March 28, 2012

Countdown to Easter: Part 1

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Easter is 11 days away, but I'm already planning my menu.  It's actually easy because my family expects the same thing -- ham, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, homemade rolls and fruit tea -- every year.  The menu might get boring, except I change things up by preparing different side dishes.

A few years ago, I discovered I loved cranberries paired with oranges.  I think the cranberry/orange combination is especially delicious served with ham.

Last Easter, I served a cranberry/orange side dish in the form of Cranberry Orange RelishThis sweet-tart relish is a combination of fresh cranberries, apple, orange, pineapple and sugar.   If you don't have fresh cranberries on hand, you can still enjoy a cranberry/orange side dish.

Margaret's Morsels | Cranberry Orange Relish

Cranberry Orange Casserole uses canned whole berry cranberry sauce and mandarin oranges mixed with lemon juice and sugar.  Unlike the relish, the casserole is heated in the oven and served hot.  The recipe only makes four servings, but it can easily be doubled or tripled.

Margaret's Morsels | Cranberry Orange Casserole

If you want to serve a cold side dish, try Southern Cranberry Salad.  It also uses whole berry cranberry sauce and mandarin oranges, but is combined with cherry gelatin, water and pineapple for a congealed salad.

Margaret's Morsels | Southern Cranberry Salad

If you prefer a seasonal side dish, check back soon for a recipe that uses the quintessential spring vegetable. 

Cranberry Orange Casserole
4 Servings

1 (14 oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Combine the ingredients and pour into a greased casserole dish.  Bake 25 minutes until hot and bubbly.

© Margaret's Morsels

March 20, 2012

Budget Friendly Entree

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Margaret's Morsels | Baked Ziti

An easy way to stretch your grocery budget is to prepare one or two meals a week without meat.  Vegetables are a good choice, but so is pasta, especially when the pasta doesn't require a lot of additional ingredients.

Baked Ziti is one of my favorite pasta dishes.  Not only is it easy to prepare, at .67 cents a serving, it's budget friendly.  Unlike ziti recipes that use homemade sauce and several kinds of cheese, this recipe only uses four ingredients:  ziti, Parmesan cheese, pasta sauce and Mozzarella cheese.

Margaret's Morsels | Baked Ziti

For some reason, I have a hard time finding ziti -- a tubular pasta -- in the grocery store.  If you have the same problem, penne, rigatoni or mostaccioli are all good substitutes.  

Margaret's Morsels | Baked Ziti
Ziti is on the left; mostaccioli on the right.

Cook the ziti in a pot of salted water.  Drain the ziti thoroughly and combine it with the pasta sauce and 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese.  To keep from dirtying another bowl, I combine the ingredients in the pot I used to cook the ziti.

Margaret's Morsels | Baked Ziti

Pour the contents into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Margaret's Morsels | Baked Ziti
Baked for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  For a smoother finish, use finely shredded Mozzarella cheese and put it on top of the Parmesan cheese.

Margaret's Morsels | Baked Ziti

Put the uncovered dish back in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.

Add a salad and garlic bread and you've got a filling meal that doesn't break the bank.

Margaret's Morsels | Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti
6 Servings

1 (8 oz.) pkg. ziti
1 (26 1/2 oz.) can spaghetti sauce
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook ziti according to package directions; drain.  Combine ziti with spaghetti sauce and 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese.  Pour into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover ziti; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and the remaining Mozzarella. Return to oven until cheese melts.

© Margaret's Morsels

March 15, 2012

Going Green

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Margaret's Morsels | Pistachio Dream Cake

The expression "going green" takes on new meaning for St. Patrick's Day. Not only do people like to wear green on March 17, green food and beverages are popular that day too!

Last year for St. Patrick's Day, I shared a recipe for Irish Soda Bread. This year, I thought I'd share a recipe that's not Irish in origin, but it's definitely green!

Pistachio Dream Cake starts with a cake mix and gets its green color from a package of pistachio pudding mix.  The cake and pudding mixes are combined with oil, eggs and, instead of water, lemon lime soda.  I use ginger ale, but Sprite or 7-Up can be used instead.

The cake can be baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan or two layer pans or, what I like to use, a Bundt pan.  The 9 x 13-inch pan only has to be greased, but the layer or Bundt pans need to be greased and floured.

Although a Bundt pan has a beautiful shape, it can be hard to grease and flour all the fluted edges.  The easiest way to grease a Bundt pan is to spread the shortening in the pan with a paper towel.  Make sure to grease the entire surface including the tube in the center.

Margaret's Morsels | Pistachio Dream Cake

Sprinkle some flour in the pan.

Margaret's Morsels | Pistachio Dream Cake

Rotate the pan until the surface -- including the tube -- is coated with flour. If there's excess flour, remove it by turning the pan upside down and tapping the bottom.  The flour will fall right out.

Margaret's Morsels | Pistachio Dream Cake

Bake the cake for the time listed on the box for the size pan you're using. If you're using a 9 x 13-inch pan, let the cake cool completely in the pan. Otherwise, let the cake cool 10 minutes before removing it from the pan to cool on a wire rack.

Margaret's Morsels | Pistachio Dream Cake

When the cake is completely cool, frost it with pistachio frosting.  The original recipe called for the frosting to be made with Cool Whip, but I prefer to use Dream Whip, a powdered nondairy dessert topping.

Combine both pouches of Dream Whip with milk and a package of pistachio pudding mix.  If you prefer a smoother frosting, sift the pudding mix into the bowl with the Dream Whip to remove any nuts.

Margaret's Morsels | Pistachio Dream Cake

The pudding mix gives the frosting a beautiful green color.  I like the pale shade of green, but you can add green food coloring if you prefer a brighter color.  Frost the cake and keep it stored in a covered container in the refrigerator.

The cake is green on the inside and outside making it a suitable dessert when you're "going green."

Margaret's Morsels | Pistachio Dream Cake

Pistachio Dream Cake
12 Servings

1 (18 1/4 oz.) pkg. yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 oz.) pkg. instant pistachio pudding
1 cup oil
3 eggs
1 cup lemon lime soda (I use ginger ale)

Blend ingredients together in a bowl; beat 4 minutes with an electric mixer. Pour batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan.  Bake according to the time listed on the cake mix box.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Remove cake from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Pistachio Frosting

1 (2.6 oz.) box Dream Whip
1 (3.4 oz.) box instant pistachio pudding*
1 1/4 cups cold milk

Blend together and beat 4 minutes on high until light and fluffy.  Spread frosting on cake.  Store cake in a covered container in the refrigerator.

*For a smoother frosting, sift the pudding mix to remove any nuts.  Proceed as directed.

© Margaret's Morsels


March 2, 2012

Crock-Pot Cooking

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Margaret's Morsels | Crock-Pot Chicken a la King

If I had to choose my favorite kitchen appliance, it would be a close call between a microwave and crock-pot.  A microwave is wonderful for cooking bacon, baked potatoes, fresh corn-on-the-cob and popcorn.  It also does a great job melting butter and chocolate and, its most popular function, heating leftovers.

A crock-pot can be used to reheat soups, stews, chili and spaghetti sauce, plus an entire dish can be cooked in it with little or no additional work required.  It's a tough choice, but for the last reason alone, I'd choose a crock-pot over a microwave.

Although I love crock-pot cooking, I haven't posted many crock-pot recipes. Today, I want to rectify that and share one of my all time favorite crock-pot recipes.

The crock-pot version of Chicken a la King isn't that much different from the version cooked on the stove.  Both recipes contain diced chicken with vegetables in a cream sauce.  The most obvious difference is the crock-pot version takes eight hours to cook.  However, there are several advantages to this long cooking time.

First, unlike the version cooked on the stove, the crock-pot recipe doesn't require the chicken or green peas to be cooked ahead of time.  Second, the vegetables -- onion, green pepper and celery -- don't need to be sauteed. Third, you don't have to make and thicken the cream sauce.

To save time,  assemble the ingredients the night before.  Start by combining the flour, pepper, cayenne pepper and -- what makes the cream sauce -- cream of chicken soup.  I use 98% fat-free soup which has less sodium than regular soup.  For that reason, I also add a teaspoon of salt to the mixture.

Margaret's Morsels | Crock-Pot Chicken a la King

Add cubed chicken breasts and diced onion, celery and green bell pepper.

Margaret's Morsels | Crock-Pot Chicken a la King

Thoroughly combine the ingredients and store the mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Margaret's Morsels | Crock-Pot Chicken a la King

The next morning, put the ingredients in the crock-pot and cook on low for 7 1/2 hours.  You may be wondering why the green peas aren't in the crock-pot.  The peas and pimentos are added at the end of the cooking time and everything is cooked an additional 30 minutes.

Margaret's Morsels | Crock-Pot Chicken a la King

The peas need to be thawed before being added to the mixture.  I find it helpful to put the package in the refrigerator to thaw when I put the chicken mixture in the crock-pot.

Chicken a la King is usually served with toast points or pasta, but I like to serve it with rice.  Shortly after I add the peas and pimentos, I start cooking the rice.  By the time the rice is ready, so is the Chicken a la King.  Add a salad and you've got a meal that doesn't require a lot of work or a lot of cleanup!

Crock-Pot Chicken a la King
6 Servings

1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup (undiluted)*
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 celery rib, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green pepper (I use frozen)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen peas, thawed
2 Tbsp. diced pimentos, drained
hot cooked rice

Combine the first four ingredients in a crock-pot until smooth.  Stir in the chicken, celery, green pepper and onion.  Cover and cook on low for 7 1/2 hours.  Stir in peas and pimentos.  Cook 30 minutes longer until heated through.  Serve over rice.

*If using 98% fat-free soup, add one teaspoon of salt to the mixture.

© Margaret's Morsels