Monday, March 14, 2011

Rocky Road Brownies

This recipe may be one that many of you have made over and over again but I had never made them before and had never tasted them either. So, when my third oldest daughter and son-in-law moved into the house next door-yes, next door! :) to us-I thought everyone should have something nice and gooey to eat after their long day of working their back muscles. I made some chicken jambalaya with rice (a rather forgettable recipe I'm sorry to say) and these Rocky Road brownies (very memorable!). If I had known how easy and delicious these things were, I'd have been making them long ago.
Rocky Road Brownies
Start with your favorite brownie recipe, either from scratch or from a box in a 13-inch by 9-inch pan. Bake as directed.
As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, sprinkle the top with 2 cups of mini marshmallows.
Place 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks and 1/4 cup of milk in a small saucepan. Cook on low heat until the chocolate is completely melted, stirring frequently. (You can also do this in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted). Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the marshmallows. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup walnut pieces. Cool completely.
*To make cutting the brownies easier, spray your knife with cooking spray. I've also heard that using a plastic knife works great, too.
I'm linking up with The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap this week.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Homemade Tomato Soup

This is a repost of a recipe I have over at my other blog. As I am transferring my cooking-related posts over to this blog, I am revisiting some recipes that were so good and that I haven't made in awhile. This is one of them. It is super delicious and I will be making it again soon.

I found a new recipe for tomato soup and since I had all the ingredients in the cupboard, I decided to try it; plus it was so easy! It's a Food Network recipe by chef Michael Chiarrello, who does some great Italian dishes from his Northern California home.

Homemade Tomato Soup

1 (14-oz.) can chopped tomatoes

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 stalk celery, diced

1 small carrot, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chicken broth

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I used dried)

1/2 cup heavy cream, optional (I used whole milk)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste, drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and roast until carmelized, about 15 minutes. This is what they look like when they come out of the oven. Don't skip this step! It makes all the difference in the taste of the soup.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic, cook until softened, about 10 minutes (make sure the vegetables are fairly soft). Add the roasted chopped canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, bay leaf and butter (I added the dried basil at this point). Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add basil and cream (or milk), if using. Puree with a hand held immersion blender until smooth (you could also use a blender or a food processor.)

This soup only makes 4 servings (barely!) so I would double this recipe next time. You can freeze whatever you have left, too.
I'm linking up with Friday Potluck.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stocking the Pantry: Cornmeal

Over the years I have learned to stock my pantry with ingredients rather than boxed mixes which gives me better flexibility in the kitchen and is easier on the budget, too.

Cornmeal is something I buy regularly and always keep in my pantry. I grew up on the Jiffy cornbread mix. I especially remember my mom making cornbread to go with our ham and beans, which I still make whenever we have a ham bone, but as I grew more curious and adventurous as a cook I wanted to do more than just make cornbread.

I remember the first time I bought cornmeal. My husband loves breaded and fried catfish and wanted to have it for dinner many years ago, so I went to the store and bought some yellow cornmeal (it also comes in white and self-rising). He then taught me how to make fried catfish.

Well, since I had all this cornmeal left over, I got out my cookbooks and learned how to make cornbread from scratch, which led to other ways to use up cornmeal.
Cornbread made in a castiron skillet-yum!

Here is my recipe for cornbread, with some things you can add to make it even better!


1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your cornbread)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil or butter
1 egg, slightly beaten

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the oil or butter in a castiron skillet or 8- or 9-inch square pan. Place the skillet or pan in the oven while you prepare the other ingredients until the butter is melted.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate small bowl, combine the milk and egg. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry beating by hand just until smooth. Take the skillet or pan out of the oven and add the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Additions and variations: Fry 4 to 5 bacon slices until crips, drain on a paper towel and substitute the bacon drippings for the oil. Sprinkle the batter with crumbled bacon before baking.

Mexican cornbread: Prepare the batter using 2 eggs, slightly beaten. Stir in 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup chopped green chilies and 1/4 cup finely chopped onion. Bake 22 to 28 minutes.

I've used cornmeal for my Cracker Barrel Copycat Chicken Casserole, which is much like cornbread on top of a chicken casserole. I've also used cornmeal for breading chicken. Here's one of our favorite ways of using it on chicken:
Southwestern Baked Chicken
2/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 bonesless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Cooking spray*
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cornmeal, bread crumbs, and all the spices in a large plastic bag and shake well. Combine the Worcestershire sauce, and egg whites in a small bowl. Dip the chicken breasts one at a time into the egg mixture. Allow the excess to drip off, then place in the bag and shake to coat. Spritz a shallow baking pan with spray then transfer the chicken to the pan. Spritz the chicken with the spray. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 to 25 mintues or until cooked through.
* Instead of the cooking spray, you could place a couple tablespoons of oil or butter in the baking dish and place in the oven to melt the butter or heat the oil a little. As you place the chicken in the dish, turn it over into the oil/butter to coat on both sides. Continue to bake as instructed.
Other uses for cornmeal are hushpuppies, spoon bread, and Red Pepper Corn Muffins. Cornmeal is also used for Polenta, which I've never made but is next on my learning how-to-make list.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

I love food and I have lots of bloggy friends who love food, too. So, when I received this fabulous award from Little Kitchen on the Prairie I was thrilled. This is this blog's first award! So, thank you, Catberner, for this award.

Now in accordance with the award's rules, I am going to share 7 things about myself, some my readers may already know, some maybe not.

  1. I am an avid reader. I go to the library about twice a month and come home with a pile of books.

  2. I have 2 cats and one dog. Whenever I sit down at home, there is at least one pet beside me or in my lap.

  3. I love spending time with my grandchildren: Lorelei, who is 19 months, Lydia, who is 4 months, and Noah, who is 2 months. They are a joy!

  4. I record all of the PBS Masterpiece Classics and love to watch them when I am home by myself.

  5. I collect lighthouses and have lots of them throughout my house.

  6. Cooking and baking relaxes me.

  7. I love going on day-long trips with my husband. Sometimes we will just grab an atlas of our area and pick a road to see where it will take us.

Here are some of my favorite blogs to read and am passing the award to these 10 bloggers:

Books and Chocolate

Mary Ann's House

Nagle 5 News

Rae's Craft and Chat

Real Life Living

The Texas Hills

Vista Woman

Sweet as Sugar Cookies

Queen of the Castle Recipes

EKat's Kitchen

Valentine's Day Peanut Butter Cookies

I've been making peanut butter cookies since I was a kid, but today, in honor of Valentine's Day, and because they are my husband's favorite cookie, I decided to make some to hide in his lunch for work. I made my good ol' stand-bye peanut butter cookie recipe, chilled the dough and rolled it out like you would a sugar cookie. I then cut out the cookies using a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

But, just in case you don't have a good peanut butter cookie recipe, here's our favorite.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the butter, peanut butter, sugars, and egg until creamy. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl and add to the peanut butter mixture a little at a time until it is all incorporated and mixed together. Chill the dough for about an hour or so. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll into balls the size of a large walnut and place 3 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork dipped in flour and make a criss-cross design. Bake until set but not hard about 8 to 10 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen.

I'm linking up with Sweets for a Saturday.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Ratatouille has turned into one of our favorite vegetable meals. It's a great way to get some vegetables into your diet with lots of flavor. It's one of our favorite vegetarian meals in the summertime when the vegetables are at their peak of freshness. I got this recipe from the Joy of Cooking cookbook.


Heat in a large skillet or Dutch oven over high heat:
1/4 cup olive oil
Add 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and cubed and
1 pound zucchini, cubed ( I used yellow squash because that is what I had)
Cook 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove eggplant and zucchini to a plate and reduce heat to medium-high.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
Cook, stirring, until the onions are slightly softened.
2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares (I only had green peppers) and
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
(I also added about a cup of sliced mushrooms at this point-just because!)
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender but not browned, 8 to 12 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add 1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes or one 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
and 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme (these were in my garden!) or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and
1 bay leaf.
Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the eggplant and zucchini and cook until everything is tender, about 20 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in: 1/4 cup chopped basil and sliced black olives, if desired. Doesn't it look pretty?
As you can see I also added mushrooms which gave the dish a "meatier" flavor. I was very surprised at how well my family loved this all vegetable dish.

Black Bean Chili with Red Onion Salsa

This is one of our favorite cold weather recipes. I found this when I was looking for a good black bean soup recipe as I wasn't too thrilled with the one I usually made. I'm thinking I could make this in the crockpot next time :)

A couple of notes on this recipe: If you don't think you would like lots of salsa on your chili, you can halve the ingredients for the Red Onion Salsa. I've also used it to top brats, burritos, or to mix with scrambled eggs. Okay, on to the recipe.

Black Bean Chili

4 cups dried black beans
5 to 6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
Black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Crushed red pepper or cayenne, to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 medium-sized green bell peppers, chopped
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 (4-oz.) cans diced green chilies
Red Onion Salsa
Grated cheese and sour cream

  1. Soak the beans in plenty of water for several hours or over night. Drain off the soaking water, and cook in fresh boiling water, partly covered, until tender. Check the water level during cooking; add more as necessary. Transfer the cooked beans to a large kettle or saucepan. Include about 2 to 3 cups of their cooking water.

  2. In a heavy skillet, saute garlic, seasonings, lime juice, and bell peppers in olive oil over medium-low heat until peppers are tender.

  3. Add the saute to the cooked beans, along with tomato puree and canned green chilies. Simmer, covered, over very low heat, stirring every now and then for about 45 minutes. (Make salsa at this time.)

  4. Serve topped with Red Onion Salsa, grated cheese, and sour cream.
Red Onion Salsa
2 cups chopped red onion
1/2 cup packed minced fresh cilantro
2 cups minced fresh ripe tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed minced fresh parsley
Black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well. For a finer consistency, give the mixture a brief whirl or two in a food processor or blender.

6 to 8 servings

I usually serve this with the Red Onion Salsa, sour cream or Greek-style yogurt, and tortilla chips.