Monday, December 30, 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR--Ready for 2014? I am looking back and moving forward--great recipes to get started


image via ”The Stock Solution”   

Wow--where did this year go? It's been quite a year for me, lots of ups and downs, discoveries, and both loss and new finds all rolled into the year 2013. I am ready to leave it behind and reach out and embrace 2014, except for the wonderful experience of getting to know the people in my book world, being entertained and enchanted by new writers and books, and being once again spellbound by favorite authors at the top of their game! It is wealth without measure--and I feel very, very fortunate. However, none of that would matter without the four corners of my world--Faith, Family, Friends & Felines  >^,,^< 

We are starting a new year, but I am feeling nostalgic. I'm in a retro frame of mind. Sometimes going back for a "blast from the past'' is just what you need to refresh your spirit! Classic, simple recipes that you haven't tasted in a while are mighty tasty with a few little tweaks and updates. I always look at recipes two ways: the way they are written, and the way in which I will adapt them to my cooking style. If you are on a restricted diet or you just prefer lighter fare, experiment with substituting "lite" ingredients in the recipes that you are eager to prepare. Keep in mind that replacing ingredients like granulated sugar, butter and dairy products will not only affect the taste and look of the food, but also the texture of the finished dish. Using convenience foods is a blessing for busy cooks, but be a label reader and watch for high salt and fat content. When using prepared sauces and pre-seasoned ingredients, taste the food before automatically adding extra salt, pepper, spices and condiments. Let what's already in the food work for you so that you don't have to work so hard! Large bags of frozen fruits and vegetables are wonderful ingredients to keep on hand. Measure out what you need, and keep the rest ready for the next recipe. I especially love the tricolor peppers and onions blend, the stir-fry vegetable blend, and the broccoli--cauliflower--carrot combo. Frozen fruit like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and a mixed fruit blend are a real treat for pies, cobblers, breakfast recipes, smoothies and so much more! Another favorite ingredient that I keep on hand at all times is canned tomatoes. The diced tomatoes and sliced stewed tomatoes are my favorites. Canned tomatoes come plain, with green chilies, with Italian or Mexican seasoning, and in a variety of forms and can sizes. Colorful, delicious, and so convenient!

Simple Layered Salad

"It's a beauty--serve it in a clear glass bowl for best effect!"

1 pkg (16oz) prewashed mixed salad greens
1 large tomato, medium diced
1 large red onion, rough chopped
1 pkg (3 oz) precooked real bacon pieces
1 pkg (10 oz) frozen peas, thawed in a colander, do not rinse
1/2 small jar (or more as needed) extra-thick creamy (Ranch, Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, etc) refrigerated salad dressing (found in produce section)
1 (8 oz) pkg shredded Cheddar cheese

In order given, layer ingredients in a large, deep, clear glass serving container. Cover top of container with plastic wrap, sealing well. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to develop.

Golden Potato Casserole

1 pkg hash brown patties (27 oz) thawed and crumbled up
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cups crushed corn flakes
1 stick butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except cereal and butter. Stir mixture just until blended, and then spread in greased 9 X 13 baking pan. Mix crushed cereal together with melted butter and spread evenly over top of casserole. Bake @ 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cookie N Cream Rice Crispy Treats 

4 Tablespoons Butter
4 Cups mini marshmallows
8 Cups rice crispy cereal
8 oz bag mini chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed

1/2 Cup chocolate chips, melted

Place butter and marshmallows into a large microwaveable bowl. Microwave for a few minutes until marshmallows puff up nice and large. Remove and stir in cereal and crushed cookies. Pour into a large 9x13 inch baking dish. With the back of a large spoon that's sprayed with cooking spray press and smooth treats. Drizzle melted chocolate over top and let cool. Cut into squares.

Bunny's Best Carrots

3 cups sliced carrots
1/4 cup cooked crumbled bacon
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons sliced green onions
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper

In 2 quart saucepan place carrots; add enough water to cover. Bring to a full boil. Cook over medium heat until carrots are crisp tender, about 8 to 12 minutes. Drain; return to pan. Add remaining ingredients. Cover; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Mama's Saucy Meatloaf

2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup cream of tomato soup (from 10 oz can)
1 envelope (about 1 ounce) dry onion soup and recipe mix
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp pan drippings from cooked meat loaf
remaining canned cream of tomato soup
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp prepared mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar

Thoroughly mix the ground chuck, 1/2 cup tomato soup, onion soup mix, bread crumbs and egg in a large bowl. Place the mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and firmly shape into an 8 x 4-inch loaf. Bake at 350°F. for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the meatloaf is cooked through. Let the meatloaf stand for 10 minutes before removing to serving platter and slicing.
Sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons pan drippings, remaining tomato soup, water, mustard, and brown sugar in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat until the mixture is hot and bubbling. Pour sauce evenly over sliced meatloaf on platter.

Bacon--Wrapped Shrimp 

1 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined & rinsed, about 45
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
15 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thirds

Sprinkle shrimp with garlic powder and a little salt. Wrap each shrimp in a piece of bacon. Arrange on a broiler rack. Broil bacon wrapped shrimp, turning occasionally, 3 to 4 inches from heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, until bacon is crisp and browned. Serve with cocktail picks. For dipping sauce: seafood cocktail sauce, BBQ sauce, or ranch dressing.

Now and Again Biscuits

5 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 pkg of yeast
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup oil

Add yeast to warm water and let sit for 10 minutes. Mix dry ingredients and add liquid ingredients to mixture. Mix well. At this point you can cover and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks and use as desired. To make biscuits: Do not knead dough. Roll on a floured surface, cut out biscuits, and place with sides touching in a lightly greased pan. Allow pan to warm on top of preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until biscuits start to rise. Bake for about 12 minutes, until golden brown, at 375 degrees.

"Oh, Fudge" Bundt Cake  

1 Dark Chocolate Cake mix (2 layer size)
1 small box instant chocolate pudding

4 Eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. carton sour cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix and instant pudding. Add eggs, water, oil, and vanilla extract and mix well. Fold in sour cream and blend well. Do not overmix. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts just until combined. Pour batter into greased and floured tube pan or bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour, or until cake tests done. When cake is almost cool, lightly sift cake with powdered sugar.

"After-Dinner" Coffee(serves 4)

3 cups hot, strong coffee
1/2 cup cream or half and half, room temperature or slightly warmed
3 Tbsp white sugar
1 cup coffee liqueur
whipped topping
ground nutmeg

Combine coffee, cream, sugar, and liqueur and divide evenly among 4 heated cups or glasses. Top with whipped topping and sprinkle lightly with ground nutmeg.

Since one year has ended, and a new one has just begun, I am eager to hear all about the great books you have read and are planning to read. What was your favorite book from 2013? What is your most anticipated read for 2014? Will this be the year that you really spread your reading wings and travel into some new, unexplored worlds of words? Also, is there an older book that you are wanting to read, but are unable to locate? Share your best book sources :)

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