Chocolate Fudge with Peanut Butter Swirls

 photo 66B594E3-EF46-4278-8E68-D3B80D966E6A_zpsfvcun5ln.jpgThis fudge is another family favorite I've made since the 1970s, for family and/or for gifts.  In recent years I've added some swirls of peanut butter after pouring the fudge into a baking dish.  

This gives it a marbling effect with the rich taste of chocolate and hint of peanut butter.

This fudge also freezes well, so it can be made ahead of time, then frozen in smaller packages and used as needed.

Chocolate Fudge with Peanut Butter Swirls
2 Tabs. butter
 photo 342C2741-24D2-471E-BD33-4F64EF257CCE_zpsxi9bcgvp.jpg2/3 cup evaporated milk
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp.salt
2 cups (4 ounces) miniature marshmallows
1-1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 or 3 Tabs. of peanut butter

In a 3 qt. saucepan, combine butter, evaporated milk, sugar, and salt.  Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. 
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Boil stirring constantly for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 

Stir in marshmallows, chocolate chips, nuts, and vanilla. Stir vigorously for 1 or 2 minutes until marshmallows are melted, and all is blended. 

Pour into a sprayed, foiled-lined baking pan, about and 8 or 9-inch square pan.

Drop teaspoons of peanut butter on top and swirl through fudge mixture. Chill until firm. Cut in desired sizes, about 36 pieces. Makes approximately 2 pounds.

Recipe can be doubled and poured into a 9 x 11 baking dish.
Estimated cost: $5.00 or less.

Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake photo 0327C0D2-DCA8-4FBC-8A65-E5AF34C8ED62_zpsv3fshdak.jpgHolidays mean Cheesecake for dessert in our house. With the convenience of ready made cookie or graham cracker crusts, this one couldn't be easier. Believe me, I know how to make one from scratch, including the crust and using a spring form pan, but when rushed, this is a great alternative.

I keep a few ready made crumb crusts on hand, usually from my local Dollar store and use for a variety of refrigerator type pudding, cream pies or a Peanut Butter Pie

This recipe uses just a half cup of pumpkin filling, so you could make several pies from a 15 oz. can or use the remainder for pumpkin bread, muffins cookies, a pie, or even soup!

To make it even easier I use whipped topping in a spray can to decorate a slice before serving.

Pumpkin Cheesecake photo EAADACDF-E16A-4FCB-8D89-240112C1DB72_zpsi3ycsknv.jpg
Pumpkin Cheesecake
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) softened cream cheese
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash ground cloves
Dash ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 9-inch graham cracker pie crust, or crust of choice
1 cup whipped topping

Pumpkin Cheesecake photo 6A9C8440-771F-4464-9610-046836064648_zpsdwaiovqc.jpg
Pumpkin Cheesecake photo EC6DE2DB-F0FD-413C-A2B4-83DBF8B341EF_zpsex2bosju.jpgPreheat oven to 350 
Beat cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla and spices in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs; beat until blended. Pour into crust.
Bake 40 min. or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Top with whipped topping just before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Serves 8 to 10.

Estimated cost $4.00 or less; .50 cents or less per serving.

Roca Nut Crunch Candy

Roca Crunch photo 85331974-9F9B-417E-B376-012680CA25DC_zpsbtnmjhlb.jpgI've been making this Christmas candy for my family and friends since the 1970s.  I think it came from my Betty Crocker cookbook. It makes a nice addition to a dessert table, or put in small gift bags, boxes, or containers.

If you don't have a candy thermometer, or digital thermometer (a good gadget to have) you can eyeball the "soft-crack" stage, by taking a small spoonful and dropping it into a glass filled with cold water. 

The mixture should form a soft glob when it hits the water and when taken out cracks gently. (see video below)

This candy has a toffee flavor and with a few simple, inexpensive ingredients produce a large supply of attractive candy.
Roca Crunch photo 32E459F2-FC7B-4C2A-9DD1-F6F3A944A1D5_zpsagr9exu1.jpg

Roca Nut Crunch
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes
1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts or almonds
6 oz. chocolate chips

Roca Crunch photo 4CE63866-5FED-4946-8808-59FB213B5F8F_zpsvyleo2eo.jpgIn a  3-quart sauce pan, combine sugar, water, salt and butter over medium high heat.  Bring to boiling, stirring constantly.  Mixture will bubble up and expand. At soft-crack stage (270-290 degrees) add 1/2 cup chopped nuts and stir. Note: 285 degrees is an ideal temperature for this recipe.
Roca Crunch photo 909A3DE7-2012-464B-910E-68ECD7DB4BDF_zpsmeexbaao.jpgRemove from heat and pour onto a buttered or non-stick baking sheet. Let it spread thinly. Wait a minute or two for mixture to become firmer then sprinkle with chocolate chips, which will melt in about 2 or 3 minutes, as mixture is still hot.

Spread chocolate evenly over the top and to the edges.  Sprinkle with remaining chopped nuts.  Chill until set, then break into bite-size pieces. Makes approximately 1-1/2 pounds, 48 or more pieces.

Estimated cost $3.00 or under.

Chicken Pot Pie Filling

Chicken Pot Pie photo DDE71044-CE49-449B-9414-6C523A8C7A75_zps0nruxoyf.jpgI've serve pot pies a variety of ways, but always make the filling the same. Sometimes to save time, I serve over biscuits, even toast. When wanting a prettier presentation, I'll use puff pastry or make pie crusts.

After making a roast chicken I use leftover chicken for the pies, or after Thanksgiving I vacuum seal and freeze left over turkey in pint bags for future pies or other recipes.

This summer I purchased an electric mini pie/pastry maker, and it makes gorgeous, delicious individual pot pies in under 15 minutes. I've also used this "gadget" for making individual fruit pie. quiches, and muffins.

Chicken Pot Pie photo D163A051-FC49-4AAA-84C9-57D03E0FF262_zps6qpks5vu.jpgMine makes two at a time, other models make four.  If you like beef pot pies, substitute cooked beef in the following recipe and use beef broth instead of chicken broth.

For pie crusts I use my Mom's no-fail recipe or buy a mix that calls for just adding water.  Both are more economical than buying  pre-made crusts.

Chicken Pot Pie photo CC7B92A5-84D1-41F2-964D-34DB1DBEF456_zpsjmxkjt4f.jpg
Chicken Pot Pie Filling
1, 14 oz. can chicken broth
2 to 3 cups cooked chicken, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (turkey works, too)
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, (peas carrots, corn,green beans)

1/3 cup  mushrooms (optional)
1/2 medium onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 cup butter

2 to 3 Tabs, flour
3 Tabs cornstarch

1 cup cream or milk

Melt the butter in 3-quart saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions stirring frequently, cook 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add flour, stirring until it thickens. Stir in chicken broth, adding vegetables, chicken, and seasonings. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer until vegetables are cooked, about 7 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
Chicken Pot Pie photo 8D4397F5-22A9-4D98-B300-EBC8106F4665_zps79bxassf.jpgBlend cream and corn starch together in small measuring cup and add to mixture. Bring back to boiling, stirring constantly, and cook 1 minute until mixture thickens. Serves 4 to 6.

Ways to Assemble or Serve: 
    Chicken Pot Pie photo BECEFDE4-C7EB-41B8-B7D4-C4BDEEADE9ED_zpswv55d46y.jpg
  1. Spoon chicken mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with biscuits; drizzle with 1 or 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until filling is bubbly and biscuits are lightly browned.
  2. Spoon heated mixture over toast, prepared puff pastry squares or biscuits.
  3. Make a double pie crust, then spoon into pie crust and seal with top crust, making slits for steam to escape while baking.
  4. Use a mini pie/pastry maker and bake according to instructions.
  5. Make individual servings in muffin tins, using pie crust dough or puff pastry.
Estimated cost $3.60 or less; .90 cents a serving or less.

Shaped Dinner Rolls

 photo 386F9E82-00B6-4F9F-BF2A-7FEECFA9A4A4-22370-00001D55E8515ADD.jpgI enjoy  making homemade rolls, biscuits, bread and buns. The bread machine I've had since the late 90's remains one of my best kitchen helpers not only for loaves of bread, but also for preparing dough for rolls, buns or pizza.  In an hour it mixes, kneads, and gives the first rise.

The white bread recipe below is the one I use for making bread and shaped dinner rolls or hamburger buns.  It has a perfect soft texture and crust.  If you don't have a bread machine, mix by hand or with the mixer and dough hook.

Bread machines are not that expensive now days and pay for themselves over time. Freshly made bread and rolls contain none of those "preservatives" now found so often in store bought bread or mixes, and save money.

Here's video link to demonstrate how to shape rolls.

Bread Machine White Bread 
1 cup milk warm milk
1 large egg, or 2 small at room temperature 
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour, regular white flour will be okay, too.
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Put ingredients in according to machine instructions.  Mine calls for liquids first, then dry ingredients, with yeast last. I warm milk to about 90 degrees quickly in the microwave with the butter, then beat egg(s) and pour in. Next add sugar, salt, then flour.  Make an indent on top and spoon in yeast.  Set machine to basic cycle for a loaf, or  to dough cycle for rolls or buns,  which mixes and gives a first rise in about an hour.
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For rolls or buns, take dough out and place on a lightly floured board and divide rolls out and shape as needed.

Clover Shaped Rolls:  roll out about 1/2- inch thick, lightly brush dough with butter, and using a one inch cutter (doughnut hole shape) cut out small circles, and place 3 into sprayed muffin tin.  Set aside to rise until double in size.  Bake 350 for 30 minutes. (See video)

Rose Shaped Rolls:  roll out about 1/2 inch thick, and cut with 2 inch round cookie cutter.  Take two circles of dough and fold in half circle.  Take each half circle and over lap bottom ends slightly and pinch, then wrap one piece of dough forward and around, and the other back and around to form a "rose."  (See video)

Braided Roll:  Roll dough into rectangle 1/2 inch thick.  Cut in half length wise then cut strip approximately 1-1/2 inches wide.  A half inch down from each strips, make three small slices to the bottom, and braid the three strands of dough, pinching at the bottom.  (See video)

Estimated cost: $1.00 or less for a dozen or more rolls.

Jalapeno Appetizer Poppers

 photo null_zps5cab4fd2.jpgWith the holidays arriving, buffet tables with assorted appetizers are always welcomed at gatherings.  Our family always called them "snick snacks."

Jalapeno poppers have become a favorite, and these are quick and easy to make. The recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. Allow for two or three halves per person.

Here's a link to some other snick-snack family favorites I serve at gatherings  for the holidays.

Jalapeno Appetizer Poppers
6 jalapenos, cut in half and seeded
4 oz. softened cream cheese
2 Tabs. chopped chives or green onion
4 slices thin-cut bacon
salt and pepper to taste
12 wooden toothpicks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Soak toothpicks in warm water for 20-30 minutes to prevent burning while baking peppers.  Slice each pepper in half, lengthwise. Scrape out and discard all seeds and white membrane. (Wear kitchen gloves or wash hand thoroughly, as pepper residue can irritate sensitive hands, mouth or eyes if touched by hands.)  

 photo null_zps552122ee.jpgUsing a spoon, combine softened cream cheese, seasoning, chives or onion in a small bowl, then fill each pepper-half.  Slice each strip of bacon into 1-1/2 to 2-inch pieces and wrap one piece around the top of each stuffed pepper-half. Pierce a toothpick through the bacon and pepper to secure the bacon.

 photo null_zps7bd0e600.jpgTo bake, line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Arrange peppers filling side up. Bake until bacon is crispy and peppers are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. 

If bacon isn't crisp enough, put under broiler to make crispier. Can be made ahead of time and refrigerated before baking. Serves 4-6.

Note: for variations, season cheese with Old Bay or add shredded cheese variations to the cream cheese such as cheddar or pepper jack.

Estimated cost: $1.60 or less; .40 cents a serving or less.

Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits

Red Lobster Biscuits photo null_zps46efe754.jpgCopycat recipes are always fun to try.  I've seen dozens of recipes for Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits, so had to try them, and glad I did.  

I often make homemade soup, so they're handy to have on hand when serving soup and/or a salad. With just the two of us, I freeze extras and microwave to reheat them.

If you prefer, you can use 2 cups of Bisquick in place of the first 4 ingredients.  This recipe uses more butter than several recipes I've seen, plus I added more cheese than some recipes call for. The recipe is very similar to the "cheesy" one on the box of Bisquick, but made from scratch.

They turn out golden-fluffy-tender with buttery-cheesy goodness. I season with Old Bay just to spice them up a bit, and they take less than a half hour to make from start to serving.
Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits photo null_zps074d5f03.jpg
Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits 
2 cups flour
1 Tab. baking powder
Tab. granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1-1/2 sticks melted butter, (3/4 of a cup divided)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2  tsp. dried parsley
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone mat.  Melt butter in a small bowl in a microwave for about 30 seconds or until butter is melted.  Set aside.
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Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk until combined.  Add a 1/2 cup of melted butter and milk and whisk to wet flour, do not over mix.  Fold in cheese with a spoon. Dough will be stiff and thick, but moist.

Drop heaping spoonfuls, about a 1/4 of a cup, onto the baking sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown.

Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits photo null_zps3146f805.jpgTo remaining melted butter add 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley and Old Bay.  Stir with a pastry brush.

Remove biscuits from oven, brush with melted butter mixture. Makes approximately 12-18 biscuits.

Estimated cost: $2.25 or less.

Chinese Chicken or Pork Stir Fry

 photo null_zpsb1f25066.jpgI clipped this recipe from the newspaper decades ago and enjoy the flavors and texture of the meat. Frying it in a cornstarch mixture gives a crispy texture, and overall it's the closet recipe I've come across that's as delicious as our local oriental restaurant.

I keep frozen bags of mix stir fry veggies on hand. They come in various mixtures, but I tend to buy those featuring broccoli and carrots.  Frozen cut veggies saves a lot a prep time.

If we're dieting and cutting out carbs, we eat it as prepared, otherwise I serve it over rice or rice noodles. If you're craving Chinese take-out, give this a try. You won't be disappointed.

Chinese Chicken or Pork Stir Fry
1 pound of chicken breasts or pork cut in 3/4-inch cubes
1 egg white
4 Tabs. cornstarch
1 cup vegetable oil, plus 3 tablespoons
2 medium green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, optional, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch scallions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, or onions
1-1/2 cups mixed stir fry veggies: carrots, broccoli, zucchini etc.
1 Tab. finely minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 cup cocktail peanuts
cooked rice or rice noodles: optional

Chinese Pork photo null_zpsbe4b06b0.jpgSauce:
3 Tab. soy sauce
2 Tabs. dry sherry or wine
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
2 tsps. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Toss meat cubes in beaten mixture of the egg white, 2 tablespoons of water and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Mix well to coat.  Heat a cup of oil in a wok or large fry pan to 280 to 300 degrees.

Stir meat in slowly and cook until it's no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside. Discard oil.

Combine soy sauce, sherry/wine, garlic, sugar, salt, 2 tablespoons of cold water, and add remaining tablespoon of cornstarch. Mix well.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok or fry pan until smoking. Stir-fry fresh vegetables for 5 minutes, or until bright in color. Add meat cubes and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the cocktail peanuts and toss a few times to mix.  If using frozen veggies, defrost before using.

Stir the sauce again and add it to the meat and vegetables. Toss or mix a few times to heat through, thicken, and coat ingredients. Quickly serve. May serve as is or over rice.  Serves 5 to 7.

Estimated cost: $5 or less; $1.00 or less per serving.

Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

Boneless pork loins frequently go on sale and can be used for many dishes including:  pulled pork, cut pork steaks, cubed for oriental dishes, or  baked whole, stuffed or not.  

For a "fancy" presentation for guests or a buffet table, I adapted a stuffed beef recipe for a stuffed pork roast.  

Some cooks butterfly a boneless loin, flatten, then spread a stuffing, roll up and tie it together.  I cut a slit down the length of the loin, stuff and bake. 

Stuffed Pork Loin
1 boneless pork roast,  2 pounds or more
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach drained
1/3 to 1/2 cup diced onion
2 to 3 tsps. minced garlic
1/2 to 3/4  cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 to 2/3  cups finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste and/or a commercial rub mix

Drain and squeeze spinach and place in a bowl, add parmesan and sun dried tomatoes.  Saute garlic and onion in oil or butter until soft then combine with spinach mixture; add salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Oil the outside of loin and season with a rub or salt and pepper, or commercial rub mix,  and quickly sear the outside to lightly brown then cool. Depending on size of roast, cut a 2 to 3 inch wide slit down the middle and length of the roast.  If a large roast begin at one end and cut to the middle, then cut from the other end to the middle.  This will leave a long wide tunnel to fill with spinach mixture.

Using a spoon, keep inserting spoonfuls of mixture to stuff the roast, packing firmly as you add more. Place a cap of foil on each end to hold in stuffing.

In a baking pan uncovered, bake at 375 for 1 to 1 -1/2 hours, or until browned on outside and internal temperature reaches 135.  Let rest 10 minutes before cutting into slices.  Use pan drippings to make gravy.

I've also prepared this my pressure cooker, first browning, then stuffing and wrapping the entire roast in foil.  The roast in done in about a half hour or less by this method.

The spinach stuffing works well for stuffing thick pork chops, too. Each slice will have stuffing in the center.  Serve with dumplings and sauerkraut, spaetzels, or a potato dish.  Serves 6-8.

Estimated cost: $6.00 or less; $1.00 per serving or less.

Soft Chewy Caramels

Caramels photo null_zpsddf4b0f2.jpgCandy making is fun especially during the holiday season coming up.  These would be good for Halloween or in a gift basket or jar at Christmas time. 

Next to fudge, caramels happen to be one of husband's favorite candy treats, so I make a batch from time to time and keep extras in the freezer.

He likes them soft and chewy. The softness and chewiness of the caramels depends on the amount of cream used. This recipe makes firm, but chewy caramels. For even softer caramels, try adding an extra 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of cream.

Be careful while making as candy becomes very hot and must be watched while making.  For safety, do not become distracted in the process.

Soft Chewy Caramels
1 cup heavy cream4 Tabs. butter
1/4 tsp.salt
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp.vanilla extract
Makes 50-60
Line an 8x8 or similar rectangular pan or baking dish so that excess paper hangs over edges. Spray paper and the sides of the pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
Over medium heat, warm cream, butter, and salt in a small saucepan until the butter melts. Remove from heat.
Caramels photo null_zps34606ab6.jpg In larger 4-quart saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is moistened and becomes a grainy paste. Wipe down sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush so there's no sugar crystals on the surface. 

Clip an instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the sensor is immersed in the sugar. Do not stir after this point. The mixture will bubble up and expand when cream is added, so make sure you use a 4-quart pan.
Place pan over medium to medium-high heat. Let sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring. Around 250 degrees, the syrup will turn clear and boil rapidly. Around 320 degrees, it will darken slightly. Between 250 degrees but before it reaches 325 degrees, proceed to next step.
Caramels photo null_zpsaec07d3c.jpgTurn off heat under sugar syrup. Slowly pour warm cream and butter mixture into the sugar syrup while whisking gently. The sugar syrup will bubble up and expand. Stop whisking once all has been added.
Return pan to medium to medium-high heat. Let mixture come to a boil without stirring. It will slowly change to a caramel color. Remove from heat when it reaches 245 to 250 degrees. Quickly whisk in vanilla.
Caramels photo null_zps26b843a7.jpg Immediately pour into prepared mold. Knock the mold against the counter a few times to ease out any air bubbles. Set out of the way for at least two hours.
When set, lift mixture out by the paper flaps and onto a cutting board. Cut caramels into candies with a very sharp knife. Spray knife with nonstick cooking spray if sticks while cutting.
Cut squares of wax paper a little longer than your caramels. Wrap each caramel in wax paper and twist the ends closed. Caramels will keep at room temperature for about two weeks. Or store in refrigerator or freezer in plastic bags. Use as needed. Makes approximately 50 to 60 caramels.

Estimated cost. $2.50 or less.

Breakfast Quiche Cups

Breakfast Quiche photo 6C7AD81A-FE31-4C11-BD30-5165062872E2-2078-0000012E20EF7E13_zpse19f5469.jpg
Thanks to Michelle's Tasty Creations for this idea.  Quiche offers a delicious taste for breakfast, brunch or light supper. 

Making this in individual servings versus a pie or casserole dish, allows for making ahead an freezing to have on hand for a quick breakfast or snack -- or serving at a buffet table.

While the recipe calls for sausage, other possibilities can include: chopped cooked bacon, ham or shrimp. I sometimes add chopped onion and/or green pepper as I like to "tweak" a recipe.

Breakfast Quiche Cups
1 pound bulk sausage, cooked and crumbled
6 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup half & half, or milk at room temperature
1-1/2 cups frozen hash browns, or rehydrated hash browns
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, or cheese of choice
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Breakfast Quiche photo B4A8C24D-B95A-4409-B3A4-3D4A687E0C2A-2078-0000012DFA0738D8_zpsc56551c0.jpgCook sausage on medium high heat, breaking apart into small pieces. Let cool down.  While sausage is cooking, in a bowl mix together eggs, half & half, salt, pepper and baking powder. Add potatoes, cheese and sausage and mix well to combine.
Breakfast Quiche photo 1512DFAF-B116-479C-9388-29977B1A9DA8-2078-0000012E35B8FFA6_zps21ee9fbf.jpg
In a large 6 cup or smaller 12 cup sprayed muffin pan, pour mixture evenly to fill cups. 

Large cups will hold about a half cup of mixture and 12 cups pan, 1/4 cup of mixture.

Breakfast Quiche photo 29968759-4F3E-40CC-BEE0-2D05B994FA7C-2078-0000012E0B3B475D_zpsc761dd4b.jpg
Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Test for done with a tooth pick which should come out clean.  Serve warm, or cool down and freeze in storage bags.  To reheat, microwave for one minute.

Estimated cost $5.00 or less; large cups, .83 cents or less; small cups .42 cents or less per serving.   

Fresh Marinara Sauce

Marinara SauceWe always had a garden growing up so my Italian mom and German grandmother spent the end of summer days canning all sorts of vegetables, including tomatoes or tomato sauces.

Later on when large freezers became available to homemakers, mom would blanch and freeze her garden harvest.  
I'm a freezer gal myself, so lately I've been making batches of marinara sauce and freezing in one cup and  pint containers or bags.

I blanch and freeze other homegrown produce or bargains purchased from the farmers market. 
This recipe is close to what my mom made.  I added basil and tomato paste for a deeper taste and because these items are much more economical and readily available than years ago.

Mom always added a splash of lemon juice and tablespoon or two of sugar to her tomato sauce, saying it cuts down on an acid taste and makes the sauce sweeter.  
Marinara sauce can be used on any pasta or on pizza, and served with meatballs or sausage for a classic Italian type dinner.
Marinara Sauce

Fresh Marinara Sauce
2  pounds fresh ripe, red tomatoes, sliced or quartered (I leave peels on)* 
2 Tabs. olive oil
4 - 5 cloves minced garlic
1 cup diced onion
1 diced celery rib with leaves
1/2 cup diced carrot  (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 Tabs lemon juice
1 Tab. sugar
2 Tabs. tomato paste
*Note: if not using fresh tomatoes, use canned tomatoes.
Makes 1 quart of sauce

Marinara SauceIn a large pot, saute garlic, onion, celery, carrots in olive oil for a few minutes.

Add tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, lemon juice sugar and tomato paste, stir to blend.  Simmer mixture for about 20-30 minutes or until all ingredients are soft and cooked down. 

For a coarse sauce mash and blend, but for a smoother sauce, puree in a food processor or blend with a soup/sauce immersion wand.

To serve, put some sauce on a large platter, add cooked pasta, sprinkle Parmesan generously, cover with more sauce, then add cooked meat balls or sausage and more cheese, and sauce.

Estimate cost of one quart with homegrown tomatoes: $1.00 or less.  

Pears in Caramel Cream Sauce

Caramelized Pears photo D0DECCBC-3F74-4B79-8468-1248C357A901-4727-0000062B657866FE_zpsa5354d70.jpg
Falls brings lots of fresh fruit - apples, plums and pears. I use uncooked pears in salads, but they're also great as a cooked dessert. A caramel cream sauce would go well on most any fruit, but over pears it's also delightful.

These can be served by themselves, over shortcake, or ice cream.

Canned pears may be used, but because they're already tender, the caramel cream sauce can be made with some pear juice on the stove top, then the pears added and basted.

Pears in Caramel Cream Sauce
6 medium ripe, but firm pears
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups of water mixed with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Chopped nuts, or whipped cream, optional for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Caramelized Pears photo 58790D16-CB96-46E8-8E8B-EE8D33E1A8A9-4727-00000625DA926CCF_zps873bf2ef.jpgPeel the pears, split in half lengthwise, and remove cores. Place in in a bowl with lemon juice water to prevent browning and drain. Pour and brush butter in a large flat baking dish then arrange pears flat side down in a layer.  Sprinkle sugar on top; or prepare in individual ramekins.
Bake about 35 minutes. The sugar dissolves in pear juices and cooks into a caramel sauce, as the pears become tender.  If pears seem hard, bake another 5 or 10 minutes. If sugar caramelizes before pears are tender, add 1/2 cup water to prevent caramel from burning during the extra cooking time. 

If pears are cooked before the syrup  caramelizes, remove pears to a plate and continue to reduce the juices until it caramelizes. Add cream to the dish and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, basting the pears every 5 minutes. The sauce should reduce and thicken. Let cool. 
Serve pears cooled at room temperature, in individual dessert dishes with sauce on top, and if desired add additional garnish toppings. Serves 6-8.
Estimated cost. $4.00 or less.

Parmesan Baked Fennel

 photo null_zps48b6f000.jpgFennel offers an anise ( licorice) flavor. It's tasty raw in salads, but mildly sweet when cooked. The tall green stalks have wispy dill-like leaves at the top. Stalks grow from a white onion-like bulb. All parts are edible, although the bulb is mostly used.
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Cut off and discard stalks, unless the dish calls for them. If tender, use in salads, and the wispy leaves (fronds) make a nice herb garnish. 

Trim the bottom of the bulb and peel off any wilted or browning layers from the outside of the bulb. Cut the bulb in half, and cut out the core. Lay halves on their flat side and slice or chop as needed.
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Parmesan Baked Fennel
4 tablespoons olive oil
 photo null_zps7b06b186.jpg4 fennel bulbs, cut horizontally into 1/3-inch thick slices,
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan

Lightly oil the bottom of a flat baking dish. Arrange fennel in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then grated Parmesan. Drizzle with the oil. Bake at 375 degrees until the fennel is fork-tender and the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Garnish with  fronds if desired. 

Serves 4 - 6.

Estimated cost: $3.00 or less if buying a fennel bulb.

Stuffed Pork Chops, for Two

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppI serve pork in one shape or form, at least once a week ("the other white meat" as they say) for it's economical, and on top of that often on sale.  

The magic pork sale number for me is $2.00 or less per pound!  A variety ethnic dishes call for pork, so it's handy to have on hand.  

When chops or pork steaks are thin, I bread them, but if thicker (3/4 inch or so) I like to make a slit for a pocket then stuff, sear and finish in the oven.

My favorite stuffing is a combination of spinach, onion, garlic, cheese, and sun dried tomatoes.  It's the same mixture I use for stuffed pork loin roast.  Since cooking mostly for two, my meats are repackaged in twos for the freezer.

This recipe can easily be doubled.  For presentation, you'd be surprised how even a small pork chop can look so huge when stuffed.  I've also used the same mixture for stuffed chicken breasts.

Stuffed Pork Chops, for Two
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App2   3/4 thick pork chops, bone in or not
1 cup drained, chopped frozen spinach
3 - 4  Tabs. diced onion
1 tsp. diced garlic
2 Tabs. diced sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (other cheeses work, too)
salt and pepper
optional: (a few Tabs. of bread crumbs can be used in the stuffing)

Preheat oven to 350.
If desired, trim excess fat from chops, and with a sharp knife carefully make a long slit into pork towards the bone. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and stuff chops.  Pinch to seal and hold together with toothpicks.  Any leftover stuffing can be placed on top of chops when they're finishing in the oven.

In a skillet, brown chops on medium high heat to sear, about 5 minutes on each side, then finish by putting skillet in preheated oven for 20 - 30 minutes, depending on size and thickness of chops.

Meat thermometer should read 145-150. Let rest 5-10 minutes, before serving.  If desired, gravy can be made from drippings by deglazing the pan.  If not making gravy, I still deglaze the pan and save juices for soup stock.

Estimated cost: $2.00 or less;  $1.00 per serving or less.

Potato Leek Soup (vichyssoise)

 photo null_zpsc9841adf.jpgI discovered this tasty soup years ago as a commercial dry soup mix.  For years that's how I made it, until I discovered how to make it from scratch on a TV show.  I guess I never noticed leeks at the grocery store an they were not a part of my family meals or diet growing up.

It's simple to make, so if seeing leeks at the grocer or farmer's market, I always pick up a few to make soup and also to slice into salads.  They have a mild garlic/onion taste.

They keep well in the refrigerator, and I use them like one would use green onions in a recipe.  Some folks serve this soup cold, but I like it warm and often use a an appetizer soup for meals.

I'm planting leeks this year and hoping  for a steady supply once I get a bed of them started, which will reduce the cost even more.

Using cream does make it richer tasting, but at times I've simply used milk and it's still a great tasting soup.

 photo null_zps54cd347b.jpgPotato & Leek Soup
2 - 3 medium leeks, cleaned and dark green sections removed
3 Tabs. butter
3 - 4 thin slices of bacon cooked and crumbled
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed small
3 - 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half & half
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
1 Tab. snipped chives or green onion for garnish

Trim off dark green portions of the leek, half the white part lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to wash off any dirt. Slice thinly crosswise and set aside. Cooking time is shortened when leeks are sliced thin rather than chopped.
 photo null_zps05ca155c.jpgIn a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, add bacon and cook until bacon fat renders and pieces are crisp. Remove bacon and set aside.

Add leek slices and cook for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, broth, bay leaf, salt and pepper, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 30 - 45 minutes.

Turn off heat, cool down a bit then puree mixture with a food processor, blender, or  immersion wand, until smooth. Stir in the cream, half & half. Taste and adjust seasoning. Simmer until all is heated.

Sprinkle with chives and crumbled bacon and serve immediately, or chill and serve cold (vichyssoise) Serves 6-8.

Estimated cost: $5.00 or less with buying leek and cream; .66 cents or less per serving. Using milk lowers the cost per serving.