September 27, 2010


Pin It After reading my last entry, a reader named Leslie emailed and asked what other items I substitute instead of using the "real" thing.  Off hand, I came up with the following:


chicken in water, tuna in water, fat-free evaporated milk,
98% fat-free soup, fruit in its own juice, lite pie filling and 99% fat-free chicken broth


1/3 less fat cream cheese, margarine, lite whipped topping,
1% milk, low-fat cottage cheese and light sour cream


sugar-free pudding, sugar-free jello, unsweetened applesauce,
HeartSmart Bisquick and canola oil

If you have any substitutions, please share them with your fellow cooking enthusiasts.

© Margaret's Morsels

September 23, 2010

Is it Real or Ore-Ida?

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Margaret's Morsels | Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole

My mother was an incredible cook who didn't rely on shortcuts.  She made rolls from scratch, cooked roasts in the oven and fixed real mashed potatoes.  I make homemade rolls, but I let a bread machine do most of the work.  I've never cooked a roast in the oven, but I've cooked plenty of them in a crock-pot.  I make mashed potatoes, but mine come from a box or, more recently, a bag.  I never thought twice about these time saving shortcuts until a few months ago.

My husband, son and I went to a new restaurant for dinner.  My son ordered mashed potatoes as one of his side dishes.  He raved about the rest of the meal, but said the potatoes weren't any good.  They looked delicious so I tried a bite of them.  It was then the error or my ways caught up with me.  My son didn't like the potatoes because they weren't from a box or bag.  They were the real thing, something he'd never had before.

When I first got married, I would fix "real" mashed potatoes the two or three times we ate them during the year.  It always seemed like a lot of work, especially since we ended up throwing most of them away a few days later.  This is when I started making instant mashed potatoes.  When Ore-Ida came out with Steam n' Mash potatoes, I started using them instead.  The Steam n' Mash take a little more time than instant potatoes, but they are the closest thing to homemade I've ever found.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole
Ore-Ida Steam n' Mash

I wish I could say the restaurant incident changed my ways, but it didn't.  I decided if I wasn't going to make mashed potatoes from scratch, I should at least find a recipe that would elevate the potatoes I do fix from ho hum to wow.  

I found the recipe for Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole in a magazine. The recipe starts with a bag of Steam n' Mash potatoes.  When combined with the additional ingredients, you end up with a casserole that tastes as though you started with made from scratch mashed potatoes.

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I like substituting healthier alternatives when possible.  Casseroles are a great place to do this because, when mixed with all the other ingredients, you can't taste the substitutions.  When I fix the Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole, I use margarine, fat-free evaporated milk and 1/3 less fat cream cheese.  I always use sharp Cheddar cheese which adds more flavor to the casserole and makes substitutions less noticeable.  

I wish I had the time to cook the meals my mother cooked.  Since I don't, I'll continue to rely on my shortcuts.  I like to think that years from now when my son is married, the pressure will be off his wife to cook everything from scratch.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Margaret's Morsels | Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole

Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole
6 Servings

1 bag Ore-Ida Steam n' Mash Russet potatoes
1 (5 oz.) can evaporated milk
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. dried chives (optional)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup real bacon pieces

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly spray a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Microwave potatoes according to package directions.  In medium bowl, mash cooked potatoes, milk and butter.  Stir in remaining ingredients, except cheese and bacon, until well combined.  Spread mixture in baking pan; top with cheese and bacon.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until heated through.

© Margaret's Morsels

September 17, 2010

Hey Mom, What's for Supper?

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Margaret's Morsels | Microwave Tuna and Noodle Parmesan

I have days when my well laid plans fall apart faster than an ice cube in boiling water.  I've got a deadline for work, my son needs to be picked up at school, the repairman that was supposed to be here between 10:00 and 2:00 hasn't show up at 4:00.  I'm ready to yell, "Calgon, take me away," but am snapped back into reality by five little words:  "Hey Mom, what's for supper?"

On days like this, I forget about cooking whatever was on that night's menu.  Instead, I fix Microwave Tuna and Noodle Parmesan using a recipe I found in a magazine 20 years ago.  Not only is it quick and easy -- two of my favorite things -- it uses ingredients I always have on hand.

Margaret's Morsels | Microwave Tuna and Noodle Parmesan

The original recipe called for a five ounce package of noodles.  I can't find this size so I buy a 12 ounce package and use not quite half the noodles.  I only use 1 tablespoon of chopped onion, but you can add more to taste. The recipe calls for two teaspoons lemon juice.  I highly recommend adding it because lemon juice enhances the flavor of food without adding a lot of calories.

When I make this casserole, I substitute healthier versions of three of the canned items.  I use 98% fat-free soup, fat-free evaporated milk and chunk light tuna in water.  When mixed with all the other ingredients, you can't taste the difference.

To speed up the cooking process, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil before I do anything else.  While the water comes to a boil, I chop the onion, drain the mushrooms, open the cans and measure the remaining ingredients.  By the time the noodles are in the boiling water, I'm ready to start cooking the first two ingredients in the microwave.  If everything goes as planned, the noodles are done right before I'm ready to add them to the casserole.  Once the casserole is assembled, it takes just nine minutes to cook in an 1100 watt microwave.  This gives me enough time to steam fresh broccoli as a side dish.

If you keep a well stocked pantry, you can make this dish when you need something quick, have unexpected company or can't let Calgon take you away until the family has been fed.

Margaret's Morsels | Microwave Tuna and Noodle Parmesan

Microwave Tuna and Noodle Parmesan
4 to 5 Servings

1 (5 oz.) pkg. medium noodles
1 Tbsp. chopped onion or to taste
2 Tbsp. water
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup (undiluted)
1 (5 oz.) can evaporated milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 (5 oz.) can tuna, drained and flaked
1 (4 oz.) can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in a 1 1/2-quart microwave-safe casserole, combine onion and water.  Cook in microwave, covered, on High for 3 minutes.  Stir soup, milk, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice into onion mixture.  Fold tuna, mushrooms and drained noodles into soup mixture.  Cook, uncovered, on High for 9 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes.  Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese before serving, if desired.

© Margaret's Morsels

September 14, 2010

Dip into This

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Margaret's Morsels | Baked Potato Dip

When I host a shower or casual get together, I like to serve an assortment of appetizers.  Some I purchase ready made, but the rest I prepare.  One dip I love to serve is Baked Potato Dip.  After a friend gave me the recipe, I read it three times trying to find the potato.  The recipe title actually refers to ingredients put on a baked potato rather than a dip that uses a potato as an ingredient.

Margaret's Morsels | Baked Potato Dip
No potato needed.

When I make the dip, I use light sour cream and sharp Cheddar cheese. You can use regular sour cream and mild Cheddar, if you prefer.  I don't recommend substituting anything for the real bacon pieces.  They taste more like cooked bacon than anything else on the market.

The recipe easily makes enough for 8 to 12 people.  If you have more than that, you don't need to double the recipe.  You can use a 24 ounce container of sour cream and 1 1/2 to 2 packages of Ranch dressing mix. The rest of the proportions stay the same.

This dip is very thick so you need to serve it with a sturdy chip.  I think it goes great with Fritos Scoops.  The dip is best made one or two days ahead so the flavors have time to blend.  The hard part about making it ahead of time is keeping your family out of it until the party!

Baked Potato Dip
8 to 12 Servings

1 (16 oz.) carton sour cream
1 (8 oz.) pkg. Cheddar cheese, grated
1 (1.0 oz.) pkg. Ranch dressing mix (dry)
1/2 bottle real bacon pieces

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate overnight before serving.

© Margaret's Morsels

September 9, 2010


Pin It Sorry I haven't posted anything lately.  I've been in the hospital the last three days and might be here another three before I'm discharged.  There's nothing like hospital food to make one miss good home cooking!  Since it will be next week before I post again, I thought I'd have an open forum morselette.  Feel free to post comments, questions or tell eveyone what you put in your chicken salad or grits.  Any food related topic is welcome.  I look forward to posting a new morsel next week.

© Margaret's Morsels

September 2, 2010

What's for Breakfast?

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Margaret's Morsels | Grits

A couple of months ago, I wrote about corn, my favorite summertime vegetable.  Today I want to write about my favorite corn product:  grits.  I was going to post this later in the year, but decided to post it today since it's National Eat Grits for Breakfast Day.

My love affair with grits started at a very young age, thousands of miles away from the cornfields of America.  I spent the first 10 years of my life on Guam, not exactly a locale known for grits.  Surprisingly, my mother was able to purchase grits at the commissary.  When I had my tonsils out at the age of five, I came home and ate not ice cream, but a bowl of grits.

For those unfamiliar with this Southern staple, grits are nothing more than coarsely ground corn.  Grits are available in three varieties at the grocery store:  instant, quick cooking and old fashioned.  Stone-ground grits are usually found at gristmills or specialty food stores.  The cooking time and texture are different among the four.

Instant grits are precooked and require the addition of boiling water.  Quick cooking grits are finely ground and cook in 5 minutes.  Old fashioned grits are coarsely ground and take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook.  Stone-ground grits take about 40 minutes to cook.

Grits are usually cooked in boiling water or milk and eaten as a cereal or side dish.  Some people eat grits like oatmeal, mixing the grits with milk and sugar.  Others like butter on their grits, while others like them plain. Some people like soupy grits, others like thicker grits.  I like my grits thick enough to eat with a fork.

Margaret's Morsels | Grits
Left:  Uncooked grits.
Right:  Cooked grits.

When I cook grits, I always fix cheese grits.  However, the cheese grits I make do not require a recipe, a lot of additional ingredients or baking time. When the grits are cooked, I add shredded Cheddar cheese and stir the grits until the cheese is melted.  Cheese acts as a thickener so it's better to start with a little and add more cheese as needed.

Grits are a quick, inexpensive and filling breakfast.  They definitely warm you up in the winter, but they are good year round.  The additions you can put in grits are limited only by your imagination.

1 Serving

3/4 cup cold water
salt to taste
1/4 cup quick cooking grits (3 Tbsp. if you want them thinner)
shredded Cheddar cheese to taste (optional)

Put the water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir in the grits.  Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan with a lid.  Let sit 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and stir the grits.  Add cheese, if desired, stirring to melt the cheese.

© Margaret's Morsels