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Pouring batter into baking panCooking should be fun, and there is little more rewarding and fulfilling than sharing the kitchen with a grandchild who likes to learn. We have a young grandson who loves to be in the kitchen when we are preparing anything from soups and salads to desserts. He is one of those children who snacks continuously, and enjoys trying most new food items to which we introduce him. He uses one of those 2-step ladders to reach the counter top, and even likes to prep and sanitize the work area, under close supervision, of course. In this photo he is pouring the cake batter to make a pineapple upside down cake.

Recently, during a visit, out of the blue, he stated that we should make a pie. A few months ago he and I made a raisin pie with a lattice top, and he enjoyed learning to cut and place the lattice on top. Checking what we had on hand to make a quick pie, I found a deep-dish graham cracker crust in the freezer, and in the pantry were a can of apple pie filling and another of lemon pie filling, along with a box of Crumble Crisp Topping. A perfect project for the little guy! Here’s how we put it together.

Steps in Sour Apple and Graham Cracker CrispIngredients:
1 Deep dish Graham Pie Crust (two layer)
1 can (21 oz) apple pie filling
1 can (15.5 oz) lemon pie filling
1 box (10 oz) Crumble Crisp Topping Mix
2 Tbsp butter, melted (or amount specified by the topping mix)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 F
2. Place the room temperature graham pie crust on a cookie sheet
3. Place in preheated oven for 5 minutes, then cool before filling
4. Add the apple pie filling, spreading evenly over the crust
5. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the layer
6. Add the lemon pie filling, spreading evenly over the bottom layer
7. Prepare the Topping according to instructions on the box
8. Spread the crumb topping evenly over the pie, spreading to the edge
9. Place in oven, on the cookie sheet, and bake 25 minutes.
10. Spoon into bowls while still warm, and, if desired, top with a scoop of ice cream.

This quick and easy dessert was a hit with the family! The contrasting sweetness of the apple and lemon pie fillings, combined with the Crumb Topping made for a festival of flavors going on with every bite. It was fun to make, and fun to eat! And, if you have little ones that like to help, this goes together quickly, keeping their interest, and the short cooking time gives them almost instant rewards. Enjoy!

Google recently released their “Google’s Year in Search 2016.” One category included was a listing of the top-searched food recipes for the year. We took a look in our own collection to gather our recipes for these delicious, and sometimes, just fun, items to create our own list of favorites in 2016.

1. Green Bean Casserole
Green Bean CasseroleThis classic casserole might be the star of your holiday table, but it isn’t just for holidays and pitch-in dinners any more. In 2016 home cooks were bringing this side dish to their table throughout the year, and we commonly see at least a couple of versions of this dish on pitch-in dinner tables. We are always delighted to try other’s approach to this staple. Here is our recipe for a Green Bean Casserole, with Mushrooms, Bacon, Onions and two optional Cheeses.

2. Brussels Sprouts
Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts with Cipollini OnionsThe Brussels sprout continues to be super popular this year; it’s the only green vegetable that got its own Google search spot in the top 10. Here is our recipe for Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts, and, you might also like our Browned Brussels Sprouts with Cipollini Onions.

3. Hashbrown Casserole
Hash Brown CasseroleCasseroles continue to dominate the top 10 list, and for good reason; they can be prepared ahead of time, chilled, warmed, and served later, making them very versatile and reliable. One of the most popular recipes searched is the ever-popular hashbrown casserole. This has been a Christmas Breakfast staple at our house for many years, and I prepared it a number of times for Men’s Breakfast at church. Get the recipe here.

4. Guacamole
GuacamoleAnother simple-to-make delicacy made it to the top of the charts this year. It’s guacamole made from wonderful Haas avocados. Avocados are full of monounsaturated fat and nutrients, especially potassium, B vitamins, 11 different carotenoids, and vitamin E. It makes a great dip with tortilla or corn chips, excels when planted by the spoonful on top of entrees, sides, salads, and even when served sliced in soups and tacos. The process is quick and easy, and produces a luscious, silky smooth dip with a hint of lime. You’ll find our recipe here.

5. Chicken Marsala
Chicken Tenderloin MarsalaThis is a delicious, classic chicken dish that used to be taught in junior high school cooking classes. Our Italian-American version calls for breaded chicken breasts that are braised with Marsala wine, mushrooms and onion. Paprika provides a smokiness to offset the sweetness of the wine. Quick and easy to assemble, this dish is ideal for a simple weeknight dinner, and is elegant enough to gain status as a longtime favorite for entertaining company. You can find our recipe here.

6. Chicken Tetrazzini
Chicken TetrazziniIf you’re not familiar with Chicken Tetrazzini, this essentially is a bowl of luscious pasta loaded with lots of chicken and mushrooms. This is one of Lea’s favorite dishes, to make, and to eat. If you have time to make your own delicious egg noodles, you can take this dish to a whole new level. Get the recipe right here.

7. Snow Cream
Homemade Ice CreamSnow cream can be one of two distinct desserts; a cream-based dessert with one or more flavoring agents added, or, a dessert in which snow is mixed with a sweetened dairy-based liquid to make an ice cream substitute. We rarely see snow here in Central Texas, so we tend to go with the cream-based version. Get the recipe here. Our recipe is located here.

8. Buttercream Frosting
Buttercream frosting on mini-muffinsIt’s great that there are enough cooks out there that want to learn to make their own buttercream frosting, rather than giving in to the ease of buying it at the store. It’s completely simple to make, and totally essential for baking when you want that extra measure of flavor that comes only from homemade buttercream. Our recipe includes a tip to avoid getting the frosting too runny. The recipe is located here.

9. Pork Chops
seared-pork-tenderloin-medallions2_smlThe ever-popular pork chop topped this year’s Google search charts again, which is not so surprising considering how easy or elegant this homey dinner staple is to prepare. We have lots of pork chop recipes on our Entrees page, and one of our favorites, Apple-Ginger Thick Cut Pork Chops, is located here.

10. Turkey Gravy
Pan Gravy with Chicken Fried ChickenSearches for turkey gravy rose to new heights in the last few weeks prior to Thanksgiving, and, according to Google, it was very popular this year! Once you learn to master gravy making, you can pretty much turn pan drippings and fond from any dish into a silky smooth and extra flavorful pan sauce or gravy to serve with your meal. Here’s our recipe and some tips to help.

These delicious recipes are essential for every recipe starter collection, and all have countless versions that have been developed by seasoned cooks over the years. Historically, the most adventurous cooks had extensive libraries of cookbooks to use for inspiration and exploration. Trading recipes with others who had an interest in expanding their meal offerings was a very common practice. Today, there are many other ways to find a recipe, including that quick search on the web, including our own collection. We hope you enjoy our tried and true recipes, and look forward to hearing about your favorite variations, too.

Terminate that chill and warm up with comforting tomato soup!

Bowl of Tomato SoupServed steaming hot in an over-sized mug, with a toasty brown grilled-cheese sandwich, tomato soup takes us back to those childhood days when this cool weather treat seemed really special. Comforting and warming all the way to the tummy, most of us probably had the canned soup most often. But, I still fondly recall the aromas coming from my great-grandmother’s kitchen during canning season when she was “putting up” tomatoes while making tomato soup from scratch. And, there is no tastier way to terminate a chill than that bowl or mug of tomato soup! Today, making homemade tomato soup is simple. Open a couple cans or jars of tomatoes, sauté some aromatic vegetables, and blend it all together. That’s it!

Selecting Tomatoes

Chilies and TomatoesWhile ripe fall tomatoes can make a delicious end of season tomato soup, when it comes to the classic flavor we remember, canned tomatoes are best. They provide a consistent flavor because they are picked, processed, and canned at the peak of perfection. We have found that crushed tomatoes have the preferred balance of acidity and flavor for soup, and they don’t have to spend a lot of time in the blender or food processor to break down. They have a texture between firm diced tomatoes and smooth tomato sauce, and they provide a fresh, full, flavor that is great for pasta sauces and smoother soups.

Home Canned Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed Tomatoes

We also use a small amount of tomato paste in our soups. Tomato paste comes in small cans, usually six ounces each, and also in 4.5 ounce tubes, and they are the most cooked down of all the canned tomato products with eighty per cent (80%) of the water content removed. The paste has a very concentrated flavor and a much darker color.

While the amount of paste in most recipes is small, compared to the crushed tomatoes, you really can’t develop that deep, rich, flavor we all love in tomato soup without it. Keep both canned tomatoes and tomato paste on hand for tomato soup anytime, and you’ll also discover many other uses for them.

Blending and processing hot tomato soup can be messy and even dangerous. See our tips on how to be safe while completing this essential task.

Creamy Tomato Bisque
Creamy Tomato Bisque One of our favorite soups is a steaming mug of tomato “bisque,” by definition a creamy, highly seasoned soup of French origin. It is classically based on a strained broth of crustaceans or shellfish, but it can also be made from roasted and puréed fruits, vegetables, or fungi. Our bisque uses fire roasted tomatoes, heavy cream and a sprinkle of Parmesan to develop an earthiness and silkiness. Get the recipe here.

Tomato Soup with Parmesan Cheese
Tomato Soup with ParmesanHere is another of our tomato soup recipes that has you do the puree while the product is still cool. I have found this to be much easier to handle than trying to pulse the hot soup in a blender or food processor. This recipe incorporates orange juice, a natural pairing with tomato, maple syrup for a touch of sweetness in the background, and cilantro for a fresh citrus note. This one, like the bisque, we finish with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. The recipe is on our soup page, here.

Tomato Vegetable Soup
Tomato Vegetable SoupOur tomato vegetable soup is a recipe we developed in the church kitchen while cooking large batches for fellowship dinners. This is a comforting and filling soup with just a hint of citrus from orange juice. We use homemade Emeril’s Essence in this version to take it just slightly to the cajun side where it blends so well with the mixed vegetables. Find the recipe here.

Rich and flavorful tomato soups are winter warmer-upper favorites that are chock full of vitamin C, and a great way to get the antibiotic effect of the onions and garlic. If you’re fighting a winter cold or flu, you can also whip up a delicious dairy-free version to keep the mucus factor down. It will still be delicious and give you a welcome boost. Tomato soup; the winter chill terminator!

Christmas morning is a time that you shouldn’t have to spend any more time in the kitchen than you want too. Here is a small collection of some of the dishes we would have at our house when our children, and then the grandchildren, would come to spend Christmas eve with us.

Walton House B&B Christmas Table SettingAfter the children were tucked into bed, adults set the breakfast table and prepared some casserole dishes that could be slipped into the refrigerator over night, and then into the oven in the morning. Buttered toast and hot chocolate were served first thing Christmas morning while we admired with anticipation all the presents under the tree. After opening our presents, the aromas coming from the kitchen foretold a delicious brunch featuring some of our favorite dishes.

Homemade Hot Chocolate with Buttered Toast
Hot Chocolate with Buttered Toast Sliced for DippingHomemade hot chocolate mix makes it really easy to make a warm, comforting, drink for everyone with very little fuss. Hot chocolate with buttered toast sliced for dipping was always a family favorite for early Christmas morning. We also kept a quart jar of the mix in the guest coffee area at our bed and breakfast so guests could enjoy a cup by one of the fireplaces any time they wanted. Get the recipe here.

Egg and Breakfast Sausage Casserole
Egg and Breakfast Sausage CasseroleWe made this a number of times on Christmas eve for our Christmas morning brunch. It’s always fun to get everyone in the kitchen mixing and preparing casseroles late Christmas eve after the children were in bed. Come morning, it is so nice to be able to pop everything in the oven, and then take a break from opening gifts and sit down to a great meal. We always had this with the Good Potato Casserole. Get the recipe here.

Egg and Sausage Casserole with Biscuit Mix
Egg & Cheese CasseroleThis is Larry’s recipe, which he developed during their Bed & Breakfast days. Using biscuit mix, rather than bread crumbs, it is loftier, and presents great eye appeal. It was always a hit with their B&B guests, and has the old familiar warmth of the Italian fragrance and flavors that really stimulated our appetites on Christmas morning. Get the recipe here.

Good Potatoes (Hash Brown Casserole)
Hashbrown Casserole with Chicken Soup and Corn FlakesTalk about wonderfully flavorful comfort food for those cold winter mornings! Using frozen hash brown potatoes, chicken soup, sour cream and cheese, topped with corn flake cereal, this dish is too simple for the wonderful aromas it creates. It can be prepared the night before, covered and refrigerated until morning! This is one of our favorites, and the entire family has delighted at this dish for many Christmas mornings. Get the recipe here.

Walton House Orange French Toast
pix-2008-walton-house-orange-french-toastLarry delighted a great many B&B guests with this delightful breakfast! It was the favorite of a lot of returning guests. We were amazed at how many people would remember exactly what they had eaten on a prior visit, and asked him to fix it again! The French toast in poached over medium low heat, and served upside down on a garnish of raspberry sauce, sprinkled with powered cinnamon-sugar, and topped with whipped cream. Get the recipe here.

Carrots, Potatoes and Onions
Fried Carrots, Potatoes & OnionsThis is a very simple, but comforting, dish that can be assembled very quickly, and with very little fuss, left on the stove top to cook over medium heat. The dish only needs to be turned over once when the bottom layer is cooked through and begins filling your home with delicious aromas. Originally this was fried in bacon grease for extra flavor, and has long been a long time family favorite. Get the recipe here.

Christmas Morning Coffee Cake (Monkey Bread)
Christmas Morning Coffee CakeOur family has enjoyed this Monkey Bread recipe several different times at Christmas; so much so that our granddaughters dubbed it Christmas Morning Coffee Cake. But, it would be a nice breakfast surprise any time! Simple to assemble and bake, it will become a favorite in your family, too. We’ve seen a lot of variations of this, but find that we keep coming back to this version. Caution….do not try to put more than the number of rolls called for in this recipe, as they may spillover while rising. Here’s our recipe.

It seems like we keep really busy late in the year attending events and activities that involve food. Whether it’s a company party or a family get together, a welcome addition to any gathering is an appetizer. The term “appetizer” usually refers to a small plate or single bite of food served before the meal to stimulate the appetite. The same food item might be served as an hors d’oeuvres at cocktail parties and receptions, where no dinner is served afterward. There are many recipes freely available, and here are a few of our own.

Texican Street Corn Scoops
Texican Street Corn ScoopsThis is a delicious treat that accents the freshness of corn on the cob with butter, cheese and homemade Emeril’s Essence! Texican Street Corn Scoops are a terrific way to deliver wonderful flavors in a bite size finger food. We cook the ears of corn in the microwave for our Texican Street Corn to retain all the flavor and sweetness which other methods often cook out, and we show you how to create this flavorful bite size version that will bring them back for more. Get the recipe here.

Twice Baked Potato Skins
Twice Baked Potato Skins Treat the family to an oven baked potato recipe dish that has the ideal texture and taste. Load these twice backed potatoes with butter, sour cream, cheese, chives, and top with crumbled bacon. They boast the ultimate level of silky creaminess, cheesiness, and buttery goodness . . . then top it with bacon! The perfect recipe for your memorable Christmas meal! Many folks also enjoy smaller versions as finger food, whether served hot or cold. Get the recipe here.

Shrimp Boats
Shrimp In A BoatThe original recipe for this appetizer was a shrimp salad that dates back to the early 1970s when our next door neighbor, Karen Flessner, introduced this. She served the salad in a large bowl with a dipping spoon and snack crackers on the side so we could fix our own. This deliciousness can also be elevated to bite-size morsels served in tortilla cups, as we show here, or on crackers, croutons, or any other vessel that is available. Get the recipe here.

Curried Carrot and Pear Bites
Curried Carrot and Pear Bites with RaisinsAdapted from our Carrot and Pear Salad, this tasty morsel on a stick is a party of flavors in an attractive burst of colors. Combining a zesty marinade with the pallet-pleasing tastes of fresh pears and raisins is counterbalanced by the earthy tones of the carrot ribbons. This eye catcher is a favorite, and they are easy to assemble, so be sure to make plenty. Get the recipe here.

Fingerling Hasselback Potato Bites
Roasted cheddar potato fanThe Hasselback potato is clearly the most eye-catching spud to ever call itself a side dish. Elevate the baked potato into an eye-catching side dish or appetizer with these potatoes roasted in a hot oven to produce a crispy skin and creamy interior. Adding seasoning and cheese, these appetizers will leap off the serving tray. These are called “Hasselback” potatoes, which refers to the luxurious Hasselbacken hotel and restaurant in Stockholm, which originated this technique. Get the recipe here.

Rye Bread with Dill Dip
Dill Dip in Rye Bread LoafLarry’s mother got this dill dip recipe from a St. Louis grocery store that made it fresh daily. We have served it many times over the years, and it eventually found its way into a hollowed out loaf of rye bread. Break the center of the loaf into pieces and place around the loaf. When the broken pieces are gone you break bread from the loaf itself. Enjoy! Get the recipe here.

Roasted Cheddar and Bacon Jalapeno Poppers
Cheddar and Bacon Jalapeno PopperStems sliced down the middle give these jalapeno poppers additional eye appeal. Poppers are fun to experiment with and we like making these a variety of ways. This recipe uses flavored thick cut bacon, and a little bread or cracker crumbs to add a tiny bit of texture to the filling, to complement the crunchiness of the exterior. Get the recipe here.

Easy to assemble appetizers and hors d’oeuvres are fun to make, and even more fun when they become the hit of the party. Try putting together one or more of these for your next get together, and let us know how it went. Have a favorite you’d like to tell us about? We always enjoy hearing from you!

Pitch-in dinners are a fun way to share togetherness and fellowship with friends and family, and you can kick up the fun factor by making it a themed pitch-in. Make it an “Appetizers Only” party, Munchies Only, with dips and things to dip into them, “Some like it HOT,” featuring spicy dishes, Hot Casseroles Only, Cold Salads Only, or, “How Sweet it is!” desserts only. Here are some dishes, with links to our recipes, that you can pass along as ideas.

Appetizers Only
Sweet Swedish Meatballs
Cheese and Sweet Pickles
Breaded Mushrooms
Honey Roasted Cipollini Onions

Munchies Only
Rye Bread with Dill Dip
Herb Oil Fried Zuchinni with Ranch Dip
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Stuffed Baby Portobello Mushrooms

“Some like it HOT”
Campfire Chili
Gene Vaughn’s 2-Alarm Chili
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Peppercorn Encrusted Roast Chicken

Hot Casseroles Only
Creamy Four Cheese Macaroni
Orange & Gold Potatoes au Gratin
Sour Cream and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Cold Salads Only
Grapefruit and Fennel Salad
Sweet and Sour Yellow Beets
Cauliflower and Broccoli Salad
Green and Gold Pea Salad

How Sweet it is! desserts
Peach Cobbler
Butternut Cream Pie
Gooey Butter Cake
Pear Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

Have fun with your pitch-in dinners! Select a theme and see how much more fun the party is when you elevate it to a whole new level. And, be sure to let us know how your idea worked out!

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