Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Dispense with Dinner and Enjoy High Tea

Now you may think I have gone just a bit mad like Alice in Wonderland for even suggesting skipping dinner and having High Tea instead. But hear me out...
Being cooped up I declare it's time for adding some creativity to your late afternoon with a special meal. Throw a High Tea Party for your family and get everyone involved. Stress the need everyone needs to dress up a bit and no whining allowed. Set a a fancy table with dishes seldom used. Enlist the family to make some finger foods. Suggested recipes at end of blog posting. Each person needs to bring a favorite tea quote. Challenge family to play tea trivia seek out the internet for ideas. 
If you are only a party of two this idea can work too, nice for a meal change. A party of one-trust me on this just changing up your place setting and adding some fun foods will improve your mood.  

Tea drinking is believed to have originated in China about 5 centuries ago. Not until European traders sailed to China in 17th century did tea finally arrive in Europe. Tea came to America with Dutch and English colonists. Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere made a living producing silver tea sets. And tea made it to the history books as a symbol of liberty when the colonists who were frustrated with English taxation sent pounds of tea into the harbor as a protest.
The invention of the afternoon tea party was credited to Anna, Duchess of Bedford around 1840. She was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria. She began taking tea with sandwiches and cakes as a way to tide over hunger till evening meal. She shared this custom with friends and family.
So grab a fancy hat if you just happen to have one and be creative with your available foods. 

Suggested kid friendly foods to inspire you.
Mini Corn Dogs
Mini Pancakes Stack with Fruit 
Peanut Butter and Jelly Kabobs
Tortillas Roll-ups with Pretzel Sticks 
Mac and Cheese Cupcakes
and for the "big people" Asparagus Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches with Avocado 
Cook's Notes: Timesaver: Cut crusts off bread and make asparagus ahead of time. Be sure to pat asparagus dry with a paper towel. Recipe from Food Network Magazine April 2020. Recipe makes 2 large sandwiches cut into triangles (8 total) . 
  • 1/2 bunch of thin asparagus stalks cut into 2 inch pieces. 
  • 5 large hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and mashed
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt and 1/4 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon each lemon juice and Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon each parsley flakes and dill weed
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Make egg/avocado filling and refrigerate several hours. 
  • To assemble: spread filling on one slice, top with asparagus pieces 
  • Top with another bread slice, cut in half and recut each half into 2 triangles. 
Be sure to let Ever Ready know in comment box if you happen to host a family High Tea Party. I was able to buy my husband into this idea -so we are having a party for two!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti with Marinara Meat Sauce

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti with Marinara Meat Sauce
Cook's Notes: Cream cheese and spaghetti, wow! decadent comfort food that may just be your family's new favorite meal. Cream cheese is a bit of a game changer over standard ricotta cheese. Adding sauteed peppers, onions, carrots and a seasoning gives your recipe that extra boost of flavor. Taste test and 1 extra teaspoon of Italian seasoning could be added if needed. Make sure the cream cheese is softened and cubed before adding to noodles.  
Cook time 30 minutes, prep time 15 minutes and serves 6 to 8 people.
Recipe adapted from justapinch.com and thanks Cathy for sharing the recipe with Ever Ready.

  • 12 oz. spaghetti noodles
  • 1- 28 oz jar prepared spaghetti or Marinara sauce
  • 1 can (14.5) fire roasted tomatoes with basil, garlic, oregano or petite tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano 
  • 1 lb. ground beef, lean or 1 lb. Italian sausage 
  • 1/2 cup each diced green peppers, onions and carrots
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Brown the ground beef or sausage with green peppers, onions, carrots, garlic and seasonings in a large fry pan. Drain meat mixtures. Wipe pan clean and return meat mixture to fry pan. Stir in Marinara sauce or spaghetti sauce with canned petite tomatoes. Mix well on low heat.
  • Cook spaghetti noodles al dente according to directions on box, drain. Add cubed cream cheese while noodles are hot and mix thoroughly.
  • In a pyrex 9 x 13 baking dish spray lightly with PAM and spread a small amount of meat  mixture on bottom. 
  • Add noodles and rest of meat mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered 30 minutes until bubbly.  

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Asparagus Round-Up

Asparagus, one of spring's first.
How To Buy
Choose firm, bright green asparagus stalks with plump, tightly closed tips. Fading color is a sign of deterioration. Check the stem ends to make sure they look freshly cut, not shriveled or dried out.
How To Store
Uncooked asparagus will stay fresh for three to four days in the refrigerator. The secret is to keep the vegetable cool and damp. Store spears upright in a container with the stems wading in an inch of water, then cover loosely with a plastic bag. Easier still: Wrap the ends in moist paper towels and drop the bundle into a plastic bag.

Asparagus Quiche with Dill Havarti and Bacon

Cook's Notes: Omit the bacon and it's a vegetarian meal perfect for your Easter brunch or a meatless Friday. Cooking time for quiche depends on size of the pan. The recipe below is for a standard 10 inch pie pan using a Pillsbury Refrigerated Rolled Crust.
If using a 9 inch frozen pie crust such as Marie Callender will need to add more cooking time at the end because pie pan is smaller.   
  • 1 prepared pie crust 
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 4 oz. asparagus, cooked, drained and cut in 2 inch pieces 
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes 
  • 1/4 cup green onions, diced
  • 1-1/2 cups grated Havarti Dill or White Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 TB.Dijon mustard
  • Optional: 1 cup torn baby spinach leaves
  • Let pie crust stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  • Bring salted water to a boil, add asparagus, boil 1 minute. drain and pat dry.
  • Cook bacon and set aside. 
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place pie crust in a pie pan, crimp edges.
  • Line pastry shell with 2 sheets of foil (blind baking) overlap the foil so edges will extend over the pie pan.
  • Bake for 7 minutes, remove foil and bake 3 minutes more.
  • Mix in a blender eggs, cream, half and half and parsley flakes.
  • Brush bottom crust with Dijon mustard.
  • Sprinkle bacon, asparagus pieces, cheeses, onions on bottom of pie crust.
  • Tear foil strips and place around the outside edges of pan to avoid over browning.

  • Use a measuring cup and slowly pour filling in pie pan. 
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce to 325 degrees and bake 25 minutes more or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. 
  • Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Baked Pork Chops with Peach Whiskey Sauce and Asparagus 
A Taste of Spring in a Salad
Barcelona, Spain
I follow food blogger Ali from gimmesomeoven. Two years ago she and her husband moved to Barcelona, Spain from Kansas. Her fans have been asking her how life has been lately with lockdown in Spain. Her account is fascinatingly told with heartfelt words as they struggle to meet the daily challenges of their life the past few months. I am including the link to her recent post as it's quite interesting reading from a perspective of an American in Spain.   
Her recipe for Honey Beer Bread was one of my most recent postings.   

Friday, March 27, 2020

Honey Beer Bread

Cook's Notes: Yeast shortages in some stores have had me rethink bread making.  There are many flavorful and filling no yeast breads a.k.a quick breads options available. 
Yesterday's posting Creamy Tomato Parmesan Soup was paired with a tasty slice of Honey Beer Bread.
The recipe is quick and easy to make with just 6 simple ingredients! No frills, no excessive ingredient lists… just one bowl, a few ingredients, and done. This bread delivers and then some. It’s the perfect beer bread recipe to have on hand for those nights when you need something easy to serve with soup or stew.
While the bread itself is quite good the best part might be the buttery crust. Instead of incorporating melted butter into the batter for the bread, you drizzle it over the batter once it’s in the loaf pan. The result? The butter seeps all around the edges of the pan, creating a wonderful, buttery crust almost reminiscent of a deep-dish pizza. It’s truly fabulous and makes this recipe stand apart from other typical beer bread variations. The honey gives the bread a subtle hint of sweetness, Choose a beer that is not too robust or hoppy in taste as that flavor would overpower the taste. 
Recipe from Gimmesomeoven
Optional add ins are included below recipe.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  • 2 TB. butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Slowly pour the beer and honey into the flour mixture, and stir just until combined. If you overmix the batter, bread will be chewy. 
  • Spray with PAM sides and bottom of a loaf pan. Add the batter to the pan and spread it out in an even layer. Then brush melted butter evenly on top of the batter. It will drizzle on sides. 
  • Bake for 35- 40 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove and transfer the pan to a wire baking rack.
  • With a long skewer pierce the bread and drizzle with honey. Let the bread cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert bread on baking rack and slice with a serrated knife. 
Suggested adds ins to the batter (I used all three-a perfect combination) 
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried rosemary (finely chopped) thyme and parsley 
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced 
March is not over so still time to try one of my favorite quick breads Irish Soda Bread

A parting thought...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Homemade Creamy Tomato Parmesan Soup

Skip the canned soup and make your own satisfying bowl.  
Creamy Tomato Parmesan Soup   
The combination of diced carrots, onions and celery sautéed in butter/olive oil is known as mirepoix. This is one of those recipes that actually tastes better the next day for flavors to meld. It's quite flavorful with all the spices. The recipe makes about 6-1/2 cups. Pair the soup with Honey Beer Bread, a Friday posting.

Cooking Tip: Use high quality canned tomatoes, e.g. San Marzano.  If unable to find San Marzano brand substitute 2 (14 oz. each) cans diced tomatoes with basil and garlic. Carrots, onions, celery can be minced ahead in a food processor. Make the soup early in day before serving or the day before for flavors to meld but omitting the cream and Parmesan cheese. Refrigerate and then reheat soup on a medium low, uncovered stirring in the heavy cream (1/4 cup) and Parmesan cheese as a last step. Do not let the mixture boil. This recipe serves approximately 6 depends on bowl size. It freezes well in freezer ziploc bags. Thaw soup pouches overnight in refrigerator.

  • 2 TB. butter and 1-1/2 TB. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced about 1 cup
  • 3/4 cup each diced celery and carrots
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 4 TB. flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 2 large cans (28 oz.) San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes, chopped (use the liquid)
  • 2 TB. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 TB. dried basil or 1/4 cup diced fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp. each oregano and thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. each marjoram and parsley flakes
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste at end of cooking time if needed
  • Dice carrots, celery, onions and garlic. In a food processor pulse until finely minced.
  • In a soup pot saute onions, garlic, celery and carrots in the butter/olive oil combination about 3-4 minutes.
  • On low heat whisk in flour, add in broth, tomato paste, plum tomatoes, sugar, bay leaf and all the spices.
  • Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to low, cover and simmer uncovered 25 minutes.
  • Remove bay leaves with a slotted spoon.
  • In thirds, puree the soup mixture in a food processor or blender and then add back to soup pot. 
  • On low heat uncovered, add in cream and Parmesan cheese, heat mixture thoroughly but do not let boil.

Grocery Store Update
I was up so early I got to see the sunrise over the Santa Rita Mountains. It was just beautiful.

I was on an early morning mission to arrive at store by 6:00 for senior shopping 6-9am. I wanted eggs. Hard to believe some 50 other people were already lined up with carts waiting to enter the store. Not only did I get eggs but TP and paper towels were available!! No hand sanitizers were available. This might be one of those rare times where my age served me well for senior early bird specials.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Penne with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce

Thought for the Day
Penne with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce 
Cook's Notes:
A light pasta meal the whole family will enjoy with spring's first vegetable, asparagus. Penne is tossed with roasted asparagus and topped with a marinara sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.  It's quick and easy perfect for Meatless Fridays and/or Vegetarians. Ever Ready's special Marinara Sauce recipe below is easy using pantry staples.
Recipes serves 4 and can easily be increased for more servings. 
  • One bunch of asparagus, stems removed
  • 2-1/2 cups dried penne pasta 
  • Marinara sauce(recipe below) 
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon squeeze
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange spears evenly not overlapping, drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.  
  • Roast 400 15-20 minutes until al dente. Cut into smaller pieces and grate Parmesan cheese over the top. 
  • Cook penne according to manufacture's directions but more on the al dente side. Add cooked penne to marinara sauce, toss in asparagus pieces.   
Ever Ready To-Go Marinara Sauce 
Cooks's Notes: Multiple uses for this sauce made with basic pantry shelf items. Make the sauce the day before as it tastes even more flavorful on the second and third days.
  • 1 jarred Marinara Sauce (use your favorite brand) 
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) Diced Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic, Oregano  
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Simmer uncovered on low one hour.
Another dinner option is adding cooked Italian sausage pieces to the dish
Social Commentary: The TP shortage, jokes etc just goes on and on and now today it's bad news for the cooks. In our area we now have an egg shortage!!

But more importantly than eggs or TP shortages is the news coverage showing the  staggering rise of numbers of cases confirmed and deaths. I feel so sad right now-the world needs prayers!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Fudgy Brownies

I am convinced brownies or that matter anything with chocolate can lift one's spirits. This simple recipe is a definite winner. It's chocolaty, fudgy and decadent. One small piece is all you'll need to brighten your day. I've also included several other favorite Ever Ready brownie recipes not knowing what ingredients you have available.  
Fudgy Brownies
Cook's Notes: Espresso powder amps up the rich, chocolate flavor of many desserts including cakes, brownies and cookies without leaving a strong coffee taste.
Recipe from Taste of Home Magazine. It's so easy to put together using only one bowl for preparation. Some optional add ins include: nuts, chocolate chips, sprinkles and Kahlua or Amaretto. I kept the brownies refrigerated to retain their shape.
Brownie Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup mini or regular semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Optional: 1 TB. Kahlua or Amaretto
Brownie Directions:
  • Line a 8 x 8 glass pan with foil that has been greased. Make sure edges of foil extend over the sides. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • In a large bowl beat sugar, eggs and vanilla for 3 minutes to increase the volume. Beat in  butter with Kahlua or Amaretto if using, mix well.
  • Combine the flour, salt, cocoa, espresso powder and baking powder. Add to butter/egg mixture and mix well
  • Fold in nuts and chips and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of center clean.
  • Cool brownies in pan for 10 minutes, then use foil edges to lift brownies out and place foiled brownies on a wire rack to cool. Place wax paper under the wire cooling rack and frost brownies.

Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I used bittersweet as a contrast to brownie batter)  
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 TB. Kahlua or Amaretto
Frosting Directions:
  • In a saucepan add milk, sugar, butter and chips.
  • Over medium heat bring to a boil stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes
  • Remove pan from stove, stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Use a mixer and beat until smooth in the saucepan. Add more milk if necessary for correct consistency.
  • Add in Kahlua or Amaretto if using.
These are some favorite Ever Ready's previously posted brownies recipes.
Snicker Brownies

Besides brownies, this unexpected cactus pop of color in the yard was more than uplifting! Spring is on the horizon.

Monday, March 23, 2020

One Pot Skillet Meal Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes are an American creation that have been around since at least the 1950s. They probably got their start as a variation of the “loose meat" sandwiches popular at the time. According to legend, a cook named Joe at Floyd Angell's café in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce to his “loose meat" sandwiches and the “sloppy joe" sandwich was born. And the rest, as they say, is history. Growing up in a large family it was one of mom's  favorite meals to serve as it stretched to feed a crowd and 10 we were. 

Given the current state of times, meals like this made with ground beef and some type of tomato sauce are good choices.
Often favorite recipes are passed down through generations and/or favorite ones from family and friends are kept and revisited from time to time. Perhaps you have some favorite ones  you've made multiple times and maybe some of these recipes even have a story to tell.

I'm dedicating this blog to Andy Cecka, a long-time friend who recently passed away.
We often traded recipes back and forth as we both enjoyed trying new recipes for our families and entertaining. 

When I first got this recipe both of us had young children and meal stretching was an important consideration. It probably wouldn't surprise you that I have four huge and bulging folders of collected recipes. Recently I came across her original recipe from some 40 years ago. I also  noted at the bottom of recipe my son must have put on his stamp :) 
Lately, we've been challenged to change the way we cook, rethink recipes that have available ingredients and are more family friendly since we're all home more.  
This recipe serves 6 and I have added a few personal touches to the original one, but it will always remain an Andy inspired recipe. It freezes well, just add 1/2 cup ketchup when reheating.  
  Sloppy Joes
Cook's Notes: I've used this recipe many times for large gatherings. I have  doubled sometimes tripled the recipe and then kept it warm in a crockpot. Usually I serve Sloppy Joes with hamburger buns but out of necessity had to use Hawaiian Sweet Roll Sub Buns as I had them on hand. I was surprised how much I liked the taste of the buns with meat mixture. 
Cooking Tip: Use a pastry cutter to crumble cooked meat.
  • 1 pound of hamburger no less than 80%
  • 1 cup each diced celery and sweet onions
  • 1-2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 can (undiluted) chicken gumbo soup or chicken rice soup
  • 1/3 cup chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon each Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar
  • 1 can (undiluted) chunky tomatoes (basil, garlic and oregano)
  • Optional topping-sliced avocados
  • Brown hamburger, celery and onions on medium low heat covered and occasionally using a pastry cutter to  crumble meat. Wipe pan clean of grease and moisture. 
  • Add rest of ingredients and simmer on low heat uncovered for an hour. 

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...