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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pasta Salad & BBQ Sirloin Tips!

I love fresh basil.  Lots and lots of fresh basil.

What did I do with my basil this week?  I made pasta salad, to go with barbecued sirloin tips and fresh asparagus.

Very easy recipes, all.  They just need a little bit of prep work in advance.

The pasta salad recipe will fill a very large party-size bowl.  It's a family favorite and the leftovers are very welcome by my family of five.  You could halve the amounts of ingredients, or omit any ingredients that you don't like.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Creative Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

I love it when my daughter gets creative in the kitchen.  You would think it is the daughter who has had an "eye" for art and design since before she could talk.  Always creative, always an artist.  She's currently in college, majoring in graphic design.

If you think her artist's eye is responsible for creating these fun little cupcakes, think again! 

It's my younger daughter (the one who prefers science over art) who asked me to pick up fruit by-the-foot, colorful goldfish crackers, teddy grahams and gummy lifesavers on a recent supermarket trip.  Decorating props for her latest baking adventure.

I happily snapped my mediocre pictures while she did all of the baking.

Thankfully, she has discovered that nothing beats a good butter cream frosting, made from scratch.

The cupcakes were made with funfetti cake mix, from a box.  Yeah, I'm working on her.

I did not take pictures of the cupcake-making process.  Follow the directions on the box, yada-yada-yada.

Or make your own delicious cupcakes from scratch using an amazing recipe.   Your favorite homemade cupcake recipe, better than any box mix.

So, assuming you have your cupcakes made, here is the frosting and decorating instructions.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cheesecake

Some of my favorite recipes are printed on the packages of items I have purchased.

It only makes sense that the recipe should be good;  the manufacturer of the item that you purchased wants to give you a good reason to buy the product.  They don't want to give you a nasty recipe that makes you gag.......chances would  be good that as I'm gagging I'm thinking, "never buying this again!"

Of all the recipes I've taken off of packages, my all-time favorite is New York Cheesecake from Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

I've been making cheesecake using this recipe for almost 20 years.  After all these years, you can still find it printed on the package.  It's printed on the multi-packs sold at warehouse clubs.  It makes sense that it would be printed on the multi-packs because you need five 8-oz packages to make this cheesecake.  Yes, 40 ounces of cheese.  It's not for sissies, that's for sure.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's All About the Gravy!

There will be a couple of gratuitous photos of chicken in this post, but that's only because it's hard to write about gravy without mentioning/showing/bragging about the accompaniments.

You'd think that the main dish (a.k.a. roasted chicken) would be the star of the show, but some members of my family (including me) would disagree.  If you're making gravy with the pan drippings, it's all about the gravy!

Once upon a time, I used to buy and serve gravy from a can.  I'm not even going to mention the brand that I used, at the time I thought it was good, but if I were to serve it now that my family is used to my homemade gravy, they'd probably gag.  On second thought, that could be fun to see.  Maybe I'll do that sometime as a joke.

I serve roasted chicken quite a bit in the colder months, probably 2 or 3 times a month.  It's a family favorite, very easy to do, and the typical sides I serve (canned cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and a green vegetable) take minimal effort.

Preparing the gravy probably takes 10 minutes, it's not difficult, trust me.  When the chicken is removed from the oven you need to let it rest.........that gives you plenty of time to putter around, putting the finishing touches on your sides and making gravy!

I'm going to give you very simple instructions for the chicken as well, but if you have your own preference for roasting, disregard my ramblings and focus on the gravy recipe!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rocky Road Cookie Bars

I haven't been baking much lately.  Mr. Terrific gave up sweets and snacks for Lent and I don't want to tease him by whipping up fabulous concoctions that he can't eat.

Since Sundays are Lenten-resolution free, however, I did do a little bit of baking on Sunday night.  And wondered what would happen to my Rocky Road Bars come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.......although the rest of us are making other sacrifices and are free to indulge in sweets, we don't have Mr. Terrific's sweet tooth.

I was sure I'd be feeding Rocky Road Bars to the garbage disposal.

Teenage boys to the rescue.

School vacation week, my son has friends over, I set out the Rocky Road Bars and.......sayonara.

I took this recipe out of a booklet of Betty Crocker recipes.  And of course, I tweaked it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Open-Faced Egg Sandwiches with Ham and Cheese

Think of all your favorite breakfast foods........eggs, bacon, coffeecake, sticky rolls, muffins, french toast, pancakes, home fries, fresh-squeezed orange juice, omelettes, quiche, Belgian waffles........

Well, I've left a couple dozen of my favorite dishes off the list, but I think you get the picture.

Breakfast food is yummy!  But I very rarely prepare more than one of the aforementioned items at a time, unless it's a very rare occasion where I am up for hours before the rest of my family; when they wake up they want to eat whatever is available, they don't want to hear me tell them to wait a while so I can put the finishing touches on a breakfast smorgasbord.

So the usual (weekend) breakfast in my house is muffins or waffles or coffeecake or french toast or bacon and eggs........you get what you get, and you don't get upset. 

It's always a hit in my house when we have Breakfast for Dinner.  It doesn't happen very often but sometimes I'll make a buffet of breakfast foods at dinnertime.

And sometimes I'll compromise and make something like the following recipe; something that might be a little too time-consuming to make in the early hours of the morning, but easy to prepare for dinner--and a welcome change when you're in a rut and your family has been complaining that you've served chicken too many nights in a row.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"My Favorite Things" Lo Mein

I guess it's a recurring theme in this blog, encouraging you to stray from the recipe instructions.

This recipe for lo mein is no different.  I change it up every time!  Depending upon which ingredients I have on hand, it could be a side dish (heavy on the veggies) or a main dish (heavy on the protein).

The following list of ingredients is just a starting point........maybe you don't have to change the seasonings, but you definitely should change the meat and veggie ingredients to reflect your (and your family's) favorite foods.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quick 'n Easy Chicken Caesar Salad

I bet you're wondering what I did with the extra rotisserie chicken from a previous post.

Remember?  I had two rotisserie chickens, I stripped them of their meat, used one to make chicken salad sandwiches and saved the remaining meat for later.

I made Chicken Caesar Salad with the second chicken.  It's soooo quick to put the salad together when your meat is already prepped.

Of course, I had to make it difficult for myself when I discovered that I was out of croutons as I was in the middle of throwing my salad ingredients into the bowl.  So I decided to make my own croutons (something I have never done before). 

I was not expecting the croutons to turn out as good as they did!  I figured I would just make them and hopefully they would look nice in the salad and no one would know how scatterbrained I was, bloggin' away without the ingredients for my own recipe.  I did not take any pictures of the crouton preparation......and then when I removed them from the oven and discovered how good they were, decided that I had to include them in the blog.

This recipe is great for those nights when you have to throw something together quickly.  If any of your crew shy away from salads, throw it in into a wrap and tell 'em it's not a salad, it's a sandwich.

So, I stand by the "Quick 'n Easy Chicken Caesar Salad" title..........as long as you have your croutons ready-made.

Note to Maureen, who tells me she wishes her kitchen came equipped with a personal chef:

~~This recipe is soooo easy.  There is no cooking involved.  Just gather your ingredients and throw 'em together.  Your family is going to love this!~~

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Three Followers, Five Hundred Hits

Blogging is now "one more thing" on my daily to-do list.

And you've probably figured out that I don't always do what's on my to-do list.

This morning I logged on and decided to check my stats; boy, was I surprised to see that despite my meager following of three, there have been over 500 hits since I started this blog five weeks ago.

I went a step further and decided to check the page views by country:  though 99% of the views were from the U.S., Indonesia, Germany and Pakistan were also listed.

Wow.  Guess I should move this to a higher priority on the to-do list, somewhere below the main priorities like vacuuming and laundry yet above lower priorities like organizing cabinets and making new window treatments.

I solemnly swear from this point on to care for and nurture my blog so that it does not wither and die.
And I'm oh-so-happy that we had lovely temps in the 60's yesterday, not the 80 degree heat that was initially predicted, so my flowers did not wither and die of heat exhaustion as I had feared they might.
Today's recipe comes from a page I tore out of a magazine many, many years ago.  How long ago?  Well the description of the recipe says it's by baker Patti Jackson from Mad. 61, "one of New York City's hottest new restaurants."  I googled Mad. 61, from 1993-1996 it was a restaurant located in Barney's flagship store on the corner of Madison and 61st St. 

The "hot" restaurant has been closed since 1996, so I've been baking these muffins for at least 15 years.

I also googled Patti Jackson and learned that her career as one of the nation's top pastry chefs has enabled her to open over 20 restaurants throughout the U.S., and she is currently the executive chef at i Trulli in New York City.

I heart google.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Save Time with Store-Cooked Rotisserie Chicken

I was a latecomer to this game. 

It was only about two years ago that I discovered that purchasing a fully-cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket could simplify my life.

Why spend an entire afternoon prepping, basting and roasting a chicken when you can let someone else do it for you?

That leaves me extra time for other endeavors.

Like hanging out in my backyard practicing my photography skills.
Still blurry, still uninspiring.  But if you look closely at the two o'clock position, you'll see a little honeybee.
If we get the 80-degree heatwave the weathermen are predicting for next week, will these daffodils have a shortened lifespan due to heat exhaustion?
Gus thinks they'll be goners.

Okay, I'm back.

Back to the chicken.

Locally, the best deals can be found at B.J.'s, their rotisserie chickens are $4.99 everyday; or if you find yourself at Roche Bros. on a Thursday their "Five Buck Cluck" chickens are $5 every Thursday.


I purchased two chickens this week.  One for now, one for later.
Prep them ahead of time, at your convenience.  Just remove the skin and pull the meat off (and the wishbone, for fun)........
........and chop it.  Takes minimal time.

Throw it into a zip-lock bag and keep it in your fridge until you're ready to use it.

Comes in handy this time of the year when spring sports and activities leave us scrambling to throw a quick meal together.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spectacular Side Dishes, Part I

Most of the time I get so focused on the main dish, the side dishes become an afterthought--whatever I can throw together quickly, at the last minute.

But there are a few side dishes that are so worth the time and effort!

The following recipe for fried rice is one of those side dishes that steals the show.  Best served with a simple grilled steak (or grilled chicken) and a steamed veggie--it doesn't matter what I serve with this--it's a good idea to make a double batch of this recipe because if your family is like mine, everyone will want seconds!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Another Meatless Friday

It must be some sort of a "forbidden fruit" dynamic, each friday during lent I crave bacon cheeseburgers all day.

I think I have only had one bacon cheeseburger in my whole life, I really don't care for them.  By tomorrow, the craving will be gone.

But today--I can see it, practically smell it.  It drives me crazy. 

Another friday, another pizza.  It's not a bacon cheeseburger, but it'll have to do.