"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Monday, August 31, 2009

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole and Italian Chicken Salad

I love when I can take one item and make two different meals out of it. It's always good when you can spend some time at the beginning of the week cooking so that you won't have to do as much later. To make these two recipes you will need one "family sized" package of chicken breasts (they go on sale pretty frequently so we usually buy two and freeze one.) Take a large pot of boiling water and put in all of the chicken breast. They will need to cook for 20-30 minutes. When they turn completely white take them out with tongs and cut them in half to make sure they are done all the way through! Once they cool, shred all of the chicken by hand. I usually use half of the chicken for each recipe.

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole:
Using a large casserole dish, cover the bottom with half of the chicken from above.
Then add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of sour cream and 1 or 2 cans of either cream of mushroom/chicken/celery soup stirring together - you can use whichever soup you like best. (I usually add lesser amounts of sour cream and soup because I like mine to be firm, but some people prefer it to be creamier.) Mix in half of a sleeve of Ritz crackers.

Cook for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Then pull it out of the oven to cover the top with half of a sleeve of Ritz crackers. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes. This usually lasts for at least 2 dinners for 2 adults.

Italian Chicken Salad:
This is great to take for lunch at work, but it's great for dinner too! It's different than southern chicken salad because it doesn't have the signature ingredient of mayonnaise!

The ingredients are harder on this one because I usually do it by sight and it's really about what you like to add in it. So these are some suggestions...
In a large bowl, combine the chicken and any of the following:
red/yellow/green bell peppers, chopped coarsely
red onion, chopped
slivered almonds
drained capers
grated Parmesan
sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (my favorite ingredient!)
salt and pepper

Then top with a vinaigrette dressing.
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
3/4 cup of good olive oil
(Stir vigorously - you may also add finely chopped herbs)
You may not need all of the dressing.

*Another great option for chicken salad is to purchase it from Costco. My friend, Caroline, brought some over this weekend - it was so good and had an amazing flavor because of the way they roast the chicken. Chicken salad makes a wonderful snack on crackers and is great for any meal!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wine Wednesday - Gascon Malbec

One night in college I went out to dinner with two of my best friends, Sally and Katie. We went to our favorite restaurant in Oxford - L&M (in part because the food was amazing but also because Sally had a crush on one of the waiters.) They had a great wine list, and Katie kept talking about the Malbec. Though I ordered a different wine that night, I kept wanting to try a Malbec. This one, the Don Miguel Gascon Malbec, has been my favorite so far. It is made in Argentina like most other Malbecs (though some come from France). Kent and I love having it with any kind of red meat. We usually buy it at Whole Foods or World Market but some grocery stores carry it also. Depending on the store, it usually ranges from $9 - $13. To learn more information about this wine, visit the vineyard's website: http://gasconwine.com/index.html. The website includes lists of awards the wine has won, tasting notes, and recipe ideas for food pairings. Please leave comments if you have any other Malbec wines to suggest!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sweet Onion Corn Bake

Kent and I love to have casseroles as side dishes with dinner. But casseroles can get old if you don't have enough in the rotation! So it's always good when you can add a new one to your cookbook. This one comes from one of Kent's mom's cookbooks and is so good with any meal!

Sweet Onion Corn Bake
2 large Vidalia or sweet onions thinly sliced
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 can (14 oz) cream-style corn
1 pkg. (8 1/2 oz) corn bread/muffin mix
4 drops hot pepper sauce

In a large skillet, saute onions in butter until tender. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, milk, dill, and salt until blended; stir in 1 cup of cheese. Stir into the onion mixture; remove from the heat and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the egg, corn, corn bread mix, and hot pepper sauce. Pour into a greased 13in x 9in x 2in baking dish. Spoon onion mixture over top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until the top is set and lightly browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. (Yield: 12-15 servings)

From: Taste of Home - their website has some other great recipes

Monday, August 24, 2009

Beef Pot Roast

Many newlyweds receive crock pots as wedding gifts but don't know exactly what to do with them. After about six months of being married I finally decided to try to use my crock pot. It is such a great way to have a full meal waiting on you when you get home for dinner! The best part is that there are so many different ways to make a pot roast - you can really use whatever you have in the kitchen.

Beef Pot Roast


1 or 2 yellow onions
2 large baking potatoes (any kind of potato will work)
4-5 large carrots (or a handful of baby carrots)
Sliced mushrooms
Beef roast (any large type of roast - they have many different names, 3-4lbs)
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1 cup beef broth (or french onion soup)
1/4 cup Worcestershire
1/2 cup red wine

Cut the onions, potatoes, and carrots into chunks. Place in the crock pot with the mushrooms. Season the roast with salt and pepper. Brown in on all sides in a skillet in oil (this should only take 10 seconds or so on each side - I use tongs to make sure I can get each side easily.) Put it in the crock pot on top of the vegetables. Stir together all of the other ingredients in a bowl; pour over the top of the pot roast. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. (Almost any of the ingredients can be left out or exchanged for other ingredients.)
Click here for a similar recipe from Sandra Lee (with frozen vegetables and a different marinade)http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sandra-lee/beef-pot-roast-recipe/index.html

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pound Cake

I thought I would use this first recipe post to publish my favorite pound cake recipe. A good pound cake is something everyone should know how to make. I have taken this recipe to church dessert gatherings, family reunions, and even used it as a breakfast food when we have guests over! It is also a wonderful base for strawberry shortcake! The cream cheese makes this one very moist and flavorful.
I first started using this recipe about four years ago. Kent kept talking about what a wonderful pound cake his mother made while we were dating. When I asked her for the recipe she gave me the cookbook, Calling All Cooks (the yellow edition). This is a great cookbook! I loved the cake and kept thinking that the only one I had ever had that compared to this one was the one my grandmother used to make. About a year ago I was looking through one of her old cookbooks and came across her pound cake recipe - it was exactly the same one! So, I highly recommend this recipe!

Cream Cheese Pound Cake:
1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese
6 medium eggs
3 c. granulated sugar
3 sticks margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. cake flour (box kind)

Soften and mix cream cheese and margarine; stir in sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; blend until smooth. Stir in cake flour. Blend mixture until doughy texture. Pour in bundt pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 300 degrees.

Glaze (if desired):
1/2 box confectioners sugar
1/2 stick butter
1 (30x) pkg. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. milk

Cream and blend together until fluffy.

Cooking time will depend on the oven, sometimes it takes closer to two hours. Make sure that the cake has room to expand upwards in the oven. If there is a rack close above the cake it may burn the top. I have never made the glaze because I think the cake is so good on its own. But, there are a lot of ways to dress it up! A stand mixer is the best thing to use but hand mixers work well, also. Make sure to spray the bundt pan well so that the cake comes out smoothly. It makes a wonderful presentation. If the cake sticks to the pan, you can go ahead and cut it into serving-sized pieces so that no one will ever notice! Happy baking!

Friday, August 21, 2009


When Kent and I first got married last year I had a hard time knowing where to start in planning meals for the week - sometimes I still do! I kept thinking how great it would be to have a blog where newlyweds and friends who enjoyed cooking could share tips on good meals, foods to take to parties, and other helpful kitchen insights. Because I enjoy writing, I finally decided that I would start a blog! But, I know I will be relying on Kent and my friends for some help! So if you have any recipes, cookbook recommendations, wine recommendations, etc., please e-mail them to me at aghartzog@gmail.com and I will post them on the blog. Or feel free to comment on any of my posts with variations on dishes on any recommendations you may have for other readers! Thanks for taking the time to read this blog - I hope you find it helpful!
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