Bacon Potato Casserole
8-16 oz. bacon, cooked½ c. melted butter ½ c. chopped onions1 tsp. minced garlic ½ c. all-purpose flour2 c. chicken broth1 tsp. salt ¼ tsp. black pepper ¼ tsp. ground thyme ½ tsp. ground mustard 1 small container Knorr Chicken Stock Concentrate ½ tsp. Sriracha sauce 8 oz. sour cream2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese 8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cut into one-inch pieces 32 oz. package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 c. crushed Ritz crackers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a large casserole dish.
Cook bacon until crispy, drain on paper towels, crumble and set aside.
Place thawed hash browns in a large bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a two quart saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until they’re tender; add the garlic and cook two minutes more. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about three minutes or until it just starts to brown.
Add the chicken broth and cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the salt, pepper, thyme, mustard, chicken stock concentrate, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and Velveeta. Stir until cheeses are melted and all ingredients are combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Add the cheese sauce and the crumbled bacon to the thawed hash browns and toss to mix well. Pour into the prepared casserole dish and bake, covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove covering, sprinkle with the topping, and bake additional 15 minutes.
You had me at bacon.
I made a double batch, since it was for a funeral luncheon. Too much garlic? No one thought so.
The middle was checked for potato doneness...
I cooked some of it the night before the luncheon for my taste tester, since this particular recipe was one I'd just improvised from other similar ones. Dave said it was "superior".
We're having the trim put on the windows in the upstairs bedrooms, finally! It's taken us this long to find someone who will do a good job and charge a sane amount.
I'm also trying a new photo host site, since Photobucket is so bad now.
Anyway, here are the photos. I'll have to figure out how to post them individually. Dave and I are going to stain and varnish the trim, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.
The bad news is that now the carpeting upstairs looks especially bad, so we're going to have to replace it. Dave's been pushing to do that for a couple of years, and I've been dragging my feet. It'll look so nice when we get it all done.
Okay, the photo doesn't look like brownies, but the recipe is right.
I needed easy cupcakes for the students this week with all we have going on. I saw a Pinterest pin that used squares of Hershey's chocolate on top of cupcakes fresh from the oven as "icing". That became the inspiration for homemade brownie cupcakes topped with Hershey's Milk Chocolate Chips.
I headed to Pinterest to check out the brownie recipes that I have pinned there, and then it hit me. I'm editing the cookbook our church is putting together as a fund raiser, and I HAVE "CHARLIE'S BROWNIE RECIPE"!
Charlie Nicholson's brownies are legend in our community. They're some of the first desserts to disappear at dinners and they sell out fast at all our bake sales, and Charlie being, well, Charlie, freely shared them with us for the cookbook.
And I learned that they're also wonderful as cupcakes.
2/3 c. butter1-12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips4 Eggs 2 c. granulated sugar1 tsp. salt 2 tsp. vanilla 1 ½ c. sifted flour 2 c. chopped nuts
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Melt the butter and chocolate chips over low heat in a saucepan and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly with a spoon. Stir in sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add the melted butter and chocolate. Stir in the flour. Add the walnuts and stir gently to combine. Do not beat at any time.
Spread the mixture in a greased 9” X 13” pan. Bake at 325 degrees F for 40 minutes. Let cool overnight, lightly covered with a dish towel open at one corner. Cut the next day with a pizza cutter.
That is the epitome of how the perfect brownie batter looks.
Here's the great part: Place a square of Hershey's Milk Chocolate or a few Hershey's Milk Chocolate chips on top of each cupcake, as you remove the pans from the oven, and by the time you've added them to the 30th cupcake, the chips on the first cupcakes have melted enough to spread with a knife or spatula like delicious icing.
I was worried. The "cupcakes" felt hard and heavy. And before they'd cooled completely, it was hard to get the paper liner peeled. But Dave and Jose ate them for lunch yesterday and today and declared they were moist, nutty, chewy, chocolate-y goodness.
More about who Jose is later, for those of you who don't know.
But fun. We spent some time in Virginia with Christy and the grandkids. We loved hitting the antique shops and nurseries.
Sam was interested in some antique guns.
And a group self portrait in a large mirror.
AKA, learn from my mistakes.
Who doesn't love blueberry pies? I had the canned blueberry pie filling [3 cans] and 5 Pillsbury Pie Crusts. I thought this would be easy.
Every fruit pie filling has something that enhances the taste of the fruit. What would apple pie be without cinnamon & nutmeg; or peach and cherry pies without a little almond extract? With blueberry pies, that something extra is lemon. I added the zest of one lemon to the three cans of blueberry pie filling, along with two tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
I brushed the tops with a little milk and baked them at 425 degrees F for about 25 minutes, until the top crust was browned a bit.
The scraps of pie dough didn't go to waste. I sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar and baked them for about 10 minutes until they were browned and yummy. The kids love to nosh on these.
BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Place the salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika, thyme leaves, garlic, vinegar, and cayenne in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add extra-virgin olive oil until you have a nice paste.
Place a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil in a shallow roasting pan. Place the pork on the foil and add the marinade. Rub the marinade all over the pork, seal well by folding all edges 2-3 times [fold side edges UP 2-3X tightly], and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.Allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.Roast for 6 hours and let cool for an hour. While it's cooling, carefully open one side of the foil and pour the juices into a quart pan. Simmer the marinade/juices until it's reduced by half and thickened.
Place the pork loin on a cutting board and cut it into ~6 inch segments. Pull [tear] meat apart with your hands into a large bowl. Discard any fat. Pour the reduced barbecue sauce over the pulled pork and toss to coat well.
Top with store bought or homemade barbecue sauce, if you like.
More photos from the Phipps Flower Show last week.
If you want the best succulents, it pays to begin shopping early. But then, there's the problem of keeping them organized and remembering their names. Above are my acquisitions, among the houseplants, and I'm going to post their photos along with their names here, to help me. If this isn't interesting to you, I apologize.
Juncus spiralis, aka 'corkscrew rush':Sun-loving wetlands plant. Thrives in acidic, wet soils with poor drainage. It's a tough plant that can survive brief periods of drought. Zones 4-9. Dies down in winter. Invasive, if you want something to cover a wet area, this is good. Otherwise, plant in a container.
Kleinia repens 'blue chalk fingers': Relishes heat and full sun. Fertilize rarely and then only by adding compost to topsoil.
Escheveria ruyoni , aka "Topsy Turvy": Native of Mexico. Suckering plant, forming small colonies of closely growing plants. Drought tolerant and loves hot sun.
Senecio radicans 'String of bananas':Vines can reach 3 feet long. Plant in part shade; morning sun is best. Don't fertilize. Low water once established. Has a high tolerance for drought.
Cereua forbesii monstrose, aka "Ming Thing". [He really IS a monster, isn't he? A gentle monster. I liked him right off.]Prefers shade or filtered light. No need to repot until the pot is full, and even then, only go up 1/2 inch larger.
Kalanchoe 'Flapjacks': Can grow to be 2' X 2'. Likes mild fertilizer every 2 weeks during growing season. Keep it dry in winter. The more sun it gets, the redder the leaves.
I couldn't resist the foliage of this Rex begonia. Shade plant for rich soil. Too much water or fertilizer is the kiss of death for Rex begonias.
The new plants join the cuttings from the Jade plants that are doing well 15 days after propagation from their mother plants.
I'd hoped that this would do well in the succulent, full sun garden, but research indicates otherwise. I'll repot them, 3 to a pot, and sell most of them at the plant fundraiser in May...
The snakeplant on the left also jumped into my cart and begged to come home with me. She'll stay in the bathroom with her cousin, though.
It'll come together. I'd never have the courage to do this if my friend, Ashley, she of the artistic gardening eye, wasn't going to help me put it all together. She's almost as excited as I am about the new flower bed. She keeps reminding me, "You know this is what I really love to do?!"
She does, too.
Lucky Charms Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
¾ c. sour cream
¾ c. milk
1/3 vegetable oil½ t. vanilla extract
½ c. finely crushed Lucky Charms (cereal pieces only, no marshmallows)
~25 drops green food coloring
4 ½ c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. room temperature unsalted butter
1 (13 oz) container marshmallow fluff
Optional: Green sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with liners.
In a large bowl blend cake mix, eggs, sour cream, milk, oil, and vanilla extract. Mix in drops of green food coloring until desired color is achieved. Mix in finely crushed Lucky Charms crumbs until combined.
Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full with batter and bake 18-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.
Take cupcakes out and let cool completely.
In a medium bowl, beat room temperature butter with an electric mixer.
Add two cups of the powdered sugar, the vanilla, and the marshmallow fluff and mix until smooth. Continue to add the powdered sugar, a half cup at a time, mixing between each addition, until frosting is the desired consistency.
Pipe onto each cooled cupcake. Top with green sprinkles and a Lucky Charms marshmallow (do not top with Lucky Charm marshmallow until ready to eat*).
Tip: Marshmallow buttercream may become difficult to mix. If it becomes too stiff, stop adding powdered sugar and finish mixing by hand. *The Lucky Charms will get mushy and lose their crispness if they remain on top of the frosting too long before eating.
1 1/2 pounds hot Italian sausage1 1/2 pounds ground chuck8 oz. chopped Italian salami8 oz. chopped capicolla1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes2 c. chopped onion4 cloves of garlic, mincedSalt and pepper25.5 oz. jar Italian peppers, or 1-2 each, roasted red, yellow and green pepper24 oz. pasta (3 different pastas)1 qt. marinara sauce2 c. grated Mozzarella cheese 8 oz. sliced pepperoni, or to taste
Sauté sausage and drain off all of the fat. Add sausage, salami, capicolla, tomatoes, onion and peppers to the sauté pan and mix well. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cook the pasta in boiling water two minutes less than package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a large oven-safe dish, add all ingredients, except the Mozzarella and pepperoni, and cover. Bake for 30 minutes.
Top with grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese, to make it extra good.
I'm blessed to have an Italian deli nearby. The owner is a grouch, but we tolerate him because the food's THAT good.
Italian salami. Lighter than traditioanl American salami..
I'm convinced that there are many more bad recipes than there are bad cooks. The problem is that sometimes decent cooks use bad recipes and then believe that the poor results are their fault.
When people print
recipes in cookbooks, magazines, etc. or when they post them online,
they seldom tell the pitfalls or the little tips needed to make the recipe turn out well. And, too, quite a few printed recipes contain typos!
I search for recipes that are good. Dependable. I'm not a chef. I'm a mother and grandmother who's been cooking for >45 years.
I believe that any recipe posted for the general public should be one that I can master. If not, there's something wrong with the recipe.
I post my successes and my failures, and tell what I learned when following each new recipe. I learn more from my mistakes. I don't know what that says about me.
The very best recipes are the ones that are inexpensive, delicious AND easy. And there are a lot of those.
Sometimes, I spend a little more and work a little harder for a recipe that seems to be one that will make people really happy.