Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One of My Favorites

I came down with bronchitis earlier this week. I'm on the mend, but it's been a slow process...I never though a bad cough would become so exhausting! But I wanted to share this one post with you...and hopefully I'll be up for more serious cooking by the weekend.

I found a loaf of sourdough bread on the reduced rack at Walmart, brought it home, and stuck it in the freezer to save for later. I was rummaging in the pantry looking for inspiration, and saw all the cans of tune we'd bought during Lent. Bingo...tuna salad!

Okay, maybe tuna salad isn't very exciting to you. But most people don't put anything in their tuna except mayonnaise. My grandma showed me how to take a can of ordinary tuna and make it into something "a little more special." So this is in honor of my Grandma Kirby--I love you Grandma!

Grandma Kirby's Tuna Salad

(makes one large or 2 smaller sandwiches)

1 6 ounce can chunk light tuna in water, drained
2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons apple (any variety), finely chopped
2 tablespoons toasted, chopped pecans
4 tablespoons light mayo/salad dressing
4 leaves of lettuce/baby spinach
1 teaspoon mustard (I used regular yellow)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Lightly toast 2 slices of sourdough bread and set aside. You can, of course, use any type of bread you'd like...sourdough is just sublime for me :-).

In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, celery, green onion, apple, pecans, mayo, mustard, salt, and pepper.

Pile the tuna salad on one slice of bread, add the lettuce (I used some from the garden), top with the other slice of bread, and consume with relish (like I did!).

God bless your table tonight!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tamale Pie with Cilantro Cream Sauce

I've been making this dish for years. I only found the sauce recipe online about a year ago though. I decided to make this casserole after I found this in the meat case last Monday.

Yep, I got 4.63 pounds of ground beef chuck for only $5.50. YEE HAW!
And also because I have the prettiest green onions and cilantro growing in the garden right now.

Seriously, I was pretty happy. I really prefer ground sirloin because it has a lower fat content, but I couldn't pass up a deal like that.

Now, if you look closely, the expiration date for the beef was the day after I bought it, but I got it home, used 1.5 pounds right away, divided the rest up, and put it in the freezer. So don't be afraid to check the meat case when you go to the store...they have to get rid of product all the time, and reduce it drastically to get it sold. Otherwise, they have to throw it out. But if you snap it up, you could save money...and who doesn't want that?

I made this casserole in my deep dish pie pan ('cause anything less won't feed us all anymore), but next time I want to try using my cast iron skillet. I nearly kicked myself because I though about it after I'd put the finished dish in the oven (0f course!).

I also make a double batch of the cilantro cream sauce because David is a condiment addict and always uses about 8 times more sauce than I would ever dream of. You can make a single batch if your husband is normal.

Tamale Pie with Cilantro Cream Sauce


1 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (use just the leaves)
2 green onions, chopped
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
zest from 2 limes (about a teaspoon)
salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a container. Refrigerate until ready to use. This is best made early in the day so the flavors have time to develop.


1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (14.75 ounce) can Rotel (I used mild)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk

In a large skillet, brown the beef, garlic and onions together over medium heat.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. When beef is no longer pink, drain off the fat. When I use ground chuck, I like to drain the meat in a colander lined with a thick layer of paper towels.

Return the meat to the skillet, and add the pinto beans, creamed corn, Rotel, and cornstarch. Mix well.

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. Lightly spray a deep dish pie plate, cast iron skillet or other oven proof casserole pan with some non-stick cooking spray.

Mix up the cornbread according to the box directions. You'll want to follow the directions for "cornbread" on the side of the box. (The back of the box has directions for corn muffins.)

Pour the meat filling into the pan and smooth the top.

Sprinkle the cheese over the meat. (Alternatively, you can stir the cheese into the meat mixture instead of putting it on top.)

Gently spoon the cornbread batter over the cheese, and spread to the edge of the pan. There should be just enough. It doesn't have to be perfect either, as long as it's covering most of the meat, it will be fine.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25030 minutes or until the cornbread is a nice golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve with the Cilantro Cream Sauce (although plain sour cream or salsa is also great).

This made enough for 2 nights, and David had seconds both nights. (I won't tell you how much sauce he was downright illegal!).

God bless your table tonight!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sweets for Socials

I had to go to a social last Friday night, and I had to make 2 desserts for it. Needless to say, I was eager to try something old and something new. I love the opportunity to try new recipes out, but I didn't want to make something really involved. But I did want to make desserts that would present well.

So...I decided to make Paula Deen's Chocolate Bread Pudding, (which I've made several times before) and bake them in individual foil liners (using a muffin tin). I also made Chocolate Cake Ball Lollipops (for the first time). I actually followed The Pioneer Woman's Recipe for the cake balls, because her posts are always very detailed along with gorgeous pictures of the process.

A couple of notes....I cut the bread into fairly small cubes for the pudding, and used mini-chocolate chips. If you read the reviews on the website for Paula Deen's recipe, everyone believes 2 teaspoons of almond extract is too much, and I totally agree...that amount would overwhelm the chocolate flavor. I only used 1/2 teaspoon, and I think it's just right.

When I made the cake balls, I did add about one teaspoon of shortening to the candy melts to make it a bit thinner and easier to work with. I used one box of devil's food chocolate cake mix and coated 1/2 the balls in white candy melts, and 1/2 in dark chocolate candy melts. When you dip the cake balls, make sure to use a deep bowl or large, deep mug to complete submerge the cake balls. Rotate the balls right after they're dipped, so the coating is nice and smooth. I used a 1 inch sheet of styrofoam to stick the cake ball lollipops in while they dried.

Here's a pic of the chocolate bread pudding...

And here's the cake ball lollipops...

Even though they look fancy, the cake ball lollipops were not hard to make at all. They did take some time. You have to bake the cake, crumble it up, mix it with the frosting, form the mixture into balls, freeze them for one hour, and then dip them in the candy melts. But it was FUN! Seriously...these were fun to make, and I cannot wait to make more for a bake sale, birthday party, baby shower, etc. You can color the white candy melts any color you want. I poured the leftover candy melts into miniature squeeze bottles (available at Walmart) to make the chocolate swirls.

If you have a party to go to, I encourage you to try either one of these recipes. They are super cute and everyone will rave over them. I got several lovely compliments at the social...which was very humbling. I really hadn't been in the mood to cook or bake since Easter (I guess I was a bit burned out), but these desserts were just the thing to help me get creative again.

God bless your table tonight!

Monday, April 20, 2009

My First (and probably last) Giveaway Win

About a month ago, I entered a random drawing contest for a free apron from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures. I enjoy reading Lynn's blog--her recipes are easy and she has beautiful pictures.

Lynn was giving away an apron via a friend, Emily. Emily has a store on Etsy, and makes these lovely aprons (be sure to check them out). For a shot at one of the aprons, you had to leave a comment on Lynn's blog post about which apron you liked the best, and the winner would be chosen at random. I decided to enter the contest, thinking there was no way I'd win, because I've never won any contests, let alone one online.

Well, lo and behold, I actually won. Only the apron I picked out had already been sold. Well, Lynn contacted Emily, and she very graciously made another one in the same "retro" style, but with a different fabric.

What do you think? I really love it!

Believe it or not, I actually have a brown dress and heels that complimented my new apron perfectly (not that I'm actually going to cook in this get-up, but I feel pretty!). Now...where's that string of pearls?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wheat Rolls Like Grandma Made

I am sorry it's taken me so long to post this. Easter came, the week afterwards was really hectic, my in-laws came into town, and whew...I've just been TIRED.

This recipe makes the best rolls ever. I found the recipe on the Internet some years ago, and they are a cinch to make. Even if you've never made bread before, you cannot mess these babies up...seriously...unless you are from another planet, and therefore...not human. It does take time...the dough needs to rise 3 times, but these bake up soft, light, and are perfect with roast chicken, split open for mini-sandwiches, or with a hot bowl of soup.

I have tried this recipe with both all-purpose and bread flour (which can be found in the baking aisle right beside the other flours). Either one works fine; I used bread flour because I had it on hand.

You can also make 2 loaves of bread or 16 sandwich-sized buns instead of 24 rolls as I did. The dough is very versatile--so make whatever you'd like :-). I was in a hurry, really wasn't paying attention, and ended up making 30 rolls instead of 24 (oh well!..that's what having 4 kids does to you I guess!)

Light Wheat Rolls

2 packages (o.25 ounces each) active dry yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Additional 1/4 melted butter for the bread and greasing the pans

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and yeast. Let stand for 5-10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy and there are bubbles on the top. If you your yeast doesn't look like this:

then either your yeast was too old, your water was too hot, or both. You'll have to dump it out and start over again. But it's okay...just relax!

Now, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast mixture, sugar, salt, butter, egg, and whole wheat flour. Let it go for a couple of minutes on low speed. You don't want to beat this to death...otherwise you'll develop too much gluten from the flour and your bread will be tough.

Add the all-purpose flour, a 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. You may need an additional 1/4 of flour, but don't add more, even if the dough feels sticky. Too much flour will make your bread heavy...and that's no fun.

Turn the dough out into a lightly greased bowl (non-stick cooking spray works fine)...

cover with a clean kitchen/tea towel, and let rise until double in volume, about 1 hour. This is what it will look like after 1/2 an hour.

Here's a trick to getting your dough to rise on a really cold day (like it was today). Turn on your oven and let it preheat for ONE MINUTE. It doesn't matter what temperature you set it at, but only leave it on for ONE MINUTE. Then turn it off, put your dough in, and shut the oven door quickly so the heat doesn't escape.

This gives your dough a nice, barely warm place to rise. Here's what the dough looks like after one should be doubled size, and very fluffy looking.

Punch the dough down...

cover it, and let it rise again for about 1/2 an hour. It should look like it did after the first rising.

After 1/2 an hour, punch the dough down again, and turn it out on a lightly floured surface. Let rest for about 5 minutes.

While the dough is resting, grease 2 dozen muffin cups (that's 24 for all you non-math majors like me) with the melted butter. Yes, you could use cooking spray or margarine, but why? Butter is better people, okay, trust me. And don't tell me your not going to split these open later and slather them with butter anyway. So why not start now?

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each piece again, and then divide the quarters into 6 equal pieces. Got that? We're dividing the dough into 24 pieces. You can use a little bit of flour on your hands if you need to keep them from sticking to the dough. I'm sorry I couldn't take pics of the process, my hands were covered in flour :-).

Take each piece and gently pull the edges together. The underside will look like this...

and the top will be nice and smooth, like this...

Place into the grease muffin cups.

Continue with the rest of the dough until you have all 24 muffin cups filled.

Cover and let rise one last time for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in volume.

Brush each of the dough balls with some melted butter. Do this very gently so you don't deflate your dough.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown on top.

You should have just enough melted butter left to brush each roll one more time. I know...I know...but it's SO GOOD!

Pile the rolls into a basket and serve warm.

Everyone in our house LOVES these rolls...when I served them with the Tortellini Soup, Gabriel had one bowl of soup and 3 rolls, lol!

I hope you try these out...once you do, you'll see it's not so hard to make your own bread. And BTW, these can be frozen and reheated in the oven or microwave, and they'll taste like they were just-baked.

God bless your table tonight!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tortellini Soup

This is just about the easiest soup ever. I'm pretty sure you can get this on the table in under 30 minutes. And...the best side for this soup are some Light Wheat Rolls (which I will post later this week). I am sorry there are only 2 pics; we'd just gotten home from Holy Friday Mass, it was 2 hours long, and everyone was hungry. All you really have to do is throw everything into the pot.

There was a great substitute teacher, Maria, who I met during my second year of teaching. She was in great demand because she was known for staying on top of things, keeping papers organized for the teachers who were absent, and her gentle, yet firm style of discipline. Maria didn't let the kids get away with things just because she was a "sub."

Anyway, one day, she comes into the teacher's lounge and warms up a container of soup. It smelled so good...all of us pretty much demanded she hand over the recipe. Maria graciously obliged, and wrote it down on a recipe card for everyone who asked. I still have the card in my recipe file box :-).

So, here's a simple, comforting bowl of soup, guaranteed to warm your insides!

Tortellini Soup

4 cups chicken/vegetable broth
1 9 ounce package frozen cheese tortellini
1 15 ounce can great northern or cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

In a large stockpot, bring the broth to a boil.
Add the tortellini and simmer for 6 minutes. (If you are using fresh tortellini, don't put them in until the very end, and let them cook for just about 2-3 minutes.)

Add the beans and tomatoes, reduce the heat, and let the pot simmer for another 6 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the salt, pepper, vinegar, and basil.

Garnish with the parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

That's it for Lent this year everyone! Hope you enjoyed meatless cooking with me!

God bless your table tonight

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter Treats and Eats

Okay, I can't individually post every single thing I'm making for Easter, but here is the menu I'm working on. You can get all the recipes except for the salad just by clicking on each item:

Tossed Green Salad

Yes, I realize there are essentially 3 desserts...I promised the kids I'd make the cookies and cake, but I want apple pie. So there!

There are a few changes I want to mention. I'm roasting the green beans instead of steaming them. We've all really come to enjoy vegetables roasted in the oven...they have so much more flavor that way. The salad is simply lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. The cookies are the same as the cookies I made last Christmas with white frosting; I just used sparkling sugar in pastel colors to decorate them.

One last note. Please make some homemade chocolate frosting for the cake. I takes more time...but the canned stuff is just so sticky and it's harder to spread. Homemade frosting has a much better consistency, and it's not sickly sweet like the canned. me! And here...I'll even give you a recipe, just click below:

Now that's settled... ;-)

I hope you all have a blessed Easter, full of God's promise, joyful in Christ's love, and surrounded by family, friends, and good food!

God Bless your table tonight!