My Not-So-Secret Recipes

By: Jeanne Reynolds

I love reading about food, restaurants and recipes. I have a thick white binder stuffed with recipes I’ve clipped from magazines and newspapers or begged from friends and family. Most of them I’ll probably never make, but there are a few I go back to time and again. You can tell them by the yellowed paper they’re printed or written on and the splatters of overly enthusiastic stirring.

If you flip through the pages of this notebook, you may notice a skew toward baking, and two types of treats in particular: brownies and muffins. Although I love these freshly baked goodies as much (or more) than the next person, the abundance of brownie and muffin recipes isn’t so much because they’re my favorites as it is because it seems so hard to find a really great, foolproof recipe for either.

“This one looks really good, and pretty easy,” I’ll say to myself as I clip out yet another recipe. “This one never fails,” a friend assures me as she emails me her version. And yet the results are never as roll-up-your-eyes-and-slap-your-momma wonderful as I hoped.

Until now.

I’m going to share with you two nearly perfect recipes, one for brownies and one for apple-cinnamon muffins. You can thank me later.

Oh-my-goodness brownies

OK, this one is more advice than a recipe: If you need to bring a dish to a potluck, tailgate or holiday meal that people will rave over, make brownies. And use a boxed mix. Yes, you read that right. I’ve made many scratch versions over the years and there isn’t enough difference to make it worth the trouble. The secret is to not stop there. First, substitute Kahlua or Amaretto for half the water called for. You won’t taste the liqueur but the flavor will be subtly rich and decadent.

Then, make your own frosting. This makes all the difference in the world. That travesty in a can is the frosting equivalent of spray cheese. Never, I repeat never, use it. Making enough chocolate frosting for a pan of brownies takes about 3 minutes and 4 ingredients: butter or margarine, cocoa powder, powdered (aka confectioner’s) sugar and a little liquid, which can be water, milk, vanilla, coffee or the liqueur you used in the brownies. I don’t measure and the proportions are to taste depending on how sweet or dark you prefer it, but it’s roughly equal parts butter and cocoa powder, about two to four times that much sugar, and liquid to spreading consistency. For example, ¼ cup butter, ¼ cocoa, ½ cup to 1 cup sugar and a teaspoon to a tablespoon of liquid. Combine the butter and cocoa first, then gradually add the sugar, tasting as you go and alternating with a little liquid at a time to loosen it up.

This might sound tricky but it’s really not. Do it once or twice and you’ll be able to whip it up in your sleep (and you might find yourself dreaming about it, too). Get ready for ooh and aahs.

Oh, two more tips: Line your pan with foil with enough overhang on either side so you can lift the whole thing out and put it on a board to frost and cut. No more brownies stuck in the pan. And don’t overbake, unless you prefer dry, crumble brownies (if you do, you stopped reading this long ago). Test for doneness before the minimum baking time is up and keep testing until they’re just barely done.

Best-ever apple-cinnamon muffins

This recipe is a combination of a few I clipped, with modifications to make them easier for what I typically have on hand. I like these because they actually rise up like they’re supposed to and they’re not too sweet. They’re great for breakfast or with a cup of hot tea on a cold afternoon.

Combine in a large bowl:

  • 2 cups unsifted flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix in just until dry ingredients are combined:

  • ¾ cup milk (skim or low-fat is fine, even lactose-free)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (original recipe calls for melted butter or margarine but this is easier and works fine)
  • 1 egg

Gently stir in as many of these as you want:

  • 1 cup chopped apples (any kind, and no need to peel them)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Line a 12-cup pan with paper liners and use an ice cream scoop sprayed with nonstick spray to fill each cup. Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on top of each muffin. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

If You Can’t Win the Game, Win the Tailgate

By: Stacy Thompson

As football fans, we like to believe that we have control over the ultimate outcome of a game — gotta wear that lucky shirt, lucky hat or lucky socks; if watching on TV, gotta sit in the lucky seat. Obviously, the actions or inactions of the fans have little to do with the play on the field, but that knowledge doesn’t make losing a game any easier or tolerable. On the flip side, there are those that don’t really follow football or care whether the home team wins or loses but simply enjoy the great southern tradition of football tailgating. So whether you are an ardent fan or dedicated socializer, I hope you enjoy these quick and easy tailgate recipes to make your Saturday a blast. Just add burgers, dogs or BBQ and you’ll easily win the day regardless of the score of the game!

Southern Caviar

  • 2 cans black-eyed peas
  • 2 cans shoe peg corn
  • 2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes
  • 2 large bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 can black beans
  • 12 small green onions, chopped
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  • 16-ounce bottle Zesty Italian dressing

Mix all ingredients and chill overnight. Serve with Tostitos scoops.

 

Sweet Southern Slaw

  • 1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix (finely shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

Mix coleslaw and onion. Whisk remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill before serving.

 

Southern Deviled Eggs

  • 7 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 pinch each of salt and pepper

Cut eggs lengthwise. Place yolks in a small bowl, mash, and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Fill egg whites with mixture and garnish with paprika or pimientos.

 

Krispy Kreme Casserole

  • 9 Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts, day old
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Cut donuts into 1/2 inch pieces. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over donuts. Let sit for 2 hours. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until middle is firm.

4 Healthy Recipes to Try This Independence Day

By: Kristen Nida, Guest Contributor

Hosting a Fourth of July celebration this year? You’ll have to try these four quick and easy recipes for your holiday festivities. Not only do they take little time to prepare, leaving you more time to enjoy with your family and friends, but they are also healthy!

Barbecue Pulled Chicken: A Fourth of July cookout isn’t complete without barbecue.
This BBQ pulled chicken recipe is a unique reinterpretation of pulled pork that slow-cooks chicken in tangy tomato sauce. Whether served over mashed potatoes or served as a sandwich, it is sure to be a hit. Click here for the recipe.

Creamy Spinach Dip: This healthy, fresh take on classic spinach dip is irresistible.
The low-fat ingredients in this tasty recipe will save you over 80 calories in each serving. This versatile dip can be served with pita chips, fresh vegetables, or even spread over a sandwich. There is an option for everyone! Click here for the recipe.

Red, White & Blue Popsicles: This easy, 3-step recipe is as quick to prepare as it is tasty to eat.
Juicy raspberries and blueberries are in season and this recipe takes full advantage of that. The natural sweetness of these fruity popsicles is unbeatable and the colors scream Independence Day, perfect for the occasion. Click here for the recipe.

S’mores Banana Ice Cream: The lightest, quickest “ice cream” you will ever prepare!
S’mores, bananas, and ice cream are each so delicious on their own. The only way to make them better is to combine them into one tasty treat! The best thing about this recipe is it takes only four minutes to create this dessert for your family and friends to enjoy. Click here for the recipe.

Three Great Gluten Free Resources

By: Rachel Sircy

In this post, I thought I would take a break from documenting my own personal gluten free and high cholesterol woes to share with those of you out there with gluten free needs some resources that have helped me through the years.

One of the first blogs that I came across when I was first diagnosed was The Gluten Free Girl blog. This blog helped me understand what it meant to be gluten free in a way that all the medical pamphlets and jargon couldn’t. It really encouraged me to read something written by someone who was a celiac and who wasn’t depressed about it. Shauna James Ahern enjoys life and her blog helped me to realize that my life wasn’t over just because I had celiac disease and could no longer eat fried chicken and doughnuts. I would particularly recommend starting out with her post entitled, “Yes.” It’s about her engagement, but it’s also about saying yes to all aspects of life no matter if they’re good or bad.

You can find her blog at: https://glutenfreegirl.com.

While I enjoy reading The Gluten Free Girl for inspiration and some tips, the truth is, a lot of her recipes have been too expensive and too complicated for me to really want to try. The first cookbook that I received after being diagnosed that had recipes that I wanted to return to again and again was Simply…Gluten Free Quick Meals, by Carol Kicinski. Her meals were, as stated, quick to prepare and pretty easy. They were also fairly easy on the budget, and the ones that were a bit too expensive could easily be prepared with cheaper substitutes and ingredients could also be left out without affecting the overall flavor too much. I love her falafel burgers, but I have never made the tahini sauce that she makes to go with them because I would never use the tahini for anything other than these burgers. The burgers still taste great!

Also, Kicinski’s cookbook had one of the first “stocking your gluten free pantry” sections I had ever seen. This was a huge help to me, and it might be to you, too. I would visit her website first to make sure that you like her cooking and her advice before you go out and buy her book. Her website is chock full of recipes and advice.

You can find her website at: https://simplygluten-free.com.

Last but not least, for those of us who suffer from the expense of a gluten free diet, there is Nicole Hunn’s blog: Gluten Free on a Shoestring. Hunn makes simple gluten free meals that are also affordable. Her recipes have been collected in at least one cookbook and they’ve also been featured in Delight gluten free magazine. She has a section on her website that deals with stocking a gluten free pantry as well. Because going gluten free can mean learning to cook all over again, I highly recommend looking at these resources to help you know what you need (and what you DON’T need) in your gluten free kitchen.

Nicole’s blog is located at: https://glutenfreeonashoestring.com.

Good luck and great reading!

The Instant Pot

By: Leah Prescott

Do you often scramble for dinner ideas on the commute home from work? Do you try to plan the evening’s meal while standing in the grocery aisle at 5 PM? Do you find yourself stopping for fast food because there just isn’t time to defrost the ingredients to cook? If these scenarios sound familiar, you need to keep reading! (If I sound like a terrible infomercial, I apologize; I’m very tired.)

Instant Pot As I have said before, I absolutely love reading product reviews and time-saving tips and tricks. As a matter of fact, as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker, I sort of feel that reading blog posts, scouring Pinterest for recipes, and flipping through Better Homes & Gardens is just a form of continuing education or professional research….right? In the spirit of giving, when a product “lives up to the hype” I feel a moral obligation to share it with my friends. So I am happy to share a product that has transformed dinner time and taken a lot of stress off of me: the Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot performs multiple tasks and serves as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, rice cooker, sauté pan, yogurt maker and warmer. When I first got it, I immediately got rid of my rice cooker and my slow cooker, and I was already saving space. This thing does it all and it does it fast. (Please note I am just an enthusiastic consumer and am not being compensated by Instant Pot for my endorsement!)

I encourage you to read some of the many reviews online that delve into some of the nitty gritty of this appliance. For now I will just share some of the dishes we have made and loved over the last 6 weeks:

  • Baked potatoes: Done in less than 30 minutes, perfectly soft and moist.
  • Balsamic chicken: 5 minutes to prep, 45 minutes and done.
  • Beans & Rice: From brown rice and unsoaked dry black beans to a one-dish meal in less than 45 minutes. That’s right: dry beans and rice start to finish in 45 minutes! We have already made this recipe four times!
  • Mac & Cheese: This takes only about 20 minutes and is SO much better than instant.
  • Rice: Comes out perfectly and no monitoring the hot stove.
  • Ribs: Fast & delicious.
  • Potato Salad: Crazy easy and tasty. The potatoes were the perfect consistency and the eggs cook right in the pot with them! This was my first attempt at potato salad and I am happy to have found such a simple method.
  • Oatmeal: Delicious, quick and no burning the bottom of the pan while I am in the shower.

As the weather gets cooler, I will definitely be using the Instant Pot for soups and chili. The fantastic thing is that you can sauté veggies or meat right in the pot before switching it to slow-cooker mode. (That was always my gripe with my crock pot: I hated dirtying an extra pan and having that additional step.) Also, after you set the machine on, it will automatically switch to the warm setting when the cooking is complete. This thing really puts my old slow cooker to shame!

For me, the major drawback of this item was the cost. The Instant Pot retails from $150 to $260 depending on the features you select. (The newest and latest is Bluetooth enabled!) I was happy to find a deal on Amazon for an older model and now that I have used it for a few weeks I consider it money very well spent. Also, I am saving space, money, and time which is worth a lot! The Instant Pot is a game-changer for a busy family; check it out at http://instantpot.com/

Sopa de Pollo

By: Brady Evans

I adore going out to eat Mexican food. My husband, on the other hand, does not. For the majority of our relationship he would flat out refuse. His excuse is that I make good enough knock-off Latin food at home. Drives me up a wall!

The Spanish teacher where I teach high school turned me onto Sopa de Pollo at a local Mexican restaurant. This girl has traveled all over the world to many Spanish-speaking countries, so if she endorses the meal I know it is good.

Sopa de Pollo

Finally, with my insistence, I was able to get my husband to try this soup. And he became obsessed. He started asking to go to the Mexican restaurant on his own initiative. He began ordering other things on the menu (but always ordering a to-go container of this soup as well). He began to LOVE Mexican food.

And then I ruined it. I ruined it by making a delicious version of Sopa de Pollo here at home. It is so delicious and so fresh that now he has no desire to go out to eat Mexican. This soup is the best thing on a cool fall evening or warm summer night. It is hearty and fresh. Filling and light. PERFECT.

Sopa de Pollo

Ingredients:

For the broth

  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
  • water
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tomato, cut in half
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon dried herbs (I used herbs de provence)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • handful cilantro

For the soup

  • 4-5 cups chicken broth (see above)
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • shredded chicken from two breast halves
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 red small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly slice
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 package Goya Sazon con Cilantro Y Tomate
  • diced avocado
  • lime wedges
  • cilantro

Instructions

  1. Prepare the broth first. Place all ingredients in a large stock pot.
  2. Fill with enough water to cover all ingredients by about 2 inches.
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce a simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours.
  4. Remove chicken from stockpot and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones and shred finely. Discard skin and bones.
  5. Pour stock through a sieve to remove solids. Discard solids.
  6. Skim fat off the top of stock. You may do this with a shallow spoon or by preparing stock in advance, chilling it, and removing the solidified fat from the top.
  7. You should have 4-5 cups of stock for the soup.
  8. Combine water and stock in a large stock pot and add rice, red pepper flakes, and ground cumin.
  9. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes.
  10. Add chicken shreds and cook an addition 20 minutes at a low boil. Add Goya Sazon packet. Taste for salt and season as needed.
  11. Add diced carrot, diced bell pepper, and most of the sliced onion, reserving a small amount for garnish.
  12. Cook 20 minutes or so until vegetables are tender and rice is fully cooked.
  13. Ladle into bowls and top with sliced onion, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, and squeeze of lime juice.

Cauliflower Alfredo – How’s THAT for Change?

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

A few weeks ago, my boss and I were coming back from a lunch meeting when he chimed in about change.

“Nobody wants change. They all want to keep doing things the way they’ve always done them,” he said. “I give you credit for changing from an iPhone to an Android, but you don’t much like change either.”

Hold the phone! Granted, my boss only sees me at work, but I would say that I, especially over the past few years, have embraced change. I’ve changed my entire lifestyle to add early and regular exercise to my life. I’ve all but given up processed and fast food, and I’ve learned how to cook clean and healthy. And even now that I’ve “taken the leap,” I continue to experiment with new foods, recipes and healthy changes.

Caulfredo

Speaking of change, this weekend I tried a great new recipe from one of my favorite blogs Oh She Glows: Vegan Cauli-Power Fettuccine Alfredo. The base of the sauce is cauliflower, and it was delicious. I highly recommend it! Its a change you’ll love to try!