Monthly Archives: January 2014

Soft Pretzel Nuggets with Beer Cheese Fondue

It's almost time for the Super Bowl... aka the best night of the year to eat snack food! I'm not a big football person, but I can always get excited for appetizers! Buffalo wings, meatballs, chips & salsa, anything wrapped in bacon... I can't wait for Sunday. Back before Christmas, my husband and I visited a new steakhouse here in Lima for his work holiday party. We ordered a few appetizers, and the one that stuck out was a beer cheese fondue with freshly baked pretzel balls. It was SO good, I knew I had to re-create it at home. Soft Pretzel Nuggets might be a little bit of work - but they are so worth it! Paired with a super simple Beer Cheese Fondue, these snacks will be a hit at your Super Bowl party.   IMG_5873   Start with the pretzel dough. Combine warm water, sugar, salt, and yeast in a stand mixer. Add flour and melted butter; mix to combine. Knead with the dough hook about 5 minutes until smooth. (You can also do this by hand, it will just take a bit longer.)   pretzel dough   Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.   IMG_5800   Divide the dough into 6 portions and roll each into a long rope. Cut into 1-inch nuggets. (At this point, you can freeze the nuggets if you want to work in advance. I highly recommend this!)  



  When you are ready to bake, bring a pot of water to boil along with 2/3 cup of baking soda. Boil the pretzel nuggets for 30 seconds, and then remove to a parchment-lined baking sheet. The boiling process is what gives soft pretzels their chewy texture. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 450*F until dark golden brown, about 10 minutes.  


  While pretzels are baking, get started on your cheese fondue. It's really simple - a little diced onion, garlic, beer, and shredded cheddar! Cook the onion and garlic first, then add the beer and cheddar along with a little cream and stir until smooth. Such a great combo with the soft pretzel nuggets.   IMG_5870   They'd also be great sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar instead of salt. (Maybe with a chocolate dipping sauce??! YUM!)   IMG_5866   Looking for additional Super Bowl recipe ideas? Check these out! --------

Soft Pretzel Nuggets

Servings/Yield: about 75 nuggets
  • Pretzel dough
    • cups warm water, 110*-115*F
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • teaspoons instant yeast
    • cups all-purpose flour
    • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • To finish
    • 10 cups water
    • cup baking soda
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • additional kosher salt
Method To make the pretzel dough, combine the warm water, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast. Add in the flour and melted butter; mix just until combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. (Alternately, if you do not have a stand mixer, you can stir everything together with a wooden spoon; then, knead by hand 6-8 minutes until smooth.) Place dough in into a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 55-60 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Divide dough into 6 portions. Roll each into a long rope about 1-inch in diameter. Cut into pretzel nuggets about 1-inch long. (At this point, you may freeze the dough chunks on a baking sheet until firm; then store in a freezer bag.) When you are ready to bake the pretzels, preheat the oven to 450*F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan. Drop the pretzel nuggets (either fresh or frozen) directly into the boiling water; boil for about 30 seconds. Remove using a slotted spoon and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining pretzel nuggets. Combine egg yolk with water. Using a pastry brush, coat each pretzel nugget with the egg wash. Sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt. Bake in the preheated oven about 9-11 minutes until dark golden brown. Cool at least 5 minutes before serving. Source: adapted from Annie's Eats   

Beer Cheese Fondue

Servings/Yield: about 4 cups
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup beer
  • 4 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cream
Method In a saucepan, saute onion in butter over medium heat until soft. Add garlic; saute 1 minute more. Add beer. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Toss grated cheddar with flour; add to saucepan. Stir until melted. Stir in cream. Serve with soft pretzel nuggets. Source: adapted from Taste of Home

Mary’s Memo – January 27th


The 2014 Chinese New Year begins on January 31. It is the day Chinese throughout the world look forward to good luck, health and prosperity and meals shared with family and friends are an important part of the celebration. We’re celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Horse with a recipe from my food friend on Hilton Head Island, SC, Sally Kerr-Dineen, for Sesame Snap Peas with Carrots and Peppers. What’s not to like about such a healthy combination with maximum eye appeal! We see it becoming a year-round side dish.


• 8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed (about 2 cups)
• 1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips (about 1 cup)
• 1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
• 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
• 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
• Freshly ground pepper to taste

Place peas, bell pepper and carrot in a steamer basket over 2 inches of boiling water. Cover and steam, stirring once, until crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Toss with soy sauce, oil, Sesame seeds and pepper.
Source: Sally Kerr-Dineen, Hilton Head Island, SC.


If you do, look for OXO’s Goodgrips Jar Opener. Features include a base pad that keeps jar in place, reducing force required to open the jar and sharp stainless steel teeth that grip jar and accommodate all size jar lids. Jar opener is dishwasher safe. Hand wash base pad. Retailing at $11.00, it’s a must-have for those with arthritis.


For someone in good health and not overweight, Susan B. Roberts, PhD, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Energy Metabolism Laboratory, replies, “We do not recommend the Paleo diet. It has a very strange (non-scientific) view of what Paleolithic man ate, and does not provide a balanced, healthy diet. For somebody who is not overweight, the USDA’s My Plate is good general dietary advice.”
Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, January 2014.


One thing that I can count on at daughter Mary Ann’s house is Cheese Bread from my “Bread if Beautiful” recipe sheet eons ago. My holiday breakfast there is orange juice and a ham on cheese bread sandwich. When we’re “snowed in” try your hand at bread making and start with Cheese Bread. The aroma of it baking is guaranteed to lift your spirits.


• 2 cups milk (whatever kind you use)
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 3 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
• 1 package dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
• 4-3/4 cups +3 tablespoons unsifted, all-purpose flour

Scald milk; remove from heat and add sugar, salt, butter and cheese. Stir consistently until cheese melts. Cool to 115ºF. Add yeast and half the flour. Knead on floured pastry cloth until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise until double in bulk; punch down and divide in half. Shape into 2 loaves and place in (2) 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2-inch loaf pans. Let rise again until double in size. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven for about 45 minutes. If bread starts to brown too much on top, cover loosely with foil the last 20 minutes of baking. Cool on wire rack. Store each loaf in a gallon size freezer bag.


Guilty as charged to buttering the crackers that I have with soup but not when they’re seasoned oyster crackers. Nabisco makes the best looking oyster cracker but they usually cost more than other brands. When I was away during the holidays I happened upon the Nabisco brand on sale for $1.69 per bag and naturally I latched on to them and have since made a batch using a recipe Joyce Covert of Bryan gave me years ago.


• 2 bags of oyster crackers
• 1 tablespoon dill weed
• 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix (I use Penzeys because it doesn’t contain MSG)
• 1/2 cup canola oil

Mix all ingredients together until well mixed. Store in covered container (I keep mine in a plastic freezer bag).
Source: Joyce Covert, Bryan OH.


I only buy Campbell’s Healthy Choice soups for recipes, even though they usually cost quite a bit more than the regular ones do. But during a 10 for 10 sale this month I bought Healthy Choice Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Chicken and Tomato for $1.00 each. With Lent coming, I am not above opening a can of Healthy Choice Tomato and adding one of my frozen pesto cubes to it.

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Company Casserole

Since we're at the beginning of a new year, let's talk resolutions. I typically don't make huge, life-changing New Year's resolutions... mostly because I hate the risk of failing at them! This year, though, my husband and I decided to make just one resolution. Back when we were first married, we ate dinner at the dining room table every night. No TV, no cell phones, no distractions, just the two of us. In the last year or so, we've gotten into the habit of eating dinner on the couch in front of the TV. This isn't the healthiest for a couple of reasons - we tend to not pay attention to how much we're eating, and though we are sitting next to each other, we aren't really interacting with each other. (Unless it's a really good game of Wheel of Fortune. Ha.) As a child, my family always ate dinner together. At the table. It wasn't always a gourmet meal, but it was always prepared with love by my mom. I'm sharing one of those favorite family meal recipes today - Company Casserole(I really have no idea why it's called Company Casserole, except for it uses mostly pantry staples that you might be able to whip together if you have unexpected company?) It's a basic casserole, with egg noodles, ground beef, onion, spinach, and a creamy tomato sauce to bind it all together. It's topped with grated cheddar cheese and then baked until golden. It kind of reminds me of hamburger helper, but way better. It comes together pretty quickly. Brown the ground beef along with the onion in a saucepan until cooked through, and then add the tomato sauce and seasonings.   IMG_5781 Once the meat is browned, simply combine the beef mixture with the sour cream, cottage cheese, spinach, and noodles. (It will look like a sloppy mess, but it will taste great!) IMG_5783   IMG_5784   Spread it into a casserole dish, and cover it with freshly grated cheddar cheese. Pop it under the broiler to melt and crisp up the cheese.   IMG_5787   Serve it up with a green salad and fresh bakery rolls and you've got a complete meal.  

Company Casserole

Servings/Yield: 6 servings
  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef
  • 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • dash pepper
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 8-oz package egg noodles, cooked and drained
Method Brown ground beef with onion; drain off fat. Stir in garlic salt, pepper, and tomato sauce. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix with cottage cheese, sour cream, and spinach. In large dish, mix noodles and cooked mixture. Cover with grated cheese. Broil 3-5 minutes until cheese is golden and bubbly. To make ahead, simply prepare casserole and store in refrigerator until ready to bake. Bake the casserole at 350*F for 35-40 minutes until warmed through and golden. (It also freezes very well!) Source: family favorite  

Mary’s Memo – January 20th


Since I didn’t get a new cookbook for Christmas I bought one: One Pot of the Day by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, Inc., and William Sonoma, Inc., 2012, $34.95/hardback). Not many cookbooks contain 365 recipes but One Pot of the Day offers a one-pot meal for each day of the year from January to December. Recipes include a spectacular array of dishes from slow cooked stews and stir fry’s to paellas and pilafs. I don’t know about you but after the holidays I’m thinking comfort food and One Pot of the Day also features many meatless and oven-to-table selections. Colorful calendars at the beginning of each chapter offer an at-a-glance view of entrees best suited to the ingredients, occasions and typical weather of the month.

McMillan is a chef and owner of her own catering company and an instructor at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco. She has worked as an event planner for Vogue and Glamour magazines and lives in Northern California with her husband and 3 young daughters. Order One Pot of the Day from for a less expensive copy.


The risks associated with consuming industrially-produced trans fat which is in all foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are well documented: Eating trans fat raises LDL cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. In November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a preliminary determination that PHOs are no longer “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. If this determination is finalized, PHOs will be placed in a category of food additives, and it will probably become illegal to sell foods that contain PHOs.

PHOs are added to processed foods because they increase a food’s shelf life and stability and enhance flavor. Many food manufacturers have reduced or eliminated their usage of PHOs in the past several years. However, PHOs are still found in many foods, including some crackers, cookies and other baked goods, microwave popcorn, shortenings and margarine, ready-to-use frostings and coffee creamers.

However, you don’t need an FDA ruling to cut your trans fat intake: Simply check the ingredient list on all processed foods and do not eat those that contain partially hydrogenated oils.
Source: Weill Cornell Women’s Nutrition Connection, January 2014.


The right dose of any anticoagulant is critical because too much of the drug can cause unwanted bleeding and too little may allow blood to clot. In this regard, the new anticoagulants are much simpler to use. Christopher B. Granger, MD, Director, Cardiac Care Unit, Duke University, says: “We at Duke have been involved in running large studies of the new blood thinners for atrial fibrillation, and results show substantial advantages compared to warfarin, including better survival. Warfarin is very effective and better than no treatment. But other than the higher cost, most patients will be better off on one of the new drugs compared to warfarin.”
Source: DukeMedicine HealthNews, January 2014

I said earlier that comfort food is welcome in January after indulging in a lot of rich food from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Daughter Mary Ann made this for me while visiting her and it was also good reheated. Cabbage is often cheaper than many other vegetables, especially this time of year so not only plan to use it in salads but Smoked Sausage Harvest Casserole, adapted by Mary Ann from an Eckrich recipe from 25 years ago. I’m making more changes because I’ve replaced the turkey sausage she used with Chief’s Smokehouse brand.


• 2 tablespoons butter
• 5 cups chopped green cabbage
• 1 medium onion, cut in half and sliced
• 1 cup sliced carrots
• 1 (15.5-ounce) can red beans, drained
• 1 (10-ounce) can Original Rotel Tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
• 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 tablespoons flour
• Dash ground pepper
• 1 (19-ounce) package Chief Smokehouse sausage cut into 12 pieces

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add cabbage, onion and carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes. Stir in beans, tomatoes and vinegar. Add cheese, flour and pepper and mix together. Spoon into 2-quart oblong casserole dish. Arrange sausage pieces on top of cabbage mixture and push down partially. Cover and bake 40 minutes or until hot. Recipe makes 6 servings, about 350 calories each.

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Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup

Did you know that January is National Soup Month? (Don't worry... I didn't know that until this week when I saw it on Facebook. Because, you know, if something's on Facebook, it has to be true, right?) It makes sense - January is typically the coldest month of the year, and soup is especially comforting after a long, cold winter day.   IMG_5748   I whipped up this Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup last week when the temps were in the negatives, and it definitely was a good choice. It's a creamy version of tomato soup, with basil, Parmesan, and chunky tomatoes. It's very easy to put together, and simmers all day in the slow cooker. You do have to put in a little bit of work at the end of the cooking time to thicken it up, but then you've got another 20-30 minutes to put together your grilled cheese sandwiches. (Because it's a crime to eat tomato soup without grilled cheese!) Get started by placing your veggies (tomatoes, carrots, onion, celery), chicken stock, and flavors in a slow cooker. Cook on low 5-8 hours or until the vegetables are tender.   IMG_5727   About 30-40 minutes before you are ready to eat, it's time to make the roux (what thickens it up) and add all the good stuff. Melt some butter over medium heat and whisk in some flour. Whisk about 2-3 minutes until it's golden brown. Then, ladle in about a cup of the soup to the saucepan with the roux; whisk until smooth. Repeat this a few times. Return the entire creamy  mixture back to the slow cooker, and add the milk, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Let cook 20-30 minutes more until it becomes thick and creamy.  



Serve topped with croutons and additional Parmesan cheese.   IMG_5746   I loved that the soup still had chunky vegetables in it, but if you want it to be completely smooth, just run it through your blender or food processor. This recipe is definitely going to be a winter staple for us! I served it alongside some garlic cheese toast made with the Chief bakery ciabatta bread and it was the perfect combination. ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup

Servings/Yield: 6 servings
  • 28-oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • ¾ cup finely diced celery
  • 1 cup finely diced carrots
  • cups finely diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 32-oz chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 cups whole milk, warm
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • croutons, for serving
Method In a slow cooker, combine tomatoes, celery, carrots, onion, oregano, basil, chicken broth, and bay leaf. Cover and cook on low 5-8 hours until the vegetables are tender. About 45 minutes before serving, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is golden brown. The mixture will be crumbly, that's fine. Gradually ladle in about a cup of the hot soup into the flour mixture, whisk until smooth and bubbly. Add another 3-4 cups using this same process, one cup at a time. Stir the creamy, hot mixture back into the slow cooker. Add the Parmesan cheese, milk, salt, and pepper. Let cook an additional 20-30 minutes until thickened. Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese and croutons. Source: adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Mary’s Memo – January 13th


Domenica Marchetti’s childhood memories of Italian summers, where nearly every day began with a trip to the farmers’ market, are the inspiration for The Glorious Vegetables of Italy (Chronicle Books, September, 2013, $30.00/hardback). Italian home cooks prepare these vegetables with careful thought, mixing them into frittatas and savory tarts, letting them shine atop pizza and giving them equal time with meat and seafood at the center of the meal. These treasured recipes comprise a mix of tradition and innovation, some handed down from previous generations, others collected during the author’s travels throughout Italy and more created in her home kitchen. She hopes they will inspire you to bring vegetables into the heart of your own kitchen as well. Marchetti preserves batches of tomato sauce to use during the winter including Simple Tomato Sauce made with 2 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes with their juice.


• 2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with their juice
• Fine sea salt
• 5 large basil leaves, shredded or torn

Warm garlic in the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to press down on the garlic to release its flavor. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the garlic begins to sizzle. Don’t let it brown. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and their juice (oil will spatter) and stir to coat with the oil. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and raise heat to medium-high. Bring sauce to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the oil is pooling on the surface. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Taste and add more salt if you like. If not using immediately, transfer the sauce to a container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Recipe makes about 5 cups sauce.


With gift cards I had accumulated for over two years, I invested in a new Cuisinart food processor with three different size bowls, the largest holding 16 cups. It replaced one that I have had since the early 80s that was broken in 2 places and to replace the old bowl at this point would have been penny wise and dollar foolish. The new one was also 20% off for one day only the Sunday before Christmas at Williams Sonoma. With that purchase I earned 4 $10.00 coupons to buy something after Christmas so with those, I invested in an OXO Food Mill to replace the one I started married life with over 60 years ago. I love mashed potatoes and nothing makes creamier mashed potatoes than a food mill and leftovers also stay creamy. I did get one gadget that daughter Mary Ann gave to all of the cooks in our family, a Sur La Table Slice and Dice Garlic Press. I can’t tell you how many garlic choppers of all descriptions that I have had but this has to be the ultimate one!


More than half of Americans including increasing numbers of young people don’t exercise regularly and one-quarter partake in no leisure-time physical activity. One way to find out is to take the Adult Fitness Test from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, at It involves three components of fitness: Aerobic or cardiovascular fitness, Muscular strength endurance, and Flexibility. Precaution: The test is for healthy adults. If you don’t exercise regularly or have any medical conditions, consult your health care provider first. Stop if you experience any unusual symptoms such as chest discomfort, excessive shortness of breath or pain.
Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, January 2014.


Take a can of this and that and you have Southwest Cheese Soup. It might be a tad spicy for some tastes but not for mine.


• 1-lb. pasteurized prepared cheese loaf, cut in cubes
• 1 (15.25 oz) can corn, drained
• 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained (I prefer Bush)
• 1 (10 oz) can Rotel brand diced tomatoes
• 1 cup milk
• Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish (or dried flakes)

In Dutch oven, mix all ingredients except cilantro. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted and soup is hot. Garnish with cilantro. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Source: Betty Crocker recipe.

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Skinny Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli-Rice Casserole

That's quite the mouthful of a recipe title, eh? I just couldn't leave any part of it out! The new year is upon us (crazy, I know!)... and many people are looking to serve their families healthy meals to detox a bit from all the holiday indulging. Don't get me wrong, I love holiday food (and enjoy it to the max), but after a few weeks of heavy appetizers, rich entrees, and decadent desserts, I am ready for a change. For me, the hardest part about eating healthy in the new year is the timing. I don't crave salads, smoothies, and fresh vegetables in the dead of winter. All I want is a big bowl of mac & cheese and my couch, to be honest. Today's recipe lets me have the best of both worlds. Skinny Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli-Rice Casserole is a lightened up version of a cheesy, comforting classic. Regular white rice is replaced with brown rice for added fiber and satiety, processed cream of chicken soup is replaced with a lightened creamy cheese sauce, and broccoli and lean chicken are added to the dish for an extra dose of vegetables and protein. Get started by cooking your rice. Brown rice does take a little bit longer to cook than white, but it's worth the extra time. I actually prefer the flavor of brown rice - it's nutty, a little chewy, and not as bland as white rice. Simmer the rice in chicken stock for extra flavor, adding broccoli florets during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. (Follow the package directions for how long to cook the rice; all varieties are different.)   IMG_5695   While the rice is simmering, prepare the cheese sauce. It's actually really simple! Whisk together a little bit of flour with some milk, and add to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in some additional milk, and whisk until thickened. Remove from the heat; add your freshly grated cheese and seasonings. That's it!   cheese sauce   When the rice/broccoli is done, it's time to assemble the casserole. Mix together the rice/broccoli with the cheese sauce and chicken, and add to a 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese and broil until bubbly and browned.   IMG_5697   YUM! My hubby and I gobbled this meal up. It was the perfect meal at the end of a cold, blustery day. (And we've been having lots of those!)   IMG_5698   _______________________________________________________________________________________________

Skinny Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli-Rice Casserole

Servings/Yield: 6-8 servings
  • 2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin & bones removed, and shredded
  • 5 teaspoons flour
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • cup light sour cream
  • 8-oz freshly shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Method Bring chicken broth to boil in a large pot; add rice. Cover; then turn heat down to medium-low. Cook according to package directions, adding broccoli during the last 5 minutes to steam. While the rice is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup milk. Add to skillet, and then add remaining 11/2 cups milk. Cook mixture, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 7-10 minutes. Remove skillet from the heat, and stir in half the cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir until smooth. When rice is done, combine rice mixture, chicken, and cheese sauce in pot. Scoop mixture into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Top with remaining cheese. Broil casserole 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted. Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Source: adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Mary’s Memo – January 6th


There were a lot of winners last year and one that I personally made many times was Potato-Fennel-Leek Soup on the February 11 (#2304) memo. During Lent I used vegetable broth and other times chicken broth. Either tastes fine!


• 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
• 1 cup sliced leeks
• 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
• 3 cups Swanson brand vegetable broth
• 1 cup shredded smoked Cheddar cheese
• Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat butter or olive oil (or an equal amount of the two) over medium-high heat. Sauté leeks and fennel until softened (about 6 minutes). Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Puree in the pan with an immersion blender. To do in a food processor or standard blender, strain soup, reserving solids and liquid. Puree the solids, using a small amount of liquid; then recombine the puree with the remaining liquid, return the soup to the saucepan and reheat if necessary. Off heat, add smoked cheese and stir to melt. Season with salt and pepper. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Source: I Love Trader Joe’s Around the World Cookbook by Cherie Mercer Twohy via Mary Ann Thaman.

Food Network star Ina Garten is still my favorite and her Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes taste like they’re made with sour cream. Instant potatoes can’t compare! A ricer, Foley or OXO food mill will make them even creamier!


• 3 lbs. Klondike Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5-inch cubes
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 stick unsalted butter
• 3/4 cup buttermilk
• Kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot bring 4 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Add potatoes. Bring water to a boil again, lower heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes fall apart when pierced with a fork. Meanwhile, heat milk and butter in a small saucepan, making sure it doesn’t boil. Set aside until potatoes are done. As soon as potatoes are tender, drain in colander. Place a ricer or food mill over heat-proof bowl. Process potatoes through ricer or food mill. As soon as the potatoes are mashed stir in hot milk and butter mixture with a whisk or rubber spatula. Add enough buttermilk to make potatoes creamy. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.
Source: Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)

I have never seen an asparagus stalk I didn’t like and Sara Moulton’s Raw Asparagus, Mushroom and Parsley Salad is wonderful! Bryan Chief tasters also gave this unusual combination a “thumbs up.”


• Kosher salt and pepper to taste
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 1/2 lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed and discarded (peeled if stalks are thicker than 1/3 inch) and sliced diagonally into thin slices
• 1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley leaves, stems removed
• 4 oz. firm white button mushrooms (no gills showing), thinly sliced
• 1/3 cup salted pistachio nuts
• 2 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese

Whisk salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil until a thick emulsion forms. Combine remaining ingredients and toss with dressing. Serve immediately.
Source: Adapted from Sara Moulton recipe.

Spicy Sausage-Endive-White Bean Soup, in the November 11 (#2344) memo, will get your engine roaring on a cold winter day. For more kick, use spicy Italian sausage.


• E xtra virgin olive oil
• 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
• 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley
• 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced
• 1 small zucchini, diced
• 1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
• 1 head curly endive, core removed and chopped
• 2 cans Bush white beans (Navy or Great Northern), drained
• 12 cups chicken stock
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
• Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add sausage and cook until crumbled. Add the onion and carrots and cook about 5 minutes. Add garlic, basil, oregano and parsley. Cook another 2 or 3 minutes. Add squash and again cook another 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, endive, beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for 30 minutes to blend flavors. Add salt and pepper. Before serving garnish with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. Recipe makes about 16 cups. Leftovers can be frozen.
Source: Adapted from a Dorothy Lane Market recipe.

Other 2013 best recipes included Betty Crocker Chex Pumpkin Pie Crunch, Pumpkin Snickerdoodle and Glazed Cranberry Cookies (on the annual Christmas recipe sheet).

PS: Regarding Christmas recipes, a sentence was missing from the recipe for stuffed dates. A strip of lean bacon is cut into 3 pieces and each date is wrapped with a piece of bacon and secured with a tooth pick before baking.

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