayonnaise, sour cream, ....what??? But to my surprise, it turned out GREAT! It had a nice sweet creamy tangy flavor and added an extra boost to the wings. So, with the minor changes, I' d definitely make this again.

ENJOY! Come again...

Linking to:  
Showcase Your Talents Thursday # 20

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Black Cherry Pretzel Dessert Cups

Black Cherry Pretzel Dessert Cup

Hi everybody :) 

My favorite fruit is cherry, so I decided to put a new spin on the famous Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Don't get me wrong, I do love strawberries too. They're a close runner-up to cherries :) I had plenty of cherries on hand and I wanted to make something that didn't have to go in the oven. Something cool and refreshing: cherry pretzel dessert cups...BINGO!

Black Cherry Pretzel Dessert Cups partly adapted from Kraft Foods

Serving 3 (5oz). cups
1 (3 ounce) pkg. Black Cherry Jello
1 cup hot water
1 cup (about 5 oz.) frozen cherry with juice
2 ounces cream cheese (1/4  [8 oz.] package)
2 tablespoon sugar
1 cup Cool Whip
3/4 cup crushed pretzels (I use mini pretzels)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoons sugar
Cherries and Pretzels for garnish

Mix the butter, pretzels and sugar divide evenly  into plastic 3 5 oz. cups, about 3 tablespoon per cup. Using another cup to press mixture down firmly. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile dissolve Jello in boiling water; let set for about 30 minutes.
Add frozen cherries to jello.  Working quickly, pour on top of pretzel crust in each cup. Jello will begin to thicken.

Refrigerate until set for about 25-30 minutes.

Then mix the cream cheese, sugar and Cool Whip together and spread it over the Jello. Store in fridge until ready for serving.  Garnish with fresh Cherries and Pretzels.

What I Think :
 If you like Strawberry Pretzel Salad, you're going to LOVE THIS! Enough said..

BTW, you can mix and match fruits and jello, or go with a cookie crust if you like. Read the jello box to see what fruits that do not gel well first. Oh, I downsized the recipe for 3 servings, but it can be doubled or tripled.

ENJOY! Come again....

Linked to: 
Tuesday Talent Show #49     
Melt In Your Mouth Recipes Blog Hop # 78

Monday, August 13, 2012



Hi everybody :)

Granola is one of my favorite snack foods. I've seen many granola recipes flying around on Pinterest lately. I found this one in Flour cookbook. I decided to use it because it has the ingredients of my favorite Oatmeal Cookies: oat, coconut, walnuts, cinnamon, and dried cranberries or craisins.

I changed a few things about the recipe. I omitted the sesame seeds because I didn't have any, so I added a few more sunflower seeds. The sunflower seeds I used were honey roasted so I added them after cooking. I used coconut oil instead of canola oil because it's healthier and tastes good. And for the secret ingredient: ..... drum roll....YOGURT RAISINS! I LOVE THEM!!

My favorite way to eat granola is with vanilla yogurt and fruits.


MOM'S GRANOLA  adapted from Flour
2 1/2 cups (270 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1 1/2cups (200 grams) wheat germ
1/2 cup (60 grams) sweetened shredded coconut
3 tablespoons sesame seeds (I omitted this, added a few more sunflower seeds)
1/3 cup (40 grams) sunflower seeds (I used honey-roasted sunflower seeds, so added them after cooking)
1/2 cup (50 grams) chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (50 grams) sliced almonds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt (omitted because of the salt on the sunflower seeds)
3/4 cup (150 grams) canola oil (I used coconut oil, & store granola in the refrigerator)
3/4 cup (255 grams) honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (80 grams) dried cranberries
I also added  2  8 oz. bags yogurt raisins


■ Position a a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

■ In a large bowl combine the oats, wheat germ, coconut, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, and salt and mix well. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.

■ Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Stir the granola with a spatula or wooden spoon several times during baking to ensure even browning. Let cool completely, then add the cranberries and mix to distribute them evenly.

■ The granola can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

What I Think:
If I do this recipe again, I'm going to lower the temperature to 325 degrees and bake it for about 30 minutes instead. The taste of the granola was okay, but I do think they bake too long. I set my timer for 45 minutes and took them out five minutes earlier. To salvage it, I had to redo the coconut by itself :(  I also would decrease the wheat germ to 1/2 cup and increase the oatmeal to 3 1/2 cups. Because of the coconut oil and the yogurt raisins, I stored this in the refrigerator and freezer.

ENJOY! Come again....

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Beefy Macaroni-Stuffed Tomatoes

Beefy Macaroni-Stuffed Tomatoes  

Hi everybody :)

I love the idea of edible containers. Today's recipe is about good ol' comfort food: beefy macaroni stuffed in tomatoes, sounds delicious... MMMmmmmm, doesn't it? :) It's a new twist on the old Classic Mac & Cheese. This recipe comes from one of my cookbooks; I'm still working on that mission of cooking at least one recipe from each book :)

Beefy Macaroni-Stuffed Tomatoes From: CREATIVE COOKS' KITCHEN COOKBOOK

You Will Need
6  Large tomatoes (I only did two)

12 ounces elbow macaroni
1 pound  lean ground beef
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese (I omitted this)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I omitted this)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
I added 1 can diced tomatoes

2 15oz cans tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


To hollow out tomatoes, slice off the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon scoop out the seed and core.

Preheat oven to 375'F. Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions, but do not add salt. Drain in a colander. While pasta is cooking, prepare beef. In a large non-stick skillet, cook beef over medium heat, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain beef in a colander. In a large bowl, combine pasta, beef, mozzarella, ricotta and parsley. Mix well.

In a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, oregano, basil, garlic powder, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Add tomato sauce to pasta mixture. Mix well.


Spoon pasta mixture evenly into each tomato. Top with Parmesan cheese. Place tomatoes into a casserole dish. Cover with foil. Bake until heated through, 30-35 minutes. Serve immediately.

A great kitchen tip is to use a grapefruit spoon or dinner teaspoon to scoop out the seed and core the tomato while keeping the skin intact. For a lighter version, to all you dieters out there :), ground turkey can be used in the place of  the ground beef. If your tomatoes are not standing level, slice a thin layer off of the bottoms before stuffing and baking. You can also fancy this up by cutting a saw-tooth edge around the edge of each tomato opening.
Do Ahead
The macaroni filling can be prepared in advance and stored for up to 1 day in the refrigerator. When you're ready to make them, spoon the filling into the hollowed tomatoes, top with Parmesan and bake as directed.

To complete your meal, serve this dish with hot and crusty garlic herb or Italian-flavored bread sticks.

Stuffed Peppers: Instead of tomatoes use bell peppers, just prepare as directed and sub out tomatoes for peppers.
Home-Style Favorite:  Spoon the macaroni filling into a casserole dish and bake as directed.

What I Think:
This turned out to be quite delicious, despite the fact that the tomatoes didn't hold up their shape when the time to lift them. Maybe I overly-stuffed them a little... hey what can I say, I love mac & cheese :)  I only did 2 large tomatoes and put the rest of the filling in a pan to finish it.

On a sad note :( ... my daughter is going back to law school tomorrow...

Alas... I'm eating this sundae to cheer myself up.

Brownie - recipe  here
Ice Cream - vanilla (store-brought)
Cool Whip
Butterscotch topping


ENJOY! Come again....

Linking to:
Beef Blog Hop @ Katherine Martinelli