Thursday, January 8, 2009

Banana Pudding Squares

Well it's that time of year, isn't it? Time to start losing that weight we gained over the holidays. Personally, I don't believe in diets. I do believe in sensibility and all things in moderation. I think food is meant to be enjoyed and it's possible to eat even really "sinful" stuff once in awhile and still be healthy. This recipe is actually relatively healthy and tastes really yummy. So you can feel free to indulge a little without feeling guilty.

Banana Pudding Squares
20 reduced-fat vanilla wafers, finely crushed
3 tablespoons margarine, melted
1 8 oz package light cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 8oz carton fat-free whipped topping, divided
3 medium bananas
3 cups low fat milk
2 small packages instant vanilla pudding (regular or sugar-free)

Mix vanilla wafers and margarine. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar until well-blended. Fold in 1 1/2 cups of the whipped topping. Spoon evenly over crust, spreading carefully. Slice bananas in half cross-wise, then in half again length-wise. Arrange over cream cheese mixture. Mix pudding and milk together with a wire whisk for 2 minutes. Pour over bananas. Spread remaining whipped topping over pudding. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving. Garnish with shaved chocolate, if desired.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Kansas City Steak Soup

January is National Soup Month - and I have LOTS of soup recipes. I love a hot, hearty bowl of soup when is cold and snowy outside. I usually make soups in my crockpot. Just throw everything in there before I leave for work, then it's all ready when we get home. All I need to do is heat up some rolls or bake some quick biscuits and dinner is done.

My first soup recipe for this month honors my humble little home city - Kansas City. By the way, USA Today has named Kansas City as one of five travel destinations to watch in 2009. Pretty cool, huh? Anyway - this soup is very similar to the one served at the Plaza III Steakhouse (which I have never eaten at because it's really pricey). It's also similar to one I used to get at a place called Walt Bodine's. Walt Bodine was a funny little guy that did commentaries on one of the local news programs when I first moved to Kansas City. He was kind of the Andy Rooney of KC. He's been gone for years and his restaurant isn't there anymore either. Soup's still good though.

Kansas City Steak Soup
1 pound sirloin steak, cut into small pieces
1 cup margarine
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups water
1 large carrot, diced
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1 16 oz package frozen mixed vegetables
1 16 oz can stewed tomatoes
12 cubes beef boullion
2 tablespoons margarine

Make a roux by melting the margarine, then stir in the flour. Brown gently, stirring constantly, over medium heat. Cook until it is a light brown color. Gradually add 2 cups of the water to the roux, stir until smooth. Add remaining water, carrot, onion, celery, frozen vegetables, stewed tomatoes and boullion cubes.

Saute the steak in 2 tablespoons margarine until brown; drain. Add the browned meat to the soup. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 1 1/2 hours, or until vegetables are tender. Season to taste with ground black pepper.

To cook in the crockpot: Prepare the roux and stir in two cups water until smooth. Brown the steak. Place everything in the crockpot and cook on low until the vegetables are tender.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Happy 2009! I hope you all have a joyful year.

They say that eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day brings you good luck for the year. I have to tell ya - black eyed peas are not my favorite food. It's one of those things that I will eat - I just don't really care for them. I won't go out of my way to get them. But - I do like this recipe for Mississippi Caviar. It has lots of other stuff so it's not just plain ol' black eyed peas. This is good with tortilla chips, crackers or crostini (crispy toasted bread slices). You can add more spice by adding jalapeno peppers or diced green chilis. If you don't like any spice at all, you can use plain diced tomatoes.

Mississippi Caviar
2 15 oz cans black eyed peas, drained
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 10 oz can Rotel (tomatoes and green chiles)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing

Mix all ingredients. Cover and chill for several hours. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, crostini, etc.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I came up with this recipe after we tried – and loved - a specialty pizza at a local gourmet pizza restaurant. I know the ingredients might sound a little strange, but trust me, this is really good. The original pizza had sliced jalapeno peppers. I make things a little easier by using pepper jack cheese, but you can certainly use regular cheese and add the jalapenos yourself. If you don’t like spicy, this is just as good with other cheeses and roasted red pepper instead of jalapeno. I have used provolone, Mexican blend, cheddar, gouda and combinations of various kinds. They are all good. I have also used the same ingredients to make quesadillas.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
1 pizza crust (homemade, Boboli, refrigerated tube, etc.)
¾ cup BBQ sauce, divided (best with a sweet sauce, such as honey BBQ)
1 ½ cup shredded cooked chicken breast
¼ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup sliced jalapeno peppers or roasted red peppers
1 8 oz can pineapple tidbits, drained (I like tidbits because they are smaller than chunks, but larger than crushed. You can use chunks also, but you might want to cut them in half.)
2 cups shredded cheese (pepper jack, cheddar, Mexican blend, gouda, provolone, or combination – see note above)

Preheat oven to 450. If using a refrigerated pizza crust in a tube or homemade crust, pat crust into pizza pan or onto a pizza stone. Prebake crust for about 5 minutes or until it just starts to brown.

Toss shredded chicken breast with 2 tablespoons or so of BBQ sauce. Spread remaining sauce onto pizza crust. Top with chicken, onions, peppers and pineapple, distributing ingredients evenly over crust. Top with shredded cheese. Bake at 450 until cheese is melted and golden brown.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grilled Cheese and Soup with a Southwest Twist

This is a really fast and easy comfort meal for a cold day. The original recipe comes from the Cooking Light 5 Ingredient, 15 Minute Cookbook. I make this often because it goes together quick and easy and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. I don't usually get too hung up on the "low fat" or "low salt" ingredients. We usually prefer the "regular" stuff, so mine doesn't turn out all that light, but you can use whatever you prefer.

Sausage and Black Bean Soup
8 ounces smoked kielbasa sausage, sliced
1 cup diced bell pepper (red, green and/or yellow)
1 14 1/2 oz can chicken broth
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup salsa (whatever heat level or type you prefer)

Coat a non-stick saucepan with cooking spray. Saute sausage over medium-high heat until sausage begins to brown. Add diced bell pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add beans and salsa. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

You can make these with whatever cheese you like or have on hand. I usually use pepper jack for me and my husband because we like a little more spice. I use a Mexican cheese blend for my son's. You can also add sliced jalapenos if you like.

8 6-inch flour tortillas
2 cups shredded cheddar, pepper jack, or Mexican cheese blend
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat. Place one tortilla in the skilled, stop with 1/2 cup cheese and 2 tablespoons green onion. Place 2nd tortilla on top to make a sandwich. Cook until golden brown, then turn and cook other side until golden brown. Cut into wedges to serve.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with family and friends. I intended to post something on Christmas Eve and the day just got away from me. So a belated Merry Christmas to you all!

We had some friends over on Christmas Eve. I kept it simple - just appetizers that I bought at Sam's. I also made some pigs in an blanket with Little Smokies (just cut crescent rolls in thirds long ways, then wrap around the sausages. Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes or so). We also had seven layer Mexican dip that one of our friends brought. I just love that stuff. It's refried beans, sour cream, salsa, cheese, black olives, and green onions. I made my Spiced Apple Cranberry Cider and put out some of the cookies and candies that I had made over the last couple of weeks. It was a nice, relaxing evening.

On Christmas Day my aunt and her kids came over. We don't have any other family that lives close so it was just six of us. I did a somewhat non-traditional dinner. I just wasn't in the mood or turkey, ham or roast. I made fried chicken, mashed potatoes with cream gravy, hot rolls and a couple of vegetables. I guess it was good. Everyone (with the exception of my five-year-old) had at least two plates.

For dessert I made pineapple upside down cake - my all time favorite cake - and that is the recipe I am posting today. The basic recipe is from Kraft Foods, but I made a couple of changes because I like more of the pineapple topping and I prefer using crushed instead of slices. This is great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Pineapple Upside Down Dream Cake
2 20 oz cans crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
Maraschino cherries, optional
1 box yellow or pineapple cake mix (I use the pineapple)
1 envelope Dream Whip whipped topping mix
4 eggs
1 cup cold water

Heat oven to 350. Mix melted butter and brown sugar in a 9x13 pan. Drain pineapple, reserving 2 tablespoons of juice. Pour drained pineapple over brown sugar and butter and spread evenly. If using the cherries, arrange them in the pineapple pushing down into the pineapple so they will show when the cake is turned upside down.

Mix cake mix, Dream Whip, eggs and water in a large mixer bowl. Beat on low speed for two minutes, then increase speed to medium and beat four more minutes. Spoon batter over pineapple in the pan, then spread evenly.

Bake at 350 for 50 - 55 minutes or until top springs back when touched in the center. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter. Leave pan for 1 minute, then remove. Serve warm or cooled.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Back to Reality

I don't know about you, but I'm finally tired of the holiday goodies. I got all my cookies and candies made. I took goody boxes to work for my coworkers today and made a few trays for neighbors and friends. I think I need more friends - I have tons of stuff left. Of course, we'll eat some of it, but we certainly don't need it all. I think I got carried away. If you made homemade treats for your family and friends this year, I hope you had fun and if you tried any of my recipes, I hope you enjoyed them.

When I started this month I planned to post goody recipes up until Christmas, but I decided to stop. First, I think everyone should be done with any homemade stuff by now. Also, I was starting to run out of favorite recipes. Today I decided to post a recipe for a very quick and easy dinner. You probably have everything you need for this in your freezer and pantry. This will make a quick and easy dinner for one of those hectic days.

Mama's Brainless Chicken Casserole
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed
1 pound chopped, cooked broccoli (or other vegetable)
2 cans condensed cream of chicken and/or cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups cooked pasta
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Mix all ingredients except cheese in a lightly greased casserole dish. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 until hot and bubbly.

Can't get much easier than that!