Sunday, March 28, 2010

Baked Rice with Butternut Squash

I drove my caboose out to Jen and Barry's house last weekend and Jen and I made a stellar dinner together with the help of a glass or two of wine. We happily cooked up some fabulous new recipes..this being one of them. I had cooked the squash earlier in the day, so when I showed up at the house I was able to whip up this very tasty rice dish in no time at all, while Jen was working her magic on a savory cauliflower number and a peppery and buttery marinade for the steaks Barry would later grill to perfection.

When the cooking and grilling was complete and wine glasses were refreshed, we all took our seats at the table. Ahh...everything smelled sooo good!

Now, Mr. Noah loves his steak but he took one look at my new rice dish and was adamant that he didn't like it before he even tasted it, so we sold it to him as cheesy rice. Was it a lie? Well, there was some cheese in there - only 1/4 cup, but we used that 1/4 cup to convince him to try it. And guess what? He liked it...he really liked it!

We think you'll like it too!

Baked Rice with Butternut Squash
found at

One Butternut Squash (about 1-1/2 pounds)
2-1/2 Cups Less-Sodium Chicken Broth
One Cup Water
One Tablespoon Chopped Fresh or One Teaspoon Dried Rubbed Sage
One Teaspoon Olive Oil
One Cup Diced Onion
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
One Cup Uncooked Arborio or other short-grain rice
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Teaspoon Chopped Fresh or 1/4 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
Touch of Oil
1/4 Cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan Cheese have two options:

Place squash in crockpot and add one cup water. Turn on high and let it roast for 3 hours. Remove from crockpot and peel off the skin. Remove seeds. Set squash aside.


Place squash on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until tender; cool. Peel squash; cut in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and membranes.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Bring broth, water, and sage to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute 6 minutes. Add garlic; saute 2 minutes. Add rice; sauté 1 minute. Stir in squash, broth mixture, wine, chopped thyme, salt, and pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place rice mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish lightly coated with oil and cover. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes. Stir mixture gently. Sprinkle with cheese; bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Add liquid if too dry. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, if desired.

Best when served immediately.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Salmon Patties

Growing up in a Catholic family, we dutifully observed the no-meat-rule on Fridays during Lent. We ate a great deal of fish and mac and cheese - much to my delight - as these were my all-time faves. But we also ate our fair share of salmon patties. Whenever I peered into the kitchen and noticed them on that night's menu, I can't say I was too excited - nothing glamorous about salmon patties. Yet, by the time they got to the table and then my plate and then my mouth, I was always amazed by how good they were.

I've realized that as an adult, I don't eat much salmon from a can anymore. Instead, I enjoy the succulent taste of fresh salmon. But then last week, my sister Amy, who has five spunky and magnificent children sent me this tasty little number along with rave reviews from all the kids...even the temporarily picky four-year old, Zach. So, I decided to try them myself and was impressed with their sinfully savory flavor. I forgot how good they could be!

So, if you're observing the Lenten tradition, these just might be the perfect Friday night dinner for you and your family.

Baked Salmon Patties

14.5 Ounce Can Salmon
Milk (see directions)
One Cup Bread Crumbs, divided
1/4 Parmesan Cheese
1/4 Cup Butter or Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup Onion, finely chopped
1/4 Cup Red Pepper, finely chopped
1/4 Cup Celery, finely chopped
1/3 Cup Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Hot Chili Sauce (or as desired)
One Tablespoon Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Chives
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Dill Weed

Press the liquid from the canned salmon into a measuring cup. Add enough milk to measure 3/4 cup. Flake the salmon into a large bowl, removing any large bones. Whisk bread crumbs and Parmesan Cheese together in separate bowl. Set both bowls aside for now.

Gently saute' onion, pepper, and celery in butter until softened, but not browned. Whisk in the flour until smooth and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the milk mixture while continuing to stir and cook until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in the salmon, lemon juice, hot sauce, chives, dill, and 1/2 the bread crumbs. Refrigerate until firm. (You may do this a day in advance up to this point)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If you're using a stone dish, you're ready to go. Otherwise, line a shallow baking sheet with foil and lightly oil.

Divide chilled salmon into 8 portions forming patties. Place remaining bread crumbs in a shallow plate. Coat both sides of the salmon patties with crumbs. Place on baking sheet. Bake 35 minutes or until considered done.

Serve with tartar sauce and lemon wedges if desired.

Now..........wait for Easter!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

If you thought Mac & Cheese was made by Kraft and came in a box, we hope by now you've realized that Mac and Cheese is SOOOO much more. In fact, after a little research into how to create the BEST mac and cheese we found that the secret is to combine Cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan cheese.

But which Cheddar...which Swiss? There are so many to choose from! When it comes Parmesan, Reggiano is the clear winner. But to help us decide on the Swiss and Cheddar we took a trip to the cheese counter at Whole Foods and shared with the nice "cheese" gentlemen our dream of creating a Gold Medal Mac and Cheese. They were MORE than happy to let us sample the cheeses, which allowed us to choose with our taste buds how sharp we wanted our Cheddar to be and how deep of a flavor our Swiss would possess.

Below are the cheeses that were chosen to create our self-awarded Gold medal Mac & Cheese. Use what we did or taste-test for your own's as much fun as eating the end product!

Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

4 Cups Dried Penne Pasta
4 Tablespoons Butter
¼ Cup Flour
2-½ Cups Whole Milk
2 Teaspoons Dry Mustard
8 Ounces Cheddar Murray Bridge Australian Cheese, grated
4 Ounces Swiss Emmenthaler Cheese, grated
4 Ounces Parmesano-Reggiano Cheese, grated
½ Teaspoon Salt or more
½ Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Optional Spices: Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Thyme

Cook pasta until very firm. Pasta should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.

Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Add in cheese and stir to melt.

Add salt and pepper.

Pour in drained, cooked pasta and stir to combine.

Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

(We used the Parmesan on top with an additional sprinkling of bread crumbs...just for fun!)

One bite of this and you'll be saying, "Kraft who?!?!"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Okay, so the truth is.....we've been mesmerized by the sunshine, distracted by the beautiful blue skies, and totally slacking on our job of getting fabulous new recipes to you. Actually, we did just make a fabulous meal together which gave us four new recipes to pass along to you, but we don't have them ready for you just yet, so we're re-sharing one of our favorite cookies in case you missed it the first time. These should keep you very happy for awhile....

What do they say - there is an exception to every rule?

This recipe is one of our exceptions to the rule of never using boxed mixes. BUT, in our defense once you taste these cookies and then your spouse tastes them, and then your children taste them, and your parents taste them, you will all be so in love with them, you will understand why this has become an exception to the rule.

AND, these cookies are the easiest cookies you will ever make that look like they came straight from the bakery. We assure you, that when we figure out a way to make them without the box, we will share that recipe with you too. Until then....

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

One Box of Devil's Food Cake Mix
1/2 Cup Oil
2 Eggs

4 Ounces Cream Cheese
One Tablespoon Butter
1/4 Cup Sugar

In a mixing bowl, beat the cake mix, oil, and egg until completely blended. Then roll the batter into little balls and place on a cookie sheet or stone one inch apart. We hate to be picky about the size of each little ball, but each one must be the exact same size, so when it comes time to finding them the perfect partner to make a sandwich with, we don't have complete chaos. Of course, if you like your sandwiches a little wild and crazy, then roll each ball into whatever size you choose!

As these bake for 10-12 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven, beat the cream cheese, butter, and sugar to make the creamy filling.

As you pull the cookies from the oven, you will notice them flattening a bit and by the time you remove them from the stone they should be completely flat - perfect sandwich material!

Once the cookies are cooled, we begin the sandwich mating process. We start by choosing a cookie from the crowd. Then we search through the sea of remaining cookies for their perfect other half. Once we are happy with our match, we make the union official by bonding them with a little cream filling. For those of you with busy lives and more important things to do, you might just grab a random cookie, then another random cookie, and smoosh them together with some filling. That's cool too!

Now for our favorite part - the wiggle room factor!

If you like peanut butter with your chocolate, just add a little bit of peanut butter to the cream cheese filling and you have a wonderful chocolate peanut butter taste.

If you like the flavor of orange with Chocolate, or the ever-popular cherry flavor, drop a few drops of Orange Oil or Almond Extract in with the filling and create another wonderful flavor.

OR, you could separate the filling into three small bowls and make three different flavored cookies from one single batch! Like Magic - three cookies at once!

Also, choose your size when it comes to the cookie. You can make them as big as monster cookies or as cute and petite as the ones pictured above. However, if you're bringing them to a party, we highly recommend the smaller version, because they will disappear faster than cheese on a mousetrap!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Noodle Zuider Zee!!!

How many times have we said "Trust us...this is soooo good?"

Certainly, you trust us by now and know that we will not lead you astray when it comes to matters in the kitchen. This recipe is no exception. In fact, it may be the biggest surprise yet!

My younger sister and her husband used to work for Boystown in Omaha, Nebraska where they were Family-Teachers to eight teenage girls. Many of the young ladies had rarely sat down to a table for a family supper. They were most accustomed to boxed meals, pop tarts, and hot-dog casseroles. Amy and Eric were more than happy to change that for them. They introduced the girls to many wonderful nutritious and hearty meals, but have always marveled at the fact that this recipe was the most requested dish.

The ingredients are few, but well chosen. Each one adds it's own flare and plays very well with the others. The flavor is unique, surprising, and us!

Noodle Zuider Zee

One Pound Sausage
8 Cups Finely Sliced or Shredded Cabbage
One Apple, diced
8 Ounces Spaghetti
1/2 Cup Water
One Teaspoon Salt
Dash of Pepper

Brown sausage in skillet, stirring to separate into small pieces. Pour off any drippings in excess of 1/4 cup. Add cabbage, apple, water, salt and pepper; cover and simmer until cabbage is just crisp and tender. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti and drain in colander. Add noodles to cabbage, apple, and sausage mixture. Stir together. Heat together.

Serve happily!

Note: I've used several different types of sausage for this recipe and the type of sausage used is crucial to the flavor. If you're going to use turkey sausage be certain it is seasoned well because it needs to be flavorful. Our family has used seasoned hamburger also and it works, but it definitely gives the dish a different tone.

Second Note: I usually add an additional apple. I choose a Fuji or Jonagold or Honeycrisp and then I throw in a Granny Smith for giggles.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

The first time I ate these pancakes I was in Indiana visiting my brother's family, on a Saturday, in the fall, and it was sunny outside. I remember the details of that day because food does that to me. I remember sitting in the dining room when a wonderful smell entered the room. It smelled like baked sweetness. I said, "What is cooking in the kitchen?"

"Cottage Cheese Pancakes" was the reply.


These pancakes were so moist and so wonderful with just a hint of sweetness that maple syrup for me, was not a necessity. ( Jen, The Pancake Master is totally freaking out right now because warm maple syrup is a no-brainer in her book and I'm sure most of you would agree.) All I'm saying is these pancakes did not need it. Call me crazy, but I like to first taste the cake and then assess the need for added sweetness.

What's even better is the speed at which these pancakes can be made. If you can't whip up this batter in the time it takes to heat up your skillet or griddle, then someone should light a fire under your butt, because I can throw all the ingredients together and blend them into the perfect batter and still be staring at the stove waiting for the temperature to be just right. This is a feat anyone can accomplish, so challenge yourself!

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Four Eggs
One Cup Cottage Cheese
1/2 Cup Oats
One Tablespoon Vanilla
One Teaspoon Almond Extract (optional, I suppose)
Milk (optional)

Drop eggs, cottage cheese, oats, vanilla, and almond extract into your blender. Blend until all oats are dust. Done!

I have made this recipe for years using 1/2 cup oat flour instead of oats, but the rest of my family makes it the original way with the rolled oats. Choose your own path...

As far as I am concerned, the ingredient most responsible for the flavor in these pancakes is the cottage cheese, which is probably why the pancakes are named after him, but choose your cottage cheese wisely. Low fat, low quality, poor tasting cheese will result in low fat, low quality, poor tasting cakes. Choose your best cheese....

Milk is optional because you can add it if you feel the pancake batter is too thick. I have never used it myself. These pancakes have a crepe quality and I have never seen the need to thin them further.

The vanilla and almond extract really makes this recipe sing! Do NOT deny yourself

Wow! For such a simple recipe, there sure is a lot to say.....

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mom's Special Meat Sauce

When I was growing up, my dad wasn't a fan of anything spicy, so in turn, neither were we kids. Or rather, we didn't know that spiciness existed. When I started going to other kids' houses for dinner, I was always surprised when their moms served spaghetti. It was never anything like what MY mom served!! And although my tastes are now quite varied and diverse, I still love this ultra-thick spaghetti sauce with all my heart. It is comforting in so many ways, and pleases even the pickiest kids because it is mildly sweet and not spicy. It also makes a very large amount, so we usually use half for dinner, and put the rest in a large ziploc bag and freeze it for later. I love getting two meals out of one!

Mom's Special Meat Sauce

2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 lb. sausage
1 large can stewed tomatoes
1 can Campbell's tomato soup
2 cans tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, pressed
3 medium onions
salt & pepper
2 tbsp. sugar

Brown the ground beef, sausage, garlic, and onions in a large skillet. Add the tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato paste, and salt & pepper to taste. I always thought the addition of Campbell's tomato soup was weird, and I tried a few different substitutes. But do you know what I found out? There is no substitute! Nothing tastes quite the same...and I'm not sure that I want to know what that means, but I love this recipe anyway!!!

Ok, back to the recipe...add 2 tbsp. sugar to the sauce and simmer for 2-3 hours. I know you won't want to add the sugar...I never want to either, but it does tone down the acidity of the tomatoes, so try it! I really think you'll like it!