April 23, 2011

Rich & Creamy Funeral Potatoes

Be prepared this makes a BIG batch. Not too big but its about (2) 9x13" pans full. Perfect for a big family holiday meal or bringing to a funeral. Mine are a bit different than your typical Mormon "funeral potatoes". I just had a friend watch me make part of mine and he said I was cheating. Whatever. His mom probably uses fresh potatoes & onions. Which is fine...but honestly if I wanted fresh potatoes then I'd make something else. What is the point of funeral potatoes in our world? They are supposed to be quick & yummy. I've accomplished quick and these suckers are darn yummy.

Yes. I use frozen, bagged O'Brien style potatoes. This results in several things. 1- No tears...I don't have to cut or grate onions because they are already in the potatoes! (It also includes the added touch of diced peppers.) 2- I don't have to cook or cut potatoes, because they are already cut for me. 3- I don't use shredded hash browns and this means I have a slightly different mouth feel...less mushy and more obvious potato pieces.

Give my recipe a try. You won't be disappointed. It also includes cream cheese, a bit of garlic & a crust of melty, gooey cheese instead of the traditional crunchy crust. These are amazing served with your Easter ham...or dice up some leftover ham & toss it in. Yum!

Rich & Creamy Funeral Potatoes
26oz can cream of chicken soup (family sized can also use cream of mushroom)
24oz sour cream
16oz cream cheese
32oz/2lb shredded cheddar cheese (I buy pre-shredded....its 1 big bag)
3Tbsp garlic powder (not salt)
3 bags (28oz ea) O'Brien Style Potatoes

  • Using an electric mixer blend soup, sour cream & cream cheese till creamy.
  • Add garlic powder to soup mix. Blend.
  • Add 1/2 of the cheese & mix again.
  • Spray both of your 9x13 pans with Pam.
  • Pour 1 1/2 bags of potatoes into each pan.
  • Pour 1/2 of creamy mixture over the potatoes in each pan.
  • Mix the potatoes & creamy mixture well & smooth into the pans.
  • Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top of both pans.
  • Bake @ 350 about an hr or until the middle is hot.

April 21, 2011

Millionaire Pineapple Pie

Yes this makes 2 pies. 2 amazing yummy fluffy pies!!! If you are paranoid about using raw eggs then use pasteurized egg substitute. The pineapple in this recipe is often substituted for fresh strawberries or even bananas. Yum!!! Honestly any fresh chopped or well drained canned fruit would work. I'm thinking peaches this summer....hmm.

2 (pre-made, store bought) graham cracker or Nilla wafer crusts (you can make them on your own if you want)
2 - 9" pastry crusts (baked & cooled)

Bottom Layer:
2c. powdered sugar
1 stick of salted butter (softened/room temp)
2 eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
  • Mix sugar & butter till soft & extremely creamy.
  • Add eggs, salt & vanilla.
  • Beat until light & fluffy.
  • Spread evenly into the bottom of both crusts.
  • Chill.
Top Layer:
1c. heavy whipping cream
1/2c. powdered sugar
1c. crushed pineapple (drained REALLY well)
1/2c chopped pecans
  • Whip cream using electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • Add powdered sugar & mix a bit more.
  • Fold in the REALLY well drained pineapple & the chopped pecans.
  • Spread evenly over the bottom layer.
  • Chill.
  • Slice each pie into 6 large pieces or 8 regular sized. 
  • Makes 2 pies, serves 12-16.

Orange Julius

6oz frozen oj concentrate
1c milk
1c water
1tsp vanilla
1/2c ice cubes
1/4c sugar

  • Blend all together till ice is no longer cubes.
  • Thank me later.

Chocolate Eclair Cake

Dear Mother in Law- Thanks for making this concoction....its horrible. Horribly good. Lovingly- My Thighs

Yep, you heard it. This is a recipe from my mother in law. I love it. I love it so much I had to share, just so you all can enjoy the bliss along with me. Now I'm craving it too. Darn! FYI...The key to this recipe is letting it chill for several hours so the graham crackers soften. Just trust me.

1 box of whole graham crackers
2 boxes instant vanilla pudding (ea 4 serving size)
3 1/2c cold milk
8oz Cool Whip
1 container prepared chocolate frosting (yes, such as Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate)

  • Line the bottom of a 9x13 pan completely with the graham crackers.
  • Mix the milk & pudding mixes till thickened.
  • Fold the cool whip into the pudding.
  • Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture onto the bottom layer of graham crackers.
  • Add another layer of graham crackers.
  • Top with the remaining 1/2 of the pudding mixture.
  • Add a final layer of graham crackers. 
  • (Yes thats 3 layers of grahams & 2 layers of custardy, moussey, pudding. Alternating.)
  • Open your can of frosting & completely peel off the foil seal. 
  • Microwave the frosting for about 30 seconds....just long enough to make it pour-able.
  • Pour the entire container of frosting over the top layer of grahams & spread evenly.
  • Chill in the fridge for a few hours...or overnight. (This step is key!)
  • Enjoy.

Spinach & Tortellini Soup

This recipe is super easy. The original version is step by step...but, of course I've modified it so that even a 12 year old can make an amazingly easy & healthy soup in less than 20 minutes. Gather all your ingredients & pretty much dump it together...with the exception of the pasta. (See directions below.)

As far as the tortellini are concerned....I like using Buitoni cheese tortellinis from the refrigerator case at the store or the ones they carry at Sam's Club or Costco. If you want to use freshly made torts then I'm a fan of anything from Cal Pasta Productions in Chico or Vinciguerra in Jackson...both located in Nor Cal.

3c. water
2 cans (14.5oz ea) stewed tomatoes (Italian seasoned)
1c chicken stock/broth (If you don't have broth or stock on hand, just add another cup of water.)
2 chicken bouillon cubes (You can add a 3rd if you don't use broth or stock....but taste it first.)
1-2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1lb packaged tortellini
1 pkg. (10oz) frozen chopped spinach
shredded Parmesan cheese (for garnish)

  • Place a large pot on your stove.
  • Put all ingredients into the pot except the tomatoes & tortellini.
  • Slowly add tomatoes, squishing (with your hands) while you add them to the pot.
  • Bring everything to a boil.
  • Once the soup is boiling stir well. 
  • Add tortellini & cook according to package directions.
  • Once tortellini is cooked, serve in individual bowls & top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. 

Ham & Cheese Spaghetti Bake

Always served in my childhood home following Easter, this is one of my favorite dishes. I'm not a big ham eater, but small cubes of ham are fine with me. I'd rather eat this than a slice of ham any day. I typically make a double or triple batch of this...freezing half & feeding half to the family for 2-3 meals. This also makes a great pot-luck dish. Its filling enough for a meal but simple enough for a side dish. Feel free to use fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti noodles...just break them in half before you cook any of them. If for some reason you are working with dry leftover ham, add a bit more sour cream.

8oz spaghetti noodles (noodles broken in half)
1c. sour cream
1c. ricotta cheese
2c. cooked ham (leftover, diced)
1 1/2c. shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
1/4-1/2 bunch of green onions (white & green section sliced/diced small)
2 cloves of garlic smashed
celery salt (to taste)

  • Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, add spaghetti.
  • Cook till al' dente, or almost done. (Don't over cook or it will turn mushy.)
  • Drain spaghetti & pour into a greased 9x13 pan.
  • Mix sour cream, ricotta, ham, onions, garlic & celery salt together in a large bowl.
  • Add 3/4c. of cheddar cheese into the mixture. Mix well. 
  • Mix creamy mixture into the hot pasta in the 9x13 pan.
  • Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese on the top of the casserole. 
  • Bake @ 350* till bubbly & cheese is melted.

April 14, 2011

Creamy Baked Macaroni & Cheese

2 1/2 c elbow macaroni
1/2 c salted butter (one stick)
1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt (plus 1 tsp for boiling water)
dash of pepper
2 1/3 c whole milk (I used sue me)
1/2 c chicken broth
3 1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese
4oz cream cheese (half a brick)
1 sleeve Ritz crackers (smashed to crumbs in a ziplock bag)

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.
  • Add 1tsp of salt & your macaroni to the water.
  • Cook till pasta is barely al dente & then drain.
  • **(You want the pasta still slightly firm in the middle or it will turn to mushy mac & cheese during the baking process.)**
  • While the elbow macaroni is cooking....
  • Place your cream cheese in a small bowl & microwave about 30 seconds. Stir so it becomes smooth & creamy.
  • In a large deep skillet melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Add the flour. Whisk the mixture till it is smooth.
  • Add your milk & keep whisking.
  • Add the chicken broth & keep whisking.
  • Add the salt & pepper. 
  • Keep whisking & in about 3-4 minutes you will have a nice thick sauce.
  • Add 2 1/2 cups of your shredded cheese & the cream cheese to the sauce.
  • Keep whisking the cheese into the sauce & in just a few minutes it will have all melted together.
  • Add the cooked, drained elbow macaroni to the sauce & stir well to combine.
  • Pour mac & cheese into a well buttered or sprayed 9x13 casserole.
  • Sprinkle the top with the remaining shredded cheese. 
  • Top the cheese layer with the Ritz crumbs.
  • Bake @ 350 degrees (uncovered) for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  • Serve asap...its best as warm as possible.

April 13, 2011

Avocado Pasta Salad

1 box (16oz) Garden Rotini
6 small ripe avocados (diced large)
1 bottle (14oz) Bernsteins Cheese & Garlic Italian Dressing
12oz cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 can (6oz) black olives (halved)
1 bag (12oz) frozen broccoli florets
2-4 green onions (sliced)
2-4Tbsp fresh chopped herbs of your choice (basil, cilantro, parsley or thyme)

  • Pour dressing into a large plastic or glass serving bowl.
  • After dicing avocados, add them to the dressing & mix well...but gently.
  • Add tomatoes & olives, mixing into dressing.
  • Bring pasta to a boil (in salted water) on the stove. 
  • Just before pasta is fully cooked add the frozen broccoli florets.
  • Cook additional 2-3 minutes & then drain well.
  • Pour broccoli & pasta into the large bowl (with the veggies & dressing) while still warm.
  • Mix well with the veggie & dressing mixture.
  • Add sliced green onions & herbs, mix well. 
  • Cover with plastic wrap & cool in fridge. (All day or overnight.)
  • Serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese....or a crumble of blue or feta.
We like to serve a scoop of this over a small bed of lettuce, topped with sliced bbq tri-tip or grilled chicken. Its a perfect summer meal!

April 4, 2011

Mini Cheesecakes

I've had this recipe forever. My grandma(s), yes both of them, used to make these for a special dessert. Makes 12.

Mini Cheesecakes:
16oz cream cheese
1c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Nilla' Wafers
pie filling or preserves of your choice
cupcake liners

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Put cupcake liners into a cupcake pan.
  • Place a Nilla' Wafer into the bottom of each cupcake liner...flat side down.
  • Mix cream cheese, sugar, eggs & vanilla using a hand blender or standing mixer.
  • Using a scoop, portion the cream cheese mixture into the 12 cupcakes liners. 
  • Bake @ 350 for 20 minutes.
  • Allow the cheesecakes to cool completely.
  • The cheesecakes will sink in a little bit & form an indentation.
  • Spoon some preserves or pie filling into each cheesecake. 
  • Enjoy...
  • Refrigerate if not eaten immediately/soon.

April 3, 2011

Chipotle & Bean Taco Filling

This taco filling is slightly spicy, but still kid friendly. The addition of the beans helps cool it down a bit. You can also use more or less of the chipotles. We like to use it as taco or burrito filling, but for the little girls I also spread it on one edge of the tortilla, add grated cheese & shredded lettuce, then roll it up like a taquito. Seal the other edge with a little smear of filling.

Chipotle & Bean Taco Filling:
1lb ground beef
3.5oz of chipotles in adobo sauce (1/2 of 7oz can)
1 can of (fat free vegetarian) refried beans
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
salt to taste

  • Start browning the ground meat on stove.
  • Add cumin & garlic. 
  • Chop chipotles on small cutting board.
  • Scrape chopped chipotles & the adobo into the pan with the meat.
  • Rinse the adobo sauce off the cutting board & into the pan with 1/4c of warm water.
  • Once the meat is fully cooked, add the canned beans & mix well.
  • Serve immediately in tacos/burritos/taquitos or smeared on a tostada, while warm. 

America's Next Great Restaurant (Episode 2)

The contestants are instantly thrown for a loop. They will be serving 1000 people lunch at a local mall (Universal City Walk) the next day. First they must select their executive chef. They must also select their "branding" & logo.

There are 17 chefs back in the kitchen who have prepared dishes. The contestants get to go back & try their food & talk. Choosing their chef may or may not be the biggest decision the contestants make. There is a battle over chef Brandon & chef Narise. Its a bit lame, but then 2 contestants have to pick new chefs. Sudhir has a hard time choosing a chef, since none of the chefs provided have EVER cooked Indian food.

Next the contestants go into the business center & they can meet with graphic designers. This is where log & branding take shape. Once again Alex can't keep his trap shut & acts like a total arse.

Next the contestants go shopping...a lot of them have never shopped on a budget, or for this many people. Then they go back & help their chefs do prep-work in the kitchen.

The next day the contestants & chefs are at the Universal City Walk ready to serve 1000 people. Each "diner" has a silver coin to deposit into the box of their favorite restaurant concept.

  1. Meltworks - Love the food....logo needs a little change. (WIN Challenge! Safe Week 1)
  2. Tiffin Box - Chicken is slightly over-cooked, sauce a little runny. The judges think the logo needs help.
  3. Hicks - Food was too fatty & heavy. Logo turned out like a garden center. (In the bottom 3.)
  4. Hard & Soft - The judges like the food, but not the logo at all.
  5. W3 - Served gumbo....confused people, but Bobby said Jaman might have taken a good risk showing he can cook more than wings & waffles.
  6. The Sports Wrap - Chicken was dry. Fran is a bit snippy & seems to dislike advice or possible change. (ELIMINATED)
  7. ComplEAT - Lorena & Steve tell Stephenie that her food was really good. But she needs to have more passion about her food. Hmmm. No comment.
  8. Saucy Balls - The judges went back for 2nds! Love "Grandma" in the logo. The judges think Joey is ballsy for sticking to his guns with the name. I'm diggin it. 
  9. Wok - Served a rice dish, not a "stir fry". Curtis called her rice "dodgey" which means "not appealing" in Australia. Logo was plain. (In the bottom 3.)
  10. Limbo - The healthy vs unhealthy version tasted too similar. The judges want to not only know about the calorie difference, but want to taste a flavor difference too. They thought the logo may have been too much. 
In the end "The Sports Wrap"/Fran is eliminated. The investors just didn't think she was willing to change or take constructive criticism. 

America's Next Great Restaurant (Episode 1)

This blog is sort of co-written. My hubby & I are watching this show together. I decided to blog with the help of my hubby on how we personally feel about the concepts. I'm a little bit behind in blogging, so hopefully over the next couple of days I'll get everyone up to speed. Obviously I'll be expressing my personal opinions of the concepts so feel free to comment if you are watching. Episodes are available "on-demand" via Comcast or on Hulu.

So whats the basic premise of the show?
Who has the idea for the next great "fast-casual" restaurant in America.

The hosts, judges & investors ?
Bobby Flay - Chef & Restauranteur
Lorena Garcia - Chef & Restauranteur
Curtis Stone - Chef & Entrepreneur
Steve Ells - Founder/CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill

Whats the catch?
The winner will go into business with the 4 hosts.
They get to open 3 brand new fast-casual locations of their concept restaurant.
They will be located in Los Angeles, Minneapolis & New York.
Their concept will be open as of May 1st!!! (Thats 7 weeks from start to finish.)

What is "fast-casual"?
A reasonably priced, want to go back often, restaurant. (AKA: Chipotle)

Episode #1:
The top 21 concepts get pitched in Los Angeles.
The judges immediately issue a challenge to all the Top 21: Go cook their signature dish to show off their concept. (A majority of these contestants ARE NOT chefs...they would hire one.)
11 concepts get eliminated and the top 10 are selected.

TOP 10:

  1. "The Sports Wrap" - Healthy Organic Wraps Made to Order or Selected Off Menu. (Fran)
  2. "Saucy Balls". Meatballs/Pasta. (Joey)
  3. "Limbo" - A sublime diner w/bad options vs good choices. (Sandy)
  4. "ComplEAT" - Nutritionally Balanced, Fixed Calorie Food (Stephenie)
  5. "Hard n' Soft" - Fusion Taco Bar (Alex)
  6. "Wok" - Stir Fry For The Healthy Heart (Marisa)
  7. "Hicks" - Small Bites/Tapas of BBQ/Southern Food (Greg & Krystal)
  8. "Meltworks" - Grilled Cheese! (Eric)
  9. "W3 - Woods, Wings & Waffles" - Chicken & Waffles. (Jaman)
  10. "The Tiffin Box" - Modern Indian. (Sudhir)
I'll save you the gory details of this episode. It was pretty funny though. Most all of the eliminations were totally predictable.

What I will tell you is that we've already got a resident dirt-bag nailed down in the Top 10...aka: Alex. Even if hes just eliminated for his attitude/mouth then I'll be happy. His concept is also already being done in most places where tacos are offered....or you can do it yourself.

I can also tell you right now that "Wok" won't make it too far. Sorry Marisa, but your concept is everywhere. Maybe its not obvious to you but "make your own" style Mongolian Grills exist everywhere.

Also "The Sports Wrap"...really pretty much everybody makes a wrap nowadays. Subway & pretty much every sandwich place offers their full menu in wrap form. Sit down restaurants offer wraps too. This concept is dead in the water sooner than later. 

April 2, 2011

Italian Style Mini Meatloaves

This is the most basic meatloaf you'll ever find. No chopped onions or added veggies in the meat. Just straight up meatloaf...made "Italian style" with the addition of Italian sausage. That is all.

This recipe makes 12 muffin-tin sized individual meatloaves.
We top ours with your typical brown sugar/ketchup glaze (recipe follows) & then a scoop of mashed potatoes. Yes, they look like cupcakes & its totally cute.
Serve with veggies or a salad.
Adults eat 2 eat 1.
These are great leftovers!

Italian Style Mini Meatloaves:
1lb ground beef
1lb ground Italian sausage
4 eggs (fresh extra large...brown)
1c. (+/-) Italian seasoned bread crumbs
salt, pepper & garlic

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Using an ice cream or cookie scoop portion the meat into a muffin tin. 
  • Individually roll each portion of meat into a large meatball & push into the muffin tin cavities.
  • Place muffin tin onto a cookie sheet. (Just to catch possible drips...I've never gotten any.)
  • Bake @ 350 (convection) or 375 (normal) for 20 minutes.
  • To test for done-ness: Don't cut it! Touch the top of a few "muffins"...if they are firm, they are done, if they squish under your finger they aren't.)
  • Shut off oven.
  • Spoon glaze onto the top of each "loaf" & let sit in the oven for a few minutes till you serve. 

Meatloaf Glaze:
1c. Ketchup
1/4 c. Brown Sugar
1T. Italian Seasoning (optional)
2tsp. Garlic Powder

Mix together!
Top meatloaf....yum!