Make snappy apps with dill pickles

Published the week of December 21, 2015

Pickles appeal to nearly everyone in nearly every age group. When served in a simple bowl, pickles have a place on any holiday tables. But the tantalizing taste can offer much more when dill pickles become ingredients in some tasty — and different — appetizer recipes. So whether you are celebrating Christmas or ringing in the New Year, try adding pickles to your appetizer menu.

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This recipe also works well with salami.

Pickle Rolls

1 32-ounce jar dill pickles
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 pound sliced deli ham
10 6-inch flour tortillas

Spread cream cheese on one side of a tortilla. Place a slice or two of ham over this. Spread another layer of cream cheese over the ham. Roll a pickle up in the tortilla and slice the roll into finger food-sized pieces. Refrigerate the rolls if you aren’t serving them immediately. Makes 20 servings.

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In addition to serving with tortilla chips, this salsa is also good on hot dogs and hamburgers including appetizer-sized sliders.

Dill Pickle Salsa

1 large tomato
1/2 cup diced dill pickles
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon pickle juice
1 tablespoon oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Dice the tomato and discard part of the seeds. Place in a medium bowl; add pickles, cilantro, onion, pickle juice, and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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Although you need to chill this dip before serving to allow the flavors to blend, you may find that chips scoop it up easier if you allow the dip to come to room temperature before serving.

Dill Pickle Dip

8 ounces cream cheese, regular or reduced fat, softened
2 dill pickles, finely chopped
2 tablespoons onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pickle juice, or more to taste
1 dash salt
1 teaspoon dried dill weed

In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, pickles, onions, pickle juice, salt, and dill weed. Add additional pickle juice if desired. Chill for one hour to allow all flavors to blend. Serve with potato chips. Makes 8 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

Pickles are a great part of any antipasto platter. Just slice dill pickles and arrange them on the platter with marinated mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, black or Kalamata olives, and thin slices of salami, ham, and provolone cheese. Drizzle with your favorite Italian salad dressing, and serve with breadsticks or slices of Italian bread.

Quick antipasto

Pickles are a great part of any antipasto platter. Just slice dill pickles and arrange them on the platter with marinated mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, black or Kalamata olives, and thin slices of salami, ham, and provolone cheese. Drizzle with your favorite Italian salad dressing, and serve with breadsticks or slices of Italian bread.

Lettuce and spinach and cukes, oh my!

After a long garden hiatus, I am back on the growing bandwagon. The first things to pop up were spinach, lettuce, and cucumbers. No red tomatoes or peppers yet, so those had to come from the store. Still, it’s always enjoyable to eat food you’ve grown. Healthy and pretty, too!

PP-salad

Don’t discard overripe bananas

Published the week of April 23, 2015

When it comes to bananas, most people have a preference on what stage of ripening is best for eating. Most, however, will agree that overripe is too late. While it may be too late for eating them, cooking with bananas at the overripe stage imparts the best banana flavor.

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You may find the pancakes to be a little darker than regular pancakes when cooked.

Banana Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil, and bananas. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides; serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

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This recipe also is good with chocolate chips instead of walnuts.

Moist Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 medium bananas, sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Fold in the sour cream, walnuts and bananas. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 15 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

To easily mash overripe bananas, peel them and place them in a plastic zipper-top bag. Squeeze the bag several times to mash the bananas. Cut off a corner of the bag and then use that hole to pour the bananas into the bowl.

If you have overripe bananas but don’t have the time to cook with them, place them in the freezer with the peel on. The day you plan to use them, take them out of the freezer and allow them to partially thaw. When it is time to add them to the other ingredients, cut off the top of the banana and squeeze the fruit directly into the bowl.

Reheating leftover pizza

I have never been a fan of reheating leftover pizza in the microwave, so I usually opt to eat it cold. But one night the desire to eat hot food combined with the lack of any other food in the house except pizza, and I found myself searching the internet for the best way to reheat pizza.

The internet’s advice? Ten minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.

There was no way I was going along with that so I kept searching and searching. And site after site said the same thing: 10 minutes at 400 degrees. I had to try it.

Per most recommendations, I put a cookie sheet in the oven before turning it on. Once the oven was sufficiently preheated, I put the pizza slices on the hot cookie sheet. I then proceeded to panic, sure that the only means of feeding myself would go up in smoke.

Reheating pizza

I was wrong. And the internet — the place that assured me that this method makes pizza taste like it’s fresh from the restaurant — was right. The pizza was hot, crisp, and tasty. I may never eat cold pizza again.

Except, perhaps, for breakfast.

Try new traditions in the new year

  • Sausage and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole
  • Country Breakfast Casserole
  • Weekends are a nice time to gather the family for a special breakfast or brunch. Breakfast casseroles are an opportunity to get preparations out of the way, and then enjoy some time together while the casserole bakes. Finish the meal off by pairing the breakfast casserole with fresh fruit and toast.

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    Sausage and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole

    1 16-ounce package ground pork breakfast sausage
    12 eggs
    1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
    1-1/4 cups milk
    1 4.5-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained
    1 32-ounce package frozen potato rounds
    1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

    Place sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish; set aside.

    In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, condensed cream of mushroom soup, and milk. Stir in the sausage and mushrooms, and pour into the prepared baking dish. Mix in the frozen potato rounds.

    Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, and bake until cheese is melted, about 10 additional minutes. Makes 12 servings.

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    If you want a topping but don’t want to use bread, fry some hash browns and spread them over the casserole about halfway through the cooking time.

    Country Breakfast Casserole

    1 16-ounce package breakfast sausage
    1 chopped green onion
    2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
    6 eggs, lightly beaten
    1 cup water
    1/2 cup milk
    1 2.64-ounce package country gravy mix
    6 slices bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
    2 tablespoons melted butter, optional
    Paprika to taste, optional

    Place sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain, and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 11×8-inch baking dish; set aside.

    Combine sausage with green onion and spread evenly across the bottom of the baking dish. Top with shredded cheese. Whisk together eggs, water, milk, and gravy mix; add mixture to baking dish. Arrange bread squares evenly on top. If desired, drizzle melted butter over bread and sprinkle with paprika.

    Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Set aside 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.

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    Pantry Pointers

    Breakfast casseroles made with eggs generally are better prepared in a glass baking dish. Metal dishes can sometimes react with the eggs.

    The easiest way to lightly grease a baking dish is with nonstick spray. The next easiest way is to use a pastry brush to spread melted butter on the dish.

Breathe new life into chicken breasts

Chicken breasts are easy cook, easy to freeze, and often on sale – qualities that make them a staple in almost any pantry. But over time, the same old recipes can get boring. To avoid this, try something new and flavorful with your next package of breasts.

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White Chicken Chili

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 4-ounce can diced jalapeno peppers
1 4-ounce can chopped green chili peppers
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
3 15-ounce cans white beans
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Add onion; slowly cook and stir onion until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Mix in the garlic, jalapeno, green chili peppers, cumin, oregano, and cayenne. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until tender, about 3 minutes. Mix in the chicken broth, chicken and white beans. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the mixture from heat. Slowly stir in the cheese until melted. Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.

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Salsa Chicken

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
1 cup salsa
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons sour cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle taco seasoning on both sides of chicken breasts, and pour salsa over all. Bake until chicken is tender and juicy and its juices run clear, about 25 to 35 minutes. Sprinkle chicken evenly with cheese, and continue baking for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with sour cream if desired, and serve. Makes 4 servings.

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Garlic Chicken

Garlic Chicken
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Warm the garlic and olive oil to blend the flavors. In a separate dish, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dip the chicken breasts in the olive oil and garlic mixture, then into the bread crumb mixture. Place in a shallow baking dish. Bake until chicken is tender and juicy and its juices run clear, about 30 to 35 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

A food thermometer is the most reliable way to check any meat. For chicken breasts, the desired internal temperature is 165 degrees. As with all meats, personal preference may dictate a longer cooking time to reach the desired taste, appearance, and texture.

Wrap up any meal

Burrito recipes let you roll up your meal – breakfast, lunch, or dinner – into a tasty, easy-to-eat meal.

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Breakfast Burritos

1 pound bacon
10 eggs
1 16-ounce can refried beans
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
10 10-inch flour tortillas

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, and set aside. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven heated to 350 degrees. Bake until heated through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Over medium heat in a lightly greased skillet, cook eggs until firm. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the refried beans. Top each tortilla with refried beans, 2 strips of bacon, 1 egg and a little cheese. Roll tortillas into burritos and serve. Makes 10 servings.

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Black Bean Burritos

2 10-inch flour tortillas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno peppers
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven heated to 350 degrees. Bake until heated through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Place onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapenos in skillet; cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour beans into skillet, cook 3 minutes while stirring. Cut cream cheese into cubes and add to skillet with salt. Cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir cilantro into mixture. Spoon mixture evenly down center of warmed tortilla and roll tortillas up. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

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Roast Beef Burritos

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chopped cooked roast beef
1 8-ounce jar prepared taco sauce
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon cumin
6 7-inch flour tortillas, warmed
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded lettuce

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and cook until tender and transparent, about 5 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes, roast beef, taco sauce, chilies, and cumin. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes, or until thickened.

Arrange tortillas on a clean, flat work surface. Spread about 2/3 cup of beef mixture in the center of each warm tortilla. Sprinkle evenly with cheese and lettuce. Fold over ends and sides to make a package. Makes 6 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

For the best results rolling burritos, start with warm tortillas. A large tortilla should be warm enough after 15 seconds in the microwave oven.

Make low-fat treats in the new year

While it is nice to splurge on a decadent dessert occasionally, it is also nice to have a sweet ending to a meal that doesn’t undo a healthy diet.

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Serve these berries as is or use to top pound cake, angel food cake, or vanilla ice cream.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Cut any large berries in half. Place all strawberries in a bowl. Drizzle vinegar over strawberries; sprinkle with sugar. Stir gently to combine. Cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour but not more than 4 hours. Just before serving, grind pepper over berries. Makes 6 servings.

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Double Chocolate Mousse

2 ounces semisweet baking chocolate
1-1/2 cups fat-free milk, divided
1 1.4-ounce package fat-free, sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups thawed nondairy whipped topping, divided
1/2 cup fresh raspberries

In a large microwaveable bowl, heat chocolate and 1 cup milk on High power for 2 minutes; whisk until chocolate is melted. Add remaining milk and dry pudding mix; beat for 2 minutes. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Whisk in 1-1/2 cups nondairy whipped topping; spoon into 6 dessert dishes. Top with remaining whipped topping and berries; serve. Makes 6 servings.

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Make sure that all your bowl, beaters, and pan are clean and very dry. Otherwise the egg whites could deflate.

Angel Food Cake

1 cup cake flour
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
12 egg whites
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift together the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar; set aside. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites along with the vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt to medium stiff peaks. Gradually add the remaining sugar while continuing to whip to stiff peaks. When the egg white mixture has reached its maximum volume, fold in the sifted ingredients gradually, one third at a time. Do not overmix. Put the batter into the tube pan. Bake until the cake springs back when touched, about 40 to 45 minutes. Balance the tube pan upside down on the top of a bottle, to prevent decompression while cooling. When cool, run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a plate. Makes 14 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

For a healthy dessert, mix low-fat yogurt with low-fat whipped topping and spoon this mixture over sliced fresh fruit.