Archive for May, 2008


May 29, 2008

I’m astounded at how popular these are at parties. Don’t get me wrong — they’re tasty. But everytime I take them somewhere, they’re gone in seconds! It’s crazy!

And I love them because they’re super-easy 🙂

You can add a lot of different things to it – I’ve seen them with salsa, cheese, broccoli, etc — but the recipe below is my standard.

(Makes 15-20 “bites”)

2 – 8oz. softened cream cheese (I generally use 1 full-fat and 1 reduced-fat. I find fat-free cream cheese to be rather disgusting)
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped (In these photos, I did 1/4 cup red, and 1/4 cup yellow — because I had it)
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1 package (1 oz) Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix (the powdered kind)
4-5 flour tortillas

– Mix cream cheese until smooth
– Add ranch dressing and mix until well-blended
– Gently stir in the peppers, onions, and celery until well-combined
– Spread 2/3 to 3/4 cup of cream cheese filling on a tortilla (Make sure you don’t spread completely to the edge or it will push out when you roll it)
– Roll the tortilla up to make a pinwheel design
– Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, twisting the ends to seal it
-Continue filling all tortillas and rolling and wrapping

– Refrigerate at least 2 hours (preferably overnight)
– After being chilled, remove from plastic wrap, cut off the ends (and eat as you go along if you’re me!), then slice each roll into 1″ pieces.
-Serve chilled!


Katie’s Strawberry Scones

May 27, 2008

I knew these would be fantastic — I don’t think Katie makes ANYTHING bad!

And how bad can fresh strawberries and scones be?!

In college, I spent a period where I existed solely on scones and vanilla cappuchino (I can’t help it — it’s what the cafeteria was good at making!!) but shortly after college, I quit eating them. I couldn’t find anyone who made them as delicious as the college cafeteria (go figure?) and I was scared to try making them.

Looks like I’m back in action!

Perhaps next I’ll give blueberry/lemon ones a try — I’ve never made scones with fresh fruit!

(Sorry for the bad image — it’s DARK in here tonight)

Strawberry Scones
(Katie’s Blog)

2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (depending on how ripe your strawberries are)
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp orange zest
1 cup fresh strawberries, diced

– preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
– in a small bowl, combine egg, yogurt, milk, zest, whisk to combine thoroughly and set aside
– in large bowl, combine flour, sugar, powder, salt, and whisk to combine
– using pastry cutter and to knives, cut butter into flour until all pieces are smaller than pea-sized
– add strawberries, and toss to coat
– add wet ingredients to dry and mix in lightly with fork until dough just comes together
– turn dough out onto well-floured work surface and pat into large ball
– cut the dough ball in half
– shape half of the dough into a flat disk shape and cut into 8 slices
– place on baking sheet and repeat with other half of dough
– sprinkle tops of scones with sugar and place in the oven
– bake until slightly brown, about 25 minutes (I checked mine at 22 and they were already slightly browner than I would’ve liked!)
– remove from oven and let cool on a baking sheet for 10 minutes
– transfer to a wire rack and let cool

Easiest Pasta Salad Ever

May 26, 2008

I always thought most people knew this simple pasta salad — but apparently I was wrong!

I took this to a memorial day get-together, because I was super-busy and didn’t have time to make anything fancy or anything that took a lot of prep.

You can add a lot of veggies to this — I just added what I had (and like). I’ll list some other common options below.

Easy Pasta Salad
(No idea of the true origin — I’ve been making it since I was a wee one!)

1 16-oz. box pasta (any shape, size, whatever. you can even use regular spaghetti)
1 16-oz. bottle of italian dressing (again, regular, zesty, fancy, whatever you want)
1/2 lb. salami, cubed into bite-sized pieces (you can also use pepperoni)
1/2 lb. provolone cheese, cubed into bite-sized pieces (I’ve never used any other type of cheese, but hey — go crazy)
1 tsp-1 tbsp (depending on preference) of italian seasoning (optional)
2 regular-sized tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used 4 Roma tomatoes — however much you want)
1 seedless cucumber, diced small
(**You can also add broccoli, peppers, olives, really ANYTHING you like to eat raw!**)

– Cook the pasta according to instructions
– Drain and cool pasta
– Mix pasta and veggies, meat, and cheese in a large bowl
– Pour italian dressing over it, and mix well

This pasta salad, like many, is better the longer it sits. So make sure you prep it a few hours in advance of eating it for optimal flavor — it really doesn’t taste like ANYTHING when you first mix it!

Oatmeal Fudge Bars (Ooey Gooey Bars)

May 26, 2008

These are similar to a blondie brownie (I think? I’ve never had a blondie) with a fudge layer on top. They’re very tasty!

I made them as a quick dessert for a memorial day get-together.
Oatmeal Fudge Bars
(Chera’s Recipe)
Brownie Layer:
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups oats (you can use quick or regular — i use regular)
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Directions for Brownie Layer
– Cream together butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla
– Add flour, baking soda and salt to the mixture
– Mix well
– Stir in the oats (I reccommend doing this by hand)
– Press 2/3 of the batter into a 15″ x 10″ pan (I often use a standard 13″ x 9″ with no problem…just makes a thicker brownie)
Chocolate Layer
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz can)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup nuts or coconut (optional)
Directions for Chocolate Layer
– Melt the chocolate chips, butter, and sweetened condensed milk over low heat
– Add the vanilla, salt, and nuts/coconut to melted mixture
– Spread the chocolate mixture over the 2/3 pressed batter
– ** Don’t spread to the edge of the pan — the batter will expand during cooking**
– Drop remaining 1/3 batter by little pieces on top of the chocolate layer, slightly pressing them flat between floured fingers) (I think you could make cute shapes with this remaining batter if you were so inclined)
– Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Smothered Pork Chops

May 21, 2008

I found these pork chops on — apparently they are a Tyler Florence recipe…and I realized I’ve never made one of his! Fun, fun

These were quite tasty — they reminded me of the pan-fried pork chops and gravy my mom and grandma made while I was growing up.

My changes are noted below…and I think next time I’d leave the cayenne out, or cut down the amount. Personally, I see no reason for a flash of hot spice in the back of my throat after I swallow a delicious, moist piece of pork covered in gravy.

But that’s just me.

Smothered Pork Chops

(Tyler Florence, Food Network)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

4 pork chops, 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick, bone in (I used boneless because I had them)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup buttermilk (I didn’t have any, so I mixed 1/2 cup 1% milk with 1/2 tsp. lemon juice. Worked just fine)

Parsley for garnish (optional)


– Put the flour in a shallow pan (I used a pie plate) and add onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Mix it with a fork to incorporate the spices into the flour.

– Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel and then dredge in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess.

– Heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat and coat with the olive oil.

-When the oil is hot, lay the pork chops in the pan in a single layer and fry for 3-4 mintes on each side until golden brown.

– Remove the pork chops from the pan and add a sprinkling of the seasoned flour to the pan drippings. Mix the flour into the drippings to dissolve.

– Pour the chicken broth in, and let the liquid cook down for about 5 minutes to let it reduce and thicken.

– Stir in the buttermilk (or faux buttermilk, if you’re me) to make a creamy gravy.

– Return the pork chops to the pan, covering them with gravy.

-Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through.

-Garnish with parsley if preferred.

Apologies for the pictures — it was late, I was enourmously hungry (look how much food is on that plate!), and I was in no mood for model shots of my food 🙂

No recipe…just amazing breakfast

May 18, 2008
Nothing quite like a big, hearty breakfast on a late Sunday morning when it’s raining.

Denny’s ain’t got nothin’ on me today!

"Pittsburgh-style" Rice Krispie Treats (Butterscotch & Chocolate)

May 17, 2008

I call these rice krispies “Pittsburgh-style” because I’m from that area of the world, and when I moved away from there, I discovered not many people knew about these!

Looking back, I thought these were the only kind of rice krispies for a LONG time!

I love them, they’re affordable to make, and they’re easy. What more could you ask for??

Pittsburgh-style Rice Krispie Treats
(Source: Moi)

(Original recipe makes 1 8″x8″ pan)

1 – 6oz. butterscotch chips/morsels (you can also use peanut butter morsels)
1 – 6oz. milk chocolate chips/morsels
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 cups rice krispie cereal
1 tbsp. water

– Melt the butterscotch morsels and the peanut butter in a non-stick pan over low heat, stirring occasionally.
– Pour the butterscotch-peanut butter mixture over the rice krispie cereal in a bowl, mixing until completely coated.
– Press 1/2 of the rice krispie/butterscotch-peanut butter mixture into an 8×8 pan with a fork, then (the first time you do this, you may be tempted to press with your fingers. don’t. seriously. use the fork.)
– Refrigerate your 8×8 pan with 1/2 the butterscotch rice krispies.
– Melt chocolate morsels with the water over low heat in a non-stick pan.
– Pull your 8×8 pan out of the refrigerator and spread the chocolate over the layer of rice krispies.
– Refrigerate again for 5 minutes
– Press the other 1/2 of the rice krispie mixture on top of the chocolate-water mix
– Refrigerate for 45 minutes to an hour.
– Remove from the fridge, cut into squares, and serve. I recommend pulling them out 10 minutes or so before you serve them, so the chocolate layer isn’t rock hard.

– Refrigerate any leftovers


May 12, 2008

I am not Lithuanian. I’m your generic east-coast stock — Irish, Welsh, English, German.

My DH, however, is Lithuanian — first generation American, to be exact. And, as with most cultures, that means he grew up eating traditional Lithuanian dishes — dishes that nobody ever bothered to write down!

So this is my first attempt at a Lithuanian dish. Now, granted, they’re not hard…most of the recipes are “peasant” style recipes, consisting of starch, meat, and onion…but when the last time your DH had them was when his grandmother (perfector of the recipe) made them — well, there’s bound to be some concern that you won’t get them “right”!

He tells me I did a PERFECT job on my first try, though 🙂

Now — education: Kulduna(Cull-doo-n-eye) are essentially meat-filled dumplings. Like the Italians have their ravioli, the Lithuanians have their kuldunai. They’re, admittedly, a little labor intensive (it took me 2.5 hours to make 60 of these suckers on my own) — but they are pretty tasty for a simple dish.

And next time, DH will roll out all that pasta dough by hand, and I’ll just do the filling – he’s been informed of such.

(My own recipe!)

(1 “batch” of the fresh pasta recipe below will make approximately 30 kuldunai — but 1 “batch” of the mix is enough for 60-70 kuldunai.)

1.5 lbs raw ground beef — finely ground if you can get it
1/2 to 3/4 cup finely diced onion
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

– Mix filling ingredients well (like mixing meatloaf) and set aside while you make the dough.

Fresh Pasta:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water, mixed

Making Dough By Hand Directions:
– In a large bowl (or on your countertop if you prefer — I do the “well” method of pasta-making in a bowl to keep my mess to a minimum), make a well in the center of the flour
– In a measuring cup, mix the eggs, water, oil and salt
– Pour the wet mixture slowly into the well in the flour and mix with a fork (or you can mix with two fingers) until all of the wet is incorporated (The dough won’t take all the flour — don’t force it! When the wet-doughy center starts to pull away from the flour around the edge, you are nearly there)
– When you have a tacky, wet-feeling dough, gently add a little more flour to the mix, then transfer to a counter top for kneading
– Begin gently kneading your dough — if it is still tacky and sticks, add a little more flour as you knead — until it is no longer tacky to the touch, but, if you push on it, it pushes back up at you
– Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, pushing down and away on it with the palms of your hands, then folding it over on itself and repeating
– Wrap your dough tightly in saran wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for about 10 minutes (this is optional — I do it while I’m prepping the kitchen to roll the dough, get my filling in order, etc)
– Remove the dough from the fridge and the saran wrap and transfer it to a floured work surface. You may want to break the dough into two pieces to make it easier to roll out.
– Using a rolling pin, begin rolling it out — flipping it occasionally — until you’ve reached 1/8″ thickness (like a piece of cardstock, for example).

Making Dough Using A Pasta Machine:
– In a large bowl (or on your countertop if you prefer — I do the “well” method of pasta-making in a bowl to keep my mess to a minimum), make a well in the center of the flour
– In a measuring cup, mix the eggs, water, oil and salt
– Pour the wet mixture slowly into the well in the flour and mix with a fork (or you can mix with two fingers) until all of the wet is incorporated (The dough won’t take all the flour — don’t force it! When the wet-doughy center starts to pull away from the flour around the edge, you are nearly there)
– When you have a tacky, wet-feeling dough, gently add a little more flour to the mix, then transfer to a counter top for kneading
– Begin gently kneading your dough — if it is still tacky and sticks, add a little more flour as you knead — until it is no longer tacky to the touch, but, if you push on it, it pushes back up at you
– Form the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour prior to rolling the dough out in your pasta machine

– With your dough rolled out, use a cutter, or a knife, or even the rim of a glass to cut 3-3 1/2″ circles out of the dough
– Lay the circles out, and place approximately 1 teaspoon – 1 1/2 teaspoons of the meat mixuture on the lower half of the circle
– Dipping two fingers into the egg and water mixture, run your fingers along the bottom half edge of the circle, making it wet so it will seal
– Pull the top of the circle over, making a half-moon shape, and firmly press the two pieces of dough together along the egg wash side

To Cook:
-Bring a large pot of water to a boil
– Gently add the kuldunai one at a time
– Let the kuldunai boil for 6-8 minutes
– Drain, and toss with butter, salt, and parsley (optional)

They don’t photograph well — they’re to be served tossed in butter, so there’s no sauce, per se — but you get the idea.

Open-Faced Turkey Patty Melt

May 11, 2008

I received this recipe in a cooking e-mail list I belong to, and DH approved it for trying.

It was tasty, but a lacking a bit on flavor. I added some garlic to the mix to help it, but feel free to add any of your usual turkey burger ingredients to it — it needs some kick!

Changes are in bold.

All-in-all I’d make it again…it WAS tasty!

Open-Faced Turkey Patty Melt
(Original from Cooking Light)

(Makes 4 burgers)

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup vertically sliced sweet onion
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 large egg white
cooking spray
4 1-ounce slices reduced-fat swiss cheese (I used provolone)
4 slices light ryebread (I used Portugese bread)
1/4 cup dijon-style mustard (I left this off mine, DH said it was tasty)

– Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat
– Add onion to the pan and cook 5 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally
– Transfer onion to a bowl

– Preheat broiler

– Combine ricotta cheese, worchestershire, black pepper, minced garlic, turney breast and egg white.
– Divide the turkey mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty (Gently — this mixture is VERY wet!)
– Return pan to medium heat, and coat pan with cooking spray.
– Add patties to the pan, cook approx 4-6 minutes or until brown. Turn patties over, cook until center is cooked through.
– Top each patty with 1 cheese slice; cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts and patties are done.

– Places bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and broil for 2 minutes or until toasted.
I then placed the turkey burgers on the sheet, and slipped it under the broiler for another minute to lightly brown the cheese
– Spread 1 tablespoon of mustard on each toast slice, then top each with 1 patty.
– Divide onion mixture amongst 4 burgers

We served it simply, with a veggie medley.

Soft Pretzels — Part Deux

May 11, 2008

My other pretzel recipe was Alton Brown’s — and it was really good. But this recipe is a bit quicker to make, it had brown sugar (which I hoped meant a sweeter pretzel), and it gets raves on the cooking message board I frequent.

Plus, DH wants pretzels. All. The. Time. 🙂

While I don’t think it was much sweeter than Alton’s, I do think it was quite tasty. I’d make either one, but I think I prefer this one because it has a slightly less “yeasty” flavor.

The only thing I added to Amber’s recipe was a light egg wash before baking the pretzels, so they’d come out nice and dark brown and a bit crisp on top.

Pretzels (Part Deux)
(Original recipe from Amber)

(Amber says this makes 20 pretzels — I only got 10 out of it!)

1/8 cup hot water
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
Coarse kosher salt
Baking soda
Butter or shortening (to grease cookie sheets)
Vegetable oil (to grease counter)
1 egg, beaten + 1 tbsp water (to brush the pretzels with before baking)

– In a large bowl, mix together 1/8 cup hot water and 1 package active dry yeast until the yeast dissolves.
– Stir in the 1 1/3 cup warm water and 1/3 cup brown sugar and continue stirring until the brown sugar dissolves.
– Slowly add 4 cups of flour, stirring constantly (I used my Kitchenaid mixer and the kneading attachment for this — worked great)
– Continue stirring the mixture until it is smooth and does not stick to the sides of the bowl

To continue by hand: flour the counter lightly, and flour your hands. Knead the dough until it is stretchy and smooth (push it down and away from you with the palms of your hands, turning the dough as you work)

To continue using your mixer and kneading attachment: continue kneading your dough at speed 2 until the dough appears stretchy and smooth (about 3-4 minutes for me)

– Lightly oil your counter (Amber says to flour your counter — Alton said to oil. I find the oil allows you to roll the pretzel more easily, so I used that)
-Grease your cookie sheets (I used 2) generously with butter or shortening. It is very important that you grease the cookie sheets well!
– Sprinkle greased cookie sheets with kosher salt.
– Preheat oven to 475 degrees Farenheit.
-Using a liquid measuring cup, fill a large saucepan at least 1/2 full of water. For each 1 cup of water you add, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda.
– Divide the dough into 4 even pieces, and shape them like a pretzel (You can also make pretzel sticks — Roll out 2-3″ long ropes of dough and leave as is)
– Bring the water and baking soda in the saucepan to a gentle boil.
– Using a pancake turner, or a large spatula, gently lower each pretzel into the water one-by-one — counting slowly to 30 before removing the pretzel from the water and placing it on the cookie sheet.
– Repeat until all pretzels are done.
– When all pretzels have been boiled, lightly brush each pretzel with the egg+1 tbsp water mixture, then sprinkle with more kosher salt.
– Bake for 8 minutes, or until the pretzels are golden.

– I baked half my pretzels with no salt, and when they came out of the oven, dipped them in melted butter and cinnamon-sugar mixture to make cinnamon sugar pretzels. YUM!

Oh, and P.S. — there are no pictures with this — they looked exactly like my other pretzel recipe. Trust me 🙂