Saturday, December 29, 2012

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

This is a one skillet meal, if you do it right. (I didn't, see my tips and tricks)  It cooks quick and it really packs some great flavor.  This is a meal you can make in 40 minutes.  I got it from Tracy's Culinary Adventures.
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • ¼ t. red pepper flakes
  • 3 C. water
  • 1 (12 oz.) bag of ziti
  • ½ C. heavy cream
  • 2 C. mozzarella, shredded
  • ½ C. Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. You need a large 12 in. skillet with a cover, which is oven proof, to make this a one pan meal.
  3. Set the skillet over medium heat and add the sausage that has been broken into small pieces, about ½ inch thick.
  4. Add the salt and red pepper flakes and cook until sausage is brown, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Use a wooden spoon to break the sausage up and stir occasionally.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Add the tomatoes and reduce to medium-low heat, cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the water and pasta then cover the pan and turn up the heat to medium-high.  (adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a vigorous simmer)
  9. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan, for 15 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
  10. Add the heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and 1 C. of the mozzarella.
  11. Stir to incorporate, and then top with the remaining 1 C. mozzarella.
  12. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.
  13. Allow the dish to set for 5 minutes, and then serve.
Tips and Tricks:
  • I started this recipe in a skillet that I thought was big enough for this recipe, but when I added the water, I realized there was NO room for the ziti.  I had to transfer to a pot (not a skillet) then I realized the pot wasn't oven proof, so I had to transfer to a Corning ware.  Save yourself the time and cleanup and make sure you start with something large enough to hold about 8 cups AND something that can be put in the oven.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chicken Salad Dip

All Southern ladies have a chicken salad recipe.  I have several and I use each for different things.  This is a finely chopped chicken salad that can be served more like a dip.  It is a combination of a few different recipes.
  • 1 whole fryer
  • 10 C. water
  • 4 celery stalks, cut in fourths
  • 2 onions, cut in half
  • Head of garlic, cut in half
  • 1 T. Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
  1. In a large pot, cover the fryer with water and add the celery, onions, garlic, and Creole seasoning.
  2. Allow to boil for one hour, then remove the chicken and allow to cool.
  3. Remove the skin and the bones and place them back in the pot and allow them to simmer for another hour. Reserve the chicken meat for the dip.
  4. Strain the contents of the pot and now you have chicken stock.
  • chicken meat of a fryer
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • ½ C. sour cream
  • ½ C. mayonnaise
  • 3 T. Creole mustard
  • 2 T. Crystal hot sauce
  • 1 T. chopped dill
  • 1 T. garlic salt
  • 1 T. Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
  1. In a large bowl combine the last 7 ingredients together.  Reserve.
  2. In a food processor, add the chicken and pulse until finely chopped.  Add to the large bowl.
  3. Add the celery, water chestnuts and green onions to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add to the large bowl.
  4. Combine all the ingredients together and place a cover over the bowl.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, so the flavors can “marry”.
  6. Serve with your favorite crackers or chips.
Tips and Tricks:
  • Cutting the fryer is not necessary if you have a large gumbo pot, just throw the whole chicken in and let it boil away.
  • Green onions sometimes become stringy in the food processor, if you want them to look pretty, don’t process them but cut them by hand.
  • The sour cream and mayo amounts are approximate.  It really depends on how much chicken you have.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Italian Salad

This is a great salad to serve with a pizza.  I made this salad for friends when we ordered pizza.  It is supposed to serve 4 – 6 people, but the 3 of us ate it all.  Yeah, it was that good.  Making that creamy Italian dressing really takes it up a notch!
  • 1 C. mayonnaise
  • ¼ C. milk or half and half
  • ¼ C. red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • ½ t. of sugar
  • 1 envelope of Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix
  • 1 lb. Italian blend salad mix or romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
  • 1 (5 oz.) jar of small stuffed green olives
  • 2 oz. pepperoni slices, cut in half
  • 1 (12 oz.) jar of sweet pepper rings, cut in pieces
  • 1 C. Italian blend cheese, shredded
  1. Make the dressing combining all of the ingredients by whisking until fully incorporated.
  2. When you are ready to serve the salad, combine the salad ingredients and pour ¾ C. of the dressing over the salad and toss. 
  3. Serve immediately.
Tips and Tricks:
  • I use an immersion blender to incorporate the dressing ingredients.  It works better and faster than whisking.
  • You can use any lettuce you like for this salad but I have tried it with iceberg and I don’t think it tasted as good.
  • If you can't find Italian blend cheese, just use 3/4 C. mozzarella and 1/4 C. Romano or Parmesan.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wedding Cookies

These are so Yummy!  I don't know why they are called "Wedding Cookies", but they are light and airy and sweet.  I'm not the best baker, but these are easy to make.  It is a recipe from Trisha Yearwood.
  • 2 ¼ C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1 C. (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • ½ C. pecans, finely chopped 
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sifted flour, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter, ¼ C. of the powdered sugar, and vanilla with a mixer.
  4. Add the flour mixture about ½ C. at a time.
  5. Mix until the flour is incorporated.
  6. Stir in the chopped pecans, by hand.
  7. Roll the cookie dough into 1 inch balls, then roll into a tube and create a crescent.
  8. Place each on a cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, or until slightly brown on edges but still pale on the top.
  10. Remove the cookies from the oven, and then transfer to a cooling rack.
  11. When cookies are cooled, roll them in the ¾ C. of powdered sugar.
  12. Store in an air-tight container.
Tips and Tricks:
  • This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.
  • I use parchment paper on my cookie sheets.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Popeye Dip

This is my friend Marianna's twist on a simple, easy to fix appetizer.  She sautés the red onion and it gives this dip a wonderful flavor.  Thanks for the tip, Marianna.
  • 1 box chopped spinach, frozen
  • 1 can water chestnuts, sliced 
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ C (½ stick) butter
  • ½ C. mayonnaise
  • 1 C. (8oz.) sour cream
  • 1 envelope Knorr or Lipton vegetable soup mix
  1. Cook spinach as directed on box and drain.
  2. Squeeze the excess water out of the spinach and dry with paper towels.
  3. Sauté onions in butter over medium-low heat until soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Chop the water chestnuts into small pieces.
  5. Add each of the ingredients to a medium bowl and mix well.
  6. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
  7. Serve with tortilla chips.
Tips and Tricks:
  • I like the Restaurant style Tostitos tortilla chips with this dip.
  • I use an egg slicer to chop the water chestnuts into thinner slices.
  • I use light sour cream.