Posted in Dinner, Fish, Food, Grilling

Marinated Grilled Salmon

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Yesterday, while grocery shopping with my youngest daughter, we spotted some beautiful looking salmon steaks in the meat market case. M suggested that we buy a few steaks to grill for dinner. We also picked up some squash, (to make our Autumn Squash and Apple Bake) salad fixings, and potatoes.
I’m happy to say that we had the perfect fall grilling weather. For the marinade, I use Marzetti’s brand Italian salad dressing because it has a little sugar in it. This caramelizes during the grilling process and gives the salmon a great texture.
We enjoyed a lovely Sunday evening meal together and all agreed that we should add more fish to future dinner menus.

Marinated Salmon Steaks

3/4 cup Marzetti’s Sweet Italian Dressing
4 salmon steaks, about 1-1/2 inches thick (about 2-1/2 lbs.)

Add salmon and marinade to large, shallow non-aluminum baking dish or plastic bag; turn to coat. Cover, or close bag, and marinate in refrigerator, turning occasionally, up to 30 minutes.
Remove salmon, discarding marinade. Grill or broil salmon, turning once, cook until salmon flakes with a fork (about 3-5 minutes per side on high heat).image

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Posted in Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Food, Main Dish

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast Casserole

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Not far from our home, there is a Pepperidge Farm Outlet that we often visit when going to a nearby mall. One of the items I usually stock up on is the cinnamon raisin bread that is always marked down to a reasonable price. I bring the loaves home and tuck them in the freezer for lots of different recipes.
This is a tasty casserole that takes minutes to put together. It’s such a treat to put a big pan of French toast in the oven rather than standing in front of the stovetop making slices in small batches. This makes for more time to enjoy early morning conversation with the family while savoring the awesome combination of cinnamon, raisin, pecans and maple syrup with a piping hot cup of coffee. I often make this the night before serving so that when I wake up there is no prep time and the casserole is ready when the rest of the crew wakes up.

Cinnamon Raisin Baked French Toast Casserole

5 cups cinnamon raisin bread, cubed
3 cups milk
6 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons softened butter, cut into cubes
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray with cooking spray a 13×9″ baking pan. Pour bread cubes into the prepared pan. Beat milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and almond extract together in a bowl until evenly mixed; pour mixture over bread cubes. Set aside for bread to absorb liquid, about 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and pecans. Evenly arrange butter cubes on top of casserole. Bake until golden, about 50 to 55 minutes.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Food, lunch box

Honey and Oats Bread

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Several years ago, on one of my weekly visits to Goodwill, I found a brand new Williams-Sonoma Bread Machine on one of the shelves. I was delighted because I had given my old (smaller) bread machine to my brother-in-law when my kids were little.
The William Sonoma machine makes a really large loaf , has some attractive settings, and is a quality machine. I make my share of breads and scones by hand, but there is nothing like throwing all of the ingredients into the pan before going to bed and waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread.
This recipe is one of our favorites. You can use white bread flour or wheat flour…I was low on wheat flour this week so I mixed white and wheat. My kids load it up with crunchy peanut butter and homemade jam. This makes a hefty loaf that is sure to please.

Honey and Oats Bread

1 cup water, mild temp.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Place ingredients in the bread pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Select the basic or light crust setting, press start.

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Posted in Baked goods, Food, Kids in the Kitchen, Main Dish

Our Favorite Pat Mac

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One of our favorite relatives is our cousin Patrick. Whenever there is a family gathering, he brings two signature dishes along with him…Baked Polish Sausage and Pat Mac ( his recipe for creamy macaroni and cheese). It took me a long time to convince him to share this recipe with me but he finally broke down and let me have it several months ago. Early Monday morning, before heading out of town for a work conference, I assembled a pan of Pat Mac for the family to share while I was away. While Patrick’s dish always tastes better than mine, I still try my hand at it when the temperatures drop and the weather turns cool. Fall is the perfect time to make a big pan of Pat Mac!

Our Favorite Pat Mac (Patrick’s Macaroni and Cheese)

1 package (16 oz) of Creamette Elbow Macaroni
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups milk
2 cups Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
2 cups Vermont Sharp Cracker Barrel Cheese, shredded
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

Cook pasta according to directions. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt margarine, stir in flour, dry mustard and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook until mixture thickens slightly and bubbles. Remove from heat, Add 2 cups of cheese and stir until melted. Stir in half of the crushed Ritz crackers.
In a large bowl, combine sauce with pasta. Spoon into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Top with remaining cheddar cheese and Ritz crackers. Bake 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Posted in Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Food

Old Fashioned Baked Oatmeal

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As the weather turns from hot and humid to cloudy and cool, this recipe for Old Fashioned Baked Oatmeal really hits the spot. I bake a tray of it so that it is ready to eat for a quick fall breakfast before leaving for work or school. M often puts it in a bowl with a little warm milk to eat like a breakfast cereal, while others take a scoop or cut a square to eat it with a side of yogurt or a cup of coffee. Which ever way you may prefer to eat this breakfast staple, it surely won’t disappoint. This is a tasty mixture of cinnamon, oats, cranberries, and vanilla…yummy!

Old Fashioned Baked Oatmeal

3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Beat in milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Stir in dried cranberries and pecans. Spread into a 9×13″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. While cooling, Cover with aluminum foil to lock in moisture.

Posted in Food, Gardening, side dishes

Autumn Squash and Apple Bake

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This picture doesn’t do justice to the sweet, flavorful taste of this side dish. Cubed butternut squash and apples with a sprinkling of dried cranberries make this perfect for any fall feast.
Yesterday, I drove to a local orchard to pick up some fruits and vegetables for the week. As I got closer to the orchard, the traffic got heavy and came to a stand still. I thought that there might have been an accident but as my car crawled closer to my destination, I realized the back up was due to the amount of visitors headed to the orchard. As much as I would have liked to go in and get my produce, I had to drive on by because there wasn’t a parking space to be had in both of their spacious parking lots. While I was sad to have missed a visit, I was really happy for the orchard owners to have such a booming business! I think I will try to make my way back during the week when traffic is a little less hectic.
Meanwhile, I drove further down the road to pick up some butternut squash and apples to make a great new side dish that I recently discovered. This is sweet, tender, and nutritious. I added a few pecans for a bit of added crunch.

Autumn Squash and Apple Bake

1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 package butternut squash, cubed. (found in the produce section)
1 medium apple, cubed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 11×13″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Combine margarine with all ingredients and pour into prepared baking dish. Season with salt, if desired. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until squash is tender.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Food, Gardening, Salad, salads, Sauces

Old Fashioned Thousand Island Dressing

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When we lived in Chicago, there was a local neighborhood restaurant that served the most delicious salad with greens, cucumbers, chicken breast, croutons and thousand island dressing. Every Sunday we would treat ourselves to their delightful salad along with one of their tasty pizzas.
When I tried to duplicate the salad at home, bottled thousand island dressing just didn’t make the grade. In those days, the Internet was not as extensive as it is now so I scoured my collection of cookbooks for a basic dressing recipe. My old Betty Crocker Cookbook (fifth printing,1988) had the perfect recipe because I had all of the ingredients on hand and could make the dressing with little effort. While I have altered the original recipe a bit, this Old Fashioned Thousand Island Dressing recipe has become a favorite in my house.

Old Fashioned Thousand Island Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon finely chopped onion
1 hard boiled egg, chopped

Mix all ingredients; cover and refrigerate before serving.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Food, Gardening, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box

Chewy Oat and Jam Cookie Bars

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What to do with all of this delicious homemade jam? …Make Oat and Jam cookie bars!
Last week, we canned loads of Concord grapes and tucked the jars away for a year’s worth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Thumbprint Cookies, and Chewy Oat and Jam Cookie Bars. Yesterday, I made a small pan of the delicious bars and they were gone in a flash. As we start the new school week, I am going to double the recipe, individually wrap the bars, and tuck them in the fridge so they can easily be packed in the lunchbox.
Starting this week, my children will be adding a morning swim practice to their already long school day so they will leave before 5:30 am and won’t return until after 6:00 pm. This means packing breakfast, lunch, and after-school swim snack into the lunchbox. I usually stock the fridge and pantry with homemade peanut butter, lots of fruits and veggies, eggs, cheese, milk, whole grain bread, yogurt, snacks, and oat cereal so there is plenty to choose from. This recipe is quick and easy to assemble. Use any flavor jam to suit your family’s taste. M has suggested we make a peanut butter glaze to spread over the warm bars…haven’t tried it yet but sounds like a scrumptious idea!

Chewy Oat and Jam Cookie Bars

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2teaspoon baking soda
1/4teaspoon salt
1 cup Concord grape jam. (other flavors will work just as well)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8×8″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar, set aside. In a medium bowl, mix oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix dry ingredients in to the creamed mixture. Press 1 1/2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam over this layer. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam. Lightly sprinkle chopped pecans over the bars. Bake for 25-30 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Food, lunch box

The Perfect Poppy Seed Bread

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This is a family favorite! I have been making this quick bread recipe for years. Once the loaf is pulled out of the oven, the whole thing seems to disappear shortly thereafter. It’s an easy enough recipe…everything gets dumped into a bowl and popped into the oven rather quickly. I always keep an ample supply of poppy seeds in the pantry for when my kids are craving the scrumptious flavor of this delicious loaf.

The Perfect Poppy Seed Loaf

3 cups flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons butter extract

In a large bowl, combine first five ingredients. Add eggs, milk, oil, and extracts; mix well. Pour into two greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2″ loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely before serving.

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Posted in Canning, Food, Gardening, glazes, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box, Toppings

Homemade Concord Grape Jam

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We have had a very successful grape growing season and have spent most of the holiday weekend making homemade Concord grape jam.
When our children were little, we used to pick produce like strawberries, blueberries, and apples together and then can the fruit as time allowed. Now that our days are a bit busier, it seems we have little time to do some of the things we so enjoyed years ago.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, our grape vines were bursting with beautiful ripe Concord grapes so we picked them all to prepare them for canning. M was a real trooper and helped me pick and prepare the grapes on Saturday. While we still have quite a few more jars to process, we have adopted a system that seems to work quite well so we should have everything processed soon. I have made two separate recipes to satisfy different family tastes. One that is a traditional Concord Grape Jam recipe and the other is a tart Reduced Sugar Concord Grape Spread that M seems to enjoy. I will post both for those that might be interested. These recipes are found on the Sure-Jel package and are tested as safe by Sure-Jel. Always use a reputable source (USDA, Ball, Sure-Jel, etc.) for recipes and follow strict food safety guidelines when home canning.

Homemade Concord Grape Jam

5-6 cups fresh grape juice (about 3 1/2 pounds of Concord grapes)
1 box of Sure-Jel pectin
7 cups sugar

First make the grape juice by washing 3 1/2 pounds of fresh Concord grapes.

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Mash grapes with a potato masher to break open the grape skins.

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Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 10 minutes. The cooking time starts only after the mixture has come to a boil.

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Strain to squeeze out all the juice with a sieve.

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In a large pan, put 5 cups of the juice. Add the fruit pectin to the juice; mix well. On high heat, bring to a full rolling boil, and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar all at once, and bring back to a full rolling boil, again boil hard for 1 minute stirring constantly. At this time, you can add 1 or 2 teaspoons of butter to help keep the foam down.

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Remove from heat, skim off foam and pour into hot jars; put on hot lids.
Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes.

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Reduced Sugar Concord Grape Spread

5 cups Concord Grape Juice
1 box of Ball (No Sugar or Reduced Sugar) pectin
1 cup sugar

Follow the directions as listed above. This makes a very tart, but slightly sweet version of Concord Grape jelly. You will notice that it is more of a spread than a jelly because of the reduced sugar content.

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