“Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.” Walt Kelly
I really like to cook. It’s the cheapest kind of therapy there is.
Trouble is…it’s the most fattening kind, too!
From time to time I’ll drop in a favorite recipe for you to try. Not all are completely “from scratch”, but they are all really tasty, don’t require a degree in rocket science to make, and tend to get rave reviews.
Let me know how yours turns out!
COPYCAT ZIO’S DIPPING OIL
If you’ve never tried the dipping oil at Zio’s you’ve been missing out on a real treat. It truly is one of the best I’ve ever had with just a teensy little kick to it.
INGREDIENTS (for single batch, but you’ll wanna make more!):
Crushed red pepper flakes, 1 T.
Ground black pepper, 1 T.
Dried oregano, 1 T.
Dried rosemary, 1 T.
Dried basil, 1 T.
Dried parsley, 1 T.
Garlic powder, 1 T.
Dried minced garlic, 1 T.
Salt, 1 tsp.
Grind all ingredients together into a fine powder using a spice or coffee grinder. That’s it! Seriously! That’s it! When you’re ready to have it with a little bread, just sprinkle some into a small bowl or on a small plate and drizzle a little olive oil over it. (I like to use slightly warmed olive oil!) Dipping goodness!!! It keeps in your pantry for the same amount of time any spice would…but I guarantee it won’t stay in there for long! 🙂 (I just put mine in an old spice container with a sprinkle top.)
CHICKEN BREAST WITH BLUE CHEESE
If, like me, you enjoy a big, juicy steak with a slab of blue cheese on top but have been told your cholesterol level can’t take it anymore, here’s an alternative that cuts the red meat out of the equation without cutting the flavor! Honestly…I do not miss the steak!
INGREDIENTS (for 2 servings):
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
McCormick’s Montreal Chicken Seasoning
2 T. butter or butter substitute
Rinse and pat dry chicken breast. Place between 2 sheets of wax paper and pound your frustrations out on it until it really thin, then sprinkle both sides with the McCormick’s Seasoning, garlic powder, and black pepper to taste. Cut in half to create 2 servings.
Heat a cast iron skillet on low heat until searing hot. Place butter in skillet to melt.
Carefully place chicken breast into skillet and cook for approximately 4 minutes on one side. Turn chicken and add mushrooms to butter. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes. Be careful…the mushrooms will pop like the 4th of July! You might want to use a mesh cover to protect yourself and your kitchen!
Spoon mushrooms on top of chicken and then a slice of blue cheese. (My husband doesn’t care for mushrooms, so these are mine…ALL MINE!!! 🙂 )
Using a hot pad to protect your hand, place skillet in an oven set to 400 degrees. Cook for 6 minutes or until the blue cheese is melted. Using the hot pad, carefully remove skillet from the oven.
Voila! I like mine with a huge, healthy side of sautéed spinach and an icy cold martini!
SWEET POTATO PIE
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. plus 1 T. shortening
4-5 T. ice water
1 T. butter, melted & cooled
2 lg. or 3 med. sweet potatoes
1/2 stick butter, melted & cooled
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2/3 lg. can evaporated milk
1 t. vanilla extract
Sift flour & salt into a bowl. Cut in shortening thoroughly until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle in water and stir with a fork until dough almost cleans side of bowl . Gather dough into a ball and knead slightly. Roll out on a lightly floured surface. Fold in half and place in a lightly greased 9″ pie pan. Line pan, allowing crust to slightly overlap sides. Pinch around rim and trim. Brush rim with cooled melted butter. Place in refrigerator while you prepare filling.
Note: I never really measure when preparing the filling. You can use a little more or less of the sugar and butter in the filling, depending on your individual taste.
Boil sweet potatoes until soft. Remove from heat, pour off hot water and replace with cold water. Allow potatoes to sit in cold water for about 5 minutes (to make handling easier), then peel. Put sweet potatoes in a large bowl; mash well. Mix in melted butter, sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. Beat eggs slightly in separate bowl, then mix in to potato mixture. Pour into prepared crust. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until center of filling is set. (If crust starts to brown too much before filling is set, place a piece of aluminum foil over the top to complete baking process.)
DRUNKEN PEACH COBBLER
2-2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 c. shortening
8-10 T. ice water (or for an even flakier, more tender crust try using ice cold vodka in place of the water! It doesn’t have to be Stoli or Grey Goose, but at least a decent brand.)
2-28 oz. cans sliced peaches, drained (reserve liquid)
2 c. sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon
8 T. butter, melted & cooled
1 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 – 3/4 c. dark rum (or Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum!)
1/4 c. reserved peach liquid
2 T. flour
4 T. ice water
Sift flour & salt into a bowl. Cut in shortening thoroughly until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle in water and stir with a fork until dough almost cleans side of bowl . Gather dough into a ball and divide into 2. Roll out on a lightly floured surface. Fold in half and place in a lightly greased 13 x 9″ pan. Line pan, allowing crust to slightly overlap sides.
Mix together in a large bowl the peaches, sugar, butter, rum, peach liquid, cinnamon & nutmeg. Set aside. (NOTE: If you REALLY want that rum to REALLY get down in there and bring out the taste in your peaches, soak the peaches in the rum overnight! Don’t worry…the alcohol burns off while cooking.) In a small bowl whisk together flour & water to form a runny paste. Stir into peach mixture. Top with 2nd crust and trim sides. Make several small vent slits on top crust. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with 2 T. cooled melted butter. Bake another 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
BARBARA’S CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1T. olive oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1-10.5 oz. can condensed chicken broth
1-1/2 c. water
1 c. whole corn (white or yellow)
1-4 oz. can chopped green chilies
1-15 oz. can black beans
2 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked & cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1 T. lime juice
Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, broth and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 more minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with white corn tortilla strips. (Optional other toppings: sliced avocado, sour cream, shredded Monterey Jack cheese)
NOTE: I often substitute a can of RoTel for the green chilies.
QUICK GARLIC-CHEESE DROP BISCUITS
3 T. butter*
2 cloves crushed garlic**
1 T. dried or fresh Italian herbs***
1 t. parsley flakes
2 c. Bisquick
1/2 – 3/4 c. ice cold water, soda water or ginger ale
3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly butter a baking sheet and set aside.
Put butter, garlic, herbs and parsley flakes in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 10-15 seconds. Set aside. (If you do this step anywhere from 3 to 24 hours ahead of time, the flavors really have a chance to permeate the butter!)
In a medium mixing bowl, mix Bisquick, water and cheese with a fork just until dry mix is moistened. Drop by large spoon onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove from the oven and brush on butter mixture. Best taste and texture if served right away.
Makes 12 large biscuits.
* For those watching fat and cholesterol, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is a wonderful substitute!
** For those who prefer a more subtle garlic flavor, lightly saute the garlic in the butter, then mix in remaining seasonings and set aside.
*** I have tested these using McCormick’s Garlic and Herb bottled seasoning with exceptional results!
BABY BLEU SALAD
INGREDIENTS (amounts to taste and appetite size!):
fresh baby spinach, washed and thouroughly dried
red onion, sliced paper thin
good quality Danish bleu cheese, crumbled
toasted or untoasted pecans, broken into pieces
Bosc, red or bartlett pear, cubed
rotisserie or fried boneless, skinless breast of chicken, slightly warmed & cubed (optional)
pear vinaigrette (I really like Cardini’s brand)
Place baby spinach on salad plate and top with remaining ingredients, ending with pear vinaigrette.
This makes a great luncheon or dinner salad. It’s my husband’s absolute hands down favorite!
FRESH VEGETABLE CREAM CHEESE SPREAD
1-8 oz. brick of cream cheese (regular, low fat or nonfat)
2 T. shredded carrots
2 T. chopped green onion
1 t. parsley (fresh or dried)
1/2 t. garlic powder
Whip cream cheese until smooth and spreadable. Stir in carrots, green onion, parsley and garlic powder.
Serve with bagels or use as a tasty sandwich spread.
Promptly refrigerate leftovers.
For a sweet cream cheese spread, omit vegetables and spices. Whip cream cheese and gradually add about 1/4 c. honey (or to taste) and 1/8 t. cinnamon.
APPLE WALNUT CAKE
2 c. Granny Smith or Braeburn apples, coarsely chopped
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. vegetable or canola oil
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 – 3/4 c. English walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease (regular or butter flavored PAM is great for this) an 8″ x 8″ cake pan. Set aside.
Mix apples and sugar together in a bowl and set aside. Beat eggs slightly, then beat in oil and vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger & cinnamon; whisk alternately with apple mixture into egg mixture. Stir in walnuts.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick.
The wonderful thing about this deliciously moist cake is that it tastes fabulous without icing! Should you prefer icing, however, a cream cheese-based one is great. Otherwise serve plain, dusted with sifted confectioners sugar, or topped with a dollop of ice cream or fresh whipped cream finished with a whiff of ground cinnamon. For the holidays, try it topped with a spoonful of caramel sauce or rum sauce!
This cake can also be baked in tiny casserole dishes for individual servings.
For a larger cake, double the recipe and bake in a 9″ x 13″ cake pan.
INDIVIDUAL CHICKEN POT PIES
These are a fantastic way to present the dinner or luncheon main course!
Lightly grease six 5″ ovenproof casserole dishes. Set aside.
In large bowl stir together then set aside:
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. milk
2 c. cut up cooked chicken
1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. raw celery, diced
1/3 c. onion, chopped
1/2 bag frozen peas & carrots or mixed vegetables
2 T. roasted red pepper
3/4 – 1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t. fresh rosemary, chopped (use 1/2 t. if dried)
1/4 t. fresh thyme, chopped (use 1/2 t. if dried)
1/2 t. fresh parsley (use 1 t. if dried)
In another bowl, stir together with a fork:
2-1/2 c. Bisquick
1 c. milk
1 t. McCormick’s herbed garlic powder (or plain garlic powder)
1/8 t. black pepper
Pour chicken mixture evenly into prepared casserole dishes. Spread Bisquick mixture evenly over top of each. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush crust lightly with melted butter, if desired. Garnish with fresh parsley or rosemary sprig.
FIVE FLAVOR POUND CAKE
2 sticks of butter
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
3 c. sugar
5 eggs, beaten until lemon colored
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1 c. milk
1 t. each rum, butter, vanilla, lemon & coconut extract
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 t. each rum, butter, vanilla, lemon & coconut extract
Spray Bundt pan with PAM for Baking (or grease pan well and lightly dust with flour). Set aside. Cream together well the butter, shortening and sugar. Add the eggs to the creamed mixture. In a separate bowl, sift together flour & baking powder. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in extracts. Spoon into Bundt pan. (Mixture will be a bit thick.) Bake at 325 degrees for 90 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a rack. While the cake is cooling, prepare glaze. Using a toothpick, poke holes all over the cake while it is still in the pan. Pour 1/2 of the glaze over the pan. Let it sit for 30 seconds, then turn the pan out onto cake plate. Carefully poke more holes in the top of cake and pour remaining glaze over it.
Best served warm with a bit of ice cream or freshly whipped cream, but it’s mighty tasty at room temperature, too! Enjoy!!!
ZATINA’S SPICY SHRIMP
My sister-in-law served this incredible shrimp as an hors d’oeuvre at her graduation party.(Hooray and congrats!) It’s got some kick to it, so adjust the amount of red pepper according to what you and your guests can take!
3 lbs. raw shrimp, rinsed and shelled with tails on
1 stick of butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. Tones Cajun Seasoning (or your favorite to taste)
a pinch of Louisiana Chinese Red Pepper Seasoning
1/4 c. white wine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter with minced garlic in the oven. When the butter is melted, add shrimp and sprinkle generously with Cajun Seasoning. For some the Cajun Seasoning is all you need, but for those brave folks who want a little extra kick, sprinkle a pinch or two of the Chinese Red Pepper Seasoning over the mixture. (For more even distribution, combine Cajun seasoning and red pepper seasoning before sprinkling over shrimp.) Squeeze fresh lemon juice over your shrimp and add white wine. Bake until shrimp turn pink (about 8 minutes), stirring once. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Note: We really like the Louisiana brand Chinese Red Pepper Seasoning, but it is not available in all markets. It can, however, be ordered online at http://www.louisianafishfry.com/. You might also try other powdered red pepper products available in your area. Remember…just a pinch, taste, and then more if you can stand it! 🙂 Delicious!!!