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Puttering around my world


Baked Ziti

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Baked Ziti

2 lbs. ground chuck
1 lb. Italian sausage, mild or hot
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
8 oz. can tomato paste [See note.*]
2 28-oz. cans tomato sauce
1 T. brown sugar 
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 t. Italian seasoning
2 Bay leaves
1 t. Sriracha or Tabasco sauce
1 t. prepared mustard
1 t. salt 
1/2 t. pepper
1 c. beef broth
1 lb. ziti or other pasta, cooked to al dente 
2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese 

Brown the meat and drain; add the onion and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft. 

Add the tomato paste and stir for 5 minutes to bloom the paste. Add the tomato sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, Bay leaves, Sriracha sauce, prepared mustard, salt, pepper, and beef broth. 

Cover, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more broth, if necessary. Remove Bay leaves.  [*Or use 2 quarts of your favorite commercial spaghetti sauce.]

Combine with cooked pasta and pour into a large greased casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees. Remove cover and sprinkle evenly with cheeses. Bake an additional 15 minutes, uncovered, until cheeses are melted and casserole is bubbling. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

This can be made up to two days ahead of time and refrigerated. Bake for 45-60 minutes the first time, until the casserole is heated through and bubbling.  

This is a great opportunity to get flavor into to the pasta. I add 2 packets Knorr Beef or Chicken Stock Concentrate to the water used to cook the pasta. Use a few bouillon cubes or flavor paste or whatever floats your boat. You won't be sorry. 

Comments (6)


Butterscotch Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

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Butterscotch Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

1 c. plus 2 T. Crisco Butter Shortening
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 drops Butterscotch Flavor LorAnn Essence Oil, optional
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. AP flour
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 t. salt
¼ t. baking soda
3 c. oats , quick or old fashioned
1 ½ c. pecans
11 oz. pkg. butterscotch chips
8 oz. pkg. Bit O’Brickle chips

 Whisk together flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

 Cream shortening and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl. Add eggs, butterscotch oil, and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add flour, salt and baking soda mixture. Add pecans and chips and mix just until combined.

Drop by heaping tablespoon, three inches apart, onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 11-13 minutes until light brown around the edges. Cool 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then place on rack to continue cooling.

 For chewier cookies, store overnight in a sealed container with a fresh slice of bread. 

     These REALLY are good! Butterscotch and toffee chips with pecans in a cinnamon oatmeal cookie. 

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Comments (3)


Broccoli Chicken Stuffing Casserole

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Easy Broccoli Chicken Stuffing Casserole 

1 head broccoli cut into florets
2 pkgs. Chicken flavored stuffing mix 
3 c. cooked chicken, chopped
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
½ t. Sriracha sauce [or Tabasco] 

Steam broccoli until crisp tender. Prepare stuffing according to box directions. Combine chicken, soup, and Sriracha sauce  in a large bowl. Gentle combine with stuffing and broccoli. Pour into a greased 9” x 13” pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Casserole can be prepared a day or so ahead of time when covered and refrigerated. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes; remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until edges are browned. 

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     We had a funeral luncheon Friday for a church member, and boy, did we have a lot of food!  
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Cheesy Smoked sausage, Cabbage & Noodles

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Cheesy Smoked Sausage, Cabbage and Noodles

2 14-oz. packages Smoked Sausage, sliced  
1 small head cabbage, sliced thinly [About8 c.]
1 ½ c. sliced onion 
Butter or oil of choice [I used turkey fat.]
2 t. Sriracha or Tabasco Sauce 
1 t. salt
¼ t. Pepper 
16 oz. Kluski style noodles  
3 c. grated cheese of choice [I used Kraft Five-cheese Italian blend.] 

Cook smoked sausage in large skillet over medium heat until slices begin to brown. Drain fat and place in a large bowl.

Cook cabbage and onions in oil in the same skillet, covered, until soft. Add Sriracha sauce, salt and pepper, and add to bowl with smoked sausage. Cook noodles in chicken broth, drain, reserving about 2 c. of the broth. Add to the bowl with the other ingredients and toss everything with the cheese. Add reserved broth as needed to desired moistness; err slightly on the side of wet.

Pour into large, greased baking pan and cover. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes and remove cover. Bake 15 minutes longer, or until edges begin to brown.  

     This casserole was a big hit at a small luncheon today. Two people asked for the recipe. I put it together yesterday, and baked it at the church today.  

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Comments (1)


Gingerbread Bundt Cake

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     The spicy smell and taste of this cake just screams Christmas. The recipe came from Cuisine at home magazine, which I recommend for its great cooking tips, delicious recipes and total lack of ANY ads. 

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

For the syrup, heat:
½ c. each granulated sugar, water and minced fresh ginger.

For the cake, whisk:
1 ½ c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. 2% milk
2/3 c. vegetable oil
½ c. molasses
½ c. sour cream 
3 eggs 

2 ¼ c. AP flour
2 t. each baking powder and ground ginger
1 t. ground cinnamon
¾ t. freshly grated nutmeg
½ t. each ground allspice and salt
¼ t. baking soda
1/8 t. ground cloves
Pinch of ground cardamom 

For the whipped topping, whisk:
2 c. heavy cream 
2 T. granulated sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
Chopped crystallized ginger 

Bring syrup ingredients to a boil over medium high heat; reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain syrup, reserving the ginger.

Preheat the oven to 350 F and liberally spray a 10-15 c. Bundt pan with PAM and coat with turbinado sugar.

Whisk brown sugar, milk, oil, molasses, and reserved ginger. Whisk together eggs and sour cream; whisk into the other wet ingredients.

Sift together dry ingredients.; whisk into wet mixture in 3 to 4 increments. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake 1 hour  or until cake pulls away from the edges of the pan and tests done with a toothpick. Cool 45 minutes in pan. Poke cake all over with skewer or meat fork; drizzle ginger syrup all over the top. Invert cake onto a plate [tap pan to release, if necessary]; let cool completely.

Whip the cream to soft peaks; add sugar and vanilla. Whip to medium firm peaks. Top slices of cake with whipped cream and garnish with crystallized ginger.

 Chopped fresh ginger smells amazing. 

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Turbinado sugar is raw sugar, but if you don't have it in the cupboard, granulated sugar will work great. 

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Crystallized ginger is sometimes labeled candied ginger. It's supposed to be useful for settling stomachs. Most grocery stores carry it, and it is a nice garnish for this cake. But it isn't absolutely necessary. 

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The kitchen, heck, the whole house, smelled like Christmas. 

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I used Reddi-Wip for Dave's tasting piece. He gave it two thumbs up. 

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Comments (2)


Reuben Soup

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     I did this on the fly. It was a chilly, rainy fall day, and I had the ingredients left over. It was a real hit.  

Reuben Soup

2 T. butter
1 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. flour 
Beef broth, as needed to get the thickness you want
2 c. chopped cooked corned beef 
1 c. sauerkraut, drained
1/4 t. Sriracha sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. shredded Gruyere cheese 

Sweat the onion in the butter until translucent. Add the flour and stir for 3-5 minutes; add about a cup and a half of good beef broth and stir until the mixture thickens. Add the corned beef, sauerkraut, Sriracha sauce. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. 

Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently and adding more broth as needed. 

While that's cooking, butter a couple of slices of rye bread and place in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until they're hot and crunchy.  Allow to cool and slice into croutons. 

Right before serving, add the cheese to the soup, stir, and serve with the croutons. 

Note: If I'd had any, I might have added a dash or two of caraway seeds. I looked for them...

Comments (8)


Passion or obsession

   All the plants have been brought inside, deloused, and made presentable for the house. This has taken the better part of a month, and as I watered them all this morning, I began wondering if I have a passion or if it's an obsession. 

     Some people probably think I lead a boring life. When asked what my hobbies are, I reply "reading, gardening, crocheting and counted cross stitch." Sounds like a boring old lady, huh? And to some it probably is. But I've learned to not even start down that road where I talk about life with my babies, because I've watched that interested look fade to incredulousness, and then the eyes begin to dart back and forth looking for an escape, any escape from this mad woman. 

     I don't even show all the plants I have anywhere. Ever. 

     This is most of them. I will say that. And you have the advantage of being able to close this window when you hit that point of overload.  

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     When a leaf falls off and lies there on the dry soil long enough, chances are roots are going to begin to develop. 
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     And then, before you know it, you have a nursery or three.
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     Okay, so I have an obsession. I think about them often, check them every day or so, know each one's name and likes and history and consider each one a child of sorts. I'm also constantly rearranging them. But with plants, I get to throw them away when they get out of hand. ;-D

Comments (13)


Evelyn's Elegant Edibles

The order arrived just now along with a note from Evelyn! Now, I have to find a cause to cook for. 

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Ham & Potato Soup

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     The title of this really should be, "Confessions of a Food Snob." As a child of the 50s, when cake mixes and "instant" foods first came on the market, I loved them at first. I remember those terrible homemade pizza mixes. We made them on Saturday nights before "Saturday Night at the Movies" and thought they were wonderful. Of course, this was long before we could pick up the phone and have a hot pizza delivered, so any pizza was wonderful. But I digress..

     Twenty some years ago, I decided that nothing was ever going to be as good as homemade foods from scratch, the way Mom used to make it. For years, I didn't buy any pre-processed food kits and so I haven't kept up with the new technology and the new revolution that came with it. My loss. 

     I've been seeing those bags of instant homemade soups and dips and sauces at fairs and festivals, and I scowled at them. Maybe they're okay for the masses, but the masses didn't know what they were missing, huh? But I was intrigued. They just looked so inviting. 

     This past weekend at Oglebayfest, one vendor had samples of Evelyn's Elegant Edibles soups. Dave loves potato soup, and the one he had displayed looked so yummy. So, I forked over $7.50 for a package. A few minutes later, I ran into a friend who's a class or three above me in intelligence, wit, kindness, sideline deserved snarkiness about others to friends, and everything else funny and real. She noticed the bag containing EEE's Creamy Potato Soup, poked it with a well manicured finger and said, "That stuff is great!" 

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      That sealed it. I made the soup, but like everything else I poke around with in the kitchen, I had to tweak it, but not very much. I used chicken and ham broth to reconstitute it, instead of water, threw in some smoked ham shank meat, and added a teaspoon of Sriracha sauce, of course. It's very, very good soup. 

     Bottom line?  This stuff is really good, and so what else have I missed? 

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Comments (5)


Fall garden Plants

     In many ways, the end of the season is as busy as the beginning. As I walked around and said good-bye to some of the plants that I can't bring indoors, I decided that, overall, we had a pretty good season.

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Comments (16)

About the Author
Linda (LRuthers)



     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.

Thanks, Linda

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