Saturday, December 4, 2010

Polenta Casserole with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Ricotta - Posted by Jessica

Joy - here is that polenta casserole I told you about. You could use regular pasta sauce (maybe 1 1/2 cups?) in place of the diced tomatoes or a jar of chopped roasted red peppers would probably be good. One thing I would change about the instructions is to just do less layers and omit the butter on top as I couldn't tell that it added any flavor. The mushroom wine mixture has plenty of good flavor. I belive I used a mixture of baby bellas and white mushrooms. And used Merlot for the wine. Let me know if you try it. It was softer for the first serving. The leftovers firm up a lot. It does freeze well. It is a lot of chopping, but I like the different flavors/textures.

Polenta Casserole

2 tsp olive oil, divided
2 c chopped onion
3 c coarsley chopped cremini mushrooms (about 12 oz)
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
2 chopped garlic gloves
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 tsp dried rosemary (I used 1 tsp Italian seasoning)
1 Tb tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups water
1 cup instant polenta (I just used 1 cup regular cornmeal and cooked covered over medium for 15 min stir often)
1/2 c (2 oz) grated fresh Parmesan
1/4 tsp black pepper, divided
1/2 part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 tsp butter, in small pieces

Oven 400.
Heat 1 tsp oil in skillet over med-high. Add onion, 8 min. Add shrooms, 1/2 tsp salt and garlic; cook 4 min stirring frequently. Stir in wine, rosemary and tom. paste. Reduce heat to medium and cook 3 min. Stir in tomatoes and cook till thick (about 10 min). Remove from heat.

Bring water to a boil; stir in polenta and 1 tsp salt. Reduce heat to low, cook until thick (about 5 min), stirring frequently.

Spread 1/3 polenta mixture into 13 x 9 dish coated with 1 tsp oil (cooking spray is easier!). Spread half of tomato sauce over and top with 2 Tb parmesan and 1/8 tsp pepper (I would combine the ricotta and pepper beforehand, sprinkling the pepper on top made for super peppery areas and not so peppery areas!). Drop half of the ricotta onto the Parmesan. Repeat layers ending with polenta. Top with 1/4 cup parmesan and butter. Bake 25 min or till bubbly.
Yield 6 servings
Nutrition: Cal 235 Fat 7.5g (sat 3.5g) Fiber: 2.2g

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread with Baked Apples - - Posted by Jessica

A yummy treat for a fall or holiday breakfast! I have found that the bread dough is very thick and it can be difficult to swirl the cream cheese mixture into the bread when poured on top as the recipe indicates. It just stays on top and gets way too brown while the bread is baking. I baked a loaf last night and put a little more than half the batter in the pan, topped it with the cream cheese mixture and dropped the last of the batter on top; this produced a much better swirl effect and prevented the top from getting too brown. The bread doesn't have a stong pumpkin flavor, but I love the subtle pumpkin spice flavor mingled with the creamy sweet cream cheese! I used half white whole wheat flour and half all purp flour.

The baked apples are also good served on oatmeal and would probably be good on pancakes or waffles. I use less sugar than what the recipe calls for as apples and dried cranberries are already quite sweet. I love that this recipe utilizes the microwave to 'bake' the apples; much faster that way, though the oven could be used if you want to be more traditional.

I have been making these recipes every fall for a few years now, usually when I have pumpkin left over from another recipe. Happy baking!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread

1/2 c (4 oz) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
2 Tb sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg white
2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin-pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 c packed dark brown sugar
3/4 c canned pumpkin
3 Tb vegetable oil

350 oven. Combine first 4 ingredients till well blended.

Combine flour and next 4 ingredients. Combine egg, egg yolk and brown sugar. Add pumpkin and oil. Add to four mixture, stirring just till moist. Spoon into greased 9 x 5 loaf pan, top with cream cheese mixture and swirl with knife tip (or put the cream cheese mixure in the middle for better swirling)

Bake 1 hour or till done. Cool 10 minutes in pan then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Serve topped with baked apples if desired.
Yield: 12 to 16 slices

Nutrition: (for 16 slices) Cal 208; Fat 5.1 g (sat 1.7 g) Fiber 1.6 g
Baked Apples

2 cups dried cranberries
1 1/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
1 c packed brown sugar
1 cup water
2 tsp cinnamon
6 gala apples, chopped

Combine all in large microwave safe bowl. Microwave 20 minutes or until apples are tender, stirring occassionally.
Yield 6 cups (1/4 cup serving size)
Nutrition: Cal 126; Fat 4.1g (sat .4g) Fiber 2.3g

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cinnamon Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Pie --posted by Jessica

This is a really yummy take on pumpkin pie; compliments of Cooking Light. I have made it for the past 2 Thanksgivings with great results. And it is pretty simple to make. It says it make 12 servings, but they are pretty small slices which is fine if having with another pie or dessert, otherwise, I would cut it into 8 to 10 slices for a more normal size. (I suppose that takes away from the whole 'cooking light' thing, but oh well! It's pumpkin so mostly healthy! :-))
Had this with the decadent peanut butter pie on Thursday! Two pies are always better than one right? :) Jess


3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
2 large eggs
1 (15 oz) can unsweetened pumpkin
1 (14 oz) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 pkg refridgerated pie dough


1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup regular oats
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
2 Tb chilled butter, cut in small pieces
2 to 3 tsp water

375 Oven. Combine first 8 ingredients with whisk.

Fit dough into 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray.

To prepare streusel, combine flour through ginger. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle with water and toss with fork just until lightly moistened.

Pour pumkin mixture into crust and sprinkle with streusel. Place pie on baking sheet and bake 50 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack.
Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!

Nutrition: cal 273; Fat 9.4 g (sat 3.7g) Fiber 1.7 g

Decadent Peanut Butter Pie --Posted by Jessica

This is one of the best peanut butter pie recipes! Had it for Thanksgiving along with the traditional pumpkin pie. It is good with or without the drizzle; It makes a full pie and the hot fudge tends to run over a bit, but it is definitely 'decadent!'


1 chocolate cookie pie crust
1 cup creamy p.b.
8 oz cream cheese at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
12 oz cool whip
1 11.75 oz jar hot fudge topping

2 Tb hot fudge and 2 Tb p.b.

Beat together p.b., cream cheese and sugar. Fold in 3 cups cool whip. Spread in crust. Reserve 2 Tb hot fudge. Heat remaining hot fudge in microwave 1 minute. Stir and spread over peanut butter layer. Refridgerate pie until serving time.

Just before serving, spread remaining cool whip on top. Place 2 Tb hot fudge in small baggie, cut small hole in baggie and drizzle on pie. Do the same with the 2 Tb pb going in opposite direction of the hot fudge.

8 servings.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baked French Toast with Pecan Praline Topping

This has become one of my favorite breakfast recipes. It is fairly easy to make and freezes well. I have made it for several of our parent seminars and received good feed back on it every time. I also have given the left overs to the girls home and received several requests to make it again :-) I have made it both with sliced french bread and cubed white bread--whatever I had on hand. I have made it ahead of time and frozen the uncooked casserole with the praline topping already on it (after letting it refrigerate overnight) and it turns out just fine that way. And, of course, it should be served with pure Vermont Maple Syrup!! ;-)

And for my ONE follower: here you go, Clara, a recipe that ISN'T soup! haha :-)


1 loaf French Bread (13-16 ounces)
8 large eggs

2 cups half and half

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teasppon ground nutmeg

dash salt

praline topping (recipe follows)

maple syrup


Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:

½ pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

Corn Chowder

This is a very simple, but really good corn chowder recipe from

Corn Chowder
Yield 3 to 4 servings


  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (14.75 ounce) can cream-style corn
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed potatoes
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 3 cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute the bacon and onions together until onions are tender, about 7 minutes. Add the corn, potatoes, soup, milk, and salt and pepper. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 25 to 35 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Amount Per Serving  Calories: 608 | Total Fat: 34.5g | Cholesterol: 46mg

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

This recipe is super easy and SOOO good!! And if you want it could easily be skimmed down to be a bit healthier. I made this for two parent seminars in a row and got good feed back. Just a note, though, don't try to rush the process... that milk will boil when it is good and ready. I ruined a whole batch of the base/broth by either having the heat too high on the milk, or perhaps at the very beginning by scorching the butter because I was distracted and in a time crunch. Luckily I had more milk on hand, and it is easy enough to start over with. It does take time to heat all the way through once the sour cream has been whisked in, so bear that in mind if you, like me, are on a time restraint.

Oh, and I know it's a bit of a hassle, but the baked potatoes make the soup, so I recommend actually baking them (not boiling). I got this recipe from the Taste of Home's fall soups magazine. The woman who submitted the recipe wrote, "My husband and I enjoyed a delicious potato soup at a restaurant while on vacation, and I came home determined to duplicate it. It took me 5 years to get the taste just right! I know you'll love this recipe." -Joann Goetz, Genoa, OH. Thank you, Joann, I do!!

Baked Potato Soup

4 large baking potatoes (about 2 3/4 pounds)
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
6 cups milk*
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
10 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Bake potatoes at 350 for 65-75 minutes or until tender; cool completely. Peel and cube potatoes.

In a large saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; whisk in sour cream. Add potatoes and green onions. Garnish with bacon and cheese.

Yield: 10 Servings.

*she didn't say what percent milk to use; I used 2%. Whole would make it quite rich, but with the sour cream it's not necessary. Not sure it would come out the same consistency if you used skim. 1% would probably be okay.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I’ve had this Russian soup twice in my life before today. Once was in Moldova (within walking distance of the Ukraine border, actually!), and the other was in the girls home when a Russian born resident requested it for her birthday meal. I really liked it both times and thought, why not give it try? I used fresh beets which added a lot more work. I also didn’t follow the directions exactly…I used broth and ended up throwing it all in the pot at about the same time. I also added a small bag of shredded cabbage.

I was skeptical, and I’m not sure it turned out quite like I remember it being…but it was surprisingly good. If I make it again I will probably not bother putting meat in it, and I will used canned beets. If I’m going to go through the hassle of cooking fresh beets I like to just eat them the way they are. I would also probably reduce the vinegar, and maybe also serve the sour cream on the side. Another recipe I found had some additional ingredients, including a bit of brown sugar. I wonder if that wouldn’t cut the acidity of the vinegar and sour cream a bit.* Well, I have a HUGE pot of Borscht to experiment with one bowl at a time lol!
I got this recipe from

(*Note: with all the left overs I did try different things, mainly putting a tablespoon or so in a bowlful of soup before heating it. It did help. Also found that the soup freezes okay, though I don't like the mushy consistency that food gets once it's been frozen and reheated. Even so, it worked ok!)

* 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes
* 2 pounds country style pork ribs, chopped
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 6 cups water, divided
* 2 (15 ounce) cans red beets, drained and chopped, juice reserved
* 2 cups sour cream
* 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
* salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
2. In another pot, simmer ribs and onions in 4 cups of water for 2 hours, or until ribs are tender. Remove ribs, and set aside. Skim fat from simmering liquid, and pour in beet juice. Add chopped pork and beets, and bring to a simmer.
3. In a bowl, whisk sour cream together with 2 cups of water and the vinegar. Slowly stir into soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over boiled potatoes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Creamy Carrot Soup--Posted by Joy

Soup Season! Autumn always inspires me to make soups and stews. I decided to try some new recipes this year. This recipe, though new to my making it at home, isn’t new for me all together. I’m not sure I would have picked this recipe out on my own, so God saw fit to have our parent seminar host, Pat, make it. I admit the first time I saw it I was skeptical. I mean I like cooked carrots, but pureed and served as soup?? Wouldn’t that be kind of like, I don’t know, heated up baby food??

But, I was hungry and pressed for time so I dove…and I was oh so pleasantly surprised!!
So, don’t be too quick to judge…this recipe is awesome!! The ONLY tweaking I did to it was to use half-and-half instead of full whipping cream. Mostly because that’s what I had on hand. Still tasted delicious, and had fewer calories…gotta love that!

PS I’m not a huge fan of either ginger or rosemary, but don’t exclude them. They make the recipe!

Creamy Carrot Soup
Serves 6 – 8

1 c chopped onion
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 c. butter or margarine
1 T honey
4-1/2 c carrots, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1 large potato
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cans chicken broth (total 29 oz)
1 tsp ground ginger
2 c whipping cream

* In a 5-qt Dutch oven, saute onion in butter until tender.
* Add carrots, potato, broth and ginger.
* Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
* Cool 15 minutes.
* Puree in small batches in a blender or food processor until smooth.
* Add remaining ingredients except cream.
* You can make the soup up to this point and hold it on a warm burner if needed.
* Just before serving, add cream and heat through.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Half-Baked Princess

After seeing Julie and Julia last year, I found myself inspired to start cooking again. Not through any one cookbook, but, more than heating up take out left-overs or seeing how many ways I can use a boiled chicken for days on end lol. I have had fun trying new recipes, and comparing them with friends and my sister.
I have a lot of cookbooks and cooking magazines that I’ve often looked through and thought, “Ooh, that sounds good…ooh I should try that one…ooh yumm…” but I have just now started making some of these recipes.

For those that have seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince AND who have seen the insides of my cookbooks will get the reason for the name of this blog… One night when I was watching the movie for probably the 5th time at the same time as looking through recipes, I laughed to realize I write in my cook books the same way the “half-blood prince” wrote in his book…and thus I’ve deemed myself the half-baked princess lol.

But something was missing from the title…

When I lived down in PA I often house-sat for a woman who would always tell me to help myself to anything that was in the fridge. She also regularly declared that she was “no Jane Fonda” which is funny to me because Jane Fonda isn’t exactly Julia Childs or Rachel Ray or Betty Crocker lol. But that is apparently who she attributed her lack of cooking skills (or maybe lack of cooking motivation) to. As a result, their house generally contains the following core ingredients: humus. bacon. whole milk. random types of alcohol. starbucks mocha fraps (if I was lucky lol). hummus. oreos. sprite. chex mix. and of course massive amounts of cat food… lol.

So, here’s to you Ms. Fonda (or, those who AREN’T!) My contribution to the blog world, and to the food needs of all mankind. Or at least my sister and facebook friends :-)