Category Archives: Recipe

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You

Suze here, wishing you the happiest of St. Patrick’s Days.  Am I Irish? Yup. Some of the names in my family tree are Higgins, McBath, Kearns, and Morrison.  But of course it doesn’t really matter. No matter your background, St. Patrick’s Day is about celebrating with the ones you love–even if it means drinking green beer!

Beltany Stone Circle, photo courtesy of www.pdphoto.org.
Beltany Stone Circle, photo courtesy of http://www.pdphoto.org.

So today, in honor of Ireland’s most famous little round thing that grows underground, I thought I’d share a recipe with you. Enjoy!

Suze’s Mashed Potatoes

  • 6 Medium Size Potatoes–My favorite is Yukon Gold, and yes, the type of potato really does make a difference. You want a waxy potato, not a baking potato like a russet.
  • 1/4 to 1/2  cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or cream cheese (lite versions are fine, but don’t use the fat free stuff–yuck!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and quarter potatoes, rinse with cold water, and place in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover with fresh cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until fork tender. This will probably take around twenty minutes, but keep checking them. Drain the potatoes immediately–don’t leave them sitting in the hot water or they’ll turn to mush.

Return potatoes to hot saucepan (off the heat). Mash the potatoes with your favorite mashing tool, then add the remaining ingredients, starting with 1/4 cup of milk that you’ve warmed in the microwave along with the butter. Mash everything together, adding more warm milk if necessary to make a creamy consistency.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot with more butter and gravy if you have it. This ain’t lo-cal. Get over it, LOL!

Variations:

  • Add a cup of grated cheddar cheese during the hot mashing process
  • Sprinkle cooked potatoes with crumbled bacon and chopped scallions (Bacon? Did somebody say bacon?)
  • Drain a can of corn and mix into potatoes along with ground beef or turkey that has been browned with some finely chopped onion and drained. Place mixture into a casserole dish, cover with shredded cheese, and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Leftover potatoes? Place in a saucepan the next day and stir in chicken broth until your desired soup consistency is reached. Season with a bit of thyme and some more freshly ground pepper.

How will you be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? I’ll leave you with a classic Irish Blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields  and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

And may you all find your pots of gold!

Casey’s Pasta Fagioli

Happy Friday all! Casey here. Sadly, I don’t have a lot of time today – book to finish and all that –  so I decided to share a family recipe – Pasta Fagioli.

Italian for “beans and pasta”, this dish is great on a cold winter night. Contrary to what The Olive Garden restaurant servers tell customers – Pasta Fagioli is NOT Italian chili. Traditionally, there’s no meat in this dish!!

This recipe can be doubled (use 2 bags of beans and 2 cans diced tomatoes) or even halved. I have to double it because Older Son devours it.

What? No meat. The cat does not approve.

I don’t soak the beans for hours ahead. It’s not necessary. You can if you want, but I don’t bother.

Ingredients:

1 bag white beans (I use navy beans or whatever small white beans my grocery store carries). Remember to check for small stones.

4 or 5 cloves of garlic (or to taste)

3 or 4 celery stalks cut in large chunks (0r to taste)

1 – 14 oz can diced Italian seasoned diced tomatos

1 – 14 oz can of tomato sauce (NOT jar sauce)

1 lb box of ditalini

Water

Olive oil, salt and pepper

Prepare as follows:

1. Dump the beans, tomatoes, sauce, celery, and garlic  into a large sauce pot. (I toss in whole, peeled cloves because I don’t like it and it makes it easier to pick out!)

2. Fill pot with water until near the top. Heat to a boil.

photo (2)3. Cover and simmer on low heat for 2 – 3 hours or until beans are soft.

4. At this point, I add half the box of pasta (save the rest for something else). Watch the water level so the pasta doesn’t suck all the water out of the soup. Add more if needed. If you want to cook the whole box, do it in a separate pot.

5. Final step – pour in a glurg or two (that’s a technical term) of Olive oil and then add salt and pepper to taste. I follow my Grandmother’s advice, adding oil too soon will make the beans tough. I don’t know if that’s true but boiling for hours doesn’t do the oil any favors.

Serve warm with crusty bread. Yummy.

Leftover can be re-heated, if you added pasta in step 4, then you will need to add more water and/or tomato sauce.

Enjoy!

Friday Favorites – There’s Beer in my Bread!

Welcome friends! Casey here!

I never thought I’d be typing these words – the first draft of Mystic Hero is finished! It’s not IMG_1187pretty, but it’s done and will be heading to my beta readers shortly. Whew! Just in time for NaNo (which I usually unofficially participate in), so I can finish my other manuscript – Lachlan’s Curse.

To celebrate, I’m sharing a recipe I recently re-discovered. When I was a teen, my mother used to whip up a loaf of beer bread and, man, was it delicious. And super simple to make. After my sons were born, I made it a time or two (using non-alcoholic beer) then I kind of forgot about it.

I’m not sure what triggered the desire for beer bread. Maybe it was the stew I was making at the time. After a quick search of the internet, I managed to find one that replicated my mother’s recipe at Food.Com. If this one doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are dozens of variations out there in cyberspace.

A note about flour. This recipe uses either all-purpose flour or self-rising. If you use self-rising, omit the baking powder and salt.

Also, I don’t actually sift my flour (you can if you want to). Instead, I stir it first (in the bag), then scoop it into the measuring cup and gently level it off. This is the proper way to measure flour.  Never tap the measuring cup against the counter or scoop flour directly from the bag using the measuring cup. If you do this, your baked goods will resemble a dense brick. Don’t say I didn’t warn you first!

Enjoy!

Classic Beer Bread:

Ingredients:

3 cups flour (see note above about proper scooping) OR self-rising flour

3 tsp baking powder (skip it if you use self-rising flour)

1 tsp salt  (skip it if you use self-rising flour)

1/4 cup of sugar

1 – 12 oz of beer (I used Sam Adams because that is what hubby had stashed in the cellar. If you don’t want a strong beer taste try something paler)

1/4 to a few tablespoons melted butter (Mom never used butter so you can skip it. But try it. You might like it).

Oven temp: 375 degrees

Grease the bottom of a 9″ loaf pan.

1. Combine all the dry ingredients with the beer.

2. Put in the loaf pan. (I’ve heard of people mixing ingredients right in the pan, but I don’t see how without making a big mess).

3. If using melted butter, pour over the top (this will make the crust crispy).

4. Bake 1 hour. Remove from pan and cool about 10-15 minutes. Try not to skip the cooling step. Otherwise the bread will fall apart when cutting (Not that it stops my husband or older son!)

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Anyone else love beer bread? Have any variations to share or other simple bread recipes?

Fun With Ground Beef

TGIF!! Casey here.

IMG_3320Today, I’m poking my head out of the writer’s cave to share a quick, easy recipe that I call Casey’s Taco Beef Melt. This is one of those recipes that I just threw together using things I had already had on hand and, added bonus, it cooks quickly without heating up the house too much.

Feel free to substitute chicken (or other meat) for the ground beef or use only beans, or use tortilla chips instead of Doritos. Also, this can be used as topping on a salad or rolled into a soft tortilla.

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 lbs ground beef (I used two because I have hungry men to feed)
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 – 2 packages low sodium taco seasoning (if you use 1 pound of beef, use 1 package)
  • Water – according to seasoning packages.
  • Doritos (about 1/3 of an 11 ounce bag)
  • 1- 2 cups shredded  cheddar cheese of your choice

1. In a skillet, brown beef (or meat of your choice). Drain excess fat once browned.

2. Add beans, then taco seasoning and water.

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3. Once the seasoning is thickened, crush up chips and place over top until covered.

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4. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the tops of the chips. Cover with lid until chees melts.

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Enjoy!IMG_3325

Please share your favorite “go to” summer foods!

The Best Things in Life are Three

In case you didn’t see the recipes I posted in honor of PJ’s release of Western Desert, here they are–super easy and super yummy. Enjoy while you’re reading!

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Suze’s Orange-Strawberry Cooler

  • 1 handful fresh mint, rinsed and drained
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, drained, hulled, and halved (frozen is fine if berries are not in season)
  • 1 quart orange juice
  • 1 can (or up to 2 cups) of plain seltzer water (orange, other citrus, or vanilla flavor is even better!)

Place mint and berries in the bottom of a large glass pitcher. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, give the mixture a few gentle presses to release the flavor. Add orange juice (depending on the size of your pitcher, you may not need the entire half gallon) and refrigerate until nice and cold.

Pour over ice into pretty glasses and pour some seltzer into each. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a fresh strawberry. **Adults can add a shot of citrus or vanilla-flavored vodka!

Suze’s Pita Chips and Greek-Style Yogurt Dip (Tzaziki)

For the chips:

  • 3 whole wheat pitas (I bought mine in the deli section of the supermarket)
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, pressed or minced very fine
  • Sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a shallow baking sheet with foil. Cut each pita into 6 triangles. Unfold each triangle and cut in half (Each pita will make 12 chips). Place on the baking sheet in a single layer, with the inside of the pita up and the outside of the pita touching the foil.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, mix the pressed/minced garlic with the olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt (don’t overdo the salt!). Microwave on high for 30 seconds, or until garlic is fragrant. Brush the oil mixture onto each pita chip, using up all of the oil.

Bake until the chips are crispy and lightly browned, approximately 7-10 minutes. Because oven temperatures vary, watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

For the dip:

  • 1 cup Greek-style plain, low-fat yogurt (don’t get a flavored kind!)
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill

Cut peeled cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds by scraping with a teaspoon. Discard seeds. Grate cucumber using a box grater. Place cucumber into a fine sieve/colander and press gently with a paper towel over the sink or a bowl to eliminate excess water.

Fold cucumber and dill into yogurt. Taste and add a bit of sea salt if necessary. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour. Serve with pita chips.

Suze’s Marinated Chicken and Grape Tomato Skewers

  • 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken (thighs, breasts, or tenders, whichever you prefer)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint ripe but firm grape tomatoes, rinsed

Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks (3/4 inch–keep them fairly small so they cook evenly with the tomatoes). Place chicken, lemon, oil and pepper into glass bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, add a few curls of lemon peel (yellow part only, not the bitter pith). Toss all ingredients gently, cover, and refrigerate at least an hour or up to several hours. Soak bamboo skewers in water.

Preheat outdoor grill, indoor grill, tabletop grill (such as a George Foreman), or broiler. On each skewer, place a piece of chicken, a grape tomato, and another piece of chicken. Grill or broil until chicken is cooked through. Add more fresh cracked pepper to taste.

Bonus Recipe!

If you have any extra chicken/tomatoes and dip, you can have a yummy pita sandwich the next day for your lunch. Just remove the chicken and tomatoes from the skewers and place in a half pita pocket with lettuce and some leftover dip. Add some crumbled feta cheese if you have it, but it’s delicious as is.

What’s your favorite easy recipe?