Friday, February 5, 2016

Scalloped Potatoes with Three Cheeses

These potatoes a staple in all of our holiday meals.  Absolutely delicious, I mean really, really, really delicious.  I first tasted them at a demo at Central Market in San Antonio.  And since then, it's definitely in our Top Three favorite dishes.  Originally posted April 10, 2011.

This is the potato dish Jim most often requests. This was a demo dish at Central Market when we lived in San Antonio and I cannot tell you how many times I've made it, and how absolutely delicious it is! We have it with just about every basic, traditional, holiday meal: Chrismas, Thanksgiving, Easter. Turkey or ham. I roasted a turkey yesterday so had a great excuse to make another dish of these yummy, yummy potatoes. I'm going to list the recipe as I received it from CM (serves 12, using a 13x9 dish), but I always half the recipe and use an 8x8 baking dish. Just right for the two of us and company, or to have leftovers. It is a total of about 1 1/2 hours of baking time.


3/4 c extra-sharp cheddar, 4 oz

3/4 c bleu cheese or gorgonzola, 2 oz

1/3 c grated Parm, 1 1/4 oz

4 lb russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4" rounds (I use a mandolin)

1 1/2 tsp salt (I use much less, due to the saltiness of the cheeses, I just sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt)

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

3 Tbsp flour

4 Tbsp butter

3 c milk (skim, lo-fat, whole....I've used them all with great results)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter (I use cooking spray) 13x9 glass baking dish. Mix cheeses in a small bowl.

Arrange half of the potatoes in prepared dish, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Sprinkle onion over, then flour. Dot with 2 Tbsp butter. Sprinkle half of the cheese mixture over. Top with the remaining potatoes, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 2 Tbsp butter. Reserve remaining cheeses.

Bring milk to simmer in medium saucepan (I microwave until just boiling). Pour milk over potatoes (milk will not cover completely). Cover tightly with foil, and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil (liquids in dish may look curdled). Sprinkle potatoes with reserved cheese mixture. Bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and cheese is a deep golden brown, about 45 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Quicker-Than-Take-Out Orange Chicken

A few years ago I discovered a series of cookbooks by Marlene Koch.  I now have three of them.  She's wonderful....she takes tradition and restaurant recipes and lowers the calories and fat grams.  And the results are fabulous!

She has a son whose favorite take-out meal is the Orange Chicken at "Panda Express."  She revamped the recipe to make it so much healthier and really, really tasty.  I've never had their Orange Chicken and feel no need to try this guilt-free version.  Originally  posted on November 3, 2011.

I caught a show featuring a new cookbook, "Eat What You Love" by Marlene Koch.  She likes to take favorite recipes and make them a bit healthier by lowering the fat/calorie contents.  Her favorite makeover is this take on "Panda Express'" Orange Chicken.   This entire recipe serves 4 and each serving (1 cup) contains just 290 calories with just 9 grams of fat.  I served this over steamed brown basmati rice and steamed asparagus.  It was absolutely delicious.  Fantastic make-over meal.


1/2 cup water
1/3 cup light orange juice
1/2 cup Splenda granulated sweetener
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch

1+ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into about 1" cubes, or bite-sized
1 large egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute) beaten
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small red pepper, cut into small strips, or chopped
1 small onion, chopped

To make the sauce, in a medium saucepan whisk together the first nine ingredients (water through pepper flakes).  Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a low simmer.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 Tbsp of water and the cornstarch to create a slurry and whisk into the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a low boil and cook for 1 minute, or until the sauce thickens and clears.  Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer.

Roll the chicken in the egg and toss with flour to coat.

Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in the large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half of the chicken and cook 4-5 minutes, or until well browned on all sides and chicken is cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a bowl and cover.  Heat the remaining oil and cook the remaining chicken pieces.  Add the chicken to the bowl and set aside.

Add the red pepper and onion to pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Add the chicken to the pan and then the orange sauce.  Stir to coat and serve.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


I have two salads I go back to time and time again during hot summer months (and a few times non-summer just because I crave them).  Panzanella is one of them.  Had I read the recipe before tasting it, I never would made it.  For the most part, I'm not a big sweet pepper fan.  But all of this comes together so deliciously.  Originally posted June 25, 2011.

OK, let me just say first of all.....this is my FAVORITE summer salad.  And who'd a thunk it?  Bread Salad?  Really???  With a bunch of peppers?  Really???  Oh, yes!!!

I could eat this salad everyday during these horrid hot, humid days of summer.   And so weird!  I'm not a big sweet pepper fan, but this all comes together so beautifully.  I do love cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, basil, and bread.  And these croutons just put it over over the top.   I never in a million years would have tried this recipe, but, once again, working at a (different) restaurant in Minnesota, I came in one morning to find the leftovers of a special that Char had run.  I think I ate them all.  And this was after the croutons had become all soggy.  But the flavor was just incredible.  Char was a big fan of Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) and this recipe came from one of her cookbooks.  She's (Ina Garten) done a variation on this recipe calling it Greek Panzanella where she substitues Kalamata olives for the capers, and adds feta cheese, but we love this salad so much as it is that we've never tried that version.

Now for me, the secret is the croutons.  I will only use Panera Bread's baguette.  If you don't have a Panera Bread near you, please use a high-quality baguette.  I make a lot of croutons for Caesar Salad using bagels and then baking them, but the process here is completely different and results in a dramatically different crouton.  I cover the bottom of a hot Dutch Oven with olive oil, then add salt, then dump in the baguette cubes and stir quickly to coat the bread with the salted olive oil.  It takes a while (maybe 15-20 minutes?) on a medium/medium-high heat to brown the bread cubes, stirring very often.

Also, this recipe makes a nice batch.  Probably 4 entree-servings.  So, since there are just two of us, I'll dice all of the vegetables, but will keep the croutons separate so I dress them then toss them with the vegetables shortly before serving time.  I'll pour the dressing on the croutons (a heavy hand so the extra dressing will also coat the vegetables) about 10 minutes before serving so the croutons will soften a bit.  Then I just keep the diced vegetables in an air-tight container and the dry croutons in a baggie until I'm ready for the next batch.

I really hope you'll try this incredibly wonderful summer salad.  Not only is it visually appealing, you'll be looking forward to the leftovers!

PANZANELLA (approximately 4 large servings)

Cube one baguette.  In Dutch Oven, add olive oil to coat the bottom and add kosher salt.  Add bread cubes and continue to stir until croutons are browned.


1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lenghwise
1 English cucumber or 5-6 pickling cucumbers (I like to strip four strips of skin, then cut the cuke into four lenghtwise cuts, then dice the cuke into about 1/4-1/2" cubes)
1 red, orange, and yellow sweet pepper, diced (I like to cut pieces small/large enough to get a piece of pepper, tomato, cucumber, crouton, onion, caper on each fork-full!)
A couple of semi-thick slices of red onion, diced
about 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp capers


1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup EVOO

When read to serve, mix all of the vegetables with the croutons and vinaigrette.  If serving at different times, keep the vegetables and croutons separate so the croutons don't become soggy, then dress the croutons and then mix the vegetables in.  Let me know if you try it and love it as much as we do!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Crushed Potatoes with Buttermilk Dressing

My potato preference is RED.  Russets are the only close second and I only use them for mashing.  I love reds boiled or baked.  So this recipe combines the boiled and the baked (more specifically, broiled....this gives them lovely, crispy edges).

I absolutely love these potatoes.  Again, the creaminess of the reds, the crispiness of the skins, and that only Ranch Dressing recipe you'll ever use.  Perfection.  Originally posted on September 5, 2013.

Given my love of new potatoes and a contrast of textures, I could KICK myself for not having found this earlier or figured it out on my own!  These potatoes are fabulous!  and oh-so-easy.

This is all you need to do:  Boil as many new potatoes as you'd like, until they are cooked through.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I used a stoneware cookie sheet which doesn't need to be lined).  Smash with a fork.  Drizzle thin streams of olive oil over the potatoes and then sprinkle with S&P.

Place under a broiler until the potatoes are crisp and browned on the outside.  The recipe I read said to broil them for 15 minutes....mine were ready in 7-8 minutes.

Top with buttermilk dressing (dressing below) and chopped scallions or chives and S&P to taste.


3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp dried minced onion 
1/2 tsp salt
coarsely ground pepper to taste
1 tsp minced garlic

Mix all ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow flavors to blend. Cover and refrigerate remaining dressing.

For buttermilk parmesan dressing:  Add 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese and 1/2 tsp paprika, smoked paprika for something extra-special.

Recipe Source: 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Perfect Iced Coffee

I'm not a big hot coffee drinker (although I do enjoy espresso-based hot drinks).  But I do love taste and smell of coffee.  And I definitely am more of an ice-based drink, be it coffee, tea, or soda.  But holy smokes!  Iced coffees are so expensive.  I don't know how they get away with it.

So when I found these easier-than-thou directions, I made it.  And haven't stopped since.  There is always a pitcher in the fridge.  I like to add some Splenda and flavored coffee creamer.  It's like chocolate milk for grown-ups. Originally posted on January 1, 2012.

Happy New Year's everyone!!!  2012....hard for me to believe.  I remember the big change for the 19xx's to the 20xx's and kind of felt like a time traveler.  Surreal.   And here we are 12 years later.  Who'd a thunk it?'s a great, easy beginning to this new year.  I ran across this recipe on the Pioneer Woman blog.  I rarely drink hot coffee, and when I do, I like the espresso-based drinks.  But here's an inexpensive, easy drink to make that I'm gonna guess will last quite a while in your frig.  I halved her recipe since Jim wouldn't touch the stuff, and I figure I could have cut it down even further and still have plenty to last me a while.  And the beauty of this recipe is that after making the coffee base, you can add just about anything to it: any milk (skim, 2%, whole), half-and-half or fat-free half-and-half, or even the flavored coffee creamers or flavored syrups.  Maybe some sugar or Splenda if you like.  For a Vietnamese-style iced coffee, use 2-3 Tbsp of sweetened condensed milk with a splash of half-and-half.  Yummy, and an inth of the cost at your local barrister's shoppe.


1 pound ground coffee (good, rich roast) (11.3 oz)
8 quarts cold water (180.8 oz/5.65 qt if using a 11.3 oz package)

Sweetened condensed milk
Flavored syrups
Flavored coffee creamers
Sugar or sugar-substitute

In a large container, mix ground coffee with water.  Cover and allow to sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.

Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set over a pitcher or other container.  Pour coffee/water mixture through the strainer, allowing all liquid to run through.  Discard grounds.  Place coffee liquid in the fridge and allow to cool.  Use as needed.
To make iced coffee, pack a glass full of ice cubes.  Fill glass 2/3 full with coffee liquid.  Add healthy splash of half-and-half or dairy of choice.  Perhaps add 2-3 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk (or plain sugar) and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust half-and-half and/or sweetened condensed milk as needed.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hawaiian Haystacks

I ran across this recipe on Pinterest.  Apparently it is a throwback to either the 60's, 70's, or 80's, depending on whom you speak with.  Not that it ever hit our house in Oklahoma way back then.  But I guess it was a staple in many homes and there were as many variations as, well, there were homes.

From what I understand, haystacks were made with a gravy consisting of cream of chicken soup, milk, sour cream, or some variation.  So when I found this re-vamped recipe making your own luscious creamy, garlic sauce, I decided to give it a try.  It is simple and quick to make and packed with flavor.  


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (or leftover cooked chicken, shredded or cubed)
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion (about 1/2 cup), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced (I might add extra, depending on the size of the cloves)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 cup chicken broth

Cooked rice

Topping suggestions:
sliced black olives
chopped tomatoes
shredded cheese
green onions
mandarin oranges
chow mein noodles
sliced almonds
diced sweet peppers
pineapple tidbits
water chestnuts

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion and raw chicken (if using leftover cooked chicken, don't add it to the skillet now, you'll add it later).  Saute the onion and chicken, if using, until the onions are soft and translucent and the chicken is cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for about one more minute, stirring, until fragrant.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions and chicken and stir to combine.  Cook over medium heat for one minute, this helps get rid of the starchy, flour taste.  Slowly whisk in the milk and chicken broth.  Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the S&P.  If you are using leftover cooked chicken, add it now.  Continue simmering, stirring the sauce frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

Serve the chicken sauce over rice with your choice of toppings. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Baked Brown Rice

I always cook my rice in a rice cooker.  Easy-peasy.  Throw in rice and water or stock to the proper line, turn it on and then ding, it's ready.

So I'm not really sure why I decided to follow these easy-peasy directions.  But it really impressed Jim.  Several times he said how good it was.  Rice?  Really?  I do love this starch staple but, well, it's rice!

So if you don't have a rice cooker or even if you do (and use it as often as I use mine), you gotta try this.  It's no-fail.

BAKED BROWN RICE (makes about 3 1/2 cups cooked rice)

Note: This recipe doubles beautifully for a 9X13-inch pan.

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water (if using water, add 1 teaspoon salt)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8X8-inch or 9X9-inch baking pan. Place the rice in the prepared pan and pour in the liquid. Stir to equally distribute the rice. Cover tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

  • Remove from the oven and let sit for five minutes before removing the aluminum foil and fluffing with a fork. If your rice still has a bit of liquid on the bottom or conversely, if it is dried out, adjust the baking time up or down to make changes.