Monday, October 31, 2011

Low Fat Apple Cake - Secret Recipe Club

My first assignment for the The Secret Recipe Club and I almost missed it!

We had a freak snowstorm yesterday that left us without power for 24 hours - no oven, no stove, no recipe to share.  Luckily our power came back on about 4 this afternoon so I was able to make my deadline....."whew"!
I was assigned The Realistic Nutritionist .  Claire is working towards getting her Masters in Nutrition, so I knew I would find some goodies here!

Claire's Apple Cake  is low fat and healthy due to the fact that she added NO butter or oil.  She also used organic eggs and applesauce, which I did not have, so my substitutions are after the organic ingredients.
  • 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 organic egg (regular egg)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup organic applesauce (homemade apple butter)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat baking pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt with a whisk.  Set aside.
In a larger bowl mix white sugar, apples, almonds, egg and applesauce.  Add flour and stir until well combined.  Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Mix brown sugar and powdered sugar together and sprinkle over the cake.  Bake for 32-35 minutes or until cake is browned.

This is a delicious snack cake, great for after school or a midnight snack.  The brown sugar topping makes a crunchy, delicious addition to this moist cake. 

Secret Recipe Club

Friday, October 28, 2011

All Good Things Must Come to an End - Pickled Green Tomatoes

The finality of picking the last of what was left in my garden this year (sigh).  Still, we can save the best for last!

My son loves these pickled green tomatoes and he's given me subtle hints recently.  So here is the last of the garden - two quarts of pickled green tomatoes.  No processing involved as these keep so well in the fridge for months.

  • 1 lb. green tomatoes (cut into chunks or sliced)
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup salt (kosher or pickling salt)
  • 1 tsp. celery seed (divided)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Chili flakes (optional for a little heat)
  • Glass containers with lids
In a large saucepan, add water, vinegar and salt and bring to a strong boil, stirring until the salt has dissolved.
Sterilize glass containers.

Place tomatoes in glass containers.  Add 1 clove of garlic to each along with 1/2 tsp. celery seed.  Add hot brine to cover.  Allow to cool, then cover and put in the fridge.  Wait a few days for the flavors to meld.

"Until we meet again!"
~Adapted from WhiteonRice
Pickled Green Tomatoes on Punk Domestics

Thursday, October 27, 2011

CrockPot Brisket in Onion Gravy and Sloppy Joes - Cook Once - Eat Twice!

Double the time-saving power of your CrockPot by transforming leftovers into a totally different meal!

This brisket is cooked with beef broth and loads of onions that melt down into a luscious gravy.


4 lbs. beef brisket
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 large onions, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. thyme  leaves
1 tsp. black pepper
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Cut brisket into 2 pieces to fit in CrockPot.  Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in heavy pan and brown brisket about 2 minutes per side.

Add remaining oil to pan.  Add sliced onions and cook until softened, 3-6 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme and pepper.  Stir in tomato paste beef broth and salt and bring to a boil.  Transfer the onion mixture to CrockPot.  Cover and cook until brisket reaches desired tenderness 5-6 hours on HIGH, 8-10 hours on LOW.

Just add mashed potatoes and a veg.
Be sure to slice this AGAINST the grain of the meat.

Brisket Sloppy Joes

3 cups leftover brisket(shredded or chopped)
2 cups gravy
1 10-oz. can diced Ro-tel tomatoes, drained
2 tsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Heat gravy and brisket in a large saute pan.
Add drained tomatoes and chili powder.  Cook for one minute.
Add molasses and brown sugar.
Stir well.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes to meld flavors.
Serve on toasted buns.

I would make this brisket just for the Sloppy Joes!

~Adapted from Eating Well

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Creamy Cauliflower Cheese Soup

This soup is wonderful on a chilly evening as a first course to a Fall or Winter dinner, or alone (with bread, of course) for lunch.  Serve piping hot, this soup really warms you from head to toe!  Use broccoli instead and you will think you were at Panera's!
  •   4Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 lb. cauliflower florets
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 2 cups half and half or light cream
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (use the sharpest cheddar you can find)
  • Chives for garnish
 In a deep saucepan, cook the onion in the butter until softened and beginning to brown.  Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute.  Add broth, cauliflower, carrot, salt, mustard and wine.  Simmer about 15-20 minutes until cauliflower is tender.

You can puree all or half of the soup in the blender, but I left the pieces of cauliflower and served it without blending the soup - your preference!  Return soup to the pot and stir in the half & half, Worcestershire and the cheese.  Bring to a gentle simmer and stir until cheese melts.  Serve piping hot with a grating of additonal cheese and fresh chives.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Comfort Food Classics #11 - Sunday Lasagna with Meat Sauce

What could be better on a cool Fall day, then to walk into the house with a big pot of Sunday "gravy" simmering on the stove?  I'm easy pleased.  First let's start with the meat sauce;  this makes a large pot of sauce.  After the lasagne, I have three quarts of sauce to freeze.
  • 5 or 6 35-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp basil pesto (or about 10 fresh basil leaves, torn)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 lbs. sweet or hot Italian Sausage
Heat the oil in a heavy 5-quart pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until golden, about 8 minutes.  Dump in the garlic and cook, stirring until the garlic is lightly browned.  Add the ground beef and pork and season lightly with salt.  Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the meat changes color and the water it gives off is boiled away, about 10 minutes.  Continue cooking until meat is browned nicely.  Add the oregano and pour in the wine.  Bring to a boil and cook until the wine is almost completely evaporated.  Pass the tomatoes through the blender and pour into the meat mixture.  Season with salt and pepper, add the basil and simmer, uncovered, stirring often until the sauce takes on a deep red color, 2 to 3 hours.

While meat sauce is simmering, brown sausage in a little olive oil.  Prick sausages to render the fat.  When sausages are nicely browned and caramelized, add to the sauce.
 Make your sauce early, the longer it cooks, the better.

For the lasagna you will need:
  • 2 lbs. whole-milk ricotta
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb. lasagna noodles
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb. mozzarella (or provolone cheese or a mixture of both) sliced thin
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach (optional)
I have been buying the "no-boil" lasagna noodle, which makes things much easier.  Today I have the traditional noodles - cook according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

While the noodles are cooking, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a medium size bowl and add the ricotta and stir until thoroughly blended.  Fill a zip-lock bag with ricotta mixture.  It's easier to spread onto the lasagna noodles.

To assemble the lasagne, ladle about 3/4 cup of the meat sauce over the bottom of a 15 x 10 baking dish.  Arrange noodles lengthwise and side by side to cover the bottom of the dish. Spread with ricotta and sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated cheese.
Cover with about 1 cup of sauce.  Repeat layers. Add third layer of noodles and top with sliced provolone and baby spinach (if using).

Spread about 1 cup of the meat sauce over the cheese and sprinkle generously with grated cheese.  Add 3 or 4 of the sliced sausage on the next layer of noodles.

Top with remaining noodles.  Cover with sauce, sprinkle with remaining grated cheese and fresh mozzarella.
  Cover with aluminum foil and bake 45 minutes.

Uncover the lasagna and continue baking until the top is crusty around the edges, about 20 minutes.  Let rest at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours before cutting and serving.

Serve with additional sauce and sausages.  Freeze remaining sauce.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Crock Pot Apple Cider Baked Beans

We went apple picking this past Sunday to an Orchard in Oldwick, NJ.  When we arrived, hay rides coming and going, a stand roasting fresh corn, and plenty of pumpkins.  Apple Butter, fresh apple cider, homemade jams and mustards all waiting for you!  All the sights and aromas of Fall.  I just bought a quart of the cider, since I'm the only one who drinks it.  I made a ham in the crockpot with the apple cider, and to be honest, I wasn't that thrilled about it.  I'd still rather bake my ham with a glaze.  BUT.......I did save all the cooking juices to make the next amazing dish.  CrockPot Apple Cider Baked Beans.  This one I can rave about!

Slow cooked in a flavorful sauce, the wonderful aroma of these simmering beans will warm your heart and your kitchen. Beans are fall and winter comfort food. They are naturally low in fat and high in vegetable protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Remember that one cup dried beans will yield slightly more than 2 cups cooked.
2 cups dried white navy beans, picked over, washed and soaked (May substitute canned beans by using three 15 ounce cans of navy beans or great northern beans. Drain and rinse. Proceed with recipe.)
1 small onion, diced
4 tablespoons molasses
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 small bay leaf
1 teaspoons cider vinegar
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/3 cups apple cider, boiling (I used the cooking juices from the ham, which already had brown sugar and I snuck in 1 tsp. bacon drippings)
Boiling water

To prepare beans:
Pour beans onto a flat surface (countertop) in a single layer. Pick out rocks, dirt balls, off colored and broken beans. Discard. Wash beans in two changes of cold water. Cover with 3 inches of water and allow beans to soak overnight or 8 to 10 hours. (Quick soak method: Cover cleaned beans with 3 inches cold water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute, turn heat off and let stand for 1 hours or more.

Drain beans. Bring liquid to a boil. Pour beans into your CrockPot. Add all the ingredients, stir and add enough reserved boiling liquid to cover beans. Cook on Low Setting 6-8 hours.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta

I love butternut squash in any way, shape, or form.  This is a delicious salty-and-sweet dish that was a huge hit!  The pasta was creamy and the bacon added incredible flavor!

  • 3 cups (1-inch) cubed, peeled butternut squash
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, unsalted
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup shredded sharp provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine salt, pepper and rosemary.  Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with olive oil.  Sprinkle with the salt mixture.  Bake for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

Cook bacon in a non-stick skillet until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 tsp. drippings in pan; crumble bacon.  Add onions to pan and saute until tender and golden, about 8-10 minutes.  Combine squash mixture, bacon and onion and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain well.

Combine flour, butter and 1/2 tsp. salt in a medium saucepan.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts.  Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine.

Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Sharing with

Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spooky Sparkle Pumpkin - Quick & Easy Pumpkin Decorating

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday.  Every year I try to come up with some new ways to decorate.
I have been on the look-out for some Cinderella Pumpkins, but I have not had much luck.

Here is a little white pumpkin I found and just added some copper ribbon and some burgundy and plum accents.
I think it's too pretty to leave outside...

The next pumpkin has a copper finish with some Spooky Sparkles!
When I taught pre-school I would sprinkle this "magic dust" on the kids to keep the monsters away on Halloween!
It works for 3-year olds.

Take your pumpkin and tape up the stem.
This pizza box came in handy.

Spray the pumpkin lightly with metallic spray paint.
I used Rust-oleum Aged Copper
Sprinkle with Spooky Sparkles
I think this pumpkin looks pretty just as it is, but you can add the copper ribbon.

Click on the link below to make these cute pumpkins!

Lamb Around Linky Alert! 
Fun Halloween Recipes and Crafts - Cookin Canuck 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Caramel Apple Crisp- Improv Cooking Challenge!

I've just joined Lady Behind the Curtain for The Improv Cooking Challenge!  This week's challenge is Apples and Caramel. I couldn't wait for this to cool off!  Apples swimming in a caramel sauce, topped with a buttery, crunchy crisp.


1-1/3 cup oats
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
A Pinch of salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (1-1/2 sticks)


6 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp. cold water

To make the topping, combine the oats, flour, sugars, nuts and salt.  Stil until blended.  Pour the melted butter over and mix with a fork.  Chill until ready to use.

To make the filling, whisk together the sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water.  Cook over medium high heat, without stirring, until the sugar turns amber.  Watch closely as this happens quickly.  Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream.  This will bubble up very quickly.  Return to the heat and add the sliced apples.  Cook until the apples have softened slightly, about 10 minutes.  Add the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil and mixture thickens.  Pour into a square baking dish - approx. 8 x 8 or a little larger and crumble the topping over the fruit.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.
Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.
~All about Apples
Sharing with Gooseberry Patch

The Improve Cooking Challenge

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wendy's Style Chili

This chili could not be easier to make!  Cook up a batch for your next football game or just a casual dinner with friends.  Just add a salad and some cornbread for a quick weeknight meal!  This recipe makes a large batch, so you'll have plenty to freeze. 
  • 4-1/2 lbs. ground lean beef (or turkey)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 green peppers, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 2  14 oz. cans Ranch Style Beans (Bush's Texas Ranchero) UNDRAINED
  • 1  14 oz. can each, kidney beans and pinto beans, drained (or choose your favorite)
  • 2 15 oz. cans Ro-tel tomatoes
  • 1 46 oz. bottle tomato juice
  • 1 29 oz. can  tomato sauce
  • 2 pkgs. mild chili seasoning

In a large pot brown ground beef and drain fat.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer 1-1/2 hours.

Join the fun and enter the Chili Cook Off!  

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

~Adapted from
Sharing with Everyday Sisters - Sharing Sundays
Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms
The Country Cook - Soups and Stews Linky Party
Goodeness Gracious

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (Pasta con Pomodori al Forno)

If you like Pasta e Olio, you are going to love this one!  It's great when sweet cherry tomatoes are in season, but also good with the cherry tomatoes now because of the concentration of taste and texture when you roast them.  This is very quick to make and it's really "multo buono".
  • 3 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. peperoncino flakes, or to taste
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 ounces Ricotta Salata
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss the cherry tomato halves in a large bowl with 3 Tbsp. olive oil.  Sprinkle over tomatoes the bread crumbs, salt, and peperoncino; toss well to coat the tomatoes evenly.

Pour the tomatoes on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet and spread them apart in a single layer.  Bake until the tomatoes are shriveled and lightly browned, about 35 to 40 minutes.

I put them under the broiler for a few minutes.

While the tomatoes are roasting, fill your pasta pot with salted water and bring to a boil.  Add pasta of your choice and cook to al dente.  In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil on medium high heat and scatter in the sliced garlic.  Cook for a minute or two until lightly browned.  Ladle in 2 cups of the pasta cooking water and bring to a boil.  Stir in the chopped parsley and keep sauce simmering.

When the pasta is al dente, lift it from the water and drop it into the skillet.  Toss pasta with garlic and parsley sauce, then slide the tomatoes on top of the pasta.  Add the basil shreds and toss together.
Sprinkle with grated cheese off heat.

Mound pasta in a warm bowl or plate and shred the ricotta salata on top.
The pasta and garlic with the warm, juicy tomatoes is delicious!
~Adapted from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
Sharing with Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms
Recipe for my Boys - Thursdays Treasures
Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What the Heck is a Spudnut?

Basically, it's a doughnut made with a potato base which originated in Germany.  The result - a fluffier, more airy version of the doughnut.

What was the first nationwide donut chain?  Krispy Kreme? Dunkin Donuts?  The answer is Spudnuts.  Two brothers invented this recipe in the 1940's.

I don't know how the conversation got started, but my boss was telling me about these donuts that his brother made and that they were the lightest, tastiest donuts he had ever eaten.  So my research began - and the result?
A lighter, almost cruller-type donut that I sooo miss from the bakery.

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 quarts oil for frying
  • Sugar for coating
Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar.  Add eggs and mashed potatoes to the mix.
Measure out the milk.  Add the flour mix alternately with the milk to the creamed mixture beginning and ending with flour.

**The dough will be soft - almost like a drop biscuit dough.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, if you don't want to make them right away.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface and knead a few times.  Roll the dough until its about 1/2" thick.
Dip a donut cutter in flour and cut out doughnuts.
I did not have a donut cutter, so I compromised with a small tart cutter.

Heat fat to 365 degrees F.
Fry doughnuts about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Drain on brown paper or paper towels.
Not exactly the perfect donut, but I love the crunchy bits on the ends.
While still warm, shake donuts in sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Artisan Cast Iron Dutch Oven Bread

This recipe is a typical one with two rising periods.  Most of this time it's the yeast working and not you! 2 cups water 1...