Monday, August 3, 2015

Banana Bread, Cream Cheese and Strawberry Open Face Sammies

We're in the middle of summer and I've been slacking as far as the blog posts go. My apologies, but I have a lame excuse, I do. There are too many delicious recipes to try and too much time to spend outdoors. Well this long over do post is one that is delish and truly not my own creation. It's a compilation of a few great bloggers out there and let's give credit where credit is due. The sour cream banana bread comes from Courtney at and the strawberry sauce/compote comes from Christine who got the recipe from Aunt Missy's Kitchen.

I love a creamy banana bread and Courney hit the nail on the head with this one. Here's her recipe (with one minor change from me):

Sour Cream Banana Bread
8 slices

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened (Courtney melted her butter)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large very ripe bananas
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon. baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Grease an 8 inch bread pan with butter or cooking spray.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. I used my hand mixer for this stage and mixed ingredients together until smooth and no brown sugar lumps remained. Put your mixer away and whisk in the sour cream, add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mash the bananas then whisk them into the sour cream/egg mixture.
Sprinkle the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon on top then stir it together until flour is incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Check the pan after about 30 minutes. If the top is getting too browned, cover with foil for the remaining baking time. I didn't have to do that the two times I made this bread.  Allow the bread to cool before removing from the pan. Wrap leftovers in saran wrap. Bread will keep for up to a week. (Mine is gobbled up in a matter of days)
Now how about some strawberries to top this moist, delicious bread? Sounds good to me!

Homemade Strawberry Sauce

12 oz fresh strawberries rinsed and hulled
3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp butter
Pinch of salt
Juice of 1 lemon (Missy uses 1/2 a lemon)
2 level teaspoons cornstarch
1 T cool water

In medium saucepan combine half the berries, sugar, butter, lemon juice and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium low heat for about 7 minutes, stirring a few times to make sure the sugar is dissolved and the mixture doesn't stick to the pan. (If you forget the butter, as I did the first time I made this, the mixture WILL stick to the pan, but the easy solution is to add the butter as soon as you realize you forgot it and you should be all right). In a separate small bowl, combine cornstarch and water and stir until smooth. Pour the cornstarch slurry into the strawberry mixture and stir. Allow berries to bubble and simmer for another minute or two and remove from heat. Add the remainder of the strawberries. Cool and refrigerate for later.

As Missy says, "this makes a great sauce for cheesecake, ice cream, pancakes, French Toast etc". I took the etcetera route and made a decadent breakfast/brunch entrée or side. Open Faced Banana Bread, Cream Cheese and Strawberry Sandwiches. Yummy delish, that's all I can say. Thanks fellow bloggers for all your inspiration!
And a few days later, I came up with this idea for easy portability. Three layer banana bread with all the fixings.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Mediterranean Inspired Orzo Salad

Here's a new favorite salad of mine, created in my mind a while ago, and served on the table tonight. It's light and tasty and will make every little taste bud dance in your mouth. I promise it will, and the pastabilities are endless!

Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Serves 6

2 T canola oil
1 large onion diced
Kosher salt
1 cup uncooked orzo
Additional salt and pepper
1-3/4 cups water

1/2 English cucumber peeled, seeded and thinly sliced in half moons
4 scallions chopped 1/4 inch
4 oz roasted grape tomatoes halved
10 Kalamata olives halved
2-3 oz feta cheese chopped 1/4 inch
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

2 T store bought hummus
Juice of 1 lemon
2 T light soy sauce
1 T toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

To cook the orzo: In medium size saucepan on medium low heat, heat your canola oil. Add the chopped onions and some salt and pepper. Cook uncovered on stovetop to soften the onions, not brown them. After about 5 minutes they will be translucent and ready to accept the orzo. Add the cup of orzo and coat with the buttery onions. Add a bit more salt and pepper (the orzo has absolutely no flavor if you do not season it). Stir to combine onions and orzo and let the orzo toast a bit (2-3 minutes). Add water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to the lowest simmer and cook 12-13 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

While orzo is cooking, make your dressing and prep your veggies. The dressing is so simple...just put all ingredients into a medium size jar, shake and dressing is done. Even though there's soy in the dressing, I add a pinch or two of salt. It's up to you, but I like that little extra pinch in there.

Place all salad ingredients into a medium size bowl and toss with a 1/4 cup of dressing.

Now add the cooled orzo and dress with another 1/4 cup of dressing. Add some more cilantro leaves and serve in lettuce cups if you desire.

And now for the re-mixes: How about adding a cup of chick peas or artichoke hearts? And if you'd like to take this out of the vegetarian arena, give some small dices of salami a try- I bet that would be delish. You could also switch out the cilantro for mint. Or try a creamy goat cheese, buttery fontina or tangy blue. My favorite addition/idea to this salad so far will be to add some falafel croutons. I haven't tried that yet, but I will for sure. And soon!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Penne Pasta Crab Louie Salad

It's salad season and I'm excited to share this new one with you. It's quick, inexpensive and looks oh-so pretty on a plate. I was going to make it with shrimp but came across some imitation crab on sale at my market. All I can say is, what a difference in price, and it's worth a try! I used to be a snob about the Pollack/King Crab mixture and wouldn't give it a second thought. Well, times have changed. I'm a big girl now and have to admit, it's really quite delicious. The brand I bought is Trans Ocean Crab Classic and I'll buy it again.

Penne Pasta Crab Louie Salad
Serves 4-6

The Salad
6 oz uncooked penne pasta
8 oz imitation crab
1/2 cup finely diced celery
4 scallions (white and light green parts) chopped

The Sauce
1-1/2 T cocktail sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used lite)
1/4 cup sour cream (optional)
1/2-1 lemon
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 T capers
salt and pepper to taste

The Garnish (use one or all)
hard boiled eggs
baby spinach
grape tomatoes halved
Olde Thompson Steak & Burger Seasoning

Prepare penne according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, prep your crab, celery and scallions. When penne is cooked, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. To make the Louie sauce, combine all ingredients, mix well and taste to see if you need additional salt, pepper or lemon. I like my Louie sauce on the lemony side. Mix your sauce with the cooled pasta, crab, celery and scallions and refrigerate until chilled.

Right before serving, I give the salad an additional squeeze of lemon to loosen it up a bit and regenerate it. Plate this baby up and enjoy, I sure did!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Berry Good Baked Pancake

Some of you may have seen the King Arthur baked pancake post on face book the other day. This is the link I saw. Blueberry pancakes cooked in the oven. Brilliant!! But does it work? I'm happy to say in capital letters, "YES, YES it does". Great for breakfast, brunch, dinner or anytime. I had 12 ounces of fresh raspberries and thought I'd go for it. I think this recipe should feed 6 people, but after my two helpings I snuck in a third one. So plan on a meal for 4, just saying... So simple and ready in a half hour.

King Arthur Inspired Baked Raspberry Pancakes
Serves 4

1 T unsalted butter for greasing a 9" x 13" pan (I used a glass dish)
2 cups Bisquick original pancake/baking mix (any pancake mix will do, or from scratch)
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
12 oz fresh raspberries divided

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp maple extract
Approximately 1/4 cup milk
dash of salt

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your pan with butter. Set aside and make your pancake batter according to package directions. Add in 6 ounces of the fresh raspberries and pour into baking dish. Place on middle rack in oven. Set timer for 35 minutes.

While the pancakes are cooking make the glaze. With whisk, combine the confectioner's sugar, maple extract and 1/4 cup of milk (or even less, depending how thick you like your glaze). Set aside and wait for pancakes to come out of the oven.

When pancakes are done (test them as you would a cake, with a toothpick) set aside and let cool a bit. When warm and not too hot anymore, brush with at least half the glaze. Slice into 12 squares, garnish with the additional berries and drizzle on some more of that decadent glaze.

Since this was a test recipe for me, I pretty much followed King Arthur's directions to the letter. I'm thinking next time a little orange or lemon zest would be a happy addition to the batter. And call me crazy, but even some mini chocolate chips in the batter would work nicely, with a small little squirt of chocolate sauce on the side. Thanks King Arthur, I'm a happy gal tonight.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Another Saucy Idea

I'm still working with the Saucy Mama products that were sent to me and tonight's dinner (shame on me it's not a balanced meal) was delish! It's an appetizer that fit my mood and evening time frame. And again, you're going to like this little gem! It's 3 ingredients, how nice is that?

Saucy Kielbasa Rounds
Serves 4-5 as an appetizer
1 package (13 oz) Polska Kielbasa (I used Hillshire Farm Lite)
10 oz apricot jam (I used Smucker's Simply Fruit)
5 oz Saucy Mama Apricot Ginger Mustard
Slice kielbasa into 4 or 5 pieces and place in water in semi-deep saucepan. Bring water to a boil and lower heat to simmer. Cook about 20 minutes until sausage has plumped. Remove from water and let cool. Save about one cup of cooking water (I added less) to enhance the mustard/apricot sauce.
When sausage is cool, slice into 1 inch rounds. Add them back to the pot they were previously cooked in and add the mustard and apricot jam and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Stir to combine and simmer on low for 30 minutes or even a little longer until sauce reduces and gets a little sticky. 
Plate and serve. This is a burst of flavor on a plate!

Friday, May 29, 2015

More Saucy Noodles


Here's another quick recipe using two Saucy Mama dressings. It's Asian inspired and just like last week's recipe, it has only 7 ingredients. Thanks Saucy Mama for doing all the hard work!

Chicken Sesame Peanut Noodles

8 oz linguini
1/2 cup Saucy Mama Pacific Rim Ginger Dressing
1/4 cup Saucy Mama Sesame Ginger Dressing
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 T toasted sesame oil
4-5 chopped scallions
1/2 pound ground chicken

1/4 cup chopped peanuts or toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Crushed red pepper flakes for topping (optional)

Sauté your chicken on stovetop on medium heat with a little salt and pepper until cooked through and in little crumbles. Drain any fat from the pan and set aside. While chicken is browning, cook linguini according to package directions, chop your scallions and make the dressing.

To make the dressing: whisk together the 2 Saucy Mama dressings with peanut butter and sesame oil.

That's it, dressing is done. Doesn't it look yummy? I could dive right in. Add cooled/rinsed pasta, chicken and chopped scallions. Mix well, and plate with chopped peanuts or toasted sesame seeds. Serve at room temp and add a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes for a bit more heat.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Saucy Grilled Shrimp and Pasta Salad

I'm in love with the flavors of Asia. Whether it's a curry, stir fry or salad, I'm giving it a try in my kitchen. And I have spent hours upon hours testing recipes that mimic my favorite dishes from the authentic Asian restaurants I frequent. Imagine my delight when I tasted Saucy Mama's Pacific Rim Ginger Dressing? Wowser!! Was I impressed! It had all the flavors I usually strive for when I make my garlic/ginger dressing. And there's no grating ginger or chopping garlic, no checking the pantry and fridge for rice vinegar and soy sauce, and no measuring anything. And I'm reluctant to admit, but I's as good or maybe even better than my homemade.

So let's get cooking and put together a simple salad that's perfect for a weeknight meal or company fare. And it's only seven ingredients. Yes, you read that right, seven ingredients.

Pacific Rim Ginger Grilled Shrimp and Pasta Salad
Servers 4 to 6

1 lb Gulf Shrimp peeled and deveined (I like the 16-21 count)
1 cup Saucy Mama Pacific Rim Ginger Dressing divided
1/2 lb sugar snap peas
1 large red pepper sliced 1/4 inch
2-3 scallions chopped
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
8 oz linguini

I just made this tonight and it's fresh in my mind. This is what I did. I soaked some wooden skewers in water for a half hour (so they don't burn on my indoor grill). While they were bathing I poured 1/2 cup of Pacific Rim Ginger Dressing into a gallon size plastic bag. In went the cleaned shrimp, and they had a bath of their own for 30 minutes. I then skewered them and cooked them in my grill pan on my stovetop for about 2-3 minutes per side.

Yummy looking right? One of these skewers is meant for the chef, so help yourself, simply delish. The shrimp can sit for a bit while you assemble the salad. Cook linguini according to package directions and drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. While pasta is cooking, chop the cilantro and scallions, and microwave the sugar snaps for 1-1/2 minutes. Most people don't cook their red peppers, but I microwave mine for about 45 seconds (Crazy? maybe, but I think they're just a little bit sweeter that way). Combine pasta and cooled veggies, scallions and cilantro in a bowl and toss with remaining 1/2 cup of dressing.

Plate and garnish with cilantro leaves. You can serve the shrimp on skewers as I did, but when it's mixed with the pasta salad, it's pretty impressive as well. Serve at room temp or even cold.

Saucy Giveaway! Yes, a giveaway. Please leave a comment here or on my facebook page for a chance to win some Saucy Mama products. I see some good eating in some reader's future. Details about the giveaway will be posted soon.

Diane Smith, you've won the giveaway! I'll message you with the saucy choices. Congrats!!!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Exciting News!

I'm so excited, yes I am! I'm one of twenty five bloggers selected to compete in the 2015 Saucy Mama recipe contest. This contest is a biggie. It awards one winner a paid entry and all expenses paid trip to the World Food Championships this year in Kissimmee, FL which takes place next November. As always, I'm going to give it my all. I've got lots of ideas and am waiting for the products to arrive. This Saucy Mama wants to win! Be sure to check out my upcoming recipes and sign up for a chance to win some Saucy Mama products so you can enjoy them in your kitchen as well. Details to follow.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Caramalized Onion, Bacon, Cheese and Baby Kale Strata

Before I say good bye to winter, I must share my latest strata (last of the comfort food hopefully?). Remember, I live in New England and while a lot of the country has been enjoying comfortable temperatures, I made this dish 3 days ago when it was hailing on my way home from work. It's a simple fix, and I know you're going to like the caramelized onion/cheese/bacon/kale combo. Oh and the little tang of Dijon mustard is just perfect. Here's what you need to put this little darling together, and you don't have to be having a tough winter to make this, it's a great brunch entrée- hot out of the oven or served at room temp.

End of the Winter Strata
Serves 6

6 slices bacon chopped 1 inch pieces
1 T olive oil
2 medium sized onions chopped
1/2 cup Fontina cheese shredded
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese crumbled
3/4 cup baby kale chopped
8 slices hearty white or Italian bread cut into 1 inch cubes
4 large eggs
1-3/4 cups milk or half and half
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 T unsalted butter melted

Let's do this with pictures. It will help me next year when I'm at my wit's end with cold weather. Yes, that might help!

Sauté bacon in a large pan.

When just about crisp, remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Save 1 T of bacon fat and place back in pan and add 1 T of olive oil. Add your onions and cook on low heat for at least 20-30 minutes.

Add a little salt and pepper if you like. I did. While onions are caramelizing, shred your Fontina cheese and crumble the Gorganzola. Now chop your baby kale, slice your bread, melt butter and prepare your egg custard. In mixing bowl or large measuring cup mix eggs, milk, mustard, salt, pepper and cooled melted butter.

Prepare an 8" x 8' baking dish with cooking spray and layer 4 of the sliced pieces of bread.

Add your cooked bacon, caramelized onions, cheese and kale.

Top with the rest of the sliced bread and add the egg custard. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about an hour.

Since I've been making strata's all winter, I've been reading up on the "setting-up in the fridge" time of this lovely dish, and I am of the belief that 1 -2 hours is all you need. Some say overnight. Sorry- I don't have time for that, and also...I don't think it bakes as well. Yeah, I'm a rebel. But try it my way, I think you'll be happy. So put this little dish of deliciousness in a 325 degree oven and bake for 50-55 minutes. Oh, you can also add a bit more cheese to the top. It is a farewell to winter right? Take a look. Imagine how good it tastes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tex-Mex Orzo

Who doesn't love a side dish of flavorful Southwestern infused spices with black beans, corn, jalapenos, onions and orzo? Orzo, you ask? Well, I didn't have any rice but had an abundance of orzo (rice shaped pasta) and decided it would do the trick. This is quick and a perfect side with anything you're serving. And the good news? After you've put together your spice mix and chop your onions, this dish comes together in less than 20 minutes. Tempting? Let's give this recipe some star treatment.

Tex-Mex Orzo
Inspired by a very bare pantry

You won't use all this, but you certainly can for a bit more punch

1 tsp ground chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 can reduced sodium (15 oz) black beans rinsed and drained
1 can diced green chilis (4 oz)
1 cup uncooked orzo
1-3/4 cups water (you can use chicken broth)
1 cup frozen corn defrosted
1 tsp kosher salt
1-2 T Franks hot sauce

Let's cook! Mix together the spices.

On stovetop, in medium size sauce pan on low heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Now add the chopped onions and a teaspoon of spice mix and sweat for 4 to 5 minutes. I cover my pot and make sure the onions don't brown.

Looking and smelling goods far. Now add the orzo and another teaspoon of spice mix and toast the orzo for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the beans, chilis, and water. And one more teaspoon of spice mix and stir to incorporate.

Increase heat until water begins to simmer. Stir in another teaspoon of salt, lower heat, cover and gently simmer for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, your orzo is almost done. Add in the corn and stir. Now turn off the heat, cover with a paper towel, then your pot lid, and let sit for about 5 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.

Uncover and add in your hot sauce and stir. Tex-Mex Orzo is ready.

For the spice lovers in your group, serve some extra hot sauce on the side. It will be much appreciated. And by the way, this is not too spicy to serve the kids. It packs a little bite at the back of your mouth, but it's a very pleasant bite. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to re-mix this recipe to your liking. Add some tomatoes, red peppers, and even some healthy spinach. Oh, and don't forget to top with some cheese. I'm looking forward to a stocked pantry by the weekend when we might even have a weather forecast without snow or sleet!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Boiled, Baked and Fried

I'm a little obsessed with potatoes right now. It's been a long winter in New England and indulging in comfort food has kind of taken over. My last post, Twice Baked and Loaded inspired this decadent, yummy potato casserole and the fried potato pancakes that came soon after. Get ready for some good eating. Yes this is a rich side dish, and as a matter of fact it's one of the most decadent concoctions I've ever put together. But it's a side dish, so you don't have to eat it all in one sitting (you'll want to save some for the Bonus Fried Tater Cakes), and it does have it's redeeming qualities- like it's loaded with veggies (artichokes and spinach), slow roasted garlic and of course lots of love. Ready? Let's cook.

Artichoke and Spinach Dip Potato Casserole
Serves 6-8

Roasted Garlic 1 small head of garlic
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

The Dip
8 oz Neufchatel cheese (lower fat cream cheese) softened to room temp
1/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup reduced fat shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup lite sour cream
1/3 cup lite mayonnaise
5 oz frozen chopped spinach thawed or defrosted in the microwave, then squeezed dry to remove any liquid
1 medium-large can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 head of roasted garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp hot sauce

The Taters
5-6 Yukon Gold potatoes (medium sized) cut into 1 inch pieces
2-3 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2
salt and pepper

To roast the garlic: Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a baking sheet in the oven as it pre heats. Remove some of the outer layers of the garlic skin if they are plentiful. Cut the top off the head of the garlic and place on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Seal the foil and place on pre-heated baking sheet. Roast 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and squeeze the roasted pulp into your mixing bowl (discarding the skin) with the Neufchatel. We're going to put the dip together.


To roasted garlic and Neufchatel, combine the rest of the dip ingredients.

While you're making the dip, get the potatoes started. Put diced potatoes into a medium size saucepan, cover with salted cold water and bring to a boil on stovetop. Cook about 20 minutes until fork tender. Remove from heat, drain water, and let taters dry a bit in the hot pot they've cooked in. Time to give these babies some love. Add your butter and Half and Half to the potatoes and lovingly give them the mash of their lives. If I had a ricer, this would be when I would grab it- it's the perfect utensil for the creamiest mashed potatoes. But my old fashioned potato masher did almost as well.


That is one pot of creamy goodness. Take a taste, add a bit more salt and pepper if you think it needs the additional seasoning. I added a tad more salt. Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees and spritz your baking dish with a veggie oil spray. In medium sized mixing bowl combine the mashed potatoes with the dip. Take another taste. I think you should be very pleased. If you're feeling extra decadent, sprinkle a little more Parm on top of the casserole, you know I did.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes and serve.

If, and I stress if, you have any leftovers, you're going to want to try these tater pancakes inspired by Sarah Moulton, one of my favorite cooks ever. I only had enough left over to make 3 pancakes (well.... I did make them rather large and could have gotten maybe 5 or 6). I followed her recipe to the letter, and yes, you do have to cook them at least 15 minutes per side on medium low. Fabulous recipe, and a fulfilling experiment for me.

Happy Spring! And now that the weather is changing, let's bring on the salads, I'm ready!