Thursday, November 30, 2006

HOLIDAY GIFT: Cinnamon-scented Ornaments

Okay, so this is non-edible. But in my defense, it is a RECIPE. :D

I gave these to my husbands co-workers 5 years ago, our first Christmas in Phoenix. I had also made them to send back home in our gift boxes we sent that year. The ones that were rejects, I finally threw away before we moved back to PA and they STILL smelled of cinnamon. They do fare best when stored in an airtight bag like a ziploc.

OH...and I got all the ingredients at the dollar store, I made 32 ornaments for about $10 total.

Cinnamon-scented Ornaments (Non-edible)

1 Cup Ground Cinnamon
1 tbs ground cloves
1 tbs ground nutmeg
3/4 cup applesauce
2 tbs white glue

Mix spices together. Add applesauce and glue. Work mixture with hands for 2 to 3 minutes to form a ball. If too wet, add more cinnamon. If too dry, add more applesauce.

Lightly dust a clean surface with cinnamon. Roll out dough to 1/4" thick. Cut into shapes with various holiday cookie cutters. Use a tooth pick to poke a whole at the top for the hanging ribbon (I used thick gold elastic thread).

Dry in a slow oven (200 degrees) for several hours. Or air dry in a sunny spot for 4 to 5 days.

When dry, add ribbon and other embellishments as desired.

This should make 12 2" ornaments. I recal doubling the recipe and using a 1 1/2" cutter - I chose a snowflake design that lent itself well to getting a lot of ornaments off one slab of dough. If you work quickly enough, you can reroll a couple times...just try to keep it warm and wet.

You can also spray acryllic on it BUT it will effect the strength of the scent. I did not do that, and the ones that we did keep for ourselves are still fine. I believe that the glue and the drying process (not to mention the spices) act as a preservative.

Enjoy!!! :D

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

HOLIDAY GIFT: Friendship Soup in a Jar

Quite a few years ago, I stumbled upon this recipe on the internet when looking for an inexpensive gift to give the ladies in our playgroup. There were six of us, we always got together every other week. All of our kids were the same ages. Every other Tuesday, we'd get together, have lunch, let the kids play together and make a disaster of my house (and I LOVED every single second of it). This can be layered in a quart sized Mason jar (which, BTW can be bought by the case if need be bringing the cost down to about 70 cents a piece). This particular year, I did not have enough to get mason jars for them, so I layered the ingredients in quart sized ziploc baggies with a Christmas Theme. I had also had several large scraps of Christmas fabric that I sewed into bags. I then losely sewed a peice of embroidery floss to create a pull string. I printed the instructions on Christmassy paper and put inside the bag before closing up. That week we got together for lunch, I made the soup for everyone to enjoy, then gave them their gift. It was a huge hit. A couple years later, after we had moved to AZ, I made it also for my playgroup there. This time, again, did not have the money for the jars so I bought the quart sized Ziploc containers, layered in the ingredients, I also gave it with a packet of biscuit mix. I did not make the bags this time, I put them both in Christmas bags and tissue paper that I bought at the dollar store. It was again a big hit.

The ingredients are inexpensive, the flavor is outstanding. Another way to give this gift would be layered in the jar with a nice set of soup bowls and a bisquit mix for baking with the soup. Maybe some cool spoons too.

Well, here goes it!

Friendship Soup in a Jar

1/2 cup dried split peas
1/3 cup beef boullion granules
1/4 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dried lentils
1/4 cup dried onion flakes
2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
1/2 cup uncooked small pasta (alphabet, orzo, ditalini, small elbows or shells)

In a quart jar, layer the ingrediens in order up thru the rice. Place the pasta in a square of plastic wrap and bring the ends together and twist (this will keep the pasta from mixing with the other ingredients in the jar too soon). Seal tightly. Cover the lid with a cirle of fabric, secure with a rubberband, then write out the instructions on the card and secure around the lid with ribbon (this will cover up the rubber band).

The label attached should read:


1 lb ground beef
3 quarts water
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Pepper & Garlic to taste

To prepare the soup:

Remove pasta from top of jar and set aside. In a large pot over medium heat, brown beef with pepper and garlic, drain any excess fat. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, water and soup mix. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the reserved pasta, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes more or until the pasta, peas, lentils and barly are tender.

Now, as you can tell, this makes A LOT of soup - that's why it's called friendship soup - you'll need a lot of friends to help you eat it!!! :D

Monday, November 27, 2006

HOLIDAY GIFT - Forget Me Not Tea

Okay, Thanksgiving is over. The last of the leftovers are in the oven as Turkey Tettrazzini redeaux, the boxes and bangles of Christmas decorating over the weekend are strewn from one end of my house to the other, and I am just not done! I need to clean it all up and make this house my own personal holiday showplace. I'm a little misty as it is our first year in this new house in PA and missing my Phoenix Christmas ideas. I had gotten to where I knew where all my items went and were the most festive. It's new learning this year. The tree is up. My eldest and my husband did a spectacular job of putting it together and decorating it - a true tradition in our home. It looks breathtaking, and it feels like Christmas.

I make no apologies for celebrating CHRISTmas. And am happy to do so! God bless you and what you celebrate in your home this holiday season.

Okay, so this little tea, I gave away last year to a few friends. When I saw the recipe in a book, it sounded yummy and looked so beautiful the way they presented it. Forget-me-nots are a beautiful little purplish blue flower, sweet, delicate and light, just like this tea. I gave away just the tea, but paired with a set of tea cups decorated with forget-me-nots and a tea towel, maybe some candies. It could be a special gift.

Forget-Me-Not Tea

1 jar (15 oz) instant orange breakfast beverage (such as Tang)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened tea mix
1/2 cup presweetened lemonade mix
1 package unsweetened cherry drink mix (like Kool-Aid)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container. Give with serving instructions.

To serve, stir 2 heaping tablespoons tea mix into 8 oz hot or cold water.

Yields about 4 cups of the mix.

I put in the half pint mason jars with pretty lids and used fabric scraps to cover the lid. I printed the instructions neatly on an unprinted business card and folded in half...punched a hole and tied it around the lid/fabric with ribbon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cranberry Sausage Stuffing

I know, you're all bowled over - TWO recipes in ONE day!!! What must I be thinking.

Well, this year, I decided to experiment a little bit with the stuffing. I usually just use the boxed mix and I'm done with it. Well, this year, I decided to be adventurous and I think it's going to pay off. It hasn't cooked inside the bird yet, but even if I don't choose to do that, it will be a WOW factor on the table tomorrow night. I think this may well become my signature Thanksgiving dish.

Cranberry Sausage Stuffing

1 1lb tube pork sausage (bulk)
1 box Cornbread Stuffing Mix
1 stalk celery
1 small red onion
1 14 1/2 oz can chicken broth
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup French's Fried Onions

In a saute pan, brown sausage and set aside - do not drain fat off!

Chop celery and onion into a small dice (or your preference if you like larger pieces). Saute in 2 tbs butter or olive oil on low heat until translucent and soft (but NOT carmelized). Add in sausage. Add dried cranberries. Cook for 2 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Pour in all of the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in contents of stuffing mix box and French's Fried onions. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

This will stuff a 10 to 12 lb bird. Make sure to double/triple if you have a larger bird, or make extra to serve on the side without cooking in the bird!


Traditional Green Bean Casserole

In honor of Thanksgiving tomorrow...I figured posting a truly traditional Green Bean Casserole was in order. It will be on our table tomorrow - and many more around the country, I am certain.

I am thankful for many things this year! Blessings to all of you and to your families.

Green Bean Casserole
(this is the Campbells Recipe)

2 cans (10 3/4 oz) Campbells Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup milk
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground pepper
8 cups cooked green beans
2 2/3 cups French's French Fried Onions (does anyone else actually make these???)

Mix soup, milk, soy, black pepper, beans and 1 1/3 cups onions in a 3 quart casserole. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until hot. Stir. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake for 5 more minutes. Serve.

Oooooo, I just cannot wait until tomorrow!!! :D

Monday, November 20, 2006

White Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

Hi there...this is a recipe I made a while back when my dad came over for dinner. He's a diabetic and is not supposed to get desserts - but I always think dessert is a good idea. :) You can tell just by looking at me, of course! This one is a good one, and if you don't like using diet stuff - feel free to use the regular, the taste is very similar!

White Chocolate Cheescake Pie

1 small package Jello Pudding Sugar Free Cheesecake Flavor
1 small package Jello Pudding Sugar Free White Chocolate Flavor
2 Cups heavy cream
1 Cup whole milk
1 package (5.5 oz package) sugar free oatmeal cookies
1/4 cup melted butter

Grind sugar free oatmeal cookies into crumbs. Mix with melted butter. Press into a pie pan...accross bottom and up sides. Bake for about 5 - 10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.

Pour heavy cream and milk into a blender, start on slow speed, pour in jello powders. Increase speed so that it mixes the powders into the cream and makes it thick and creamy.

Pour/spread into crust and refridgerate for at least 3 hours...overnight is best.

Another variation would be to use aluminum foil muffin cups, remove paper, lightly spray the inside - place an uncrushed oatmeal cookie in the bottom, spoon the filling into each cup and refridge, makes individual portions.

Enjoy - without guilt!!! :D

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Killer Cobbler

I found this recipe in the Philadelphia Inquirer shortly after I got married almost 12 years ago. I don't make this often enough for my husband! I haven't made it at all since we moved back to PA. I will be making this on Thanksgiving as a special request from him.

I hope you enjoy, not only the taste, but the ease of this recipe. I'm gearing it towards Apple, however I will list other fruit options at the bottom as well.

Killer Cobbler

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups sugar divided
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
4 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I use a apple wedger, peel and then cut the wedges in half)
2 Tbs Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place apples in a bowl, pour 1/2 cup sugar and 2 Tbs Cinnamon over top and mix well. Set aside.

Sift together flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk and mix well.

In a 13 X 9" pan, cut butter into pats and put in oven to melt. When butter is melted, pour flour mixture into pan. Lay sliced apples into the flour mixture - pressing them in. Do not be afraid to really fill it full of apples. There should be a sweet cinnamon syrup in the bottom of the apple bowl. Sprinkle this syrup overtop.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick in center comes out clear and edges are browned.

Serve with fresh whipped cream or ice cream. Best when served warm....If you have a crowd, it won't last until it's cooled. :D

Fruit variations:

16 oz bag frozen mixed berries, thawed (omit cinnamon)
16 oz fresh strawberries, blueberries OR raspberries (omit cinnamon)
4 medium peaches (add a dash or two of ground ginger and nutmeg!)
4 medium pears (omit cinnamon)
16 oz pitted cherries OR 1 can cherry pie filling


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Spaghetti Casserole

This is a yummy from, and while I'd rather forget where it came from (long story!), it's still a yummy recipe. It's a twist on a normal spaghetti dinner the makes it just different enough. But close enough that it's easy and usually you have the ingredients on hand.

This recipe is GREAT to give to someone who just had a baby as a quick fix meal. It freezes very well and reheats well too. As a matter of fact - I split mine between 2 small square pans this time and froze one for a meal on a night when I just don't feel like cooking. The other is in the fridge and will be baked up tonight. MMMMMMMM....cannot wait for dinner!!!

Spaghetti Casserole

8 oz spaghetti style pasta - cooked according to packaged directions
1 cup sour cream
1 lb ground beef (or turkey or chicken)
1 28 oz jar spaghetti sauce (or see my sauce recipe on another post and use 1 qt).
2 cups shredded mozzerella cheese

In a large sauce pan, brown ground meat. Add sauce and warm up.

Mix the spaghetti with the sour cream and press into the bottom of a 13 X 9" baking dish. Pour meat/sauce mixture over top. Sprinke Mozzarella Cheese overtop. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes - since everything is cooked it just needs to all "meld" together and the cheese melts.

Serve with salad and bread!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Double Layer Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I have much to be thankful for this year, as every year. I have three beautiful children, a loving husband, a good home and lots of food! :D I also have the recipe for the best pumpkin pie ever, thanks to Jello. I'm not a huge pumpkin fan...but I LOVE this pie!

1 prepared grahm cracker crust - either your own or the store bought kind
4 oz cream cheese
1 Cup + 1 Tbs. Milk Divided
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tub (8oz ) frozen whipped topping, thawed.
2 (4 serving sized) packages vanilla instant pudding
1 16 oz can pumpkin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1. Mix cream cheese, 1 tbs milk and 1 tbs sugar in a large bowl with wire wisk until very smooth. Gently stir in 1/2 of the whipped topping. Spread on bottom of the crust.

2. Pour 1 cup milk into bowl. Add pudding mixes and beat with wire whisk 1 minute. Stir in pumpkin and spices with wire whisk. Spread over cream cheese layer.

3. Refrigerate 4 hours or until set. Garnish with remaining whipped topping. Store leftovers in the refridgerator (yeah, like there are really going to BE any leftovers!!!).

This is a GREAT recipe to make "diet" friendly. Use sugar free puddings, skim milk and lite or FF whipped cream (they even make sugar free now too).

Looking forward to Turkey Day, hope you are too!!!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Italian Chicken Cutlets

I love chicken. I know that must sound really silly, but I do. Due to health reasons, we end up eating a lot of chicken in this house. It is sometimes a challenge to make it taste good and different. I've been digging out my old recipes and here's today's. I'm making these for dinner to serve overtop a salad. It's fairly healthy. I also like baking these off in unglazed stoneware (like Pampered Chef or a pizza stone) so that it gives it a "fried" texture without being too greasy or heavy.

Italian Chicken Cutlets

8 oz Italian Salad Dressing (I usually make up the Good Seasons and use that)
4 4oz chicken breasts
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
dash pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 cup parmasean cheese
Cooking Spray - or an olive oil mister

Marinate the chicken breasts in the italian salad dressing, in the fridge for up to 8 hours. (minimum of 1 hour).

In a large flat dish/bowl/container mix together bread crumbs, seasonings and parmesan cheese. Set aside for a minute.

Lift breasts out of marinade and drain as much off as possible. Dip in the bread crumbs to coat well. Place on baking sheet. Before placing in oven spray each breast with cooking spray or olive oil.

Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes until chicken is cooked thru.

NOTE: for best even cooking, bring breasts to room temperature before baking.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Mimi Dip

Okay...holidays are coming, parties are coming, events where we will be asked to bring something, anything. Well, THIS recipe is a crowd pleaser. I have NEVER brought home leftovers when I've made it. NEVER. It is named "Mimi Dip" because it is a recipe from a friend of mine's mother, Mimi. I'm so glad I got the recipe from her. She now is in the end stages of Alzheimer's. This recipe will always be her heart and soul to me. I love you Mimi D.

Mimi Dip

3 8z blocks cream cheese
1 16 oz jar salsa (choose heat level)
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced scallions
1/2 cup diced black olives
1/2 cup diced green (or red) pepper

Open cream cheese and place in a large mixing bowl. Allow cream cheese to soften, pour in salsa. Mix with electric mixer until VERY smooth (it takes a while!).

In a 13 X 9" pan spread the mixture on the bottom very evenly (now would be a good time to pull out a cup for your self, before you layer it out!!! LOL. you seriously will NOT have left overs!!!).

Sprinkle cheese over top. Then tomatoes, peppers, scallions, and olives. Place in fridge and allow to firm up for about 2 hours.

Serve with tortilla chips or sliced vegetables.

The other way to do it is to mix the "topping" ingredients into the mixture. Chill until very firm, with cooking spray covered hands, roll into a ball and coat the outside is chopped walnuts, or taco seasoning (see recipe in one of my earlier blog posts!!!), or more cheese. And make a cheese ball or cheese log out of it.

I hope that this dip becomes a family favorite!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Applesauce Muffins

Okay, so last Friday my husband shows up from work carrying bags of food. The receptionist was packing up leftover food from a client meeting and there was a ton left. A lot, she felt that would not survive the she sent it home with him. My husband brought home 5 lbs of apples, oranges, a bunch of cheeses, chopped veggies and dip, it was a plethora of fabulous food. And since it was free, well, I think it tasted better! :D

Well, last Sunday, I pulled out my crockpot and tried to slow cook an apple sauce. A miscalculation of cinnamon made it a little overpowering. Not to mention that NO ONE, not one person, eats applesauce in my house! LOL!!!

Well, a friend visited this week and shared some recipes with me, and one was for Applesauce Muffins. Not wanting to waste the applesauce, I decided to use it in these muffins. Which are a hit with my kids.

2 1/4 Cups Flour (I mixed 1 cup Whole wheat with 1 1/4 cup all purpose - but you could use all AP)
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon (I ommited b/c the applesauce was overspiced - but don't omit if you use plain applesauce)
1 1/3 cup all natural applesauce
1/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 medium apple, peeled & chopped (optional - I did not use b/c my kids don't like cooked apples)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 12 well muffin pan with cooking spray OR line with cupcake liners. (I used the Reynolds Extra Large ones and it made 12, so I think this recipe actually makes 24 of the normal size ones.).

In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients together. Add applesauce, oil, eggs and blend at a low speed until moistened. THEN, beat for 2 minutes on high.

Stir in chopped apple, put in tins and bake. 18-20 minutes. (now...since I used the extra large cups, the baking time took a lot longer).

I bet you could add walnuts or chopped nuts and they would be even more fabulous.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

London Broil

Okay, so I'm on a beef kick this week. Marinating in the fridge right now is my absolute favorite cut of beef. Marinated in a good marinade, sliced on a bias. Served with baked potato (with sour cream of course) and a wedge of iceburg drenched in amazing blue cheese dressing! MMMM. Cannot wait until dinner!!!!

London Broil

2 - 2 1/2 lb London Broil Cut
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 tsp Worchestershire Sauce
2 Tbs Montreal Steak Seasoning (or a good grill seasoning)

In a gallon bag pour olive oil, worchestershire sauce and seasonings. Add London Broil and mix around. Marinate in fridge for at least two hours - as much as 10 hours.

Grill for 8 minutes per side. Or until medium. Let meat rest (covered in tin foil) for 10 minutes for each inch of thickness.

Slice on the bias and serve.

I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Crock Pot Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches there anything better than beef dripping with gravy, on a bun with provalone cheese and horseradish???? If there is, I cannot think of it!!! This is one of my favorite crock pot - cook all day - easy dinners I can think of. I don't make it often because I would eat the whole thing myself if given opportunity. I'm making it today as a special lunch for a friend who's coming to visit with her daughter.

Crock Pot Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches

1 to 1 1/2 lbs thinly sliced Deli Roast Beef (see note below)
2 cups beef broth, +1/4 cup set aside
1/2 a medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tbs cornstarch

Pour broth into crock pot, add Roast Beef and sliced onion. Cook on high 4 hours or low 8-10 hours.

About an hour before serving, mix remaining broth and cornstarch together and pour into crockpot. Cover and allow cornstarch to thicken broth into gravy.

Serve on Kaiser Rolls with provalone (or your favorite cheese), and as I said in my intro...horseradish! MMMMM.

NOTE: I like to buy roast beef ends from the deli - you know the left overs after they cut the pounds out and end up with pieces that cannot be cut sufficiently. I slice them on the bias into strips. If you can find them set aside somewhere in your deli - you can also ask for them! I'm lucky to have a deli nearby that has them on display, usually. I like this because sometimes you get a mix of beef styles - italian, pepper rinded, etc. adds extra flavor!!