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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole

I wish I knew where I originally saw this recipe so I could give credit...but I have no clue;  So, here's my take on a recipe I read a while back and decided to conjure up for Thanksgiving this year.  This recipe was so good that even my Dad, who isn't a fan of sweet potatoes, asked for seconds!  This dish will be a regular on my holiday table from now on! 

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole
10 sweet potatoes
2 large onions, diced
1/4 stick butter
2 cups milk (or be decadent and use cream!)
1 small can chipotles in adobo sauce
2 c. swiss cheese, grated

1. Place butter and onions in a skillet set to medium high heat. Carmelize the onions, but don't let them burn.

2. Peel sweet potatoes and slice uniformly thin.

3. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and place 1 layer of sliced sweet potatoes in bottom.

4. Sprinkle layer with salt, pepper, swiss cheese and add some carmelized onions.

5. Continue layering potatoes, salt, pepper, swiss cheese and onions.

6. For the top layer; In the food processor or blender, whir the milk and 1/2 to 1 whole can of adobo chipotle peppers depending on how spicy hot you want this dish. You just want to add the peppers here...not the adobo sauce...though some will sneak in on the peppers.

7. Pour the pepper/milk mixture over the casserole.

8. Top casserole with a layer of swiss.

9. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes with a tented foil lid. After 45 minutes check doneness by inserting a knife into the'll be able to tell if it is done.

10. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hungarian Stuffed Peppers and Cabbage Rolls

My Hungarian Grandpap was a good cook!  His repertoire wasn't huge, but what he made, he made well and he always let me help.  Stuffed Peppers and "Pigs in the Blanket" were one of my favorites growing up.  This is my Pap's recipe, simple, but so good!  Serious comfort food. 

  • 8 medium sized green peppers
  • 1 small head of cabbage 
  • 2 lb. ground beef 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 cups rice (plain old long grain is fine)
  • 2 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes 
  • 1 large white onion, chopped; reserve 1/2 for sauce, 1/2 for meat mixture
  • salt, pepper to taste 
Place the head of clean cabbage in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes or so.  You just want it soft enough to peel off the leaves without tearing them too much.  Set the head of cabbage in a colander to cool.
Cut tops of peppers and take out the seeds and chop the tops for later use. In mixing bowl, place the ground meat, 1/2 of the chopped onion, raw eggs, washed rice (uncooked), salt and pepper. Mix well ...with your hands!

Stuff the peppers but don't over-stuff them, the rice will expand.  Place the peppers in the pressure cooker (or in a large stock pot).   

Peel off a cabbage leaf and lay it out with the core end facing you. Place about 1/8 c of the meat mixture at the core end and begin to roll it up. After rolling it up halfway, tuck the outer parts of the leaf in and continue to roll. Once rolled, used your thumb to push each end down into the meat mixture to secure it. Place each roll in the kettle with the peppers.  You'll have cabbage left over, chop it up and add it to the stock pot, or save it and make fried cabbage and noodles tomorrow!

If you have left over meat mixture, roll into meat balls and place in the kettle.  In fact, I typically make SURE I have extra meat mixture...the meatballs are so yum!

Add the tomatoes, onions and chopped tops of peppers, chopped cabbage and any extra meatballs into the kettle on top of the peppers and cabbage rolls

For conventional stove-top cooking, cover and slowly cook for about 2 hours.

For the pressure cooker, bring to pressure and cook for 20-25 minutes.  Remove cooker from stove, place entire cooker in sink and run cold water on it to normalize the temp.  Take the lid off...voila...tastes like you cooked for hours!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pressure Cooker Broccoli Soup

Broccoli Soup via Pressure Cooker:

Get to know your pressure cooker BEFORE using it!  Read the booklet that came with your appliance or get online and find the manual;  It isn't scary once you get used to it, but you should familiarize yourself with your pressure cooker.  Once you do, you're going to LOVE it!!!

1 head broccoli, coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
white pepper to taste
salt to taste

½ cup grated sharpe cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan
( can put any cheese in this...I've been known to use swiss,'s always good!)

2 T all purpose flour
2 c 2% or fat free milk (if you don't usually use's the time to try it..what a difference in the taste!)
1-2 T butter, room temp


Place the broccoli, onions, garlic, with a pinch of salt and pepper, in the pressure cooker. Add water (sometimes I add vegetable broth or chicken broth instead of water) to the cooker until it just covers the veggies...but don't go past the "fill-line" on your pressure cooker.

Bring it to pressure and let it cook for 5 mins ~ take the entire pressure cooker off the stovetop and place in the sink (DO NOT REMOVE THE LID) ~ run cold water over the pressure cooker until it normalizes then you can safely remove the lid. What you should have are some seriously mushy veggies!

Now make the Roux; in a saucepan, add the flour and dry roast till flour turns golden brown, taking care not to burn; slowly stir in the butter without clumping; then add the warm milk gradually, while stirring constantly; add half the cheeses and keep stirring; let it simmer till it thickens a bit.

Smach the veggies in the pressure cooker by any means you like; I like the fancy potato ricer! Add the veggies to the sauce from step above, add salt/pepper to taste, let simmer; serve topped with grated cheese.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homemade Oreo Cookies....Made with Love for my Nephews!

So, one of my nephews is a freshman this year at WVU and I've been waiting to send college care packages for years.  My husband's mother sent him THE best care packages when we were in college and I want to pay her homage by sending fabulous care packages to my nephews. 

I sent my nephews Dad an email asking what he might like in a care package, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, etc.  Nope, this kid is a picky eater, according to his Dad.  He gave me a short list; skittles, oreos, cinnamon rolls and banana bread.  Oreos being one of his very favorites.  I simply could NOT just go purchase Oreos!  I went straight to smitten kitchen and found what I needed; a home-made oreo cookie recipe that sounded wonderful! You can see the recipe at

My other nephew is just starting a full-time job and will be applying to FSU, so I figured he needs some care packages too!  I don't know if he likes oreos, but I KNOW he'll like these home-made ones. 

He once counted how many girl scout cookies were in the box at his house so he'd know how many his Mother and I ate while he was in bed!  Alec...I counted these cookies, and I expect you to eat every morsel!

You MUST make these cookies, they are OH, SO, VERY, GOOD! 

Jack and McKenzie tasting the first cookies.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rustic Mexican Chicken Soup

Sunday was wedding dress shopping day with my cousin Sarah and I woke up sick!  Fever, cough, the whole 9 yards!  I was so bummed!  All day I kept wanting something really hot and spicy to take care of my sinuses.  I couldn't get off the couch and I couldn't believe it!  I mean, how many more times will I be asked to help shop for a wedding dress??? 

Well, now that I'm recovered, I still want something hot and spicy and Rick Bayless was going to provide his Rustic Ranch Style Soup.  Ok, he wasn't really stopping by to cook for me, but his recipe was the impetus for my version of this hot and spicy mexican chicken soup.  It's pretty close to the original.  I love to serve this in glass bowls because it's so pretty!

This is a great dish for Cinco De Mayo coming fast on May 5th! I've always wanted to serve this with hot and spicy fresh homemade corn fritters!  Hmmm...I think that may have to be my Cinco De Mayo menu, along with the obligatory margarita's!

One tip, when I seed jalepeno's, I use a small melon-ball tool..scoops those seeds right out.

Rustic Mexican Chicken Soup
4 quarts chicken broth (homemade is best!)
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 large head of garlic, unpeeled

3 fresh jalapeƱo chiles, stemmed, julienned into thin sticks
1 medium white onion, diced
4 large ripe tomatoes, diced or canned diced in a pinch
Salt to taste
1.5 cup rough chopped cilantro
About 1 cup coarsely shredded cooked chicken (I don't always include this...but it's delicious)

1 lime, cut into wedges
2 c. frozen corn, defrosted
1/4 c. milk

1. Measure the broth into a large (6-quart) pot and add the chicken bouillon. Slice the unpeeled head of garlic in half width-wise and add both halves to the broth (yes, the papery skin on the garlic goes in). Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for about 1 hour.  Remove the garlic and discard.

2. While the broth is simmering, cut the chiles in half lengthwise, and cut out the seed pod. Slice into very thin lengthwise strips, and set aside with the diced onion and tomatoes.
Season the broth with salt, then add the chiles and onion, partially cover and simmer for 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, corn and optional chicken and simmer another 3 minutes, then ladle into warm bowls. Pass the lime separately for each to squeeze in to their liking.  I also like to add a splash of milk, just to make the dish opaque.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Italian Wedding Soup

Today we woke up sleepy to a dreary rainy and quite chilly morning.  Over coffee I decided that tonight we would have soup for dinner.  We are a soup family, and nothing is as much a comfort food as soup on a cold rainy day.
My freezer pantry is dwindling and my usual staples, stew beef and a whole chicken were not to be found.  I found some ground venison and ground pork, so it was going to be Italian Wedding Soup today.  I even managed to have the itsy bitsy round pasta.  At some point I purchased acini di pepe pasta with wedding soup in mind.  I've used plain old elbow macaroni in a pinch.
Jack helped me with the tiny meatballs, that, of course, grew larger the longer he helped.  He really hates getting his hands messy, so this was a good therapy for him. 

I just tasted the soup for seasoning and now I'm regretting not having the forethought to make my friend Cindy's French Bread!  Each time I make her bread, my dinner guests think  it is store bought.  That's how well it turns out.  Next time, I'll think ahead.

Italian Wedding Soup


  • 1 small onion,chopped very fine or grated
  • 1/2 t fresh thyme leaves (or dry if you don't have fresh)
  • 1 large egg or 2 medium eggs, mixed
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs, freshly ground in the food processor
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano
  • 8 ounces ground venison
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 12 cups chicken broth or equivalent bouillon cubes and water.
  • 1 pack frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


To make the meatballs: Stir the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Make the meatballs small and roughly the same size. Save them on a baking sheet.
To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the pasta.  When the pasta is about half way done, add the spinach and bring to a boil again.  Add  meatballs  and simmer until the meatballs are cooked. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, the goal here is to form thin stands of egg.  Serve soup with parmesan cheese and warm bread or rolls.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Family Friday Feast - Thai Asparagus-Shrimp

Tonight, we were hanging together as a family all prepared to watch the much Jack-anticipated episode of Ghost Hunters Alcatraz in preparation for our trip to San Francisco in May.  Jack is a new-comer to Ghost Hunters and I imagine this will scare the pants off him...but, he is going to be 12 in 2 short months, so I'm allowing this.  We wrestled with what to have for dinner...chinese take-out, pizza...nada, we're tired of our limited options.  I suggested that Joe have some Father/Son time with Jack on the Wii and I'd whip something up for dinner.

The result was a spicy-hot, nutty shrimp, asparagus Thai inspired dish.  My friend Laura brought a wonderful Thai Aparagus salad to our Easter celebration and this creation was completely inspired by her dish!

I had asparagus on hand and always have a bag of frozen shrimp and I knew I had cellophane noodles that Joe purchased at an Asian grocery longer ago than I'm willing to admit.  I thought if I could recreate something similar to the salad Laura brought to Easter and served it over cellophane noodles, it just might be a new favorite!  Armed with my new, lovely, heart shaped measuring spoons that Christy sent to me, I was ready to cook!

Thai Asparagus-Shrimp over Cellophane Noodles

1 bag frozen shrimp, thawed, peeled, deveined
2 bundles fresh aparagus
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t powdered ginger
1/2 t sesame oil
1 T Thai fish sauce
3-4 T peanut butter
handful of basil, chopped for garnish
1 bag cellophane noodles

1.  Chop asparagus into bite size pieces and steam for 4 minutes or so, then throw it into a colander.

2.  Place cellophane noodles into boiling water for 5 minutes or until translucent, then put them in a colander and rinse with cold water.

3.  In a wok or a skillet, heat 2T oil along with the sesame oil.  Once it is very hot, add the garlic, ginger, and the fish sauce.  Sautee for a minute or so.

4.  Add the shrimp to the wok or skillet along with many tablespoons of the chili garlic sauce.  Saute until the shrimp are pink.

5.  Add 3 T of peanut butter to the sauteed shrimp mixture and stir it in well.

6.  Add asparagus to the shrimp and mix well.

7.  Place the cellophane noodles on a plate, top with the shrimp-asparagus mixture and garnish with chopped basil.

This dish was sooooo delicious!  My family enjoyed the spicyness and this was seriously HOT. The last minute addition of the peanut butter was P-perfect, the cellophane noodles that had been hanging around in my kitchen pantry were also a perfect complement to the fabulous spicy hot, sweat inducing shrimp and asparagus.  Truly a Thai inspired dinner!

I'm looking forward to our trip to San Francisco...chinatown is calling me to purchase a great wok while I'm visiting!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Topping Last Week's Rack of Lamb

So, last week, I served my family a lovely Sunday dinner in the spirit of the dinners my Pap always served our family on Sunday.  The rack of lamb with roasted potatoes, cauliflower and greek salad was perfect.

This Sunday, it is rainy and we are tired.  Our Open House yesterday was great, but tons of work.  We had 5 families through the house, one for the second time so we're hoping for a contract so we can move on down the road.  Over our morning Peets coffee, I suggested to Joe that he and Jack might want to check out a movie this afternoon.  He agreed and they decided on, "How to Train Your Dragon".

As they were preparing to leave, I was online checking the Morel message boards to see where in the nation, folks are finding morels.  Texas, Kentucky, Ohio, and even Michigan had representation for the first finds of the season.  It was just torturous to read!  I still have at least two weeks before the Morels start popping in Garrett County.  That said, I just couldn't take it anymore, so I donned my raincoat and headed to the woods.  I hiked all my somewhat secret patches just for the sheer enjoyment of being out in the forest.  I visited my marker trees and found them in decent order after the long hard winter.  It was absolutely refreshing to be hiking around in the woods, rain or not!

I came home and still had an hour until the boys returned, hungry, from their movie.  With visions of Morels swirling around in my mind, I headed to the freezer determined that I must still have a bag or two of last seasons Morels.  I was not disappointed!

What to make...that was easy!  Morel, Asparagus Risotto with Baby Peas!

Morel, Asparagus Risotto with Baby Peas!
3T butter
2-3 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz morels (sauteed in butter, reserve any liquid)
1/2 c. white wine
2 1/2 c chicken stock
1 1/2 c aborio rice
1 c (or more) asparagus chopped
1c frozen baby peas
3T freshly grated parmesean cheese

Sautee morels in 1T of butter, reserve any liquid they offer up!
Add 2T butter to skillet along with the garlic and green onion.  Sautee for a few minutes, add asparagus and sautee a few minutes more.  Add the rice and stir until all the fat is absorbed by the rice.  When the rice is somewhat golden, add in wine, mushroom liquid, peas and chicken stock.  When the mixture comes to the boil, reduce heat to medium and place a lid on the pot.  Cook for 25 minutes.  Add Parmesan cheese, salt to taste.

Jack walked through the front door and exclaimed, "Mommy found morels!".    If it counts that I found them in the freezer then, yes Jack, I did find morels.

The resulting dish was Morel goodness!  The savory, woodsy taste of the morels combined naturally with the fresh, spring taste of the asparagus and the finishing saltiness of the parmesean cheese!  Each bite only fueled my fever to get out and find some fresh Morels!

Last Week Rack of Lamb

Last Sunday, after a long weekend of preparing for our Open House that occurred yesterday, I decided to treat my family to a lovely Sunday dinner.  I love to cook for my family on Sunday.  It's the one day of the week when I'm not rushed, not expecting company, and not on some kind of schedule.  My Pap was a Sunday cook as well.  It was typically the same fare each week, 2 Roasted Paprika Chicken's....I looked forward to finding the wishbone each Sunday!  Maybe that memory is why I like Sunday dinner with my family.

So, the rack of lamb consisted of 8 ribs.   I rubbed the rack down with fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, then seared it in a very hot skillet, searing on both sides.  After a quick sear, I popped it into a 450 degree oven until the internal temp was about 125.  The result was a tender, rare lamb chop that my son said melted in his mouth!  This was so incredibly easy, and so very spring-like! 

Paired with rosemary-garlic roasted potatoes, cauliflower au-gratin, greek salad and  a lovely bottle of chardonnay, it was  a delightful Sunday evening dinner with my two favorite guys!

When Jack sat down to dinner I had to laugh!  He was filthy dirty from playing outside all day...but he did wash his hands before dinner....his face, not so much!