Friday, March 14, 2014

Make Ahead Lasagna

Make Ahead Lasagna

1 pound ground beef
1 pound Italian Sausage
1 can (15 ounces) pizza sauce
1 jar (14 ounces) marinara sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 carton (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon pepper
12 no-cook lasagna noodles
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, cook beef and sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in pizza and marinara sauces. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, Parmesan, parsley and pepper.
Spread 1 cup meat sauce into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Layer with four noodles, half of the cheese mixture, 1 cup meat sauce and 1 cup mozzarella. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles, meat sauce and mozzarella. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, covered, at 375° for 45 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
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Salisbury Steak

My Mom use to call these Hamburger steaks but most people call them Salisbury steaks. All cooks have their specialty dish...a signature dish so to speak.... that we know will always get rave reviews from friends and family. This is good old fashioned comfort food my friends. Tender meat patties full of robust flavor served with mashed potatoes and green beans or corn. Now of course she made her own beef gravy but I found one that tastes identical and I use it to get the same wonderful recipe. You will love this recipe.

Salisbury Steak

2 lbs ground beef
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs or more as needed
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
1 - package Lipton’s Onion Soup with Mushrooms Mix
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 jars of Heinz Home Style Savory Beef Gravy (with or without mushrooms)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl along with a half cup of the beef gravy from one jar. Add more breadcrumbs as needed for the right consistency. Shape into oblong or thick round patties and set aside.

In large skillet, melt olive oil and then add butter. Brown patties over medium heat. Once browned, remove from skillet and drain off excess fat but do not wash or clean skillet. Add remaining beef gravy to the skillet making sure to blend the pieces of beef and onion and garlic left on the bottom. Add patties back in the skillet and cover simmering on low heat for about 40 minutes. Serve with gravy over rice, mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. Absolutely divine!

If you prefer to make your own homemade gravy for your steaks, follow these instructions....

Homemade beef gravy

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups of beef broth or beef stock
1 tablespoon of butter for finish

Melt butter in your same skillet that you browned the patties in. Stir bottom to gather the bits from the bottom of the skillet. Then whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk the flour for about 1-2 minutes until the flour is cooked. Slowly add the beef broth and whisk often for about 8-10 minutes. Whisking is the key to lump less gravy. Next whish in the cream which will thicken it slightly and cook for another 2 minutes. Finally, add a tablespoon of butter and whisk in well. This will give your gravy that beautiful gloss. Add this instead of store bought gravy to your dish. 

 Photographs are copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Easy Homemade White Bread

I can't remember my Mom ever buying store bought bread. She would make her own. We always seemed to have homemade bread baking in the oven and the house smelled so good!

Easy Homemade White Bread

1-1/2 cups warm water, (temperature 110 degrees)
2-1/4 teaspoon or 1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1/2 cup dry milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup canola oil
4-1/2 cups bread flour (more or less)

In large bowl, mix warm water and yeast. Add dry milk, sugar, salt, and canola oil. Stir. Add in enough bread flour to make a dough that follows the spoon around the bowl.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes, adding more bread flour as needed until the dough is firm and smooth to the touch. Place dough in medium greased bowl and then turn it upside down so that the top side is also lightly greased. Cover with clean cloth and let rise in warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.

Punch down dough and then dump the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured board. Knead for 5 minutes or until the bubbles are out of the bread. Shape dough into a round loaf and place in greased 1.5 quart round casserole dish. Cover it again and allow it to rise in warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. With sharp knife, slash top of bread. Brush a little egg white on top of the loaf if you want.

Bake bread at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the bread is golden in color and sounds hollow when top is tapped. Remove bread from the casserole dish and let cool on rack.
Serve warm out of the oven.

HINT: Use an electric knife to slice warm bread evenly without tearing while it is still warm.
Photograph is copyrighted and the property of Welcome Home.
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Beefy Mac and Cheese

I love simple casseroles that spell out comfort food. Don't you? Here's an old recipe from my Mom's collection and you probably one you will remember it when you were little. I used to come home for lunch and my Mom would have a big bowl of beefy mac and cheese waiting for me. She used to say this is "stick to your ribs good!" This is comfort food at it's best and your kids will love it! Sometimes I add crisp sweet corn and pinto beans!

Beefy Mac and Cheese

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni or any similar tube pasta
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 lb lean ground beef
1 (15 ounce) can tomatoes, drained and crushed or chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the macaroni according to directions; drain well and set aside. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet and add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the ground beef, breaking it up into pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula and sauté until browned. Add the tomato paste and stir until well blended. Next add your crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and the thyme and oregano. Simmer on low for about 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan, whisk together flour and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil and then turn down heat to simmer and cook for about another minute. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup cheddar cheese until melted. Add ground beef mixture. Then add in drained pasta and stir to combine. Pour in baking dish and top with remaining cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Photography is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Italian Meatballs

I make a big batch of these and freeze them so I can have them for whatever pasta dish I choose to make. If I decide to make Spaghetti and meatballs I can take out just what I need and allow them to simmer in my pasta sauce until heated through. Sometimes I serve them all alone or with rice. They are great to have on hand for quick meatball subs too.

Italian Meatballs

1 pound ground beef...
1 pound ground pork
1 cup bread crumbs, fresh or dried
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, lightly mix all ingredients by hand, but do not pack down meat mixture. Take a portion of meat in hand, and roll between palms to form a ball that is firmly packed but not compressed. Repeat, making each meatball about 2 inches in diameter. Arrange meatball onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until browned and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Makes about 16 meatballs.

Basic Marinara Sauce

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce cool, and then refrigerate or freeze it.

NOTE: This recipe makes 2 quarts of homemade sauce. The above recipe calls for just two cups. I freeze mine in Ziploc freezer bags for up to 3 months and use as needed for many recipes.

*** Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Glazed Blueberry Muffins

Another great recipe from The English Kitchen. I made this recipe on Sunday and they are wonderful. Then again, all Marie's recipes are delicious!

Glazed Blueberry Muffins

finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup super fine sugar...
1/3 cup of light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup of sunflower or vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

For the glaze:

3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
the juice of half a lemon
hot water as needed

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a medium size muffin tin, or line with paper liners. This recipe makes 12 muffins. Set aside.

Combine both sugars in a large bowl. Rub in the lemon zest with your fingertips until it is quite fragrant. Drop in the butter and cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the oil, eggs and vanilla and beat well together.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to the creamed mixture, alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour. Combine all well together. Fold in the blueberries. Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cups, filling them almost to the top.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan while you make the glaze.

Whisk together all of the glaze ingredients until smooth, adding only enough hot water as needed to get the right consistency. Dip the warm muffins into the glaze one at a time, glazing the tops and letting any excess drip off. Place onto a wire rack and allow the topping to set. Serve warm or cool. Store any leftovers in an airtight container and use within two days.
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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Not Just An Ordinary Day

Today is not going to be just another day for me. I want it to be, but that won't happen. I will try to make it through as if nothing is out of the ordinary and carry on my tasks at hand, but my heart is making sure that I know it's bruise...d and not ready to ever forget this day.

I often wonder if I can ever put this date completely out of my mind and just move on as if it never happened, but already I know I can't and I won't. I already know how difficult it will be for me to contain my emotions and not completely fall apart. For you see, today's date marks the anniversary of the darkest day of my life...the day my Mother took her last breath and the day I feel she took mine with her.

Today marks the twelve years that have passed since my Mom moved to Heaven and my heart feels like it's somewhere between a light rain shower and a full blown hurricane. I think I have it under control and I can shut those memories out from that day, but they continue to creep in. It's like a battle between my heart and my mind and it's my very soul that feels the aftermath of all this tugging and fighting.

My mind keeps bringing up memories of hospitals, doctors and life support and my sweet, beautiful Mother being in the middle of that awful mess. It is my mind that makes this day so difficult as it keeps reminding me how empty I am without her. The mind is powerful and no matter how hard you try, it contains a lot of hurtful data that can just come out of nowhere. There are times that it can play tricks on you and almost take your breath away and break your heart. A simple recipe that I remember we made together. A favorite song that she loved or her favorite lilacs in bloom. Even her favorite color can even trigger it when you least expect it.

It's my heart that sings out the memory of her warmth and her laughter and our one-of-a-kind relationship that we shared. It sings out the story of her life and brings me comfort in knowing that she is still right beside me. It's my heart that makes sense of it all and let's me miss her with a smile and the joy in knowing she's here and has been all along. It is my heart that tells me she is so happy that I went on with my life and chose to honor her memory by creating this place called Welcome Home. And my heart reassures me that she is calling all of you to cross my path and find comfort here too.

It just feels right to share my feelings with you today...because you have been there all along for me. I always fear that my grief shared openly might make others feel that I am asking for pity. That could be further from the truth...I do a great job of that all on my own so I really am not looking for anyone's sympathy. If anyone knows how to throw a great Pity Party, it's I am not asking you for your sympathy or pity. I am just sharing my feelings and asking you to feel free to share yours too.

Today, just like the past 11 years, my inner child comes out and I long to lay my head in her Mother's lap and feel her hands stroking my hair ...telling me it will be alright. I am that little girl who is lost and scared without her mother and not sure of how I can make it without her. But I do. And next year I will go through these same feelings all over again. Her absence will still be felt every single day, but on this day it will somehow intensify.

I am opening my heart today and sharing my feelings because I know so many of you out there feel the same way. From the beginning I have always followed my heart when I write on this page...because Welcome Home belongs to my Mom. And I feel certain that she is the force behind it all. She is leading me and guiding me in bringing all your broken hearts together so that they might find some comfort here. My Mom lives in Heaven now ....but I am certain she is there with your Mom and other loved ones and there is this big rally in getting a message to you all by bringing you here. They want you to know that they are right next to you and have never left your side. They just love you from a different place.

I have a box tucked away in my closet and it is full of things from my Mom's funeral service. I do not look in that box because it is a reminder of the pain and sorrow from that dreadful day. But I did look in it yesterday and I found some bows and ribbons and hundreds of cards from friends and family that attended the service. There are a few pressed flowers in the Guest Book they gave me and so much outpouring of love for a great woman who left this world to find happiness with God. But there was one unsigned card....a blank card in an envelope that just says my Mom's name on the outside. And the card reads....

Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars at night
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.

Thank you Mom. This is just one of the many signs you send me to let me know you are still here with me. It is the very sign I needed to get me through this day.
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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookie Cups

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookie Cups

1 package (16 ounces) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Ultimates™ Refrigerated Chocolate Peanut Butter Deluxe Cookie Dough

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 can (14 oun...ces) Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Morsels

PREHEAT oven to 325° F. Paper-line 24 muffin cups. Cut each square in half. Place one piece of dough in each muffin cup.

BAKE for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookie has spread to edge of cup.

BEAT cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and vanilla extract in medium bowl until smooth. Spoon about 3 tablespoons cream cheese mixture over each cookie in cup.

BAKE for additional 15 to 18 minutes or until set. Remove from oven to wire rack. While still warm, top cheesecakes with morsels. Morsels will soften but will retain shape. Cool completely. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
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My Mother's Lap

I have so many wonderful memories of the loving relationship I had with my Mom when I was growing up. I am always reluctant to allow myself to get too deep in remembering them all as it hurts far too much.

But of all the memories I cherish, it is the memory of always laying my head in her lap whenever I needed her. It was the safest place to be when my heart was broken. It was a place to go to when I needed to feel comfort and cherished and loved. There was no other place like it when I was scared or hurt or feeling lonely. I can still feel her soft hands stroking my hair and the sweet sound of her voice telling me how much she loved me and her promise that everything would be okay. And it just was. Everything was okay and all was well in the world when I heard those words and felt her warm touch.

And later...when I was a grown woman and life had dealt me a broken heart or presented me with an ultimatum I couldn't handle, I would run to her for those comforting moments, time and time again. It was where I needed to be, and no matter how grown up I really was, for those moments I was her baby again and she was my angel and my refuge and my safe haven. No matter how much pain or what it was that was hurting me, I knew I could get through it with her reassurance that I would be okay.

Of all the memories in my lifetime, those will forever be the most precious to me. Those times are what I long for and yearn for so often. Those times are gone now and the void is so overwhelming at times, it takes my breath away. Life still throws some curve balls and gives me some tough challenges and I still need so much to hear her tell me it will be okay. Sometimes, if I close my eyes tight and drown out the world, I can get lost in my memories of her and I can almost feel her hands stroking my hair.

Oh how ironic this journey of life can be... for little did I know that one day I would be comforting her and stroking her hair as she lay dying. And I would whisper those same words for the last time. "I love you Mom... more than life itself and I cannot bear the thought of going on without you. But I will be okay and I'll see you again. You can go now to a better place. I promise you everything will be okay."


Photo by Andrzej Laskowski
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Buttermilk Cornbread

My Mom made the best buttermilk cornbread and I have always used the same recipe when I make mine. It is so fast and so easy to make. I usually make mine in my cast iron skillet but this time I wanted to make it simple for those who don't ...have one. I also make mine without sugar so I give you the option to make it the way you like it. Either way, you'll love it!

Buttermilk Cornbread

1 cup corn meal
2 eggs
1 cup melted butter
2/3 cup sugar (or less if you don't like sweet cornbread)
1 cup buttermilk (see note on how to make your own)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 9 with non-stick cooking spray and put it in the oven to get hot.

Next, combine your eggs, butter, sugar (if using), buttermilk, and baking soda. Mix well by hand. Then add in the corn meal, flour, and salt and continue to mix well under all our combined.

Remove hot pan from oven and melt in 2 tablespoons of butter. Carefully swirl around pan until bottom is coated. Pour your batter in hot pan and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

NOTE: To make your own buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a one cup measure. Then add whole milk to the one cup line. Let it sit on your counter for 5 minutes and then stir. You just made buttermilk! 

 Photographs are copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Most of the recipes I share here at Welcome Home came from my Mom's little recipe boxes which are so precious to me.

I look through those little cards and almost every single one has a heart drawn on it or a little loving phrase or an "I love you" written on the back. It's as if she knew that one day I would still need to see those words when I didn't have her here to say them anymore. Mixed throughout the recipe cards are little notes to herself about what she wanted to teach me next.

She loved me so much and so loved raising me...I was her last child and she loved teaching me to cook and to garden. She especially loved teaching me about life. Her mission was to raise a daughter who valued every minute of her life and shared as much love as she could with the rest of the world. I hope I'm making her proud.

Welcome Home is dedicated to my Mom who passed away suddenly 12 years ago. I loved my Mother with all my heart. She was the love of my life. She believed I could do anything and she was the truest friend I've ever had. I always say that God sent me to the arms of an angel and her arms were always open when I needed a hug. Her heart always understood when I needed a friend. Her gentle eyes were stern when I needed a lesson. Her strength and love guided me and gave me wings to fly. All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my Mom.

No one has ever loved me as much as she did. Never in my lifetime will I find a love so profoundly pure and so deep and unconditional. I cannot remember a moment in my life, before she left, that I didn't feel loved by her. It was a love like no other and I felt the same about her. It's been 12 years. today and I have never recovered from the loss. I doubt I ever will. To face life without that security and that promise of undying love is hard at times. But you move on and just accept what you've lost and realize that you will never fill that void.

Oh, I know she's still here. Like the sound of the bell ringing on a tiny little wind chime I have hanging here at my window. The window is closed and there is nothing to explain why it rings but it does. Just a single bell sounds out of nowhere sometimes. Or the times that I get the strong whiff of her perfume as I sit here at my desk or just before I go to sleep at night. There's no source from where it comes and no explanation....but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it is my Mom that has come to say she loves me and that I am not alone. Then there are those unmistakable moments that I get a clear sign that she is here and speaks through my writing at Welcome Home. Words that I sometimes read and know they did not come from me alone.

I am certain there are those that think it's wishful thinking or they might not think I have all my faculties and need help....but those of you who have suffered a loss of this magnitude fully understand and can relate.

She is here. She does come..... and for those few moments, I feel that same undeniable love again and all is well with my life.

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Saturday, March 01, 2014

Chicken with Bow Tie Pasta In Tomato Basil Sauce

I put together this pasta bake over the weekend and it turned out far better than I expected. I love bow tie pasta (Farfalle) and the combination of the cheeses and the sauce in this recipe was incredibly delicious. I served with a fresh tossed salad and homemade garlic bread and it made the perfect meal. I think you'll love this one!

Chicken with Bow Tie Pasta In Tomato Basil Sauce

12 ounces dried farfalle (Bow Tie) pasta
1 pound chicken tenders, diced
1 14.5 oz can of Whole Italian Tomatoes
1 teaspoon of butter mixed with 1 teaspoon of Parmesan cheese
1 small onion – minced
1 clove of garlic – crushed
2 tablespoons of fresh basil – roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 oz mascarpone cheese, room temp.
salt to taste
1 cup shredded Romano Cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook under just tender. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to skillet and cook until lightly browned. Remove chicken to a bowl and set aside and cover with foil to keep warm. Add whole tomatoes and chopped basil to the skillet and stir. Add salt to taste. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, boil pasta in a large pot of water generously seasoned with salt. When pasta is cooked al dente, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside. Return drained pasta back to the hot pot and add butter and parmesan cheese mixture. Cover and set aside, off the heat.

After about 20 minutes sauce should be ready. Transfer it to a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth and creamy. Return to skillet and add the mascarpone. Season again if necessary at this point and add more if needed. If the sauce is too thick add a little of the reserved pasta water to thin.

Pour drained pasta in baking dish. Add just enough sauce over pasta to cover lightly and toss. Top with the chicken and sprinkle and top with Romano and then mozzarella cheese. Add more chopped basil and parsley and bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese has melted. Serve immediately. Add more sauce if desired at serving.

Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home

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Chicken Tender Parmigiana

I love how this dish turned out for my guests this past weekend. Fork tender, moist chicken coated in crispy Panko breadcrumbs and topped with Romano and Mozzarella cheese. Then served over a delicious homemade sauce.   

Chicken Tender Parmigiana

2 pounds chicken tenders
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated or shredded Romano cheese
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1 Jar tomato sauce or make your own (recipe below)

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs. In another bowl, combine Panko, Parmesan cheese, and garlic powder. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dip tenders in egg, then in Parmesan mixture. Set aside on plate until ready to fry.

In large skillet, melt butter and olive oil. Place tenders in skillet and fry on medium heat until golden brown and juices run clear in the center. Remove and drain on paper towel and then place on baking sheet. Top each tender with Romano and Mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with parsley. Bake in 350 degree oven until cheese has melted.

Spread 1-2 cups of warm sauce on plate. Then top with chicken. Sprinkle a little more Parmesan cheese on top if desired. Serve alone or with your favorite pasta or make your own (recipe below).

Simple and Easy Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (32-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 to 4 basil leaves
1 dried bay leaf

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and simmer covered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. Add half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Blend or process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce until entire batch is smooth.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.

*** Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

He wasn't a hero

He wasn't a hero, known by the world.
But a hero he was, to his little girl.

I knew his voice, before I could speak.
And loved it when, he would sing me to sleep.

 He taught me life's lessons, of right from wrong.
And instilled in me values, that I might be strong.

And so through the years, like a hero he stood.
Working to give me, all that he could.

And so it is, my best memory to recall.
Is the gift of his presence, the greatest gift of all.

~Rebecca Cook
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Acts Of Kindness

"The unclaimed and unknown acts of kindness done here on earth are well known in heaven."

~Anthony Douglas Williams
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Deep Fried Buttermilk Brine Drumsticks

I love fried chicken but I especially like the drumsticks when they are crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. A buttermilk brine will give you that result every time! Sometimes I just fry up a big batch of chicken legs and then eat them hot or cold throughout the week. The price is right and the recipe is easy!

Deep Fried Buttermilk Brine Drumsticks

3 cups buttermilk (see note on how to make your own)
1/3 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3 pounds chicken drumsticks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
A pinch of cayenne, optional (more if you like a kick)
3/4 cup buttermilk
Cooking oil

For brine, in a Ziploc bag combine the 3 cups buttermilk, the coarse salt, and sugar. Add all chicken legs to the brine and seal the bag. Turn bag to coat chicken with brine mixture and lay on its side in a large bowl. Chill for 2 to 4 hours and then remove chicken from brine. Drain chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Discard brine.

In a large bowl combine flour, the 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne if you are using it.  Divide flour mixture evenly between two shallow dishes. Place the 3/4 cup buttermilk in another shallow dish. Dip chicken into flour mixture in the first shallow dish, turning to completely coat. Dip flour-coated chicken in the buttermilk, turning to coat. Coat again with flour mixture in the second shallow dish.

Meanwhile, in a deep, heavy cast iron Dutch oven or skillet, or a deep-fat fryer, heat 1-1/2 inches oil until hot and sizzling. Using tongs carefully add a few pieces of chicken to the oil. Fry chicken for 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (180 degrees drumsticks), and coating is golden, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Keep fried chicken warm in a 300 degree oven while frying remaining chicken pieces.

For a real treat, make Pecan Buttermilk-Brined Fried drumsticks by preparing recipe as above except, reduce the flour to 1-1/4 cups and add 3/4 cup ground pecans to the flour mixture. Oh Yum!

Note: You can make your own buttermilk...Measure out 1 cup of whole milk or cream. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Use this substitute as you would buttermilk in any recipe.


Photographs are copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Buttermilk Pound Cake

I really love pound cake...because sometimes you just want your cake without all that icing or layers of sweet filling. My Mom used to make the best pound cake and the house smelled so good when it was in the oven. She used to say, you know it's going to be perfect when you see that split down the center of the top. Later, after dinner she would slice it and serve it with Vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup...or with whipped cream and strawberries. I add a little lemon to mine, but you can leave it out if you like.

Buttermilk Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk (see note on how to make your own)
Zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped or grated

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a loaf pan with parchment paper that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Do not sift flour. In another bowl beat the butter until its pale in color. Add in sugar and beat until just light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and blend, beating until blended. Then slowly add in your flour mixture a little at a time and mix until almost combined. Next add the buttermilk and blend well. Finally add your lemon zest, and on low speed blend in slowly making sure you scrape the bowl’s bottom and sides.

Pour your cake batter into your loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes before inverting it onto a plate. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for a real treat!

NOTE: Make your own buttermilk by pouring 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a 1 cup measure. The fill to the 1 cup mark with Whole Milk. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and then stir. You just made buttermilk?

Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Pan-fried Fresh Haddock

I love seafood and every now and then I just like to pull out my cast iron skillet and sear whatever fresh fish I got on sale that week. I especially love haddock quick seared in butter and this new Star Olive oil for fish that I found recently. And of course seasoned with Old Bay because I'm a Maryland girl and it goes on everything that even looks like seafood! You will love this simple recipe with such rich and savory flavors and that flaky moist fish.

Pan-fried Fresh Haddock


1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Fish and Poultry
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 Flounder or Haddock fillets (or any white fish fillet)

Make a marinade first by adding the Star olive oil, minced garlic, basil, and the and lemon juice to a Ziploc bag. Then add your fillets and let them sit for about 20 minutes. Remove fillets and shake off liquid.


3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning (or a pinch of cayenne)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons more olive oil for frying

Mix together the flour, parsley, salt and pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. Dredge the fish in the flour and then shake it off, so that only a very light coating remains.

Heat oil and butter in large skillet over medium high heat until shimmering and starting to smoke. Add fillets and pan-fry in hot oil until golden on both sides and fish flakes easily with a fork.

Photographs are copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.  

Disclaimer: I have an ongoing relationship with STAR Fine Foods for my recipes and photography using their wonderful products. This post is sponsored by STAR. I am compensated for my time and work and I am sent products as I request them. However, all opinions of the product stated in this post are 100% my own. I truly love their products!
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Friday, February 21, 2014

Mom's Coconut Cake

Every year before my Mom moved to heaven I made her favorite Coconut cake. In total I probably made 67 of these cakes and each and every time I lit the candles and presented it to her, she would go on and on about how her daughter could make the best coconut cake in the whole world. She was the one who taught me how to make it when I was young and yet she insisted I made it better. I would light up as brightly as she did over that cake. To know my Mom thought I was the best cook was quite an accomplishment in my life. I miss making this cake for her each year... and I cry each time I make it.

Mom's Coconut Cake

1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups cake flour
5 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

♥ Buttercream Frosting:

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 box confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut for for topping

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line each with parchment paper. Grease paper and dust with flour.

Mix butter and sugar on medium-high speed of an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add extracts and mix. The mixture will look a bit lumpy.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Turn the mixer on low speed and add dry ingredients, alternating with milk, in three parts. Mix just until combined. Fold in coconut.

Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the tops of each. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until tops are browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 30 minutes. Then, remove from pans to finish cooling on wire racks.

♥ Frosting:

Using an electric mixer on low speed, combine cream cheese, butter, and extracts. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix just until smooth.

Spread frosting on first layer. Place the second layer on top and frost the top and sides. Sprinkle top and sides with coconut.

Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Crab Macaroni and Cheese

I love seafood...being from Maryland we put crab and shrimp and lobster in everything! I also love mac and cheese so you can imagine how much I love this recipe! I make it often and it is always a big hit...let me know how you like it!

Crab Macaroni and Cheese

10 ounces elbow macaroni
8 ounces of fresh lump crabmeat

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk or half and half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (more if you want a kick)
4 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated


1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons melted butter for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil pasta in salted water until tender, drain well in colander, then return to pot and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Continue stirring butter and flour mixture over medium heat for 2 minutes until it lightly browned. Slowly pour in milk or half and half while whisking and whisk until smooth. Cook while stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until mixture thickens. Add salt, pepper, and a pinch of Old Bay seasoning.

Add cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and add the grated cheddar and Monterey jack cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in pasta and gently fold in crab meat. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with non stick spray. Pour in filling and spread out evenly.

Mix panko with oil and butter and sprinkle all over top to completely cover. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling around the edge.

 Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home 2014.
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

French Silk Chocolate Pie

French Silk Chocolate Pie

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened
1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked and cooled (see note)

Whip cream: With electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream to stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer whipped cream to small bowl and refrigerate.

Beat eggs: Combine eggs, sugar, and water in large heatproof bowl set over medium saucepan filled with ½ inch barely simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water). With electric mixer on medium speed, beat until egg mixture is thickened and registers 160 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat egg mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Beat, fold, cool: Add chocolate and vanilla to cool egg mixture and beat until incorporated. Beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. Using spatula, fold in whipped cream until no streaks of white remain. Scrape filling into pie shell and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. Serve.

NOTE: You will need a fully baked pie shell for this recipe. Use your favorite pie dough or a pre-made refrigerated or frozen crust.
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Strawberry Cream Cake

Pretty cake isn't it? I made this one for a friend who's anniversary fell on Valentine's day so she and her husband of 35 years could come home from a nice dinner and have dessert and coffee. I love the way it turned much so that I made another one!.

Strawberry Cream Cake


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare one 9 x 13-inch pan by lining with parchment paper and then spraying with non stick spray. I like to leave an overhang of paper on each end so I can use it as handles to lift the cake later..

Use a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the softened butter and sugar together until fluffy and light, then add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated and light. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, and finally the milk and vanilla. Beat everything together for 3 minutes. Immediately pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops spring back slightly when pressed. Let cool on wire racks for at least 30 minutes

Once cooled, you can cut your cake in half if you want smaller cake as shown in the photo. Then with a long serrated knife, cut both halves into two layers to make a three layer cake. You will have a layer left over. You can choose to make an additional layer or save it for another time! Set aside your layers.

Strawberry Puree Filling:

1 (20 ounce) bag frozen unsweetened strawberries or 3 cups of fresh strawberries
1/3 cup sugar, more if you like it sweeter

Place the unsweetened frozen strawberries in a large bowl and thaw for a few hours. Once thawed, put the strawberries and their juice in a food processor or blender and process the berries until they are pureed. Pour the puree into a 2 cup measuring cup. You should have about 1 1/4 cups of puree. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar to start and stir until the sugar dissolves. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Set aside.

Cream cheese filling and frosting

3/4 cups sugar
2 packages cream cheese (8oz each), at room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar. Using an electric mixer, whisk the mixture until smooth, then slowly add heavy cream and whisk until fluffy. Set aside.


Place the bottom layer on your serving plate cut side up. Spread a nice thin layer of the strawberry filling on it. Next, on one of your other layers, spread a thin layer of the cream cheese filling. Place that layer on top of the first layer so that the cream cheese side is facing down. The strawberry filling and the cream cheese filling are touching each other. Repeat with the next layers. So the order from the bottom up is: cake, strawberry filling, and cream cheese filling ...then cake, strawberry filling, and cream cheese filling again...ending with the final layer of cake and then a thicker layer of cream cheese filling on top of the cake.

Decorate the cake as you like on top. I added a few dollops of Reddi-wip real whipped cream and topped with some cherries and strawberries and then drizzled some chocolate sundae syrup on top!

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Chocolate Mint Cookies

Chocolate Mint Cookies

1 package Classic Devil's Food Cake Mix
2 large eggs
¼ cup + 2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 (4.67 oz.) package of chocolate mints 28 mini chocolate treats....
1 can Frosting Creations Frosting Starter
1 packet Frosting Creations Mint Chocolate Flavor Mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix, eggs and oil in large bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended. Mixture will be stiff.
Using a tbsp., Scoop the dough and place an unwrapped chocolate mint in the center. Press the mint to level the cookie and roll the edges to seal. Place 2" apart on prepared baking sheets (parchment paper or non-stick foil).

Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes until cracked on top. Cookies will look moist. Do not over bake.

Cool 2 minutes on baking sheets. Remove to cooling racks. Cool completely. Store in air tight container.

To decorate: prepare the frosting as it is stated, sandwich each cookie with the Mint icing and press together.®/chocolate-mint-cookies/
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Monday, February 17, 2014

Blackberry Delight

This was an experiment this past weekend. And while it didn't turn out to be the prettiest dessert I have ever made, it certainly was way up there on the list of one of the best! This summer I plan to make this with the fresh blackberries from my garden, but for now I just used a can of blackberry cobbler filling or pie filling. You can use blueberries for this one too! Any berry will work.

Blackberry Delight

For the crust:

1 pkg. (16.6 oz.) Oreo cookies, divided
1/4 cup butter, melted

Chop 15 of the cookies coarsely. Set aside. Finely crush the remaining cookies. Put into a bowl and then mix together with the med butter. Press into the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch pan. Place into the refrigerator to chill while preparing the filling.

For the filling:

2 cups heavy cream
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

Whip the heavy cream until thick and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until just combined. Spread filling onto crust.

Top with a layer of blackberry pie filling. Refrigerate 1 hour or until set.

NOTE: If you have fresh blackberries, here is the recipe to make your topping

3 & 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 & 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon + 1 & 1/2 teaspoons water
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest

In a large pot, combine 1 & 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Stir until sugar is combined, Your blackberries will begin to break down and the mixture will come to a boil. Dissolve your water and cornstarch and add to mixture. Stir until mixture becomes thick. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 2 cups blackberry and your lemon zest. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes one quart. 

Photography is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Black Forest Pie

Black Forest Pie

1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pint vanilla ice cream (2 cups)...
1/2 ounce of an 8-oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 8 -ounce container frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed
2 cups Cherry Pie Filling, chilled
Hot fudge ice cream topping or chocolate syrup

In bowl, combine crushed grahams, melted butter and sugar. Press onto bottom and up sides of un-greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake in 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool.

In chilled bowl, stir ice cream with spoon just until softened. Spoon over cooled crust. Cove; freeze 4 hour or until firm.

In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat well. Gently fold in dessert topping; spread over ice cream. Using back of a spoon, make 8-inch-wide well in top layer. Cover; freeze 3 to 4 hours.

To serve, spoon the cherry pie filling into well in top of pie. Serve drizzled with fudge topping.
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