Spaghetti Sauce

One of the easiest meals to make is spaghetti, but what do you do when you don't have any sauce? Use this recipe to whip up a super quick version of the best store sauce you can find! This recipe ends up pretty chunky, but you can stick it in the blender & puree it to whatever consistency you like. It also makes a great marinara dip!

1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (14 ounce) can tomatoes (I like petite diced tomatoes)
1 T sugar
1/2 T dried basil
1/4 t dried oregano
1 T dried parsley
1 Bay leaf

  1. Saute the onion, garlic, & bell pepper until the onion is soft & translucent.
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients & simmer 30 minutes.
  3. Remove bay leaf, puree to desired consistency, & serve over hot noodles!

Merry Christmas!

Mom's Sugar Cookies (Cookies for Santa)

My Mom used to make these with us for Santa. We got to cut the cookies out & decorate them with an easy powdered sugar frosting. As I recall, Santa liked them very much! As an alternative to rolling the dough out, you can roll it into a log shape in parchment or waxed paper, refrigerate it, an the slice it into cookies!

1 c softened butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 egg
1t almond extract
1t vanilla extract
1 t baking soda
2 1/2 c flour

  1. Mix flour & baking soda well & set aside.
  2. Cream butter & sugar well.
  3. Add egg, almond, & vanilla extract to creamed butter.
  4. Fold in flour mixture.
  5. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours then roll out to about 1/4 inch & cut cookies.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. Decorate & enjoy!

Baked Apple Dumplings

This is a great Christmas Eve treat for the kids. Use a variety of apple that you like, just make sure they aren't too big or they won't fit in the pastry crust. We prefer Gala or Jonagold, but just about anything with lots of flavor will do well. Serve the apples hot from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yummy!

1 sheet Puff Pastry
4 medium apples, cored & peeled
1/2 c raisins, dried plums, or other dried chewy fruit snipped into raisin-sized pieces
1/8 c Brown Sugar
1/2 t Cinnamon
1/4 t Nutmeg

  1. Pre-Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, & nutmeg together in a small bowl.
  3. Unroll the puff pastry & slice into four pieces.
  4. Place an apple in the center of each piece.
  5. Spoon 1/4 of of the raisin mixture into the center of each apple.
  6. Moisten the edges of the pastry with water & fold the edges over the apples.
  7. Place dumplings in a baking dish & bake for about 40 to 45 minutes.
  8. Serve hot with ice cream.

Caramel Sauce

This homemade sauce is a great topper for ice cream, crepes, or baked apples.

1/2 c Brown Sugar
1 T Cornstarch
1/4 c Water (I use apple juice or cider when it's going on apples)
1/3 c Cream (you can also use half & half or milk, but cream is really best)
1/8 c White Corn Syrup
1 T Butter
1/2 t Vanilla extract

  1. In a pan on medium heat, mix brown sugar & cornstarch until homogeneous.
  2. Slowly add the water or cider, cream, & corn syrup.
  3. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to bubble.
  4. Continue cooking & stirring for about 2 minutes.
  5. Remove pan from heat & stir in the butter & vanilla until completely incorporated.
  6. Serve warm or let cool.

Brie en Croute

This melty cheese treat is a yummy appetizer at any party! Puff pastry can be found in your frozen foods section, but it's not usually with the sweet rolls like you might think. it comes in boxes of two, but this recipe only uses one. Check out the blog tomorrow for a yummy recipe to use the other one on!

1 sheet Puff Pastry
1 round Brie cheese (8 oz)
1/4 c Peach Preserves
1/8 t ground Ginger
2 T dried Cranberries
2 T Pecans, chopped
2 T Brown Sugar
1 large Egg, beaten
1 T Heavy Cream

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Defrost puff pastry according to package directions & unroll.
  3. Finely chop the cranberries & pecans then mix with brown sugar.
  4. Cut top & bottom rind off cheese.
  5. Press one side of cheese into the cranberry mixture.
  6. Sprinkle the rest of the cranberry mixture onto the puff pastry.
  7. Place the cheese, cranberry side down, onto the center of the pastry.
  8. Top cheese with the Peach Preserves & sprinkle with ground ginger.
  9. Gather up the edges of the brie, pressing around the brie and gather at the top.
  10. Gently squeeze together the excess dough and tie together with a piece of kitchen twine (or do like I do & just stick it together as best as you can).
  11. Mix the egg & cream together & brush over the top and sides of the pastry.
  12. Bake on a cookie sheet or baking stone for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown & flaky.
  13. Slice & serve hot with crackers!

Garlic Onion Dip

2 t dry Chives
1 1/2 t granulated Garlic
1 t dry, minced Onion
1/2 t Celery Salt
1/8 t Black Pepper

Dip Directions:
  1. Combine packet with 1 cup sour cream.
  2. Chill for 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Serve with cheese & crackers.

Fiesta Fun Dip Mix (single)

1 T onion
2 t salt
2 t red pepper
2 t paprika
2 t garlic
2 t parsley

1 t cumin

Dip Directions:
Mix contents of package (about 4 tablespoons or a quarter cup) with one cup mayo & one cup sour cream.

Fiesta Fun Seasoning Mix (bulk)

This recipe will make almost two cup of Fiesta Mix! In case you like to use it as a seasoning the way my sister does.

To make a whole container of this stuff, use the following recipe.
1/2 cup onion
1/3 cup salt
1/3 cup red pepper
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup garlic
1/4 cup parsley

1/8 cup cumin

Veggie Herb Dip

2 T dry Parsley

2 T dry Chives or dry Green Onions

2 T Dry Dill Weed

1/4 t granulated Garlic

Dip Directions:

  1. Combine package with 1 & 1/2 cups sour cream.
  2. Refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Serve with fresh veggies.

Bacon Dip Mix

This makes a single little packet of dip mix that you can attach instructions to & give as a gift.

2 T Bacon Flavored Bits (the kind that doesn't have to be refrigerated)
2 T dry Minced Onion
2 t Beef Bouillon (again, the kind that doesn't need refrigeration)
1/4 t garlic granules
  1. Pulverize the bacon bits & onion to powder.
  2. Mix powder with the beef & garlic granules.

Dip Directions:
  1. Mix packet with 1 cup mayo & 1 cup sour cream.
  2. Refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes to develop flavor.
  3. Serve with crackers or veggies.

Mild Cilantro Dip

This recipe makes a single packet that can be given as a gift.

1 T dried Red & Green Bell Peppers, chopped
1 1/2 t dry, minced Cilantro
1/2 t Garilic Powder

Dip Directions:

  1. Combine package contents with 1/2 pound of cream cheese & 1/2 cup of cour cream.
  2. Serve with chips or veggies.

Pizza Seasoning

1 t granulated Garlic
6 t minced, dried Onion
1 1/2 t Salt
1 1/2 t Sage leaf
3/4 t Brown Sugar
3/4 t Black Pepper
1/4 t ground Ginger
1/4 t ground Anise

Pizza Casserole Directions:

  1. Brown 1 pound ground beef with 3 tablespoons seasoning mix.
  2. Add 4 ounces chopped pepperoni to pan & heat through.
  3. Pour ground beef mix into a baking dish 7 top with 1 can petite diced tomatoes & 1 cup shredded mozzarella.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts.
  5. Serve on toasted bread or crackers.

AFTERTHOUGHT-- My sister thought this was good, but says it needs some oregano. I don't know how much, but I would trust her if I were you. I layered this over pre-cooked penne & left it for her to feed my kids when she was sitting for me. They all loved it!

Lemon Herb Seasoning

4 T Basil
4 t granulated Garlic
2 t minced Rosemary
2 t fresh lemon peel (1 t dried lemon peel)
1/2 t Black Pepper
8 t Cornstarch

  1. Quickly sear 4 chicken breasts in 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  2. Mix 2 teaspoons lemon juice with 1/4 cup water & pour over chicken.
  3. Simmer until chicken is done (10-20 min)

Stuffing Seasoning

1 T Ground Sage
1 T Chicken Bouillon Granules
3 T Dried Celery
2 T Dried, minced onions
2 T dried Parsley
1/4 T Black Pepper

Stuffing Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/4 cups water, 3 tablespoons butter, and 3 tablespoons stuffing seasoning
Simmer 5 minutes on medium heat.
Stir in 4 cups bread cubes & cook 1 to 2 minutes until liquid is absorbed
Cover & remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes.

Taco Seasoning

I swear this taco seasoning ends up tasting just like that Taco Bell one you can get in packets at the grocery, but it will cost you loads less!
Isn't it pretty all layered like that?

2 T Chili Powder
2 T Paprika
1 T cumin
1 T Garlic Powder
1 T Onion Powder
1/4 t Cayenne Pepper
1 T Cornstarch
This is what it looks like once it's all mixed up.
Not as pretty, but oh so yummy!

To Make Taco Meat:
  1. Brown 1 pound of ground beef until well-done.
  2. Add 3 T seasoning mix & 1 cup water.
  3. Simmer seven minutes or until thickened.
  4. Serve with tortilla shells, shredded cheese, beans, & lettuce.

Southwest Seasoning

This recipe makes about 1/2 cup of seasoning mix or enough for two meals.

2 T Chili Powder
2T Paprika
1 T salt
1 T Oregano
1 T Brown Sugar
1 T Crushed Coriander
2 t Cumin
1 t Black Pepper
1 t Cayenne Pepper
1 t Crushed Red Pepper

Quesadilla Directions:
  1. Mix 1/4 cup of this seasoning mix with one shredded breast of chicken (or one 14 ounce can of chunk chicken)
  2. Stuff into folded fajita style tortillas & top with shredded cheddar.
  3. Grill until melty.

*Flavor Favorite - add a can of beans and a can of chopped green chilies to the mix to make a full meal!*

Chicken Fajita Soup Directions:

  1. Saute a chopped onion in butter until translucent.
  2. Add one can chopped chilies, one shredded breast of chicken (or one 14 ounce can of chunk chicken) & 1/4 cup of seasoning mix.
  3. Stir in 6 cups of chicken broth, one chopped celery stalk, & one chopped carrot.
  4. Simmer 20 minutes & serve with tortilla chips.

What's Cooking This Week

Can you even believe that we only have two shopping weekends left before Christmas? Not that any of you will need it since I know you all are making this week's delicious recipes for everyone you know. Just don't make too much, I'm handing this stuff out, too!

This week I am focusing on seasoning mixes. You know, that great stuff you see in little packages or jars for $3 to $7 each? Now you can mix it up at home on the cheap. Or do like I'm doing, package it in little bags with printed instructions on them & give it as a gourmet gift. Dinner Babe gourmet, that is.

Monday starts the week out with Southwest Seasoning mix. This is the stuff that I use to make my fajita quesadillas and fajita soup.

Tuesday has us mixing up a Taco Seasoning that rivals what you can get at the store & beats Taco Bell hands down!

Wednesday we are cooking up a traditional sage Stuffing Mix that takes Stove Top by storm.

Thursday we'll introduce my experimental Lemon Herb Mix. It should come out like Devin's Lemon Herb Chicken recipe only faster. You'll have to let me know how you like it.

Friday we round out the week with a Pizza Seasoning mix. Great for whipping up a quick pizza casserole or adding a little Italian zip to store-bought sauces.

Lemon Poppyseed Poundcake

You can completely cook this then freeze it for gift giving or just mix up the dry ingredients & attach a tag on how to finish the bread. You may alo be able to freeze the prepared batter & cook later, but i haven't tried that yet.

3 T milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
3 T cornstarch
3/4 c sugar
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 T packed grated lemon zest
3 T poppy seeds
13 T butter, softened

1/4 c Lemon Juice
1/4 c Sugar

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix milk, eggs, & vanilla together then set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, cornstarch, sugar, & salt together twice.
  4. Mix the lemon zest & poppy seeds into the dry mixture.
  5. Add half of the butter & half of the egg mixture to the dry mix.
  6. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine then mix on medium speed for 1 minute.
  7. Add half of the remaining butter & egg mixture then beat for 20 seconds on medium speed.
  8. Add the remaining butter & egg mixture & beat for 20 seconds on medium speed.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared bread pan until it is 1 inch from the top of the pan.
  10. Bake 65 to 75 minutes until well browned & a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Cover bread with foil about halfway through cooking to prevent over browning.)
  11. Combine lemon juice & sugar in a saucepan & heat until sugar is dissolved.
  12. Poke holes in the warm bread & pour lemon sauce over the bread.
  13. Let cool, dust with powdered sugar, & enjoy!

Frozen Wheat Bread

When I make bread, I mix up two loaves & freeze one. The frozen dough became a hit when my freezer was overstocked & I had to give some away. Now that's all anyone wants for Christmas. I'm freezing it in aluminum bread pans & handing it out this year!

This recipe makes two loaves.

1 3/4 c warm water (140 degrees)
1 1/2 T butter, softened
1/3 c brown sugar
3 c wheat flour
1 c all-purpose flour
3 t rapid rise or breadmaker yeast

  1. Warm your bowl with hot water & dry.
  2. Add first three ingredients & mix well.
  3. Mix flours & yeast together.
  4. Add flour mix one cup at a time mixing & kneading between additions until smooth & elastic dough forms.
  5. Shape dough into a ball & plop into a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top.
  6. Let rise in your oven with the light on until double in size (about 45 min).
  7. Remove dough, punch down, shape, & put in greased loaf pans.
  8. Pop loaf pans into the freezer for about two hours or until dough is firm.
  9. Remove from freezer & wrap tightly with plastic wrap or vacuum seal (you don't have to take it out of the pan, but you can if you want to).
  10. Put the dough back in the freezer. It will keep for as much a 6 months if tightly wrapped.

To Cook

  1. Let dough thaw in the oven or on the counter for 8 to 10 hours or overnight.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees with the bread inside.
  3. Bake 50 to 60 minutes until bread is golden brown.
  4. Remove bread from pan & let cool or serve it piping hot.

*Cook's Tip: Store bread in a plastic bag or airtight container for a soft crust or just on the countertop for a harder crust.*

Homemade Pasta

This is a great treat & lets you add any kind of flavoring that you want! I make mine in my KitchenAid mixer, but Mario Battalli just mixes it right on the countertop.
This makes a great gift when dried & packaged in a nice little wine bag along with jar of homemade sauce.

2 large eggs
2 c all-purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour & 1 cup all-purpose)

  1. Add eggs to mixing bowl & beat briefly with flat beater attachment.
  2. Add half of the flour & mix until incorporated.
  3. Remove flat beater & attach kneading hook.
  4. Add remaining flour & knead until fully incorporated (this may take a few minutes).
  5. Dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl. It should resemble very stiff bread dough.
    If dough is too crumbly, add a bit of water or oil. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour.
  6. Cut dough into two or four pieces & roll out on a floured surface until about a thick as a pie crust.
  7. Flour top surface of dough & loosely roll it up to make a "log."
  8. Cut the "log" into thick or thin as slices, whichever you prefer, unroll & lay flat.
  9. Cook immediately in boiling water or dry in 150 degree oven for 24 hours (my oven stays about that hot if I just leave the light on).

*Cook's Note: I also like to add little things like a dash of oregano or a bit of tomato paste & garlic. Then I just top the cooked pasta with a bit of olive oil & a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Once you master this recipe (it's easy), you can figure out how to add all kinds of extras!*

Beer Bread

This yummy treat can be mixed up in no time, or boxed up & given as a gift!

3 c all-purpose flour
4 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 c sugar
12 oz beer
3 T melted butter

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, & sugar.
  3. Add the beer & mix well.
  4. Pour batter into a greased 9x5 loaf pan.
  5. Pour butter evenly over the top of the mixture.
  6. Bake 50-60 minutes until the top is golden brown & a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Granola Cereal

2 c regular Quaker Oats
1/2 c sweetened, flake coconut
1/2 c nuts, coarsely chopped (I like pecans, but use what you like or leave them out)
1/2 c pure maple syrup (you could use honey, but I don't like it as much.)
1/3 c olive oil

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Combine everything except the oil & syrup, then mix well until it is homogeneous.
  3. Mix the honey & oil together then pour over the dry mix; stir well to coat.
  4. Pour evenly into your biggest pan (13x9 is fine) & bake for 30-35 min stirring about halfway through.
  5. Remove from oven & *immediately* pour out onto parchment paper or greased foil & let cool.
  6. Let cool, break into clumps, & store. This mix should keep for about 2 weeks (if it isn't eaten in the first day!)

*Cook's Note: It's really important to get the mixture out of your pan while it is hot. Otherwise it forms a hard, concrete-like substance that has to be carefully chipped from your pan because the cooked syrup forms an impenetrable, water-proof seal.*