Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cheesy Potatoes Made into a Frittata

This is my son's version of my Cheesy Potato recipe.  He had been taking pieces of the cheesy potatoes I made and mixing it into his morning omelette.  So, what does he do?  He goes out and buys what he thinks should go into this dish and makes his own.  My son is a fanatic when it comes to cheese and eggs.  He loves anything made with these two ingredients.

For those who don't know this is an omelette style recipe or Frittata rather than a quiche.  Quiche is when you pour your mixture over a bottom crust and it is an open face pie style.  Quiche is a fancy pie with no upper crust.

Cheesy Potato Omelette
I told him what I put into mine and he went out and changed it up by replacing the cream of chicken soup with a can of cream of mushroom soup.  He didn't use any sour cream.  Instead he scrambled a dozen eggs which he did not put into the potato mixture but poured over the top of the prepared potatoes.

Then, to top off his style of cooking, he chopped up a tomato and sprinkled it over the egg mixture.  Into the oven it went and the above casserole is what came out.  To be honest, I was not sure I would like it with the eggs spread over the top and with the tomato bits.  I finally tried it and I have to admit it has it's own flavor.  I still want to try this recipe with the O'Brien style mixture with green pepper and onions but now I have to wait for another occasion that we need a side dish for the meal.  I have found I like working with fresh chives now so that may be the replacement for onions in my next attempt.  We have enjoyed the flavor of cheesy potatoes enough for this year.  We will have to wait for another day when I decide to make something homey like meatloaf.

So for another day, we have given you a choice for your cheesy potato dish.  Again, you can't go wrong when you add to or take away from a recipe, you just have use the "try it -- you'll like it" method.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Darden Foods - Bahama Breeze in Orlando

While we were in Florida, I took a tour of a popular timeshare and was rewarded with $100 worth of Darden Food Gift Cards.  We normally visit Olive Garden when we have gift cards but being in Orlando we felt adventurous and decided to try Bahama Breeze instead.  Having fourteen in our party we called ahead to let them know what time we would be arriving.  The restaurant staff was very accommodating and were ready for our arrival.

So off we went in two cars.  Since there were four families each driver made two trips to take us from the timeshare to Bahama Breeze.  There is a driveway but the handicapped entrance is off to the side nearer the rear parking lot.

Once inside we waited in the lobby for the second car to arrive with the rest of our family with the son in the wheelchair floating back and forth to the porch area where he could smoke.  Once everyone was at the restaurant we were seated in a double booth area with the tables pushed together so that all fourteen of us could sit together in family style.  Even with us throwing off their arrangement with a wheelchair in the party and the need for a high chair, the staff made every effort to make our meal pleasant.

The menu boasted everything from a Cheeseburger that my son ate and declared on Facebook to be the best cheeseburger he had ever eaten.

Being a seafood restaurant my daughter and I selected the shrimp linguini with a side salad which I had no problem polishing off.  I'm not fond of alfredo sauce but there was just right blend of garlic in the sauce that it was just what the doctor ordered for me.

The rest of the family enjoyed a multitude of selections from the children's menu to a miriad of fish and chicken dishes.  Even with all fourteen of us eating the final bill only came to a little over $250.  To me that is affordable dining.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sesame Chicken: Bake It Without Shaking It.

A few years back, there was a product called Shake and Bake.  It was the lazy man's way to coat chicken parts for baking in the oven.  It involved pouring the mixture in a bag with wet chicken parts and shaking the bag until the chicken was coated with the crumbs.

Shake N Bake Chicken parts for the oven

Now I ask you, "Is this the way to make good chicken?"  True it is healthier to bake your chicken rather than frying it in oils.

My sister-in-law made a recipe that called for mayonnaise to coat the chicken and a bread crumb mixed with sesame seeds for a shower that she was hosting.  I'm not fond of any chicken except roasted chicken with stuffing, but this recipe for Sesame Chicken was one of the best that I've ever tasted.

Sesame Chicken from the Oven

The breading is moist and flavorful and not dry like you would expect since it was baked on an open sheet pan in the oven.

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli
In this day of thinking heart healthy, this recipe is one that I would recommend for your Sunday dinner menu.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Using White Rice From Chinese Order

Are you a fan of Chinese food but don't use the white rice that comes with the order?  We normally order Chinese about once a week but we do not use the white rice.  Our standard order is the Broccoli and Chicken and Chicken Fried Rice.

China Lin Menu
We particularly like the China Lin Chinese Restaurant in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  They are not located right on Butler Street and I have seen people eating inside the restaurant but it seems to do most of it's trade by delivery or pick ups.

I now have two recipes that I prepare from the white rice that we get with our meal.

Sausage, Apples & Rice Casserole
The first is Apples, Sausage and Rice, one of my favorite dinners from the days when I worked in RIDC and ate at a Stouffer Cafeteria.  Because I don't have as much rice as I use for a full casserole, I normally make this with about 6 sausage links precooked and a package of Stouffer's Harvest Apples from the freezer section at the Giant Eagle Supermarket.  After I have precooked the apples I sprinkle them with some additional sugar and cinnamon.  This is important because I love my apples cinnamony good.  Then I place them and the sausage in a casserole with the white rice.  Place the lid over the casserole and pop the whole thing into the microwave for as long as you would to reheat a casserole you have stored in your refrigerator.

Rice Pudding
The second recipe that I like to make with my white rice is rice pudding.  Because I have the white rice precooked, I can just go ahead with my recipe starting with the egg and milk mixture.  Also, because of the amount of rice, this recipe needs to be cut in half using 3 eggs and a pint of milk.  When I'm making this recipe I use a pudding cup or individual bowls and sprinkle cinnamon on top.  The cinnamon sticks make a nice touch for serving.

Stuffed Pepper Soup
Finally, let's use that rice in our ground meat mixture to make those stuffed peppers or even in a smaller pot of stuffed pepper soup.

So there you have it.  Three ways to use the white rice from your Chinese food order that would somehow end up being tossed out.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lenten Dishes made with eggs and eggplant

When My husband was growing up, his favorite Lenten sandwich was an egg and pepper sandwich.

Pepper and Egg Sandwich
Now, you have to remember that his mom always made her own bread and it wasn't just some eggs fried up with peppers on the side thrown onto store-bought bread.  This sandwich was a mountain with two slabs of bread cut off the loaf with green or red or yellow pepper (maybe all 3) sauteed and then mixed into two eggs per sandwich.  This concoction was seasoned to perfection with just a dash of onion powder or salt added to the regular salt and pepper.  During Lent you are supposed to fast from fish and abstain from large meals.  I don't know if this pepper and eggs sandwich adhered to the abstaining part but my hubby sure did enjoy that sandwich.

In our borough there were several luncheonettes that served this sandwich as a part of their breakfast menu.  Of course, the owners were Italian and raised on these hero egg sandwiches.

Eggplant Parmesan
I have two really good recipes that are made with eggplant.  Of course, the Eggplant Parmesan has to be made with marinara sauce and no meat during Lent.  This layered form of Lasagna is a staple for the Lenten Season.
Sicilian Eggplant
The other recipe that I have for eggplant is Sicilian Eggplant.  The instructions for making this dish are kind of sketchy since it was given to me verbally by my Italian neighbor who speaks broken English.  This dish when prepared is normally used as a side dish instead of an entree.

Like I said when I started talking Lenten foods, I'm not fond of fish and you wont find too many recipes for fish on this blog.  I'm going to go surfing the rest of Lent and we will do some neat recipes on Fridays that I find for yours and my experimentation.  The rest of the week will feature some of my favorite recipes and we will continue our shopping savings when we find those specials.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Persian's Transformation

Fat Cat with a very large belly
 Persian came to us in her adult years and we lovingly called her Fat Cat.  She was a beautiful California Spangled with such soft fur.  The only problem with her was that she was so fat that she couldn't keep herself clean.  As a result she would cough up hairballs and had problems digesting her food.

When Persian first arrived at our house she hid on the third floor and it took weeks of coaxing by my son to get her down to the second level.  She finally made it to the first floor but ran for the under side of the beds if someone rang the doorbell.

She loved to play with strings but being so fat she played for a few minutes and then would take a nap.  Since she was so fat and so lazy I thought I would try the much advertised Cat's Meow Toy to get her moving more.

She took to the toy immediately and over the next few months started to lose some of her weight.  The moral of this story is that there is a means for every end.  
Persian on the deck in her harness

This cat has been with us now for almost five years.  When she does her sphinx pose, she looks almost as heavy as she was when she came, but when she is walking around you can see that she has trimmed down.  

She plays more and even though she has always loved to follow and grab at strings.  Now when she plays she leaps in the air after the string that my son tied to an old blind rod and followed it for a longer period of time.

When I sat on the deck she became very vocal inside the storm door and sometimes stood on her back paws to let me know she was there and would like to come out.  I started taking her out on the deck on a harness because I tried letting her out without it and she got through the railings and went under the deck.  I'm sure she couldn't have done that when she first came.  That harness didn't fit her until she trimmed down and is no longer FAT CAT.

Last week our beautiful Persian quit eating and we had to take her to the Vet.  Since she was already 16 years old I felt it was best to let her go peacefully.  The vet said she had a liver disorder and she agreed with us.  We will miss our transformed, friendly and needy to the point of greedy girl.  Rest in peace Persian.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hot Crossed Buns for Lent

ONE A PENNY, TWO A PENNY, HOT CROSSED BUNS.  We used to say that rhyme when we were children.  The only time of the year that you would be able to buy hot crossed buns was during Lent.

The old A&P Supermarket always carried them during Lent and my Mom dearly loved them.  They would be packaged in a tin of six buns.  I could never see what was so special about them other than the sweet icing done piped into a cross on top of them.  I was never one for fruit such as currants and raisins inside my pastry.  I don't know why because I do like to eat raisins by the handful.

Most bakery shops carry them during Lent and I'm sure that their sweet dough is the same as what you can get in the modern day supermarket in their bakery departments.  I saw an ad for them in an email I received from Giant Eagle and that's what reminded me of this annual pastry.  Oakmont Bakery carries them during the season also.

For those of you who still prefer to make your own, Shop N Save offers an easy recipe online for making these.

In looking up the story behind this tiny bun which is almost the size of a biscuit, I find that it is traditionally eaten by people of British descent on Good Friday.  Here in the states you can get them all during Lent and only during Lent.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Making Chocolate Easter Candy

Lent has only just begun but if you need to make enough chocolates for more than just one child, it's not too soon to start making and putting away candy for your children or grandchildren.  

It's easy to just buy what you need and there is not doubt that there is a large selection of all sorts of chocolates to be purchased.  I have a candy maker, Pollak Candy, in Etna, Pennsylvania who has been the source of my candy wants for many years.  They have the best blend of chocolate and my second love the nougat filled easter eggs that are wrapped in foil.  Their page can be found on Facebook.

In the end the only reason to make your own is for the personal satisfaction and to save the expense of high pricing.  If you are just starting out I suggest making the simple pieces such as the crosses and wafer bunnies, chicks and hens.  As you get more experience you can move up to the larger solid standing bunnies and baskets.

In our house, my husband was the candy maker.  We had 7 children and it was just more economical to make his own chocolate and he always made his candy from the purest chocolate he could find.  It is important to get good chocolate or you wont achieve the flavor that you are looking for.  If you price the solid pieces of chocolate available, you will find that in the long run, this is the most economical way to go for Easter Candy.

My husband always started out with a 20# block of Peter's Ultra Chocolate which he bought from Stover & Co., Inc.  I did some searching on the Internet and you can purchase that 10 pound block of chocolate for under $40. 

Since he had been doing this for years, he had all kinds of molds to make the candy but the most popular one with our children were the crosses.  I again went looking for you on the Internet and there are very affordable molds on sale and it's not too soon to purchase them.  I also know that The Party Store has a nice variety of molds.

OK, you have your molds and you have your chocolate.  Let's get started.  I have a large doubled handled cheese block cutter and I use that to separate the chocolate into smaller pieces and to shave it down.  It was originally a pizza cutter from a pizza shop where my girls were employed.  I'm sure you can find one in any of the restaurant supply stores.  The chocolate bar is solid so you will at least need a very heavy butcher knife to shave it down.

My husband used all kinds of methods to melt the chocolate.  He started out using a heating tray to keep foods warm at the table and corning ware dishes.  One thing you don't want to do is melt more chocolate than you are going to use at one time because it sets again if you don't have enough molds to hold all that you have melted down.

The best method my husband found for melting the chocolate is using the microwave at 50%.  You have to watch your chocolate while it is melting because you don't want to cook it all the way down.  Once it is almost all the way melted you use a whisk to get the mixture smooth.

Pour your chocolate into your molds making sure to not create any air pockets.  On the smaller molds we would use ice tea spoons to dip out the melted chocolate and fill each section on the mold.  Once you have your molds filled set them aside for a few minutes or you can put them into the refrigerator long enough to set up.

After they are set you can pop them out of the mold and wrap each piece in saran wrap.  You can purchase candy bags at the local party store if you prefer.  Start early to make your candy depending on how many pieces you need for your family.  The candy will keep in the refrigerator but be sure to hide it because we once lost half our candy to the candy monsters in our house who couldn't wait for Easter

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cheesy Potatoes Or Loaded Potatoes

Our family has a new favorite side dish.   We have always been a potato salad family and that would be the choice to have my daughter make for the any family gathering.  Let's be honest, we love a good potato salad that has just enough crunch from the chopped vegetables and just the right flavor from the hard boiled eggs and salad dressing that is used.  There are many types of potato salad to choose from and each family has their own favorite recipe.

Leftovers from 13x9" casserole
We were first treated to this recipe when my daughter was asked to bring Cheesy Potatoes to a birthday party.  She followed this up by bringing it to Our Christmas Eve dinner.

On Christmas Eve, our family tends to not eat meat from a tradition that my late husband started with my children when we married many years ago.  My first husband's family is Polish and they do not refrain from eating meat on Christmas Eve.  In fact, I remember gathering at his grandparent's home on Christmas Eve where there was a fully baked ham on the table ready to slice for sandwhiches.

Last year we were treated to meat balls and my daughter was asked to bring Cheesy Potatoes.  She normally bakes off a pound of bacon to go into these potatoes; but for some reason, she is the only one of my children who clings to the Italian tradition of no meat on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve we ate Cheesy Potatoes without Bacon added to the recipe.

This year we are gathering at my daughter's home for Christmas Eve and I'm hoping that she has these potatoes on the table.

That brings up another subject.  These potatoes can be made from scratch if you want to peel and grate 2 pounds of potatoes and you want to bake off the pound of bacon.
Grating Potatoes
I'm sure the finished product would come out with the same wonderful flavors.  However, I purchased my potatoes already grated country style potatoes from the frozen food section of the store and Hormel natural bacon pieces from the dressing aisle at the supermarket.  This recipe calls for finely chopped onions but I did not use them in mine.  In retrospect, I could have bought the O'Brien style hash brown potatoes and achieved a more flavorful casserole.

The recipe calls for canned cream of chicken soup, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and melted margarine.  When you use all of these and add them to the O'Brien style potatoes you will achieve what we refer to as a loaded potato casserole.

This recipe is a great way to welcome in the colder days of Fall to go along with a meatloaf or any other entree.  In any case, I hope you try these and enjoy this home style cooking side dish that has become such a favorite in our family.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Pasta Dishes for Lent

As I've stated over the years, I hate fish and Lent has always been a bit of a quandary for me to find something to eat.

There are several pasta dishes that can be served for Lent.  Not all of them are Italian but quite a few come from our fine Italian descents.

Cheese Ravioli is one, Stuffed Shells another.  These fine substitutes for fish on Fridays in Lent come from one basic recipe the Crepe Dough.  The dough for the Ravioli and the Gnocchi or Tortellini comes from the same recipe but is rolled out differently and stuffed with or without Ricotta Cheese before cooking in a Tomato Sauce.  For Stuffed Shells you start with a basic Crepe Recipe and then stuff them with Ricotta Cheese and roll the crepe around the Cheese before baking in a tomato sauce.

Tortellini can be used in many varieties but I prefer Tortellini Soup.  During Lent you shouldn't make tortellini soup because one of the main ingredients is chicken broth unless you can figure out a way to get around this using water.  I'm guessing the tomato sauce could be bolstered up by adding some watered down retail tomato soup.

Two dishes that call for spaghetti are Pasta N Eggi (spaghetti with eggs) and Anchovy Pasta.  Pasta N Eggi, pronounced as one word "pastaneggi," was a favorite of my youngest step-daughter and we made it year round but it is a good substitute for the Lenten Season.

Anchovy Pasta was originally just made on Christmas Eve to make up one of the seven fishes for the Italian table.  In our house, the only one who actually liked it was PupPup, my father-in-law.  Needless to say, I don't make this dish anymore but it is a staple for the Italian table.

That is all I have for the basic pasta recipes but we will continue this vein of thought with some recipes that take a little more time and energy on Friday.  Since this blog was posted on Ash Wednesday, tomorrow we will delve into another vein of thought for our cooking enthusiasts.