Triple Chocolate Bundt or Mini Bundt Cakes

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppMy friend "Annie" in Pennsylvania shared this recipe which she says is "a  rich, moist cake for chocolate lovers."  

I used my extra fancy mini bundt cake pan making individual cakes to share in holiday gift bags, and also freez several to have on hand at holiday dessert time.

These couldn't be easier for such chocolate decadence. She simply dusts with powdered sugar, but any glaze or topping sauce could be used at serving time. 

Note: Because I only had a box of instant pudding on hand, I used that with milk, and it turned out great, but Annie says, a box of cooked pudding makes an even moister cake. 

You can be creative with these: slice across, add berries or ice cream then put the top back on.  Or simply serve as is with a drizzled glaze on a dessert table or tray; or add sprinkled nuts to a chocolate or caramel topping.

I previously posted a yellow cake mix mini bundt recipe with variations.  I have a Nordic pan, which makes different patterns, but I've seen other brands and styles in stores at varying prices; or check thrift stores and pick up one or two of these pans at a bargain price.  

Wouldn't these cakes be fun for kids to make or be great at a bake sale!  Endless possibilities....

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Triple Chocolate Bundt or Mini Bundt Cakes
1 box chocolate cake mix 
2 eggs 
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App1 box cooked chocolate pudding prepared as directed on box, then cooled to warm 
OR 1 box chocolate instant pudding and 1- 3/4 cup of milk
1 (12 oz.) package chocolate chips 
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix eggs with cake mix (will be crumbly). If using cooked pudding, stir warmed pudding into cake mixture.  If using instant pudding, stir in pudding and milk. Mix until smooth.  

Then stir in chocolate chips until all is well blended.  Pour into a sprayed and floured 12-cup bundt pan and bake about 40-50 minutes until done; or divide and pour into sprayed mini bundt cake pan and bake about 30-35 minutes, filling each 1/2 to 3/4 full. Insert a toothpick to test if done, it should come out clean when inserted near the middle.

Let set 5 minutes then turn out of pan on rack to cool.   Can top with a glaze drizzled over the top, dust with powdered sugar or serve topped with a berry sauce. Makes one large bundt cake, or 12 mini bundt cakes.

Estimated Cost. $5.00 or less; .42 cents or less per serving.  

Holiday Party Delights

Here's a few of my tried and true annual treats for holiday entertaining, yet not expensive to make, and pleasant for guests and family or given as gifts to neighbors or friends. Several recipes are those my mother made in late '40s to '60s when I grew up, and I continue to use them.

Original Chex Mix
1/2 to 3/4 cup oleo (butter or margarine)
1 -1/4 tsp. sea salt
4 -1/2 tsps. Worcestershire
1 cup salted nuts
2 cups each of Chex:  rice, wheat, bran and corn cereal
1 cup pretzels

Preheat oven to 250. Heat butter in shallow roasting pan. Stir in salt and Worcestershire; add cereals and nuts, stirring until coated. Heat in oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Makes 10 cups, and freezes well.  Microwave method: Combine and coat all in a large bowl, and microwave on high 6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. (I recall my mom used cherrios as one of the cereals.)

 photo cruller_zpsd25c76b3.jpgRosettes (Crullers)
2 eggs
2 Tabs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
Set of Rosette Irons in various shapes (star, snowflake, butterfly)

Combine eggs, sugar and salt, beating well. then add remaining ingredients until batter is smooth. Heat shaped iron in 375 oil, shake off excess oil, dip in batter to coat, then redip in oil until batter puffs up and separates from iron. Working quickly in batches, do three or four at a time.  Fry about one minute until golden brown. Remove with tongs, place on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar.

Date Nut Bread Loaves
2 cups boiling water      2 tsp. baking soda
1 pound chopped pitted dates    2 Tabs. melted butter
2 cups sugar         2 eggs
4 cups flour          1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt             2 tsps. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Assorted sizes of tin cans, or small loaf pans.

Add baking soda and chopped dates to boiling water, stir and set aside.  Cream butter, sugar and eggs, then mix in remaining ingredients, slowly adding flour, adding cooled date mixture last. Mix well to combine.  Grease and flour assorted sizes of tin cans, (soup or fruit cans). Fill 1/2 way and bake at 375 oven until done. Test for "done," by inserting a  toothpick into top and it comes out clean.  Slice and serve with cream cheese or butter. (My Italian  great-grandmother passed this recipe onto my mom, who passed it on to me.)
Puff Pastry Appetizers

Puff Pastry Minis to fill with shrimp or crab mixtures; cheese dips with garnishes.

Liver Sausage Paste
1 pound liver sausage
1 cup sour cream
1 package onion soup mix
1 tsp. Worcestershire
dash of tabasco
Mix and blend together, chill overnight to blend flavors.  Serve with assorted cut breads and crackers.

Clam Dip
1 large cream cheese, softened       1/4 cup mayo
1 Tab. parsley        1 Tab. minced chives or green onions
1/2 tsp.each:  Worcestershire, garlic salt, celery salt
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1 6 oz. can minced clams drained, saving the juice
Blend all ingredients, using a little of the clam juice to thin mixture to desired consistency for a spread or dip.

Black Russian Liqueur (Kahlua)
4 cups sugar
8 cups water
1/2 cup instant coffee
2 tsps. vanilla
3 cups of vodka
Bring sugar, water, coffee and vanilla to a boil, and continue to boil slow for 1 hour.  Cool the syrup, then add vodka and store in capped bottles or decanters. Makes a half gallon.

Holiday Brunch and Breakfasts

Breakfast Bundt Cake, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppIf looking for special breakfasts to make over the holidays for family or guests, I blogged about several of my favorites, so thought I'd link them on one page so there's several to read about and choose from.

I make the pancakes several times a year, and make the bundt cake and overnight sausage casserole during the Christmas and New Year Holidays.

The bundt cake and sausage casserole are made ahead of time and reheated on the holiday morning or for a brunch table.  They're a real time saver on busy mornings.
                                   Bundt Pan Breakfast Cake

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App 

Dutch Baby German Pancake

Overnight Breakfast Casserole

Peanut Butter Pie

A bridge playing friend shared this recipe with me back in the late 70s.  It's so easy!  We had first tasted a homemade one at a local restaurant after a game of bridge, then she found a recipe, as whipped topping products were becoming popular at the time for chilled desserts. I always receive "raves" when serving it.

Be creative with decorating the top, as now days I've seen it drizzled with chocolate or caramel or chocolate swirled in, but this was the original version.

Peanut Butter Pie
1 baked pie shell, or graham cracker shell, homemade or from the store
1 pint of whipped topping
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (or Splenda)
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Soften cream cheese in a mixing bowl, stir in and blend peanut butter, sugar and vanilla.  Fold in whipped topping until mixture smooth.  Spread into pie shell then refrigerate until set before serving. Decorate with chocolate shavings or sprinkles if desired.

Shell can be made from graham cracker crumbs and butter, or flavored ground cookies such as chocolate, vanilla wafers etc. Serves 6-8
Estimated cost: $5.00 or less

Oregon Apple Cake

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppBack in the early 70's our local Oregon newspaper published an apple cake recipe from the wife of our former Governor and then new U.S. Senator, Mark O. Hatfield. 

I clipped Mrs. Hatfield's (Antoinette Kuzmanich) recipe, baked it, and continued to make it countless times ever since for guests, family, and potlucks. 

Beyond a few cookie recipes, baking anything in those days was NOT my forte. Those early years of marriage, working, and tracking two toddlers, didn't leave lots of time for gourmet desserts, so finding a great tasting, easy, and inexpensive recipe always gained my attention.

This cake is soft, moist, with just the right amount of spices for a taste of old-fashioned goodness.

 Oregon Apple Cake
3 Tabs. butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups diced apples, peeled or not, about 3 apples
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
1 - 1/2 tsps. cinnamon

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppCream shortening and sugar.  Blend in egg and vanilla.  Stir in apples and walnuts.  Combine remaining dry ingredients, mix in and blend with apple mixture.

Pour into greased 8 or 9-inch square baking pan or dish.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Top with whipped cream or ice cream, or eat as is!   Serves 6-8.

Estimated Cost: $3.00 or less; .50 cents or less a serving.

Pad Thai: Shrimp, Chicken, or Pork

 photo 104250D3-5333-44C2-ADBA-174BA55A24ED_zpsag3rwsnn.jpgPad Thai is a popular Thai food dish. It's a rice noodle dish with a sweet n' sour, spicy flavor mostly served with shrimp, and scrambled egg. 

It's then topped with crushed peanuts. I've done it with shrimp, but chicken, pork even a firm white fish works well, too.

Rice "stick" noodles aren't too hard to find in the Asian aisle of most food stores, but ingredients for the sauce might be. I found a jar of Pad Thai sauce as a local Asian store for just under $3.00 and it makes 15 servings.

f you can't find it, a little lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, cayenne pepper and rice vinegar mixture can work as a substitute.

The dish can be served on his own or as a side dish with an egg roll and or salad.

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Pad Thai: Shrimp, Chicken, or Pork
1/3 cup lime juice and 1/3 cup water
3 Tabs. fish sauce
1 Tab. rice vinegar
3 Tabs. light brown sugar
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 Tabs. peanut or vegetable oil
8 oz. dried rice noodles, the ones that look like linguine
2 beaten eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
12 oz. medium shrimp peeled, deveined, or cubed chicken or pork
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced, or white onion
Chicken Pad Thai photo 291D97AB-5DDA-4D05-A238-30C8BE12467F_zpsmqaaforc.jpg
1/3 cup chopped, peanuts, plus extra for garnish
3 cups bean sprouts
5 medium green onions sliced thin
1/4 cup cilantro or celery leaves
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For the sauce: Stir together lime juice, water, fish sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons oil; set aside.

Pad Thai Sauce photo E15AC935-9D71-4084-9CB1-ABD42ABF8BED_zpsyzy49k38.jpg
Homemade Sauce
Cover rice sticks with boiling water in a large bowl and soak until soft,  about 15 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside. In a separate small bowl, beat eggs and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over high heat until smoking. Add chicken (or other meat/seafood) and sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until browned at the edges, about 3 - 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Chicken Pad Thai photo 09079AFE-9A76-48B4-BF85-B864AD4F3130_zpsjdskepxa.jpg
Take the skillet off the heat and add remaining oil. Add the garlic and shallot, then set the skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly until light golden brown (about 1-1/2 minutes). Add beaten eggs and stir until scrambled and a little moist, about 20 seconds. 

 photo 039BB3A2-D020-4733-9D7F-44F83BC0376C_zpsog6ezpnv.jpgAdd drained noodles and stir and toss to combine. Pour the fish sauce mixture over noodles and increase the heat to high. Cook, tossing constantly until the noodles are evenly coated.

Add peanuts, bean sprouts, cilantro or celery leaves, all but 1/4 cup green onions, and cooked meat. Continue to cook and toss until the noodles are tender (about 2-1/2 minutes). Transfer the noodles to a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining green onions and peanuts.
Serves 4 to 6.

Estimated cost: $6.00 or less; $1.50 or less per serving

Navy Bean Soup

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Navy Bean Soup: healthy, tasty, inexpensive and easy to make.  I make one or two homemade soups a week. With homemade soups you control the ingredients like salt, and there's no preservatives! 

Grandma and mom made this often, as did my mother-in-law. They lived through the Great Depression with large families and learned to stretch a budget.

This is my mother-in-law's recipe with the only difference of adding Italian spices, butter, and using chopped bacon, if  I don't readily have ham.  If buying ham bones at grocer, shanks have more meat.

Beans bought in 2 to 5 pound sacks, can also be used in other recipes like salads or humus.  My Italian spice blend comes from the Dollar Store and contains dried  thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, rosemary and sage. It's my secret ingredient in many recipes!

Navy Bean Soup
2 cups dried navy beans, 1 pound
8 cups of water or broth, canned or with bullion
1-1/2 to 2 cups chopped ham; meaty ham bone or bacon can be used
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced or chopped carrots
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 tsp. Italian blend seasoning
1/2 stick of butter, 4 Tabs.
salt and pepper to taste
optional: splash of vinegar for serving

Soak beans overnight covered in water. Drain and discard water. In a large soup pot, add all above ingredients, except butter, with drained beans. Bring to a boil, then cover, turn down and simmer until beans are tender, occasionally stirring, about 2 hours.  If using a ham bone, take out, cool, and remove meat. Chop meat and return to the soup.

To thicken soup, take 2 cups of beans with liquid and puree in a blender or pulse with an immersion wand for a few seconds.  Add blended soup back into pot and stir to thicken.  I put the wand right in the pot for a few pulses.  (A potato masher will do; after all, that's what moms used in the old days!) 

Add butter and stir until melted.  Remove bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a splash of vinegar and/or garnish with a sprinkling of parsley or chives.  This soup freezes well. 

Pressure Cooker Method: Put all ingredients, including dry beans, in pressure cooker and cook for 15-20 minutes according to manufactures directions.  Puree and finish recipe as directed above.

Makes about 4 quarts. 16 servings.
Estimated cost $4.00 or less; .25 cents a serving or less.

Oregon Wild Mushrooms

It's wild mushroom time again in Oregon, thought I'd republish this, as Boletus and Chanterelles are back in season. These are pics from the last two year's bounty.

While raising kids, great family fall fun was hunting for wild mushrooms in forests, parks, and coastal dune areas on the Southern Oregon Coast.
Bolteus before cleaning

The most (safe) tasty and popular to find are Boletus and Chanterelles as they look like no other wild mushroom, so they can't be mistaken for a "dangerous" species.

My adult children continue this annual quest with their friends and family during the short time mushrooms appear in October and November before the first freeze.

They can be dried, or cooked then frozen and I choose the latter, cooking in butter with diced onion and garlic then freezing for later use in recipes, like scrambled eggs and omeletes, or beef and chicken dishes.
Cleaned Boletus

Sliced Boletus Caps
This year was especially good for Boletus.  After brushing and cleaning, the entire fleshy mushroom can be sliced, cooked and frozen.  I prepare mine separating caps from the stems, cooking each in different batches as each has a distinctive flavor, caps more beefy tasting than stems.

We find lots of Chanterelles, plus some rarer types: Japanese Pine, Hedgehog and Oyster mushrooms.

 photo null_zpseada380b.jpg
Japanese Pine, Hedgehog & Oyster Mushrooms

Cuban Baguette Bread

 photo 60621CAC-602B-458F-ACFE-BC63CF79D55D_zpsykuhslef.jpgThis recipe is similar to my Easy Cuban Bread loaves recipe, but baked and shaped differently.  It still provides a crunchy crust on the outside, but a soft texture inside. I mix the dough in my bread machine, shape, and finish in the oven.

This makes 3 baguettes or two french bread style loaves.  Whichever way you choose to shape and bake, the loaves freeze well.  

Note that this bread is very similar to classic French bread, with the main difference being the ratio of liquid to flour, rising time, and how the loaves are shaped for baking. Cuban bread is quicker to make and simply rolled or stretch into a "log," while French bread dough is flattened, then rolled up and pinched at seams as layers are formed to shape a loaf. 

This bread is perfect for serving with soups, salads, or pasta dishes.  It's handy to have on hand for slicing into thin rounds and topping with appetizers or cheese spreads.
 photo 0379D3AB-78F6-49F3-BF81-62656B02A06F_zpspqfrq8kl.jpg
I have baguette pans, but you can shape into loafs and bake on a sheet pan. My smaller baguette pan makes three 12-13 inches long loaves, and my larger pan, makes two larger 12-13 inches long loaves.  The non-stick perforated pans sell for around  $15 or less and make evenly shaped baked loaves, allowing for even heat circulation while baking.

Cuban Baguette Bread
3 cups bread flour
3 tsp. salt
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 tsp. yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water

olive oil for brush afterwards optional

Place everything in a bread machine, according to instructions, and turn to the dough setting. Usually liquids go in first, then salt and sugar, then flour and lastly, yeast on top.

Once the cycle is complete, let dough rest in the warm machine for another 30-45 minutes. Remove to shape for a second rise.  (If using a mixer or mixing by hand, combine and mix all ingredients, knead shape into a mound and place in a greased bowl, cover and let rest for at least a half hour.)
 photo 22CC4B57-7327-4EEB-9638-748438282941_zpsgyqtjbqx.jpg
Divide into 3 equal portions and roll out and stretch into log-like loaves, dust with a generous portion of flour and place in baguette pan.  Let the dough rest and rise again doubling in size in a warm place. (Or divide into two french bread style loaves.)

For a more professional look, make 3 or 4 angled slashes across the tops with a razor blade or sharp knife.  Lightly spray or brush tops of loaves with water.

Bake on middle rack of oven at 450 until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes, depending on loaf sizes. Check at 20 minutes and add more time if needed. I sometimes brush with olive oil afterwards to bring out the golden color and give the surface a glossy look.

Estimated cost: .60 cents or less for three baguettes; .20 cents or less per baguette

Zucchini Ribbon Salad and Dressing

 photo F17C187E-0AA8-4F71-BE87-03636AB5CBDF_zpsuphya29o.jpg
I'm always looking for new salad dressings and/or ideas for salads, as we have a salad every night with dinner. With a variety of salad recipes to choose from, meals never seem boring.

While looking for ways to use zucchini from the garden, I ran across this Zucchini Ribbon Salad from The Splendid Table website and tweaked it a bit.

It's delightful - colorful, flavorful, sweet and crunchy.  The dressing can be used on any salad greens, so I made a triple batch and then used it for other tossed salads later in the week.

This recipe calls for 5 cups of zucchini, or 6 servings, so cut the recipe in half if wanting fewer servings. With the dressing made and on hand, it's a quick way to use zucchini for an attractive salad. 

If growing your own zucchini or your neighbor shares, the cost per serving is practically nothing!

Zucchini Ribbon Salad and Dressing

Lemon Salad Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tabs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
black pepper to taste
grated lemon zest, about 1 tablespoon
3 Tabs. finely chopped black olives
1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil in a small bowl with the lemon juice, salt and pepper until combined. Stir in the lemon zest, black olives and red pepper and set aside, or place ingredients in a jar and shake until all ingredients are combined.

 photo CDFF6138-9855-41B3-9A62-A8C529A6E92E_zpsduikpdtk.jpgFor the Zucchini Salad
2 pounds medium zucchini, about 5 cups when shaved
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, or Parmesan, shaved into long furls
1/4 cup almonds coarsely chopped
Drizzles of honey

Using a vegetable peeler or kitchen mandoline, slice zucchini into long, thin, ribbons. When ready to serve, toss the zucchini in a large bowl with the dressing to lightly coat. Gently fold in the shaved Romano or Parmesan.

Turn out onto a large platter. Top with the almonds and lightly drizzle with honey, or arrange on individuals plates, then top with almonds and the honey. Serves 6.

Estimated cost with purchased zucchini: $3.00 or less; .50 cents a serving or less.

Sweet and Sour Kidney Bean Salad

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppI grew up enjoying the taste of "Sweet and Sour" in a variety of recipes on the German side of my family.  A great-aunt often served this at family gatherings.  

I've made it with mix beans, but this is her original kidney bean salad recipe, with a cooked dressing.

I buy dry beans in bulk and cook in my electric pressure cooker, then freeze and vacuum seal to have on hand, for salads or chili, but canned beans are just as handy. 

At home I serve on bed of lettuce or spinach leafs.  It's easy to double or triple for a potluck or large family gathering.

Sweet and Sour Kidney Bean Salad
1  15 oz. can kidney beans, drained, about 2 cups
4 celery ribs
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App5 sweet pickles
1 small onion
1/2 green pepper

5 Tabs. vinegar
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 Tab. sugar, or Splenda
5 Tabs. milk

Cut celery, pickles, onion and green pepper into small pieces and mix with kidney beans in a bowl.

In a saucepan combine and mix vinegar, egg, salt, pepper, sugar and mustard. Whisk and blend well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly then remove and add milk and beat or whisk quickly. Pour over chopped vegetables.  Set in refrigerator at least 4 hours or more to chill before serving.  Serves 6 to 8.

Estimated Cost: $1.80 or less; .30 cents per serving or less.

Tomato Bisque

Tomato Bisque photo D5784467-214A-44A2-9652-7E9365B79B6E_zpspcoumwdk.jpgA friend mentioned the best tomato bisque soup she ever had was served at a local restaurant in Pennsylvania. Their site featured the recipe, so I had to try it.  I make homemade soup every week to have on hand for appetizers, lunches and light dinners, so am always looking for something new to try.

I discovered "Bisque" is a term for a richly seasoned, creamy, thick pureed soup normally made using shellfish, but can also be made using vegetables.

Another tomato soup I often make is Tomato Blue Cheese, especially when my garden is producing summer tomatoes. But if fresh tomatoes aren't available, canned tomatoes work well enough.

This offers a hearty, flavorful soup -- it's a meal by itself. Most often, I serve it with a salad for dinner, or have by itself for lunch.

Tomato Bisque
The Brasserie’s (famous) Tomato Bisque with Croutons and Cheese
16, 1/2- inch thick French bread Baguette slices (or store-bought croutons)
Olive Oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
Tomato Bisque photo null_zps8200bc6d.jpg1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with puree
3/4 cup tomato juice
3 Tabs. tomato paste
2 Tabs. golden brown sugar
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 Tab. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups chicken stock, or canned low salt broth
4 to 6 oz. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Thin slices of Provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread slices on heavy large cookie sheet. Brush both sides of bread with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Tomato Bisque photo null_zps0c4452e0.jpgMelt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat. Add half of chopped tomatoes, all chopped carrots and celery and half of chopped onion; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes. Mix in crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato paste, sugar and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Cool tomato mixture slightly. Puree in batches in a blender or use an emulsion wand. Set puree aside. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining chopped tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, parsley, oregano, basil and thyme and saute until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes.
Tomato Bisque photo F083190E-B971-4A3A-AB5C-044FD8EA5689_zpsampt0qos.jpgMix in pureed tomatoes and cream. Soup will be thick. Add enough stock to thin to desired consistency. Cook until heated through, stirring frequently. Can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate soup. Store croutons in a plastic bag at room temperature. Rewarm soup.

Preheat broiler. Ladle soup into 1 to 1-1/2 cup oven proof soup bowls. Top each with two baguette croutons, or several commercial croutons. Top with mozzarella and provolone cheese. Broil until soup bubbles and cheese melts, watching carefully, about 1 minute. Serve hot. Makes 8 -10 servings.

Estimated cost $7.20 or less; $.90 cents a serving or less.

Portobello Mushrooms: Grill, Bake, Saute, or Stuff

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Portobello mushrooms are those large, dark firm mushrooms with a meaty flavor. They can be served alone or as a side dish. Some cooks simply oil, season, and bake; others grill or saute using them as "burgers" by placing them on buns with all the fixings used for a traditional hamburger.

They're great for a low-carb diet, or vegan dish. A large one is a meal by itself, so I like to oil, stuff and bake them, then serve with a salad.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
4 large (4- inch wide) Portobello mushrooms
8 oz. seasoned breakfast or Italian sausage
3 to 4 Tabs. olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 clove finely diced garlic
4 oz. softened cream cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup bread crumbs
 photo 2026BEA8-B602-4268-8018-AF0961890B8E_zpsz0dg6x44.jpg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Clean mushrooms by wiping with a damp clean cloth or paper towel.  Twist and pull, or scoop out stems and gills using a teaspoon or melon ball gadget to hollow out cap. Finely chop and set aside.

Over medium-high heat, crumble and brown sausage, add diced onions and garlic and cook a few minutes until onions are soft, then add diced mushroom pieces. Saute a few minutes more. Salt and pepper to taste.

Set aside to cool. In a bowl, combine cream cheese and mayonnaise,  Stir in Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs, then add cooled sausage mixture. With a spoon, smear mixture into of each mushroom cap, making a mound on top.  Drizzle with oil.

Bake at 400 degrees on a cookie sheet for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly before serving or keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 4 stuffed mushrooms.

Estimated cost: $6.00 or less.

Tomato Time is Caprese Salad Time

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It's that time of year for fresh garden tomatoes! This recipe offers a quick, attractive salad or appetizer.  Caprese (salad style of Capri) is a simple mozzarellatomatoes and basil combination which is then seasoned with salt and olive oil

In Italy it's usually served as an 
antipasto (starter), not a contorno (side dish). 
For the two of us, I slice one large tomato and arrange in a layered circle on a salad plate. 

Next I sprinkle with small balls or cubes of mozzarella, and shredded basil.  Then I drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  I'm done in under 5 minutes!  

This recipe serves more than two and would be attractive for entertaining guests and/or making a nice display on a buffet table.  Some recipes call for a balsamic vinegar reduction (boiling to reduce it to a syrup), but I just drizzle the vinegar, as is.

 photo null_zpsc4ec9278.jpgCaprese Salad
3 medium to large tomatoes, 1/4-inch thick slices
1 pound fresh mozzarella, 1/4-inch thick slices
20 to 30 leaves of fresh basil
olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper
can also drizzle with balsamic vinegar or reduced balsamic vinegar (optional)

On a large shallow platter, alternate layers of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each. Or arrange on individual salad plates. 

Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6 to 8.
Estimated cost: $4.00 or less.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green TomatoI've heard about fried green tomatoes all my life, so growing a garden again this year with an abundance of tomatoes, tried them - what a treat!

They make a tasty side dish with fish, pork chops or chicken, or can be a meal by themselves served with a green salad or bowls of soup.

Fried Green Tomatoes

4 medium to large green tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup  flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1/4 pepper
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
vegetable oil for frying
HorseRadish Crusted Fish
Green Tomatoes Served with Tilapia

Whisk eggs and milk together in a bowl.  Prepare dredging plates: flour on one plate and mixed cornmeal, bread crumbs and seasoning on another.  Dip tomatoes into flour to coat,  then dip into milk and egg mixture, finally dredge in breadcrumbs.

In a large skillet, pour 1/2 inch vegetable oil and heat over a medium heat. Place tomatoes into frying pan in batches of 4 or 5. Don't crowd, they shouldn't touch each other. When browned flip and fry on the other side. Drain on paper towels.Serves 4-6.

Estimated cost $1.50 or less; .30 cents a serving or less

    It's Zucchini Time!

    It's zucchini time, so thought I'd re-post links to my three tried and true zucchini recipes. I grow just two plants each year and have more zucchini than I know what to do with, so share with family and friends.

    The relish is good on hot dogs, burgers or sandwiches.

    The bread is nice for a quick dessert or snack.

    The fries are a healthier substitution for french fried potatoes, and make a nice side dish.

    Of course zucchini can be used in soups, stews or sauteed -- and served raw in salads or on vegetable trays, but if looking for other uses, try these.  The relish and bread can be frozen for later use throughout the year.

    Zucchini Relish

    Zucchini Bread

    Zucchini Bread photo 345A2647-DF60-4D0F-8EFB-6E5321E69D63-3361-0000036459474205.jpg

    Zucchini Fries
    Zucchini Fries photo B57D8FC5-F1E1-4156-AE7F-6A646D2AFB11-3536-00000335052213C1.jpg