Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spicy Meatball Soup (Pillsbury Bake-Off 1994)

February 21, 1994 was a magical day in my life. I was selected to be 1 of 100 finalists to be at The Pillsbury Bake-Off in San Diego at The Hotel Del Coronado. On the day of the Bake-Off we were all a little nervous. I walked into the ballroom with 100 ovens all set up and my mini kitchen area fully stocked. It took them 2 weeks to set this up. Can you imagine supplying electricity for 100 ovens in one room? Then of course they had to have the temperature controlled as well. True professionals! They did not let the media in to talk to us until 30 minutes had passed. Smart on their part, I was able to start cooking and I was immediately at ease. By the time reporters came to interview me I was in my element. Alex Trebek was the host that year and he was very nice. 

So the next day the deal was that they would go through one category at a time, and if your name and recipe was called out you would stand up and that meant you won $2,000.00.  If they called your name the second time it meant you won $10,000.00. Well I almost passed out when they called my name out the first time. I was in total shock when I was called a second time. I won $10,000! I'm proud to say that I did not spend one penny on myself, but put it all into our sons college funds. 

This is a delicious soup recipe and I have since decided that it tastes even better with black Beans instead of red kidney beans.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef, 93% lean
  • 1/3 cup hot salsa
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions with tops
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes, undrained, cut up
  • 1 (15.5-oz.) can Green Giant or Joan of Arc Dark or Light Red Kidney Beans, drained
  • 1 (11oz.) can Green Giant Niblets Golden Sweet Corn, drained
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2/3 cup hot salsa
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Toppings, if desired
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions with tops
  • 1/4 cup dairy sour cream
In large bowl, combine ground beef and remaining meatball ingredients; mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls; place on cookie sheet.

Meanwhile in 5-quart Dutch oven or stockpot, combine corn and all soup ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; carefully add raw (yes raw) meatballs. Simmer uncovered 45 to 60 minutes or until flavors blend and meat is no longer pink. Garnish individual servings with toppings. 6 (1 1/2-cup) servings.

I won $10,000 back in 1994 at the Pillsbury Bake-Off with this recipe. You may read more about my weekend of a lifetime by clicking on the Pillsbury Bake -Off link in the upper right had corner.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


On a cold and wintry day, this recipe will warm you up. I always try to make this at least once a year when my family is home visiting for the holidays. It starts with everyone waiting for the first loaf to come out of the oven. It takes 30 minutes for it to bake! It seems like an eternity, smelling the aromas, getting hungrier by the minute. Finally, it is ready, and the first loaf is always eaten before the second one comes out. The next 4 loaves I make go into the refrigerator for everyone to microwave at their leisure in the days to come. I always make 5 loaves. That way, we all get our fill, and everyone can take a little bit of home with them when they leave.

  • 8 oz. pepperoni
  • 8 oz. grated or sliced Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 frozen bread dough loaf
  • flour
About 4-5 hours before baking Stromboli, thaw out bread dough according to package directions. Do not let dough rise, you just want it completely thawed and room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°. On a large floured surface, coat both sides of dough with flour and roll out with a rolling pin. Try to stretch more in width than in length. It will take strong arms, and it is a workout. You will find the dough will have memory, but it will eventually give. You will want dough to be about 10 in. x 20 in. It does not have to be exact. Layer grated or sliced cheese over top of dough leaving about a 1" border without cheese on top and sides. Then, layer pepperoni in a single layer on top of cheese. Starting from bottom, slowly fold over about 1" across tucking in cheese and pepperoni. Keep rolling up from bottom until all is rolled up like a cinnamon bun. Then wet edges inside and pinch dough together to seal. Pull stromboli into a horseshoe shape so that it will fit on a cookie sheet. Make sure that your cookie sheet has sides because sometimes the grease from the pepperoni leaks through the dough. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Don't worry if some of the loaf pulls apart, it just means you did not seal your edges well, it will still taste delicious. Remove from cookie sheet if grease has leaked out, lay dough onto paper towels to absorb grease. Cool for 5 minutes, cut into 1" slices and serve immediately. If saving for later, use just cool dough, then cut in half and wrap in foil to refrigerate. When ready to serve, cut into 1" slices and microwave slices for a short time.

It is much cheaper to buy freshly sliced pepperoni and mozzarella cheese from the deli department rather than buying prepackaged. Just ask them to wrap it in 8 oz. portions.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Chicken Quesadillas

Who has ever said that they don't have time to make dinner when they get home from work? I know there were times when I really did not feel like it as well. But sometimes you don't want to go out for dinner either. This was my solution for a quick and easy dinner, and it works well for lunch too. You can always make a couple of extra, and the leftovers microwave well. Fast food at home, but healthy and tasty.

Chicken Quesadillas:
  • 4 tortillas, 10-inch round
  • 1 lb. cooked chicken strips
  • 1 8 oz. pkg. grated cheddar or mexican cheese blend, 1/3 less fat
  • sliced jalapenos from jar
  • fresh cilantro, chopped, about ¼ cup
  • 3 spring onions, sliced thin, green tops too
  • cooking spray
  • Cholula Hot Sauce
  • sour cream (fat free)
  • dry seasoning of your choice

Place chicken strips on large plate and sprinkle with seasoning of your choice or you may leave plain. Microwave until heated through. Meanwhile, preheat a large nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium heat. On one half of tortilla add cheese, chicken, sliced jalapenos, cilantro and spring onions. Evenly divide ingredients over all 4 tortillas. Fold over top to form a half circle. Spray skillet with cooking oil and add 2 tortillas to skillet, turning over after about 2 minutes or until lightly browned. When other side is browned remove from skillet and serve on plate with sour cream and Cholula hot sauce. You are able to heat up 2 at a time, they cook quick. These may be made on top of a grill too. Preheat grill and follow same cooking directions. This is a quick and easy lunch or dinner. Serves 4. Enjoy!

My favorite brand tortillas are La Tortilla Factory wraps, they are made with extra virgin olive oil. They have 13 g dietary fiber, only 3 g fat and they are 90 calories. Some grocery stores carry them, you may also purchase them online. My favorite spice is Mexican Seasoning by The Spice Hunter, it is salt free as well. I found this in the organic section of my grocery store. It is a great way to use up leftover chicken. Or you can omit the chicken and just do cheese quesadillas. Try leftover beef or shrimp too.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Summertime Tomato & Onion Salad

Seasons change, and our cooking choices change with the season. Here is a fast and easy recipe for the warmer weather. It is so good that I find myself craving it year round.

The Tomato & Onion salad is great as a side. Make sure you have some crusty bread to dip into the juice, or chop and place the bread in a bowl with the tomato & onion salad on top. Or, serve it on a crusty Italian roll. Also, you may top salad greens with it and you will not need any salad dressing. Try filling up a pita with it. Enjoy!

Tomato & Onion Salad
  • 2 lbs. grape tomatoes, rinsed and sliced in half
  • 1 large sweet vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Prepare tomatoes and onion then place into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill in refrigerator until ready to eat. It will taste even better the next day.

It is also scrumptious when you add some fresh mozzarella balls to the salad. You can eat it on a pita or a crusty Italian roll.

I remember my Mom would make this salad for the family when I was a little girl. Summertime fresh tomatoes always spurred a craving for this one. When I was young I did not like the taste of tomatoes or onions, but I would dip Italian bread into the juice. It was delicious. Not anymore, I love tomatoes and onions. This is a summertime favorite. What more can you ask for, quick and easy to make, delicious and healthy too.