Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Quick Breads

Many of you are probably asking "What are Quick Breads?"  Well, they are breads that are made without yeast.  Instead they use leavening agents such as "Baking Soda" or "Baking Powder" and some even use both.

Quick breads are even an American original.  They date back to at least the mid 1800s when baking soda and baking powder first commercially produced.

Some products that are considered "Quick Breads" include loaf breads like banana, pumpkin and zucchini. They also include muffins, biscuits, pancakes and waffles.

There three common ways to make quick breads.  Combining all the wet and dry ingredients separately and then combining before baking is one way.  This method is used in making muffins, pancakes and corn bread.

Another is to cream the butter (fat) and sugar together and then adding the other ingredients.  The main thing to remember using either method is to not over work the dough.  This is used more for cakes than anything else.

The last method is cutting the fat into the dry ingredients.  This is done by using a food processor, a pastry blender, two forks or even your hands.  Biscuits and scones are the main products that use this method.

Depending on the method and type of quick bread being made, the dough or batter will have a different consistency.  Pancakes and the banana type breads have a more "pouring" batter.  Muffins are more of a "drop" batter.  While chocolate chip cookies are a "soft" dough and sugar cookies use a "stiff" dough. The difference between all 4 is the amount of liquid to the dry ingredients.  The more equal the two are makes for the pouring batter.  Where as the greater the dry is to liquid gives you the stiff dough.

So this week I have two of the more traditional quick breads.  Both recipes are from the early 20th century and have been passed down for several generations.  They come from different people that eventually made it to my mother.  The reason they get passed down or along is because they taste great.  First is "Pumpkin Bread" and it is followed by "Pecan Bread".  Do take the time and try these.  And look for other quick bread recipes to add to your baking desires.

In the meantime, "Happy Cooking" until next week.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Over the Top Biscuit & Gravy Sandwiches

Over the Top Biscuit & Gravy Sandwiches
(3-6 servings)

Ingredient List:

1 lb. Bulk Breakfast Sausage (your choice on type or brand)
4 Tbsp. Butter
4 Tbsp. All Purpose Flours
1 Tsp. Black Pepper
2 Cups Milk (whole, 2%, 1%, it’s your choice)
3-6 Biscuits, prepared (see note)
3-6 (4 oz.) slices Ham, warm (your choice on type)
3-6 large Fresh Eggs, fried (your choice on doneness)


In a sauté pan over medium heat, crumble and cook sausage until done. Drain any grease and then add the butter. After the butter has melted, start to whisk in the flour and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Next, add the pepper and milk while continuously stirring with the whisk. The mixture will slowly start to thicken. Continue cooking for 3 or 4 minutes after it has thickened for you. If gravy is too thick, just add a little more milk. If it is to thin, turn it down to medium-low and let it cook a little longer. Make sure you continue to stir it occasionally. Slice a biscuit in half horizontally and place the bottom on a plate. Repeat with remaining biscuits. Top each biscuit bottom with a slice of ham followed by an egg. Place the biscuit tops on each and ladle sausage gravy over each and serve.

Note: Try using my food blog recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits recipe. If not, any biscuit will work.

Note: You can substitute several pieces of cooked bacon for the ham if you desire.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fried Egg Quesadillas

Fried Egg Quesadillas
(2 servings)


1 tbsp. Unsalted Butter or Canola Oil (or combination of each)
2-4 large Fresh Eggs (depends on how many you want/need on your Quesadillas)
2 (10 inch) Tortillas
½ cup Shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
1 medium Haas Avocado (see note)
¼ cup Salsa (optional) (your choice on type)
¼ cup Green Onion, sliced


In a large saute pan over medium heat, add butter or oil. When hot add one egg at a time and break each yolk. Fry eggs on each side to desired doneness and set aside. Take a tortilla and sprinkle one half with a forth of the cheese. Top the cheese with half the slices of avocado followed by one of the eggs. If using salsa, spread half of it on the other half of the tortilla. Top the egg with the green onion and another forth of the cheese. Fold the half of the tortilla with the salsa over the half with the egg. Place the tortilla in the saute pan and heat for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove tortilla from the pan and slice into 3 wedges to serve. Repeat the process with the second tortilla.

Note: Cut the avocado in half and remove pit. Using a spoon, scope each half out of skin in one whole piece. Slice each half into thin slices for sandwich.

Note: Fro those that need meat in their Quesadillas, you can add cooked bacon, ham or sausage to it. I would add the meat before adding the egg.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Breakfast Sandwiches

Since tomorrow is Christmas Day, let me wish all of you a "Merry Christmas."  May the good lord bless you and help with your "Culinary Skills."

This week we're talking "Breakfast Sandwiches" as I'm one of those who believe breakfast is the most important meals.  It is what starts you off for a good day.  I know I've mentioned it before but you need to make time in the start of your day with some nutrition in you.  It really does make a difference in how your day goes.

For those of you that have trouble getting your day started, breakfast is difficult.  The fun thing about breakfast sandwiches, many of them can be made ahead.  You can make them the night before, just heat it up in the microwave and carry it out the door with in the morning.  You could make a batch of them and freeze the sandwiches for quick easy future meals.

If you have my cookbook or have been following this food blog long, you know that I advocate eating breakfast foods at times other than just your first meal of the day.  A quick recap for new readers.  Most everyone enjoys eating breakfast foods but have a difficult time doing it up right in the workday morning. Having breakfast meals at the evening meal, for example, gives you the time to enjoy these specialties and help your food budget at the same time.  That's because these type menus are less expensive compared to traditional evening meals.

The blog has a fair number of breakfast recipes available on the "Breakfast Recipe" link above.  Be sure to check them out.

I've a couple of breakfast sandwich recipes this week.  Because of the holidays, many people have guests (family or friends) staying with them.  This usually means one must offer more than just the big holiday meal to them.  So I have a couple of recipes that are not your normal breakfast fare.  Thought your guest might like something a little changed up.

The first is for "Fried Egg Quesadillas"  and they work well in a Panini or George Foreman grill.  If you don't have one of those, the recipe actually does it in a saute pan.  As with all the recipes I offer on this blog, I encourage everyone to change up some of the ingredients to make it fit your tastes and lifestyle.

The second recipe is taking a traditional dish and adding some excitement to it.  This one is a knife and fork sandwich as all sandwiches don't have to be held.  "Over the Top Biscuit and Gravy Sandwich" is again flexible with ingredients.  So change it up if helps meet your flavor profile better.

My hope is that you will get into breakfast more no matter the time of day, whether you guests or not, with roof-mates or even just by yourself.  Enjoy these and all the other recipes on this blog as you continue to cook.  Again, "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Cooking" until next week.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Greek Layered Dip

Greek Layered Dip
(12-18 servings)


8 oz. Cream Cheese with Chives & Onion, room temperature
8 oz. Hummus (your favorite brand & style), room temperature
1 large Fresh Cucumber, peeled, seeded & chopped
3 large Plum Tomatoes, seeded & chopped
1 (2 ¼ oz.) can Sliced Ripe Olives, drained
4 oz. Feta Cheese, crumbled
¼ cup Green Onions, sliced


Spread the cream cheese in the bottom of a 10 inch serving dish (quiche, pie, etc.). Next, spread the hummus over the cream cheese covering all. Then sprinkle the cucumbers evenly over the hummus. Sprinkle evenly the tomatoes next followed by the olives and feta cheese. Garnish the dish with the green onions and serve with pita chips, crackers or vegetables.

Note: You could double this recipe using a larger low-sided serving dish or make two different dishes of the dip for larger crowds.

Note: I like Kalamata olives more than the black ones. So I will use these instead. Just chop or slice pitted ones for this recipe.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper & Artichoke Dip

Roasted Red Pepper & Artichoke Dip
(about 2 cups)


1 (7 oz.) jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts, drained
½ cup Roasted Red Peppers, drained
3 oz. Cream Cheese, room temperature
½ cup Sour Cream
¼ cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
Assorted crackers, chips or vegetables


Place the artichoke hearts and red peppers in a food processor, cover and coarsely chop. Add the cream cheese, sour cream and parsley to food processor and mix until just blended. Place in a serving dish and garnish with a little more parsley. Serve with your favorite crackers, chips and/or vegetables.

Note: You can serve this immediately at room temperature or refrigerate up to a day ahead of time.

Note: To double recipe, repeat the process twice and then mix the two batches together. If you have a large food processor, you may be able to do in one batch.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Year's Eve Party Time

It seems most people do some partying on New Year's Eve.  A lot of people go to commercial establishments such as bars or clubs.  Some go to house parties.  Probably most stay home and do a little celebrating with family members (spouses, children).

We use to do our partying with the children early.  Letting them think they were staying up til midnight.  It worked until they got too old and understood time and how clocks worked.

Whether it was an early celebration or an on-time one, we made some special dish, snack or treat.  It seems everyone tries to bring in the New Year with food and drink.

There are several good drink recipes on the "Drink Recipe" link above.  Check it out in case you don't have something special already lined up for that night.

But this week, I'm talking food for that New Year's Eve celebration.  If you are staying home or needing to take an item to that party you're attending, I've got a couple of easy dishes.

The New Year's Eve parties are usually snacking events as apposed to full dinners.  So it's always fun to try and figure out a dish that is relatively easy to make, works well for people standing around trying to balance food and drink at the same time and doesn't break the bank.

Dips are one way to go.  They are usually easy to throw together (even if they have to be heated).  Using a chip, cracker or vegetable chunk is also easy to do while standing and talking.  Lastly, most dips and there accompanying instruments of dipping are reasonably priced.

This week I have two dip recipes that are served cold or at room temperature and don't need cooking.  The  first is easy to throw together using a food processor.  It's a recipe for "Roasted Red Pepper & Artichoke Dip."  There is no chopping.  You just put the ingredients in the food processor in steps.  There are enough different types of chips out on the market now that we're not talking your usual potato chip type.  Actually, the different types of chips, the new age crackers that are available and of course healthy vegetables all work well with this dip.

The second dip recipe is for a "Greek Layered Dip."  This takes a little more work but is still very easy to put together.  It's colorful, fairly healthy and goes better with the chips and cracks.  However, some vegetables would work well here too.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy them even if it's not New Year's Eve.  They work well year round.  I wish everyone a great and "Happy New Year."  Thank you all for your support of my food blog this past year and in the year to come.

"Happy Cooking" until next week.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Whole Frosted Pecans

Whole Frosted Pecans


1 ½ cups Granulated Sugar
½ cup Sour Cream
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla
1 lb. Whole Pecans


Mix sugar and sour cream together in medium sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove the pan from heat and add in the vanilla and pecans. Stir mixture until pecans are well coated. Pour out onto waxed paper in a single layer and let cool. Separate pecans after mixture is cool and enjoy.

Note: You could use pecan pieces or even other nuts of your choice.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Easy Fool-Proof Fudge

Easy Fool-Proof Fudge
(servings-9x13 dish)


1 (12 oz.) bag Chocolate Chips
1 can sweetened Condensed Milk
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 cup Nuts, chopped (your favorite)
1 ½ cups Mini Marshmallows


In a large microwavable bowl, combine the chocolate chips and milk. Microwave for 5 minutes on high. Stir mixture until chips are melted. May need a little more time in microwave depending on your microwave. Add vanilla, nuts and marshmallows and stir to combine well. Pour mixture into a 9x13 baking dish lined with wax paper. Refrigerate and chill for two hours before cutting into pieces to serve.

Note: If you can't have nuts or don't like them in your fudge, omit them.

Note: For a thicker fudge, use a 7x11 or 9x9 pan.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Getting Ready for the Holidays

The Christmas and New Year holidays are upon us again.  Many are saying "How'd they get here so fast" or "I have no time to get anything done."  Well, if you are one of these people, take a deep breath and get organized.

Figure your guest count.  Determine how many meals you need to plan.  Make a list (not your Christmas gift one either) of what needs to be done.  Get rid of any items you truly don't have time to do.  Now put the list in order by days of what you need to accomplish on each one.  Big tasks look and are much easier when you break them down.  Then just worry each day about what you need to be doing that day.  If you attack each day this way, the big day or days will be a piece of cake for you.

Besides the meals to satisfy the company that will be dining with you during these days.  What else to you want to do special for the holidays?  Do you want to make holiday treats or breads (sweet or savory) for guests and/or give to special friends to enjoy?

Unless you have lots of time or start early in November, I'd limit the number of different types of items.  Each year I make different jellies, jams and salsas early for holiday gift giving too.  I like doing 3 or 4 different specialties that I do well.  All though I will add an item or two if they are quick and easy at the last minute.  I also like to add a new item each year to help with the variety.  If it is a big hit, then I'll bring it back the next year and drop something else.

I usually ask our children what their top two desires are for this season.  Surprisingly it does change over time.  This year for the first time I can remember, all four had the same item as their top one.  That item was My Favorite Thumb Print Cookie (V).  The recipe says 2 dozen for what you'll get out of it.  But the scoop that I use gives me around 2 1/2 dozen.  I also double the recipe when I make it and get about 5 dozen cookies per batch.

There are already several good holiday recipes on the "Desserts & Baking Recipe" tap above besides this one.  Be sure and check them out.  Also great ideas for those holiday meals you're planning too.

Let's talk candy for the holidays.  I think most people shy away from this because they think it is too difficult. Not always true.  What it does take is having the right equipment for the recipe.  The most important one is probably a "candy thermometer" to make sure you reach the correct temperatures required for a particular recipe.  Another is following the recipe and it's instructions.  If you have everything ready before you start and have the equipment needed, candy can be fun and easy.  Not to mention the bonus of having to taste your results before you let others.

Just to give you a taste of the ease and fun that candy making can be, I've got two recipes for you this week. I'm starting you with ones that don't require any special equipment.  They are both easy to make (fool proof all most), taste great and will give you the desire to try more recipes.  The first is "Easy Fool Proof Fudge."  The second one is for "Whole Frosted Pecans."  Please give them a try and share your results with friends and family.

"Happy Cooking" until next week.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Drop Biscuits

Drop Biscuits


8 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, small cubes at room temperature (see note)
2 cups All Purpose Flour (see note)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. Baking Soda
½ tsp. Kosher Salt
¾ cup Buttermilk


Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and blend into mixture using your hands. Crush the butter cubes between your fingers. Similar to making pie dough. Slowly add the buttermilk while you continue to mix the dough. Don't overwork the dough. Now drop the dough onto a greased or sprayed baking sheet by a spoon. The drop biscuit should be about the size of a peach. The dough should make 12 biscuits. Place baking sheet into a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Note: Try using lard in place of the butter for this recipe. Use 4 ounces of lard for the 8 tbsp. of butter.

Note: Substitute cake flour for the all purpose flour to make a lighter biscuit.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Sweet Potato Biscuits


2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tbsp. Baking Powder
1 tbsp. Sugar
½ tsp. Salt, fine
¼ tsp. Baking Soda
¾ cup Milk (recommend whole milk)
1 cup Sweet Potato, baked & mashed
8 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, frozen
¼ cup Heavy Cream


Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another large bowl, mix the milk and sweet potato until well combined. Next grated the butter using a large holes of box grater. Toss with the dry mixture until butter is coated. Now add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix lightly until dough forms a shaggy mass. Turn mixture out onto a floured surface and knead until it comes together. The dough will not be a smooth mixture. Pat dough into a circle and using a floured rolling pin, roll to a thickness of ¾ inch. Cut into 3 inch circles with a biscuit cutter (see note). Gather leftover dough and redo until you have 8 biscuits. Place biscuits on a baking sheet and brush tops with the heavy cream. Bake on middle rack in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.

Note: If you don't have a biscuit cutter, there are other items you can use. Try donut cutter, cookie cutter, a glass or any type of item that you believe will work. Be sure to flour these items before cutting so dough doesn't stick. If you don't have anything, you could always cut the biscuits free hand. I'd make the dough into a square or rectangle and cut into square biscuits using this method.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A little Biscuit History.

Biscuits are an American staple, especially in the south.  However, they really originated with the Roman Legions.  The Romans carried them as part of their food previsions.  They were a hard dry disc that didn't spoil easily.  The word comes from the Latin words "bis" and "coctus" that mean "twice" "cooked."

Now just as history and society has evolved since then, so to has the "biscuit."  In England, a biscuit refers to a cracker, small cake or cookie.  Those are not the type of biscuit I'll be talking about today.  I'm going to talk about the "American version of the biscuit."

The "American Biscuit" was a product of Southern Plantations.  It is a leavened product.  The European original was and is an unleavened biscuit.  Baking soda and baking powder are key ingredients to the leavening of the American biscuit.  Other key features of the American biscuit are the use of buttermilk or sour dough as an ingredient.

Typical American biscuits are rolled out dough that is cut into circles, placed on a baking sheet and baked. American biscuits can be savory or sweet depending on other ingredients added.  The sweet ones are usually used for dishes like strawberry shortcake.

Biscuits can be eaten at any meal or with almost any food.  But the most common way to use them is in a southern dish of "Biscuits & Sausage Gravy."  Of course this dish is now served everywhere in the USA, not just the south.

Another southern variation of the biscuit is the "drop biscuit".  The drop biscuit is a fast and simple recipe that takes little time to make.  The batter doesn't have to be kneed or rolled.  Notice I said batter not dough.  It is about the consistency of a quick bread batter but a little less runny.  You do need to watch the amount of milk used; too little and they fall apart, too much and they have no shape.

The drop biscuit is just that.  Using a spoon, you just drop some batter on a baking sheet to the size desired. Space the others and place in an oven to bake.

Both types of biscuits are habit forming.  So enjoy whichever one you have at the moment.  Remember to try them as a base to top with another product, like toast with jelly or jam or as a tool to make a sandwich (breakfast ones are best).

If you're not up for making your own from scratch, you can always buy refrigerated ones in the tube or frozen ones too.  If you haven't tried them before, give them a chance soon.

This week's recipes are for a simple "Drop Biscuit" and a seasonal one "Sweet Potato Biscuits".  Have a great week and "Happy Cooking."