Monday, July 28, 2014

Potato Boats ~Twice Baked Potatoes

I love having a few bags of these in the freezer.
 Whenever I make them I always make a big batch
while I'm at it and freeze the extras.  
Stuffed potatoes go great any grilled meat.
 We'll have two with our steak dinner tonight.
I freeze the extras on a cookie sheet until solid,
then  pop them, two in each sandwich bag, 
In the freezer for future easy dinners.
 First, bake or microwave russet potatoes
until soft. Cut in half and scoop out leaving
about 1/4 inch potato in shell..
 Mash with remaining ingredients.
 Mix in sour cream.
 Evenly distribute among potato shells.
I sprinkled the top with minced chives, a
little more cheese and a dash of paprika.
 These are frozen and I can let them thaw and 
bake in a toaster oven  (bake longer if still frozen).
The ingredients are very flexible to adjust to 
your liking. Here's how I make mine. 

Twice Baked Potatoes
6 large baking potatoes
1-1/2 t garlic salt
1/4 to 1/2 t pepper
1/4 C butter
1 C milk
1/2 C sour cream
2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
5 green onions, thinly chopped
 or 4 T minced c hives
paprika for garnish
Pierce skin of potatoes and bake @ 425º for about
50-60 minutes, until tender. Slice potatoes in half and 
scoop out the pulp into a bowl. Mash with milk, butter, 
garlic salt, and pepper, until fluffy. Stir in the sour cream, 
half the cheese and half the chives. Spoon the  mixture 
into the potato skins, dividing evenly. Sprinkle with
 the remaining cheese and chives. Sprinkle a little
paprika on top for color. Refrigerate until needed or bake
 right away at 375º for 15 minutes. You can freeze extras
on a cookie sheet and when solid pot them into 
plastic bags. Thaw before baking.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cherry Baby ~ Pie

 I must have cherry pie when cherries
 are in season. It's my favorite fruit pie.
You'll need about 3 cups of fresh dark cherries.
It's easier to weigh them to 
get 1-1/2 pounds
The first thing that stops most people
 from attempting cherry pie is pitting 
the cherries. 
If you don't have cherry pitter, 
I have a handy-dandy alternative.
I use a hard plastic straw, 
the kind that comes with insulated 
beverage containers works the best. 
Line up the straw on the end of the cherry and 
push straight down through to the other side
Viola! You've just removed the pit. 
You'll start to get the hang of it after a you've
 done few cherries.  Just give the straw a little 
twist when you feel the pit inside.
Use a cutting mat to collect any juices and 
also protect your surface from stains.
Toss the cherries with the filling ingredients. 
I sometimes use 1/3 C brown sugar and 1/3 C white. 
If you don't have almond extract, use vanilla 
or leave it out. If your cherries are very tart,
you can add more sugar and leave out the lemon juice. 
The basic filling is just fresh cherries, some sugar
 to sweeten, flour, and butter to thicken,
pretty much the same for any fruit pie. 
The other ingredients are personal preference.
 Roll out your crust. I think homemade crust
 is the best, HERE.
But you can use also store-bought. 
 Line the pie pan with the bottom crust,
 fill with the cherry mixture and dot with
 butter pieces. Top with crust. Trim edge
 leaving about 1" overhand. Fold overhang over 
edge and under bottom crust edge. 
Pinch together and flute.
Cut small vent slits on top.
 Bake @ 400º for 50-55 minutes, until
 crust is golden and filling is bubbly.
 Cool on rack until just warm. 
Bada Bing Cherry Pie!
Serve warm or at room temperature. 
Top with vanilla ice cream, if desired. 

Cherry Baby ~ Pie
3 C fresh cherries (about 1-1/2 lbs.) pitted
2/3 C sugar (can use half brown/half white)
1/4 C flour
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t almond extract
1/8 t (pinch) cinnamon
1/8 t (pinch) salt
2 T butter, cut into small pieces
double-crust pie pastry
Toss pitted cherries in a bowl with sugar, flour, lemon juice, extract, a pinch of cinnamon and salt. Line the bottom of a 9" pie dish with pastry. Fill with cherry filling, dot top with the small butter pieces, and top with remaining pastry. Trim edge leaving a 1" overhand. Fold overhang over edge and under bottom crust edge. Cut vent slits on top. Pinch together and flute. Bake @ 400º for 50-55 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Cool on rack until just warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Top with vanilla ice cream if desired.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Easiest Chicken & Rice Dinner EVER!

This is just the kind of no-fuss simple chicken 
dinner recipe you need for those days when
 you are starring at thawed chicken and can't
 think of a thing to do with it. 
Haven't we all been there?
Like when:
1) You're too busy. No time to chop and saute'.
2) You're too tired and not motivated to 
    look up a recipe.
3) You're late and need something in the oven
4) You haven't been to the store and are 
    out of everything.
5) You're sick and can barely get out of bed. 
6) You need to delegate something easy 
    for another family member to prepare.
This one will be here for you.
 After you've made it once, you'll have it 
memorized. Uncomplicated. 

You can just pop it in the oven for an hour and
have time to do whatever you want; walk the dog,
go for a bike ride, read emails, or just relax,
shower, and get yourself ready for dinner.
You can make a small dinner too.
You can use whatever chicken pieces you have;
 chicken breasts, a cut-up chicken
 or 6 thighs. Salt and pepper both sides.
Start: Spray a 2-qt baking dish and add the rice. 
Shake the dish a bit to cover the bottom.
I like Uncle Ben's Long Grain.
Lay the chicken on top of the rice.
Slowly pour the broth over everything. 
It will seem like lots of broth. You need that
 to cook the rice and keep it moist when done.

I used  homemade stock because I had some
 on hand, but I've also used the broth in a box,
canned or just 2 bouillon cubes (or 2t granuels)
dissolved in 2-1/2 C hot water.
Sprinkle seasoning on top. I season the chicken 
well with: seasoned salt, garlic and onion powder, 
pepper, herbs of choice; a sprinkle of parsley, 
and a shake of thyme. (Other options below.)
Cut up the butter and put a pat on each piece
 of chicken. Don't leave off the butter. It helps
 to brown the chicken and keeps it moist 
(since it's been skinned). It also flavors the rice.
In the oven, uncovered for 1 hour.
 All you need to add is a salad or green vegetable
 for a complete dinner.

Now you may be tempted to add mushrooms,
 canned or fresh, canned artichoke hearts,
chopped onions, doctor-it-up
 with a little curry powder or parmesan cheese,
strew some fresh chopped parsley on top...
all good variations. You could also replace the
 white rice with a bag of yellow rice.
 I'm just giving you the 101 version.
Change-up the flavors by adding any one of 
these sprinkled on the top of the chicken 
before baking: soy sauce, or paprika, or 
chili powder and cumin, or curry powder, or
add poultry seasoning along with cut-up
carrots and celery (yum), or try parmesan cheese,
basil and chopped tomato. Make it yours and
change it up a bit whenever you make it.
I sometimes sprinkle a little soy sauce on it
before serving, or when I'm reheating
any leftovers for lunch. Gives it a different
flavor. So easy. 
The Easiest Chicken and Rice
1 C raw rice
Cut-up chicken, skinned
(4 breasts or 6 mixed pieces)
2-1/2 C chicken broth
Seasonings of choice:
(garlic powder, onion powder, 
seasoned salt,pepper,herbs)  
 2 T butter
1-Put the rice in the bottom of
 a 2qt sprayed baking dish
2-Put the chicken pieces on top
3-Pour over the broth
4-Season the chicken well
5-Dot the chicken with pats butter
Bake uncovered for 1 hour @350º

tip: you can also use a cup of my Seasoned Rice Mix.
Links:  Facebook, Between Naps On The Porch,
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Easiest Way To Cook Bacon

I assumed that everyone cooked bacon this way,
 but I was wrong. We were talking 'bacon' at tennis
 this morning during our warm-up because one of
 the girls mentioned how much she and her family
 liked my Marshall Fields Special sandwich, even 
though frying bacon was such a mess. 
You fry bacon? Sooo much easier to microwave it.
Everyone had questions.
No one else on the court had ever done that. 
Does it get crisp? Yes! 
Here we go! 
 I prefer Oscar Mayer bacon. Layer 2 paper towels
on a (microwave-safe) dinner plate. 
 Lay on the bacon. 2 strips per person works
for us...breakfast or a BLT lunch sandwich.
 Cover the bacon with another paper towel.
Microwave 30 seconds less (in minutes) than the
number of bacon strips. For 4 strips it's 3-1/2
minutes, 6 strips would be 5-1/2". That what
works for me. The first time you do this check
about 30 seconds before it's done to see if it
 still needs more time. Microwaves vary.
 Golden brown and crisp! No over-cooked centers
 and fatty ruffles on the ends that you get
 when frying. No watching, turning or grease!
Look at that! No floppy bacon! You can have bacon
anytime now. That's a good thing. 
Now lets make a sandwich.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Top 10 July 4th Recipes

I've gathered a few of my favorite recipes 
that would be great for any 4th of July dinner.
 Coming in at # 1 is.....
This is the easiest, most amazing way to cook 
corn on the cob! It will change your life!
It's a great side for BBQ.
These are easy to pack up and don't require
a plate or fork. What's more American 
than chocolate chip cookies?
 If we're grilling steaks.
If you're grilling hot dogs dress them
the Chicago way.
Both very colorful and because you need a salad
 that can be made ahead of time.
#7. Asian Slaw:
 Isn't slaw required for the 4th of July?
I love a bean salad.  Find it refreshing
 and tangy. Plus it's made ahead.
If you need another dessert, this one will
 remind you of a summer root beer float.
'Cause there's always a chocolate dessert at
my house. The country-style presentation
in the skillet with a red/blue bandana tied on
 the handle elevates it to a perfect dessert
 for the 4th!

Enjoy and 
Have a Happy 
Independence Day!