Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Potato Soup with Shrimp

1/2 stick butter
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced about the same size as the onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups milk, whole, reduced fat (2 percent) or low fat (1 percent)
2 chicken bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot milk or chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups salted water
1 pound medium shrimp
Crumbled bacon bits, for garnish
Grated sharp Cheddar, for garnish
Dill sprigs, optional garnish

In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion and carrots until both are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, milk, and dissolved bouillon cubes. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft and some of them have begun to dissolve into mush. Add the half-and-half, salt, and pepper.

In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups lightly salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp all at once and stir well. Watch the shrimp closely; as soon as they all turn pink, about 2 to 3 minutes, turn off the heat and drain. The shrimp should be slightly undercooked. When they are cool, peel them, and chop roughly into big chunks. Add the shrimp to the soup and stir well. Serve soup sprinkled with bacon bits and grated cheese. Garnish with dill sprigs, if desired.

Cook's Note: If you don't have access to shrimp, use corn.

Recipe courtesy of Paula Deen, The Food Network

Oven Fried Potato Wedges

3 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon House Seasoning, recipe follows
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cornbread dressing mix

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash the potatoes and cut each into 6 thick wedges. Mix the mayonnaise with the hot sauce, onion salt, House Seasoning and pepper. Coat the potato wedges with the mayonnaise mixture and roll them in the dressing mix. Place in a greased baking dish and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Serve with your favorite dip.

House Seasoning:

1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Recipe from Paula Deen, The Food Network

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cooking tips - Using Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is one of those versatile ingredients that has an amazing array of uses in cooking. Not only can it be used as an effective substitute, it enriches the flavors of numerous foods, is a major ingredient in most condiments, used to tenderize meats and even adds luster to the crust of homemade bread.

Use the following apple cider vinegar cooking tips for a wide variety of uses in numerous categories:


Help remove chemical spray residues and/or bugs on fruits and vegetables by soaking fruits and vegetables in water treated with apple cider vinegar (1 tablespoon per gallon) and rinse thoroughly.

Help kill bacteria on fruits and vegetables by soaking fruit and vegetables in water treated with apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons per pint) and rinse thoroughly.

Prevent cut and peeled fruits and vegetables from browning, such as apples, pears, and potatoes, by placing the cut up pieces into an apple cider vinegar solution (1 tablespoon per gallon of water), refrigerated until ready to use.

Steamed vegetables will retain their bright colors with 1 tablespoon vinegar added to the water used for steaming instead of table salt.

Dried beans will be less gas-producing when eaten by adding vinegar to the soaking water and then add vinegar as it cooks.

Preserve left over ginger root. Peel, then slice or grate the ginger, place in a glass jar, cover with apple cider vinegar and store in the refrigerator.

Eliminate cabbage odor by adding vinegar to the cooking water.

Add a teaspoon of vinegar when cooking fruit to improve the flavor.

Add a tablespoon of vinegar to fruit gelatin to hold it firm.


Add 1 or 2 tablespoons to the cooking water when making hard boiled eggs to prevent the whites from leaking from shell cracks.

Add 1 or 2 tablespoons in the poaching water will help the eggs keep their shape.

In baking, it is an effective substitute for eggs. Substitute 1 tablespoon for each egg needed.

When coloring Easter eggs, add 1 teaspoon with each ½ cup of hot water, then add food coloring to keep the colors bright and prevent uneven or streaky colors.


Marinating meat in vinegar kills bacteria and tenderizes the meat. Use one-quarter cup vinegar, adding herbs to taste, for a two to three pound roast.

Tenderize very tough pieces of meat in a marinade overnight in the refrigerator.

Make your own vinegar based barbeque sauce that will add flavor and tenderize meat.

Improve the gamey flavor of wild meat by soaking the meat in a vinegar-water solution prior to cooking.

When boiling meat, add a tablespoon to the cooking water to improve flavor, texture and tenderize.

When boiling ham, add a tablespoon to the cooking water to cut the salty taste and improve flavor.

Rub vinegar on the cut end of uncooked ham to prevent mold.


Scale fish more easily by rubbing with vinegar before scaling.

Soak fish in vinegar and water before cooking to bring out the flavor and tenderize the flesh.

Give canned fish and shrimp a freshly caught taste by soaking in a mixture of sherry and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.


Add 1 tablespoon for every 2 1/2 cups of flour to help bread rise (reduce water amount by the same amount of vinegar used).

Add luster to the crust of homemade bread by brushing the top of the bread with vinegar two minutes before it is finished baking.

For fluffy meringue, beat 3 egg whites with a teaspoon of vinegar.

For an exceptional flaky pie crust, add 1 tablespoon vinegar to your pastry recipe.

Reduce excess sweetness and enhance the flavor of pies and other desserts by adding a teaspoon of vinegar.


When making pasta, add 1 tablespoon to the cooking water to avoid adding salt and to prevent sticking.

For a fluffier rice, add a teaspoon to the cooking water.

Keep cheese soft and mold-free by wrapping it in a cloth saturated with vinegar and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Olives and pimentos will keep indefinitely if covered with vinegar and refrigerated.

Substitute vinegar instead of lemon on fried and broiled foods.

Enhance the flavor of casseroles and pasta sauces by adding a little apple cider vinegar.

Make homemade sour cream by blending 1 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup skim milk and 1 teaspoon vinegar.

Make buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk and let it stand 5 minutes to thicken.

Make wine vinegar by mixing 2 tablespoons of vinegar with 1 teaspoon of dry red wine.

© Gina Alfani 2007; 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hash Brown Casserole

One of my favorite places to eat breakfast is Cracker Barrel Restaurant . . . their hash brown casserole is one of the reasons (and the biscuits and gravy) . . . this recipe comes very close to that casserole!

1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz. grated Colby cheese
1/2 cup melted butter
1 small minced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 lb. bag frozen shredded hash browns

Spray a 13" X 9" X 2" baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Combine soup, cheese, butter, onion, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

Fold the frozen shredded hash browns into the mixture.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes until top is browned.

Alfredo Fettucine

1/2 cup real butter
2 cups heavy whipping cream*
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper - to taste
1 dash cayenne pepper
2/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan OR Romano cheese
1 lb. box fettuccine noodles - prepared as directed
chopped fresh parsley - for garnish, optional

In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter; add cream, garlic powder, and salt and peppers; simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick.

Remove sauce from heat and stir in cheese. Do not heat sauce after cheese has been added.

Serve sauce over hot fettuccine noodles and sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

*I use low fat half and half and don't notice the difference


The above recipe is the base for my sauce . . . I personally add sauteed green onion, bell pepper, hot pepper and garlic . . . sometimes tomato, broccoli, green beans or mushrooms . . . whatever I have on hand.

Another variation is to add crab meat, peeled shrimp . . . or both

Use different types of pasta! Also tastes awesome with white rice for a nice change.

And if I am in a rush . . . pre-made alfredo sauce in the jar . . . I like the garlic-parmesean cheese flavored one the best. if there is a big sale, like a BOGO special, I stock up because it is actually very good, fast and cheap . . . just add your own touch to it.

This is comfort food at it's best in my opinion . . . Shrimp Pasta with lots of hot peppers (without the seeds) is my favorite . . . served with rigatoni pasta.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

From Every Day with Rachael Ray
February 2008


Prep Time: 30 min (plus cooling)

Bake Time: 1 hour


One 10-ounce box shortbread cookies, such as Lorna Doone

1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons flour

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk

1 3/4 cups dulce de leche or other caramel sauce

Boiling water, for baking


Preheat the oven to 350°. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with foil. Using a food processor, finely chop the cookies, nuts, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the butter and pulse until just combined. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake until set, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 300°.

2. Using a mixer, beat the cream cheese until softened, 2 minutes. Beat in the flour and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt on low speed. Beat in the eggs and egg yolk, 1 at a time, on medium speed. Mix in 1 cup dulce de leche.

3. Pour the batter into the crust. Loosely cover the pan with foil, set in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to reach a depth of 1 inch. Bake the cheesecake until set at the edges but slightly wobbly in the center, about 55 minutes.

4. Transfer the cake to a rack; let rest for 15 minutes. Spread the remaining 3/4 cup dulce de leche over the warm cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve, then remove the springform and slice the cheesecake.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mashed Potato Casserole

Potatoes are one of my favorite things . . . this is a great variation of plain mashed potatoes.

I'm looking for a recipe that is similar to the baked potato soup served at Chili's . . . it has to be one of my favorite meals with a salad. If anyone has the recipe, I'd really appreciate it!

Mashed Potato Casserole

Makes 10 to 12 servings

4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
8 ounces light cream cheese, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Position a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough lightly salted water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to pot.

With a hand-held electric mixer mash potatoes until chunky. Add the cream cheese, ¾ cup of the cheddar, milk, butter, and salt and pepper to taste and mix until smooth. Stir in the chives. Spread evenly in the baking dish and top with remaining ¼ cup of cheddar.

Bake until the cheese is melted and the casserole is heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

The casserole can be prepared without the cheese topping up to 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. If chilled, add the cheese topping and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes.

Recipes from Art Smith's blog on

Chicken Noodle Soup

Big-Batch Chicken Noodle Soup

The best chicken soup is made with homemade chicken broth, but you can use canned broth.

Makes 12-14 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
One 6-to 7-pound chicken
2 quarts Chicken Broth (see recipe below) or canned low-sodium broth
1 quart cold water, or as needed
4 sprigs of fresh parsley
3 sprigs of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups egg noodles

Chop fresh parsley, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces. If there are any pads of yellow fat in the tail area, do not remove them. Add the chicken to the pot and pour in the broth. Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Add the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf.

Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is very tender, about 2 hours.

Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the parsley and thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Let stand 5 minutes and degrease the soup, reserving the fat if you are making matzo balls.

Discard the chicken skin and bones and cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Add the noodles and cook until done, about 10 minutes. Stir the meat back into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

The soup can be prepared up to 3 days ahead, cooled, covered, and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Makes about 3 quarts

3 ½ pounds chicken wings, chopped at the joints
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 sprigs of fresh parsley
3 sprigs of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Cook the chicken wings, onion, carrot, and celery in the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring often, just until the vegetables soften (the chicken should not brown), about 10 minutes.

Add enough cold water to the pot to cover the ingredients by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Add the parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the broth is full-flavored, at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

Strain the broth through a colander set over a large bowl. Discard the solids. Let stand for 5 minutes. Skim off the clear yellow fat that rises to the surface. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (The broth can be prepared up to 3 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 3 months.)

Recipes from Art Smith's blog on

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Cheesy Rice Pilaf

This recipe comes from Emeril, The Food Network . . . use your own variations . . . I've never added the peas to mine since I use it as the base for the meal . . .

I always use it for some type of stir fry of chicken, pork or shrimp and whatever vegetables I want to throw in . . . also excellent with left over beans for a variation.

For a meal using left over chili you want a variation for . . . use cheddar cheese in the rice recipe and top with chili . . . mmmmmm good!


    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow bell peppers
    • 1 cup long-grain rice
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    • 1/2 cup frozen peas
    • 1/2 pound fontina or mozzarella, diced 
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves


In a heavy, medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and bell peppers, and cook, stirring until soft, about 4 minutes. 

Add rice, salt, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. 

Add the stock and stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is almost tender, about 15 minutes. 

Add the peas, cover and continue simmering until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and fluff the rice with a fork. Add the cheese and parsley, and stir. 

Serve immediately.

Hash Brown Quiche

My favorite meal is breakfast . . . I love eggs and potatoes . . . this is quick, easy and delicious. You can come up with your own variations . . . I like mine with no meat, a variety of peppers and cheeses . . . whatever you like.


    • 3 cups, shredded frozen hash browns, thawed and drained
    • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
    • 3 large eggs, beaten
    • 1 cup half-and-half
    • 3/4 cup diced cooked ham
    • 1/2 cup diced green onions
    • 1 cup shredded Cheddar
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Gently press the drained hash browns between paper towels to dry them as best as possible. In a 9-inch pie plate, toss the hash browns with the melted butter into the plate.

Press them into the bottom and up the sides to form a crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and starting to crisp. 

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. When the hash brown crust is ready pour the egg mixture over it and return to the oven.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for about 30 minutes until the quiche is light golden brown on top and puffed.

This recipe comes from Paula Deen, Food Network
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