This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!

The Little Catholic Kitchen

The Little Catholic Kitchen copyright Kathleen Blease 2010
recipes copyright Kathleen Blease 2010
photography (unless otherwise stated) copyright Kathleen and Roger L. Blease 2010

**Please scroll down for the recipes!**

When we first bought this old farmhouse--a tiny one--we had grand plans of building an addition, complete with a gourmet kitchen attached to a family room. Well, we hear it all the time from friends and family..."As the economy is, we can't _____ just now." And so it goes. We have decided to be content with what we have, make a few updates and enjoy the charm of the old place.

Our little Catholic kitchen was built 60 years ago. The previous owner of our home lived here 80 years, and he built this for his wife--yes, another Catholic mom! I recently painted it green, and I'm now searching for fabric for curtains. We will also be making changes to the position of the stove, so we won't be setting the curtains on fire!! I have grown to love this little space. Feel free to contact me at to tell me about your little kitchen. Put Little Catholic Kitchen in the message line, so it won't be deleted if it lands in the "junk" file.

We've made casseroles, steamed clams, frozen mashed butternut squash, corn, and string beans. We've made grape jelly from our own concords and jam from our fresh pears. We've filled the house with aromas of baked apples, ripe off the tree, and pot roasts, ribs, and chicken soup with dumplings.

When our refrigerator died, praise God we had means to replace it. And when the old stove blew up, the good Lord protected me. The faucet then sprung a leak and sprit water at me whenever I did the dishes: a rubber band carefully applied did the trick for the time being. Little by little, we have been given the opportunity to go "out with the old and in with the new!" (Dear reader, we've got to have a sense of humor and optimism ...just a little goes a long way, I think.)

So if you, too, are tucked into a tiny kitchen and are trying to make healthful meals for your loved ones, then let's hang up a beautiful crucifix, tie on an apron, and get to work!

Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty through Christ, Our Lord. Amen!

I hope you will enjoy these recipes my family loves. At the bottom of this page, I've included a few cooking and baking tips. And I give you information about how you can share your own tips with us.  We would love to hear from you.

May the Lord bless your efforts in providing healthy meals for your family!

Cantaloupe Sorbet

This is super easy and incredibly delicious. It's summertime bright and fresh! I'm almost embarassed to say how I came across this, but... One day I was cleaning out the fridge when I found a container of half a cantaloupe I had cut up. It was very ripe and past that happy "mouth feel" that would entice anyone. I was about to toss it in the compost bin when I reached in and took out a little piece to try. It was mushy... but sweeeet and yummy. Oh, I couldn't throw it out! I decided to plop in a few ingredients and make some sorbet, with a little help from a ice cream cookbook called The Perfect Scoop.

You won't need an ice cream maker for this, although I used mine. It will work with just a blender, too. The proportions are what I used and had on hand. Feel free to double the recipe if you are going to use a whole cantalope. The acid in the lime juice heightens the cantaloupe's taste, so don't be afraid to use it. Bottled lime juice works great.

1/2 jumbo cantaloupe, cut into large chunks
1/4 c. sugar
splash of lime juice to taste
dash of course kosher salt

Yields: 4 to 6 servings

Place ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth, or use an immersion blender. Taste before moving on, and adjust ingredients as necessary. If the cantalope doesn't taste bright, add more lime juice. Avoid adding more sugar; it will only make the sorbet sweeter and cloying, so add more lime juice before you decide to add more sugar. I found 1/4 c. of sugar was plenty.

Chill for about 30 minutes. If you have an ice cream maker, you can use it; it will help force air into the sorbet to make it easier to scoop after it's been frozen. But if you don't have an ice cream maker, it's not a problem. Either way, just pour the readied cantaloupe mixture into a container and freeze. After it has been frozen, take it out of the freezer and set on the counter for about 5-10 minutes to allow it to soften. With a heavy spoon or ice cream scoop, scrape the sorbet into servings.

You can also freeze the sorbet in popsicle molds.

Cannelinni Beans with Fresh Basil Tomatoes Over Penne

Here's a fresh new recipe just right for tomato season. This is a quick sauce that's bursting with flavor, and it serves up lots of protein, thanks to the beans. The idea here is not to cook the tomatoes down, but rather just to warm them through, which keeps the sauce light and fresh, just right for a summer-time pasta dinner. It takes only about 10 minutes to prepare (once the pasta water is boiling), and it's surely economical and satisfying for families big and small. Omnivores and Vegans alike can dig in.

If you don't have fresh tomatoes, don't worry. Just use two cans of petite diced tomatoes. Fresh basil, oregano, and parsley, however, are a must. In Rome, you will find this dish swimming in olive oil. Here, I suggest only 1/3 cup, but you should feel free to use as much as you like. Use whatever pasta you have on hand--penne pasta, bow ties, twists, or even linguine all work well. By the way, Cannelinni beans are also called Great Northern Beans.

Serve this dish with a crusty bread and olives for a complete and hearty meal. To me, it has summertime flavors written all over it, and it's one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it!

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced or diced
4 large fresh ripe tomatoes, diced (or two 15-oz cans petite diced tomatoes, do not drain)
1 15-oz can cannelinni beans (or Great Northern Beans), drained and thoroughly rinsed
1/2-1 c. fresh basil, coarsely chopped (amount to taste)
1/4-1/2 c. fresh oregano, coarsely chopped (amount to taste)
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. dried penne pasta
1/4-1/3 c. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped (amount to taste), for serving
grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Yields: 4 generous servings

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to manufacturer's directions. Meanwhile, begin sauce, which will require only a few minutes.

In a large saute pan, add olive oil and gently saute the diced garlic over medium heat. Be sure it doesn't burn. As soon as you can smell it cooking, add the beans and saute together for a few minutes. Add the basil and oregano and saute a minute more. Add the tomatoes and simmer for only a few more minutes, until the beans and tomatoes are just tender. This dish should not be cooked down; the beans and tomatoes should be just about tender but yet still a little firm. It should have a fresh appearance and a wonderful fragrance from the garlic and herbs. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Also add a little more olive oil to taste, if desired.

Drain the pasta and spoon into pasta bowls. Top the pasta with the cannellini beans and tomato sauce. Sprinkle with plenty of fresh parsley. The heat of the pasta and sauce will bring out the parsley's wonderful aroma. Provide Parmesan cheese at the table for serving.

Butter-Free Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

 Here's a quick cookie recipe that takes no time at all, and believe it or not, it's a little healthy, too--whole wheat flour, oats, raisins, nuts and cinnamon.. If you like, add a little flax seed meal or wheat germ to boost the fiber.

Toss all the ingredients into one bowl, spoon onto greased cookies sheets, and pop the little dough mounds into the oven. Out will come fresh aromatic cookies that are delicious and cinnamony. Mmm!

Although they do keep for a few days, these are at their very best right out of the oven. These are also terrific for breakfast, and they will surely lure a few sleepyheads out of bed.

1 c. canola oil
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 jumbo eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 1/3 c. quick-cooking or regular rolled oats
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 c. raisins
1 c. chopped walnuts

Yields: Approx. 3 dozen

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 4 cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil and sugar until fully incorporated and smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk again. Add all dry ingredients. Mix together with a spoon. Add raisins and walnuts. Stir well. This is a very stiff and dense cookie batter. Drop by tablespoon on greased cookies sheet. Pinch each little mound so the dough stays together while baking.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until they are no longer shiny and are well set. Do not over bake. They should still be soft and a bit moist when taken out of the oven. Allow them to cool on the cookie sheets so they firm up, then transfer them to wire cooling rack.

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

Yields: 12 muffins
2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. each baking soda and baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. milk
1 extra-large egg
2 tbsp. canola oil
2-3 handfuls mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. In another large bowl, mix all wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. This is a very thick batter; resist the temptation to add water. With mixing, the ingredients should incorporate and make a smooth but heavy batter. Do not over mix. Fill muffin pan almost full; the muffin pan should be greased or covered with muffin liners. Bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Then remove when cooled but a little warm. These freeze very well. Be sure they are completely cooled before freezing to prevent freezer burn.

Savory Broccoli and Cavatelli with Parmesan

photo source:
Here's a dish that's very simple by nature and satisfying for growing kids. Serve it with a little extra grated cheese, if you'd like. Use a good quality parmesan. I also like to sprinkle on some shredded pecorino romano, a tangy sheep cheese. Cavatelli is available dry, fresh, or frozen.

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
5 c. broccoli florets, fresh or frozen
3 large cloves garlic, diced
2 13-oz. packages frozen cavetelli OR 1 lb. package dry cavatelli
butter to taste (I use about 5 tbs.)
1 1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Yields: 6 servings

In large frying pan, add 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add broccoli and saute until fork tender, about 20 minutes--covered, stirring occasionally. (If you use fresh broccoli, chop the stalks into large chunks and saute with the florets.) Sometimes the broccoli absorbs the olive oil, so feel free to add a little more if necessary.

Meanwhile, cook cavatelli in a large pot of water. Cook to manufacturer's direction and strain in colander. Do not over cook and do not rinse.

To the broccoli, add garlic and saute for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Take the broccoli mix off heat and add cooked cavatelli, butter, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper, and parmesan. Toss to coat everything evenly.

Serve hot. Enjoy!

GF Fudgie Brownie Cake

Well, now, if you have a loved one who suffers from gluten intolerance (that is: wheat, barley, and rye), then finding cake recipes can be a challenge. This particular recipe inherently uses little flour in its original form, so it was very simple to convert to GF. And it's delicious. It makes a single layer brownie cake. Preheat your oven, take out a bowl and spoon, and by the time the oven is ready, you will have your batter in the pan and ready to go. Let it cool completely after it is baked; this lets the butter congeal and hold the cake together nicely. Be sure to use a 9" round cake pan; anything smaller will lead to a big mess on the bottom of your oven. Serve on its own, or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Yields: one 9" brownie cake

1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. GF All-Purpose Baking Mix (I use Arrowhead Mills)
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
1/2 c. Hershey baking cocoa (do not use dark cocoa)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. sea salt
3 extra-large or jumbo eggs

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until very smooth. Don't worry; over mixing this batter is not a problem. It is okay to add the melted butter to the batter while it is still hot, but be sure to add just a little at a time. Mix well in between additions of butter. If you add all the butter at once, you will cook the eggs, making it look curdled. Spray a 9" round cake pan with nonstick spray (without flour). Pour in batter and even out with spatula. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles in the batter. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool until just warm in pan, then turn out and let cool completely on wire rack. Do not turn out before cooling it a bit in the pan; it will break apart. The butter must congeal to hold the cake together.

GF Mac-n-Cheese

When I mentioned GF Mac-n-Cheese to friends and family who have gone GF, they made a funny face. "Yeah, right," they thought. "We know what THAT tastes like. Mealy, gooey, yuck."

But this recipe works great for me. Here's the trick: do not parboil the pasta as you would with regular mac-n-cheese. Instead, put the rice pasta uncooked on the bottom of your casserole, then pour the sauce over it. It all cooks perfectly in the oven. I made this recipe for a crab fest we recently hosted, and it went fast! My boys fought over who would get the last bite.

Yields: 6 servings (1 1/2 quart casserole)

4 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. arrowroot
3 1/4 c. milk
2 c. brown rice pasta shells, elbows, or twists, uncooked (I use Tinkyada Pasta Joy)
8 oz. block extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I use Cabot)
salt and pepper to taste

In medium sauce pan, melt butter. Add arrowroot and stir constantly. Add milk and continue to stir constantly. Arrowroot will coat the bottom of the pan like a glue if it is not constantly stirred. Cook in a very low simmer until milk mixture becomes thick and glossy. This is more of a scalding than a simmer. Add cheese, salt, and pepper. If the sauce seems a little too thick for your taste, add a little more milk to your liking. Keep in mind that the pasta will absorb much of the liquid. Spray a 1 1/2 quart casserole with nonstick spray, and pour in the uncooked pasta.  Pour the sauce over it. With a spoon, gently stir the pasta and sauce to combine. Bake in oven until top is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Test a piece of pasta to be sure it is cooked through. If the top becomes brown too early, gently tent it with aluminum foil to allow the pasta to cook without burning the cheese sauce. Then remove the foil to allow the top to brown. Delicious!

GF Pizza

Okay, there's no getting around it, so I might as well admit it right here and now. Without gluten, there is no such thing as a great pizza crust. It's those gluten molecules. They are to blame! You see, gluten sits around like little marbles bumping into each other (just like all the other flour molecules out there--potato flour, rice flour, cornmeal...), until you do one special thing--add water. As soon as they get wet, and as soon as your  paddle beats them into submission, those little gluten molecules become long and thin. That's why pull apart, chewy and crusty breads are such a delight. Without those little gluten marbles, pizza is toast!

So here's the deal. If you use a pizza crust mix, such as King Arthur's Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Mix, you can still come up with a pretty decent dinner for your GF lovey. But you have to learn a few tricks! And there are two: 1)be sure the crust is crisp, and 2)keep liquids/moisture out of the toppings.

The next time I make this, I'm going to take some pictures for posting. I have to admit, they look gorgeous!

Here's the step-by-step:

1. Follow the directions on the package in mixing the crust mix. If you are using a pre-made crust, go to step 2.

2. Bake the crust in a cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray, on a pizza stone, until golden brown and crusty. If you do not bake the crust all the way before adding the toppings, your pizza will be very doughy, not at all crisp. This is the secret to crispy GF pizza, so don't skip it, and be sure to bake it ALL THE WAY, not just a little.

3. Take the crust out of the pan, place it on a cutting board and add toppings. Be sure the toppings are low in liquid. For instance, instead of  pizza sauce, use sliced Roma tomatoes. I also like to add caramelized onions, black olives, sauteed mushrooms, fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese, and a little bit of shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese. (Do not use fresh mozzarella, which has too much moisture.)

4. Return the pizza to the oven and bake directly on the pizza stone at 400 degrees, until topping is bubbly. Serve immediately. It's also delicious reheated the next day.

Vanilla Lemonade Sorbet

 (photo copyrighted by Roger L. Blease)

This dessert is easy to make and deliciously refreshing, especially on a hot summer day. While the cicadas chimmy, sit back and enjoy the freshness of summer berries heaped over scoops of this icy treat. All ingredients are to taste, except the water. Use as little or as much of sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice you would like. Make it sweet, or tart, or sweet-tart. Feel free to use a sugar substitute, such as Stevia, but be sure to adjust the amount since substitutes are extra, extra sweet.

1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. bottled lemon juice
dash of vanilla
4 c. of water
sprig of mint for garnish

special equipment: electric ice cream maker  (be sure your maker has a large enough capacity for 5 cups of liquid. If you are not sure, it would be better to cut the recipe in half.)

Yields: 1 1/2 quarts 

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients. While your ice cream maker is ON, pour in the mixture in a thin stream. Process in machine until it looks like a soft Italian ice. Remove sorbet from machine and place in a large plastic container. Freeze to almost harden, about one hour. Scoop into serving bowls and serve immediately. If you would like, top with berries (the berries in the picture were just handpicked), blueberries, or strawberries.  This is also delicious served as a slushy, in a tall glass with a straw.

Note: If you freeze the sorbet overnight, it will be as hard as a rock. Simply remove it from freezer about 20 minutes before serving. The sorbet in the picture was frozen overnight. As you can see, it still made a beautiful presentation, and I think it tasted ever better after the flavors had time to meld together.

Summer Corn Salad with Thyme and Oregano

(photo copyrighted by Roger L. Blease)
My husband loves fresh summer corn, and in our neck of the woods there's plenty of it. The next time you buy corn by the ear, buy extra and cook it all at once. Cold corn is delicious, eaten right off the cob or in any salad. This recipe uses simple and fresh ingredients so the corn really shines through. Bright and satisfying, it goes well with anything--from roasts to fish to grilled cheeseburgers.

Yields: 6-8 servings

6 ears sweet corn, cooked
fresh thyme leaves to taste, whole
fresh oregano leaves to taste, whole
small dash fresh cracked pepper
dash kosher or sea salt (whichever you prefer)
2-3 Tbsp. light olive oil
2 Tbsp. lime juice (bottled worked fine), or the juice of 1 lime

Here's an easy way to cut the kernels from the ears: Inside a large mixing bowl, place a cereal bowl upside down. Use this small bowl as a pedestal on which to de-kernel the cobs. Place the cob on the small bowl, and with a sharp knife, cut the kernels as close to the cob as possible. I find that a serrated slicing knife (or bread knife) works the best. You will need to cut the corn into long ribbons.
Once you have removed the kernels from all the cobs, remove the cereal bowl from the mixing bowl. Break all the corn ribbons into squares. 

Add remaining ingredients and mix carefully, so the corn squares are not broken. Chill for 1 hour. It's fine to also serve at room temperature.

St. Valentine's Day Gingerbread Cake

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 extra-large egg
1 c. molasses
1 c. hot water
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 heaping tsp. Saigon cinnamon
1 heaping tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" x 2" pan.

In large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Set aside.

In mixer, beat together sugar and butter until fully incorporated. Add egg and beat again. Add molasses and dry ingredients, then beat until combined. Add hot water, then beat again until the batter is smooth.

Pour batter into cake pan. Bake on oven's middle rack for 35 minutes, or until skewer inserted comes out clean and cake is slightly pulling away from sides of the pan. Let cool in pan on wire racks.

Surprise Chewy Chocolate Chip  Cookies

What's the surprise? Olive oil! There's no butter in these delicious cookies. My husband called these, "The best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had." The olive oil makes them chewy, and (no surprise) reduces the fat content of these rich morsels. No, I wouldn't call these cookies "healthy". I believe there is no such thing. Cookies are cookies. But I still can't argue with the success of this recipe. Chewy and delicious.

Here I call for extra light olive oil, but you can use any olive oil you prefer. The heavier the oil, the more intense the cookie. I happen to like the combination of sugar, chocolate and the peppery extra virgin olive oil, but my family enjoys the lighter taste. 

Just one more thing: I've made these cookies with 60 % cacao chocolate chips and with regular semi-sweet chips.  The cookies made with regular semi-sweet chocolate chips were sweet and cloying, and the olive oil couldn't be detected at all. The 60% chips made all the difference; they resulted in a cookie that was rich and smooth with a hint of the savory olive oil. I used Ghiradelli's, which my local supermarket carried.

Yields: 3 dozen

2 1/4 c. unsifted all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. extra light olive oil
3/4 sugar
3/4 brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2  extra-large eggs (see special note below)
2 c. 60% cacoa chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350 F. In medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set  aside. 

With mixer, beat olive oil, sugar, and  brown sugar on medium speed until creamy. Add vanilla and the eggs one at time, mixing at low speed to be sure each is incorporated.  Gradually add dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. 

Drop by tablespoon onto greased cookie sheets. Bake until set and dry looking, about 8-10 minutes. Let cookies cool on the tray for a few minutes, to set up. Then move cookies to cooling racks.

 (A SPECIAL NOTE: In an effort of full disclosure, I'd like to tell you that I've adjusted this recipe that resulted in ultra-rich and chewy cookies. Here's what I did: I replaced the 2 eggs with one extra-large egg + 4 extra-large egg yolks. Yes, 4 yolks! I had them in the refrigerator, left over from another recipe. I didn't include this change in the recipe above, because I honestly thought that no one would want to make it. Don't get me wrong: I've made this recipe with just the 2 extra-large eggs, and the resulting cookies were delicious! But if you ever find yourself with extra egg yolks on hand, you just might want to give this a try. Keep in mind, however, that the cookies will be extra high in fat.)

Vanilla Ice Cream In A Snap

It takes just five minutes to make the cream mixture. You'll need an ice cream maker, of course.

Last year, we gave all our brothers and sisters ice cream makers for Christmas, but we didn't buy one for ourselves. During the summer, we dreamed about fresh ice cream and all kinds of frozen desserts. As if on cue, recipes popped out of the now-defunct Gourmet magazine and cried out, "Get an ice cream maker!!". Funny, we never noticed those recipes before. So, this summer there will be no need for dreaming. My husband surprised me with a Cuisinart model that came with an extra mixing cylinder. it!

The first time I made this recipe, I thought I would be good and use just a little salt. The result was a dessert that tasted just like frozen whipped cream, and it had a funny way of coating our teeth. Hmm. While we were happy to have it, it was a disappointment. Then it dawned on me that it was all about the salt. So, while I have listed here merely a dash, you should make it a BIG dash--the kind you see TV chefs tossing into their recipes while they say, "Now we need just a little salt." You might also want to keep this in mind for the vanilla, too. While 3/4 tsp. seems to be the standard (as thus that's how I have it listed), I really don't measure. I pour it in while counting "one, one-thousand." I'm sure that comes out to more than 3/4 teaspoon.

One more note: While you are pouring the mixture into the ice cream maker,  be sure the maker is already running. Then pour the mixture in a steady stream. If you don't do these two things, the liquid will immediately freeze to the sides of the cylinder. (This is another beginner's mistake I made.)

Easy and tasty!

Yields: about 1 1/2 quarts

1 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy whipping cream
3/4 c. sugar
dash of salt, preferably sea salt (which is a little sweeter than kosher or table salt)
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

special equipment: 
ice cream maker with frozen cylinder
silicone spatula
deep container for freezing

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until they are well combined. The sugar will not dissolve completely; this is normal.  

With the ice cream maker already running, pour the mixture into the cylinder in a steady stream. Use a silicon spatula to scrape all ingredients out of the bowl and into the cylinder. 

Run the machine about 25 minutes. Test the ice cream by gently dipping in a spoon (keep the machine running). If it stands firmly on the spoon and seems like "soft serve" in texture, it is ready. Remove the machine's lid and blade, and scoop the ice cream into a deep container. Cover tightly and refrigerate. In about an hour or two, the ice cream should be nice and firm and easy to scoop out. 


Crustless Quiche

When I do make this with a crust, I simply use a ready-made one, the type that comes rolled up. (This is what I used for the quiche in the picture.) But this dish is just as delicious, I think, without the crust. Skipping that crunchy underbed also saves on calories and fat. Add anything you'd like to this recipe. I like to sautee sliced mushrooms and green onions in a little butter, then add them to the egg mixture. You can also  try adding sauteed vegetables, such as broccoli. Be creative, and think of the recipe below as a base from which to build something special of your own! Serve this with a tossed green salad or fruit salad for a complete meal.

 (photo copyrighted by Roger L. Blease)
1 3/4 c. whole milk
5 eggs
1 to 2 c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, to taste
1/2 c. grated cheese of your choice, such as pecorino romano
salt and pepper to taste

Yields: 6-8 servings

Preheat oven at 350. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well. Carefully pour into a 9" deep pie dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 350 until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center shows that it is set.

Terry's and Loretta's Colonial Cookies

This recipe comes from my friend, Terry. When she brought these to my home for the Boy Scouts who were meeting for the Ad Altare Dei religion emblem, the boys scarfed these down in minutes flat. Luckily, I had a chance to enjoy one. Terry told me she got the recipe from a mutual friend, Loretta. So, these are Terry's and Loretta's Colonial Cookies.

These are very much like a shortbread and incredibly easy to make. You can roll these out 1/8"  thin or 1/4"  thick. I've had them both ways and found that the dough is very forgiving and easy to work with. Use cookie cutters or just the rim of a glass. I cut these out into hearts and wrapped them up for our priests as a St. Valentine's Day gift, but they are great any time of year. Watch your baking time, especially if you roll them out thin. Don't let them brown; although I have to admit that  the brown ones are just as tasty!

You might want to scroll down to the bottom of this page, to my cooking and baking tips, to read about softened butter and just what "softened" means.

1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add flour. Mix until a ball of dough forms. Knead the dough a little bit to help the butter combine into the dough; the warmth of your hands aids this process. Wrap the dough and chill it for 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out and cut to desired thickness and shape. Place on slightly greased cookies sheets and prick with a fork's tines. Bake until firm and slightly golden. Don't walk away. Keep your eyes on them. Cool on racks.

Mary  Lou's Chocolate Cake
From our family picnic, this is my mother's cousin's wife's chocolate cake. I use a seven minute frosting. A friend took a bite of this cake and said, "It tastes like a childhood memory."  

This is a moist cake. If you use a dark cocoa, it will make the cake dry, so do stick with a basic baking cocoa. Good ol' Hershey's works great. Nine-inch round pans are necessary here; if you use 8-inch rounds, you will have a messy oven in the end. Spray the pans with non-stick spray that has flour in it.

I like to make this cake whenever I have a spare moment, and then I freeze it wrapped in two layers of aluminum foil. When I need the cake, I take it out of the freezer and open the foil. By the time the frosting is ready to use, the cake is just right for assembling.

The seven minute frosting is very much like a meringue. It glides on beautifully, looks glossy, and forms beautiful peaks. But, if you prefer, you can take a metal spatula dipped in warm water and glide it over the icing to make a smooth almost seamless effect--very professional looking. 

Whenever I make this cake, I ALWAYS hear "Wow!!"

For the cake:
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. milk
1 c. boiling coffee

Yields: one 9-inch double layer cake

Mix all ingredients in one bowl, except the coffee. Stir until fully combined and smooth. Add the coffee and thoroughly mix again. This is a very wet batter. Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Do not over bake. Cake should seem firm to touch but not dry. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Then remove from pans and cool completely on racks.

For the seven-minute icing:

Yield: This really is enough for two cakes. You can half this recipe without any problems. If you do, use two eggs whites.

3 large egg whites
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 c. cold water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

In a medium sauce pan, bring 2 inches of water to a simmer. Use a large pyrex bowl as a double boiler by placing it in the sauce pan. It should sit in the pan without touching the water. With the bowl OUT of the sauce pan, combine all ingredients with a whisk. Place the bowl inside the pan. With a hand mixer, beat the egg mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form (about 7 minutes). Remove from heat and beat 3-5 minutes longer until it cools. Use immediately.

Whip ingredients over simmering water until stiff peaks form.

Extra frosting can be refrigerated for up to a week, but it must be re-whipped. However, I find that this is not always successful.

Assemble the cake:

Note: No crumb coating is necessary here!

Items needed:
cake plate
wax paper
metal spatula
warm water

To frost cake, place a dollop of icing on a plate. Place the first layer of cake on the plate; this helps glue the cake in place. Place four strips of wax paper under the layer of cake to protect the plate. Place more icing on top of the first layer and smooth out to the edges. Be generous! Place second layer of cake on top. Ice the top of the cake. Again, be generous. Then ice the sides. 

After you've frosted the entire cake, you can use the back of a spoon to form peaks in the icing. Simply place the spoon in the icing and pull up. Do this over all the top of the cake. 

If you prefer a smooth professional finish, place a spatula in warm water and shake off excess water. Then hold the entire spatula level and/or parallel to the cake and smooth icing to make a seamless effect.

Hold the knife parallel to the cake to make a seamless effect.

Carefully and slowly slide out the strips of wax paper from underneath the cake. Voila!

Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Dried Cranberries

Easy. Easy. Easy. That's my motto. Did I mention Easy? I like to serve this pilaf with holiday meals, but this would be awesome with grilled foods--meat, fish, or chicken. A real delight and easy to make. Fresh parsley makes it, so be generous with it. Feel free to add your favorite herbs; the more the merrier, especially during the spring and summer, the height of herb season.

(Speaking of herbs: Scroll down for tips on cooking and baking, cooking with fresh herbs. I explain how to freeze them, so there's no need to waste extras. Fresh herbs can be enjoyed year round. It's easy.)
You can use any wild rice combination you like. Grocery stores provide lots of options. Be sure you do not buy a mix that already has spices and seasoning.

Keep in mind that some rices take up to an hour to cook; you'll want to consider this as you begin making your meal. I find that I can make the rice ahead of time then keep it off the heat. When I'm ready for it, I add just a tad bit of water while reheating it (the water is necessary for the reheating process. If you don't add it, the heat will remove the water from the food and make it dry). Then add all the other ingredients to finish the dish. 

Yields: 6 servings

1 1/2 c. wild rice (mix of brown and wild grains)
2 14-oz cans chicken broth (or homemade chicken stock)
3 TBS. butter
1 large carrot, diced
1 small onion diced
1/2 c. dried cranberries, sweetened or unsweetened, coarsely chopped
1 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
fresh parsley and thyme, to taste, chopped (be generous)
salt and pepper to taste

In saucepan, bring chicken broth to boil. Add rice. Cook until tender, according to package's directions; this can take up to an hour, depending on rice. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt butter and saute carrot and onion until translucent and soft. Set aside.

In a small fry pan, toast pecans just a few minutes to bloom their flavor and aroma. Let cool a bit, then chop them coarsely. Set aside.

When the rice is done, add the vegetables, pecans, chopped cranberries, chopped parsley and thyme, salt and pepper. Gently mix and serve warm.

This pilaf keeps well in the fridge.  To reheat, just place in saucepan with a bit of water. Reheat over medium heat, stirring carefully and frequently.

Roger's Apple Pastry
Okay, a nod to my sweetheart, Roger. He's an awesome cook, so when he came across this idea, who could resist? Well, the kids and I couldn't! Cheddar cheesey. Appley. Mmm. Yummy. Quick and impressive.

It needs a bit of chilling time, so it's easiest to make the filling mixture then refrigerate it overnight. 
2 med. tart apples, such as granny smith, diced
1 1/2 c. coarsely grated cheddar cheese
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/4 c. dried sweetened cranberries
pinch of salt
1 17.3-oz package frozen puffed pastry, thawed
1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp. water for glaze 
sugar to sprinkle on top 

Toss first 6 ingredients to blend. Cover and chill up to 12 hours (overnight is okay).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray casserole dish with nonstick spray. Place 1/2 of pastry on bottom of casserole. Prick with a fork's tines. Cover it with fruit mixture. Then cover the fruit mixture with another layer of pastry. Brush on egg/water mixture and sprinkle with sugar . Bake until golden brown. Watch closely; this bakes fast!

Kathleen's Mango Salsa
This is one of my own creations. Try this with any fish. I think it's particularly good with salmon that's been pan sauteed. It's also delicious mixed with cous-cous. To make a healthy salad out of leftovers, flake the salmon and add to the salsa/mango mix. Add a little olive oil, if you'd like. This makes a great lunch the next day.

1 mango, peeled and finely diced
1 small zucchini, peeled and finely diced
1 14-oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1/2 14-oz. can black olives, sliced
1 14-oz. can peach slices or halves, finely diced
1/8 c. finely diced fresh cilantro (optional)
lime juice to taste
kosher salt to taste

Yields: 6 large servings

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients well. Let sit for one hour to blend flavors.

Kathleen's Cous-Cous Summery Salad
Okay, this one calls for a chicken bullion cube, which disqualifies it for Lenten Fridays. However, you can certainly enjoy it during the week. Or, take the bullion cube out and add a little salt and pepper to taste. By the way, if you need to know: cous-cous is made of wheat. Check your grocery store for fresh herbs and tart cherries. If you need to use canned tart cherries, rinse them thoroughly before dicing.

1/2 c. uncooked instant cous-cous
1 c. water
1 chicken bullion cube
1 navel orange, peeled and diced
1/2 mango, peeled and diced
1/2 c. tart cherries, pitted and diced
1/4 c. fresh mint, julienned
generous squirt lime juice

Yields: 4 servings

Cook cous-cous in water and chicken bullion cube, until fluffy, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Set aside. In a large bowl, gently mix the cous-cous and all other ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve. If the mixture is a little too dry, add more lime juice.

Corn Pancakes
This is a wheat-free recipe. If you use buttermilk, you will have a creamy batter that sets up nicely on a hot griddle. Regular milk will produce a batter that's a little runny, making it more difficult to shape neat round pancakes. Nevertheless, even with milk, these are delicious. Serve them with a large fresh fruit salad. A citrus salad goes particularly well with the corn.

1 c. whole cornmeal
1 c. canned or frozen corn, preferably shoe peg
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1. cup buttermilk
1/4 c. canola oil
1 heaping tsp. aluminum free baking powder

Yields: 18 medium pancakes

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and blend well. Cook on a very hot griddle, using about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Bran Muffins
Just sweet enough, this muffin is excellent with the raisins. If you're looking for a wheat-free recipe, check out the one that follows. You may use wheat or oat bran. These are most delicious served warm, but they keep and freeze well, too.

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. bran
2 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. molasses
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 c. milk
1 c. raisins

Yields: 12 standard muffins

Preheat the oven at 375. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, soda, and salt. Stir in the bran. In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and milk. Mix until thoroughly combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until almost combined. Add the raisins, and mix again until just combined. Do not mix any further, or else they will not rise. Bake in muffin tins until skewer inserted comes out dry, about 30 minutes.

100% Oat Bran Muffins
Here's a wheat-free version. Wonderful served warm!

2 1/2 c. oat bran
2 tsp. aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. honey or maple syrup (or 1/4 c. honey and 1/4 c. maple syrup)
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/4 raisins

Yields: 12 standard muffins

Preheat oven at 425.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix together wet ingredients until they are completely incorporated. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix until almost combined. Add the raisins, and mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Fill muffin cups full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Alicia's Soda Bread

A friend of mine gave me this recipe. She quickly wrote it down from memory, and it's excellent. Buttermilk makes all the difference, but plain milk will work if necessary.

3 c. all purpose or bread flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. each aluminum free baking powder and baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. buttermilk
1 c. raisins or dried cranberries

Yields: One large loaf

Preheat oven 350. In large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Then add buttermilk all at once. Stir until almost combined. Add the raisins or dried cranberries. Mix until just combined. Do not mix past this point, or else it will rise less. This will be a sticky dough that is hard to mix with a spoon. Flour your hands and mix by hand if necessary. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and spray with non-stick cooking spray (such as Pam). Place the dough in one heap on the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. If the top browns too fast, place a sheet of foil on top, without wrapping it. When finished, the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom with your fingers. Delicious served warm or room temperature.

Heap the dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Kathleen's Lenten Bean and Vegetable Soup

I made this for Ash Wednesday. It's my own concoction and requires no chicken or beef stock. Everyone gobbled it up! Be sure to rinse the canned beans before using them.  If you use whole barley, it will require more time to cook, so add it to the vegetables at the start of the soup. I served this with the soda bread, above.

2 14-oz. cans your favorite beans (I like 1 can black beans and 1 can navy beans), drained and rinsed
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, including liquid
4 carrots, diced to size of beans
2 stalks celery, diced to size of beans
1 large onion, diced to size of beans
6 cups water
2 handfuls pearled (or whole) barley
1 c. frozen corn
3 bay leaves
tbs. rosemary leaves
fresh cracked pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
shredded cheddar cheese for serving

Yields: 6 servings

In dutch oven or large sauce pan, bring water to a boil. Reduce and add carrots, celery, onions, bay leaves and rosemary. Simmer until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, barley, corn, salt and pepper. Simmer until soup is thick, the vegetables are fork tender, and the barley is done, about 45 minutes. The longer the soup is simmered, the better, for a fuller flavor. Stir in parsley. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Vincenza's Egg Croquettes

Here's a recipe I've adapted from Eat This...It Will Make You Feel Better by the late Dom DeLuise. It's one of my family's favorites. I don't know who Vincenza is. You will need to make red sauce, croquettes, and your favorite rice. If you like to use brown rice, it will take much longer to cook than white, so make the rice first. The men in the family find this particularly satisfying.

Yields: 4 large servings

For the red sauce:
tsp. minced garlic (jarred)
4 tbsp olive oil
32-oz can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
basil, oregano, bay leaves, parsley, salt and pepper--all to taste (fresh or dried)

In large sauce pan, simply saute garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, to allow it to bloom, then add a 32 oz. can of diced tomatoes and one small can tomato paste. Then I add favorite spices, such as basil, oregano, parsley, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Simmer until thick, at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make croquettes.

For the croquettes:
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/2 grated cheese (choose your favorite)
5 tbsp chopped parsley

In large mixing bowl, mix ingredients until just combined. Next, cook the croquettes in the red sauce. Take a large spoon and dip into red sauce to wet it. This will keep the croquettes from sticking to it. Carefully spoon the croquettes into the sauce one by one, side by side. Do not stir or touch. Cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes.

For the rice:
2 c. water
1 c. uncooked rice (your favorite)
1 c. frozen peas

In small sauce pan, bring water to a boil. Add rice. Cook until almost done, then add peas. Stir gently to combine.

Place cooked rice on platter. Spoon sauce and croquettes over the rice. Serve hot and with a little extra grated cheese on top. Delicious!

Salmon Burgers

You can cook these on the grill, but I like to saute them in a pan with a little olive oil. Serve on a burger bun with all the fixings, or just by themselves, along with a salad. If you don't have green onions (also called spring onions), finely diced yellow, white or red onions also work great.

1 14-oz can canned pink salmon (such as Chicken of the Sea), drained.
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. Dijon style mustard
3/4 c. dry bread crumbs
1/2 sliced green onions (include as much of the green as you'd like)
2 whole eggs (or 3 egg whites), beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Yields: 4 servings

Drain and flake salmon. (There's no need to remove the bones, as they are soft. They also contain a lot of calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. The skin can also remain.) Add all other ingredients and gently mix. Try to keep a few salmon chunks in tact. Form into 4 large patties. Grill or saute in pan with olive oil until crispy on the outside. Serve alone, or as you would a hamburger.

Ben's Clam Chowder

Don't be afraid to make clam chowder. You won't believe how easy this one is! And it passes the taste test of my husband's gourmet taste buds. The green onions really make it.

Yields: 4 servings

4 5-oz. cans chopped (or minced) clams, 3 drained and 1 undrained
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
3 med. potatoes, 1" cubes
1 14-oz can corn, drained (or 1 1/2 c. frozen corn)
1 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 13-oz. can evaporated milk

In a large saucepan, combine drained and undrained clams with green onions, potatoes, and corn. Add water, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add the evaporated milk and stir to heat through. Serve hot.

Cream of Squash/Corn Soup

When my husband tasted this, he was positive it had cheese it in. Nope. But it is a little rich. I use unpasteurized whole milk from our local dairy. Use whatever milk you think suits your needs. Last year, we had a bountiful harvest of butternut squash, so I have quite a bit of mashed squash in the freezer. If you don't, you'll need to buy a large butternut squash, cube it, remove the skin, and prepare it like mashed potatoes. (It's easiest to cut the squash into large cubes and then remove the skin from the cubes.) My neighbor also shared a bit of his hefty corn harvest with us last year, so I used corn I cut from the cobs and froze myself. Unbelievably good!

2 c. butternut squash --cooked and mashed, then measured
3 c. corn (frozen or off cob)
2 c. water
1 c. onion, chopped
1/2 c. green pepper, chopped
6 tbsp. butter (you can half this without much problem, if you use whole milk)
6 tbsp. flour
5 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste
freshly ground nutmeg for garnish

Yields: 6 servings

In large saucepan or dutch oven, combine squash, corn, and water. Simmer until corn is tender and all is combined. In a medium sauce pan, cook onion and pepper in butter until soft. Stir in flour and cook for a few minutes. Add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Add to squash/corn mixture and heat through. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with ground nutmeg. Excel-Lent!

Cooked Water Soup

Okay, one more soup recipe. This one I adapted from Lidia's Italian Kitchen. My children love the poached egg combined with the greens. It's high in protein and nutrients. And, as Lidia explained, it was popular among farmers and laborers in Italy. It a little unconventional but very tasty. Serve with a crusty bread dipped in olive oil.

2 lbs. swiss chard or kale, washed well
1 onion
2 celery stalks
1/3 c. fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
8 fresh basil leaves
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
red pepper flakes to taste (I use as few as 3)
1 tbsp. tomato paste
9 c. water
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 egg for each serving
freshly grated percorino cheese for serving

Yields: 4 to 6 servings

First, you will need to make a paste out of the onion, celery, parsley, basil leaves, and pepper flakes. You can do this by finely mincing by hand, by using a food processor, or by using a chopper attachment to an immersion blender.  I make the paste by hand: chop ingredients very fine, combine and chop again, then blend it all together with the sides of the knife. Do this several times until you produce a smooth paste. Set aside.

Prepare the kale or swiss chard by cutting the stems/ribs out of the leaves. Cut the ribs into small pieces. Slice the leaves into long strips. Combine the strips into a pile, then cut them into small squares. Set aside.

In dutch oven or large sauce pan, heat olive oil and saute the paste until it dries and begins to stick. Add tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Add water and bring to a boil. Add kale/swiss chard leaves and ribs and simmer 1 hour. In skillet, add some broth and greens. Carefully crack and add 1 egg per serving. Bring to a simmer and cover until eggs are done to your liking. (I like the yolks to be runny, but cook the eggs as you would like.) Carefully ladle each egg into a bowl and add more stock and kale/swiss chard. Top with pecorino cheese.

Cooking and Baking Tips

Here are a few tips I hope will help your kitchen run a little more smoothly. If you have tips you'd like to share, please send them to me at Please put "recipe tips" in the subject and include your tip directly in the email. (Unfortunately, I cannot open attachments.) I'd love to hear from you!

* Muffins mixes: when mixing muffins, always whisk the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. When the dry ingredients are well mixed, it should all appear as a single color, without streaks. Ditto for the wet ingredients. Then, add the wet into the dry. Mix until the two are just combined. Do not over mix until the batter is smooth. This will lead to muffins that will not rise; they will be very dry and chewy. If you need to add nuts, mix the dry and wet until almost combined (you will still see plenty of flour in the mix), then add the nuts and mix again until just combined. Even a few strokes to many will affect how well the muffins rise, especially if you are using whole grains.

*Cook with fresh herbs as often as possible. If you have left over herbs, don't waste them, letting them get moldy in the fridge. Instead, remove the leaves from the stems. For larger herbs, chop the leaves. Add one tsp of each herb into an ice cube tray. Drizzle in a little water, then freeze. I like to put different herbs in different colored trays; then I write down which tray contains which herb. Believe me, they look alike when they are frozen. When they are frozen, remove the herbs from the ice trays and place into labelled freezer bags. When you are making soups, stew, pot roasts, etc., you can simply pop in a cube or two of your favorite herbs. If you need to defrost the herbs for a cold dish, place the cubes in a strainer and run them under warm water. Then, chop the herbs to the consistency you want. This works great with herbs like cilantro and parsley, which usually come in bundles too big for one or two recipes, or any herbs you have in plenty. In late

*The bread comes out of the oven and spells great. Super! But wait! Don't slice it just yet. If you let all the steam escape, you will be left with a bread that is dull and very dry. Wait about 20 minutes before slicing any yeast or quick bread. Some people like a very thick crust on their bread, but I don't. To keep the crust firm but yummy, drape a lightweight cotton kitchen towel over it while it cools. This will keep that perfect crust perfect.

*Frozen veggies are great, but how do you seal up the bag after you use only half? I like to open the bag by slicing a 1/2 inch strip off it top with scissors. Then I use the strip to tie the bag shut. When I saw this tip in a cooking mag, I thought someone had been looking in our windows. Guess I'm not the only one who doesn't like to fuss with rubber bands.

*Brown sugar turned hard? Place an apple slice inside the bag for a couple of hours. The moisture from the apple will make the brown sugar perfect again.

*You will notice, I do not mention using a microwave in any of my recipes or the tips. Almost two years ago, when we moved, I left the old, hefty device with our home's new owners. Since then, I haven't looked back. I'm doing great without it. I'm not a fan of what microwaves do to our food, so I'm glad to live without one.

*So what exactly does softened butter mean anyway?  There is a special consistency butter must have to make your recipe work great. If you can poke your finger through the butter, of if it glossy and looks oily in its package, it is way too soft. You can also test the proper consistency this way; try to break the stick in half. You should be able to hold it in your hands without a problem. The stick should bend quite a bit before breaking. If it's too hard to bend, or if it breaks right away because it's rigid, it needs more softening. 

*How do we reheat foods without a microwave. Okay, I live without a microwave. I'm happy to be without one. I just don't like what it does to our foods. Really, I've never had a microwave that heated food all the way through properly. So, here's what I do. Place the food in a saucepan or fry pan, whichever is best for the item you are reheating. Add a little water. This is a necessary step for the reheating process. If you do not add water, the heat will pull the water out of the food, making the dish very dry. Warm the food over medium heat (maximum) until it steams. This shouldn't take very long at all and the result is a meal that is not rubbery or overcooked and is even heated through.  

*A note: One thing I would LOVE to add to my kitchen in lieu of a microwave is a toaster oven with a convection option. Now THAT would be fun!

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