Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ranch Style Chili

Chances are that it’s cold where you are and that you will be tired and (dare I say) hungover after New Year’s Eve.  Make a pot of Ranch Style Chili a day in advance so you can relax, watch football and still have something good to eat with minimal effort.

My family grew up calling this Ranch Style Beans.  I’m sure there is a trademark infringement in there with that title and I’m baffled that my dad did not order us to cease and desist.  So let’s call it Ranch Style Chili with a nod to a great Fort Worth, TX company.
Ranch Style Chili

  1. 1 lb ground meat
  2. 1 chopped onion (or 2 T onion powder)
  3. 1 t minced garlic (or 2 cloves)
  4. 1 chopped green pepper
  5. salt and pepper and paprika, to taste
  6. 1 ½ T chili powder
  7. 1 can stewed tomatoes (15 oz) – I use the petite diced tomatoes because it’s smaller chunks for the kids to eat so less complaining.  Another reader uses Rotel tomatoes - you get the tomatoes and jalapeno too.
  8. 2 cans Ranch Style beans (30 oz total) – there are various flavors to choose from.  I like original but if you want more of a kick, try the jalapeno version.
Optional for garnish
  1. Fritos or other corn chip
  2. Grated cheese, like Mexican four cheese blend (cheddar, Monterey jack, asadero and queso quesadilla)
  3. Chopped onions
Brown items #1-3 in a skillet.  Drain the grease from the cooked meat.

Add the cooked meat to a large pot containing items #4-8.  Simmer for 1 hour (this will soften the green pepper and onion (if you choose to use the real thing and not the powder)).

To serve, my kids like a layer of Fritos, then spoon on the chili, then sprinkle grated cheese on top.  Chopped onions might be good addition too.

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Crab Bisque

For me, another great taste of the holidays is Gayle’s crab bisque.  She has been serving this to her family and friends for years.  The ingredients are simple and basic but when stirred together are rich and creamy.  Splurge a little and use good quality crabmeat (lump is fine – you don’t have to buy jumbo lump) from your fish market.  She serves it in a mug so you can sip and chat with just one hand.  Her final piece of advice: “don’t let the soup boil.” 

    Crab Bisque
  1. 1 bunch of green onions, cut into small pieces
  2. 1 lb of lump crabmeat
  3. ½ c butter (1 stick or 8 T)
  4. 2 cans of mushroom soup (not cream of mushroom)
  5. 1 can of tomato soup
  6. ½ c sherry
  7. 3 c milk
  8. fresh parsley, chopped
Sauté the green onions and crabmeat in butter – this is to soften the onions and blend the flavors so 5-10 minutes.  Pour soups (I have used basic Campbell's tomato and mushroom soups from the can - how easy is that!) into a large pot; add sherry, milk and parsley.  Stir to mix.  Add crabmeat and onions.  Simmer on low to heat throughout – don’t let it boil.

Serve hot in a mug or in a bowl.  Either way, it's fantastic!

Serves 6-8.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tuna Tartare

Our friend, Samantha, served this as an appetizer the other night at her house.  It’s one of David’s most favorite dishes so I had to make it again.  If you are going to a dinner or a party sometime soon, offer to bring the appetizer and wow your friends with this one.  The guys at Rex’s Seafood will even dice the tuna for you (if you ask nicely and they aren’t too crowded). 

Barefoot Contessa's online recipe serves 50 so below is a more manageable quantity from her Family Style cookbook.  Serve on water crackers.  Delish!

  • 3/4 pound very fresh tuna steak cut into small cubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Grated zest of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 6 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Water crackers, like Carr's cracked pepper table water crackers
Cut the tuna into 1/4-inch dice and place in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Pour over the tuna.  Add the scallions and jalapeno and mix well.  Dice the avocado and carefully mix into the tuna mixture.  Add the toasted sesame seeds and season to taste.  Allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour for the flavors to blend.  Serve with crackers.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Coffee Cake

My mom’s coffee cakes have been a staple of family and friends’ Christmas mornings for almost 40 years.  One year we were running late on deliveries (I must have been with her) and Kathy and Chris were waiting in the window.  As they opened the door they exclaimed “we thought you weren’t coming and that we would have to buy a Sara Lee!”  If you’re not fortunate enough to be on my mom’s delivery route, bake one for yourself (and 2 friends – the recipe makes 3 cakes) – who doesn’t love the idea of eating cake for breakfast and it makes your house smell great too!  Merry Christmas morning (or any morning, really)!!

This recipe makes 3 cakes (either 9 inch round or 9 inch square pans).  If you halve the recipe, use a 13x9x2 pan.  Your call but I think it’s much more fun to bake and share!

    Coffee Cake
  1. 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1 ½ c sugar
  3. 16 oz sour cream
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 3 c flour
  6. 6 t baking powder
  7. 2 t baking soda
  8. 4 t vanilla
Nut mix
  1. 1 c chopped pecans
  2. 1 c sugar
  3. 4 t cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350. 

Blend with a mixer items #1-2.  Add items #3-4.  Make sure all ingredients are evenly mixed.

Slowly (so the flour doesn’t fly all over the place and make your kitchen too messy) add the flour, baking powder and soda (#5-7) then add the vanilla (#8).

Separate batter into the 3 cake pans (disposable are better if you plan to share) and spread evenly in pan.  Sprinkle nut mix on top.  Bake in oven at 350 for 35-40 minutes. 

If you make the single cake, then spread half the batter and top with half the nut mix.  Pour on the remaining batter and top with the remaining nut mix.  This gives you a nice cinnamon-sugary-nutty layer in the middle of the cake. 

Love you Mom - thanks for letting me share one of your signature dishes!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

Another great Barefoot Contessa recipe - this feeds a few or expand for a crowd, can be made a day in advance, and is delicious eating on the day of and beyond.  I have made a few adjustments to her version (less lemon juice and olive oil in the dressing; more pine nuts, less feta, left out the basil, etc.) but if you're a purist, here is a link to the original.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
  1. 1 small eggplant, peeled and ¾ inch diced
  2. 1 red bell pepper, diced 
  3. 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  4. 1 red onion, peeled and diced
  5. 2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 t if using pre-minced in a jar)
  6. 1/3 c olive oil
  7. 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  8. ½ t ground black pepper
  9. ½ lb orzo
  10. 4 green onions, minced (white and green parts)
  11. 4 ozs pignolis (aka, pine nuts), toasted
  12. 3-4 ozs. feta, crumbled
  13. basil leaves, cut into chiffonade (optional)
  1. ¼ c lemon juice
  2. ¼ c olive oil
  3. 1 t kosher salt
  4. ½ t ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425.  Cut up ingredients #1-4 into small, bite size pieces.  Toss with items #5-8 and spread out on a baking sheet or glass pan.  Roast for about 40 minutes and turn/stir halfway.

Cook the orzo as directed, 7-9 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta.  Pour the dressing on the pasta and vegetable mixture.  Let cool to room temperature and then add ingredients #10-13.  Serve at room temperature.

Notes: most times I leave out the green onions.  Always toast the pine nuts (in a sauté pan or in the oven under the broiler).  I prefer the feta crumbled small because it’s such an overwhelming flavor that large chunks drowns out the flavor of the pasta and vegetables.  Most time I leave out the basil leaves.  Like the green onions, it’s a preferred taste (and my kids don’t prefer it). 

Happy Birthday A&E!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Brisket used to scare me.  Would it be a dry, chewy lump when I was through?  Then my friend Carol shared her friend Sally’s brisket recipe and I am scared no more.  It’s kind of hard to screw up.  Because most briskets are 4 lbs minimum, this is great for a crowd or for a few meals during the week.  Take note: it takes 6 hours to cook so plan accordingly but it’s worth it (and it’s not as if you’re standing over the stove or grill the entire time).

Have you ever had the brisket tacos at Taco Diner?  Use this brisket meat and you can have that tasty treat at home.

  1. Center cut trimmed beef brisket (typically 4-7 lbs)
  2. One can of beef broth
  3. One jar of Woody’s Cook n Sauce (I’ve seen it at both Tom Thumb and Central Market.  Careful not to mistake it with the Woody’s Sweet n Sour Sauce.)
  4. Sara Lee white rolls
  5. Your favorite BBQ sauce (I like Salt Lick (mustardy and sweet - available at Central Market) or Sadler's which is kind of hard to find)
Preheat the oven to 275.  Place brisket fat side down in a roasting pan.  Pour one can of beef broth over brisket.  Then pour one jar of Woody’s Cook n Sauce over brisket (make a nice “blanket” of sauce over the brisket).  Cook 3 hours uncovered.

Turn it over (fat side up) and cover tightly with foil.  Cook for 3 more hours.

Once cooked, slice the fat off the top of the meat.  Slice the beef and pour the liquid/sauce in the pan into a container.  Place the sauce in the refrigerator; when cooled, the fat will rise to the top and then skim the fat off with a spoon.  Pour the sauce over the sliced beef to keep it moist and flavorful.

Brisket Sandwiches

Brisket Sandwiches
For brisket sandwiches, slice and place on Sara Lee white rolls.  Top with your favorite BBQ sauce, pickles, onions, or whatever you like on your BBQ sandwich.  Serve with BBQ beans or potato salad (try Kuby’s mustard potato salad) or corn on the cob or…

Brisket Tacos

Brisket Tacos - assembly

For brisket tacos, chop up brisket into small pieces.  On a white corn tortilla, mix/layer brisket and Kraft Mexican style Authentic cheese - it's a combo of queso quesadilla, asadero and manchego cheese.  Fold over tortilla to make a half-moon shape and place it on a warm saute pan/griddle to melt the cheese and make the tortilla slightly crisp (sometimes I have to place a spatula or something on top of the tortilla so it doesn't unroll.  Flip over the filled tortilla and warm the other side too.  Cut into thirds.  Serve with avocado slices.  The kids give it a "muy bien" rating.

Brisket Tacos

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mini-cheesecakes: Traditional and White Chocolate

Yes, it is officially a “cheese” week so let’s end it with something sweet. 

The holidays bring parties and parties mean eating.  My cousin, Carrie, was in charge of dessert for her holiday party so we brainstormed on a few ideas and she chose one of my mom’s go-to, crowd-pleasing desserts – mini-cheesecakes.  They are quick and easy, they are bite-sized and portable, they cook quickly and don’t require a water bath, and the smaller surface area means less cracking.  There are 2 flavors below: traditional and white chocolate.

What are some of your holiday favorite sweet treats?  Post a comment or email me your recipe to share.



  1. 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  2. ¾ C sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1 T lemon juice
  5. 1 t vanilla
  6. Muffin cup liners – paper and foil
  7. Nilla wafers
  8. Fruit – fresh or canned
Preheat oven to 350. 

Mix ingredients 1-5 until smooth.  (I use a stand mixer with the wisk attachment.)

Line muffin pan with paper liners.  Place a Nilla wafer on the bottom to form the crust.  Fill the muffin cup about 1/2 full with batter (I  use a ¼ c measuring cup).  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Once cooled, remove paper liner from the cheesecake.  If you want to “present” the cheesecakes, transfer the cheesecakes to foil liners.  Top with fresh fruit (like strawberries or blueberries – you can either place fresh fruit on top or pre-slice, mix with 1-2 t of sugar and let it create its own marinade and then top just prior to serving) or pie filling (like cherry or blueberry).  Wait to top the cheesecakes until just before serving so they don’t get soggy.  This recipe makes about 1 ½ dozen cheesecakes. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

White Chocolate

    White Chocolate Cheesecakes
  1. 12 ozs white chocolate
  2. ½ C heavy or whipping cream
  3. 3 packages (8 ozs each) cream cheese, softened
  4. ¼ C granulated sugar
  5. 4 eggs
  6. 1 T vanilla extract
  7. Oreo cookies (scrape off the cream filling with a knife)
Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over low heat until smooth, stirring frequently.  Cool.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth; beat in the eggs, one at a time, the white chocolate mixture and vanilla. 

Line muffin cups with paper cups.  Drop an Oreo cookie wafer (with no cream filling) in the bottom of each.  Pour batter into the muffin cups about ½ full (that equates to about ¼ c of batter).  Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes.

Once cooled, remove paper liner from the cheesecake.  You can transfer to foil liners for a prettier presentation.  These are tasty without any toppings but if you're feeling fancy, you can dust with cocoa powder or sprinkle white chocolate shavings (or curls if you're really fancy) on top.  This recipe makes about 1 1/2 dozen cheesecakes.  Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Zucchini with Parmesan

It's starting to feel like the "week of parmesan".  Nevertheless, I'm constantly seeking new ways to transform a vegetable into something that the kids will eat.  Barefoot Contessa (you'll learn that she's my favorite - my friend, Carol, and I stood in line for 2 1/2 hours to get her autograph on her new cookbook.  I know but she's as darling in person (10 seconds) as on tv and in her books.)  Anyways, she has a Zucchini Gratin recipe that I make often because the parmesan creates a crispy crust on the zucchini so I'm banking on the fact that maybe the kids will think the zucchini is fried.

Here's the link to Ina's original recipe.  I've adapted it slightly and use onion powder because the kids are going to turn up noses at real, chopped-up onion pieces.

Zucchini with Parmesan

  1. 2 medium zucchini
  2. 1 T olive oil
  3. 1 T onion powder
  4. Kosher salt
  5. Freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cut the ends off the zucchini.  Slice into coins (about ½ inch thick) or you can cut into half moons.  Pour the olive oil into the sauté pan over medium heat; add the onion powder.  Add the zucchini slices and cook until they start to brown and soften (add salt and pepper to taste).  Once cooked through, sprinkle the parmesan on top and serve once the cheese has melted (about 30 seconds).   

(Note: some readers have left some helpful ideas in the comments section about alternative ways to make the zucchini and entree pairings.  Be sure to check them out -- and post your ideas too!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

Quick – you just arrived home from work or piano lessons or soccer practice and you’ve got to get dinner on the table.  What do you do?  Head to your freezer and make Chicken Parmesan.  It is not labor intensive and you can keep most items stocked in your pantry and freezer.  My kids give this a “Mom, I love this dinner” (which is not a daily exclamation) so enjoy!  And don’t let the asparagus fool you – the kids don’t eat that.
Chicken Parmesan

  1. Bell & Evans breaded, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Whole Foods stocks these in the freezer section)
  2. Jar of your favorite pasta sauce – I like Classico's Four Cheese
  3. Mozzarella slices
  4. Spaghetti
Preheat oven to 375.  Boil water for spaghetti.

Bake chicken at 375 for 25-30 minutes until chicken is cooked to at least 170 degrees*.  While chicken is baking and there’s about 10 minutes left, cook the spaghetti for about 10 minutes. 

Assembly is as easy as 1-2-3
When the chicken is done (to at least 170 degrees - this is important because (a) you don’t want to get anyone sick and (b) Bell & Evans chicken breasts are raw – they are not pre-cooked), spoon pasta sauce on top of baked chicken breast.  Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese.  Return chicken to oven and place under broiler until cheese melts and starts to turn brown and bubble.  Serve the chicken parm on top of spaghetti.

* meat thermometer - I love my meat thermometer because I'm spastic about cooking food to the proper temperature.  I use the Maverick Redi Fork Pro.  I purchased it at Barbecues Galore but Bed Bath and Beyond has it as well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Banana Bread

I secretly enjoy when the bananas start to turn brown – as if I need an extra excuse to make Uncle Willy’s banana bread.  You may not know Uncle Willy but meet him once and you’ll start calling him Uncle Willy too.  This recipe is so easy.  You throw all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and then just turn it on.  The kids like to make it with me, especially chopping the nuts.  I’ve baked it in a loaf pan, as mini-loafs and as muffins.  My favorite is mini-loafs – you get a lot of great crust, you have extras if you want to share with a friend or neighbor (perfect during the holidays to share with a party host – one for them, 3 for you!), and they cook faster than a standard loaf.  Muffins are even faster but it’s more work to fill all those muffin cups.  I typically make it with pecans but try it with walnuts – you may never choose to buy a slice from Starbucks again!
Banana Bread

  1. 2 ripe medium bananas
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 1 ¾ c unsifted all purpose flour
  4. 1 ½ c sugar
  5. 1 cup chopped* pecans or walnuts
  6. ½ c vegetable oil
  7. ¼ c + 1 T buttermilk (to make buttermilk – mix ¼ c of milk with 1 T white vinegar, mix and let sit for a few minutes)
  8. 1 t baking soda
  9. 1 t vanilla
  10. ½ t salt

* to chop pecans or walnuts, you can either buy the nuts in small pieces or use this chopping tool (a great task for your kid!) – go to Williams-Sonoma and search on “nut chopper”

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix well (I use a standing mixer and the wire attachment).  Transfer to pan(s) - various options below. 

For a traditional loaf (9x5), preheat oven to 325.  Grease and flour loaf pan (spray with Pam then coat with flour; shake off excess – or spray with Pam Baking.  Bake until top is golden brown and splits slightly (about 1 hour and 20 minutes).  Test with a toothpick or skewer or something to ensure that the middle is completely cooked and not gummy.

For mini-loafs (set of 4), grease and flour pans (see above).  Preheat the oven to 325 and bake for 45 minutes. 

For muffins, preheat the oven to 400, line cups with paper liner or grease and flour (see above) and bake for 16 minutes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Baby Spinach Salad with Pomegranate and Orange

Last week, my friend Jolie calls from Whole Foods and says “I’m supposed to bring a salad for a dinner party tonight – what should I make?”  I thought of this salad that we made at another friend Alyssa’s cooking birthday party a few years ago – it’s a great winter dish because pomegranates and oranges are in season.  You can make your workload as simple or as complex as you choose so you don’t have to wait until a dinner party to make it.  Even the guys liked it!
Baby Spinach Salad
with Pomegranate and Orange

  1. 1 lb baby spinach
  2. 1 pomegranate (or a container of pomegranate seeds)
  3. 1 navel orange, sections peeled and sliced (or 1 can of mandarin oranges, drained)
  4. 2/3 C sliced almonds, toasted
  5. Goat cheese (optional)

Rinse and pat dry spinach. 

You can seed your own pomegranate - (hint: don’t wear a white shirt while doing so) or stores like Whole Foods have containers of pomegranate seeds.

For the oranges, you can either make your own orange segments or just drain a can of mandarin oranges.  To make orange segments, peel the rind from the orange, segment, remove the membranes from each segment, and then slice into bite size pieces.

To toast almonds, either place in a sauté pan on low heat or on a cookie sheet and broil in the oven.  It makes the almonds taste nuttier, they are crispier and less soggy when mixed with salad dressing.

Sprinkle goat cheese on top, if desired.

You can either use a bottled balsamic vinaigrette like Litehouse or Newman’s Own or make your own with this recipe that was given to me at my recipe bridal shower almost 15 years ago (thank you, Mrs. Murphy!):

Balsamic Vinaigrette
  1. 2 T olive oil
  2. 1 T balsamic vinegar
  3. 1 t sugar
  4. 2 t Dijon mustard
  5. 1/8 t salt

Balsamic Vinaigrette - Reader's Rec

What is your favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing?  Bottled or your own recipe.

Post a comment and share your favorite!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chicken Souvlaki

Ziziki’s consistently serves a tasty souvlaki so I went searching for a recipe that I could recreate at home.  I found a Lamb Souvlaki with Tzatziki recipe by Emeril Lagasse.  This dish is quite good with lamb, however at $19.99/lb for lamb tenderloins, I serve it more frequently as Chicken Souvlaki.

    Chicken Souvlaki
  1. 1-2 lbs of chicken, skin on and boneless
  2. ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  3. 3 T olive oil
  4. ½ t salt
  5. ½ t freshly ground pepper
  6. ½ T dried oregano leaves (or 1 T fresh oregano)
  7. 2 t minced garlic
  8. ½ T onion powder (or ¼ C grated onion)
  9. White onion sliced into rings
  10. Olive oil
  11. Pita or nan – white or wheat
Mix ingredients #2-8 and pour over chicken (I like to marinate in a zippered bag). Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. 

Preheat the grill.  Flatten chicken while in zippered bag using the flat side of a meat tenderizer.  This helps to create uniform cooking and the chicken will cook faster.  Grill chicken (skin on) until it reaches at least 170 degrees – turning periodically to cook evenly.  Remove from grill; remove skin; slice into strips.

Pour 1-2 T of olive oil in a medium hot sauté pan.  Place onion rings in and stir frequently to brown and soften.  Halfway through, I get impatient and pour some water in the pan to speed along the process. 

Warm pita/nan in the oven or on the grill. 

To serve, place pita/nan on plate and then top with sliced grilled chicken.  Place sautéed onion rings on top.  Serve with a dollop of tzatziki.  Ziziki’s serves it with oven roasted potatoes – my kids prefer Ore Ida tater tots.  Add a vegetable, of course.  Enjoy!

Emeril’s tzatziki is quite tasty.  At first my husband wouldn’t even try it until I read to him the ingredients and since it uses Greek yogurt (vs sour cream), he deemed it healthier and allowed it on his plate.  You can "finely chop" the cucumber in a mini food processor.

I have also heard that Barefoot Contessa’s recipeis delicious as well. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Coming Soon!

Welcome to The Baker's Mann, a place to share and discuss recipes.  I'm just a mom who likes to cook.  I follow recipes; I am no chef who knows when to add a pinch of this or that.  I love to share recipes and try new things.  Join me on this culinary journey!