Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chocolate Syrup Recipe

I am sure you are feeling bombarded with the food police telling you what is good or bad to eat. But here we go again. I recently read that high fructose corn syrup in certain food items was found to contain high levels of mercury. I did some reading and found out how that happened but I am not a scientist so I'll let you do your own research on that. Unfortunately, several of my favorites products were found to contain high levels of mercury. Another good reason to avoid products that contain high fructose corn syrup. Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, which I buy regularly, was one of the products with the highest level of mercury. We all know that no amount of mercury is healthy. I know that people can get mercury poisoning from eating certain types of fish but I NEVER thought that there would be high levels of mercury in something like chocolate syrup. I was extremely upset and disappointed that I never heard anything from Hershey about removing the mercury from their product. There are lots of other products on the list but we only use a few of them at our house. One of the others that I had in my refrigerator was the Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce. I was extremely disappointed about that too. I found out that Jim Beam also makes a barbecue sauce that doesn't contain HFCS. I have to try to find the Jim Beam barbecue sauce or just make my own as I have already done many times. But I NEVER made chocolate syrup like Hershey's before. Tonight, D asked me if we could make chocolate syrup. I looked at him a bit funny but when I did a little "googling" I found a recipe for an imitation syrup similar to Hershey's. We just made a 2 cup batch and D is excited to try it as soon as it cools. Here is the recipe for you to try. If you want to change the serving size go to and plug in the amount you want to make. I imagine that this syrup lasts for a while in the refrigerator. If you don't want to go to the extreme of making your own chocolate syrup, you can buy Nestle's Nesquik Syrup which doesn't contain HFCS but their Nesquik Chocolate Milk does contain HFDS! Yes, it is extremely confusing and that is why I made my own.

Chocolate Syrup

Makes: 2 cups


1/2 cup Hershey's Cocoa Powder
1 cup Sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Vanilla
dash of salt


Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Add water, and mix until smooth. Bring this mixture to a boil. Allow it to boil for one minute, be carefull this does not over boil. Remove from heat, when this cools add the vanilla.

This recipe from CDKitchen for Chocolate Syrup makes 2 cups.

Recipe ID: 16910


The Creative Cook

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Potato Corn Soup

I have been yearning for some potato corn soup ever since D's friend's mom told me she made some in her slow cooker and that was about a month ago. She is having her kitchen remodeled so she was without a stove for quite some time. That's why she made her soup in her slow cooker. I am not (unfortunately) having my kitchen remodeled so I made this soup on the stove. I think it is a Paula Deen recipe but I can't be sure. It definitely comes from the website. The original recipe added shrimp but I found another version with less butter and no shrimp on the website. I (of course) did some of my own adjustments to the recipe. Feel free to use the recipe "as is" or make the changes that I made. I used no sodium chicken bouillon, skim milk and fat free half & half rather than regular bouillon cubes, 1% milk and regular half and half. Even if you used the originally called for ingredients this soup wouldn't be that bad for you. Paula's original recipe called for cooking 6 slices of bacon and crumbling them. I cooked the bacon and chopped it rather than buying bacon bits. I use the oven method when I make bacon because it is less messy and much easier than frying the bacon. I put it in the oven on a cookie sheet that is lined with a grill such as the type you would use to cook a roast or chicken. The bacon comes out great. It will be flat and not all twisted up like when you fry it. I was lucky to have D help me cube the potatoes and chop the carrots. He did a great job even though he had a bruised pinkie finger.
I don't eat seafood so I substituted some diced precooked chicken instead of using shrimp. This addition turned the soup into a meal in a bowl!

Potato Corn Soup
Serves 8-10

1/2 stick butter
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced about the same size as the onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups 1% milk
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cans whole kernel corn (I used frozen)
crumbled bacon bits, for garnish
grated sharp Cheddar, for garnish

In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion and carrots until both are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, milk and dissolved bouillon cubes. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and some of them have begun to dissolve into mush. Add the half-and-half, salt, pepper and corn. Return the soup to a boil, then remove from heat. Serve soup sprinkled with bacon bits and grated cheese.

This soup is another new family favorite for us. Please try it and let me know how you like it.

The Creative Cook

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lasagna Soup - Update

I had a friend ask me if the lasagna soup could be made meatless. My thought is, why not? Many people make meatless or vegetarian versions of lasagna. Personally, I think spinach would be good in this soup if you can get your family to eat it. I am sure that if your kids like mushrooms the way D does, they would be a good addition or even a substitution for the meat in this recipe. I'm trying to think of more substitutes for the sausage. I am not a vegetarian but I remember when my niece was a vegetarian several years ago, she would have suggested tofu. I don't cook with tofu because D had a soy allergy. I think he is over that allergy now since he hasn't had any problems with reactions to soy in quite a while. I still avoid tofu and soy based foods when I can. I am not a big fan of soy.

If you can come up with more ideas of what could be substituted for the meat in the Lasagna Soup, please send me a quick email or leave a comment.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lasagna Soup

I realize that although I am working now, my family still needs to eat. I had made copies of several recipes that I thought D would enjoy. He picked out the Lasagna Soup to try first.

I found this recipe in the February 2009 issue of Family Fun magazine. It is originally from Meredith Deeds cookbook 300 Sensational Soups. Her son Kyle came up with the idea of turning his favorite meal, lasagna, into a soup.

I was fairly faithful to the recipe but I used chicken Italian sausage which is lower in fat than regular pork sausage and I used part-skim ricotta as usual. I also reduced the amount of onion because neither D nor B like onions very much. And since I didn't have any fresh basil so I used half a teaspoon of dried basil instead. The soup turned out so good. Here is the quote from the Family Fun magazine article: "The tomato-y broth, brimming with sausage and pasta, melts the mix of cheeses placed in each bowl before serving. A quick swirl of the spoon ensures diners will get a bit of gooey cheese inn every bite." I really can't decide if I should keep the cheese mixture separate and add it just before serving or go ahead and put the entire mixture into the soup. For now, I'm keeping them separate like the directions recommend. Apparently, I didn't read end of the recipe very well because I combined the mozzarella with the ricotta and Parmesan and put it on top of the soup rather than putting the cheese in the bowl first and soup on top as you can see from the picture. I wish I had done it the right way but, oh well, the soup tasted great to me anyway. I reduced the amount of red pepper flakes in the recipe because D thought the soup was too spicy with 1/2 teaspoon in there. I will definitely leave them out altogether next time I make this soup. Yes, there definitely WILL be a next time for this one!

Lasagna Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1-1/2 pounds Italian sausage (bulk or with casings removed)
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
8 ounces fusilli pasta
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
8 ounces ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is no longer pink, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain any excess fat from the pot. Add the onions and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and saute for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and saute until the paste turns a rusty brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the broth, and the bay leaves and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

2. Add the pasta, then increase the heat to medium-high and boil the soup until the pasta is tender to the bite, following the time recommendations on the pasta package. Discard the bay leaves, then stir in the basil. If desired, season with salt and black pepper to taste.

3. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, the Parmesan, the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the pinch of pepper. To serve, place about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture in each bowl, sprinkle with some of the mozzarella, and ladle the soup on top. Makes about 13 cups.


The Creative Cook

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Culinary Mysteries

Yes, I started working again. I haven't been cooking creatively this week at all. We've been eating "on the fly." Instead of sharing a recipe today, I want to discuss culinary mysteries. I took D to the bookstore today to pick up an Artemis Fowl book. He is really into reading those right now. He went down the adult mystery aisle and found a book for me. It was the paperback version of "Sweet Revenge" by Diane Mott Davidson. I completely forgot that I had already read it so I bought it for myself as a Valentine's Day present. When I got it home I realized that not only had I read it but I own the hardback version. Diane is just not writing books fast enough for me. I went to her website and it is still announcing "Sweet Revenge" as coming in August 2007! Come on now, Diane. Please update your website and let us know when the next book is coming out. I have to return the paperback version of "Sweet Revenge" so I think I'm going to try a new author. I discovered an author named Joanne Fluke who has written about 13 culinary mysteries. How did I miss that?? I will probably get one of her paperbacks with my refund for Sweet Revenge. Joanne's latest two books are called The Carrot Cake Murder and the Cream Puff Murder. Both of them sound yummy to me. Joanne has recipes in her books just like Diane Mott Davidson. I posted a recipe from one of Diane's books on this website last year. It was for Unorthodox Shepherd's Pie. I love that Shepherd's Pie. It is so much fun to ready a really good mystery and get a few excellent recipes at the same time.

Does anyone else out there read culinary mysteries? Do you have any favorite authors who write culinary themed mysteries that you would recommend?

Hopefully, I'll have a good recipe to post soon. I've found several soup recipes that look really interesting. In fact, I think soup is going to be my next theme. We'll see.

Happy reading!

The Creative Cook & Son

Monday, February 9, 2009

Beef and Cheese Manicotti

This is a big day for me in more ways than one. I'm starting back to work. I actually started on Saturday. Well. . . . it is just a contract job for busy season. I'm a tax accountant and this is my big time of year.

Also, this is the first time I'm blogging about a comment I received from someone other than my sister or my mother!! I got a comment about the Olive Garden Style Gnocchi Soup recipe. If you read this blog, you probably know that I'm not a fan of MSG. I am not allergic to it but I am against eating it knowingly and my kind reader informed me that there are bouillon cubes out there that have no MSG in them! Wow! I had no idea. The reader tells me that Knorr makes no MSG New Chicken Bouillon cubes. I am definitely going to be looking for them the next time I go to the grocery store. Thanks for letting me know. I am also going to promise that I will install an "email me" link in this web so you don't have to leave a comment. I have no idea why I can't post comments anymore. It is probably a "use it or lose it" feature and now I lost it. No, really, I have so much trouble with comments that it is much easier for me to get an email and then I can blog about the comment.

I'm actually looking forward to starting work except for the fact that I'm sure I won't be cooking as much.

Which leads me to what I did yesterday. I made a batch of our family favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies yesterday (I blogged about them and gave the recipe last spring). They are the ones that were supposed to be from Nordstrom where someone asked for the recipe at Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus (depending on which email you got) and she was charged $250 so she emailed the recipe to everyone and it kept going and going and going. I don't think that is a true story. I know I checked on and it is an urban legend. But, no matter, they are really great cookies. I burned the bottoms of a few of them this time because I was trying to make manicotti at the same time. Not a good idea!

So obviously, I made my first batch of manicotti yesterday, too. Being Italian, you might think that I had made manicotti many times before but I have NEVER made it before. I was a manicotti virgin. My family has always been more of a lasagna family. I grew up with my mom's lasagna. I never ate it because I was so darn picky back then. I had always heard of manicotti but I never tried to make it nor have I ever eaten it. D and I went grocery shopping yesterday after religious ed. He was supposed to pick out some pasta, so I was stunned and shocked when he picked out a box of manicotti! I couldn't believe it but I didn't want to scare him by screaming in the middle of the grocery store. After I composed myself a bit I thought, "hey why not try making manicotti." It is finally my time to take the plunge. I did some googling and found Giada de Laurentiis' recipe for manicotti. It looked like the perfect recipe for me to try since I had almost all the ingredients in my house. I decided to use her recipe along with a few of my own short-cuts. Shhhh! Don't tell Giada but I used jarred tomato sauce. My boys actually like the Nature's Promise Organic Parmesan Tomato Sauce that I get at our local Martin's Grocery Store. I used ground turkey because I had it in my freezer. I would definitely have used ground beef if I had any. You probably already assumed that I used part-skim ricotta because I always try to save a little fat when I can but I'm sure Giada's original recipe with the full-fat ricotta and the ground beef is awesome. Her marinara sauce sounds really good too. I have also gotten a great tomato sauce recipe from one of my neighbors that I plan to blog about one day soon. Thanks Vicky!

Beef and Cheese Manicotti
Giada de Laurentiis

1/2 pound (8 ounces) ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 teaspoons olive oil
12 pieces of manicotti pasta (from one 8-ounce box)
1 1/2 cups Marinara Sauce (click here for recipe)
1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces

Heat a medium-size, heavy skillet over a medium flame. Add the ground beef and onion and saute until the meat brown and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir in the meat mixture and set aside.

Brush 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over a large baking sheet. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, add the manicotti and cook until softened but still firm to the bite, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the manicotti from the pot to the prepared baking sheet and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1 & 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Fill the manicotti with the cheese-meat mixture, and arrange the stuffed pasta in a single layer in the prepared dish. Spoon the remaining cup of sauce over the manicotti. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese over the manicotti. Dot the top with the butter pieces. (The manicotti can be prepared up to this point 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Bake the manicotti uncovered until it is heated through and the sauce bubbles on the bottom of the dish, about 35 minutes. Let the manicotti stand for 5 minutes and serve.

All I can tell you is that my boys loved it. They want it on our regular recipe list. I am definitely going to be making this manicotti again. I would like to try making my own manicotti shells one day. I saw instructions online on how to do that. It doesn't look too terribly hard. I like the idea of really thin crepe-like manicotti. Now that I am no longer a manicotti "virgin" I am also going to try one of the manicotti florentine recipes that look really yummy. I'm not scared of manicotti anymore!


The Creative Cook

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Easy Oven Baked Pancake

Today we had another snow day. I don't know why because our weather wasn't bad. We had maybe a dusting of snow. I guess in the north of the county there was ice or a lot more snow. If their roads were bad, then that is why our schools were closed. I probably will never know why but it gave me and D the chance to make a yummy breakfast. We had the idea of making an oven baked pancake so we started with a recipe from the Recipezaar website. After a discussion with D and reading all the comments, here is what we came up with. I will tell you that we added additional flour, egg and sliced frozen strawberries and strawberry jam in the middle. We also increased the cooking time to about 28 minutes to make up for the additional liquid added by the strawberries and jam. I can also recommend using only one tablespoon of butter rather than the two that the original recipe recommends because there was melted butter pooling on the top of our cooked pancake. Feel free to sprinkle the top with cinnamon and more sugar if desired. For best results, the baking dish with the melted butter in it must be hot before adding in the batter. We used a 9-inch round pan because we didn't have a 9-inch square pan. It worked just fine.

Easy Oven-Baked Pancake

40 min 10 min prep


1 tablespoon butter
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1-3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


Set oven to 400 degrees (bottom oven rack).

Melt the butter in a 9-inch square baking dish in the oven.

In a medium bowl beat together eggs and 1/4 cup milk.

In another bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; add to the egg/milk mixture; mix until combined.

Slowly whisk in the remaining 1 cup milk.

Pour into the hot baking dish over the melted butter.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes.

After tasting this pancake, I thought it would also taste really good if you made it with bacon and cheddar cheese. Also, you could use practically any fruit. I could see this being fantastic with apples and applesauce along with cinnamon and sugar on top. We thought peaches would work as would any other berry. This is a very versatile recipe. You can absolutely double it for a larger crowd and putting it into a 9 x 13 inch pan.

I am thinking about making it in my heart shaped pan with a different berry for Valentine's Day!


The Creative Cook

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ripe Grape Pie

I am always looking for ways to use up fruit that doesn't get eaten because in this house fruit frequently goes to waste. I often make banana bread with overripe bananas but I never know what to do with grapes. I had 4 cups of uneaten green grapes in my fridge. Usually, I would just throw them away. These days, no one wants to waste money, especially on food. So I did some research and found this recipe for Ripe Grape Pie. It sounded pretty good. I used some of the suggested changes that I found in the comments on the website. I didn't want to peel the skin off the grapes nor did I really want to sieve the pulp so I just cooked the grapes whole with 1/3 cup of water for about 20 minutes. I added an extra tablespoon of flour at the end to absorb the extra water. I also added a few strawberries for color. I threw the whole thing into my food processor to puree it. You could add a few blueberries or raspberries for color and flavor. If you left the berries whole, it would probably give the pie a nice consistency.



2 1/2 cups seedless grapes
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Wash fully ripened grapes. Separate the grape pulp and skins. In a sauce pan over medium heat cook grape pulp slowly until soft. Rub cooked pulp through a sieve. Combine the sieved pulp and grapes skins.

Mix the flour and sugar together and add to grape mixture. Stir in the melted butter and pour into one 9 inch unbaked pie shell. Cover top with strips of pastry. You can make a lattice pattern if desired.

Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for about 25 minutes.

Try this pie when you have some left-over mushy grapes in your fridge. I am sure you could use red or purple grapes, too.

The Creative Cook

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Are you getting tired of us making recipes from Rachel Ray's Cooking Rocks! Cookbook? I don't know about you, but I sure am. I think D needs a new cookbook.

This is the first recipe from that cookbook the D didn't care for. He had two pieces and declined to have any more. Both B and I liked them and ate 3 each! Go figure?? It was very easy to make. The age category is from 7 - 11 years and I think that is appropriate. I couldn't imagine an easier recipe for any kid to make.


Makes 8 pieces

1 can soft bread stick dough (available in the dairy case)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano or Romano cheese, eyeball it
2 tablespoons honey, eyeball it
2 tablespoons deli-style mustard, such as Guldens
8 slices smoked or honey ham or smoked turkey or honey roast

Preheat oven according to the directions on the package of soft bread sticks. Open the bread stick package and separate the sticks. Pour the grated cheese onto a plate. Roll each bread stick in cheese, pressing lightly to make it stick. Place the bread sticks on a nonstick baking sheet and continue baking according to package instructions. Remove from oven when golden (10 to 12 minutes, depending on brand) and allow the soft bread sticks to cool slightly.

Mix the honey and mustard in a small bowl. Lay out 4 slices of meat on a work surface and spread each with honey-mustard. Place a bread stick on one end of the deli slice and wrap and roll the meat up and around the bread stick. Repeat with remaining 4 bread sticks.


The Creative Cook