Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Zesty Italian Pork Chops and Beefy Rice

Jason and I actually got to eat out tonight with ADULTS! Every Christmas, a group of our friends gets together to exchange gifts and to eat. This year, everyone seemed to be too busy so we weren’t able to get together before Christmas. We decided to meet at a local Mexican restaurant tonight and it was so nice to get everyone together, even if it was only for an hour! I actually missed cooking tonight, but I didn’t miss cleaning up the mess! It was nice to be able to just come home and relax. I’ve been cleaning the house like crazy this week, so I’m pretty tired of cleaning!

Since I haven’t posted last night’s meal yet, I’ll go ahead and post it now! I am still trying to use what we have in the house, so I took some pork chops out of the freezer. This is what I ended up making and it turned out pretty good. Our son, Chase, wasn’t too crazy about the rice, but everyone else liked it. I used to make it years ago by adding mushrooms and onions, but I didn’t have those two things on hand.  By the way, I know beef and pork normally don't go together too well, but this was very good together in my opinion!

Zesty Italian Pork Chops

6-8 Pork Chops
1 bottle Zesty Italian Salad Dressing
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning

1. In a large bowl or large Ziploc bag, pour bottle of salad dressing over pork chops. Add Worcestershire sauce and Creole seasoning and mix well. Marinate for at least one hour.

2. Preheat oven and bake at 350 degrees. (I used a convection oven on the broil setting, which I recommend because you can put the pork chops on racks instead of in a pan. I guess you could use a broiler pan if using your regular oven. Actually, they are best on the outdoor grill, but I don’t like grilling when it’s cold outside…I will leave that to my husband when he is home ;)

Tips: About half way through baking, I sprinkled a little more Creole seasoning on them. My husband said they had a little kick to them, so if you don’t like your foods too spicy, I’d leave that out, but if you want a little kick, I say go ahead and sprinkle away!

Beefy Rice

1 can beef broth
1 can beef consommé
1 cup rice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients in casserole dish.
3. Bake for about one hour, or until rice is done.

Tips: If adding onion and mushrooms, chop onion and mushrooms first and cook over medium heat before adding to casserole dish with other ingredients. Also, canned mushrooms work just fine!

Buttermilk Pancakes

I am really enjoying these days off! The kids have been enjoying their Christmas gifts, especially the Nintendo Wii. I have been catching up on some much-needed cleaning and organizing! It’s also very nice to be able to take my time cooking supper instead of having to rush in order to get it on the table before bedtime! And best of all, I get to cook breakfast! That’s not something I do when I have to leave for work at 7:30 in the morning! I’m not a morning person at all! I'll have to admit that when I do cook breakfast, I normally use store-bought pancake mix because it’s really quick and easy, but this morning I was out of it.  I came across a recipe for some buttermilk pancakes the other day on another blog that looked very good. You can check them out at Tried-and-True Cooking with Heidi. Thanks for sharing these, Heidi! I'll post the recipe here also with my added comments.  I will have to agree with her that they are almost as easy as using a store-bought mix! Since my husband was working today, I didn’t get his opinion of the pancakes, but the kids loved them. I thought they were very good, also!  I'll definitely be making these again!

Easy Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 1/8 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted (I was still out of butter, so I used spreadable margarine.  I'm sure they will taste even better with butter!)

1.  Preheat and lightly grease a large skillet or electric griddle. (I used an electric griddle and did not grease it.  I didn't have any problems with them sticking.  I set it to about 275 degrees.  If you are using a skillet, the temperature should be set on medium-low.  I used to be notorious for burning pancakes in a skillet until I finally figured out what the correct temperature should be!!!)
2.  Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a bowl. Add the egg, buttermilk, and butter; stir together lightly, but keep it lumpy. The batter should look thick, spongy, and puffy.
3.  Drop 1/3 cup of the batter onto the cooking surface, spreading lightly with the bottom of the cup. Cook until lightly-browned on each side, 1 to 2 minutes per side.  (I think it's a great idea to measure the amount of batter you drop onto the surface.  I never do, and my pancakes are always about 10 different sizes!  The kids always want the smallest ones!)

Monday, December 28, 2009


My challenge this week is to use only foods that I have in the house without having to go to the grocery store. Today, I took 2 pounds of ground beef out of the freezer and decided to make some meatloaf. I have never been a very big meatloaf eater, because it has always been rather plain to me. So, I decided to sweeten this meatloaf up a bit and it turned out great! Once again, the family was pleased! I’ll definitely be making this recipe again and again!


2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons onion powder
½ cup ketchup

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, salt, black pepper, Creole seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder and ketchup. Mix together and place into a loaf pan or casserole dish.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Now for the sweet part (the sauce):

½ cup ketchup
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

4. In a small saucepan, combine ketchup, brown sugar, white sugar and vinegar. Cook over medium heat until it begins to boil. Remove from heat.
5. Remove meatloaf from oven after it has cooked for 40 minutes and drain grease. Then pour sauce over meatloaf.
6. Return to oven and bake for 20 more minutes or until completely done.

Don't forget the mashed potatoes and corn!  I think it's a requirement to serve meatloaf with those two sides!  At least I think it is here in North Carolina!!

Hope you Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Celebrate with Chocolate!!

Today was an exciting day! I found out the other day that my blog was accepted to the Foodie BlogRoll!! It’s exciting for me because I can connect with other food bloggers around the world. It was also pretty exciting to be featured on the Foodie BlogRoll Widget today as 1 of the most recent 5 blogs! I had a lot of traffic and so far today, I have received 8 comments! WooHoo! Some of you may think I’m being a little silly, but my fellow food bloggers may understand how exciting this is! Since I started blogging a few weeks ago, I have felt like I was talking to myself and maybe a couple of stray visitors that happened to land upon my blog. Today I actually felt like people might be interested in my blog, so I am now motivated to post more often!

After baking tons of cookies, several cakes, seven pumpkin rolls, and cooking lots of food over the last week for Christmas (which I will post more on later), I wanted to take a break from baking for a few days. Ok, my break didn’t last long, because I had a craving for some Chocolate Chip Cookies and so did my husband. The kids were delighted that we had this craving, too! Tonight I decided to try a different recipe, which you can find here. After I started dumping in the ingredients, I realized I didn’t have enough butter, so I substituted 6 tablespoons of spreadable margarine, and they still turned out great! In the reviews, some people recommended chilling the dough in the refrigerator first, but I had wonderful results without taking that extra step. I must say, these were probably the most beautiful chocolate chip cookies that I’ve ever made! I took over a dozen pictures and it was difficult to choose just a few to share with you! By the way, they were absolutely delicious, too!!! My family loved them.  The kids already asked me if they could eat them for breakfast in the morning!

Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. (I sprayed the cookie sheets with Bakers’ Joy).
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. (I saved some chocolate chips to add them to the top of the dough after dropping onto the cookie sheet.  This makes for a better presentation since the chips are visible on top instead of just baked within the cookie).
4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. (I baked for 15 minutes. They were still light on top, but the bottoms of the cookies were light golden brown...PERFECT!!).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

This is a delicious, quick, and easy Chicken Pot Pie recipe!  It's the perfect way to use leftover chicken.  It tastes just like something that Grandma would have baked! 

We roasted two chickens a couple of night ago.  We had some leftover, so yesterday, I went through my fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what we had that needed to be used.  And this is what I came up with!  I did get some ideas from other recipes, including this one which was very helpful, but I'll share my version here.

Chicken Pot Pie

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon creole seasoning
2-3 cups of potatoes, chopped into small cubes
1 (15 oz) can whole kernal corn, drained
2-3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets (includes 2 sheets), thawed (If you do not do the lattice, you can use only 1 sheet by just laying it on top)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 9x9 casserole dish with cooking spray.
2.  Boil potatoes in water for about ten minutes, or until done.  Drain and set aside.
2.  In saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Stir in chicken broth, and whisk in the flour.  Add onion powder, pepper, salt and seasoning.  (This creates a wonderful base.  Taste it now and add more seasoning if desired).
3.  Stir potatoes, corn, and chicken into base until mixed well.
4.  Pour mixture into casserole dish.  Place puff pastry on top (I cut pastry into strips and weaved - very pretty this way).
5.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until pastry is done and inside is bubbling.  (You can turn oven off and let it sit for up to an hour before serving - it will still be nice and warm).

1.  Instead of a can of corn, add a can of mixed vegetables.  We don't care for carrots and celery, so I chose to just use corn.  You can also substitute a cup of the potatoes for a cup of fresh carrots.  There are so many variations!
2.  I had fresh potatoes on hand, but if you do not and would like to save time, a can of potatoes can be used.
3.  Refrigerate chicken before shredding.  It shreds so easily when it's cold!

This was thoroughly enjoyed by the entire family, as you can see!!  This should feed 8 people alone, but it would probably feed about 15 if served with other dishes.

Christmas break is almost here!

I am so excited!!! After today, I have a two week break from work (one good thing about working with the school system)! YAY!!! I've been very busy lately with my MBA classes, work, activities with the children, baking, and so on. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

MBA Classes...I took my last final exam Monday night and I must say that I was extremely proud of myself when I checked my grades last night to see that I received an A in both classes. I feel like all I have done in the last few weeks is study and write papers! I'm actually very excited about beginning my classes for next semester because I'm taking my first Hospitality Management course. It has something to do with event planning. It should be interesting and hopefully more enjoyable that some of the other courses I am required to take!

The children...They been very busy lately doing Christmas activities. All three children are in the choir at church and my daughter, Madison, is in chorus at school. They have been singing everywhere! The chorus' last performance is this morning and it is for the school. Our son, Chase, is in scouts and we had a pizza party Tuesday night. And of course, I've been preparing for their school parties. Those things are fun, but it’s nice to have a little break from those too!

Baking…I had ten orders for Thanksgiving and I’ve had a few since then. I have one cake to make tonight, and then I’m going to start working on Christmas orders. I’m also baking several things to give as gifts, so I will definitely be busy between now and Christmas (only one week to go)!

Catching up my blog…I have a ton of pictures and recipes that I need to post. I took pictures of all the food at Thanksgiving. After we set the table, I grabbed my camera and started snapping shots before everyone could dig in! They totally got a kick out of me taking these pictures! I realized later that I took more pictures of food than I did people and I am thinking that’s a sign that I’m getting very addicted to food blogging!

This break will be very nice, but I have already planned out almost every day...and I need to fit "clean the house" in there somewhere! I get to fight the Christmas crowds tomorrow. We’ve only bought two gifts so far! If I'm lucky, I'll find everything we need tomorrow so I can focus on my baking! Wish me luck!!

Merry Christmas Everyone and Happy Baking!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chocolate Mint Cookies

These are the other cookies that I made for the teachers. These are so good! They have Andes mints melted on top, which leaves a nice swirled effect! These were to die for when they were warm, but were still good and soft once they cooled! My husband loved them as well, so I'm sure I'll be making these time and time again!!

Chocolate Mint Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package thin mint candy, unwrapped and cut in half

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook butter, brown sugar, and water until melted.
2. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips. Mix until chips are melted. Set aside and cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.
4. Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl. Beat the eggs into the mixture. Add flour mixture and mix well.
5. Put dough into refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (I rolled it into a log and covered it with plastic wrap, so that it can be easily sliced - see photo below).
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
7. Slice dough or roll into balls. Place on greased cookie sheet (or parchment paper as I did).
8. Bake 8-10 minutes in preheated oven.
9. Take cookies out of oven and place one half of a mint on each cookie. Let them sit for about 5 minutes. Then, take spoon and swirl mint around on top of the cookie until melted all the way. Put cookies on a cooling rack and refrigerate for about 5 minutes so that chocolate hardens quickly. (Or you can eat them right out of the oven! YUM!)

Some people use a whole mint on each cookie. I think one half of a mint is enough. Also, in the photo above, I rolled my cookies into balls before placing on cookie sheet. I think they looked a little better, but it's much easier just to cut them from the log and place them directly onto the cookie sheet. The cookies are a little flatter this way, but you don't have to cook them quite as long. As you can see below, they still look great and taste great!

Dough rolled into a log and cut into slices:

These cookies were baked after being cut from the log:

Great Teacher Gifts.....Lemon Cookies

Last night, I made some goodies for the kids to take to their teachers as Christmas gifts. I was very brave! I tried three recipes that I've never tried before and just prayed that they would turn out to be good enough to give away! The two cookie recipes I tried were fabulous! I have given them their very own spot in my recipe book! The first cookies I tried were these Lemon cookies. This was the easiest recipe I've made in a long time because it uses a box of cake mix! If you like lemon, try these! You won't be disappointed!

Lemon Cookies

1 box of lemon cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp lemon extract
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Sift box of lemon cake mix into large bowl (sifting is optional, but I highly recommend).
3. Add eggs, oil, and lemon extract. Mix Well.
4. At this point, you can refrigerate the dough for about an hour if desired. While this is not necessary, I had good results with this. If not refrigerating, continue to next step.
5. Roll dough into tablespoon size balls. Drop balls of dough into confectioners' sugar and roll around until lightly covered.
6. Put them on an ungreased cookie sheet (I used parchment paper).
7. Bake for 8-10 minutes in preheated oven. The bottoms should be golden brown, but the insides should be soft.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blueberry Banana Pudding

My husband requested this dessert after seeing it on a local television station. I found the recipe on their website, which is located here. Everyone loved this dessert and it's so easy!

Since I have a banana allergy, I usually make a little on the side for myself without the bananas! I personally love the traditional cooked banana pudding recipe that my Grandmother made, but then again, my serving never had bananas in it, so I guess it wasn't really a "banana" pudding! The blueberries in this recipe give it a nice "POP!" If I can ever find my Grandmother's recipe, I plan to add blueberries to it! For now, my family and I will enjoy this delicious and easy recipe and I hope you enjoy it too!

Blueberry Banana Pudding

1 (5.1 ounce) box instant vanilla flavored pudding mix
1 (3.4 ounce) box instant banana cream flavored pudding mix
2 1/2 cups milk
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1 (16 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
6 ripe bananas
3-4 cups fresh blueberries
1 (12 ounce ) box vanilla wafers
Garnish: crushed vanilla wafers and blueberries

1. In a large bowl, combine pudding mixes and milk; whisk until smooth.
2. Add sour cream; stir until smooth.
3. Fold in whipped topping.
4. Fold in 1 cup blueberries.
5. In a trifle dish, layer one-third of pudding/berry mixture, half of the vanilla wafers, half bananas and half of remaining blueberries. Repeat layer.
6. Top with remaining one-third pudding mixture. Garnish with additional crushed vanilla wafers and blueberries.


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