Come on in! Let's talk FOOD!

"Bacon grease makes pretty much anything taste better!" is the local philosophy and I grew up on good, down home country cookin'! Although I've ventured into a healthier way of eating (some of the time) I still enjoy many of the favorites of my childhood. I also have a passion for Italian food and I'm slowly but surely learning the pleasures of cooking with fresh herbs. Here I'll share with you a broad spectrum of recipes...some healthier than others, but all of them guaranteed DELICIOUS! : )

*I have imported posts from my other blog. These posts may involve topics other than food, but they do include recipes or food related information at some point in the post. Future posts to this blog will be more strictly food-related but I did want to include these recipes here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sausage and Peppers Penne

Oh how I love the wonderful aroma of fresh basil. I can be cooking with any other herb or spice and enjoy the scent, but there is something special about fresh basil. This dish contains just enough of it to have you salivating the second you enter the kitchen.

This was The Hubster's favorite meal on the Olive Garden menu. Of course, on their menu it was called Sausage and Peppers Rustica. Don't want any problems with my very favorite restaurant chain and since I've changed it up a bit, I'm also altering the name. It's still absolutely delicious, no matter what you call it!

Beware: This is another recipe where I simply don't measure. You can no longer find the original OG recipe on their website, but my recipe simplifies it somewhat and basically tailored it to suit the tastes of my family.

Sausage and Peppers Penne <-------Click here to print
5 links mild Italian sausage
Extra virgin olive oil
1 29 oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (leave about 1/2" in the just don't need it all)
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (ditto on the amount; leave about 1/2" in the can)
2 large green bell peppers, sliced into strips
2 large onions, sliced into strips
Sea salt (or regular table salt, if that's what you have)
Several leaves of fresh basil (to taste...I tend to use a lot of this, too. We LOVE basil!), chopped
1 pound box of penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Slice sausage into chunks or discs, according to how you prefer it. Brown in a couple of tablespoons of EVOO until cooked thoroughly. Remove from skillet and drain. In same skillet, saute peppers and onions in additional olive oil until crispness is lost but not soft.
Now toss the sausage and a sprinkle of salt into the peppers and onions in the skillet, then add the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, 4 tablespoons EVOO and fresh basil. Bring to a light simmer, stirring gently.

Cook pasta and drain well. Spoon pasta onto plates, top with sausage/pepper/onion/sauce mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired. Serve with garden salad and hot bread. YUMMY! : )

Golden Pound Cake

Best. Pound. Cake. Ever.


This is it. LOVE this cake. Got the recipe from an issue of Southern Living back in 1990 and never shopped around for another because it is so doggone good. The flavor, the texture, the just can't beat it.

But I did, of course, add my own little touch. Just because I could. That would be the banana flavoring. DO try it! It won't taste like banana cake at all, I promise. It just adds a little something that makes everyone say "This has the best flavor! What's different about it?"

And of course you don't have to tell them if you don't want. ;)

Golden Pound Cake <-------- Click there if you want to print it. : )
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/2 cup solid shortening
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon banana extract (yes, banana)

Cream butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, beating well at medium speed of electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk,
beginning and ending with the flour mixture. (I add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, 1/2 the milk, 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 the milk, 1/3 the flour mixture.) Mix just until blended. (*And notice that terrific apron I'm wearing! : ) Early Christmas present from my dear friend Sheryl. And the best part? SHE MADE IT HERSELF! : ) How cool is that? )
Stir in flavorings. (And notice how well I measure. ; ) Can't help it. It's just how I roll. ) Pour batter into greased and floured 12 cup Bundt pan. Bake at 325* for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a strand of spaghetti stuck into center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then remove to wire rack.

And now for something that most bloggers would probably never share. But I feel that if I'm gonna share the good I also have to share the bad. So here's a little "What Not To Do" tip from Kelli's Kitchen:

THIS is what you get when you take the cake from the oven, set the pan on the rack to cool for 10-15 minutes.....and then forget about it. :( It ended up cooling completely in the pan and that is not a good thing. :( All that work and I end up with a really ugly cake because I got sidetracked. But all is not lost! It still tastes like a million bucks! : ) So no worries. At least I didn't bake it to take somewhere. ; )

(It's okay to laugh. Really. : ) )

So the moral of this story is....PAY ATTENTION! Take it out of the pan within 15 minutes of it coming out of the oven or your cake will look like it has leprosy, too! ; )

*Tips and Tricks*

*Even if you own a Kitchen Aid (and I do) do yourself a favor and pull out the hand mixer for this cake. I have a handy little Krups that I love and adore and I refused to get rid of it when I received my Kitchen Aid for Christmas several years ago. I'm so glad I held onto it! I can honestly say I've never mixed this cake with my KA and had it turn out well.
And that's an expensive baking error.
I think there are two reasons:
1. You tend to over mix when using the KA.
It's just too darn easy to walk away for 'just a second'. Or you simply underestimate the power of the thing and get carried away.
2. That little hump in the bottom of the bowl means you have to work extra hard when scraping down the bowl with your spatula during mixing, and you almost never get all the stuff down there to mix evenly into the rest of the batter.
This cake isn't difficult or temperamental, but you do need to show it a little love. : )

*If you can stand it, seal this cake in something airtight and hide it for a day.
At least.
If you're really full of self-control, leave it for two.
The longer it sits, the better it gets. Two days after baking this cake is manna, I tell ya.

Cookies for Christmas....or any other time of the year!

I've spent a good part of the day in the kitchen mixing up cookie doughs and even baking a few cookies. Thought I'd share with you some helpful little secrets that make it all a bit less hectic and a little more enjoyable, especially this time of year when we have SO many other things keeping us busy! I'm always looking for ways to simplify my life. You know, a little less hectic and a little more organized.

First of all I choose which recipes I want to use and I prepare all of my ingredients. My island is the perfect workspace for getting it all set up, measured and mixed.
You'll notice in these pics that I also get out several measuring cups and spoons. I have so many partial sets but I refuse to toss any of them because they all come in so handy when I'm on a baking spree! It's always good to have different cups for wet and dry ingredients.

Another little thing that will make your life easier is to be sure you have plenty of Reynold's Non Stick Foil on hand. As you can see, I had NONE. Not good. Reynold's Non Stick makes your life so much easier! Typically I cover my cookie sheets and just wipe them off with a paper towel in between batches. You can reuse it many, many times! *And a question for you: If any of you know why they changed the name from Reynolds Release to Reynolds Non Stick, please let me know! I noticed the change a little while back and just can't figure it out. It still has 'Reynolds Release' imprinted on the foil itself, but the name is changed on the packaging. Go figure.

Pretty much all the cookies I make have basically the same directions:

Combine your dry ingredients.
Combine your wet ingredients.
Add the dry to the wet and mix well.
Add chips, nuts, candies, raisins, etc.
Bake and cool.

Because the two doughs I mixed today have the same basic directions, I'm not going to break them down separately. Complete instructions will be included in the printable version for your convenience.

The Scotchies are the Nestle recipe off of the butterscotch chips package. Been around for years and years and I've never met a person who didn't love these cookies. :) They're pretty doggone good.

The Oatmeal Raisin recipe I got from my childhood friend, Kay. I had tried many recipes but they were either too crispy/crunchy or too cakey to suit my taste. I like my oatmeal raisin cookies to be crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

That, my friends, is a little bite of perfection. :)


becomes this:

And this:
will soon become this:

If you like your cookies to bake up a little flatter, just press down the dough gently with damp fingers. Alter your baking time accordingly. A cookie that isn't as thick doesn't need to bake as long. And if you like a crunchy cookie, simply let them bake a couple of minutes longer.

Just click on the name of the cookie to print the recipe! :)

Oatmeal Scotchies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

*Tips and Tricks*

Be choosy when it comes to the sugar you use for baking. I'm not saying you have to buy the most expensive sugar on the shelf (I use my store brand more often than not) but be aware that many generics or store brands are a mixture of regular granulated sugar and super fine sugar. This combination is fine for sweetening tea or coffee, or even in some recipes that don't require baking. But I have learned the hard way that it isn't always the best choice for baking. My cookies and cakes never turn out very well when I use it.

*Don't use whipped margarine. In many recipes it is not a good idea to use a reduced fat margarine, but it is never a good idea to use whipped when baking, unless the recipe specifically calls for it.

I love my Pampered Chef cookie dough scoops. I have two in different sizes and they are wonderful, especially when the dough has been refrigerated. Just scoop up the dough, squeeze the handle and out pops the perfect little ball onto your baking sheet. I'm not endorsing Pampered Chef brand with the expectation of being compensated in any manner. Pampered Chef just happens to be the brand I own and I like their durability, therefore I'm passing that info on to you, my dear reader. :)

*Mix up your dough days or even weeks early. If you want to prepare it as much as 8 weeks ahead of time you absolutely can. Especially if you have a vacuum sealer! Brie just tried this out with a few recipes (including Snickerdoodles and a variation on a chocolate chip cookie recipe) and it worked beautifully! Just mix it up, make a packet with your sealer, spoon in your dough then seal the packet. Mark it with the name of the cookie, oven temperature and how long it needs to bake and then pop it in the freezer. When you're ready to bake, simply take the dough from the freezer, thaw it in the fridge for a day, then shape and bake as directed. You can make it up to 2 weeks ahead of time and simply store it in the refrigerator in airtight containers. I often do this so we can have hot, homemade cookies any day of the week.
If you don't have a vacuum sealer, I would assume you could put it in freezer safe, airtight containers. I've never done this because we use our vacuum sealer any time we are freezing foods.

This is how I store it in the fridge short-term:

Just write the oven temp and baking time on the Ziploc bag and you're set!