Backyard Chats

Basic Bread Pudding
September 23, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recipes

With the cost of grocery item these days, using up the last of anything is always a challenge. Bread is no exception and in most households, along with milk, is a constant staple.  Rescue bread remnants before they head to the compost pile by keeping a basket or container in the freezer where you can easily toss the bag and it’s contents.

The following is a basic recipe for bread pudding.  There are endless variations of bread pudding recipes : chocolate, apple, coconut, raisin, blueberry, pumpkin, and dried fruit;  just to name a few. Traditional bread pudding is served with a bourbon sauce.

Basic Bread Pudding

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place 8-10 slices of bread, which have been toasted & cut into cubes, into a greased 8×8 inch oven proof dish. Set aside.

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine:

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon salt


2 cups of warm milk mixed with:

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon maple flavoring (optional)

Pour liquid over bread cubes. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, covered  (uncovered will produce a crusty top layer). Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers. Makes 6 servings.


Pork Chops and Brown Gravy
September 16, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recipes

Add about 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon cooking oil to your pan over medium heat.

While the pan is heating; generously season pork chops with garlic powder (not garlic salt), seasoned salt and lemon pepper. (I use about an 1/8 teaspoon on each pork chop). Sprinkle each pork chop with a generous teaspoon of flour.

Place pork chops in the hot pan; seasoning side down. Repeat seasonings on second side.

Repeat flour on second side.

Let pork chops brown on first side for about 3 minutes. Turn and let brown another 3 minutes on second side.

Remove pork chops from pan and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoon flour to meat drippings in pan.

Whisk until thoroughly blended.

Whisk in about 1/2 cup water; bring mixture to a boil.

Continue cooking until thickened.

Return pork chops to pan; cover pan and continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until pork chops are done.

Suggested meal: serve pork chops with mashed potatoes, vegetable and bread.

Note: 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce may be added to finished gravy if desired.

Spinach Lasagna
August 25, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recipes

Tired of the typical ground beef version of lasagna? Give this spinach version a try. Don’t let the list of ingredients intimidate you. The majority of the ingredients are thrown into a pot and stewed to produce the sauce. This is a revision of the original recipe, Lasagna Napoli from the Buffet on the Bayou cookbook.

In a large pot, add 2 T. vegetable oil, 1 T. olive oil and sauté 1 large onion finely chopped over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add 2-3 finely minced garlic cloves and sauté for about 1 minute.

Add:  1/4 lb. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced; 16 oz. can Italian tomatoes; 6 oz. tomato paste; 2 t. salt; 1 1/2 t. each of basil and oregano (I just used 2 t. of mixed, dried Italian seasoning); 1/2 t. pepper; 1-1/2 t. sugar; 1-1/2 t. chili powder (shocking, I know!); 1 cup water and  2 T. chopped parsley (don’t worry too much if you don’t have the parsley. I happen to have some fresh basil, so I chopped it up and threw it in too).

2. Cover and simmer for 2 hours over low heat stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

3. Add 4 oz. drained sliced black olives & 1 beaten egg (stir the sauce while you add the egg)

4. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 egg; 10 oz (thawed) frozen spinach (squeeze out the majority of the excess water); 1 cup cottage cheese (small curd is best); 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese; 2 T. water

5. The final step calls for 1 pound thinly sliced prosciutto or lean ham and 1-3/4 oz pepperoni slices. (I just used some leftover thin ham)

Assemble the lasagna in a greased 8″x 8″ oven proof dish. Layer 1/3 of the sauce, 3 uncooked lasagna noodles (break noodles to fit in pan if necessary).

1/2 the spinach mixture, 1/2 of the ham

and 4 oz grated mozzarella cheese.

Repeat layers; topping with last third of the sauce.

6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Remove foil; top with an additional 4 oz grated mozzarella cheese; return to oven, uncovered and hear just until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let set 10-15 minutes to help solidify the ingredients. Leftovers are great and freeze well. As a mater of fact, doubling the recipe and putting one in the freezer would be a great idea!

Will feed 4 very hungry people or 6 regular appetites. Serve with a tossed salad, garlic bread and a vegetable of choice.

Basic Waldorf Salad
August 19, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recipes

We often overlook the basic items we have to work with. One common apple, some celery, optional nuts and a simple dressing can quickly be thrown together for an additional component of a meal.

Dressing: 2 Tablespoons of mayonnaise,  a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon sugar,  just enough milk to thin to dressing consistency. (all ingredients can be adjusted to your taste)

Mix with: one apple, chopped

two stalks of celery, chopped

1-2 Tablespoons pecans or walnuts

Serves 3.

Oven Chicken Tenders
August 11, 2010, 7:06 pm
Filed under: Recipes

Need super fast, super easy?  Purchase chicken breasts already cut into strips “tender”. Plan on about 3-4 chicken tenders per person.

Set out two dishes. Pie pans are the easiest. In the first dish, pour about 1/2 cup of milk (buttermilk if you have it). In the other container, place about 1 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs (not cubes).  Add about 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. If you don’t have it, just use the bread crumbs. Dip chicken tenders in milk and then dredge (roll) in seasoned bread crumbs.  Place about 1 inch apart on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes; turn and cook for another 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cook some oven fried potatoes at the same time on a separate cookie sheet. Both the potatoes and chicken should be done about the same time. Serve with salad or fresh fruit.  Leftover chicken tenders make  an easy and delicious Chicken Caesar Salad.

Italian Stuffed Chicken Breasts
August 5, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recipes

The following recipe was inspired by Kraft recipe.For the original recipe visit:


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place about 2 tablespoons Italian dressing in the bottom of a 8×8 inch oven proof  pan.

Flatten 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts as thin as possible without tearing the meat; set aside.

In a bowl, mix together:

2 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs (not cubes)

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup Italian dressing

1 cup cooked, chopped broccoli

1 small,  fresh tomato, diced

White sauce:  In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. When melted, add 2 tablespoons flour, pinch of each salt & pepper. Whisking to avoid scorching, cook for about 1 minute to remove the “raw” flour flavor.While stirring, gradually add 1 1/2 cups milk and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese. Stir well. Cover and remove from heat.

With smooth side of chicken breasts facing down, spread 1/3  of the  broccoli mixture on each chicken breast, spreading to edges. Roll up each chicken breast as tightly as possible. Place all three in 8×8 pan with “seam” facing down. Pour white sauce over top of chicken. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley flakes (optional). Cover with aluminum foil and cook at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the inside temperature reaches 170 degrees.

Oven Fries
July 2, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recipes

If the budget dictates that the local fast food restaurant is off limits, try this recipe to appease that french fry addiction.

OVEN FRIES (these are definitely not french “fries”, but a nice substitute)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

1 fist size sweet or white potato per person, peeled  (peeling white potatoes is optional but, if not peeled, scrub well with plain water

1/2  teaspoon oil per potato – olive oil or any cooking oil available

salt & pepper, optional

As a safety precaution, trim a small slice off of one side to prevent the potato from rolling while slicing in half.

Setting potato on flat side, slice potato in half. Slice each half into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Slice the 1/4 inch thick slices into “fries” or “straws”.

Place “fries” on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with cooking oil. Toss potatoes and oil together to coat. Spread potatoes out into a single layer. Cook for approximately 20 minutes.

Remove from oven; salt & pepper (optional)