Scrambled Egg Biscuit Bowls

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If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast idea, maybe even for Father’s Day, here’s a recipe I made with the Perfect Bacon Bowl. I received two complimentary bowls to try out and I read about them beforehand in this Good Housekeeping review. It … Continue reading

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Tennessee Cornbread Salad

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This Tennessee Cornbread Salad is a new favorite recipe of mine! I had heard of cornbread salad before, but never really thought about making it–after all, cornbread in a salad? I wasn’t sure what to think about that! Then Krusteaz sent … Continue reading

Sweet Italian Sausage and Pepper Pizza

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Last week I made a “New Tra-Dish” Recipe with Ragù® Old World Style® Traditional Pasta Sauce, called Fiesta Chili Mac. This week, I’m sharing my second “New Tra-Dish” tradish_logo_300x300Recipe–Sweet Italian Sausage and Pepper Pizza! I put my own spin on a Ragù recipe called Sausage & Peppers by making it into a pizza–two pizzas, in fact! In addition to the yummy sweet Italian sausage, bell peppers, and Ragù® Old World Style® Traditional Pasta Sauce, I added some chopped onion, Mozzarella Cheese, and used Italian bread shells for the crusts to keep the recipe quick and easy.

You’ll end up with two thick and gooey pizzas, oozing with lots of sauce and cheese. Because they’re so saucy and cheesy, they can be a little on the messy side when eating…so be sure to serve with lots of napkins! :)

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SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND PEPPER PIZZA by NancyCreative, adapted from Ragù Sausage & Peppers

Makes 2 (12″) pizzas, 6-8 servings each

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (19-ounce) package sweet Italian Sausage
  • 2 bell peppers-1 red, 1 green (or use 2 green or 2 red), chopped
  • 1 small to medium-size onion, chopped
  • 1 jar (1 lb. 8 oz.) Ragù® Old World Style® Traditional Pasta Sauce
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Mozzarella Cheese, divided
  • 2 (14-ounce) packages 12-inch Italian bread shells

Heat olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat (if oil is splattering too much, turn heat down a little lower) and cook sausage, turning occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes; remove sausage from pan, let cool slightly and cut into thin slices (about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick)–it’s easier to cut the sausage into slices after it has cooked a little. Sausage slices will still be pink in center, so return to skillet and cook a few minutes more, until sausage is fully cooked. Remove sausage slices from skillet and drain on paper towel.

With oil still in skillet, add chopped bell peppers and onion into it and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in pasta sauce and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until everything is heated through.

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Place Italian bread shells on pizza pans, pizza stones, or 1 very large baking sheet and top each with half of the pasta sauce/veggie mixture, spreading evenly over surfaces (keep sauce about 1″ from the edges of the bread shells so it won’t drip off while it’s baking). Top the sauce evenly with 1 1/2 cups of Mozzarella cheese on each pizza. Then arrange half of the sausage slices evenly over the cheese on each pizza, pressing slices slightly into the cheese and sauce toppings.

Bake pizzas at 375˚F for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool a few minutes, then cut with a pizza cutter and serve.

Note: the package directions on the Italian bread shells say to bake at 450˚F, but I baked these pizzas at a lower temp, 375˚F, so my sausage slices wouldn’t get too overly cooked.

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Your pizzas will look like the one on the left going into the oven, and the one on the right coming out of the oven…all nice and cheesy!

I love the slices of Sweet Italian Sausage in this pizza–it tastes so good with the rich, tomato flavor of the sauce and all that mozzarella cheese! It’s not surprising that the sauce has such a great tomato flavor–each jar of Ragù® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce is made with 11 juicy tomatoes making it its richest, thickest recipe!

You can find other great quick and easy recipes at Ragù and also at Facebook.com/RaguSauce. And visit http://www.RaguSweeps.com to enter the Ragù Better and Better Sweepstakes for a chance to win great Authentic Italian themed prizes and a grand prize trip to Venice for a family of four! No Purchase Necessary. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 years and older. ends 5/6/14). To enter and for Official Rules, including odds, alternate method of entry, and prize descriptions, visit http://www.RaguSweeps.com. Void where prohibited.

This post was sponsored by Ragù and Yummly, but the opinions expressed are mine.

Fiesta Chili Mac

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One of the things I enjoy most about cooking and baking is taking a recipe and “making it my own.” And that’s exactly what I was asked to do with a few recipes from Ragù! It was fun creating this tradish_logo_300x300“New Tra-Dish” Fiesta Chili Mac using Ragù® Old World Style® Traditional Pasta Sauce. Each jar of this pasta sauce is made with 11 juicy tomatoes, making it Ragù’s richest, thickest recipe.

I decided to put my own spin on Ragù’s Family Favorite Chili Mac–which you’ll find it on their site, along with other great tasting, quick and easy recipes. I decided to do a Fiesta-flavored version of it, adding in some onion and green bell pepper to the ground beef when it was almost done cooking. Then I mixed some cheddar cheese in with the meat mixture, pasta sauce, and macaroni to make it nice and cheesy. And of course you need Fiesta toppings, so I used a little more cheese, sour cream, green onion, and tomato to top this dish. I also used chopped fresh cilantro as a garnish, which is optional. Chopped or sliced black olives would be another great topping, also optional.

This turned out to be a very yummy and filling dish! It’s very cheesy, with lots of rich tomato taste from the Ragù pasta sauce. I really liked the addition of the extra veggies and toppings, too. If you like these Fiesta flavors, then I’m sure you and your family will really enjoy this!

FIESTA CHILI MAC by NancyCreative, adapted from Ragù’s Family Favorite Chili Mac

Makes 6 to 8 servings in a 9″ deep dish microwave-safe pie plate (or you can use an 8×8″ or 9×9″ square microwave-safe baking dish)

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 jar (1 lb. 8 oz.) Ragù® Old World Style® Traditional Pasta Sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/3 cup sour cream, plus a dollop for the top
  • 2 green onion stems, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped tomato
  • Optional: 2 to 3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, 2 Tablespoons chopped or sliced black olives

Grease or spray a 9″ deep dish microwave-safe pie plate (or similar-sized microwave-safe baking dish, like a square 8×8″ or 9×9″ dish); set aside. Note: It helps if you have all your veggies chopped before you begin cooking! You can cook your macaroni beforehand too, or  cook it while your ground beef is cooking.

Cook ground beef in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until almost done. Add chopped onion and green bell pepper and cook a few minutes longer until they are slightly tender and ground beef is done.

Stir in pasta sauce and chili powder. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover skillet, and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in cooked macaroni , blending ingredients well, then add in 1 cup of the shredded cheddar cheese, blending cheese evenly into the mixture.

Spoon this mixture into your greased 9″ deep dish pie plate (or similar-size baking dish), mounding up mixture toward the center (if you use an 8×8″ or 9×9″ baking dish, the mixture will be more level). Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese evenly over the mixture (leave the other 1/2 cup cheese for the garnish). It will look like this in a pie plate–quite a hefty mound!

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Microwave on HIGH for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until the cheese on top is thoroughly melted.

Remove from microwave and top center area of pie with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1/3 cup sour cream, chopped green onion, chopped cilantro (optional), chopped tomato, and chopped or sliced olives (optional). Add an extra dollop of sour cream in the center, then serve. Note: You’ll want to add your toppings quickly so you can serve this dish while it’s nice and hot!

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When serving, if you’ve used a pie plate, you can cut “slices” as if you were cutting a pie, but as you can see, the “slices” probably won’t hold their shape on your plates–since it tastes so good though, I don’t think anyone will mind! :) If you make this in a square baking dish, you can cut into squares and serve or just spoon out with a large serving spoon.

You can find more quick and easy recipe ideas from Ragù at Facebook.com/RaguSauce. And visit http://www.RaguSweeps.com to enter the Ragù Better and Better Sweepstakes for a chance to win great Authentic Italian themed prizes and a grand prize trip to Venice for a family of four! No Purchase Necessary. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 years and older. ends 5/6/14). To enter and for Official Rules, including odds, alternate method of entry, and prize descriptions, visit http://www.RaguSweeps.com. Void where prohibited.

This post was sponsored by Ragù and Yummly, but the opinions expressed are mine.

Linked to Foodie Friday.

Easy Pantry Minestrone from Weight Watchers What To Cook Now-and a Giveaway!

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51NVSI2WbxLLike so many people I know, I’m trying to eat a little healthier during this new year. So when I heard about the new cookbook, Weight Watchers What To Cook Now, I was definitely interested in reviewing it! Not only did I receive a review copy, the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, is also providing a giveaway copy! I’ll tell you a little about the book and share a recipe from it with you, and then be sure to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment–see the end of this post for details on how to win!

This cookbook has more than 300 new recipes and lots of color photos. There’s a wonderful variety of great-sounding recipes to choose from–meals and desserts that your whole family can enjoy. And they look easy to prepare, too. All recipes include nutritional information and the Weight Watcher PointsPlus® values so those of you in Weight Watchers can easily keep track of your points. Even if you’re not in Weight Watches, though, I’m sure these recipes would appeal to any of you who are wanting to eat lighter and healthier.

The book starts out with tips and helpful information on good nutrition, the well-stocked pantry, must-have kitchen tools, food safety, and choosing and preparing fresh fruits and veggies. Then you’ll find recipes organized in the following chapters: Breakfasts and Brunches; Lunches; Appetizers and Snacks; Main Dishes–Beef, Pork, and Lamb; Main Dishes–Poultry; Main Dishes–Seafood; Main Dishes-Vegetarian; 20-Minute Main Dishes; Side Dishes; and Sweets. So there’s lots to choose from! Here are some recipes I’d like to try…

  • Coconut-Almond French Toast with Tropical Fruit
  • Asian Burgers with Honey-Lime Slaw
  • Spinach and Endive Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette
  • Italian Beef and Mushroom Meat Loaf
  • Brown Sugar-Dijon Glazed Ham with Sweet Potatoes
  • Maple-Glazed Grilled Chicken
  • Pan-seared Tuna with Citrus-Avocado Salsa
  • Warm Mozzarella and Tomato Flatbreads
  • Gingery Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
  • Garlicky Spinach and Fontina Pizza
  • Chocolate Brownie Ice-Cream Sandwiches

For this post, I decided to try the Easy Pantry Minestrone from the Vegetarian section, since I had been wanting to make minestrone this winter. It’s a good, healthy soup with lots of veggies (carrots, onion, celery, zucchini), red beans, and chickpeas. Dried basil also flavors the soup, and you serve it with a teaspoon-size dollop of pre-made refrigerated pesto which also adds nicely to the flavor!

EASY PANTRY MINESTRONE from Weight Watchers What To Cook Now

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup whole wheat macaroni or other small pasta (uncooked)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons refrigerated basil pesto

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds.

Add broth, kidney beans, chickpeas, macaroni, and basil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and zucchini and simmer until pasta and vegetables are very tender, 10 minutes longer. Ladle into bowls and top each with 1 teaspoon pesto.

PER SERVING (1 bowl): 307 Cal, 6 g Total Fat, Og Trans Fat, 1 mg Chol, 876 mg Sod, 53 g Carb, 10 g Fib, 14 g Prot, 120 mg Calc.

PointsPlus value: 8

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I really like the dollop of pesto–it gives the soup an extra little zing of flavor when you stir it in!

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THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Congratulations to commentor #8, Aline, for winning the book!

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of Weight Watchers What To Cook Now, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Wednesday, January 22, at 10 p.m. (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Thursday evening, January 23. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite healthy dish is!

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

Note: If your comment doesn’t show up right away, it just means I need to click on it to approve it before it’s visible–I do this because of spam comments that sometimes come through!

Lentil Soup with Bacon

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It was such a cold, cold, cold, cold day, and I just had to make some soup! Lentil soup sounded good and I already had lentils. I found a soup recipe at MarthaStewart.com that not only had lentils, but bacon, too–and that sounded really good!

I used turkey bacon in this, and I used a larger amount. And I added extra onions because I love onions. Since I like my soups thicker, I also added less water–I guess you could even call it a stew because it’s thick and chunky! If you prefer to keep this vegetarian, just omit the bacon–it’s still a very good basic lentil soup recipe! I like the little punch of flavor that the red wine vinegar gives this soup, which is added at the end of cooking, along with some salt and pepper. This soup is just what you need to help you warm up on a super cold winter day like today!

LENTIL SOUP WITH BACON by NancyCreative, adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Makes 4 servings

  • 6 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used turkey bacon)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4″ half-moons
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth (3 1/2 cups) or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water (if you want a thinner soup, use 2 cups of water)
  • 1 Tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a Dutch oven or other 5-quart pot with lid, cook bacon over medium-low heat until browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes (turkey bacon may need less time). Pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of the fat (if you use turkey bacon like I did, you won’t have much fat, so just add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to your cooking pot).

Add onion and carrots; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cooking about 30 seconds, then stir in the tomato paste and cook 1 minute.

Add lentils, thyme, broth, and water. Bring to a boil; lower heat and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.

Stir in vinegar, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.

Thick, chunky soups are a favorite cold-weather meal of mine! What do you like to eat when it’s really cold outside?

Sourdough-Sage Dressing

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I’ve just recently discovered how much I like making recipes with fresh sage! After making some White Cheddar and Sage Biscuits, I was wanting to try something else with fresh sage. While I was looking through recipes, I also found out, conveniently, that my friend Denise had a big patch of sage growing in her garden and she was willing to share it! She said her plant is very hearty and stays alive through the winter. So, here’s what I came up with…Sourdough-Sage Dressing…because I thought sourdough bread would be a great combination with  sage, onion, and celery.  There’s also fresh parsley in this–I have parsley growing in a pot and it’s great to always have it on hand! This dressing is very buttery and savory…so if you like that type of thing, you really must try this!

I also learned something new when I was deciding what to name this recipe. I wasn’t sure if I should call it dressing or stuffing, because I didn’t know what the difference was. Well, I found the answer at eHow.com–dressing and stuffing differ in these ways:

Preparation: The key difference between dressing and stuffing is the method of preparation. Dressing can be prepared separately from the bird on the stove top, either from scratch or a store-bought mix. Stuffing, however, is made by stuffing the mixture into the cavity of the bird and cooking them in the oven together. 

Time: Another difference between stuffing and dressing is in the time needed to prepare it. Stuffing inside the bird must be cooked as long as the bird needs to cook, and also increases the cooking time of the bird. Dressing can be made quickly on the stove top or in the oven; either way it will take less time than stuffing.

Flavor: Stuffing made inside the bird can pick up flavors from the bird and impart flavors to the bird. This may be desirable or undesirable depending on the method of preparing the bird. The flavor of dressing depends solely on its ingredients.

So this recipe is definitely dressing. Consider yourself informed on the dressing/stuffing question! :)

SOURDOUGH-SAGE DRESSING by NancyCreative

Makes a 9 x 13″ pan, about 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 loaf sourdough bread (my loaf was 1 lb. 4 oz. and I did not use the end slices), with slices cut into 1″ pieces (or you can cut them smaller if you want)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 4 to 5 Tablespoons fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped (or use 4 teaspoons dried parsley)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth (this dressing can be a little on the dry side in some places, so if you like your dressing more moist, add an extra 1/4 to 1/3 cup chicken broth).

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spread out pieces of bread onto a large baking sheet and let dry out at least 6 hours or overnight.

In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat, then add olive oil and stir to blend well. Saute onion and celery in this mixture until tender.

In large bowl, mix together bread pieces, onion-celery mixture, sage, parsley, salt, and pepper (and garlic powder, if using), tossing to coat all the bread pieces. Spoon this mixture into a 9 x 13″ pan and pour chicken broth evenly over entire mixture. Cover with foil and bake at 350˚F for 30 minutes, uncovering the last 10 minutes of baking time. Serve immediately.

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This would be a great Thanksgiving side dish, if you’re still looking for ideas! Are you making dressing or stuffing for your Thanksgiving meal?

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

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We’ve had several weeks of chilly weather, and I’ve been making more soup! This time I decided to try Pumpkin Black Bean Soup. I adapted my recipe from one I found at Taste of Home. It’s a savory-flavored soup that tastes a little like chili. So if you like chili and black bean soup, I’m sure you’ll like this! In addition to the pumpkin puree, which gives the soup a nice creamy consistency even though you don’t really taste the pumpkin much, other healthy ingredients include diced tomatoes, onions, and garlic.

PUMPKIN BLACK BEAN SOUP  by NancyCreative, adapted from Taste of Home

Makes about 8 servings (2 quarts)

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I used Bragg’s)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Optional: dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • For garnish: 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Place beans and tomatoes in a food processor; cover and process until blended. Set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute onions in oil until tender. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Stir in the broth, pumpkin, vinegar, and bean mixture, blending well. Add cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, and, if desired, salt and pepper to taste.

Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish each serving with plain Greek yogurt and sliced green onions. Each 1 cup serving is about 240 calories.

I never seem to get tired of making and eating soup, and it’s fun to try different recipes! Have you made any soups using pumpkin as an ingredient?

Heirloom Tomato Soup

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I like eating soup in the cooler weather–it’s great having a hot bowl of soup on a cold rainy or snowy day, isn’t it? I have several new soup recipes friends have given me that I’ll be trying out. Julie, who is a wonderful cook and baker, shared this tomato soup recipe with me from the August/September 2012 Issue of Healthy Cooking. It’s also posted at Taste of Home.

This is a wonderfully thick, creamy soup–and the great thing is, it doesn’t have any cream in it, unless you choose to drizzle it with some cream before serving. It’s the veggies and seasonings that make it thick and creamy, because you blend or process the soup before serving. In addition to tomatoes, this soup also has onion, olive oil, garlic, carrot, corn, sea salt, and basil in it, so it’s very healthy! It also has chicken stock, but you could use vegetable stock if you want to make this vegetarian.

The original recipe makes 20 servings, so I halved the recipe, since I didn’t need to make that much soup! Julie uses less onion when she makes this, so if you’re not crazy about onion, you can do that too. I actually used a little more onion and basil in my version. Thanks for sharing this recipe, Julie! :)

HEIRLOOM TOMATO SOUP slightly adapted from Healthy Cooking

Makes 10 servings (about 2 1/2 quarts)

  • 1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 medium heirloom tomatoes, quartered (about 4 lbs.)
  • 1 medium size carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn (or use frozen corn, thawed)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 3/4 cups chicken broth (regular or reduced-sodium–or substitute vegetable broth)
  • optional: 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream to drizzle for garnish

In a large stockpot, saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the tomatoes, carrot, corn, basil, and salt. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are softened, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

In a food processor or blender, process soup in batches (to be safe, just fill your blender or processor about half full–if you overfill, the hot soup could overflow and possibly burn you). As you are processing the soup, you’ll need another bowl or container to put the processed soup in. When finished processing, return all the processed soup to your pot and heat through.

To serve, ladle into bowls and drizzle each serving with about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon heavy whipping cream if desired. Each serving is approximately 75 calories.

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Serving your soup in a teacup is a fun idea–especially if you love vintage teacups like I do!

I also love all kinds of soups, but tomato is one of my favorites! What’s yours?

Cucumber, Tomato, and Onion Salad

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If you have a vegetable garden, you may may have planted some cucumbers and tomatoes. And throughout the summer, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with quite a bit of these because they seem to grow so well in gardens! Here’s a recipe you can use your cukes and tomatoes in…it’s a quick and easy salad with a lightly tangy apple cider vinegar/olive oil dressing. I like this salad because the taste of the dressing is very light and complements the natural flavor of the cucumbers and tomatoes. I found it at Foodnetwork.com–I used grape tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes and added a little extra sliced onion. I also added a bit more apple cider vinegar for just a slightly tangier taste. If you have large tomatoes, you can cut them into chunks about the size of a cherry tomato.

CUCUMBER, TOMATO, AND ONION SALAD slightly adapted from Foodnetwork.com

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 pound cucumbers (about 2 medium), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups (1 pint) grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (or cut larger tomatoes into cherry tomato-size chunks)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 of a medium size sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss together the cucumbers, tomatoes, sliced onion, and parsley. Drizzle vinegar and olive oil over these ingredients, then add a few dashes of salt and pepper, and toss all ingredients again, coating everything well. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Let salad stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Do you have a summer vegetable garden? What kinds of veggies do you like to grow?

Bacon Double Cheeseburger Dip

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If you’re looking for a yummy dip to make for a party or get-together, you may want to try this one out! It’s not what you would call healthy, but there are some ways you can make it a little lighter, like using lean ground beef, or even substituting “veggie” ground beef (like Morning Star Farms® Grillers Recipe Crumbles). I found the recipe at Closet Cooking and made a few tiny changes, adding just a little more garlic and onion, which I’ve noted in the recipe. Just the name of this dip makes me hungry! :) You can serve it with tortilla chips (I like Tostitos Multigrain Scoops) or toasted or warmed baguette slices. You can also top the dip with fresh diced tomatoes, lettuce, and extra crumbled bacon if you want. This recipe makes 4-5 servings; if you’re making this for a larger group you should definitely double the recipe and make it in a 9×13″ pan!

BACON DOUBLE CHEESEBURGER DIP slightly adapted from Closet Cooking

Bake in a 9″ pie plate or square baking dish; double the recipe for a 9×13″ pan

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef 
  • 6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used turkey bacon)
  • 1 small to medium onion, diced (I used a medium-sized onion, since I like onion!)
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 2 cloves)
  • 4 ounces (light or regular) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (light or regular) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (light or regular) mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup
  • Tortilla chips or scoops, or a sliced baguette
  • Optional garnishes: shredded lettuce, diced fresh tomatoes, chopped dill pickles, cooked and crumbled bacon

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Cook the ground beef in a pan over medium heat; drain grease and remove ground beef from pan.

Next, cook the bacon in the pan until crispy, about 6 to 10 minutes. Drain all but 1 Tablespoon of the grease from the pan. Add the diced onion to this pan and saute in the Tablespoon of grease until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

In a large bowl (or in your pan, if it’s big enough) mix together the ground beef, bacon, onion, and garlic. Then add in the softened cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup, mixing everything together.

Pour into a pie plate or baking dish and bake at 350˚F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top starts turning light golden brown and sides are bubbling.

Garnish top of dip with shredded lettuce, diced fresh tomatoes, chopped dill pickles, and/or cooked and crumbled bacon.

Serve with toasted or heated baguette slices or tortilla chips or scoops.

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If you eat this dip on baguette slices, it’s kind of like having a bite-size cheeseburger! :)

I don’t have much willpower when it comes to these warm, cheesy dips! Do you have a favorite cheesy dip recipe?

Beef or Chicken Tex-Mex Soup (and a Meatless Version)

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I like eating soup in the cold winter months, and this is an easy soup recipe I came up with the other day. It’s a thick and chunky soup with ground beef, beans, and veggies in it, and you can make it without the beef, too, substituting chicken or more beans in  place of the meat. Jalapenos give the soup a little spiciness, along with the taco seasoning you mix in. Make it in a big pot and you’ll have enough soup to serve 6 to 8 people. Serve it with some bread or rolls–it makes a nice hot lunch or dinner on a cold day!

BEEF OR CHICKEN TEX-MEX SOUP by NancyCreative

  • 2 (14.5-oz.) cans diced tomatoes (regular or no salt)
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (1-ounce) packet taco seasoning
  • 1 lb. ground beef, cooked, crumbled, and drained of excess fat OR 1 lb. chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or cut into chunks (you could use leftover rotisserie chicken in this, too); if you want to make this meatless, substitute an extra can of pinto or kidney beans for the meat
  • 1 medium-size onion, diced
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (10 to 12-ounce) package frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup sliced jalapenos (from a can or jar, or fresh, with seeds removed)
  • sour cream for garnish (optional)
  • sliced green onion stems for garnish (optional)

In large stockpot, over medium heat, add diced tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, and taco seasoning, blending well. Add in cooked ground beef or chicken, diced onion, beans, corn, and jalapenos, stirring everything well. Turn heat high enough to heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately and garnish with sour cream and green onion slices if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Do you have a favorite winter soup you like making?

2012 Baked Bean Sandwich

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With Labor Day weekend coming up, you may be planning a picnic. And perhaps you’re going to make some baked beans for that picnic. If you happen to have any baked beans left over, you may want to make some Baked Bean Sandwiches. I had no idea there even was such a thing as a Baked Bean Sandwich until several months ago, when I posted a recipe for Honey–Molasses Baked Beans. A reader commented on how much her husband like baked bean sandwiches, so I decided to find out a little more about them. Did you know that recipes for baked bean sandwiches go as far back as 1909? There was a cookbook called “Cooking For Two” by Janet Mckenzie Hill that had this recipe:

1909 BAKED BEAN SANDWICH: Butter two slices of Boston Brown Bread; on one of these dispose a heart leaf of lettuce holding one teaspoon of salad dressing; above the dressing set a generous tablespoon of cold, baked beans, then another lettuce leaf and dressing; finish with a second slice of bread, a tablespoon of beans, a floweret of cauliflower, and a teaspoon of dressing over the cauliflower.

I also came across a recipe for a 1943 Baked Bean Sandwich:

1943 BAKED BEAN SANDWICH: 1 cup baked beans, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup chopped celery, 2 teaspoons minced onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon chopped pickle, 2 teaspoons catsup, buttered whole wheat bread…Combine all ingredients (except for the bread) and mix well. Spread on buttered bread.

And here’s a more recent recipe from the 1990’s that I modified slightly because the original directions weren’t that clear:

1990’s  BACON, EGG & BAKED BEAN OPEN-FACE SANDWICH: 1 hard-cooked egg, sliced, 1 strip of cooked and crumbled bacon, 1 lettuce leaf, chopped (optional), 1 cup baked beans, hot or cold, 1 slice of toast…Toast bread, then top with baked beans. Sprinkle chopped lettuce, if using, and crumbled bacon over baked beans, then top with slices of hard-cooked egg.

These are some of the fancier versions of baked bean sandwiches I’ve come across. Most people make them simply by putting some baked beans (warm or cold) between two slices of bread, and many prefer white sandwich bread, like the Wonder Bread variety.

But I came up with another version…I guess you could call this the 2012 Baked Bean Sandwich. If you like baked beans, I’m sure you’ll like this!

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2012 BAKED BEAN SANDWICH by NancyCreative

Makes 4 sandwiches

  • 4 hamburger buns or sandwich rolls (I used wheat rolls), or 8 slices of your favorite bread
  • 8 slices of cheddar or colby cheese
  • 2 cups baked beans (homemade or from a can)
  • 4 slices of sweet yellow onion, sliced as thick or thin as you want
  • 4 Tablespoons bacon pieces from a jar (or cook up 4 slices of bacon and crumble)
  • softened butter for spreading on bread
  • lettuce leaves and tomato slices (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spread softened butter lightly on bottom and top halves of 4 hamburger buns, rolls, or bread slices. Top each half with a slice of cheese. On the 4 bottom halves, over the cheese, add 1/2 cup baked beans, 1 slice of onion, and 1 Tablespoon bacon pieces or crumbled bacon.

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Place top and bottom halves or slices on a baking sheet and heat in oven at 300 degrees F for 5 minutes, or until cheese is slightly melted. Remove from oven.

Add lettuce leaves and tomato slices, if desired and place top half of sandwich over bottom half. Serve immediately and enjoy! NOTE: Eating this can get a little messy, so be sure to have some forks handy…you’ll probably start out eating these sandwiches with your hands, but you’ll need to finish them off with a fork since those beans tend to slide out of the sandwich! You could try mashing the beans a little so they’ll stay in the sandwich better.

Have you ever had a baked bean sandwich? What do you like to put on yours?

Honey-Molasses Baked Beans with Bacon and Onion

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There’s nothing like baked beans at a summer cookout! As much as I love baked beans, this was actually the first time I’ve ever made them (since opening a can of beans and reheating them doesn’t count :) ). About 5 years ago, maybe even longer, I found a recipe for baked beans in an issue of Everyday Food, and last week I pulled it out of a stack of saved recipes and decided it was finally time to try this out! I ended up changing it a little and thought the end result was super–good!

This is a great recipe because there’s no sugar in it–many baked bean recipes call for brown sugar, but these beans are sweetened with unsulfured molasses, which is healthier (I also added a little honey). I’m a fan of both onion and bacon, so I was happy to see that these ingredients were part of the recipe, too. I decided to use turkey bacon to keep the recipe as healthy as I could, and that worked out (and tasted) great! If you are vegetarian, these beans would also be good without bacon.

So here’s my version of the recipe! It makes about 6 servings.

HONEY-MOLASSES BAKED BEANS WITH BACON & ONION by NancyCreative, adapted from Everyday Food

  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses (you can use light or dark; I used dark)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup honey mustard
  • 3 cans (15  ounces each) navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper, to taste (optional; I didn’t use any salt or pepper)
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 slices of bacon or turkey bacon, sliced crosswise in 1/2″ wide pieces (I used Oscar Mayer® Turkey Bacon)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine molasses, honey, ketchup, and honey mustard. Add beans and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Mix ingredients to combine.

Transfer mixture to a 2 to 3–quart covered baking dish. Scatter onion slices over beans something like this…

…then lay cut pieces of bacon on top of the onion slices in a single layer, covering onion as completely as possible, like this…

Cover casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Then uncover the dish and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes, until bacon is crispy (I baked mine an additional 40 minutes). The baked beans will end up looking like this…

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Let the beans sit in the casserole dish for about 5 minutes, then mix everything together well before serving. After mixing the beans, onion, and bacon together, the beans will look a little lighter in color (so don’t be alarmed if they seem a little dark when they come out of the oven)…

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Serve beans immediately and enjoy! Makes 6 servings.

Are you a baked beans fan, too? Do you have a favorite way of making them?

Savory Zucchini Pie from Farm Fresh Southern Cooking

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Our local farmers’ market opened a few weeks ago, so it was great to receive a review copy of Farm Fresh Southern Cooking: Straight from the Garden to Your Dinner Table. Author Tammy Algood, popular food personality and columnist, has put together a wonderful collection of recipes you can make with ingredients fresh from the farmers’ market, local produce stands, or your own garden.

This cookbook includes recipes for appetizers, soups, salads, sides, breads, entrees, desserts, and breakfast or brunch. There’s also a section with canning instructions at the end of the book.

You’ll find recipes like Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Triangles, Spiced Peach Chutney, Roasted Sweet Potato Soup, Eggplant and Sweet Onion Salad, The Best Southern Hash Browns, Blue Cheese and Bacon Coleslaw, Basil Biscuits, Fresh Chive Spoon Bread, Open-Faced Cajun Shrimp Sandwiches, Fresh Orange Pound Cake, and Southern Breeze Cantaloupe Limeade. There are full-color photos throughout the book, too.

I decided to try the Savory Zucchini Pie and was really happy with how it turned out! It’s an easy recipe that’s perfect for breakfast or brunch, and I always seem to have lots of zucchini around during farmers’ market season. This pie also has onions, cheddar cheese, and herbs to give it a great flavor. It’s made with baking mix, too, and I used a whole grain mix by Hodgson Mill® called Insta-Bake Whole Wheat Variety Baking Mix with Buttermilk. I really like the mix and the fact that it’s made with whole wheat.

I hope you get a chance to try this recipe out…it’s really good!

SAVORY ZUCCHINI PIE from Farm Fresh Southern Cooking

No need to worry about a crust with this pie. It forms its own, which means this is a quick company dish that can go from brunch to dinner. The zucchini can be shredded ahead of time to make stirring it together simple.

Makes 8 servings

  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (you don’t need to peel the zucchini before shredding)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 white onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose baking mix (I used Hodgson Mill® Insta-Bake)
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used non-GMO canola oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, eggs, onions, baking mix, cheese, oil, salt, pepper, sage, and paprika. Blend well. Transfer to the prepared pie plate.

Bake 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

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I love to buy fresh produce from the farmers’ market…especially tomatoes! What kinds of local produce do you like to buy?