Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

This is the soup I had my eye on that I needed to make bulk sausage for.  It turned out really well.  The original recipe comes from www.twopeasandtheirpod.com.  I made a few changes to suit my family.  My husband claims that this is one of my better soups.  Enjoy!

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup
Yield: 6 - 8 servings


1 lb. homemade Italian Sausage (bulk), rolled into 1/4 teaspoon size balls
1 tablespoon olive oil (more if you used lean pork for sausage)
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 - 10 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 28 oz. can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
2 cups chopped baby spinach
2 cups cheese tortellini (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste


1.  In a large skillet, brown the mini sausage balls until cooked through (use a tablespoon of olive oil, if necessary).  This should take about 5 - 7 minutes.  Drain off the grease and place the sausage balls on a plate lined with paper towels.

2.  In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the red peppers, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes.  Cook until peppers are soft, about 3 minutes.

3.  Stir in the broth, tomatoes and spinach.  Bring to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook until tortellini is tender, 7-8 minutes.  Stir in the fresh basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Stir in the sausage balls and heat until warm.  Remove the bay leaf and serve.

The Creative Cook

Monday, December 30, 2013

Homemade Italian Sausage

I found a recipe for a Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup that called for 1 pound of Italian sausage.  It sounded like a recipe that my family would love.  The only glitch was: the recipe called for the Italian sausage to be made into tiny meatballs.  Since I certainly did not want to take a bunch of sausages and squeeze the meat out of them, I planned to buy the Italian sausage in bulk.  I thought I had seen bulk Italian sausage in a grocery store before the holidays but, of course, it is no longer available.  I thought about it for a while and decided it would be a better idea if I made my own bulk Italian sausage.  After all, how hard could it be? Well, I ran out to the butcher to buy ground pork only to find out that our local butcher shop closes at 1 pm on Saturday afternoons.  Why? Who knows!  Anyway, I had my mother with me and she suggested that we buy some pork and have it ground at the local grocery store by the butcher.  Ahem...  no that does not work because we have been told that "they are no longer allowed to grind pork."  Why?  I assume because of the bacteria or something like that (possibly law suits).  I was convinced that I should just go ahead and buy the packaged ground pork ... until I took a look at it.  OMG!  It was almost entirely fat.  Yuck!  That was when my mother offered to take the pork and grind it herself in her KitchenAide Mixer that she has a meat grinder attachment for.  We had the butcher cut up the meat into strips which was supposed to make it easier. Apparently, my mom said it wasn't easy at all.  There was a bunch of gristle or something that kept clogging up the grinder.   Double yuck!  Now I know better.  I will go to the butcher earlier in the day and get my pork ground by them.  Anyway, here is the recipe I used.  It comes from www.kitchensimplicity.com.  It is written as a spicy Italian sausage recipe but it can be adapted to be mild or sweet.  Just reduce the pepper and increase the maple syrup to your taste.



3 lbs. ground pork (lean is okay)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1-1/4 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (ground or whole)
¼ teaspoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme


Place all ingredients into a large bowl.  Mix together until evenly combined.  Divide equally into desired amounts.  Wrap each packet in plastic wrap and place into a large plastic bag.  Freeze or place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before using to let flavors combine.

The Creative Cook

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Homemade Pizza Sauce

This is our favorite pizza sauce.  I have used this recipe many times.  It is always great.  

Homemade Pizza Sauce
Servings: 8


6 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1-1/2 teaspoons Pure Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Red Wine (optional)
¼ cups Water

Preparation Instructions:

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Whisk together until well combined.  Place over low heat and cook until heated through.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Almost-Famous Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

My son absolutely loves the broccoli-cheddar soup from Panera.  I recently found out that there are Panera soups available for sale at our local grocery store.  I bought the broccoli-cheddar Panera soup from the store last week.  My son was thrilled with it. He wanted it again but when I went to the store they were all out of the broccoli-cheddar. He doesn't like any of the other Panera soups so I thought I would try making a copycat version of the Panera soup.  This is the recipe I found on the internet.  Try it yourself.  I liked it but my son told me he said he liked it just so I wouldn't feel bad.  I really don't think it tastes like the Panera soup but it is good broccoli-cheddar soup.  

Almost-Famous Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
By Food Network Magazine
4 Servings


6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 7-inch sourdough bread boules (round loaves)
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
1 large carrot, diced
2-1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated sharp white and yellow cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish


1.      Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth.  Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
2.      Meanwhile, prepare the bread boules: using a sharp knife, cut a circle into the top of each loaf, leaving a 1-inch border all around.  Remove the bread top, and then hollow out the middle with a fork or your fingers, leaving a thick bread shell.
3.      Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.  Discard the bay leaves.  Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth; you’ll still have flecks of carrot and broccoli.  Return to the pot.  (Or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender.)
4.      Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted.  Add up to ¾ cup water if the soup is too thick.  Ladle into the bread boules and garnish with cheese.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Skillet Lasagna

I made this easy quick lasagna for my boys on a snowy Sunday afternoon.  They loved it.  I used a combination of two skillet lasagna recipes.  Enjoy!



¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 pound 95% lean ground beef
1 (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
6 no-boil lasagna noodles
Parmesan cheese for grating


1.      Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add in 3 tablespoons olive oil then toss in onion with ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil.  Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft.  Add in 2 cloves garlic and cook for another minute, then add in ground beef, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon.  Cook until just browned, about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If there is excess liquid in the pan, feel free to drain a bit.  Remove beef from heat and set aside.
2.      Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add in remaining 2 cloves garlic, cook until golden, 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon fresh basil, add remaining salt and pepper, cook until saucy, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a blender and puree.  Return 1 cup of the sauce to the skillet and reduce the heat to low; reserve the remaining sauce.
3.      Meanwhile, mix the ricotta, egg, parmesan, the remaining 1 tablespoon basil in a bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
4.      Place 2 lasagna noodles over the sauce in the skillet.  Layer half of the ground beef on top and season with salt and pepper.  Cover with half of the ricotta mixture, a few pieces of mozzarella and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved tomato sauce.  Repeat the layers, ending with noodles.  Top with the remaining sauce and mozzarella.  Cover and simmer until the lasagna is cooked and the cheese melts, 20 to 25 minutes.
5.      Let rest for a few minutes before slicing.  Garnish with more parmesan and fresh herbs.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Slow-Cooker Hash Brown Casserole

When I told my husband I was making hash brown casserole, he wasn't very excited because he doesn't like hash browns.  When I told my son I was making it, he wasn't thrilled because he doesn't like sausage.  I told them they would both wind up liking it and they did. All my other guests also enjoyed it.  The only change I made was that I used Eggbeaters so I would not have to crack a dozen eggs. My problem was that I had made it a bit too early for my event the next day.  I put it in the crock pot around 10 pm and it should have been put into the crock pot around 11:30 or later.  It takes 10 hours.  My guests were not arriving until 11 am the next day.  I will tell you that if you try to cook it longer than 10 hours it will get a bit too brown.  I kept it on warm after the initial 10 hours on low and it still got overcooked. Next time, if I get too tired to stay up, I'll put on my alarm and get up around midnight to make this casserole.  That is how good it was. I found this recipe on www.myrecipes.com and it said that it came from Gooseberry Patch July 2011.

Slow-Cooker Hash Brown Casserole
Serves 8


1 32-ounce pkg frozen shredded hash browns
1 pound ground pork sausage browned and drained
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 dozen eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper


Place 1/3 each of hash browns, sausage, onion, green pepper and cheese in a lightly greased slow cooker. Repeat layering 2 more times, ending with cheese.

Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper together in a large bowl, pour over top.

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.


The Creative Cook

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cranberry-Apple-Raspberry Relish

This recipe came from a flier I got from my local grocery store.  It turned out really delicious.  I would make it again.

Cranberry-Apple-Raspberry Relish 
Makes about 12 Servings


12 oz. (about 3 cups) fresh cranberries
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade
12 oz. (about 3 cups) frozen raspberries, thawed
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped


Cook cranberries, orange juice, sugar and cinnamon on a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes or until some cranberries are popped and mixture is thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  Refrigerate for a few hours and serve.  Relish will keep refrigerated for about 2 weeks.


The Creative Cook

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Blueberry Tea Cake

I made this Blueberry Tea Cake for the day after Thanksgiving.  I had decided to invite a few people over for a brunch on Friday.  It turned out to be a favorite.  I wanted to make something with blueberries in honor of my nephew.  He absolutely loves blueberries.  This tea cake is very easy to put together and doesn't take long to bake.  It is so much easier than the Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake that I used to make.  This recipe comes from http://damndelicious.net/2012/03/15/blueberry-tea-cake/

Blueberry Tea Cake
Yields 9-12 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 lage egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

For the crumb topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of Salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Lightly oil an 8 x 8 baking dish or coat with nonstick spray.
2.  To make the crumb topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl.
3.  Add the cold butter and toss to coat, using your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
4.  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
5.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
6.  Beat in egg and milk until well combined.
7.  Gradually add flour mixture to the sugar mixture at low speed, beating just until incorporated.
8.  Gently fold in the blueberries.
9.  Spread the batter into the prepared baking dish.
10. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the bread cubes.
11. Place into oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
12. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.


The Creative Cook

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Crockpot Mac'n Cheese

I wanted to make something easy but teen friendly when my son had a dozen of his "closest" friends over for his birthday.  I decided to make Mac and Cheese because I don't know any kids who don't love it.  My son being one of those kids who do love it.  He is a big fan of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  I want to try to wean him off the blue box (and I did not think it was a good idea to make boxed macaroni and cheese for a crowd).  That was when I found this recipe.  It was perfect.  My only mistake was that I halved the recipe.  I really should have doubled it.  Not one single piece of macaroni was left after the boys got to it.  I thought that with a large tray of Chick Fil-A chicken strips, I wouldn't need to much else but I was wrong.  Boy, can twelve teen boys eat. I tried it myself when I made it a few weeks later since I did not get to try any the first time I made it.  It is really quite tasty.  The funniest thing is that shortly after I found and made this recipe, I read an article about what you should never make in a crockpot.  The first item was macaroni and cheese!  Oh well, I the boy did not mind. They loved it.  This is a very easy recipe without any yucky canned soup in it.  This is not my recipe.  It is all over the internet.

Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese
6 cups cooked macaroni (about 3 cups dry)
4 Tbsp butter
4 cups evaporated milk
6 cups shredded or grated cheese
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


In large mixing bowl, toss cooked macaroni with butter. Stir in evaporated milk, cheese, salt and pepper. Place in the crockpot. Cook on High for 2-3 hours or Low for 4-5 hours.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pasta e Fagioli

I have been craving soup lately.  I haven't had pasta e fagioli in a long time.  In fact, I made it so long ago that my husband doesn't remember ever eating it.  Maybe I just ordered it at a restaurant but I thought I had made it once a long time ago.  Anyway, this is Rachael Ray's take on Pasta e Fagioli.  I have to hand it to her.  She gets the spices just right.  We all liked it very much.  Yummo!

Pasta e Fagioli
by Rachael Ray

2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan) extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 pound (about 3 slices) pancetta, chopped
2 (4 to 6-inch) sprigs rosemary, left intact
1 (4 to 6-inch) sprig thyme with several sprigs on it, left intact
1 large fresh bay leaf or 2 dried bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
Coarse salt and pepper
2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans (undrained)
1 cup canned tomato sauce or canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1 quart chicken stock
1-1/2 cups ditalini pasta (dry)
Grated Parmigiana or Romano, for the table
Crusty bread, for mopping


Heat a deep pot over medium high heat and add oil and pancetta.  Brown the pancetta bits lightly, and add herb stems, bay leaves, chopped vegetables, and garlic.  Season vegetables with salt and pepper.  Add beans, tomato sauce, water and stock to pot and raise heat to high.  Bring soup to a rapid boil and add pasta.  Reduce heat to medium and cook soup, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente.  Rosemary and thyme leaves will separate from stems as soup cooks.  Remove herb stems and bay leaves from soup and place pot on table on a trivet.  Let soup rest and begin to cool for a few minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and top with lots of grated cheese.  Pass crusty bread for bowl mopping.

Serves 6


The Creative Cook

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chocolate Chip Banana Cake

I am going to apologize now for posting another recipe for a banana and chocolate item.  I guess I am in the minority because I like this flavor combination.  This particular cake has a very mild banana taste.  I didn't change anything in the recipe.

Chocolate Chip Banana Cake

3 cups flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray a 12 cup bundt pan with non-stick spray containing flour and set aside.

In large bowl, combine all ingredients except chocolate chips.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 65-75 minutes or until cake is firm and begins to pull away from sides of pan.

Immediately set pan onto a dishtowel that has been soaked in water and gently wrung out, Let pan sit for 5 minutes, then turn out onto serving plate (this will make the cake come out of the pan without sticking).  Cool completely before serving.

This recipe is from about.com.


The Creative Cook

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cauliflower Gratin

I made this gratin at about half the size recommended because I had some left over raw cauliflower to use up.  It turned out great.  I did make a few changes.  I used mozzarella instead of Gruyere because I did not have any Gruyere.  I forgot to use the bread crumbs but I don't think this had an adverse effect on the dish.  My husband loved it.  He is not really a big fan of vegetables but this was a great success!  He actually asked me to make this for Thanksgiving.  

Cauliflower Gratin
2004 Barefoot in Paris from www.foodnetwork.com
4 to 6 servings


1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¾ cups freshly grated Gruyere, divided
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm.  Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.  Pour the milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil.  Boil, whisking constantly for 1 minute, or until thickened.  Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, ½ cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 x 11 x 2-inch baking dish.  Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top.  Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining ¼ cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Butternut Squash Gratin with Blue Cheese and Sage

This gratin was very well received by my husband.  He loves blue cheese.

Butternut Squash Gratin with Blue Cheese and Sage
From Cooking Light
Serves 6

5 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1 slice white bread (1 1/2-ounce)
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Cooking Spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  

Steam butternut squash, covered, 10 minutes or until tender.

Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 12 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup.  Transfer to a small bowl; add 2 teaspoons oil, and toss with a fork to combine.

Lightly grease a 1-1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Use a mandolin or chef’s knife to slice the squash and potatoes into very thin slices, 1/8 inch or less.  Toss the sliced vegetables with 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl.

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sliced onion to pan; saute 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.  Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl.  Add butternut squash, chopped sage, salt, and black pepper to bowl, and toss gently to combine.  Spoon squash mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle crumbled blue cheese evenly over squash mixture, and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumb mixture.  Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and crumbs are golden brown.


The Creative Cook

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Eggs Benedict

I hadn't made Eggs Benedict since I took a French cooking class probably two years ago.  While we were away on vacation, my husband ordered it and I got the bright idea to make it myself at home.  I went ahead and promised the boys I would try to make it.  I used a recipe that I got from www.simplyrecipes.com.  I figured that the simpler, the better for me.  It turned out well, I think.  Especially since my son requested it twice since I first made it.

Eggs Benedict
8 pieces of bacon or 4 pieces of Canadian bacon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish
4 eggs
2 teaspoons white or rice vinegar
2 English muffins

Blender Hollandaise:

10 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
Dash of cayenne or Tabasco 


1.     Start with the bacon, Heat a large skillet on medium low heat.  Add the strips of bacon or slices of Canadian bacon.  Slowly fry, turning occasionally, until the bacon is browned on both sides, and if using strip bacon, much of the fat is rendered out (about 10 minutes).  Use tongs or a fork to remove the bacon from the pan, set on a paper towel to absorb the excess fat.  Don’t pour the bacon fat left in the pan down the drain!  Either soak it up with paper towels when it has cooled or pour it into a jar to be used later.
2.     While the bacon is cooking, bring a large saucepan two-thirds filled with water to a boil, and then add the vinegar.  Bring the water to a boil again, and then lower the heat to a bare simmer.
3.     To make blender hollandaise, melt 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter.  Put 3 egg yolks, a tablespoon of lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt in a blender, and blend on medium to medium-high speed for 20-30 seconds, until eggs lighten in color.  Turn blender down to lowest setting, slowly dribble in the hot melted butter, while continuing to blend.  Taste for salt and acidity and add more salt or lemon juice to taste.  Transfer it to a container you can use for pouring and set it on a warm – but not hot – place on or near the stove top.
4.     To poach the eggs, work one egg at a time.  Crack an egg into a small bowl and slip it into the barely simmering water.  Once it begins to solidify, you can slip in another egg, until you have all four cooking.  Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let sit for 4 minutes.  (Remember which egg went in first, you’ll want to take it out first.)  When it comes time to remove the eggs, gently lift out with a slotted spoon.  Note that the timing is a little variable on the eggs, depending on the size of your pan, how much water, how many eggs, and how runny you like them.  You may have to experiment a little with your set up to figure out what you need to do to get the eggs exactly the way you like them.
5.     As soon as all the eggs are in the poaching water, begin toasting the English muffins.  If you can’t get all the muffins toasted by the time the eggs are ready, gently remove the eggs from the poaching water and set in a bowl.
6.     To assemble the eggs Benedict, butter one side of an English muffin.  Top with two slices of bacon or 1 slice of Canadian bacon.  You can trim the bacon to fit the muffin if you’d like.  Put a poached egg on top of the bacon, and then pour some hollandaise over it.  Sprinkle some parsley over it all and serve at once. 

Yield:  Makes 4 one-egg one-muffin servings of eggs benedict.


The Creative Cook

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bison Stew

I never thought that I would be making Bison Stew but after traveling to Utah and Montana to visit Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks, I had to do it for my son and my husband.  We (they) tried the bison stew during a tour we took at Yellowstone.  I actually ate just the cornbread and a cookie.  They seemed to enjoy the stew on the tour and asked me to make it when we got back home.  I probably should have tried the stew myself but for some reason I can't bring myself to eat any meat but the conventional chicken, beef, pork, etc.  I know it is probably much healthier to eat bison but still...  Anyway, I made this version from Robert Irvine and the boys seemed to enjoy it.  The only complaint (from my son) was that it was a bit heavy on the wine.  I will have to agree that 4 cups is a LOT of wine.  I am not convinced that I needed to add the butter at the end of the cooking process.  I served the stew over couscous.

Bison Stew
by Robert Irvine

1/4 cup canola oil
2 pounds bison meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup diced white onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup tomato paste
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
4 cups red wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup unsalted butter


1.  Cook wild rice or couscous, for serving.

2.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, until almost smoking.  Brown the bison meat in the hot oil until golden brown, then remove from the pan to a plate and set aside.

3.  In the same pan, add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the flour and tomato paste and stir well.  Slowly add in the beef stock, red wine and canned tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4.  Return the seared meat to the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Continue to cook for about 45 minutes.  The liquid, when close to finishing, should have reduced in volume by 1/2 of what you started with and the meat should be fork tender.  Cook's Note:  if the liquid begins to evaporate too rapidly, you can add more stock or water.

5.  To finish, stir in the fresh herbs and the butter.

6.  Transfer the stew to a serving bowl and serve immediately with wild rice or couscous.


The Creative Cook

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chicken & Waffles

My son has been wanting me to make him chicken and waffles for a few years now.  I only recently discovered that this is a Baltimore, Maryland favorite dish.  I had no idea until I read about it on Wikipedia! I also discovered that there is an Amish/Pennsylvania Dutch style of this dish which is fairly different (probably healthier since the chicken is roasted).  In the meantime, I found a recipe for these cornbread waffles that sounded like a perfect combination with the buttermilk chicken.  They were.  My son has requested that next time I make this dish, I use a regular buttermilk waffle recipe to see how that tastes.  It is supposed to be made with buttermilk waffles that have maple syrup and butter on top.  The butter on top seemed like it would be overkill but my husband disagrees.  Apparently, it is the sweetness of the maple syrup that combines so nicely with the salty taste of the fried chicken that makes this dish so appealing.


Cornbread Waffles
From Soul Daddy Restaurant

1-1/2 cups cornbread
1 cup flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
2-1/2 cups buttermilk
¼ cup soybean or vegetable oil


1.     Preheat a waffle iron.
2.     Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3.     Add buttermilk and oil and whisk until smooth.
4.     Spray a heated waffle iron with cooking spray.
5.     Add 2/3 cup batter and cook until crisp and lightly browned (5 to 6 minutes).
6.     Serve warm.

By Carrie Farias

2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups milk + fresh juice of 2 lemons)
8 pieces of chicken (thighs, breasts or legs)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsps. Fresh thyme (1/2 tsp. dry thyme)
Extra virgin olive oil for frying


1.       Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
2.       Add the chicken to a resealable plastic bag along with the buttermilk and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or all day.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 10 minutes before you are ready to fry.
3.       Prepare the coating mixture by mixing together the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard and thyme.
4.       Pour the oil into a large pot, Dutch oven or deep fryer and allow to heat over medium-high heat.
5.       Coat the chicken one piece at a time by dredging it into the flour mixture; then add the chicken to the oil.
6.       Fry the chicken 7-8 minutes per side; allowing them to turn golden brown;
7.       Drain the chicken on paper towels; then place on a baking sheet lined with a rack or foil.
8.       Bake the chicken at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken has reached the proper internal temperature.

Chicken Gravy

3 tbsps. butter
3 tbsps. flour
1-1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste       

Whisk the flour with the poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.  Melt the butter in the same skillet that you used to fry the chicken and whisk in seasoned flour until smooth.  Bring to a simmer, whisking until the gravy is smooth.  Meanwhile, toast the waffles.

Assemble Chicken and Waffles:

Place a toasted waffle on a warmed plate.  Pour a drizzle of maple syrup and a pat of butter on the waffle.  Place 3 pieces of chicken on top of the waffle then pour gravy on top of the chicken.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Garlic Lover's Fettuccine with Olive Oil, Garlic and Zucchini

This is another recipe that I made with the bounty from my neighbor's garden.  I must clarify that my neighbor/friend is not the one who tends to the garden.  It is her husband who does all the work and I reap the bounty of his labor.  Thank you both.  I added chicken tenderloins, dry white wine and a minced shallot to the recipe to jazz up our dinner.  We had my sister-in-law down for a visit and needed to make something delicious for her.  This meal really worked great.

Garlic Lover’s Fettuccine with Olive Oil, Garlic and Zucchini
By Katel from www.food.com

1 lb. zucchini, cut in 2-inch julienne strips
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic, finely minced
¾ lb. whole wheat fettuccine or ¾ lb. fettuccine
½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional Additional Herbs:

Fresh basil, chopped
Fresh sage leaves, chopped
Fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Fresh marjoram, chopped


1.       Steam zucchini 5 minutes and remove from heat
2.       Begin bringing water to a boil in a large pot for the pasta. Add a generous amount of sea salt to the water.
3.       Heat the olive oil with the garlic in a small pan over very low heat.  The garlic should simmer gently, never turning brown.  It should simmer for 10 minutes.  When the garlic is golden and the oil aromatic, remove from the heat.
4.       Cook the pasta al dente, and when it is done, spoon into a warmed serving dish.
5.       Toss with the oil and garlic, add the remaining ingredients.
6.       Serve at once with additional Parmesan cheese.


The Creative Cook

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Potato, Squash & Goat Cheese Gratin

My neighbor has a lovely vegetable garden.  She was nice enough to share some of her vegetable bounty with me earlier in the week.  I had a great idea to make a casserole with the squash for my husband and his sister who is visiting us this week.  This recipe for a gratin seemed to fit the bill.  I did not have any goat cheese so I used an Italian 5 cheese mix instead.  Both my husband and his sister loved the gratin.  I was asked to make it again which is always a great sign.

Potato, Squash & Goat Cheese Gratin
From Elizabeth Passarella @ http://thekitchn.com
Serves 6

2 medium yellow squash, about ½ pound
4 small to medium red potatoes, about 1 pound
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup whole milk
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil or thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a 1-1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Use a mandolin or chef’s knife to slice the squash and potatoes into very thin slices, 1/8 inch or less.  Toss the sliced vegetables with 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl.

Place 1/3 of the squash and potato slices in the bottom of the dish – no need to layer them; just spread evenly – then season with salt and pepper.  Top with half of the goat cheese, scattered evenly in large chunks.  Repeat with another 1/3 of the vegetables, seasoning again with salt and pepper and topping with the other ½ of the goat cheese.  Finish by layering on the final 1/3 of the vegetables and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pour the milk over the entire dish.  Top with the parmesan cheese.  Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 15 more minutes, until the top browns.  Scatter on the fresh basil, if using.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hamburger Buddy

This recipe is a copycat of Hamburger Helper made at home with all fresh ingredients.  I made it for dinner tonight and it was really good.  I think the mushrooms gave it a nice flavor.  I added only a few mushrooms rather than 10 ounces because I don't usually eat mushrooms.  This recipe comes from Eatingwell Test Kitchen.

Hamburger Buddy

3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium carrots cut into 2-inch pieces
10 ounces white mushrooms, large ones cut in half
1 large onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups water
1 14-ounce can reduced sodium broth, divided
8 ounces whole-wheat elbow macaroni (2 cups dry)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 pound 90% lean ground beef
2 teaspoons dried thyme
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or chives for garnish


1.      Fit a food processor with the steel blade attachment.  With the motor running, drop garlic through the feed tube and process until minced, then add carrots and mushrooms.  Process until finely chopped.  Turn it off, add onion and pulse until roughly chopped.
2.     Cook beef in a large straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the chopped vegetables, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often until the vegetables start to soften and the mushrooms release their juices, 5 to 7 minutes.
3.     Stir in water, 1-1/2 cups broth, and macaroni and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil.  Cover; reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
4.     Whisk flour with the remaining ¼ cup broth in a small bowl until smooth; stir into the hamburger mixture.  Stir in the sour cream.  Simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes.  Serve sprinkled with parsley (or chives), if desired.


The Creative Cook

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Auntie Anne's Pretzels - Copycat Recipe

I can't believe that I finally made these pretzels.  My son has been wanting me to make them for a very long time. I just got the courage to make them last week. It was a learning experience.  The day I made these pretzels, it was raining.  So what, you ask?  Well, I found out that if you make pretzels on a rainy day you need to reduce the amount of liquid by a small amount otherwise the dough is too wet.  See, I told you that this was a learning experience.  The pretzels came out good enough for my son to have eaten all of them over the course of a week.  He definitely would not have eaten them if they weren't good.  No one is saying that they were as good as the Auntie Anne's Pretzels you buy at the mall.  I will definitely make them again on a dry day.  I'm really looking forward to trying this recipe again.  The original recipe came from Yammie's Noshery blog but she says that she got the recipe from The Food Network website.  

Auntie Anne’s Pretzels Copycat Recipe


2 cups milk
1-1/2 Tbsp. active dry yeast (2 packets)
6 tbsps. packed light-brown sugar
4 tbsps. butter, at room temperature
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus up to an additional ½ cup, as needed
2 tsp. fine sea salt

1/3 cup baking soda
2 cups warm water
Coarse salt, to taste
Cinnamon Sugar (½ cup sugar and 2 tbsps. cinnamon)
6 tbsps. butter, melted

Dipping sauces for serving, optional

For Garlic Cheese Sauce:

(A Yammie original)

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
a pinch cayenne pepper
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded 

In a saucepan, combine the butter, flour, and garlic over medium heat. Whisk until lightly browned. Whisk in the milk, paprika, and cayenne pepper and continue whisking until thickened. Add the cheese and whisk until melted. Can be reheated in the microwave.


1.      Warm milk in microwave safe bowl in microwave (or alternatively over stove top in a small saucepan) until temperature of milk reaches 110 degrees about 1-1/2 – 2 minutes on High power.  Pour milk along with yeast into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk together until yeast has dissolved, let rest 5 minutes.  Add brown sugar, softened butter, 1 cup flour and 2 tsps. Fine sea salt to milk mixture and using the whisk attachment, stir until blended.  Switch attachment to a dough hook, add remaining 3-12 cups flour and kneaded mixture on medium low speed until elastic.  Mix in up to an additional ½ cup flour, as needed, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
2.       Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper (alternately you could grease them).  Punch dough down several times to release any air pockets.  Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (the easiest way to do this is to divide the dough in half, then divide the halves into halves then those and into thirds).  Cover divided dough loosely with plastic wrap (just to prevent a dry crust from forming on the outside) and roll each piece out into a long, thin rope about 32-36 inches long.  Form dough rope into a pretzel shape. 
3.       In a shallow bowl, whisk together baking soda and warm water then fully immerse pretzel into water mixture and allow excess water to drip off.  Place on prepared baking sheet, reshape as needed and sprinkle to taste with coarse salt.  Repeat this process with remaining dough.  Bake pretzels in preheated oven for 7 to 11 minutes until golden brown.   Remove from oven and brush top and bottom of pretzels with melted butter.  Serve warm with optional dipping sauce.  Reheat in microwave or in a warm oven once they are cooled, if desired.
4.       Marinara sauce, Garlic Cheese sauce and Honey Mustard are great dipping sauces or vanilla glaze if you are making cinnamon sugar pretzels.

5.       If you want cinnamon sugar pretzels then skip the coarse salt step and immediately after removing pretzels from the oven, brush with melted butter and toss in a bowl of cinnamon sugar.

If you want icing to dip the cinnamon sugar pretzels in, then mix a bit of powdered sugar with some milk and voila!


The Creative Cook

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rodelle Strawberry Yogurt Cake

This recipe was created by Laura Davis who is the 2013 Scrumptious Spring Sweepstakes from the Rodelle website.  It came out great in spite of the fact that I did not have any plain Greek yogurt - I substituted buttermilk.  I also left out the lemon juice.  Other than that, the recipe was left intact.

Rodelle Strawberry Yogurt Cake

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 T)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 T lemon juice, divided
8 oz. plain or vanilla, Greek yogurt
1/3 cup buttermilk or milk
1 tsp. Rodelle vanilla extract
12 oz. fresh strawberries, diced
1 cup powdered sugar

1.       Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
2.       Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan (10-15 cup pan). 
3.       Sift together the 2-1/4 cups flour, baking soda and salt. 
4.       Mix in the lemon zest and set aside.
5.       With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
6.       Beat in the eggs one at a time then stir in 1 T lemon juice. 
7.       Alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated. 
8.       Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract. 
9.       Mix until combined.
10.    Toss the strawberries with the remaining ¼ cup of flour. Gently mix them into the batter.
11.    Pour the batter into the Bundt pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
12.    Allow to cool at least 20 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. 
13.    Once cooled whisk together the remaining 2 T of lemon juice and the powdered sugar. 
14.    Drizzle over the top of the cake.

The Creative Cook

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chocolate-Hazelnut Banana Bread

I have something to confess:  I have never used Nutella in a recipe and I haven't eaten Nutella in over 20 years.  Amazing but true.  Why not, you may ask.  I don't really know.  In recent years I have avoided all nuts and nut products because of my son's peanut and tree nut allergy but we have no proof that he has any allergy to hazelnuts.  I broke down recently when I saw this recipe and decided that I had to make it.  My other confession is that when I made the recipe I used the one at myrecipes.com which doesn't really specify that you should set aside the Nutella after you put it in the microwave with the oil.  I mixed it together with the banana batter.  In order to make lemonade and not throw out the batter, I had a brainstorm. I just sprinkled the hazelnuts and chopped chocolate in the middle of the batter where it says in the recipe to put the Nutella or chocolate-hazelnut spread.  I'm pretty sure it will taste great but not look so great.  Actually, I just read the reviews of the original recipe.  Many of the folks said that the hazelnut-nutella layer fell to the bottom of the bread and stuck to the pan.  I can tell you that I did not have that problem.  Next time I make it, I may put some Nutella on the top of the bread along with the hazelnuts and chocolate drizzle.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Banana Bread


5 tablespoons chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon safflower oil, divided
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 medium ripe bananas, sliced
2 large eggs
6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1-1/2 cups)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
Baking spray with flour (such as Baker's Joy)
1/4 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Combine chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella) and 1 teaspoon oil in a small microwave safe bowl, stir.  Set aside.

3.  Combine 3 tablespoons oil, butter, brown sugar, and banana in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4.  Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Beating at a low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beat just until combined.

5.  Scrape half of batter into 9 x 5-inch metal loaf pan coated with baking spray, and top with chocolate-hazelnut spread mixture.

6.  Spread remaining batter over chocolate mixture.

7.  Spread remaining batter over chocolate mixture.

8.  Using wooden pick, swirl batter (do not over swirl the batter because too much swirling could cause you to lose the stripe effect).

9.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.

10.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

11.  Remove bread; cool on wire rack.

12.  Place bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave high for 30 seconds.  Drizzle bread with chocolate and sprinkle with hazelnuts, let stand until set.


The Creative Cook

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Vanilla Bean Banana Bread French Toast

This banana bread is very different from any other banana bread that I have ever made or tasted.  I liked it but my son said he did not like the consistency.  I thought that it might work better if I made it into a french toast.  It tasted great!  I also think that I will make a strawberry sauce for the french toast.  To make the banana bread into a french toast, I just mixed together one egg with a 1/4 cup of cream and soaked each slice in the egg mixture. Then I fried the soaked bread in a hot pan with a teaspoon of butter melted in the pan for each slice of bread. I did not add any vanilla because I thought the bread had enough vanilla in it but I think you could add some if you wanted to.  I also wanted to mention that I purchased the vanilla sugar from Amazon.com instead of making it myself. Next time, I would try to make my own vanilla sugar.  It can't be that hard and it would probably be less expensive.  

Vanilla Bean Banana Bread

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup vanilla sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed banana (2-3 medium)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To make vanilla sugar: Scrape half a vanilla bean into a container of 2-3 cups sugar. Stir well, cover and let stand until vanilla is infused in the sugar. Can be stored for months in an airtight container.
Preheat oven 350F and lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk together vanilla sugar and eggs until well combined, then whisk in the mashed banana, milk, butter and vanilla extract. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir until just combined, making sure no streaks of flour remain. Pour batter out into prepared baking pan.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Turn loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf


The Creative Cook