Monday, December 5, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my daughter and I went with my parents to shop at a little Mennonite store located about an hour away from where we live.  We always like to go there to stock up on fabric, craft supplies, spices, and staples for our pantry.

While we were there, my daughter picked up a butternut squash for me.  She knew I would make soup with it, and today was the perfect day to turn that squash into a steaming bowl of goodness.  I am writing this recipe as vegan, but you could just as easily use chicken stock and regular milk if you desire.  I sprinkled a little smoked paprika on top for color and flavor; you could leave it plain, or top with toasted pepitas, which I would have done had I had any in the house.

1 small butternut squash, about 7 oz
1 can vegetable stock, 2 cups
1/2 medium onion, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup coconut milk

Peel, seed, and cube squash.  Place it in medium saucepan with onion, garlic, and stock.

Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until squash is very tender, about 30 minutes. 

Using a stick blender, blend squash until very smooth.  Add 1 cup coconut milk and stir until creamy. 

Top with a dash of smoked paprika or a tablespoon of pepitas.

Serves 2 for appetizer, or 1 for meal

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Caramel Apple Crisp

This is a recipe that I just made up.  I had some apples that were needing to be used.  We were not eating them fresh, so I thought I would put them into a crisp to see if I could tempt my family to eat them.

As I opened the fridge to get a drink of water, I spied the partial jar of caramel ice cream topping we had left from a recent ice cream party.  I grabbed it on a whim and decided to add it to my crisp.  I took it to church this morning, and many people gave rave reviews to this new crisp.

8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 jar caramel ice cream topping
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2 sticks butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss sliced apples with lemon juice, spread out into a 1 quart casserole dish.

Drizzle caramel ice cream topping over apples evenly.

 In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, salt, and pumpkin pie spice, mix well.

Pour melted butter over oat mixture and mix well, until all ingredients are wet.  Sprinkle oat mixture over apples evenly.

Bake, uncovered, about an hour, until top is evenly browned, and apples are tender.  You can serve hot with ice cream on top, or at room temperature with a dollop of Cool Whip.

Serves 12

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nedra's Cheesecake

Since I bragged yesterday about getting to choose between 2 great desserts on Nedra's Christmas table, I thought I had better share the second one with you today.  That way you can make both for your upcoming holiday feast, and face your own grueling decision about which one to eat.  My bet is that you will take some of both.

This is not what one normally thinks of when thinking of cheesecake, but that is not a bad thing at all.  This cheesecake is tall, airy and light, with a faint lemon note that is fabulously refreshing.  Simplicity at its finest.

1 small box lemon jello
1 cup boiling water
juice of 1 lemon
1 8oz package of cream cheese, brought to room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tall can Milnot (evaporated milk), chilled
1 box of graham crackers
1 stick butter, melted

Using food processor, crush graham crackers into fine crumbs.  Pour into a mixing bowl.  Add melted butter and stir until all crumbs are moistened.  Reserve 1/2 cup crumbs.  Press remaining crumbs into 9x13 baking pan.  Set aside.

Dissolve jello in boiling water.  Add lemon juice and cool.  In mixing bowl, cream the cream cheese with sugar and vanilla.  In separate bowl, whip Milnot until it stands in peaks. In a large mixing bowl, Mix jello, cream cheese, and whipped milk, stirring well.  Pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle reserved crumbs evenly over top.  Chill several hours.  Serves 16.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nedra's Lemon Cake

Today's recipe comes from my aunt's sister-in-law.  Though she is not my blood relative, she was frequently at family dinners, and we always spent part of Christmas Day with the extended family at her house.

I have wonderful memories of sitting at the big table with the adults, as she didn't pawn the kids off at a side table.  I always felt so grown up eating at her house.   Another big plus was that she had an awesome aluminum pitcher and a set of those bright, solid color aluminum tumblers to drink out of; and instead of coasters, she had little socks that you slipped onto the bottom of the glasses so they didn't sweat on her table.  It's funny the weird things you remember from childhood!

Anyway, it was always hard to choose between her light and airy cheesecake and this fruity lemon cake.  Most of the time I'd go ahead and have some of each!

1 yellow cake mix
1 small box lemon instant pudding
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
4 eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9x13 inch cake pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, instant pudding, oil, water, and eggs.  Beat with electric mixer on low until cake mix is moistened, then beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.

Pour cake batter into prepared pan, bake for 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted near center of cake comes out clean.

While cake is baking, in another mixing bowl, combine lemon juice, powdered sugar, water and melted butter, mix well.  Warm this mixture in the microwave for 1 minute.  Pour over warm cake.  Cool.  Serves 16.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Taco Soup

Occasionally, all it takes is one time making a recipe for it to become a favorite.  So it was with me and this recipe.  I don't remember how old I was, or for what reason my mom made this soup when I was growing up, but I loved it at first bite!  It's reminiscent of chili, but with taco spices and added ingredients that are delightfully different.  Delicious!

1/1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 14oz cans stewed tomatoes
1 14oz can hominy, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can chili beans
1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch dry ranch dressing mix
1 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 envelope taco seasoning mix

In a large pot or dutch oven, cook beef and onion, stirring occasionally to break up meat, until meat is brown and no longer pink.  Drain fat and return meat to pot.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, Fritos, black olives, jalapenos, and/or any other taco topping you enjoy.  Serves 6.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Potato Casserole

My son reminded me last night that Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away.  I love this time of year because it is finally cool enough that I want to turn on the oven to prepare some good old family recipes we all love.

Many years ago, my mom started fixing potato casserole instead of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving.  That dish has always been my favorite part of the meal so that now it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without potato casserole.

I know this is a common recipe that you can get anywhere.  But to me it means family, celebration, and love.

My daughter loves to smear it on a hot roll and top it with a slice ham for a delicious little sandwich.  I just might try that this year myself!

1 32oz bag frozen plain hash brown potatoes
1 small white or yellow onion, grated
1 tsp garlic powder
1 16oz bag shredded cheddar cheese
1 16oz carton sour cream
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
4 cups cornflakes, crushed
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine hash browns, onion, garlic powder, cheese, sour cream, and soups, mix well.  Pour into a greased 9x13 casserole dish, smooth top evenly.  

In another mixing bowl, melt butter in the microwave.  Add cornflake to butter and mix well.  Sprinkle corn flakes evenly on top of casserole.

Bake, uncovered, 60 to 75 minutes, until potatoes are tender and top is nicely browned.  If top browns too fast, cover casserole with aluminum foil.  Serve hot.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

All Purpose Fish Seasoning

Fish is a good choice for a healthy dinner.  This seasoning will make it a delicious choice too.  There is nothing special about this combination of spices, but they work magic together to enhance what would be a bland piece of fish otherwise.

My favorite preparation is with tilapia, but it would work well with any type of fish.  Experiment with it and come up with your own creative uses.

Fish Seasoning:

Mix equal parts of the following spices:

garlic powder
dried cilantro
dried basil
dried thyme
salt (optional)

Mix well, store in a labeled air-tight container.  Will stay fresh for 6 months, but I bet it won't last that long.

Here is how I use this seasoning most often:

4 Tilapia fillets, frozen or thawed
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fish seasoning

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.  Place fish flat side up in pan.  Evenly divide seasoning and sprinkle over fillets.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes if thawed, 5 minutes if frozen.  You want to give the fillets a nicely browned crust.  Flip fillets, leave uncovered, and cook another 3 minutes.  Remove to plates and serve immediately.  I like to serve wild rice pilaf and 2 vegetables, such as steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

I love this so much I could eat it every night for a very long time without tiring of it.  It is just plain good!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread

I used to never bother with baking my own bread because it takes a long time.  Then I got a bread machine and went through a period of time where I baked bread every day.  Now I've settled into the middle of the road, and I occasionally bake bread in the machine, but I also enjoy making a loaf from scratch every now and then.

Here is a very simple recipe for one loaf of bread.  It is so simple that I haven't tried it in my machine, but I suppose you could try it.  It is a yummy whole wheat loaf that just happens to be vegan.

1 Cup warm water
1/2 Cup applesauce
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 Cups whole wheat flour

In large mixing bowl, stir together water, applesauce, and yeast.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Then add salt and flour, mixing well, and adding additional flour if needed.  Knead well.  Put in loaf pan and let rise to double in size.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Serves 12.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chicken Rice Casserole

This is a favorite dinner from my childhood.  I loved helping my mom measure the milk using the empty soup can.  It is funny how I remember some very random things from when I was small.  I was talking to my mom about this casserole the other day, and she doesn't even remember making it.  Maybe I'll have her over soon for this dinner, and let her measure the milk in the empty soup can.  Surely that will spark her memory.

1 whole chicken, cut up
2 cups raw white rice, not minute rice
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
3 cans milk, use empty soup can to measure

Preheat oven to 375.  Empty soup into a large mixing bowl and add milk.  Stir well.  Add rice and stir well.  Carefully pour into a greased 9x13 glass casserole dish.  Lay chicken pieces on top, skin side up.  Bake for 60 to 90 minutes, until chicken is done, rice is tender, and liquid is absorbed.

Notes:  While this is the way the original recipe is written, there are many options.  My favorite way is to use all whole chicken wings, or my second choice is to use all drumsticks.

If you want to cut down on the fat and the cooking time, use boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

If you want to use up leftovers and shave off even more cooking time, use leftover cooked rice and cooked cubed chicken, reducing milk to 1 can.  Stir it all together, place in dish and cook until heated through and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

I personally think it tastes best when the chicken still has the skin on, and the rice cooks in the liquid, which makes the creamiest rice ever.

Any way you make it, it is creamy, dreamy comfort food that is perfect for chilly fall days.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Usually when I set out to make a pot of chili, I just throw some ingredients in the crock pot and let it cook all day.  It is always pretty good, but usually never the same thing twice.

The other day I made a pot of chili for our church youth group party, and received so many compliments, that I wrote the recipe down and crowned it my go-to chili recipe.

You can go traditional and serve it with saltines, carrot/celery sticks, and pickles, or serve it up with Fritos, shredded cheese, and sour cream, as the youth liked it.  Either way, it's a pretty easy dinner for a chilly fall night or a Sunday football snack.

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 cans chili beans, undrained
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 envelope chili seasoning mix
1 envelope hot chili seasoning mix
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
1 1/2 (64 oz) jugs V-8 juice

In large pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef with garlic and onion powders until cooked through.  Drain well, return to pot.  Add chili beans, kidney beans, and all seasoning mixes.  Stir well.  Add V-8 juice and stir well.  Place over medium high heat until just beginning to boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, up to several hours.  The longer you simmer, the better the flavor.  Just be sure to stir occasionally to prevent from sticking.

Makes 12-16 servings.