Saturday, July 11, 2015

Caramel Coated Catfish

This was a different fish dish for Fridays. I looked up more recipes and this is a Vietnamese specialty. There are many versions. This was very tasty – sweet, salty and a bit sour and spicy. Mmmm!

I also researched making caramel. The original recipe called for cooking equal amounts of water and sugar until golden brown. All that happened was it took forever for the water to boil away and I was left with hard lumpy sugar in the pan. Just start with melting the sugar to a golden brown.

Be sure to have all ingredients ready. When the sugar gets to the right point, you will need to act quickly.

Serves 4 - 6

1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp fish sauce
¼ tsp granulated onion
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/3 cup sugar
1 lb. catfish nuggets, trimmed to large chunks
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp lime juice
Dash Sriracha sauce to taste

Mix 1/3 cup of water with the fish sauce, granulated onion, garlic, and black pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 1/3 cup of sugar in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar turns deep golden brown.

Gently stir in the fish sauce mixture and bring to a boil.

Add the catfish. Cover, and cook the catfish stirring occasionally, until the fish flakes easily with a fork - about 5 minutes.

Scoop the catfish to a plate, cover, and set aside. Increase heat to high and stir in another teaspoon of sugar and the lime juice. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce has reduced.

Return catfish to the pan and toss to coat with sauce.

Serve over rice or noodles. I served this over stir fried rice noodles and vegetables.

Adapted from: 

Mango Chicken Curry

This was sooo good! I really wanted seconds. I took left-overs to work for lunch the next day.

Serves 4 - 6

1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 Tbsp candied ginger, diced
2 Tbsp yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 (13.5 oz.) can coconut milk
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
Sriracha sauce to taste

Heat large stainless skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat while preparing chicken and vegetables.

Turn heat to high and add sesame oil. When oil is hot, add chicken and sauté while stirring, until it starts to brown. Turn heat down to medium and add onion, bell pepper, garlic, ginger, curry and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens.

Add coconut milk, mango and lime juice, stirring to pick up all the browned bits. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a low simmer. Add salt, pepper and Sriracha to taste. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens.  

Serve over a very good rice like jasmine or basmati.

Adapted from: 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Third Annual Soup Party

Hosted by Kevin & Lynne
February 8, 2014
Reviewed by Gail

The Setting

There were ten entries this year. Jamie brought two! She must not have been able to make up her mind. I know I have that problem every year. I managed to try each one. I was so busy taking pictures of the soups this year that I didn't take any notes on the go withs. lol

 Attendees this year were: Kevin & Lynne, Jesse & Dianne, Doug, Carlie & Tammy, Paul & Judy, Ed & Linda, Matt and Dawn with daughters Hannah and Emily (who had her third birthday cake!), Bill & Cyndi, with granddaughters, Juliana and Joanna, (Jessica’s daughters), Chris & Jessica with baby, Deta & Dave, Richard & Gail with son Thomas, Jamie & Tommy.
2nd Runner Up

 Cindy’s Chili Soup
And this is a soup, not a chili. Ground beef and beans in a light beef and tomato broth.
+Texture: Good, the beef was loose, not chunky, the beans were tender. A very nice proportion of meat to broth and beans.
+Color: Excellent and appealing. A nice red chili color.
+Flavor: Excellent flavor - full chili flavor with overtones of beef broth and tomato juice without any overpowering saltiness or spicy heat.

Runner Up
 Dawn’s Turkey and Vegetable Soup
This was a lovely surprise. It looked like just any other chicken vegetable soup. But it was tasty. Dawn made it last week and froze it. It held up to freezing very well.
+Texture: Nice big tender - not mushy - chunks of carrot, zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes. There were some big chunks of turkey, but most of the turkey was shredded. I wished for more of that zucchini, especially this time of year. I really couldn't believe this soup had been frozen, given the very nice texture of the vegetables.
+Color: An appealing mix of green zucchini, orange carrots, red tomatoes and yellow potatoes in a nice light poultry and tomato broth.
+Flavor: Excellent. Something to warm up with on a cold winter night. Full flavored, savory, even umame.

And the Grand Prize Winner!

Linda’s Meatball and Tortellini Soup
A delightful entry from Linda. The little meatballs complemented the tortellini well. Nice size diced carrots and celery with diced spinach in a chicken broth.
+Texture: Excellent, everything was tender, not mushy or tough. Pasta nicely al dente; meatballs, carrots, celery tender; spinach tender - not stringy. Broth light and thin.
+Color: Excellent, nice contrast of creamy white pasta, diced carrots, flecks of green spinach.
+Flavor: Excellent. If I’d had the room, I would have eaten a whole bowl of this soup. Flavor was, hmmm, umame would describe it best. Savory, not salty, nothing overwhelming, but you will want more.

The Rest of the Tasty Offerings 

 Judy’s Spicy Tortellini Soup

 Lynne’s Chicken Enchilada Soup

Deta’s Wild Rice Soup

Dianne’s Beef and Vegetable Soup

Jamie’s Potato and Bacon Soup

Gail’s Polish Dill Pickle Soup

Jamie’s Taco Soup

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Second Annual Soup Party

January 26, 2013
Hosted by Kevin & Lynne
Reviewed by Gail

This was our second gathering, on its way to a truly annual event! I managed to sample all 9 soups :-) Again! After the unofficial, and totally unbiased ;-), judging, this year’s winners are:

2nd Runner Up
Carlie’s Ground Beef and Vegetable Soup. Carlie presented a colorful array of small diced tomatoes and veggies, cooked just tender and not mushy, in a flavorful beef broth.

Runner Up
Gail’s Hotel Roanoke Peanut Soup. This soup was a creamy, smooth, full flavored peanut butter soup. It was a little sweet, a little tart, a little savory and a touch of salty. If you like boiled peanuts, it had that almost addictive flavor.

And the Grand Prize this year goes to:
Judi’s Tortellini Soup. This very flavorful combination had delicious tender tortellinis in a beef broth with little sliced (breakfast?) sausages, diced tomatoes and veggies, with a touch of hot pepper. There was not enough of this entry. Everyone wanted to take some of this one home!

The Rest of the Tasty Offerings:
Lynne’s Butternut Squash Soup
Linda’s Turkey with Lentils & Barley Soup
Dawn’s Split Pea with Carrots and Ham Soup
Karen’s Spicy Beans and Rice Soup
Cynthia’s Potato Soup
Deta’s Zippy Corn Chowder

The go withs were great too!
Judi’s Bruschetta Appetizers with Chicken and Cheese – The Best!
Karen’s Cornbread and Butter – Great accompaniment to Carlie’s soup
Judi’s Date Walnut Bread with Cream Cheese – sweet and rich
Lynne’s Olive Rolls – nice and hard and crusty
Tammy’s Real Mincemeat Pie – an old fashioned venison favorite
Judi’s Brownies with Marshmallows – a yummy treat
Richard’s Home Canned Hot Pepper Mix – crunchy and not too hot
Gail’s Strawberry Banana Jello Fluff – what can I say? It’s Jello.
That Judi sure likes to bake! Thank you Judi.

Attendees were: Kevin & Lynne, Paul & Judi, Raymond, Ed & Linda, Dawn & Emily, Karen, Carlie & Tammy, Bill, Cindy & Juliana, Deta & Dave, Richard, Gail & Thomas.

First Annual Soup Party

January 28, 2012
Hosted by Kevin & Lynne
Reviewed by Gail

Lynne started this community event to get together during the mid-winter blahs. And what could be better than hot soup, good friends, a toasty wood stove and a few beers? My secret is to pace myself, so I manage to get a good taste of each entry.;-)

2nd Runner Up
Gail’s Smoked Chicken and Leek Soup. Here was a decadently savory broth with tender, tiny strips of leeks, shredded carrot and bits of smoked chicken. This soup was not as salty as the others and came off light in comparison. It could have benefitted from the addition of some fine egg noodles.

Runner Up
Judi’s Cabbage Soup. This soup was a pleasant surprise. It was the first soup I tasted and was so delicious, it was hard for the other entries to measure up. It had an attractive presentation with 1 inch pieces of pale green cabbage floating in a light clear broth with chunks of diced red tomatoes, carrots and Kielbasa. The vegetables were tender and perfect – not crunchy and not mushy. There were a few too many vegetables to broth ratio, but not so much to even come close to thinking it a stew. The flavor of the broth impressed me the most. It was savory and rich tasting, but not too salty. Recipe follows.

Grand Prize
Carlie’s 17 Bean and Bacon Soup. This was the only male entry and was absolutely delicious in its simplicity. When asked, Carlie said he “should have used more bacon”. There were tender, meaty, half inch pieces of bacon floating over an interesting variety of beans. The beans were a very pleasant surprise as they melted smoothly over my tongue. This soup was rich and flavorful, with a nice dark color, a good balance of savory and salty and a good proportion of beans to broth. I only wished there was more. Thank you, Carlie!

The Rest of the Tasty Offerings
Linda’s Italian Wedding Soup
Cynthia’s Vegetable Beef Soup
Deta’s Potato Soup
Karen’s Broccoli Cheese Soup
Lynne’s French Onion Soup
Janice’s Chili
And lots of go withs – breads, desserts, pickles.

Attendees: Kevin & Lynne, Judi & Paul, Ed & Linda, Bill & Cynthia, Carlie & Tammy, Karen, Gail, Richard & Thomas, Kerry & Janice.

Judi’s Cabbage Soup

Dice cabbage in one inch pieces and par-boil until just tender in a large box of Swanson’s Chicken Stock. Add diced onion, a large sliced carrot, a can of diced tomatoes, some sliced kielbasa, parsley, oregano, thyme, and 1 can beef broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until done.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bleu Cheese and Sausage Crêpes

By Gail Foley

This recipe is from my first computer file of recipes, dating to the early ‘90s. I have the original magazine clipping that I adapted, but don’t remember the magazine. I dated the year to 1973/74 from the Fisher-Price Family Play Farm advertised on the back. The original recipe, Sausage-Filled Crepes, can be found all over the internet and contained no brand names.

This recipe is made so savory and elegant by substituting shredded process cheese with crumbled bleu cheese. It is also a bit lower in fat by using low-fat milk in the batter, Neufchâtel instead of cream cheese in the filling and non-fat sour cream in place of sour cream and butter for the sauce.

This makes an elegant brunch served with Mimosas and fresh fruit.

Serves 8

3 eggs
1 cup low-fat milk
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 cup sifted flour

1/4 cup (1 small) onion, finely diced
1 lb. bulk ground sausage (Good quality country sage)
3 oz. Neufchâtel
4 oz. crumbled bleu cheese
1 cup non-fat sour cream

Combine eggs, milk and oil. Add flour and beat until smooth. At this point the batter can be refrigerated for 3 to 6 hours. At least let it sit for half an hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 12x8-inch baking dish with canola oil spray.

Sauté sausage with onion until done. Drain well, then turn out on paper towels to drain some more. Rinse skillet with hot water to degrease. Place meat back in skillet and stir in Neufchâtel and bleu cheese.
Heat a 6-inch skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to medium heat and pour 2 tablespoons of batter into skillet and rotate to evenly distribute. Cook until set. Invert on toweling and stack to the side. Repeat, to make 16 crêpes. Remember to remove skillet from heat and give a quick spray of oil between each crêpe.
Place 2 tablespoons of meat mixture across center of each crêpe and roll up. Place seam side down in prepared baking dish.

Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Spoon sour cream over top. Bake, uncovered, five more minutes.

Serve immediately with some attractively arranged fresh fruit - a few strawberries, a small clump of grapes, apple slices or wedges of melon. Citrus slices are also elegant.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

By Gail Foley

I mixed up a couple of recipes for chocolate zucchini bread and chocolate zucchini bars and came up with this cake that everyone seems to love. So, I've made it several times since then with several different toppings – a dusting of powdered sugar, a peanut butter, buckeye topping and melted chocolate chips.

1 cup butter
2 oz. dark chocolate

2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk (or soured milk – ½ cup milk + 1 ½ tsp. white vinegar, let it set a bit to curdle)
1 small ripe banana
2 cups fresh grated zucchini (if frozen, thaw and squeeze out a bit of the juice)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish with canola oil spray.

Melt butter and chocolate over low heat or in microwave, whichever technique is preferred.

In medium mixing bowl, lightly fold together flour, salt, cocoa, baking soda and cinnamon.

In large mixer bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine butter, chocolate, sugar, eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, and banana. Fold in zucchini. Stir in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread in prepared baking dish.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

While still warm, sprinkle with a bag of milk chocolate chips, spread with a knife to cover as they melt. OR
Mix up your favorite buckeye filling (peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar), warm it up a bit to soften, and spread over warm cake. OR
Let cake cool completely and dust with powdered sugar. OR
Use your imagination – Chocolate frosting, Cream cheese frosting, Buttercream frosting, etc.

Garda’s Baked Spaghetti

By Gail Foley

My mother-in-law was a wonderful woman. She had a magic way with children, but cooking not so much. This is a recipe I recreated at the request of my husband, Richard, about thirty years ago. The big difference from her recipe is that I never use spaghetti sauce from a jar. I use whatever sauce I have left over and I almost never make spaghetti sauce the exact same way. So use your favorite sauce.

3 cups leftover cooked spaghetti noodles
3 cups leftover spaghetti sauce
12 slices real American cheese (NOT cheese food wrapped in individual slices)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a one and a half quart rectangular glass baking dish with canola oil spray.

Spread half of noodles in bottom of dish. Cover with half of sauce.
Top with six slices of cheese. Repeat layer.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until bubbly and cheese is starting to brown.

Let cool for five minutes or so. Cut in six squares and serve with a vegetable or side salad and a crusty garlic bread. Some red wine is nice too! The kids always liked green beans on the side. Myself, I prefer lightly steamed broccoli. (but no wine for the little ones ;-)

Richard really likes a good crusty browned top on this casserole.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Egg Foo Yung

By Gail Foley

I expect my first experience with Egg Foo Yung was in Junior High when I learned to make the gravy. I have made this dish so many ways. I am not a fan of fried foods, but once in awhile is OK. See my motto – All things in moderation, including moderation.

The traditional vegetable is bean sprouts. That would be mung bean sprouts. When I learned to grow sprouts, this was the dish to use them up. Then I learned to sprout alfalfa. There is nothing better than fresh home grown alfalfa sprouts. Again, when you have excess, make Egg Foo Yung! Since then I have used finely shredded cabbage and added slim strips of julienned carrot and onion. Now I have excess broccoli slaw. I always watch for it to be marked down at Kroger. The vegetable possibilities are many. Just slice them very thin and stringy.

This was the first time I tried tuna. Usually, I use leftover bits of shredded chicken, beef or pork. The 4 oz bags of frozen salad shrimp work very well. If sliced small enough, surimi (imitation crab meat) is very good, too.

Yield: 5 to 6 cakes
Serves: 3 to 4

5 large Eggs
10 oz Broccoli Slaw Mix
½ medium Onion (4 inch), peeled and julienned
1 (5 ½ oz) can solid white Albacore Tuna, drained and flaked

¼ to ½ cup peanut oil

If you haven’t done it yet, make gravy now and hold it in a warm place. (Top of stove or in warmed oven.)

Set large skillet over high heat. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat while preparing ingredients.

Set oven to warm. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towel and set in oven.

Break eggs into large mixing bowl, (at least 4 quart) and beat well.

Add rest of ingredients and toss with large spoon to mix well.

Pour oil into skillet about an 1/8 inch deep and heat until a drop of mix sizzles instantly.

Using your large spoon, toss mix and pick up a big scoopful. Immediately and gently, set it in the skillet. Mash it down a bit with the spoon. Be sure to stand far back to avoid any grease splatters.

Cook it for a minute or two, until you can see the bottom edge turning brown. Then gently turn it over, again standing far back to avoid any grease splatters. Cook for another minute or so.

Then lift it out of the oil, tilting slightly and leaning against the side of the pan to drain off excess oil. Set it on your prepared tray in the oven. Repeat until all mix is used.

Serve with rice and top with gravy. Bet you can’t eat just one J.

Egg Foo Yung Gravy

By Gail Foley

It’s hard to remember that far back, but I think I first made this in Home Ec in Junior High School. That was Norup Junior High in Oak Park, MI. I have lost and found this recipe a few times over the years. This sauce is what makes me want to eat more Egg Foo Yung. For some reason, it inspires a craving. It is a nicely translucent brown and tastes smooth, savory, salty and tangy with a touch of pepper.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Serves: 3 to 4

1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
A couple dashes of finely ground White Pepper

1 ½ cups Water

For this recipe, you need a measuring tablespoon, a measuring cup for the water, a one quart saucepan and a large spoon to stir.

Combine the first five ingredients in saucepan, in order listed.

Stir well until cornstarch is blended in with no lumps.

Stir in water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom.

Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Ladle over Egg Foo Yung.

Copycat Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup

By Gail Foley, February 10, 2014

Eureka! I’ve finally done it! After many years and many web searches, I put together a recipe tonight that worked perfectly.

1 can (10.5 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 Tbsp. tomato purée
½ tsp. beef base dissolved in 2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. white wine – Pinot Grigio
1 tsp. soy sauce

Stir together and cook down to desired thickness for your favorite recipe. Mine is Beef Stroganoff.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cheesy Stuffed Zucchini Bats

By Gail Foley

Well it’s that time of year again. The zucchini are coming on like gangbusters and there’s always a couple that get away and turn into what we fondly call “baseball bats”. If you've ever grown zucchini, I’m sure you’re familiar with this phenomenon.

A freshly picked “bat” should still have tender skin for this recipe. Poke it with a fingernail to test it. I didn't feel like doing the usual  treatment for very large zucchini – shredding. My other favorite treatment is to cut them into pickle size spears and make dill pickles. I’m not quite ready for pickling yet.

I researched some stuffed zucchini recipes on the internet for something new and different. This recipe from Rachel Ray for Cheesy Zucchini Boats offered two new techniques. She baked the zucchini first, using the same technique I use for winter squash: Cut the squash in half and bake it cut side down. And the more interesting technique was to put the cheese on the bottom, under the stuffing rather than as the usual topping.

1 very large zucchini, 14 inches

¾ lb ground beef (ground sirloin)
½ onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
¼ large orange bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1 can (10.5 oz) tomato soup (1 pint homemade tomato soup)
8 slices bread, white balloon (2 Kroger onion rolls + 3 slices white bread)

6 ounces (1 ½ cups) shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with canola oil spray.

Trim the ends from the zucchini, enough to fit in your baking dish. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the spongy center with seeds and discard, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Place the zucchini shells cut side down in prepared baking dish and bake for 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat, while chopping vegetables.

Add the beef, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and seasonings to skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring to break up meat, until no longer pink and vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato soup and bread.

Using tongs, turn over the zucchini shells and line the bottoms with the mozzarella. Pack on the filling. Sprinkle the parmesan on top.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes. Cut each half crosswise into four pieces.

Serve with a side salad or another vegetable such as corn on the cob or steamed broccoli.

Tuna Romanoff

By Gail Foley

A long time ago, and far, far away, I was a teen working at J.L Hudson’s Department store. I learned to make my first casserole from Joanne, one of the ladies I worked with in the wrapping department. It was with some excitement, we would have a ladies’ night at her house and cook. This casserole is so rich and creamy with the salty flavors of tuna and the tang of the olives. It is a favorite even with those who don’t like tuna!

I don’t remember the origins of this recipe. I suspect it might have been from Kraft for the cream cheese. The closest recipe I found on the WWW is linked below. It was published in Sheila Metcalf’s, The Tuna Cookbook, in Jan. 1972, but I was making it two years earlier, in 1970. The original recipe did call for one can of tuna, but we always felt it was better with two cans. And the more olives the merrier! We didn’t bother with chives or the breadcrumb topping.

Serves 8

8 oz wide egg noodles
5 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 ½ cups milk
8 oz cream cheese, cubed
2 cans tuna (white solid albacore in water), drained and flaked
1 cup pimento stuffed green olives, sliced
6 oz (1 ½ cups) muenster cheese, grated OR sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 2 quart (or 2 one quart) baking dish with canola oil spray. Cook noodles according to package directions.

Make white sauce. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Stir in tuna and olives.

In prepared baking dish(es), layer ⅓ sauce, ½ of the noodles, and ½ of the Muenster cheese. Repeat. Top with remaining ⅓ sauce.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let set five minutes before serving.

This makes a full meal with a side salad, steamed broccoli or another fresh vegetable.

Eat one casserole now and freeze the other for later. Cool it and wrap well with saran wrap and foil..

Tuna Romanoff

Tuna Romanoff

Serves 6

8          oz                    Flat egg noodles
2½       cups                 Medium white sauce
8          oz                    Cream cheese
1          (6 oz) can        Tuna; drained, flaked
½         cup                  Green olives; pimiento-stuffed, sliced
2          Tbsp                Chives
6          oz                    Muenster cheese; sliced
1          cup                  Bread crumbs
2          Tbsp                Butter; melted

Cook noodles according to package directions and drain. In saucepan, heat white sauce and add cream cheese, which has been cut into cubes. Cook and stir until the cheese has melted. Stir in tuna, olives, and chives. In a greased casserole, make layers of sauce, noodles, and Muenster cheese slices, starting and ending with sauce. Toss bread crumbs and butter together and sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. 

From: The Tuna Cookbook, Sheila Metcalf, Doubleday, Jan 1, 1972

Basic Cheese Sauce

By Gail Foley

Cheese sauce is a basic white sauce with cheese melted in it. Start with Easy Peasy White Sauce and add cheeses.

The flavor and texture depend on the cheese used. Don’t use a stringy cheese like Mozzarella. At least, only a little bit. You want a cheese that will melt and has good flavor. Cheddar, Colby, Muenster, Swiss, Jack and American cheeses are good in any combination. Please use American cheese, NOT "cheese food". American slices can be dropped in a few at a time and stirred until melted. If cream cheese is needed, I use lower fat Neufchâtel instead. Just cut off small chunks with a wire cutter and drop them into the bowl. The addition of some grated Parmesan and Romano adds good flavor, but by themselves the texture is a bit grainy.

Experiment with those leftover bits of cheese hanging around in your refrigerator. But no extra mold please! The natural mold from cheeses like Bleu and Roquefort is eminently acceptable.

This can be made lower in fat with skim milk and low fat cheese. If you need pepper for flavor, use finely ground white pepper so there aren't any dirty specks. Cheese is usually pretty salty so be wary of adding additional salt.

2 cups white sauce
1 cup shredded cheese

While white sauce is still hot, add cheese and stir.
Microwave another minute and stir, if needed, to completely melt the cheese.
If more cooking is needed to thicken or melt cheese, repeat the one minute cook and stir as needed.

Yields about 3 cups.

Easy Peasy White Sauce

AKA Béchamel Sauce
By Gail Foley

With the advent of electric appliances, I gave up that convoluted mess of frying flour in butter and then trying to mix in the milk without making lumps. Also known as making a “roux”. Get real! Until the power goes out, or you really need that browned flour, you can revert to the classic method. My method is easier, quicker and low-fat. Only an elite gourmet palate could tell how I cooked my flour! And I barely miss the butter, especially since this is usually the base of a recipe, not eaten for itself.

The cooking times are based on a microwave power of about a 1000 watts. Newer microwave ovens are often of higher wattage. Adjust the power level to 70% or so, if the flour cooks too quickly into a hard layer in the bottom of the bowl. If by some circumstance, your microwave oven only cooks at 700 watts or so, then lengthen the cooking times accordingly.

For thin white sauce use 2 tablespoons flour. For a thick white sauce, use 1/3 to ½ cup flour.

If you have to have butter, just throw it in the blender and whiz it with the milk and flour. It will melt quickly in the microwave and stir right in.

Once you learn how your microwave cooks, this recipe is easy-peasy!

Yield: 2 cups

2 cups milk
¼ cup flour
Dash of salt and ground white pepper

Pour milk into blender, measuring by marks on side of blender jar. Add flour, salt and pepper. Cover and stir until blended, about 30 seconds.

Pour into 6 cup glass microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir with whisk, scraping sides and bottom of bowl and breaking up any lumps that may have formed.

Microwave for 1 ½ minutes. Repeat stirring with whisk.

Microwave for 1 minute. Repeat stirring. If still not done, cook another minute or so as needed to achieve desired thickness.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Corn Fritters with Ham

By Gail Foley

Every weekend morning, I cook breakfast. Well, if I am not working. The first thing I hear from my son, Thomas, is “Cook eggs?”, if I am not already cooking them when he wakes up. Which is late as usual.

This morning, I had memories of my Grandma Main and the corn fritters she made us as children. They were light, with lots of corn and egg and a little bit of flour to hold them together. We drenched them in butter and syrup. Yummy!

I had not made them in many years and looked up some recipes to refresh my memory. I remembered that there were two main types – northern and southern. One was doughy and one was mostly egg. Since Grandma is from Mackinac Island in northern Michigan, I would guess that the northern ones are mostly egg.

My recipe search yielded lots of recipes, southern, northern, Canadian, and southwest variations but nothing like Grandma’s. So I just had at it. I figured about an egg per ½ cup of corn with a little milk to make the egg fluffy.  I added a generous tablespoon of flour for each egg and put in some baking powder to keep the flour light. I added some diced ham, because my guys like meat with their eggs. I fried them in corn oil to enhance the corn flavor.

They turned out like Grandma’s fritters, with ham! Delicious!

Yield: 6 fritters

4 large eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
1 pint corn kernels, drained
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ cup thinly sliced deli ham, diced (6 small slices or 2 oz.)
Corn oil
Maple syrup

Preheat oven to 250°F to keep fritters warm. Line cookie sheet with paper towels to drain fritters.

Heat large skillet (preferably cast iron or heavy stainless steel, heavy aluminum in a pinch) hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat while preparing batter.

Put eggs and milk in 8 cup mixing bowl and whisk together.

Add corn, salt and pepper, flour and baking powder in order listed. Fold together with large spoon until all is moistened. Crumble in ham and fold several times until evenly distributed.

Put about a ¼ inch of oil in skillet and turn up heat. When a drop of batter sizzles instantly, place a 1/3 cup of batter in skillet for each fritter. Hopefully, the skillet is large enough to hold three fritters easily. Shake some more pepper over them. Fry at medium heat until nicely browned on bottom. Turn fritters over and brown other side, a few minutes for each side. Remove to paper towels and put in oven to keep warm. Repeat with rest of batter.

To serve, put one or two fritters on a plate. Top with a dollop of butter and a good splash of syrup. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bacon, Egg, Cheese and Spinach Casserole

I found this recipe posted on FB and adapted it to a smaller amount and quicker and easier directions. The 9x9-inch dish still serves 8 easily, especially when accompanied by hash browns and fruit.

This is a wonderful breakfast dish. It was moist, tender and tasty. It would also be good with sausage or ham. -Gail

3 cups bread, diced (4 fresh heels from white and wheat bread)
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 onion, diced
1 ½ cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
1/2 cup Hormel real bacon bits (4-5 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped)
1 1/2 cups cheese, shredded (Colby or mild cheddar)

Preheat oven 325°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Add the bread cubes, stir to moisten and let sit while preparing and gathering the rest of the ingredients.

Coat a 9×9-inch baking dish with canola oil spray.

Add onion, spinach, bacon and 1 cup of cheese to bread mixture. Toss together lightly and pour into prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle with  rest of the cheese and bake for about 45 minutes, until puffed and set. A knife inserted in center should come out clean.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Scalloped Chicken and Potatoes with Green Beans

I did a recipe search for a dish with chicken and green beans. This one popped up in my saved files. I couldn’t find this recipe on Google. You can always count on Russie to have something that tastes good. Thank you so much, Russie! I adapted the ingredients to what I had on hand and decided to layer and bake it like a more traditional scalloped potato dish.

This was so delicious and creamy. The sharp cheddar cheese added a little tang and the spices were a savory whisper of flavor.

Serves 6

1 (1/2 lb.) Chicken breast
2 cups Water from poaching chicken
3 Red potatoes (about 3” round), sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup Milk
2 Tbsp. Chicken base
3 Tbsp.  Flour
1 small (3 oz) pkg. Neufchâtel
4 oz. (1 cup) Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp dried Thyme
1/8 tsp each ground Sage, Garlic powder, Onion powder, Pepper
½ tsp. dried chopped Chives
1 (15 oz) can cut Green beans, drained

To poach chicken: Put chicken breast in pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and turn heat to a low simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove chicken to a dish to cool, saving broth in pot. Pull skin and bones from chicken and save in freezer bag for a future kettle of soup. Shred chicken.

To cook potatoes: Add sliced potatoes to pot with saved broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook covered for 15 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender when poked with a fork. Drain potatoes and save broth. Pour broth through strainer and save 2 cups for sauce. Save remaining broth to use in another recipe.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat an 8x8-inch baking dish with canola oil spray.

To make sauce: Put the saved 2 cups of broth, milk, flour and chicken base in a blender jar and whisk until mixed. Pour into 2 quart microwave safe bowl and microwave about 2 minutes at a time at 75% power (depending on power of microwave oven) until sauce is thickened, stirring every two minutes.

Drop little chunks of Neufchâtel into the hot sauce and whisk until melted and blended. Add shredded cheddar and stir until melted and blended into sauce. Stir in herbs and seasonings.

Assemble casserole:
Put about one cup of sauce in bottom of prepared baking dish. Cover with a layer of potatoes (one third of potatoes). Sprinkle with one half of the shredded chicken. Sprinkle with one half of the drained green beans. Add another layer of potatoes (half of remaining potatoes). Drizzle a good cup and a half of sauce over casserole. Continue layering with remaining chicken, beans, potatoes and sauce.

Bake for one hour or until bubbly and top is golden brown. Remove from oven and rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side salad or steamed vegetable - broccoli or asparagus. Yummy!

Original recipe: Russie <russie2003@*******.net>
Subject: [dailyrecipes] ---Scalloped Chicken and Potatoes---with Green Beans---
Date: 1/18/2007 10:51 PM


2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
14.5 oz can chicken broth
8 oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp each dried sage, garlic powder, salt, pepper
1 cup milk
3 tbs flour
1 tsp chicken bouillon granules
4 scallions, chopped
1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
10 oz pkg frozen cut green beans
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss or harvarti cheese

In pot, cook potatoes in 1 cup broth, covered, 15 min. until almost tender. Whisk cream cheese and next 8 ingredients and remaining broth and scallions in bowl. Add chicken and cream cheese mixture to potatoes in pot. Cover, simmer 5 min. Stir in green beans and Swiss or harvarti cheese, cook 10 more min. or until chicken is cooked through. MAKES 6 SERVINGS.*