Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Mushroom Lasagna to Wow Family and Friends

This Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Lasagna is a family favorite.  I make it once a year for our Christmas dinner because it is just that special.  Family members actually ask specifically about whether this lasagna will be on the holiday dinner menu.  They would be very disappointed to hear it is not.  That's why I'm surprised I haven't shared it with you before now.  


Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Lasagna

Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Lasagna
Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Lasagna

Add this mushroom lasagna to your repertoire and standby for the raves.  You will be a lasagna hero.  It freezes well, so you can make the mushroom lasagna ahead of time to dazzle your family and friends with mushroom yumminess.

Friday, November 29, 2019

How to Make a Perfect Bacon and Eggs Breakfast


In my opinion, the best breakfast consists of two perfectly fried eggs, crispy bacon, and toast made with a hearty bread.

It is the breakfast you want when you have time to relax around the kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee or two.

The Best Bacon and Eggs for Breakfast

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Fried Eggs, Crisp Bacon, Buttered Toast
How to Cook Bacon and Eggs

My technique was learned from my mom, by watching her make our family's breakfast over and over again, year after year.  Cooking eggs in bacon fat is easy and takes just a little practice to perfect.

Perfect Bacon and Eggs
All you really need for a great bacon and eggs breakfast is a good nonstick skillet and a good toaster. If you want to make your own bread for toast, a bread machine like mine will make that easy as can be.

The best breakfast ingredients
Three Ingredients for a Great Breakfast

  • A loaf of your favorite bread
  • Extra-large eggs, because you want a generous yolk.
  • Your favorite bacon


Fry Your Bacon in a Skillet

There are lots of ways to make bacon and I have tried them all, but I always come back to frying my bacon on the stovetop or in an electric frying pan. Frying your bacon in a skillet on top of your stove makes it easy for you to collect the bacon fat.  The bacon fat is what makes these eggs so yummy.

I usually choose the stovetop.  Let the bacon sit out on the counter to warm up for 10-15 minutes before trying to separate the slices. The bacon will pull apart more easily when it is a little warm.

Using a large skillet, place the slices of bacon in the pan over medium-high heat.  You don't want to crowd the bacon slices.

Frying Bacon in a Nonstick Skillet
Fry the Bacon until Crisp

Reduce the Heat as the Bacon Starts to Sizzle 

If your bacon is spattering all over, the heat is too high.  Cook your bacon, turning it every couple of minutes until it reaches the crispiness you desire. 
 
Drain the bacon on a plate layered with paper towels.  

Crisp Bacon
Nice, Crisp Bacon

Use Bacon Fat to Fry Your Eggs

Once all the bacon is cooked, turn your heat down to medium-low.  Don't drain the bacon fat.  You are going to use it all to fry your eggs.

Keep a small bowl of bacon fat in your refrigerator to be sure you have enough bacon fat to fry the eggs.  You want about 1/4 inch of fat in the pan.

Use a slotted spatula to remove the eggs from the pan and then blot each egg with a paper towel before putting it on the plate.  That way very little of the fat is actually served with the eggs.

The Temperature of the Fat is Important  

You want the bacon fat to be hot, but not so hot that the egg sizzles and crisps up around the edges.  I mean, I don't want my egg that way, but it's OK if you do.  Make your eggs how you want them.  That's the beauty of cooking at home.

Frying Eggs
Eggs Getting Happy

Use Hearty Bread for Toast

You'll want your toast to be in the slots of your toaster, ready to start toasting as soon as the eggs go into the frying pan.  The eggs should take about three minutes from pan to plate.

That means you will want to start the toast as soon as you crack the eggs into the pan.  The timing needs to be right if you want your toast hot, with the butter melting into its crunchy top.

Use a hearty bread for the toast. My homemade honey-oat bread toast is perfect, but any good, store-bought brand will work as well.  The toast is important to this breakfast, so buy the tastiest loaf you can find.

Toasting Bread in a Cuisinart Toaster
The Toast is Ready to Go

Baste Your Eggs with Bacon Fat

Crack the eggs into the pan and start the toast in the toaster.  Let the eggs begin to cook for about 30-45 seconds.  Then using a large spoon, start to baste the eggs with the bacon fat by scooping the fat over the tops of the eggs.

You are not going to flip these eggs.  The hot fat is going to cook the top of the eggs.  Be careful while spooning the fat over the eggs.  That bacon fat is hot!

After about three minutes the eggs should look done, the whites will be firm and the yolk will look partially cooked.

Fry eggs in bacon fat
Scoop the Fat over the Tops of the Eggs
Blot the Eggs Before Serving
Using a slotted spatula, carefully lift each egg from the pan.  Holding a folded paper towel in your left hand (if you are a righty) blot the underside of the spatula to absorb any dripping fat and lightly blot the top of the egg.

Place the eggs on the plate, sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add the buttered toast and bacon...and enjoy.

The best bacon and egg breakfast.
The Perfect Breakfast
Yes, it is the perfect bacon and egg breakfast.  Yum!

Want more bacon and egg breakfast ideas?  Try this recipe for spiced bacon.

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Perfect Bacon and Eggs Breakfast


Enjoy!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Caramelized Onion Dip-The Only Dip You will Ever Need

This is the entertaining season.  Are you ready? Whether it is holiday gatherings with your family or football parties to watch your favorite team, you'll be needing a go-to dip for a satisfying appetizer or snack.  I've been making this caramelized onion dip for years and it is the hands-down favorite of all my dips. I try to keep it on hand in my fridge all the time.

Best Caramelized Onion Dip 

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Caramelized Onion Dip
Caramelized Onion Dip

I swear to you that if you bring this dip to a party it will be the first to go and you will be asked to bring it to every party you attend from now to eternity.  It's a good thing this is a pretty easy dip to make.  The only real effort is in making the caramelized onions and that's because it takes a little time to get proper caramelization.  You don't want to rush it.  It takes about 45 minutes for the onions to develop their sugars and to reach a brown, yummy color.  
Caramelized Onion Dip

If you make the full recipe you will have enough for a big party or enough to serve now and freeze for later.  Yes, you can freeze this dip.  I do it all the time, so I always have a dip ready to go during this busy time of year.  

Don't make this dip the day you will be serving it.  Trust me on this.  Caramelized onion dip gets better as it sits in your fridge.  You definitely want to make it the day before you need it.  Three days before you need it will be even better!  You also might want to skip the cayenne pepper.  Don't do that either!

Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onions
Caramelized Onions
Printer Friendly Recipe
Ingredients

  • 4 large yellow onions, halved and sliced
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter and 2 Tablespoons olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise

Directions
Cut onions in half and slice thinly.  Heat butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.   Add onions, cayenne, salt & pepper and saute for 10 minutes, until softened and translucent. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the onions, stirring occasionally for 20-40 minutes more, until the onions are deeply browned and caramelized.   Chop the onions with the back of your spoon when you stir them.  Don't rush the cooking.  Cool the onions completely.

Beat cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise together until smooth.   Add the cooled onion mixture to the cream cheese mixture and mix well.

Chill for a couple hours, or overnight prior to serving.   This dip gets better after sitting in the refrigerator, so make it a day, or more, ahead of when you will serve it.  Serve with potato chips, crackers or toasted French bread slices.


Caramelized Onion Dip Ready to Enjoy
Serve Caramelized Onion Dip with Your Favorite Crackers



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Enjoy!


Monday, November 18, 2019

Sweet and Tart Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Cranberry bread is a delightful alternative to muffins this time of year.  It's cranberry season so there is no better time to make this bread.  Make an extra loaf or two for your freezer.  One loaf just won't be enough.  The combination of sweet and tart flavors make this a favorite of mine. The addition of orange and nuts makes the aroma divine while adding a healthy twist.  Each slice of this cranberry bread has 228 calories.


Cranberry Orange Quick Bread for Breakfast or Snacks

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Cranberry Bread for Breakfast


This cranberry bread recipe is a tradition in my family.  This recipe comes to you via my mom who always had a platter of various quick breads ready for us for holiday breakfasts.  This is a festive way to keep the family satisfied on those mornings when you may be too busy for a big breakfast.  Make a loaf or two now and pop them in the freezer for Christmas morning.  Yum!
Cranberry Quick Bread

This cranberry bread really is quick to make.  I make this entirely by hand, without the assistance of any electric kitchen gadgets.  A pastry blender makes the process of cutting in the vegetable shortening a breeze.  The technique is simple as well.  Just combine the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients all at once and fold in the nuts and berries.  One..two...three...let's make it!


Cranberry Bread

Printer Friendly Recipe
Cranberry Quick Bread
Serves 12
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, walnuts or pistachios
  • Raw or sparkling sugar, for topping, optional
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a standard loaf pan.  In a medium bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir with a whisk to combine well.  Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

A Pastry Blender Works Great
Zest the orange and squeeze the juice. Take a deep breath as you zest that orange.  The scent of the orange will brighten your day as well as add flavor to this yummy bread.  Measure the juice in a measuring cup.  Depending on the juiciness of your orange, you may need to add more juice to get 3/4 cups.   Add the zest and the egg to the juice and mix to combine.  Add the juice mixture to the dry mixture all at once and stir just to combine.

Add the cranberries and nuts to the mixture all at once.  Using a spatula, fold in the nuts and cranberries to distribute.  Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan.  Sprinkle with raw or sparkling sugar, if you desire.

The Sugar Makes a Crunchy Topping

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely before serving.

Are you looking for some other morning pastry suggestions?
Pumpkin Bread and Pumpkin Muffins
Morning Glory Muffins
Pumpkin Scones
Cran-apple Muffins

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Family Friendly Shepherd's Pie

Every few months I make a point to dive into my freezer to see what items may have been overlooked for too long.  Sometimes I go overboard when I stock up on meats and vegetables and as a result, I may not use them as quickly as I thought I would in my menu planning.

If that is true for you as well, you may want to take a look into the black hole of your freezer and plan some meals to use up those overlooked ingredients.

I found a couple of pounds of ground beef and an open, one pound bag of corn kernels in my freezer.  Those two ingredients called out to me loudly and clearly.  Yes, they told me it was time to make Shepherd's Pie.  Shepherd's Pie is a family-friendly meal that can be made for a few or many.

Rustic Shepherd's Pie for Dinner

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Rustic Shepherd's Pie for Dinner

Shepherd's pie is a meal that I have always prepared without a recipe.  My version is a simple dish, consisting of a layer of flavored browned ground beef, topped with a layer of corn kernels and
crowned with a layer of tasty mashed potatoes.

Since I wanted to share my version with all of you, I decided to check out other shepherd's pie recipes online.  What I found out is that the dish I have called shepherd's pie all my life is actually referred to as cottage pie because it is made with beef.  Shepherd's pie is traditionally made with lamb.  That may be true, but I'll continue to call my recipe Shepherd's Pie.

I also found that there are nearly as many versions of shepherd's pie as there are home cooks. So, I hope if you decide to make Shepherd's (or cottage) Pie for your family you will adapt this recipe to your family's tastes.  If you do, it is sure to become a family favorite.
Family Friendly Shepherd's Pie

Donna's Shepherd's Pie

Serves 4-6
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 pound bag frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions
Place the potatoes in a medium pot, covered with water.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the potatoes until a fork is easily inserted into the potatoes, about 10-15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, cooking until they start to take on a little color.  Add the minced garlic to the onions, cooking for about one minute.

Add the ground beef to the pan, breaking up the clumps of beef.  Season the beef with salt and pepper, starting with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.   Continue to cook until the beef is nicely browned.

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour over the beef, stirring to distribute the flour.  Cook for about 1 minute.

Add the water, stirring to make a sauce.  Cook the mixture until you see the sauce begin to thicken, about 2-3 minutes.

Taste the mixture again and add the rest of the salt and pepper as needed.  Cover the pan and turn off the heat.

The Saucy Beef Layer
Thicken with Flour and Make A Sauce
Drain the potatoes.  Add the butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper.

Mash the potatoes and additional ingredients together until smooth and fluffy.  I like to start my mashed potatoes with this potato masher and finish with my hand mixer.

Taste the potatoes and add salt and pepper as needed.

Making Mashed Potatoes
Mash the Potatoes
Spoon the beef mixture into a casserole dish, spreading to cover the bottom of the pan evenly.

The Ground Beef Makes the First Layer
The Seasoned Beef Layer
Pour the corn over the beef layer, spreading to distribute evenly.

Top the corn layer with the mashed potatoes, being sure to spread the potatoes to the edges of the pan.  This will seal the moisture from the beef and corn layers under the potatoes.

At this point, you may cover and refrigerate or freeze the Shepherd's Pie.

The Corn Layer
The Sweet Corn Layer
About an hour before serving, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and remove the Shepherd's Pie from the refrigerator.  Place the casserole dish on the center rack of the preheated oven.

Mashed Potatoes Top the Shepherd's Pie
Oven Ready Shepherd's Pie
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned and the center of the casserole is bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Serve with a crisp salad or your favorite green vegetable.

Shepherd's Pie for Dinner
Shepherd's Pie for Dinner
Make this family-friendly meal for dinner tonight!

Essential Tools
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