recipes, food and cooking

April 1, 2004

Hello Everyone,

Easter is right around the corner and with that in mind this newsletter is packed with recipes to help you celebrate. Don't forget to visit the Easter section at Razzle Dazzle Recipes for even more scrumptious recipes.

     Mary Ellen        

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RECIPES FOR EASTER

MARSHMALLOW EASTER EGGS

2 tablespoons Knox gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup hot water
1 cup white Karo syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
corn starch for hands
melted milk chocolate

Mix gelatin and cold water. Set aside until water is absorbed.

Combine sugar, hot water, 1/2 cup of the Karo syrup and cook to the soft ball stage (240 degrees).

Cool a few minutes. Beat with mixer at full speed. Add the remaining Karo syrup and all of the gelatin mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Beat 7 to 8 minutes after the last addition of the gelatin. Add vanilla. Pour into a well greased 7 x 9 inches pan and chill thoroughly.

Dust hands with cornstarch. Spoon marshmallow out of pan and form eggs. Brush excess cornstarch off and let dry for 1/2 hour on waxed paper.

Pour melted milk chocolate over eggs and let set. Refrigerate for easier handling.

SWEET EASTER CHICKS
4-5 Cups shredded coconut, divided
Yellow food coloring
2 Cups finely ground vanilla wafers
3/4-1 Cup sweetened condensed milk
28 Miniature chocolate chips
Red food leather
Orange gum drops, cut into triangles
2/3 Cup white jelly beans
Small tube white icing

Tint 1 cup coconut with yellow food coloring; process in food processor or blender until finely chopped.

Combine 2 cups coconut, cookie wafers and milk, adding more milk if necessary, to make a mixture that is easy to work but still slightly sticky.

Shape coconut mixture into twelve 1/2-inch balls and twelve 1-inch balls. Roll balls in yellow coconut to coat.

With a toothpick, secure a small ball on a large ball. On each chick, dot icing on 2 chocolate chips for eyes and press onto face; use gum drops for beak. Cut fruit leather in 1/20-inch saw-tooth shapes; press onto head for crown.

Tint remaining coconut with green food coloring and place on a serving platter or in a decorative bowl. Arrange chicks on the tinted coconut. Arrange jelly beans as eggs.

CHOCOLATE CARAMEL EASTER EGGS

It's important to use an imported chocolate, such as Lindt or Callebaut, for this recipe. The high cocoa-butter content of the imported type produces chocolate eggs that are more flexible and easier to remove from the molds. You can make all the eggs out of white chocolate, all out of bitter-sweet chocolate or a few from each.

Egg Shells
2 1/2 pounds imported bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate orimported white chocolate (such as Lindt or Callebaut) or 1 1/4 pounds of
each chocolate, chopped

3 large plastic egg mold sets (total of six 4 1/4x3-inch 1/2-cup egg halves)
2 small plastic egg mold sets (total of eight 3x2 1/2-inch 1/4-cup egg
halves)

Caramel Filling
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup sour cream

Chocolate Filling
3/4 cup whipping cream
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 pound imported bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons sour cream

Assembly
Reserved chocolate in double boiler

To Decorate
8 yards (about) colorfast silk ribbons

To make egg shells:
Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water, stirring frequently until smooth and candy thermometer registers 115°F for bittersweet and 105°F for white chocolate. (If making both bittersweet chocolate and white chocolate eggs, melt chocolates separately in two double boilers.) Remove chocolate from over water. Spoon chocolate into 1 set of large egg molds, filling molds completely (do not fill decorative base section of mold). Turn mold over above prepared cookie sheet, allowing excess chocolate to spill out. Shake mold to produce uniformly thick shell. Turn mold right side up. Run fingertip gently around edge of eggs to remove excess chocolate. Refrigerate.

Tilt foil-lined sheet with melted chocolate over top of double boiler, scraping chocolate into double boiler. Reheat to 115°F for bittersweet and 105°F for white chocolate, stirring frequently. Repeat coating process with remaining 2 large egg mold sets and 2 small egg mold sets, removing chocolate from over water while working and reheating chocolate after each set of egg molds is coated. Refrigerate molds. (If using white chocolate, the molds will need a double coating. Refrigerate molds after first coating is cold. Refill with barely lukewarm chocolate, shake out excess and wipe edges clean, creating double-thick shell.) Return remaining chocolate on foil to top of double boiler and set aside. Refrigerate molds while making caramel filling.

To make caramel filling:
Stir sugar and water in heavy large saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, washing down sides of pan with pastry brush dipped into water and swirling pan occasionally, Remove from heat. Add whipping cream and butter (mixture will bubble vigorously) and whisk until smooth. Whisk in sour cream. Let caramel filling stand just until barely cool (mixture will be sticky), stirring occasionally, about 50 minutes.

Spoon 2 scant tablespoons caramel into each small egg half. Spoon 1/4 cup caramel into each large egg half. Refrigerate while making chocolate filling.

To make chocolate filling:
Bring whipping cream and butter to simmer in heavy medium saucepan, stirring until butter melts. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth and melted. Remove chocolate filling from heat. Whisk in sour cream. Let stand until cool but still pourable, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Spoon filling over caramel in all egg halves, filling to 1/16 inch below top edge. Chill until set, about 40 minutes.

To assemble:
Rewarm reserved melted chocolate in top of double boiler to 115°F for bittersweet and 105°F for white chocolate. Remove chocolate from over water. Working quickly, spread enough melted chocolate (use bittersweet for dark eggs and white chocolate for white eggs) atop 1 set of filled eggs just to cover. use icing spatula to scrape excess chocolate from eggs and clean sides. Place mold in refrigerator. Repeat with remaining egg molds. Refrigerate all molds until chocolate is firm, about 1 hour.

Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil. Remove 1 egg mold from refrigerator. Turn mold over onto foil. Gently bend and twist mold side to side several times to release halves of chocolate eggs. Repeat unmolding process with remaining eggs.

Rewarm remaining melted chocolate in top of double boiler until warm to touch. Turn bottom half of 1 egg over so flat sides face up. Spread small amount of melted chocolate over flat side of egg, leaving 1/4-inch border. Working quickly, cover bottom half of egg with corresponding top half of egg and press together gently. Refrigerate whole egg. Repeat with remaining egg halves and melted chocolate. (Can be prepared 2 weeks ahead. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.)

To decorate:
Wrap ribbons around seam of each egg and tie bow at top. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve eggs chilled.

Makes 3 large eggs and 4 small eggs.
Bon Appétit - April 1992

JELLY-BEAN STUDDED MERINGUE NESTS

6 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 ounces assorted Jelly Belly jelly beans (cotton candy, berry blue, lemon drop, island punch, lemon lime)

Mango sorbet or sherbet

Preheat oven to 170° F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Using round cookie cutter or small can, trace the outline of a 4-inch circle, for 8 to 10 circles. Set aside.

In clean, dry mixing bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add almond extract and gradually add sugar. Beat until stiff and glossy.

Spoon meringue about 3/4 cup at a time onto parchment-lined baking sheet, using tracing lines as guides for size. With large spoon make indentation in each meringue mound to form nests. Gently press jelly beans into sides of meringues.

Bake 2 1/2 hours, or until hard. Just before serving, fill meringue nests with small scoop of sorbet or sherbet; serve immediately.

Makes 8 to 10 nests.

CHIPOTLE BAKED HAM

1 (6 1/2-pound) smoked ham half, fully cooked
40 whole cloves
Vegetable cooking spray
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons unsweetened pineapple juice
1 tablespoon chipotle puree (from adobo-usually in the Mexican food aisle)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Trim fat and rind from ham. Score outside of ham in a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves. Place ham on a rack coated with cooking spray, and place rack in a shallow roasting pan.
Combine sugar and next 4 ingredients in a small saucepan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, and let cool; brush over ham.
Bake at 425° F. for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 325° F. continue baking 1 hour, basting ham with sugar mixture every 15 minutes.

SOUTHWESTERN PARTY POTATOES

2 lbs. frozen southwestern hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 cans cream of potato soup
1 stick cracker barrel cheese, shredded
1/4 C. Chopped onion
1 pt. Sour cream
1 t. Cajun seasoning
1/2 C. Parmesan cheese

Place potatoes in 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Heat soup until warm and pour over thawed potatoes. Add cheese and onion. Cool; add sour cream and mix all together.

Sprinkle cajun seasoning over top, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Do not cover.

Bake at 350° F. for 45 minutes to an hour. Should be bubbly and liquid absorbed.

GLAZED HAM WITH DRIED CHERRY CARAMELIZED ONIONS

3 pounds cooked boneless ham
4 tablespoons honey, divided use
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
5 medium onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/3 cup cider vinegar
5 medium onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup almonds, sliced or slivered and toasted

Preheat oven to 325° F. Place ham on rack in shallow baking pan and roast 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a meat thermometer registers 140° F., about 15-18 minutes per pound.

In a small bowl, combine honey, vinegar and 1 mustard. Brush ham with glaze during the last 5 minutes of baking.

Sauté onions over medium heat in a dutch oven in butter for 12 to 15 minutes or until onions are just tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 cup dried cherries, 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir in toasted almonds. Serve ham slices with onion mixture.

Makes 10 servings.

Recipe courtesy of the National Pork Board.

SWEET POTATO SLICES 

3 pounds sweet potatoes or yams
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
1/3 cup coconut, toasted

Spray grill rack with cooking spray. Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat.

Peel sweet potatoes; cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices. Heat 1 inch of water to boiling in 3-quart saucepan.

Add sweet potatoes. Cover and heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer about 12 minutes or until almost tender; drain. Mix margarine and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Grill sweet potato slices uncovered 4 inches from medium heat about 20 minutes, brushing frequently with margarine mixture and turning once.

To serve, sprinkle sweet potatoes with coconut.

Makes 6 servings

ASPARAGUS GRUYÈRE TART

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
Flour, for work surface
1 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded
1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and ground black pepper

Thaw puff pastry according to package instructions.

Preheat oven to 400° F.  On a floured surface, roll puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet.

With a sharp knife, lightly score the dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce the dough inside the markings at half-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pastry shell from the oven, and sprinkle with cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips.

Brush with oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 4 servings

MEGAN'S KEY LIME CHEESECAKE WITH STRAWBERRY SAUCE

Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 /4 cup sugar
1 /2 cup butter or margarine, melted

Filling:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1 /4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1 1 /2 teaspoons grated lime rind
1 /2 cup key lime juice

Garnishes:
Strawberry halves, lime slices, lime zest, strawberry sauce

Strawberry sauce:
1 1 /4 cups fresh strawberries
1 /4 cup sugar
1 1 /2 teaspoons grated lime rind

Preheat oven to 350° F. 

In a medium mixing bowl combine crust ingredients and firmly press on bottom and 1-inch up sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350-degrees for 8 minutes; cool.

Preheat oven to 325° F. 

In a medium mixing bowl beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add 1 1 /4 cups sugar, beating until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream, 1 1 /2 teaspoons grated rind and lime juice to mix well. Pour batter onto baked and cooled crust.

Bake at 325° F.  for 1 hour and 5 minutes; turn oven off. Partially open oven door; let stand in oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately run a knife around the edge of the pan, releasing sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack; cover and chill for 8 hours.

Process all ingredients for Strawberry Sauce in a food processor until smooth, stopping several times to scrape down sides of blender container.

Garnish as desired and serve with Strawberry sauce.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE LAVE CAKES

10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
10 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs

Topping:
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed and pureed

Coat six, 6-ounce custard cups with non-stick spray. In quart saucepan, melt chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat, stirring until melted and blended. Remove from heat and pour into large mixing bowl. Mix flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together and add to chocolate mixture. Mix with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend well. Pour into custard cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Cover cups with plastic wrap and freeze about 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Place frozen custard cups, with plastic wrap removed, on cookie sheet. Bake 15-18 minutes.

While cakes are baking, whip cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spoon cream onto small dessert plates. Spoon raspberry puree in a circle around outer edge of cream. Drag a toothpick through circle to make designs. Remove cakes from oven and cool slightly. Then invert onto prepared dessert plates. (Note: Make sure to invert cakes while they're still warm. The fudge ``lava'' will ooze out of the volcano-shaped cakes.)

Brenda Otwell, from "The Junior League at Home'' by the Junior League of St. Joseph's, Mo.

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FROM OUR READERS

Do you have some good recipes for a baby shower for a boy? I got 11 baby cookie cutters and wanted to use them to cut sandwiches. My Aunt has blueberries. What could we do? From Jackie ... Any ideas? Please email me

June is looking for a tried and true Diabetic Blackberry Jam, anybody have one? email me Thanks

Don't forget to visit That's My Home Recipe Cafe Message Board, that's the way to find the quickest answers for a recipe you might need or a question you might have. It would be nice to meet you..............

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MAPLE RECIPES - IT'S MAPLE SEASON HERE IN NEW ENGLAND

BREAKFAST BREAD PUDDING

4 1/2 cups cubed French or Italian bread
3 large cooking apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups milk or soy milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
12 ounces cooked sausage, crumbled

Lightly oil the inside of a 4-quart slow cooker. Press half of the bread cubes into the bottom of the cooker.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the apples, cinnamon, allspice, brown sugar and salt. Add the milk and maple syrup and mix well.

Pour half of the apple mixture over the bread in the slow cooker. Gently press down on the apples to ensure the liquid is absorbed by the bread.

Spread half of the soy sausage over the apples, followed by the remaining bread. Top the bread with the remaining sausage, followed by the remaining apple mixture. Press on the apple to ensure the liquid is absorbed.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

MAPLE CREAM BRULEE

1 pint whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar (divided)
2 strawberries, sliced
8 blackberries
8 raspberries

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In non-reactive heavy-bottom pan, bring cream and vanilla to boil, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Remove from heat.

In medium stainless steel bowl, whisk together egg yolks, maple syrup and salt.

With small ladle, slowly add two-thirds of the hot cream mixture to egg yolk mixture and whisk until bowl is same temperature as remaining cream.

Pour this mixture back into remaining heavy cream and beat.

Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer.

Fill 4 ramekins and place in baking pan on oven rack. Fill pan with enough warm water to go two-thirds up sides of ramekins.

Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes, remove ramekins from water bath and place on clean sheet pan. Let rest 45 minutes, then refrigerate 4 to 6 hours.

Before serving, place 2 tablespoons sugar on top of each custard. With chef's torch, carefully flame top of each custard to caramelize sugar until golden brown. Or, place under broiler briefly. Watch carefully so custard does not burn. Decorate top of each creme brulee with berries. Makes 4 servings.

MAPLE SYRUP CHEESECAKE

24 (5-by-2 1/2-inch) graham crackers
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups dark maple syrup, plus more for drizzling on top (divided)
4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare crust: In food processor, finely grind graham crackers (you will have about 31/2 cups). In large bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, butter and 1/2 cup maple syrup. Press evenly into bottom and up sides of 10-inch springform pan. Wrap bottom and side of pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil to avoid leakage.

Make filling: In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or in food processor, beat cream cheese on low speed, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, until smooth. Add remaining 1 cup maple syrup and eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and cream and beat until just combined.

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 1 hour (cake will not be set in center but will set as it chills). Cool cake in pan on rack. Chill cake, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 4 days. Remove side of pan. Serve cheesecake in wedges, drizzled with maple syrup.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

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APPETIZER RECIPES

7 - LAYER RANCH DIP

1 envelope Lipton Ranch soup mix
1 container (16 oz) sour cream
2 teas. Tabasco brand Green
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 med. tomato, chopped
1 can (2.25 oz.) sliced, pitted ripe olives, drained
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 (4.5oz) chopped green olives, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (about 4 oz.) Tortilla Chips

In 2 qt. shallow dish, combine soup mix, sour cream and tabasco sauce.

Evenly layer remaining ingredients, except tortilla chips, ending with cheese. Chill Serve with tortilla chips.

Makes 7 cups.

ROAST BEEF ROLLUPS

Ask for rare to medium-rare roast beef, depending on your preference, and
have the deli attendant make long, whole slices, thin enough to roll easily but not so thin they threaten to fall apart. You should get 12 to 15 slices in 3/4 pound.

2 (8-ounce) tubs whipped cream cheese (light is acceptable)
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
Several grinds of black pepper
1 cup diced red or yellow bell pepper, or a mixture of both (about 1 small pepper)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion (about 1/4 of a small red onion)
3/4 pound rare to medium-rare roast beef, thinly sliced (about 12 to 15
slices)

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients but the roast beef until thoroughly blended. Lay out a slice of roast beef and spread an even layer of the cream cheese mixture on it. Roll up. Repeat with remaining beef.

Refrigerate the rollups until ready to serve. Offer leaf lettuce leaves torn to a size suitable for wrapping around the beef rollups. Slice into 1/2's or 3rds before serving.

Makes 12 to 15 rollups

TORTILLA ROLL-UPS

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (7 ounce) can green chiles, diced
1 (4 ounce) can black olives, chopped
10 slices ham, thinly sliced, diced
1 package (burrito-size) flour tortillas

Pour off any liquid from cream cheese. Combine cream cheese, chiles, olives and ham. Spread each tortilla with mixture and roll tightly. Wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. To serve, slice into 1/2” slices.

Serves 15-20

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FEATURED RECIPE SITES

Ang wrote in to say this is the site I refer to more than any other on a daily basis :-) http://www.foodlovers.co.nz

I also found a nice site that you might like to visit - Amethysts Recipes her site is designed just like a cookbook! Enjoy

Submit your favorite recipe site if you'd like to see it listed next month.

KITCHEN TIPS

For greater volume, bring egg whites to room temperature before whipping.

It is easier to separate eggs when they are still cold.

To easily unmold gelatin salads or desserts, lightly brush mold with oil before pouring in the mixture.

When cutting cream pies, first dip knife in hot water so that none of the filling will stick to it.

For flakier pie crust, substitute 1 teaspoon vinegar for 1 teaspoon of the cold water called for in the recipe.

Strawberry Measurement Equivalents
1 basket= 1 pint strawberries
1 pint= 3 1/4 cups whole berries
1 pint= 2 1/4 cups sliced berries
1 pint= 1 2/3 cups pureed berries
1 pint=about 12 very large stemmed berries to about 36 smaller berries
20 oz. frozen berries=about 4 cups whole berries

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THE CONVENIENCE SHELF
by Terri Cheney

I live about 30 miles from the nearest fast food restaurant. When time crunches occur at the end of the day, and I haven't planned a meal, it can cost me big bucks and a couple of hours of time. So there are a few items I keep on hand at all times just to ease the stress of an unexpectedly busy day or unplanned company.

Refrigerated Canned Ham: This type of ham is boneless and is lean meat. The type that I prefer has a refrigerator life, unopened, of three years. They aren't the cheapest ham you'll buy, but they are well worth the cost. They are cooked, ready to eat, and far less expensive than a meal of take-out burgers for the family.

Unless you're making food for a crowd (and one of these will serve that purpose nicely), you'll get more than one meal from the ham. I like to slice thinly for sandwiches. For a fancier dinner, I will heat it with a glaze of brown sugar and pineapple juice. Often we like to slice it almost through, insert a pineapple ring between slices and then glaze and heat. Salad and rolls will make a complete meal in no time.

Canned Corned Beef Hash: I love corned beef hash from a can. Mama always made hers special by slicing it from the can, placing on a foil-lined cookie sheet, and then topping with a thin slice of onion and a teaspoon of catsup. She baked until heated through. She served this with fried eggs and toast. It's not the least expensive meal you could prepare, but it's good and it's filling.

Eggs: Speaking of eggs, I can't help but think how great a convenience it is having a dozen eggs on hand at all times. Omelets are easy to make and adapt well to a variety of fillings (a good way to use up leftovers!). Add biscuit or rolls and a salad and the meal is on the table.

Frozen Rising Crust Pizza: Add a salad and I have a dinner on the table in 20 minutes flat. The popular rising crust brand costs one fourth what a large pizzeria pizza costs. Occasionally we add extra cheese or veggies to ours. Even with the additions this meal is far less than takeout and can be on the table in 20 minutes.

Flash frozen boneless skinless breasts: From the freezer to the table this meat is easily prepared in under 30 minutes. I like to put mine on the Foreman Grill with lemon pepper to season. As well, I've cooked them plain and used the cooked pieces to make stir fry or Chicken Parmesan.

Canned spaghetti sauce: Quick and easy. I heat and serve over boneless baked chicken tenders with spaghetti sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. Half the calories and all of the flavor of the traditional Parmigiana.

Whole Potatoes: Not a convenience food you say? Oh yes they are! Baked whole in the microwave I can have four baked potatoes in less than 20 minutes. Split and served with steamed broccoli, shredded cheese, and/or diced ham, the potatoes become a main dish. Great for lunch or supper with a salad and rolls. Scrubbed and sliced into fingers, I bake at 450° F.  for 15-20 mins and have oven fries to add to any meal.

I can also scrub, dice and boil and have a pot of potato soup in about 20 minutes time. Use chicken broth, or bouillon cubes, a little diced onion, and
when potatoes are tender add a can of evaporated milk. Chopped parsley, fresh or dried, adds a touch of color. Thicken this with a little flour if a creamy soup is desired. Add shredded cheese, and cooked, diced bacon if you want a soup like one served at one of the chain restaurants.

Cake Mix: I buy cake mix on sale for less than $0.75 a box. That's a cake I can afford! Because I add only water (using as much as called for plus the amount for the oil called for) and 2 eggs, my cakes become low fat specialties.

I have used the mix to make cakes, cookies, and dump cake, which is a very rich fruit cobbler-type cake. Dump a can of pie filling in your pan, top with cake mix and pour a stick of melted butter over the top and bake.

For an easy frosting, consider topping with glaze (1 cup confectioner's sugar and 1 tbsp of milk or juice), or with a broiled topping. I like one that includes coconut, cereal and chopped nuts mixed with a bit of butter. Spread on top of cake and broil until just turning golden brown.

Don't let the time crunch cause a money crunch for you, as well. Keep a few convenient items on hand for your emergency/busy day meals.

(C)2005 Terri Cheney

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COOKIE CORNER

PEANUT BUTTER SNACK BARS

1 /2 cup butter
4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 /2 cup honey
2 /3 cup brown sugar
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 (12-ounce) bag of milk chocolate chips
2 /3 cup creamy peanut butter

Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large saucepan melt the butter, 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, honey and brown sugar over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.

Add Rice Krispies cereal and stir until well coated. Spread mixture evenly in the baking dish and let cool for about 20 to 30 minutes.

In a small saucepan melt the chocolate chips; add the remaining 2/3 cup of peanut butter and stir until smooth.

Spread evenly over the cereal mixture. Chill until firm. Cut into bars to serve. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Yields 2 to 3 dozen.

CHOCOLATE HERMITS

1 1/3 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
3 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 cup chopped raisins
1 cup chopped nuts

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Cream shortening; add sugar gradually; cream until fluffy.

Add egg to creamed mixture with chocolate; blend well. Add vanilla and milk. Stir in dry ingredients, raisins and nuts. Mix well; chill 30 minutes.

Drop by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheet. Bake in 350° F.  oven 15 minutes. Remove cookies and cool on racks.

Makes 2 dozen.

FLOURLESS PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

1 C. peanut butter
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1 t. baking soda

Cream the peanut butter with the sugar. Stir in the egg and baking soda. Roll into balls. If the dough is initially too thin to roll let it sit 10 minutes and it will thicken.

Bake at 350° F. until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown (do not overbake or they will turn hard and crumbly)

Note: These cookies are at their best the day they are made or warm out of the oven.

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bar (3 to 4 ounces) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into chunks

In bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt to combine thoroughly; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In mixer bowl, combine butter and sugars; beat until fluffy and well-blended. Add peanut butter, egg and vanilla; beat just until blended.

Gradually add flour mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Drop by rounded tablespoons, placed well apart, onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake in preheated oven until cookies are well browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Makes about 30 (2 3/4-inch) cookies.

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