Monday, February 28, 2011

Easy Spaghetti and Vegetables

I never tried making much spaghetti except the traditional tomato sauce spaghetti until a couple years ago. However, Rachael Ray inspired me to try making it different ways, and I learned from her shows how easy it is to make a simple sauce using some of the starchy pasta water. This is such an easy dish that can be changed up many different ways. Just about any vegetables would be good added, as well as cooked meat, if desired. This is filling, pretty healthy and quick to fix up. Enjoy!


3/4 pound spaghetti or capellini or other pasta
1-2 cups canned chopped tomatoes with its juice
1 1/2 cups each of broccoli and cauliflower (or other frozen/fresh vegetables- I really like to use chopped spinach or other greens)
1  15 oz. can of white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cottage cheese
3 cups reserved pasta cooking water (approximately)
2-4 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2-3 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro/culantro (use lesser amount if using culantro)
2-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 -1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a large cooking pot, boil spaghetti/pasta and vegetables in  well-salted water. When finished, drain vegetables and pasta, reserving the water. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients and mix into the cooked pasta. Add in the pasta water until the proper sauce consistency is obtained (the pasta will soak up a lot of water, so feel free to make it a little more "wet" if not eating immediately).  Cream cheese (light) is also a great addition, in place of the cottage cheese. It also would be good with some crumbled bacon bits on top.

Serves approximately 6-8

Bacalaitos (Codfish Fritters)

This is a favorite Puerto Rican/Dominican food that I was introduced to a couple years ago. They are sold on the street by vendors (street food) and there are many variations. The Puerto Rican ones traditionally are made from flour, seasonings/herbs and garlic and the Dominican ones contain cornmeal, sugar and fewer herbs and vegetables. I have tried them different ways and most recently decided to make a version of my own. This recipe has 1/2 cornmeal and 1/2 flour, as well as onions, garlic, and I added some of my homemade sofrito. Usually salted codfish is soaked or boiled  and then shredded. However, if you cannot find this type, you can use other that is cooked. These are deep-fried and definitely not very figure-friendly -- my poor husband's diet is being tested since these are his favorite!


1/4 pound salted codfish
3/4 cup flour (or use roughly 1/2 amount corn meal and 1/2 amount flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp (generous amount) seasoned salt (I use Adobo seasoned salt)
3/4 cup reserved fish broth from cooking the fish
1 garlic clove (more or less), finely minced
2 culantro leaves, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1- 1 1/2 packet sazón seasoning (I used culantro and achiote flavor)
few dashes of pepper
2-3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (or may use 1 Tbsp dried parsley)
2 large spoonfuls of sofrito (blend of onion, garlic, green pepper, cilantro, parsley, cumin, oregano and more)
sugar (optional)- I find that the onions give it a slightly sweet flavor

Cut the fish into chunks and boil the fish in water for 15 minutes. Then remove and flake it- deboning it if you did not use boneless fish. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water. As it cools, begin mixing the dry ingredients together, followed by the remaining ingredients, except the fish and broth. Pour the broth slowly into the center and mix well to make a thick batter. Add in the bacalao and mix gently. Allow to set for about 5 minutes so the cornmeal can absorb a little moisture.  Bring a large amount of oil to approximately 350 degrees and then add large spoonfuls of batter into the oil. (I used a tall sided, narrow pot for cooking so I would not have to use so much oil and the fritters would be covered in the oil and float as they cooked. Therefore, I could only cook 2-3 at a time.) After dropping the batter into the oil, they may stick to the bottom, but allow them to cook there for about 1 1/2 minutes. Then take a spoon and carefully scrape across the bottom to dislodge them. By that time, they will float and probably are ready to turn over. They are finished when they are dark golden brown, but not too dark. Place on paper towels to drain. Allow to cool before eating as they will be VERY hot!        Makes 10 fritters.

They are like a chewy, mild fish flavored fritter. These may be served with a meal as part of the main course or as an appetizer.

Shared with:
Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms- Melt in Your Mouth Monday

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pork and Sauerkraut

I have been reading over the past couple years about the health benefits of eating fermented foods. Almost every culture has some of its traditional foods that were fermented or pickled. As our diets have become more limited to processed foods, we are missing vital nutrients and health benefits that were previously rich in these diets that included fermented foods. One food that was enjoyed in large quantities even just a generation ago is sauerkraut. However, many people today do not like the tang and sour flavor found in this food. This recipe is a great way to enjoy the sauerkraut without tasting the traditional sour taste.

This is actually a couple different versions of pork and sauerkraut. The first one is from a distant cousin whom we have visited with a few times over the past few years. When Don made this version of pork and sauerkraut, we were immediately in love with it and could not get enough of it. I was surprised to find out that he had used molasses drizzled over the sauerkraut and pork as it cooked. While I still like the way I used to make pork and sauerkraut- (browning the pork tenderloin with seasonings and herbs, then slow cooking it with the sauerkraut (in its juice, not drained completely) and then served with mashed potatoes), this has definitely become my favorite way to have the pork and sauerkraut, and the kids like it much better.

His recipe is as follows: it did not include amounts- just a technique, and he used spareribs.

"Important that you rinse in a strainer the salt from the sauerkraut before adding it.
Spareribs are first charcoal broiled in a pan on an outside charcoal cooker.
Upon completion, layer them alternately in a pressure cooker with the sauerkraut and molasses drizzled over each layer of sauerkraut.
Pressure cook approximately 30 minutes. VOILA, DELICIOSO!!"

Because it was winter and quite cold outside, I made this version inside and did not charcoal the meat. I also did not use spareribs- I used pork cubes that I found on sale at a butcher shop. This is my version loosely based on my cousin's recipe.


2 pounds pork cubes/ meat chunks
2 (2 pound) bags of sauerkraut (rinsed and drained)
salt/pepper/seasoned salt to taste

Brown the pork with seasonings in a large frying pan. Layer the pork, sauerkraut and drizzled molasses in layers in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. If using a pressure cooker, cook for approximately 30 minutes. If using a slow cooker, turn on high and cook for approximately 4 hours or 8 hours on low. Before serving, stir the sauerkraut and meat, slightly shredding the pork.

This tastes great with some mashed potatoes and fresh corn. Serves approximately 8 people.


Another version/recipe I came across as I was preparing the recipe above, was from the Hatfield Sauerkraut package. It sounds very good and is somewhat similar in that it uses a little brown sugar to sweeten the sauerkraut.


3 pounds Hatfield Sauerkraut
4 Hatfield Simply Tender Thick Pork Chops, browned in butter
1 package Hatfield Polish Kielbasa Links
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp caraway seeds
1 Tbsp dill seeds

1. Layer in a crock in order: Thick browned pork chops, 1 1/2 cup prepared sauerkraut, 1 Tbsp caraway seeds, 1/2 Tbsp dill seeds, 1/2 cup chopped onion.
2. Sprinkle 1/2 of the brown sugar. Repeat layering in order as above, adding in the kielbasa in the 2nd layer.
3. Cook in a crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. Sauerkraut will turn to a light brown.
4. If cooking in the oven in a roasting pan, cook for 2 hours on 350 degrees.

Serves 4-6

German Pork Chops and Sauerkraut on Foodista

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Almost Heaven Cake

This is a wonderful dessert- moist, juicy cake from the pineapple juice, the thin pudding/cream cheese layer adds a special flavor, and the cool whip/ whipped cream topping and oranges add a light but refreshing flavor. All in all, this is about my favorite cake! It is wonderful for large gatherings. It is not the most elegant-looking dessert, but it will certainly bring much appreciation when they take the first bite. Another added bonus is that this recipe is another cake mix-made special (my kind of easy). This recipe was given to me by my friend, Midge. However, she does not remember where it came from, and I have made a couple minor adjustments to the recipe.


1 box yellow cake mix
2 (15 oz.) cans of mandarin oranges
20 oz. can crushed pineapple
1 box instant vanilla pudding- 4 serving size
1/2 cups cold milk, 1/2 cup slightly warmed
8 oz. cream cheese, softened completely (I use low fat)
8 oz. cool whip (I use low fat)

Prepare the cake mix as directed on the package, adding in one drained can of mandarin oranges as you mix the cake (the oranges will be blended into small pieces). Bake in a 9x13 inch oblong cake pan. After baking, while the cake is still warm, poke holes in the cake over the entire surface using a fork. Pour the undrained crushed pineapple over the hot cake and spread the pineapple evenly over the surface of the cake. Allow the cake to cool.

Mix cream cheese with the pudding mix and 1/2 cup warm milk. After mixing together well, add gradually the cold milk while continuing to mix until well blended (easiest with an electric mixer). If you add the cold milk too quickly to the cream cheese, it will be lumpy. Place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour or more until it is more firm. Then remove and spread over top of the cake, followed by the cool whip. Drain the second can of mandarin oranges and arrange the pieces over top of the cool whip in rows or another type of pretty design. Cover and refrigerate for at least another 1-2 hours before serving. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Pineapple Delight Cake on Foodista

Monday, February 14, 2011

Zucchini Bread

This is such a yummy bread- a great recipe for when you need to use up some zucchini. If you don't have a need for 2 loaves of bread, you can freeze the other loaf or bring one into work to share or give one to a friend or neighbor. It is even better the next day after baking.

Think of this recipe for those persons in your life who are picky veggie eaters.


3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar (I used part brown and part white granulated sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups flour (I used part white whole wheat and part white all purpose flour)
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup each chopped dates and nuts (or may substitute raisins)

Beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla together until creamy. Sift together the dry ingredients and add by thirds into the liquid, mixing well between each addition. Fold in the nuts and dates. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour- if using a 5x15 inch sweet bread pan, check it at approximately 50 minutes. If using the traditional bread pans, the bread will be higher and need a little longer to bake. Therefore, lower the oven temperature to about 325 degrees and bake a little longer. Bread is finished when it is set and knife or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out of pan and finish cooling on rack. Store wrapped up in the refrigerator if not eating in the next day or two.

Pineapple Zucchini Bread on Foodista

Zucchini/ Yellow Squash Quiche

There are times, especially in the summer, when I end up with a pile of zucchini all at once. That is when I will make zucchini (or a mixture of zucchini and summer (yellow) squash) quiche, zucchini jam, zucchini bread or cake. Even though this is not summer, my husband came home from our favorite nearby store the other night with bags of reduced and free zucchini and yellow squash- boy, it pays to shop there later at night! So I have pulled out those summer recipes and decided to make them up and share here. Besides, I'm looking forward to spring/summer after this long winter!

In this picture, I made the quiche with only yellow squash- not the zucchini. My sister-in-law, Lois, gave me this recipe a few years ago, and it has been a huge favorite in our family ever since. I have added some extra spices and seasonings.

This is an easy crust- just use tubed crescent rolls and spread out in the pie crust and smear some mustard around before adding the squash mixture. The flavor is a wonderful blend of cheese, savory egg and squash-- yummy! This is good any time of day- we have a hard time eating just one piece! It is even delicious reheated later.


  • 1 (8 oz.) can of refrigerated crescent rolls 
  • 2 Tbsp mustard (I like to use brown spicy mustard, but any flavor works)
  • 4 cups shredded zucchini and/or yellow squash
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1-2 Tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • salt (I use Adobo seasoned salt)
  • pepper
  • 3/4 - 1 tsp Italian seasoning mix (or may use a mixture of 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp dried basil, 1/8 tsp dried thyme,
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp dried chives or may use fresh chives, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, or other desired blends (this time I used some muenster and mozzarella)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spray or grease a 10 inch pie pan and press out the crescent roll dough in the pan, pressing seams together and cutting to fit pan as needed.
  • Spread mustard over surface of pie crust.
  • In a large frying pan, sautè squash, onions, garlic and butter until soft, approximately 10 minutes. 
  • Cool for a few minutes. Add in the cheese, stirring well. Then add the beaten eggs and seasonings. 
  • Pour into prepared crust.
  • Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the center is set. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 10-20 minutes so it will firm up slightly- the longer it sets, the more firm it well become.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Iraqi-style Stuffed Zucchini

The Iraqi people love stuffed foods. My Iraqi friend served these to us but in a little different shape. She took the small zucchinis and cut them in half in the middle- keeping a cylinder- and scooped out the center- making each like a little vessel. I thought that was a little too labor-intensive and decided to just cut them lengthwise.

After the meat was browned, the center pulp was then chopped up and sprinkled on top of the meat mixture.
Serves approximately 6.

6-8 small-medium zucchini squash, cut in half lengthwise and hollowed out
1/2 pound ground beef or lamb
1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 - 3/4 tsp seasoned salt (I used Adobo with Cumin by Goya)
pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp cinnamon*
1/2  tsp cumin *
1 Tbsp dried parsley
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup water (more or less)
paprika for garnish
olive oil


  • Prepare the zucchini; reserve the inside that has been removed. Lay down the zucchini in a baking dish face-up like a boat. Salt and lightly pepper the inside of the zucchini. 
  • Sauté the meat, onion and garlic. Drain off the fat and then add the seasonings, paste and water. Put the meat mixture in the hollowed out parts of the zucchini. 
  • Cut the reserved zucchini into chunks and toss with about 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Spoon the zucchini chunks over top of the meat. 
  • Sprinkle zucchini again with seasoned salt lightly, followed by paprika over top of everything. (May also use a Arabic Seven Spice mix in the meat as well as sprinkling on top of the zucchini for a more authentic flavor.)
  • Bake for approximately 1 hour at 400 degrees covered or until the fork pierces the zucchini easily. Remove cover/foil and bake for about 10-15 more minutes to dry up any excess juice. 
  • Serve over rice or with flat bread.

*Note- I also used about 2 Tbsp of sofrito mixture (a Hispanic blend of onion, green pepper, garlic, and various herbs like cilantro, culantro, parsley, oregano, cumin- all ground up together) in with the meat and seasonings as it was prepared.  See my blog soon for a posting on how to make your own sofrito- great for flavoring/seasoning all types of dishes.

Easy Yellow Split Pea Soup- Iraqi style

We have been enjoying so many of the foods prepared by an Iraqi family whom we have had the privilege of getting to know lately. Their family usually breaks their fast each evening during Ramadan by eating a date, then they proceed to a soup- often a lentil soup. My friend's version is often made with very tiny vermicelli pieces. Although they typically use red lentils, which are so good, I had some yellow split peas that I was wanting to use. I like the creaminess that comes with using split peas. Even though they eat this as a starter, I love this soup as the main course in the cold winter.

Makes about 3-4  servings.
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced very small (my addition)
  • 1 cup yellow split peas
  • 6 cups water
  • 1-2 cubes chicken bouillon/flavoring
  • Adobo seasoned salt with cumin (or salt) to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • approximately 1/2 cup vermicelli, broken into small pieces, approximately 1-2 inches
  • added water as needed

  • Sort the peas- pulling out the things not edible, then rinse well. 
  • In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic in 1-2 Tbsp oil until turning a golden brown. 
  • Add in rinsed peas, water, salt, pepper, parsley and bouillon to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-low. 
  • Continue cooking in this way until split peas are soft and turning creamy- about 1 1/2- 1 3/4 hours, stirring occasionally
  • Add the curry powder and additional water if needed to make it the proper soup consistency. 
  • Add the vermicelli and continue to cook until the pasta is soft. It is then ready to serve.
*This could easily be adapted for the slow cooker- add everything except the curry and vermicelli (the onion/garlic should already be sautéed). Cook on high for 3 1/2 hours. After the soup is creamy, add the curry and vermicelli and allow to cook until the vermicelli is finished- approximately 20 minutes.

This soup is also wonderful over warm rice.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Grandma's Fruit Salad

My grandmother used to make this often for our annual family 4th of July picnics. I no longer have the exact recipe, but have changed things up a little, anyways. For those of us who do not live around the tropics or areas with fresh fruit year-round, this is a nice way to use canned fruit and readily available fruit in the winter. In the summer, you can add all kinds of fresh fruit, but it helps to have a little canned fruit so there will be some syrup for the "sauce".


1 15 oz. can of mixed fruit
1 15 oz. can of mandarin oranges
1 15 oz. can of peaches *
1 15 oz. can of pears *
1 15 oz. can of pineapple tidbits or chunks
1-2 bananas, sliced
1 apple, peeled (or not) and chopped
15 -20 red grapes, cut in half- if available
any other colorful fresh fruit
2-3 Tbsp shredded coconut (optional)
3/4 - 1 cup (6-8 oz.) cup vanilla yogurt
3 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
small marshmallows (optional)

Open cans of fruit, draining juice into another medium bowl. Mix all the fruit together in a large bowl. Add the coconut and marshmallows, if desired. Stir the yogurt and orange juice concentrate into the reserved fruit juice. When the orange juice concentrate has fully dissolved, then mix in with the fruit. Stir well and chill.

*You may substitute a variety of tropical canned fruit, if available.

My grandma also added a box (3-4 oz.) of instant vanilla pudding into the juice mixture and then, after mixing well, stirred it into the fruit. I have not added it in this picture- it just adds more creamy vanilla flavor/sweetness and makes the juice slightly thicker. So try it this way, if you would like!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Iraqi Meat-filled Rice Fritters- Kubbah

These were originally introduced to our family by an Iraqi friend, who recently immigrated here with her family. She explained to me how she made them, and then I worked up a recipe through trial and error. I am not sure how to write the name in Arabic- she called them something like (spelled phonetically) "Kooba Tih-mon". However, I was only able to find similar foods called Potato (Batata) Kibbi or Chap. So I just call them Meat-Filled Rice Fritters.

This is not the easiest recipe to try initially, but certainly worth the effort. Once you make it once, you learn the technique and can make them quicker. These are very nice to have on a picnic, or as an appetizer or part of a meal. These can be made with rice, other grains like bulgur wheat or couscous or potatoes and can be filled with meat or I have seen it filled with eggplant, as well. This recipe, however, is only with ground meat stuffed in rice. My friend believes that curry is necessary to use with ground beef since it helps take away some type of bad flavor. I am not sure if this is more because they were used to eating lamb, previously. The curry used is not a hot type. Also, she does not use too many other seasoning. I have taken a little liberty and added garlic- a must for me in any meat dish. I also added more parsley than she uses, as well as added some cilantro/coriander leaves. One might also try some ground red pepper, if desired. Many people in the Middle East have a spice blend that they use with meats. You might try some of the Arabic Seven Spice blend that goes by various names but includes spices like black pepper, cinnamon and allspice, nutmeg, sometimes ginger and paprika, as well as other combinations of spices.

This recipe is very approximate- I started with about 1/2 pound of ground beef and about 2 1/2 cups cooked medium grain rice. After I finished making the fritter- the rice mixture was gone and I still had a lot of meat left. I have tried to compensate for this in writing the recipe.

A note about the meat mixture- it needs to be smooth and like a paste. I added the parsley and cilantro before browning the meat. However, it lost some of its flavor- it would be better to add it to the meat after sauteing the meat.

This is the rice mixture. It also needs to be pretty-well mashed. It will become more pastey as you work it with your hands to make the fritters.

These are the fritters, ready to fry.

This is what not to do- there are too many in the pan, and it made it difficult to turn them, as well as keep them from sticking together.

And again, the finished product. They smelled (and tasted) so good!

Makes approximately 24.
  • Medium grain rice, cooked with salt- approximately 4 cups
  • bread crumbs or torn bread pieces
  • water
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or lamb (or any other ground meat)
  • 1 large onion, chopped very small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced fine
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/8 -1/4 tsp black pepper
  • few dashes of ground red pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp allspice (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro/coriander leaves (optional)
  • water
  • oil for frying and preparing fritters
  • To prepare rice, mash with fork or other instrument/hands, adding water a little at a time until it starts holding together. Gradually add in about 1/4 cup bread crumbs alternating with a little water until the mixture is pretty smooth and yet still holding some shape.
  • To prepare the meat, use hands to mash together the meat with seasoning, onion and garlic, except the parsley and cilantro. Add a little water to aid in the softening of the mixture. Then brown meat in a medium skillet, making sure the meat is broken up into very fine pieces. When finished, drain off the fat. Mix in the parsley and cilantro.
  • To start preparing the fritters, have a small bowl of oil nearby to keep applying to your hands between making each fritter, otherwise the rice will stick to your hands too much to work with. You may also need to occasionally rinse off your hands to removed the sticky rice residue. (Plastic or rubber gloves might be useful!) Take a ball of rice about the size of a lime and begin mashing it out into a flat patty in the palm of one hand. Form a slight cup with your fingers, folding up the edges of the patty slightly and fill with approximately 1 Tbsp meat mixture. Press the meat together into the center and begin folding the rice up and around the meat so the edges come together. As this is being done, apply slight pressure with both hands around it if needed to squeeze the rice together. If needed, use a little more rice to fill in the gaps.
  • Place formed fritters onto an oiled plate/platter. After all are made, then heat oil in frying pan until hot. Add fritters so they have some space around them. Fry until golden brown, turning as necessary. Place on paper towels to drain.
*Note: if using potato instead of rice, you would first boil some potatoes/drain them, mash them and season them as desired with salt and a little pepper, mix with some wet torn bread or bread crumbs or beaten egg. If necessary to make the potato more firm in order to form it around the meat, you may need to add a little cornstarch.

Recipe variation: The Iraqi family we know also frequently eats these served as part of a soup- the fritters are boiled in a tomato based broth with a meat bone- lamb or chicken or beef- and some small pieces of meat, chopped potatoes and other vegetables, as well as chickpeas, which are common in many different Iraqi dishes. This is served with some rice or flat bread as part of a meal.

In addition, the fritters can be baked instead of fried, although they should be sprayed with a little oil before baking and be turned part way through the baking (or put on a wire rack on the baking sheet and then the air can circulate for all-around crispiness and you won't need to turn them- just bake until golden brown!).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mom's Easy Goulash

My mom has made goulash for many years- a true comfort food. I am posting her recipe and adding in my additions and changes. Although there are so many different types of recipes/versions of goulash, one of the common ingredients is paprika. While reading over my mom's recipe, I realized that she never used paprika- or at least did not include it in the list. However, it was always a favorite, and it only gets better with age. So make it up a day or two ahead of time.


1/2 - 3/4 pound ground beef or ground lamb, browned and fat drained off
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped small
1 tsp Goya Adobo seasoned salt (or regular salt)
pepper to taste
1 tsp Italian herb blend (or 1/2 tsp each of oregano and basil)
1-2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce (I added a few dashes more)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (my addition)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (my addition- or you may use 1 tsp of sweet paprika)
1 25oz jar of spaghetti sauce (or homemade, if preferred)
dash of cayenne pepper, if desired
1-2 Tbsp brown sugar (if desired to cut the acidity of the tomatoes)
1-2 beef bouillon cubes (my addition)
2 cups uncooked pasta

After meat has been browned, add the onion, garlic, green pepper, salt and pepper. Continue to cook the onion until tender. Then add in the sauce and other ingredients except the pasta. At this point it may be put in a slow cooker/crock pot to cook on low for about 4-6 hours, if desired. If cooking on the stove, it is best simmered for approximately 1-2 hours. Approximately 20 minutes before serving, cook the pasta according to directions. Then add into the sauce and mix well.

Serve with bread and salad or vegetables, if desired. This is good garnished with grated cheese.

This recipe serves 3-4 adults.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Texas Sheet Cake

This is an old recipe my Aunt Katherine has used for many years- it was part of an older Pennsylvania State Grange Cookbook, 1972. It is a thin, moist chocolate cake with a rich and creamy chocolate frosting. It has been a favorite of family picnics and get-togethers for many years. I added some cinnamon to the cake for a little different flavor- this is optional. I covered half of the cake with nuts, since I have some picky kids in my family who don't like them. Besides, almost everywhere you go, there always seems to be some that like nuts and some that don't. You also could jazz it up even more by adding some instant coffee granules into the liquids of the cake and/or the icing. In addition, it would be lovely with a little coconut sprinkled over top of the icing with or without the nuts, if so desired. Hershey now makes a dark cocoa powder, which would also be wonderful in this recipe. Have fun with it!

Ingredients for cake:

Group 1-

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Group 2-

2 sticks of margarine or butter
1 cup water
4 Tbsp cocoa

Group 3-

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift the ingredients from Group 1 together into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine ingredients from Group 3. In a large saucepan, bring to a boil the ingredients for Group 2. Add Group 1 ingredients into the saucepan, stirring well, followed by Group 3 ingredients and stirring well. Pour into a greased 15x12 inch pan (or a size similar to jelly roll or large cookie sheet pan). Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes- be careful not to overbake. After cake has baked 10-15 minutes, start preparing the icing.

Ingredients for icing:

1 stick butter or margarine
4 Tbsp cocoa
6 Tbsp milk
1 box (16 oz.) powdered confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4- 1/2 cup chopped nuts- walnuts or pecans (optional)- may use whole nuts, instead.

Bring 1st three ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan. (I found that using butter and working on a gas stove, the ingredients- oil from the milk/cocoa mixture- separated before I got to the active boiling point. I tried to remix them, to no avail. I continued anyways with the recipe- adding the sugar and vanilla and it turned out great.) Add the sugar and vanilla. Pour immediately on the cake when it is removed from the oven and placed on a cooling rack. Spread out to cover the cake- it thickens pretty quickly. Sprinkle the nuts over top of the cake, if desired.

It can be served right from the pan.

Gooey Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake on Foodista

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chinese Pot Stickers/ Dumplings

In this post, I have tried to share some of the things I have learned in making Chinese Dumplings/ Pot Stickers. 

This is the finished product- smelled so good and tasted so good just by themselves- I had a hard time getting pictures!

I have been trying these Chinese dumplings or pot stickers for a few days now- doing different things with the recipes for the filling and the dough. While they are not really that hard, they take some time to assemble. It is something that is probably best done in a large batch and then freeze some for later. Then you don't have to go through all the work of making them later- just pull out of the freezer and continue with the cooking process. Plus, you can make a whole lot of these very cheaply and enjoy anytime at home with some fried rice, spring rolls or whatever else you might like. 

Also, the proper folding of the discs requires practice. As you will see, I'm still practicing. ;)  Anyways, I have found a couple good sites on food blogs that give some great photos and step-by-step instructions, as well as recipes for these. My two favorite are  and . Check them out if you plan to make these, as it is very helpful in the folding and cooking process. I have deviated a little in some of my filling ingredients and used a dough recipe I have worked with through trial and error (very simple). However,  I am planning to try using some pot sticker dough (Jiaozi) or maybe even try the wonton wrappers next time I go to the store. The dumplings can be boiled/steamed (I prefer steaming them rather than boiling), and if you like a little extra flavor, try making them into pot stickers and frying them in a little oil. I used a process of combined steaming/frying in one pan. Check out my pictures and recipe- meanwhile, practice never tasted so good!

This is my meat filling- so flavorful!

These are the pot stickers just out of the frying pan and cooling a little on paper towels.

Is your mouth watering yet? Well, here is my recipe and some explanations of how the process went.


Dumpling Dough:

4 1/2- 5 cups all-purpose flour
2 2/3 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Mix 4 1/2 cups flour with the salt and the entire amount of water. Stir well and mix in the remaining flour, if able. If it is getting too hard to stir, put out on a floured surface and knead in the remaining flour amounts. You may even need a little extra flour- you want to have a dough that is not sticky. After you have kneaded it to the desired consistency, then let it rest, covered, for approximately 30 minutes. Meanwhile, start making your meat filling.

Meat Filling:
1 pound ground pork
1- 1 1/2 tsp salt  (I used Goya Adobo seasoned salt with cumin)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2-3 tsp grated ginger (see my hint at the bottom)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (I used some I had chopped up and frozen earlier)
1/8 tsp five-spice powder (optional)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp corn flour (I used 2 tsp flour and 1 tsp cornmeal)
1/4-1/3 cup water

Assemble your ingredients and mix all the ingredients well, adding only 1/4 cup water initially. The pork should become a pasty "mess"- so add more water if needed to get a smooth consistency.

When the dough has rested, roll out into a rope on a floured surface. Cut the rope into equal pieces- approximately 50. Keep these floured so they do not stick together. Have a small bowl of water handy to moisten the sides of the dough. Then take the dough pieces and roll out into a circle approximately 6 inches in diameter. Put a teaspoonful of filling in the center of the dough circle and moisten the edges with a little water. Then take one side of the circle and start pleating it around about halfway. Then fold up the other edge to cover the meat and press into the side with the pleats. If necessary, moisten the edges to keep them together. It does get a little tricky to moisten the edges and not have the dough edges turn gooey and stick to your fingers- so don't use too much water.  After you have made a dumpling, put it on a well-floured plate and continue making them. You can make some, fry them and then assemble more- doing the various parts in shifts.

To cook, place in a non-stick saucepan with enough boiling water to come up about 1 inch. I also added about 2 Tbsp (more or less) of oil into the boiling water. This way, I don't have to worry about them burning before I get the oil in. So I covered the pan of dumplings in the water/oil mixture and boil/steamed them for about 7-8 minutes. Then I uncovered the pan and continued cooking to evaporate the remainder of the water. (If the water went down too much before the initial cooking time was finished, then I added a little more to the pan.) As the water evaporated, the oil was there to assist in the frying and I just kept turning  them as they browned. The oil splattered quite a lot- if you don't have a screen to use, you might want to cover the pot and vent it a little so your kitchen is not covered in oil. When you have browned them enough- drain on paper towels and then enjoy!

If you use the premade dumpling discs, then you can skip the most tedious part (in my opinion). These can be enjoyed with your favorite chinese sauce- sweet or savory.  You also can eat them after they have boiled (skip adding the oil to the water) for a healthier/lowfat alternative- but not as tasty, in my opinion.

*Hint for fresh ginger- it is pretty much readily available in a larger grocery store in the produce section and a little goes a long ways. I learned from Rachel Ray that you can take fresh ginger and store it in the freezer and take it out when you need it. I have bought a lot when it was on sale or marked down and put it in a ziplock bag and frozen it. When I need some fresh ginger, I remove it, gnaw off a chunk with a knife (it might be easier to use if you cut it into pieces prior to freezing) and then peel it. It is then ready to slice, chop or grate for a recipe. It is such a great flavor, better for certain recipes than the dry ground ginger.

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