Friday, August 29, 2008

Mexican Pork & Sweet Potato Stew

I made this yummy stew last week. I got the recipe from Woman's Day Magazine's heart-healthy recipes. I used Yukon Gold potatoes instead of sweet potatoes by mistake. I think it would have tasted really good with the sweet potatoes. I will definitely make it again the right way. D was really upset and didn't want to try it with the Yukon Gold potatoes. He relented and tried it. He and B really enjoyed it. It had some heat but not too much.

Mexican Pork & Sweet Potato Stew
Serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1-1/4 lbs pork tenderloin, cut bite-size
1-1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 poblano chile peppers, seeded and sliced
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 can (14 oz) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1-1/2 cups salsa (Old El Paso Fresh Mexican Style Smooth Chipoltle is a good choice)
Garnish: chopped cilantro, tortilla strips

1. Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a deep nonstick skillet. Add pork; cook over medium-high heat 7 minutes or until browned. Transfer pork to a plate.

2. Heat remaining 1 tsp oil in skillet. Add potatoes, peppers and onion. Cover; cook 5 minutes, stirring, until peppers and onion soften slightly.

3. Stir in garlic, cumin and cinnamon; cook a few seconds until fragrant. Add broth and water; bring to a boil. Add corn; cover and cook 5 minutes or until vegetables soften.

4. Stir in salsa and pork; heat through. Sprinkle servings with cilantro and tortilla strips if desired.


The Creative Cook

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bran Muffins

My sister sent me this email and it made me chuckle. I thought I would share it. I also added a recipe for Bran Muffins just in case you really wanted one!

Bran Muffins

The couple were 85 years old, and had been married for sixty years. Though they were far from rich, they managed to get by because they watched their pennies.Though not young, they were both in very good health, largely due to the wife's insistence on healthy foods and exercise for the last decade. One day, their good health didn't help when they went on a rare vacation and their plane crashed, sending them off to Heaven.

They reached the pearly gates, and St. Peter escorted them inside. He took them to a beautiful mansion, furnished in gold and fine silks, with a fully stocked kitchen and a waterfall in the master bath. A maid could be seen hanging their favorite clothes in the closet.They gasped in astonishment when he said, 'Welcome to Heaven. This will be your home now.'

The old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost. 'Why, nothing,' Peter replied, 'remember, this is your reward in Heaven.'The old man looked out the window and right there he saw a championship golf course, finer and more beautiful than any ever built on Earth.'What are the greens fees?,' grumbled the old man.'This is heaven,' St. Peter replied. 'You can play for free, every day.'

Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch, with every imaginable cuisine laid out before them, from seafood to steaks to exotic desserts, free flowing beverages. 'Don't even ask,' said St. Peter to the man. This is Heaven, it is all free for you to enjoy.'The old man looked around and glanced nervously at his wife.'Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods, and the decaffeinated tea?,' he asked.

'That's the best part,' St. Peter replied. 'You can eat and drink as much as you like of whatever you like, and you will never get fat or sick.This is Heaven!'
The old man pushed, 'No gym to work out at? ''Not unless you want to,' was the answer. 'No testing my sugar or blood pressure or...'

'Never again. All you do here is enjoy yourself.'

The old man glared at his wife and said, 'You and your bran muffins. We could have been here ten years ago!'

Maida Heatter's Famous Bran Muffins

Yields: 18 muffins

2 ounces ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark or light molasses or honey
2 eggs (large grade)
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups bran cereal (do not use flakes, Maida recommends Kellogg's All-Bran)
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts broken into large pieces
1/2 cup unsifted whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsifted all purpose white flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

If your oven can not fit both muffin tins side by side on the middle rack, adjust the 2 racks to divide the oven into 3rds.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter 18 2 3/4 inch muffin forms. Note: Buttering the tins will create a very nice crust for the muffins, if using paper cups the crust may be diminished but the muffins will keep longer.
Melt butter over low heat. In a large mixing bowl combine the melted butter, sugar and molasses or honey and stir to mix.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and milk to mix.

Slowly add the egg mixture to the butter mixture stirring with a wire whisk to blend. Mix in the bran and raisins and let stand for a few minutes. Or cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir in walnuts.

Sift together flours, salt, and baking soda and add to bran mixture. Stir quickly with rubber spatula just enough to moisten dry ingredients.

With a large spoon, fill prepared cups with batter about 2/3rds full.

Bake for 15 minutes rotating muffin pans once to insure even cooking. Muffins will be done when they spring back from touch. Note: If muffin mixture has been refrigerated, cooking time will be 4 minutes longer. Take muffins from oven and remove from baking tins immediately and cool on rack.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Grilled Chicken & Creamy Corn

I made this recipe last night for dinner. The boys both loved it. It was quick and easy to make after getting home from the pool kind of late. I didn't grill the chicken on my gas grill, I used my George Foreman grill instead. Also, I didn't have corn on the cob so I used frozen corn (shhhh! don't tell). The recipe came from the Better Homes & Gardens website (

Grilled Chicken & Creamy Corn

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. smoked paprika
3 fresh ears of sweet corn
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil


1. In a small bowl combine olive oil and paprika. Brush corn and chicken with oil mixture. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper. Grill directly over medium coals for 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F), turning once.

2. Carefully cut kernels from cob by firmly holding the corn at the top (using a kitchen towel, if necessary and slicing downward with a sharp knife. Transfer to bowl, stir in sour cream. Season with additional salt and pepper. Stir in milk to desired creaminess. Slice chicken breasts. Serve with corn, sprinkle shredded basil. Serves 4.

The Creative Cook

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I was asked to make a breakfast casserole for the PTA's back-to-school breakfast for the teachers this morning. Last week, I started looking for my "tried and true" recipe that I have had for years and used successfully many times. Well, I couldn't find it! I probably tossed the hard copy thinking that it was safe on my hard drive. I searched everywhere for that recipe, I searched for it on my hard drive, in my kitchen drawer, on the Internet and nothing. I found LOTS of other similar recipes. Unfortunately, none of them is exactly the same as the one I love. I tried another one of the recipes that I found on the Internet. This recipe is similar to mine in that you have to cube the bread and soak it over-night in the fridge. The differences are that in my old recipe, the cream cheese was not blended in with the egg but cubed and placed on top of the bread. Also, instead of powdered sugar my old recipe called for cinnamon sugar. My only complaint with it is that it took way longer than the 30 minutes the recipe suggests to bake it. I kept it in the oven for at least one hour. I am also going to pass on several of the other recipes I found online. If I find my old recipe, I'll be sure to post it for you, too.

French Toast Souffle
All-Recipes by Betty

10 cups white bread cubes (about 1 large loaf)
1 (8 ounces) package low fat cream cheese, softened
8 eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar


1. Place bread cubes in a lightly greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in milk, half and half, maple syrup, and vanilla until mixture is smooth. Pour cream cheese mixture over the bread; cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. The next morning, remove souffle from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

4. Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, and serve warm.


1 loaf (12 slices) slightly stale white bread
12 eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, cubed
1-1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole pan.Cut crust off bread and cube. Mix maple syrup, milk, vanilla and eggs. Pour over bread. Add cream cheese cubes. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a greased pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Serve with warm maple syrup.

Cinnamon French Toast Casserole

This makes an excellent and easy weekend brunch - preparation takes about 10 minutes. Assemble the night before and bake in the morning.

1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp maple syrup
Chopped pecans (optional)
1 loaf cinnamon bread (can use cinnamon raisin bread if desired) - Thomas' brand is good
1-8 oz. pkg cream cheese
5 eggs
1/4 cup half and half
Powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9"x13" pan with non-stick cooking spray. Melt butter and add to the pan, along with brown sugar and 2 Tbsp of maple syrup. Mix in pan until the mixture can be spread evenly around the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with finely chopped pecans if desired.

Divide loaf of bread into halves. Cut half of the loaf into small cubes (about 1" square) and scatter over the brown sugar mixture. Cut cream cheese into cubes and scatter over the top. Top with the remaining bread cut into cubes.

Whisk eggs, half and half, and remaining 1 Tbsp of maple syrup in a bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and press down gently with plastic wrap to make sure all bread is coated. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Take out and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until casserole is gently browned and well set.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm with your favorite syrup topping or fresh fruit. Serve with bacon or sausage.

Blueberry Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole

1 loaf egg bread, cut into cubes (Challah bread)
8 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries, tossed lightly with 2 tablespoons flour
8 large eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup maple syrup
6 tablespoons butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Layer one half of bread cubes in baking dish. Cut cream cheese into cubes and scatter over bread. Layer the coated blueberries over the cream cheese. Cover the blueberries with the remaining bread. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon. In a bowl combine the milk, maple syrup, eggs, and butter. Whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the bread and press the mixture into the bread with a spatula. This will help the bread soak up the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.

Chocolate Overnight French Toast Puff

12 slices white bread, crusts removed
2 cups skim milk, divided
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 eggs
2 cups half and half


3/4 cup butter, very soft or melted
1-1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)


Generously grease a 9x13" baking dish that is at least 2 inches deep. Arrange trimmed bread slices on bottom of pan in 2 layers. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup milk, chocolate chips and sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until chips are melted and sugar is dissolved. Do not let mixture come to a boil. Stir in vanilla. Let cool. In a large bowl, beat eggs, remaining milk and half and half. Mix chocolate mixture into egg mixture. Pour over bread slices. Cover pan tightly and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove from refrigerator and prepare topping.

Prepare topping:

In a medium bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, walnuts, and syrup. Spread or spoon the topping over the bread slices. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until center is set. If edges are browning to fast, cover with foil. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes or so until cool enough to spoon or slice. Top with syrup, if desired.

Baked French Toast Casserole with Maple Syrup
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt
Praline Topping, recipe follows
Maple syrup


Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

All of these recipes sound awesome to me. I have tried the first one today for the teacher's back-to-school breakfast. The second recipe is the closest to my original tried and true recipe. I can't wait to try the blueberry version and Paula Dean's version. I think that D will like the Chocolate version best.

Please let me know if you try any of these recipes and how you like them.


The Creative Cook

Monday, August 18, 2008

Home-made Onion Dip

As I have mentioned more than a few times on this blog, I have a problem with using MSG in my cooking. I just don't like it. It is a chemical that shouldn't be ingested, in my opinion. I recently realized that almost all of those soup packets and soup cubes that you can buy at the grocery store contain MSG. In the past, I always made dip with packets of soup mix. At the beginning of the summer, I met a neighbor of mine who gave me a recipe for onion dip from scratch. I lost her recipe but I found it again on the Internet. My neighbor likes the Barefoot Contessa's recipe. I made Alton Brown's Onion Dip and that was also really good. Either recipe would be perfect to bring to a party. You'll definitely be invited back, if you do. I brought Alton Brown's version to our neighborhood get-together on Friday night and everyone seemed to enjoy it. My neighbor brought The Barefoot Contessa's dip to my get-together back in June and there wasn't any left! I am even going to suggest that making either of these onion dips for a party or get-together is SO much better for you since they don't contain MSG. You can also control the fat content by using lower fat sour cream or mayo. Although, The Barefoot Contessa's recipe calls for regular mayo why not try it with light and see how it tastes to you?

Onion Dip from Scratch
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups diced onions
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


In a saute pan over medium heat add oil, heat and add onions and salt. Cook the onions until they are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Mix the rest of the ingredients, and then add the cooled onions. Refrigerate and stir again before serving.

Pan-Fried Onion Dip
from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

40 min/10 min prep


2 yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise, not light

1. Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds.
2. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.) Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
3. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, pepper and saute for 10 minutes.
4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized.
5. Allow the onions to cool.
6. Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth.
7. Add the onions and mix well.
8. Taste for seasoning.
9. Serve at room temperature.


The Creative Cook

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Molasses-and-Mustard-Glazed Ribs

I have been holding out on you. I made the BEST ribs in my slow cooker last week. I bought two racks of ribs from Market Day before the school year ended. I figured it was about time I made them. This recipe popped out at me. I was reading the August 29, 2008 issue of All*You magazine and they had a feature called "Feel-Good Food." This recipe is one of the recipes featured in that article. They are easy to make and very yummy to eat. My favorite part of this recipe is that it doesn't call for bottled barbecue sauce which frequently has high-fructose corn syrup in it and sometimes even has MSG in it. Also, read the ingredients on your mustard. I like to buy it from the organic section of the grocery store. So read the recipes and make your own barbecue sauce when you can. Sorry for preaching!

Molasses-and-Mustard-Glazed Ribs

Prep. 15 minutes Cook: 6 hrs.
Serves: 6

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dark (not blackstrap) molassas
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 lb. bone-in country style pork ribs or baby back ribs, cut into 4 rib sections

1. Combine mustard, molasses, sugar, tomato paste, vinegar, salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. Brush rib sections thickly with sauce and arrange in slow cooker. Cook on low until meat is tender and easily removed from bone, 4 to 6 hours. Skim fat from sauce and spoon sauce over ribs before serving.

Kitchen Tips - Watch the Time - baby back ribs need less time in the slow cooker than other types, so if you're using them, be sure to start checking them after 4 hours.

The magazine suggests serving this with light side dishes. We took their advice and ate corn on the cob and steamed broccoli. It was great. Other side dish recommendations are: cole slaw and frozen corn.

This recipe is a keeper. Enjoy!

The Creative Cook

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fresh Fig Ice Cream

Here is the second unusual flavor of ice cream that we made this summer. We used another recipe from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop" cookbook. D wanted to make it for his grandma. My mom is a fig-lover. I have to admit that I didn't try this ice cream. I packed it up and passed it on to her. D insisted that he wanted to try some so I kept just one scoop for him. My mom said it was very "figgy". We weren't able to get the Black Mission figs that David Lebovitz suggests using in the recipe. In fact, I didn't think we would be able to get any figs at all. One day last week, my mom called and said, "I found figs." We never get a steady supply of figs in this part of the world. As the expert on figs, my mom ate a few to see how they tasted. She said they were terrible but tasted really good in the ice cream. If you can obtain the Black Mission figs, please do use them in this recipe. I am sure the ice cream would be a much prettier color than the yellowish-green color we got. David Lebovitz says it comes out a "lovely deep-violet color." Maybe next summer we'll find some really good figs and try this again.

2 pounds fresh figs (about 20)
1/2 cup water
1 lemon, preferably unsprayed
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste

Remove the hard stem ends from the figs, then cut each fig into 8 pieces. Put the figs in a medium, non-reactive saucepan with the water, and zest the lemon directly into the saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the figs are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the sugar, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the figs are a jam like consistency. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, puree the fig paste in a blender or food processor with the cream and lemon juice. Taste, then add more lemon juice if desired.

Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

The first picture above shows the figs cooking on the stove in the first step. The second picture shows the mixture or batter after we pureed it with the cream and lemon juice and the last picture shows the ice cream after it was frozen in my "Big Chill" ice cream maker.

In his book, David Lebovitz expresses surprise that many people don't know what a fresh fig looks like. I am not that surprised. I grew up in NYC so I did see figs in the grocery stores and fruit markets but, as I mentioned, out here in the "boonies" you don't see figs in the markets very often. He also informs us that once a fig is picked, it won't ripen any further. He says to buy only figs that are "dead-ripe." Per David, "a ripe fig is one whose sides crack and split and a dewy drop of juice starts to ooze from the tiny hole in the bottom." Thanks David. I had no idea~! My only experience with figs is eating the famous Fig Newton cookies (which I love) and sometimes a dried fig. I learned a lot from this experience. Next, D wants to make baked-potato ice cream. Sounds yucky but who knows??


The Creative Cook

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Plum Ice Cream

How about some delicious, refreshing ice cream. Last year, I bought a very inexpensive ice cream maker at a church sale. It only cost me $2.00 so I figured that if I ever used it even one time I would get my money's worth out of it. It is called "The Big Chill" by Salton. Well, so far this summer D and I have made two types of ice cream. The first type we made is Plum Ice Cream from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop. We went through the entire book. It is a beautifully photographed cookbook. D picked out the plum ice cream recipe. He thought it would be great to make plum ice cream because (1) it is an unusual flavor that you can't buy it in a grocery store or at any ice cream shops; and (2) he likes plums. I followed the recipe explicitly except I didn't use the kirsch that was called for. I didn't want to use any alcohol in the recipe so I substituted the juice from a jar of maraschino cherries. We really liked the results of the recipe except both my mom and D say the ice cream tastes more like cherry than plum. I don't agree. It also results in such a pretty pink colored ice cream. Try this recipe yourself and let me know what you think.

Plum Ice Cream by
David Lebovitz

1 pound plums (about 8)
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kirsch (substitute 1/2 teaspoon juice from maraschino cherries)

Slice the plums in half and remove the pits. Cut the plums into eighths and put them in a medium, nonreactive saucepan with the water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
Once cool, puree in a blender or food processor with the cream and kirsch until smooth.
Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
The Creative Cook