Cheesy Ranch Popcorn

This seasoned cheddar popcorn is easy to make and deliciously addictive. It uses a little more than half of a regular bag of microwave popcorn, so use that as your guide to how many people it will serve. For us, it was enough for 3 people. (No judgments if you think it serves 1!)

For the cheddar cheese powder, you can just use the packet from a box of macaroni and cheese and save the macaroni for another recipe.

7 cups popcorn, plain or lightly salted
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large Tbsp. ranch seasoning (about half of a 1 oz. packet — this is the one I used)
2 tsp. cheddar cheese powder

Put the popcorn in a large bowl. Melt the butter, pour it over the popcorn, and mix. In a small bowl, mix the ranch seasoning and cheese powder, then pour it over the buttered popcorn and mix well.

Kentucky Derby Day Pie

I didn’t know what a Derby Pie was until a colleague of mine, Kara, posted this recipe around the time of the Kentucky Derby this year. She said it’s her mother’s recipe. As much as I love making pies, I also cherish recipes from other people’s kitchens — they’re authentic, and every time I make one, I remember the person who shared it with me. It wasn’t until recently that I had a chance to make this.

I have since learned that the name “Derby Pie” is trademarked, so I can’t use it, even though I’ve also learned it’s a beloved pie for many cooks who happily call it that in their collection of recipes.

The pie contains chopped walnuts and chocolate morsels beneath a soft, sweet filling. Use your favorite pie crust, whether frozen, refrigerated, or homemade, in a 9-inch pie plate. I’ve made this twice now and everyone has loved it. Thank you, Kara, for letting me share it! 😋

Heat oven to 350F/175C degrees.

In a large bowl, mix one by one in this order:
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 stick melted butter, cooled
1 cup chopped walnuts (pecans are OK, too)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour in pie crust and bake for about 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (though there might be some chocolate on it, which is fine).

Teriyaki Chicken Skewers

I wanted a chicken dish to go with the yummy yakisoba I was making the other night. I almost made my marinated chicken, but I kept looking around and decided on this recipe instead. I liked it because the peppers and red onion would be colorful on the plate and also provide some vegetables.

I changed the amounts of ingredients on the skewers, but the marinade and glaze are the same as the original recipe, and they were delicious. And definitely use the garnish. It looked really good scattered on top.

The recipe uses mirin, which the author, Jeanette Marie, describes: “Mirin is a form of rice wine that’s commonly used in cooking. … It’s much lower in alcohol content than traditional rice wine and higher in sugar. So, mirin adds a sweet note to the flavor profile of any dish it’s used in. But, it also adds the unique flavor of rice wine.”

Serves 4

SKEWERS
8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for an hour (the easiest way to do this is to lay them in a rimmed baking sheet filled with water)
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red pepper, cut into large squares
1/2 green pepper, cut into large squares
1/2 red onion, cut into cubes and separated into 2 or 3 layers each

MARINADE
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. mirin
1/2 tsp. sea salt

GLAZE
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 1/2 Tbsp. mirin
1 Tbsp. sugar

GARNISH
1 green (salad) onion, thinly sliced on the bias
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (toasted, if you have time)

In medium bowl, mix marinade ingredients. Add chicken cubes and toss to coat. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Thread the chicken, peppers, and onions onto the skewers, alternating chicken and peppers, then chicken and onion, and leaving a small bit of space between each one.

Line a baking sheet with foil, making sure to cover the sides to catch the liquid during cooking. Lay the skewers on top and bake 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

While the skewers are cooking, put the glaze ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow to cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the skewers are finished cooking, remove from the oven, place on a serving dish, and brush generously with the glaze. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Yakisoba

This is a copycat recipe for the chow mein at Panda Express. I think it comes very close, and is just as delicious, but after making it myself I’ll just call it yakisoba. We gobbled this up at dinner and it made great leftovers for lunch the next day. I served this with teriyaki chicken skewers.

Here it is, tweaked from the original based on the amounts that worked best for me.

1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp. white pepper
2 4-oz. packages dried yakisoba noodles, seasoning packets discarded (this is the kind I used)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 small stalks celery, sliced diagonally
1/8 head of cabbage, shredded

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, ginger and white pepper; set aside.

Cook yakisoba noodles according to package directions. Drain well. Measure out 11 oz. of cooked noodles and save the rest for another meal.

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and celery and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Stir in cabbage until heated through, about 1 minute.

Stir in noodles and soy sauce mixture until well combined, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

A super-delicious crowd-pleaser using just a handful of ingredients and a slow cooker, so it requires very little work.

I have resisted using our slow cooker because it feels a little like cheating. Yes, I know it makes cooking easy and produces wonderful results, and I know I’m being silly. But when I saw this recipe the other day on Family Fresh Meals, it seemed so appetizing and fun that I gave it a go. And it was a total success. We’ll definitely be making this again.

It calls for Italian dressing, which I didn’t have, so I made my own with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, and a generous amount of garlic powder, dried parsley, and dried oregano.

Serves 4-5

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Season the chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper. Place in the slow cooker.

In a bowl, mix the barbecue sauce, Italian dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the chicken.

Set the slow cooker for 3.5 hours on high. When finished cooking, pull the meat apart with two forks. Serve on lightly toasted brioche buns with cole slaw.

Homemade Chicken Stock

When cooking with a rotisserie chicken, don’t throw it away after removing the meat — make your own stock. Just put the carcass in a large pot, fill with water, and toss in some chunks of vegetables such as carrots, celery, and onion. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1-2 hours. Now you have stock, and the quality will be so much better than store-bought. It will noticeably improve your recipes.

Once the stock has cooled, save it in containers and freeze. Be sure to mark how many cups are in each, so that when you have a recipe requiring a certain amount, you can take out what you need.

* You can also save some of the stock in ice cube trays. Whenever you need small amounts — like for a pasta sauce or boiling rice — you can use some cubes without having to open or defrost an entire container. (Saving broth in ice cube trays is also a good idea when you have just a little bit left in a container and don’t want to waste it.)

Eggs Goldenrod

Not everyone likes eggs with runny yolks, but I love them, like in my poached eggs recipe. Sprinkled with salt and freshly ground pepper, soaking slightly into slices of toast, I think they are heavenly.

This classic recipe is another way to have eggs atop toast that has a similar taste without the runny yolks. I’ve had it in my cookbook since the beginning, taped to the first page of the section on breakfast food. It uses hard-boiled eggs, so it requires planning ahead, and a simple white sauce. Serve this to impress guests at a brunch or just for yourself when you’re looking for a different take on your breakfast eggs.

Serves 4

4 slices toast (any type of bread will do, but a darker one will look especially nice)
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 cup white sauce (recipe follows)
Dried parsley for garnish

Make the white sauce.
Cut the slices of toast in half lengthwise. Separate cooked egg yolks from egg whites. Chop egg whites finely, add to the white sauce and pour over toast.
Force yolks through a strainer or potato ricer and sprinkle over the sauce, then sprinkle with dried parsley.

WHITE SAUCE
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
White pepper
1 cup milk

In small saucepan, melt butter. Add flour, salt, and pepper and stir with a whisk until well blended. Pour in milk a little at a time, stirring constantly.
Bring to a boil and boil for about 2 minutes, continuing to stir. The sauce will be somewhat thin.

Blueberry Mascarpone French Toast Casserole

This is an overnight recipe that makes wonderful use of fresh blueberries. Slices of French bread are stuffed with the blueberries, smeared with sweetened mascarpone, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Make this the night before and let it soak up the milk and eggs, and after baking in the morning, it comes out crispy on top and deliciously gooey inside.

I have this recipe for classic French toast, and I have another recipe for French toast casserole that involves chunks of brioche soaked overnight. It’s wonderfully messy and served in big scoops. (I’m happy to share that by request.)

For this recipe, you lay the sliced and stuffed French bread in loaves in the pan. After baking, you just cut a couple of slices and lay them on the plate.

It calls for three loaves and serves 12. I made the whole thing so I could test it out, but also to have as breakfasts for several days to come. I’m sure you could easily scale it down.

This comes from a Better Homes & Gardens book of 13×9-inch one-pan meals. But I had to use a much bigger pan to accommodate the size of the loaves — a 15×12-inch roasting pan. So use whatever size works with the loaves you buy.

3 8-oz. French baguettes
8 oz. mascarpone, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups fresh blueberries
6 eggs
2 cups milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided

Grease the baking pan and set aside. Cut each loaf into 1-inch slices, cutting to but not through the bottom of the loaf.

For the filling, in a medium bowl mix the mascarpone with 1 teaspoon vanilla until well blended and smooth. Mix in powdered sugar. Fold in blueberries. Spoon filling between bread slices (I found it easiest to lift up the bread with one hand and smear a spoonful into the open slice with the other). Arrange the loaves side by side in prepared baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour over loaves, cover the pan, and chill overnight.

Heat oven to 350F/175C degrees. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over loaves.

Bake 45 minutes or until egg mixture is set, covering with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

One-Pan Roasted Vegetables and Sausage

When I found this recipe, I was looking for an easy dinner to make that night, one that was reasonably healthy with something I knew my children would enjoy. This ended up being just right. They especially loved the sausage (not so much the vegetables, which I loved, but we’re working on that!).

I used the veggies called for in the recipe, but you can use any variety you’d like. The recipe also calls for smoked sausage that you roast in the pan with the vegetables. I used a chicken sausage that I cooked separately on the stovetop and then cut into pieces when I served it, and that worked really well.

Serve this on top of rice, quinoa, or couscous.

2 small red potatoes
12 oz. green beans (I used chopped frozen green beans, straight from the
freezer)
1 large head of broccoli (for about 1 1/2 cups florets)
2 bell peppers (try to use bright colors like yellow and red, but green is just
fine!)
9 oz. smoked sausage
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Grated Parmesan (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C degrees. Line a large sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.

Prepare the vegetables: Chop the red potatoes (chop into small pieces so they will be tender in time), trim the green beans and halve, chop the broccoli, chop the peppers into thick squares, and cut the sausage into thick slices.

Place the vegetables and sausage on the sheet pan. Pour the olive oil and all the spices on top. Toss to evenly coat all the veggies and meat.

Bake 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and stir the vegetables. Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and sausage is browned.

Cook the rice, quinoa, or prepare the couscous while the vegetables and sausage are roasting.

If desired, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the vegetables and sausage as soon as they come out of the oven.

Recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron.

Homemade French Dressing

20200829_194844This is a tangy-sweet dressing, not too thick, that works really nicely with crunchy salad leaves. Though it doesn’t have the creaminess of the bottled kind, this homemade version tastes much more special. And you can always add more mayonnaise than called for here if you prefer a thicker dressing.

This recipe makes enough for one bag of salad leaves, or 4-6 servings.

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. agave syrup or honey
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • A scant 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Tip of a knife of mayonnaise, or more to taste

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients with a whisk until blended.

Adapted from a recipe at the blog Five Heart Home.