The Perfect Baked Potato

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1. First, you need to start with the right potato – the ones with the dirty looking, brown skin. Choose potatoes as big as your open hand for this recipe, wash them well and dry them.

2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place a cookie sheet on the lower rack to catch any drips because you will place the potatoes directly on an oven rack to bake.

3. With a fork, puncture the top of each potato three times.

4. Spray the entire potato with canola oil spray and sprinkle liberally on all sides with table salt.

5. Place on the rack above the cookie sheet and bake for an hour and a half.

I know there are variations on this recipe – like using sea salt or rubbing with Crisco, etc. But try this exactly as presented before experimenting. It never fails me and they are better than at the steakhouse.

My oven may be different than yours but I find the hour and a half to be just right for that large potato.

BEWARE . . . You can get addicted!

Egg Salad with A-Peeling Tips

Egg salad is not a new and exciting recipe thing. However, to make egg salad, you have to hard boil eggs and peel them. Peeling hard boiled eggs is one of those things that you can never be sure of. Every once in awhile, the shell comes off so quickly and easily, you are amazed, and other times, you spend forever removing the shell tiny chip by tiny chip.

I believe it has to do with the freshness of the eggs, but I can’t remember how that goes.

Anyway, I have developed my own tricks because I like to use farm fresh eggs and my easy-peeling days are few and far between.

First, you identify the fatter end of the egg – to the right in this photo.

The fatter end has an air bubble under the membrane. If you smack this end against your sink or whatever you smack eggs against, the air from that end is pushed away into the space between the membrane and the egg itself . . .

Then you tap the sides to break the shell some more and in theory, the egg peels easily. Unless it is a very fresh egg . . .

in which case, you would have to start picking away at these little chips. The first part of my remedy is to run water into the open end of the shell, and the second is to use a teaspoon from your flatware set to peel the egg . . .

I think they designed most teaspoons around eggs. The fit of the curved surfaces is really so perfect! Anyway, slip the teaspoon under the shell and membrane and slide it around to release the egg from its shell.

You should then be able to rinse the shell away.

I make egg salad like anyone – by coarsely shopping the eggs with a knife . . .

But I found this chopper years ago and it is one of my favorite kitchen things. . . it chops the egg into much smaller pieces with no effort at all (my goal in the kitchen is making no effort at all!)

Then, a tablespoon or two of mayo and you have a great egg salad.

I recommended Best Foods (Hellmans back East) Canola Oil awhile back, but I like the Olive OIl Mayo even better. Half the fat and calories and it’s good fat.

The finer chop makes an egg salad that spreads easily on toast. And I like to top it with sweet Cherub tomatoes. These cost a fortune at the grocery store, but are very affordable at Sam’s Club . . .

Do not keep these in the refrigerator (you should not keep any tomato in the refrigerator). They last about three times longer kept at room temperature.

Here is my favorite egg salad sandwich – on toast made from Orowheat Oat Nut Bread – because the bread is so sweet.

A little salt and pepper and perfection. What do you add to your egg salad?

A Great Turkey Find . . .

(jessica)

This one I found at Sam’s Club where I am always looking for new ways not to cook.

I guess this could also come frozen, but at Sam’s, it was in the refrigerated cases near the meat counter. So, no thawing is necessary. Inside are three separate bags of cooked sliced turkey breast medallions that are really delicious. They come in an oven roasted variety too, but Sam’s did not have that one and the Deep Fried does not have more fat or calories so I think it is just a taste thing.

Right away, my head started spinning with ideas of what to do with them – mostly salad ideas because it is Summer and the idea of soups and stews just isn’t on my radar.

I did come up with a great pasta salad which I will share as soon as I can upload the photos.

But even for sandwiches, this is a treasure find because look at these numbers:

Gotta love it.

Potato Salad

(jessica)

I will be honest. I don’t like to cook in Summer. And with everything on my plate (non food items) for the past two months, there is no time for eating – let alone cooking. But a person has to have potato salad at least once in Summer, right. The usual mayonnaise kind is a little fat heavy for my taste, so I started using some of my favorite salad dressings instead. Trader Joe’s has some wonderful dressings with much better calorie and fat counts, and there is a delicious Vidalia Onion dressing at Sam’s Club that works very well for potato salad.

I like to vary the ingredients, but here is one of my favorite combos:

I start with either baby red skin or yellow skin potatoes – chop them and steam them. They keep their shape much better and don’t absorb all the dressing. I have never liked the peel/chop/boil method because the resulting potato salad can be so mushy.

Then, add chopped celery . . .

Chopped green onion . . .

Toast some Pine Nuts in a dry pan – and keep an eye on them because once they start to toast – they can get toasted too much (i.e. burned) in a big hurry.

Crumble some very crisp bacon (unless you are a vegetarian). This is the pre-cooked kind from Hormel that is instant, low cal and makes no mess . . . I microwave it for a minute and a half and let it sit for a few moments to get crisp.

And, finally, cut some sweet cherry tomatoes in half, and you are ready to toss it in the dressing of your choice, and chill (or not).

Bagel Thins!

(Cassie)

Are there any bagel lovers in the house?

Well I love bagels. But they are so BIG and FILLING, that they aren’t always my first choice.

UNTIL, I found these at the store last week. BAGEL THINS!

Half the size of regular bagels, they make the perfect breakfast of champions when topped with peanut butter, eggs, jelly (not all together, of course!)

Thank you, Thomas’s!

Sumptuous Seafood Salad

(Cassie)

I have never actually written the word sumptuous before, so I initially misspelled it. I know it fits here though, because I needed a word to aptly express just how much I LOVED this salad!

I have to be honest. I didn’t make it. It was served to me at a restaurant on my birthday. I took this picture so that I could remember what was in/on it.

I’m going to make this salad at home.

Crab, shrimp, asparagus, avocado, egg, tomato and a sun-dried tomato creamy dressing.

Plain and simple, fresh and fantastic.

I’m going to the fish market this weekend and getting the goods to make this sumptuous salad.

MMMMMMMMM….

Stuffed BELLS!

(Cassie)

OK, I must admit. This isn’t necessarily an EASY, QUICK dinner.

But, it’s delicious, different and fun!

Here’s my dinner the other night. Stuffed bell peppers.

I started with ground turkey, salt/pepper to taste, Italian seasoning, and diced onion in a pan on medium heat. As the mixture browned, I added a couple cups of fresh chopped spinach to the pan.

While that was simmering away, I cleaned my pretty multi-color bells (I don’t like green, only the “non-gassy” ones, which seem to be red, yellow and orange) and put them in the microwave in a dish with just a bit of water in the bottom and a bowl turned over on top as the cover. They come out just cooked enough so that in the end, they’re easy to cut and still a tad firm.

AT THE SAME TIME, my rice is cooking, which will become a part of the stuffing. I chose the Near East Sun Dried Tomato and Basil this time, because I thought it would really add to the flavor.

Here’s some ingredients I’m also going to use. Parmesan cheese, a container of interesting sauce (I chose another sun dried tomato blend) and extra sharp cheddar.

Back to the meat. Stir, stir, stir…add a couple things. Like the Parmesan (just enough to really help pull the ingredients together) and the sauce. DING! Rice is done now. So I add that to the mix as well.

Time to stuff the peppers. And I do mean stuff. I packed the mixture down so that each bell is really a full serving.

Topped it off with grated extra sharp cheddar cheese and popped it into the oven (uncovered) for 30 minutes at 350.

You can certainly add your special ingredients to this dish to make it your own! Ground beef instead of turkey, different flavors of rice, sauce, cheese. You get the idea. Play a little. Experiment with flavors.

There you have it. A little salad and bread on the side and you’re serving one awesome meal.

Enjoy~!

Coffee Filters – An Amazing Resource

(jessica)

Sue, (our wonderful researcher) found this on the web for us and we thought we should pass it along, since there isn’t a lot of cooking going on around here these days.
In my kitchen, nothing is happening that can’t be boiled, steamed, or sauteed in 7 minutes flat. Not so exciting, but gardening has come back into the picture as a time hog. Too bad we can’t just eat the seeds and little leaves.
Anyway, I digress.
It is a great thing when a simple and inexpensive thing can do every thing. Consider the following accomplishments of the simple coffee filter:
1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the  microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.
2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome…  Coffee filters are lint-free so they’ll leave windows sparkling.
3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.
4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine  bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the  skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.
7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve  lined with a coffee filter.
8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a  kitchen scale.
9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.
10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant  pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through  the drainage holes.
11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as  needed in a coffee filter.
12. Do you think you have to use expensive strips to wax eyebrows?  Use  strips of coffee filters. (Jessica comment – Ouch!)
13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken  fingers, etc on them.  It soaks out all the grease.
14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great “razor nick  fixers.”
15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.
16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.
17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
18. Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.
19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.
20. Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies.  Saves on having extra bowls to wash.
21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.
22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.
23. Use them to sprout seeds.  Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout.
24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers.  Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in  phone book.
25. Use as a disposable “snack bowl” for popcorn, chips, etc.
Wow – can you add anything to this list? Oh yeah – there’s making coffee, I guess.

Good Gravy~!

(Cassie)

A while back, I introduced you to this wonderful gravy made by Imagine Foods.

Since then, I have used it in many recipes. What I’m sharing with you today is a quick and easy way to add zest so many things; potatoes, omelets, poultry and stuffing – just to name a few.

Here are all the ingredients you’ll need to make this AWESOME sage gravy:


Put about 1 T. of butter in a small pan and bring to a bubble. Then add your chopped sage (I used about 8-10 leaves). Stir and allow the butter to burn (brown) a bit while cooking the sage. Add a pinch (or two) of brown sugar to the mix. When the sage is just this side of “crispy,” add one container of Imagine Turkey Gravy and a bit of S & P to taste (that’s salt and pepper).

Let this little medley simmer all the while you prepare your meal. The first night, I poured it over our Turkey Cutlets that I had fried ever-so quickly in a pan (because they’re so thin, they don’t take long to cook). We also spooned a little (or a lot) over the stuffing that I prepared for a side dish.

My family RAVED about this flavor. Truthfully, sometimes turkey meat can be so dry (especially if overcooked even a little).

The next morning, I used the leftover gravy on top of my mushroom and swiss omelet!

YUM!!

I can’t even describe how fantastic this flavor is. Of course, you have to be a sage fan for this version. The other night, I added basil to the gravy and poured it over veggies. Oh my, I think you’re gonna like this one!

7 Layer Supper

(jessica)

Wow, no one has been cooking around here in awhile!

But, we’ll try to make up for that with this super supper idea based on the well-known 7-Layer Dip you might encounter at parties. This version is easier, goes in a soup bowl, and satisfies even big appetites.

First, let’s gather and prep ingredients:

Non-Vegetarians want to start with a pound of ground beef or ground turkey breast – cooked thoroughly and fat-drained if using ground beef. Gather all ingredients and be ready to layer before cooking the meat because you want it piping hot as your first layer.

Here are the rest of the ingredients:

This stuff is one of those great things you would never discover. It is only about 60¢/can and is “hot dog chili”. Most health food folks would run the other way. But guess again – this is a flavored puree of beans and is delicious. A half gram of fat and 10 calories per tablespoon! Not even high in sodium, but does contain MSG. This does make a great coney island hot dog, but is perfect for this recipe as well – much more flavor than refried beans.

Heat in the microwave for 2 minutes just before you start layering. Stir after one minute.

Chop some fresh cilantro and green onion. Get out some Mexican Seasoning if you have any (optional). Use on the meat while cooking.

Finely grated cheese and sliced ripe olives . . .

Then, some guacamole. You can make your own if you have the time and ambition. I have neither and buy mine in the deli section -

along with fresh salsa . . .

And now, we are ready for assembly!

Layer 1 is the very hot meat Layer . . .

Layer 2 is the very hot chili Layer (the hot dog chili, that is). Refried beans could be subbed here.

Layer 3 – grated cheese – so it will melt into the meat and chili . . .

Layer 4 is your greens (cilantro and green onion) . . .

Layer 5 – spoon a generous helping of salsa over the greens . . .

Layer 6 – add a serving of guacamole . . .

And Layer 7 – sprinkle with black olives . . .

And there you have it. You can eat this whole thing with a spoon, or use tortilla chips as dippers. Our favorite is to combine the two – spooning some of all seven layers onto the tortilla chip (keeps the chip from breaking).

This makes a great party meal – where everyone adds their own Layers.

Buen appetito!