July 4th

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Bake

Bacon.  Eggs.  Cheese.  Bread.  Ingredients that my household loves.  They team up in this hearty breakfast dish and are a crowd pleaser! It would also make a great busy weeknight dinner.  The big boys added a few dashes of hot sauce and my little man had to have extra cheese! I hope your family enjoys this hearty breakfast!

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Bake

1 pound french bread (or any crusty bread) cut into 1" cubes (about 14 cups)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sliced applewood smoked bacon or other good quality smoked bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 28 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes-drained and patted dry
8 oz extra-sharp cheddar, shredded
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 Tablespoons minced chives
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
6-8 large eggs
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350o F.  Lightly oil a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  In a large bowl, toss the bread with the olive oil and spread on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until the bread is golden and lightly crispy.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain: reserve 2 Tablespoons of the fat in the skillet.

Add the onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cook until liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Return the toasted bread cubes to the bowl.  Add the contents of the skillet, along with the bacon, shredded cheeses, chives and broth.  Stir until the bread is evenly moistened.  Spread the mixture in the baking dish and cover with lightly oiled foil.

Bake the bread mixture in the center of the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake until the top is crispy, about 15 minutes longer.  Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and using a ladle, press 6 indentations into the bread mixture (you can do 8 if you want to).  Crack an egg into each indentation. Salt and pepper the eggs to you taste. Return the dish to the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny.  Cook longer if you do not want runny yolks. 

Serve right away while it's warm.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Confucius says...

Make your own fortune cookies!!! These were so much better than any packaged fortune cookie! You can add your own cute fortunes or sayings. These make Chinese night at home a little extra special and they would be great for a party!! Try them tonight!!

Almond Lemon Fortune Cookies

2 large egg whites
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoon water
Write or print fortunes on pieces of card stock or heavy paper. Fortunes need to be about 3 inches long, they can be folded in half if needed. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg white, vanilla extract, almond extract, lemon zest and vegetable oil until frothy, but not stiff.
Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a separate bowl. Stir the water into the flour mixture.
Add the flour into the egg white mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter. The batter should not be runny, but should drop easily off a spoon.
Place one tablespoon of batter onto a silicone baking mat (or a well greased baking sheet), spacing them at least 3 inches apart. Gently use the back of the back of a spoon to make circular motions on the surface of the batter to form circles with a diameter of about 3.5”.
Bake until the outer 1/2-inch of each cookie turns golden brown and they are easy to remove from the baking sheet with a spatula (11– 14 minutes). Watch them closely!
Working quickly, remove the cookie with a spatula and flip it over in your hand. Place a fortune in the middle of a cookie. To form the fortune cookie shape, fold the cookie in half, then gently pull the edges downward over the rim of a glass, wooden spoon or the edge of a muffin tin. Place the finished cookie in the cup of the muffin tin so that it keeps its shape. Continue with the rest of the cookies.
Makes about 14 cookies.

Chinese take out...from your kitchen!!

Crab Rangoon...its on every Chinese buffet from here to Kalamazoo. We all love them. Even though they rarely contain more than a tiny flake of crab meat (usually imitation crab at that)! These deep fried cheese bites are usually served with a side of unnaturally red sauce labeled sweet and sour. Admit it...you love them too.

I decided to make my own crab rangoon and sweet and sour sauce. They were much easier than I expected and they tasted great! The sweet and sour sauce is great as well. It can be used on many Chinese dishes.

Crab Rangoon

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ pound fresh crab meat (can use canned, drained and flaked or imitation)
½ teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
fresh ground black pepper
Wonton skins

Wonton Glue
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Peanut oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine the fresh crab meat with the cream cheese. Fold in the remaining ingredients up to the wonton wrappers. Taste for seasoning and set aside.

Create the wonton “glue” by dissolving the cornstarch in the 2 tablespoons of water. Add the egg yolk and stir until well-incorporated and smooth. Set sealing mixture aside.

Place a wonton wrapper on a work surface and fill it with 1 heaping teaspoon of the crab filling. Dip your finger in the wonton glue and lightly paint the border of the wonton wrapper. There are several ways to fold the wontons. The easiest way to fold these is to make them into triangles. Fold over the edges of the wrapper to create a triangle while encasing the crab filling, pressing to seal the edges with your fingertips. Using the back of a fork, ensure that the wontons are sealed by gently crimping the borders to create a fluted edge. I like to take the opposite corners and pinch them. Then pick up the other two sides and press them together. Just make sure the edges are all sealed to insure no filling leaks out when you fry them. Repeat with remaining wrappers.

Preheat oven to 200°.Heat peanut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches the temperature of 350°. Working in batches, fry the wontons until crispy and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. You will need to stir and flip the wontons to make sure they fry evenly. Drain the wontons on paper towels and keep them warm in the oven while you continue frying. Serve warm with sweet and sour dipping sauce.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

5 tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cooking sherry
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ cup water

Combine the sugar, salt, vinegar, soy, sherry, and ketchup in a bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. In a separate small bowl, combine the cornstarch, 3 tablespoons water and the sesame oil and set aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a medium saucepan set over moderate heat until hot. Add in the garlic and stir, pressing on the clove until aromatic and lightly browned.

Pour in the sauce slowly and stir until the liquid comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and add in the cornstarch mixture, stirring until sauce begins to thicken. Add in the ½ cup water slowly, stirring until the sauce is smooth and bubbly. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool. The sauce can be made in advance as it holds well in the refrigerator for many days.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

After cooking a huge Valentines Day meal that my children deemed “fancy food”, I thought I better pull out something they would love. I struggle with finding that happy medium, I cook something the kids are bonkers over and I get the “Oh no...look” from the husband. The supper gods must have sensed my stress!! I checked my email one last time before heading out to get groceries and this little gem was in my inbox! I knew that everyone would be happy with this recipe. And they were! I served this with a side of black beans and rice, a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro, a little sliced avocado and jalapenos. I hope your family enjoys this as well!
Photo courtesy The Noble Pig

Chicken Frito Pie
Recipe adapted from The Noble Pig

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-1/2" pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
3 gloves garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 cups chicken broth
2 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans (or Great Northern), drained and rinsed
2-1/2 cups Fritos, divided
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350o F. In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat oil over medium high. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then brown on both sides. Remove to a plate. Add onion, garlic and chili powder to pot, stirring; saute until tender.

Return chicken to pot, stir in broth, green chiles and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer (uncovered) and cook for 30 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid evaporates.

Add 1-1/2 cups Fritos to a 2 quart casserole. Top with chicken mixture, remaining Fritos and cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly brown and bubbly.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Love is in the air!

Valentine's Day was never my favorite holiday. That is until I met the love of my life. We try to make every day Valentine's Day, but on February 14th we do a little something extra to show each other how much we love them. I will admit I'm super hard to buy for. I don't hint around, I don't make lists. Most guys would love to have a wife or girlfriend tell them “You don't have to buy me anything!” My husband however, HATES this about me! He said I drive him crazy by not helping him with gift ideas. I don't know if its because I'm not super girlie, or if I was just raised to believe that material things don't matter. They are just things. I'd much rather have a home cooked meal than an expensive dinner out. I'd rather have a homemade card than a $5 Hallmark. The best birthday cake I ever had was one that my kids made from a cake mix. I think that if you take the time to sit down and think of an idea and to actually make it with your hands and heart, that is far better than anything money can buy. I can't wait to give Bill what I made for him this year!! (I will post pics too!)

So this year for Will's Valentine's Day class party we are making edible treats. I decided to make a very special cupcake and use those as his valentines. We did a trial run, can't risk handing out icky valentine treats! This recipe was a huge success! I absolutely love anything with vanilla bean in it so these cupcakes are heavenly to me. Laffy Taffy Butter Cream Icing...awesome!! Not to mention the sweet heart surprise inside! The kids devoured them! These do take a little bit of work but it is so worth it!
Vanilla Bean Cupcake Batter Ingredients:
Recipe adapted from Bake It In a Cake
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt
1/2 vanilla bean
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/3 c. whole milk
red or pink food coloring

Laffy Taffy Butter Cream Ingredients:
10 pieces of strawberry or cherry Laffy Taffy candy
2 T. heavy cream
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).
Mix the butter and sugar together at medium speed until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl so everything gets well combined. Split vanilla bean down the center and gently scrape out all the seeds. Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla bean seeds and mix until the batter is smooth. Finally, alternate between the flour and milk, beating on med-high speed until the batter is light and creamy.
Pour about 1 1/2 cups of batter into a smaller bowl. Add red or pink food coloring until you get your desired color. Pour the batter into a non-stick (or lightly greased) 8x8 baking pan and bake for about 20 minutes until the edges of the cake start to turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely.
Once the sheet cake is cool, loosen the edges away from the pan with a knife and then invert the pan onto a cutting board. Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out a dozen cake hearts that are small enough to fit into an average-sized cupcake pan.  (My cutter is about 2 inches wide.)
Spoon two heaping tablespoons of the remaining batter into paper-lined cupcake tins, so they’re about half-full. Put one heart into each tin and press it point down into the batter. Keep all the hearts facing forward in the pan. Cover with another teaspoon of batter and bake for 24 minutes or until done. Remember that the center cake is already done so test for doneness on the side of the cupcake. Allow to cool completely before frosting. Pay close attention and keep the cupcakes facing the same direction. It is crucial to keep them facing the correct direction so that when you bite into the cake you will see the heart. Otherwise you will just see a pink blob!
Melt the taffy and the heavy cream together in a small bowl for one minute on high, stirring every 20 seconds. Stir the mixture together until it’s smooth, then stick it in the fridge so it cools a bit (the cream will keep it from hardening).
In a mixing bowl, whip the butter until it’s smooth. Add the powdered sugar, a half cup at a time, whipping until fluffy. Finally, with the mixer on medium-low, drizzle in the melted and cooled taffy mixture. When it’s all in, turn the mixer up to high and whip the frosting until it’s fluffy. If you’d like, add a little pink or red food coloring to get the desired shade. Then frost! I like to add little valentine candies to the top of the frosted cupcakes. This not only looks cute and festive it also shows you what direction you bite the cupcake to insure you see the heart inside!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Photo by:  Pass the Sushi
Tonkatsu is a thin pork cutlet, breaded in Panko bread crumbs and then fried. It is served with a slightly sweet and tangy sauce. 
This dish is a nice, quick option for a busy week night. Prep time is about 20 minutes, an hour of inactive prep and about 15 minutes to cook. I served this with a sesame green bean and crash hot potatoes.


For the pork:

1 pound pork cutlets, 3/8” thick, gently pounded or 1 pound thin cut boneless pork chops
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
½ cup flour
3 eggs
salt and pepper
oil for frying

For the tonkatsu sauce:
1/3 cup soy sauce
¼ cup Heinz 57 sauce
½ Granny Smith apple, chopped
½ small onion, chopped
4oz canned crushed pineapple and the juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup

For the sauce:
Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until it becomes thick and syrupy. Strain the sauce in the strainer and press with a spoon to get all the liquid out. Discard the filling.

For the pork:
Season the pork with salt and pepper, set aside.
Place flour in a shallow dish, beat eggs in a separate shallow dish and place the panko in a third dish. Season the flour and eggs with salt and pepper. Dredge each pork cutlet in the flour, then into the egg and finally into the panko. Stack coated cutlets on top of each other and cover. Chill for at least 1 hour.

Add oil to large skillet and heat over medium heat. Drop a small bit of the panko into the oil to test if it is ready to fry. If panko sizzles and browns quickly, your oil is ready. Place cutlets in pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. When pork is cooked remove from pan and drizzle with sauce. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Veggies...even your kids will love!

Vegetable Tian
Recipe adapted from For the Love of Cooking

I made this beautiful dish to go along with the Kaytucky Chicken last night. Even in the cold, snowy winter this vegetable dish was wonderful! Even my picky eater gobbled it up. It is quick and simple to put together and the finished product is sure to impress your family or guests.
2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
1 large sweet yellow onion, cut in half and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small russet potatoes, washed and unpeeled
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3 large Roma tomatoes (I used 5 smaller tomatoes)
Sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Dried thyme, to taste
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and saute until starting to brown lightly.  Add the garlic and cook for another 60 seconds. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. I use my mandolin for even slicing, just watch your fingers!! Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly into a spiral, making only one layer. Season with sea salt, black pepper and dried thyme, to taste. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the top.

Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Uncover and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until browned. Enjoy.

Clean plates???

Shock.  Awe.  Pure amazement.  These are just a few of the words that come to mind when I am asked to describe the feeling I get when my family has clean supper plates.  And I don't mean the clean that is a direct result of my threats! Voluntarily clean plates.  And not immediately followed by, "Can I have a snack?"!! 

We all seem to fight this fight at some point in our parenting career.  I can usually count on my husband to eat his dinner without needing me to goad him along.  The boys on the other hand...its a very rare occurrence.  So on those special occasions, I feel the need to do a little happy momma boogie dance! I got to do one of those dances last night! 

I found these recipes while looking at other food blogs.  What in the world did I do before internet and food blogs?? (Oh, that's right, those big, heavy things collecting dust and taking up mega cabinet and book shelf space!) I came across a food blog written by a Dutch girl named Kay.  One of her recipes was aptly named Kaytucky Chicken.  After reading the recipe, and drooling onto my laptop, I knew I had to give it a try.  I decided to make it on UK game night.  I've never worked with puff pastry before so I didn't set my expectations too high.  And my day had been one where by noon I just wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head!! I forged ahead and am so glad I did! I had these beauties in the oven in no time and when they came out...my bad day was no more! 

The chicken breast filling is to die for and combined with the light flaky puff pastry it is heaven in your mouth.  It would be a fantastic dish to serve for guests as well.  It looks very gourmet and labor intensive.  Gotta love that!! I added my own touches to this recipe and the results were amazing! Feel free to play with the ingredients.  Don't be afraid to change things up!

Kaytucky Chicken
recipe adapted from Kayotic Kitchen


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 boxes frozen puff pastry (there are 2 large sheets in each package in the brand I can get here)
6 slices of bacon chopped, cooked crisp and drained
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup Parmasean cheese, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, whites and greens diced fairly small
Flat leaf parsley, chopped (use as much or as little as you like)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 large egg, beaten (for egg wash)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly spray a large rimmed baking sheet with vegetable spray.  

In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese, bacon, parmasean cheese, garlic, onions and parsley.  Add the salt and pepper to taste. 

Using a sharp knife, cut a deep pocket on the top of the chicken, being careful to not cut all the way through.  Spoon 1/4 of the filling mixture into the chicken breast.  Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper.  

Photo by Kayotic Kitchen
Unfold the puff pastry sheet and press the folds together gently with you fingers.  If your chicken breasts are very large you may need to roll the pastry out just a little.  You will need the pastry to completely enclose the chicken.  Place one breast filling side down on the pastry sheet.  Season the back side of the chicken with salt and pepper (chickens don't like to be lopsidedly seasoned!).  

Brush the edges of the puff pastry with the beaten egg.  This acts as the "glue" to seal the pastry.  Gently fold the pastry around the chicken, making sure you enclose it entirely.  You should end up with a nice, neat package! Place in the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops lightly with egg wash.  

Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until chicken is cooked and pastry is golden brown.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting. Serve and just wait for the rave reviews!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Funny name...fantastic taste!

Photo by Becky Luigart-Stayner
Albondigas soup (or Albadonkadonkas as my kids and husband call it) is a very rich and filling Mexican meatball soup.  I love the versatility of this soup, you can use hot, mild or green chile salsas, you can add more veggies or take them out or you can use your favorite type of ground meat.  Its easy to throw together and fun for the kids to help with as well.  I like to use a small cookie scoop to make the meatballs.  It allows you to get the perfect bite size meatball every time and you won't have to worry about over working the meat by rolling it too much.  Over handling causes compaction of the meat and that leads to a dry meatball! This soup is even better the next day and freezes well.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do! 


1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 pound pork sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup cornmeal
6 (14 ounce) cans beef broth
1 (8 ounce) jar salsa (mild, hot or green chile)
1 onion, chopped
2 (14.5 ounce) cans peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup white rice
Mix together beef broth, salsa, 1 onion, tomatoes, dried basil, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Bring to a boil and simmer 20 minutes.
Combine ground beef, sausage, 1 onion, egg, salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, garlic powder, milk, fresh basil, and cornmeal, and mix well. Form into tiny, bite-size meatballs.
Add meatballs and rice to broth. Simmer, covered, very slowly for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally to make sure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.