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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Anniversary Chicken

Almost exactly a year ago I had one of those desperate evenings when I had no idea what to make for dinner. I browsed a couple of recipe sites for ideas and found this dish that happened to include ingredients that we happened to have on hand. When Bob looked at the recipe, he said, "Sounds like a teenage boy's dream come true--teriyaki sauce, ranch dressing, bacon, cheese--what more could they want?" And in fact, our son asked for it a couple of weeks later for his eighteenth birthday dinner.

I passed the recipe on to my sister-in-law, Marianne. I don't think I made it again. Last week Mari asked why the recipe wasn't on the blog. "Because I never make it," I said. She said that she makes it all the time and felt that it should be shared with the rest of the world, so I made it for dinner the other night and was pleasantly surprised. It was much better than I remembered.

I made a few changes this time. Instead of using straight teriyaki sauce, I thickened our usual sauce with a heaping teaspoon of cornstarch, cooked on the stove top until it thickened a bit. You can also use prepared sauce from the store; I can't recommend a particular brand, but I'd recommend something that looks thick enough to stay on the chicken. I also used our homemade ranch dressing, but commercial brands work just fine. As one last note, I used chopped, sauteed white onions for this version because that is what I had in the pantry (I sauteed them in the leftover bacon drippings). Finely chopped green onions (not sauteed) also work well and are a bit prettier, in my opinion.

Anniversary Chicken
1/3 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup teriyaki sauce (thicken with corn starch if necessary)
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3-4 green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on the stove top. Fry chicken in hot oil until light brown on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Arrange chicken in a baking dish. Spoon the teriyaki sauce over the chicken breasts. Add a spoonful of ranch dressing to each breast and spread evenly. Top with cheese, then top with onions and bacon. Bake for about 20 minutes, then serve.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yet Another Spinach Salad

While I have posted a couple of other spinach salad recipes (see here and here), this is the original and best loved spinach salad in our family. It's taken awhile to get it just right. I started out with a mustard viniagrette dressing about which Bob was not too enthusiastic. I then made a sweeter dressing that I didn't think had enough personality. But a couple of days ago I found what might be the perfect combination for our family. It's an easy dressing with just the right combination of tanginess and sweetness.

As with many salad recipes, there are endless variations. I've listed some of our favorite ingredients below. We mix and match according to what we have on hand and what seems to look the prettiest. The kids agree that the essential ingredients are bacon (of course), eggs and cheese. And of course, spinach.

Spinach Salad
6-8 cups fresh spinach, stems removed
1-2 mushrooms, thinly sliced
5-6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
3-4 radishes, thinly sliced
1/3 to 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1-2 carrots, shredded or thinly sliced
1/2 cup mozzarella or cheddar cheese, grated
2-3 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Mix all ingredients except the eggs in a large mixing bowl. You can actually chop up the eggs and mix them in if you like; I think they look great sliced and placed on top. Toss all the ingredients with the dressing (recipe below). Top with the eggs if you chose not to mix them in.

Spinach Salad Dressing
1/2 cup creamy salad dressing (e.g. Miracle
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Transfer to a serving dish and serve.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pomegranate - Avocado Salsa

I admit to being a little bit sheepish about posting this appetizer. I got it from a friend a few years ago, and it took me awhile to persuade her to share it. She had obtained the recipe from a friend who felt it was hers. But it's got the most incredible flavors, and when you don't use mushy tomatoes (see above), it's downright beautiful. The perfect accompaniament for it seems to be Fritos (the big brown things sticking out of the middle of it, which was intended to be decorative). I like the larger Scoops version of Fritos because you can fit more salsa in the middle for a more diverse bite.

The colors make this a perfect Christmas appetizer (that and the fact that winter is pomegranate season). Perhaps the most difficult part of this recipe is seeding the pomegranate. The first time I tried it, I think the kitchen was almost completely pink with pomegranate juice. For a video that shows you an easy way to do it, see here.

Pomegranate-Avocado Salsa
1 ripe avocado, diced small
1 large tomato, diced small
1 T. finely chopped onion
1/4 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. salt
1 T. lemon juice
1/8 t. cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy)
Seeds of one pomegranate

Mix all ingredients together. Serve with large Fritos corn chips or Fritos Scoops.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shrimp Dip

Here it is, another remarkably simple appetizer that won't embarrass you, even in the nicest settings (unless someone's allergic to shell fish). This is a favorite of my dad's. We served it last night at a family party.

Shrimp Dip
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 bottle of cocktail sauce
1 6-ounce can of tiny shirmp

Spread the cream cheese evenly on a plate. I like to leave rather deep fork marks on the cheese so that it makes ridges for the cocktail sauce to settle into. Pour cocktail sauce over the cheese. I often only use about 3/4 of the bottle because I don't want it to be overpowering. Then sprinkle the tiny shrimp over the top. We usually serve this dip with an average sort of cracker such as Town House or Ritz; you don't want to use anything too flavorful or it will clash with the flavor of the dip.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Clam Dip

In honor of appetizer week, here's a recipe that we recently tried straight off of the clam can. It's a simple yet lovely dip that is a little more elegant than average.

The dip is shown here with a potato chip, the scoop of choice mentioned on the can. However, we found that the saltiness and greasiness of the chip overpowered the more subtle flavors of the dip. We tried some spread on baguette slices and liked it much better.

The recipe came from a can of Snow's clams. I've read other places that Snow's is an excellent brand in comparison to others; since I'm using their recipe, the least I can do is give them credit!

Clam Dip
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 6-ounce can minced clams, drained, reserving
2 tablespoons clam juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce

In a small mixing bowl, beat cheese, sour cream and reserved clam juice until smooth and well blended. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover, chill thoroughly. Serve with sliced baguettes. Refrigerate leftover dip.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ham Rolls

This is another favorite that we generally only make around Christmas. This was a recipe I learned from my sister Pat that my children have enthusiastically embraced. We always make a lot of these, and they never last very long. They're a simple yet beautiful little delicacy.

Ham Rolls

1 package deli or sandwich sliced ham
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
Green onion stems or chives

Spread a thin coat of cream cheese on each ham slice. Lay the green part of an onion stem (or chive) on the slice. Role the ham slice like a jelly roll or sweet rolls. Chill ham rolls for 1-2 hours, then slice into 3/4 –inch segments.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pigs in a Blanket

One of our favorite holiday traditions is hosting an appetizer dinner party on Christmas Eve. We invite everyone from any side of our family. Half of the fun is thinking in the weeks preceding Christmas about all the many appetizers we can make.

This particular appetizer is a favorite with kids. It's also easy enough that our kids can make it. It's probably a stretch to even call it a recipe, but I'll include a recipe for honey mustard dipping sauce just to keep everything on the up and up. Other favorite dipping sauces include barbecue sauce or mandarin sauce. The kids insist that ketchup is also really good with them, but I haven't been able to bring myself to try it.

Pigs in a Blanket
1 package cocktail sausages, such as Little Smokies
2-3 packages pop out crescent rolls

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Open the packages of crescent rolls. Cut each perforated roll into three roughly triangular sections. Wrap a cocktail sausage in each section of roll. Seal it carefully and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-11 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and serve them while they're hot!

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
Mix honey and mustard and serve alongside Pigs in a Blanket

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ranch Dressing

About a year ago I was playing Scattegories with the kids. The letter we rolled was "R" and one of the categories was "beverage." Anna, who is eight, wrote "Ranch" as her answer. And given the way ranch dressing is treated in our home, we let her count it as being correct.

While the kids are ranch fiends and will consume incredible quantities of it in almost any form, Bob and I are what you might call ranch snobs. This is our new favorite home made version. We make vats of it (I am not making this up), but have scaled back the quantity to a level more appropriate to the average ranch consumer.

Ranch Dressing
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
3/4 teaspoon granulated onion
Dash white pepper

Combine the above ingredients and mix well. Then add:

6.5 ounces buttermilk (yes, it helps to have a kitchen scale. If you don't have one, use a little over 3/4 cup)

Add these ingredients and mix well:

13 ounces mayonnaise (a little less than 1 1/2 cups)
8 ounces sour cream (one cup)

Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Easy Cheesy Rolls

These rolls were inspired by the breadsticks served at Magleby's, a local restaurant. We tried a similar version at a party and decided to give them a whirl. They are delicious and easy, although not particularly healthy. Our kids love them; I may have worked myself out of the real roll-making business for awhile.

The "recipe" gives you general directions; one of the beauties of this recipe is that as long as you have a bag of Rhodes or other frozen rolls, some butter, grated parmesan and Johnny's garlic seasoning and spread (available at Costco), you can make as many or as few as you like.

Easy Cheesy Rolls
Rhodes or other frozen roll dough
Melted butter - I used about 3/4 of a cube to make 24 rolls
Grated parmesan cheese - I used about two cups to make 24 rolls
Johnny's garlic seasoning and spread (I used about 1/2 cup for 24 rolls)

Thaw the rolls until they are soft but before they have begun to rise, about two hours. Immerse each roll in melted butter, then roll in parmesan cheese. Finally, roll the dough lightly in the garlic seasoning. Allow rolls to continue rising in a warm place for another hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the rolls are light golden brown.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mandarin Sauce

I got this recipe a few years ago when I was on the committee to plan a church dinner. We served ham, and one of the other committee members contributed the recipe for this sauce. I stored the recipe away for a few years until one Sunday when we discovered that the particular brand of spiral sliced ham that I had prepared didn't come with a seasoning packet. I quickly found the recipe and whipped it up; we haven't used seasoning packets since.

This sauce has a number of alternate uses. It's great on chicken nuggets for a quick kids meal. Since the recipe makes quite a bit more than we ever eat as a ham sauce in a single meal, we also often make a quick meal a few days later by adding some stir fried chicken, pineapple chunks, green pepper and onions for sweet and sour chicken. It's great served over white or fried rice.

Mandarin Sauce
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
½ cup crushed pineapple (juice and all)
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ginger
Dash red cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients except water and cornstarch in a blender and puree until liquified. Transfer to a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then let simmer for 20 minutes.  Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and add to the sauce; bring to a boil and cook until it thickens, about five minutes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Buttermilk Pie

This is a dessert that we learned how to make out of sheer frugality. A local restaurant used to have a lovely dessert parlor that served cake, pie, ice cream, etc. It was a great but somewhat expensive place to stop after an evening out. We loved their buttermilk pie the first time we tried it; we liked it enough that we went back several times. After a few visits, Bob calculated how many complete pies we could make for the price of one store-bought slice. We searched the internet and found many, many recipes. We combined, experimented, modified and came up with this as our final version.

I love buttermilk as a beverage, but if you aren't a fan, don't shy away from this pie. It has a mild, custardy taste. It's another recipe that's extremely easy to make, but dresses up well for a party or guests. We prefer it warm, but it can easily be heated in the microwave for a few seconds if your schedule doesn't work out to take it out of the oven just before serving. Then top it with whipped cream and the berries of your choice. Thaw the berries ahead of time so that there's a little juice to drip over the cream.

Buttermilk Pie

1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch single crust pie (for my viewpoint on the make vs. buy decision on pie crusts, see here.)
1 ¼ cups white sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 c. buttermilk
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
¼ c. butter

Mix sugar and flour. Add buttermilk, beaten eggs, vanilla. Melt the butter over low heat. Add to buttermilk mixture and mix well. Pour into pie crust and bake at 360 degrees for 80-90 minutes or until brown on top. I know that 80 to 90 minutes sounds like a very long time to cook. Even then, it will probably still jiggle when you take it out. But it will settle into a solid pie. Leave it in until the top starts to brown a little. Then take it out and let it rest awhile before serving.

Also, I've never tried this with soured milk (milk with vinegar or lemon juice added). I've substituted that combination for other recipes that call for buttermilk, but I've always used the real thing for this recipe.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Meatloaf Sandwiches

No one believes me when I tell them they're going to like meatloaf sandwiches. But almost always after just one try, they are convinced.

Meatloaf sandwiches are a great use of meatloaf leftovers. Believe it or not, they are better when the meatloaf is cold. I like mine very plain--Miracle Whip or mayonnaise, meatloaf, and classic white bread. Bob, of course has improved upon my original "recipe." Here's his list of preferred ingredients.

Meatloaf Sandwich
2 slices white bread
Miracle Whip or Mayonnaise spread of both slices of bread (he did a taste test between the two today, which I believe was inconclusive)
Enough 1/4-inch sliced meatloaf to cover the bread
1 or 2 slices of dill pickle
1 or 2 slices of cheddar cheese
1 leaf of romaine lettuce (although I'm sure iceberg would also suffice)
Thinly sliced rings of red onion

Here's a photo to illustrate his construction process: