Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Make Ahead French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

18 slices (one full loaf) of French Bread, cubed (I get the kind in a brown bag at HEB)
12 Eggs
12 ounces Cream Cheese, cubed
1 1/4 cup Milk
3/4 cup Maple Syrup (plus more for serving)
Dash of Cinnamon
Splash of Vanilla Extract
Powdered Sugar

Place half of bread cubes in a greased 9x12 casserole dish.  Add cubed cream cheese and top with remaining half of bread.

In bowl whisk eggs, milk and maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla.  Pour over bread and cream cheese.  

Cover dish with lid or foil.   Place in refrigerator over night.

Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to baking. 

Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.   Uncover and continue to bake for approximately 20 - 25 minutes or until desired appearance.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm with maple syrup.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Texas Trash

I wanted to find some recipes that I could make and ship to our family that we cannot be with over Christmas and I wanted it to be something that had a Texas flair to it.   I was really surprised at how many people had never heard of Texas Trash.  And even though it doesn't sound like it would be items that really go together, it ends up being so very, very good.  This recipe makes a TON of snack mix.  So much that I literally had to mix it in trash bags.  I don't own a bowl or pan big enough to contain it all.  I did this in two batches.  The butter mixture will sit fine for a day or so in the fridge if you want to make it in two different days.

Texas Trash
Adapted from Scarletta Bakes

1 box Cheerios cereal (14 ounces)
1 box Captain Crunch cereal (14 ounces)
1 box Rice Chex cereal (12.8 ounces)
1 bag Fritos (10.5 ounces)
1 bag pretzel sticks (13 ounces)
2 lbs. pecan halves
3 c. unsalted butter
1 bottle Worcestershire sauce (10 fl. oz.)
4 tbsp. celery seeds (NOT celery salt!)
4 tbsp. garlic, dried ground
3 tbsp. cumin, ground
2 tbsp. cayenne pepper

2 tbsp. liquid smoke 
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce

Preheat oven to 200ยบ.

Place cereals, chips, pretzels and nuts in a large trash bag.  I used a kitchen size white trash bag and divided the mixture in half.   Prepare roasting pan and/or sheet pans with some cooking spray.  (I used my large roasting pan and one half sheet pan for half of the batch).  You need to be sure you have room to stir it while it is in the oven.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small sauce pan. As it melts, mix in the Worcestershire, celery seeds, garlic, cumin, cayenne, liquid smoke and Tabasco. Once the butter has melted, give it a stir in case any of the seasonings have settled to the bottom of the pan and pour the mixture over the dry ingredients. Immediately toss the snack mix well. It is easy to mix and coat the entire mixture with it in the trash bag.  Pour into prepared pans.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, tossing occasionally as it bakes.  About every 20-30 minutes give it a good mix.  And try not to get it all over the floor.  (I speak from experience.)  The finished mix will be fragrant and almost completely dry. Remove and cool.

Once the mix is cool, I threw it all back into a clean trash bag and let it continue to absorb the flavors until I could get some containers to store it in.  And now to get ready to ship it out to the far corners... Hoping Seattle loves some Texas Trash!

YIELD:  Tons!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Zuppa Toscana Soup

My sister loves to send me soup recipes she comes across.  This way I will make them and let her try them and she isn't stuck with a whole pot of soup that she may or may not like.  It works for us.  I have no problems making soup and do not mind sharing.  It's really almost a joke at this point.  I'm OK with it.  I have made a couple of soups that I didn't really like but I just try to create ways to make them better the next time.  

Most of my soups are creamy and cheesy and in case you haven't noticed, I am not a huge meat eater.  I will eat it.  I am not a vegetarian.  But if it weren't for bacon I probably could be.  This soup has meat.  Italian sausage.  And bacon.

This soup is supposedly a knock off of a similar soup at Olive Garden.  I don't eat at Olive Garden and I have never had this soup there so I cannot comment on the truth of that.  But it is good. That I know.  I just love soup!

Zuppa Toscana Soup
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, crumbled (the recipe calls for hot Italian sausage.  I don't like it.  I used mild.)
  • 1/2 lb chopped bacon
  • 1 quart chicken broth 
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and cubed (or more if you like lots of potatoes)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage in soup pot over medium high heat.  Break up into small pieces as it cooks.  Drain sausage and set aside.  Place bacon in same pot and cook until done.  But not crispy.  Drain bacon and add to sausage.  Save some of the bacon grease in the bottom of the soup pot.  Add onions to the soup pot and cook for a few minutes until onions are softened.  Add garlic, potatoes, broth and water.  Simmer of medium heat until potatoes are tender.  Add sausage and bacon to the soup.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add kale and cream to pot, season with salt and pepper and heat thoroughly.   

Monday, October 21, 2013

Warm Cheesy Shrimp Dip

Warm Cheesy Shrimp Dip
Adapted from Charlotte's Hot Shrimp Dip
Serves 8 to 10
  •  1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons liquid crab boil - I use Old Bay
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 cup minced red or yellow bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 20 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 8 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced green-onion tops
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled butter crackers
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, add 1 quart cool water, 1 tablespoon salt, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon liquid crab boil. Stir to dissolve salt. Add 2 quarts ice and set aside.
Fill a medium saucepan two-thirds full with water, add 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning , and bring to a boil. Season shrimp additional Old Bay seasoning, if desired. Add shrimp to saucepan and return water to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and allow shrimp to sit in hot water until just cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Remove shrimp from hot water and transfer to ice bath until completely cool.

While shrimp are cooling, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are thoroughly wilted, about 10 minutes. Transfer vegetable mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool.

Remove shrimp from ice bath and drain well, then finely chop and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add cooled vegetable mixture, cream cheese, mayonnaise, Jack cheese, green onions, thyme, black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer mixture to a baking dish, using the back of a spoon to evenly spread mixture. Sprinkle cracker crumbs in an even layer over top of dip. Bake, uncovered, until dip is heated through and golden brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm, with crackers or sliced baguette for dipping.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Maple Bacon Pumpkin Risotto

It's a bacon theme tonight... Please forgive me... but seriously... it is bacon!  And risotto. 

Maple Bacon Pumpkin Risotto
From Pineapple and Coconut

1/2 pound of thick sliced bacon
2 cups of apple juice (or cider)
4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
2 leeks, white and green parts only (diced)
1 small onion diced
4 garlic cloves (minced)
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned, NOT pie filling)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan combine stock and apple juice or cider and set over low heat.

In a stock pot cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Remove to paper towels.   Remove all but 2-3 tablespoons of bacon fat and add onion and leaks and saute and saute until starting to caramelize.  Add in the garlic and nutmeg and and saute until fragrant.  Add in the rice and white wine and stir until the wine is cooked down.  Turn the heat under the stock to medium.  Add in 1/2 cup of stock mixture to the rice and stir until absorbed.  Repeat with 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition, until rice is al-dente.  You may not use all of the stock although I did.  Mix in the pumpkin puree and the maple syrup.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in bacon and serve immediately.  Top with grated Parmesan. 

Bacon Cheddar Cornbread

Bacon is the single most reason I can never truly become a vegetarian.  I could give up just about all other meat.  But bacon?  It is truly its own food group.  Bacon and super extra sharp cheddar together?  I am all but in heaven.  And contrary to popular belief I can cook something other than soup... although my brother in law was quite shocked to hear that...  So here you go Scary Larry... Proof that I can cook other things... although... this would be a really, really good accompaniment to a nice warm bowl of soup!

Bacon Cheddar Cornbread
Adapted from Bacon Cheddar & Sage Cornbread
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1 cup frozen corn (or fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 cup of extra sharp cheddar cheese, in small cubes (I used Tillamook, but any sharp or really well aged cheddar would work nicely)

Bacon Preparation:  You can chop the bacon and fry it if you would like.  Save the fat.  I dislike the frying of bacon mess so I set up a large rimmed baking pan covered in foil and set two racks down inside it.  I place the strips of bacon on the racks and place into a cold oven.  Turn the oven on to bake at 400 degrees and cook until crispy.  It comes out nice and flat and all the rendered fat is in the bottom of your pan and you can still capture it and save it for other uses.  It doesn't take long and you don't have that whole popping greasy bacon fat frying thing going on all over the kitchen.  And it still smells great!  Then turn over down to 350 for baking the cornbread.  When bacon is cool enough to handle, chop in to bite size pieces.

Meanwhile combine melted butter, sugar, eggs and milk.  In a separate bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking power, dried sage and salt.  Mix well and then gently stir in your wet mixture until it is just moistened.  Gently fold in the cheese, bacon and corn.  (The original recipe calls for fresh sage.  If you are a fan, by all means you may use fresh sage.  I am not a big fan of the flavor so I chose to use dried.)

Use your leftover bacon grease to grease your cast iron skillet and pour mixture in to skillet.  Bake at 350 until the edges are brown and the middle has set. (About 30 minutes.)

Best eaten warm.  Or immediately.  The cheese just gets nice and soft, but isn't a big sloppy mess.  You get a different taste depending on what you bite into.  Corn, bacon, cheese... What beats that??

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sweet Potato and Andouille Sausage Bisque

My soup addiction has reached an entirely new level with this soup. I freely admit to eating it 7 days in row. I had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes all in the same day. I am not ashamed of this. I was actually very sad when I ate the last of it last night.

This one makes a LOT of soup. You need the big soup kettle for this one. And it freezes well. I shared it with two families, we had it for one meal and I still had enough for a full week of meals off of it. My friend Wes (upon who I place full blame for my current addicted state) made this for our monthly supper club meeting and he froze leftovers and took to the church picnic. I would suggest hoarding it for your own selfish enjoyment. I can't wait to make another batch!

Sweet Potato & Andouille Bisque
Fortissimo Cafe on St. Charles Ave. (Origin of original recipe!)
New Orleans, LA

5 medium sweet potatoes (WHOLE WITH SKINS!!)
1 stick (approximately 1 pound) of Andouille sausage, diced
1 pound butter
2 cups flour
2 medium onions (Vidalia where available), diced fine
1 medium bunch celery, diced fine
2 medium red bell pepper (no green), diced fine
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper (I only used a half because I had kids and some other wimpy folks eating it.  Make it as spicy as you like it!)
Salt to taste
2 quarts heavy cream
1/2-3/4 gallon (approximately more/less) scalded milk (I admit I had to look this up. I have never heard of scaled milk!  Here is a video and explanation!)
Freshly grated nutmeg
Boil 5 medium sweet potatoes until tender. Boil them whole.  Important.  You get all the good nutrients from the skin.  It does matter! Let them cool enough to handle and then peel and puree sweet potatoes. Dice 1/2 stick (approximately 1/2 pound) of Andouille sausage. (Browned and chopped bacon can be substituted if Andouille is unavailable.)

In the meantime, in large stock pot, saute all vegetables and spices in butter until tender. Add flour and let heat for 2 to 3 minutes but do not brown. Add pureed sweet potatoes and diced Andouille. Stir to mix. Add heavy cream, stirring constantly here forward. Add scalded milk to desired richness. Finish with sherry and fresh grated nutmeg across the top of finished bisque. Salt to taste.

It gets pretty thick when you store the leftovers in the fridge.  I thinned out each bowl with a little bit of milk as I re-heated it in the microwave.  It was perfect.

I am dreaming about this soup right now.  Wishing I had a bowl.  Planning when I can make it again.  Maybe tonight? 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sausage and Mushroom Carbonara

Sausage and Mushroom Carbonara
1 pound fettuccine
3 tablespoons EVOO, divided
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 pound sliced white mushrooms (or baby bellas)
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 tablespoons freshly chopped
1/4 pound bacon, diced
4 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 large egg yolks
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (not the stuff in the can! shudder)

Bring pot of water to boil, salt it and add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain, reserving one cup of the starchy cooking water.

Meanwhile heat two tablespoons of EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook sausage until browned, breaking up as it cooks.  Remove to plate from skillet.  Add remaining tablespoon EVOO to the drippings.  Add mushrooms and cook until browned, 10 -12 minutes.  De-glaze the pan with Marsala and season with thyme, salt and pepper.  Add to plate with sausage.

Add bacon to skillet and cook until browned and starting to crisp.  3-4 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and lots of pepper, being careful not to burn garlic.  Stir in the wine and cook to reduce.  Add the sausage and mushrooms back to skillet.

In a small bowl, beat egg yolks with 1/4 cup of reserved starchy cooking water to temper the eggs.  Add the drained pasta to the skillet and pour the tempered eggs on top.  Add a couple of handfuls of Parmesan cheese and toss to coat.  Add more of the reserved starchy water if needed to smooth out the sauce.  Top with more cheese for serving.

Adapted from Rachael Ray's Carbonara with Sausage and Mushrooms.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip

My fascination with soup is almost equaled by our fascination with dip.  While the Man prefers a hearty, meaty, cheesy concoction which generally includes bacon... I really enjoy some quick and easy cold or room temperature type dips.  I cannot even remember which random Pinterest place I found this, but I could eat it every day!

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip

4 Large Red Bell Peppers
4 Cloves of Garlic
8 ounces Feta Cheese
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Roast red bell peppers either in the oven under broiler or over open flame until charred on all sides.  Place in a paper bag and allow to steam for about 10 minutes.  Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin, stem and seeds.  Cut in to quarters and add to food processor along with garlic, EVOO and feta cheese. Process until smooth.

It is that simple.  I serve it with pita chips. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Roasted Poblano and Cheddar Soup

Roasted Poblano and Cheddar Soup

  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the broiler. Place the poblano chiles on a small rimmed baking sheet. Broil for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning the chiles occasionally, until charred on all sides. Remove from the oven and transfer to a resealable or paper bag. Let rest for about 20 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Peel the chiles, remove the seeds, and dice.

2. Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and cilantro and cook for 2 minutes, until the tomatoes soften. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the flour is absorbed into the mixture. Stir in the chicken stock, cream, milk, salt, pepper, and oregano and bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soup is thick and creamy.

3. Add the roasted poblano chiles and cheese to the soup and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

This soup is pretty thick but really amazing.  Leftovers are great as well.  Just reheat and stir.  Could be thinned with some additional chicken stock, but I just had it thick and yummy.  It is definitely one of my new favorites!

Adapted from My Daily Morsel.  Another fine recipe blog!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mom's Sweet and Sour Pork

I really do not know the origin behind this recipe other than it is one of a few things that my mother made when I was growing up that I really liked. She seems to think the recipe came with her wok.  I only ever remember her making this one thing in that wok!  I haven't had this version in years but stumbled across the recipe today and decided to make it.  I am going to post it as written, however when I made it I was making it for quite a few of us so I actually used 2.5 pounds of pork.  I doubled the sauce recipe and just kind of guessed on the other ingredients.  It was just as good as I remember.

Sweet and Sour Pork

1/2 pound of pork cut into cubes (I used pork loin)

Marinate pork for at least 1/2 an hour in:

1/2 Tablespoon Sherry
1/2 Tablespoon Water
1/2 Tablespoon Soy Sauce (I used tamari to give it some extra flavor)
2 Teaspoons Flour
2 Teaspoons Cornstarch

Deep fry pork cubes in oil (I used canola) until golden brown. Remove pork cubes.  Drain except for about a teaspoon of oil.  Add to pan over high heat:

1 Red Bell Pepper Diced (recipe called for green)
1 Onion Diced (I also added some green onions just because I had them)

Cook over high heat for a couple of minutes.  Remove vegetables. 

Meanwhile whisk together:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons catsup
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 Teaspoons corn starch

Add mix to pan and heat, stirring constantly until sauce thickens.  Add vegetables and pork back into and heat through.  Add:

1/2 cup pineapple chunks
6 maraschino cherries

Stir until all is covered in sauce.
Serve with rice.   

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mexican Corn Soup

This soup is an adaptation from an Ingrid Hoffman recipe and a recipe I found on Pinterest from the Cooking in Stilettos Blog.   Unusual, spicy, but very good!  I love unusual cheese and queso fresco really does the trick here.  Helps to cool down the poblanos.  I had to laugh at my little guy while making it.  Cody is 7 and apparently not used to being around people who cook often.  He asked me what I was making and I replied "Mexican Corn Soup".   He looked at me a little strangly and said "How do you make a Mexican?"   That, my man, will have to be a question answered when you are much, much older!   He didn't eat any of the dead Mexican soup.  Too spicy for his taste, but he was certainly entertaining during the process!  Kids!  Gotta love them!

Mexican Corn Soup

2 medium poblano peppers (use less if you don't want it as spicy)
4 ears of fresh corn
5 roma tomatoes, cored and chopped roughly
4 cups of chicken stock, divided
1/2 tsp. of dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp. of smoked paprika
1 pound of thick bacon, chopped
1 small onion or 1/2 of a medium onion
4 cloves garlic
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half (optional)
3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled (or, alternatively – a MILD feta cheese)
Sour Cream & Tortilla chips for garnish


1.Roast the poblano peppers over either an open flame on a gas range or under a broiler.
2.Once the peppers are roasted, place in a plastic or brown paper bag and steam for 10 minutes.
3.Remove the charred skin from the peppers, deseed the poblanos, chop the peppers finely and set aside.
4.Using a sharp knife, remove the corn kernels from the cobs. (I used my bundt pan to catch the kernels and it worked nicely!)
5.Reserve half of the corn kernels for later and use and place the remaining corn kernels in a blender (DO NOT USE A FOOD PROCESSOR!)
6.To the blender, add tomatoes, 2 cups of chicken stock, smoked paprika and oregano. Puree until smooth and set aside.

7.Over medium heat, cook the bacon in a large saucepan until brown & crisp.
8.Drain the bacon on a paper towel lined plate and set aside.
9.Add the onion to the bacon fat in the saucepan and cook until the onion turns translucent.
10.Add the chopped poblano pepper and garlic and stir for another minute.
11.To the onion, pepper and garlic mixture, add the corn puree to the saucepan with an additional 2 cups of chicken stock.
12.Bring to a low boil and add the reserved corn kernels.
13.Simmer over medium-low heat until the soup has thickened (about 20 minutes or so).
14.Stir occasionally and season with salt and pepper.
15.To finish, mix in the heavy cream and half of the cilantro and heat through.
16.To serve, garnish with the remaining cilantro, bacon, the queso fresco and  crumbled tortilla chips.