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Apple Baked Bean Casserole

Title: Apple Baked Bean Casserole

From: Paula Deen


  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans Boston-style baked beans
  • 1 cup diced Granny Smith apple
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 strips bacon


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the bacon and mix well. Pour into the baking dish and lay the raw strips of bacon on top. Cover and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until thick and bubbly. Uncover and bake for 5 more minutes.


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Chicken and Dumplings

Title: Chicken and Dumplings

From: Cook’s Illustrated


Don’t use low-fat or fat-free milk in this recipe. Start the dumpling dough only when you’re ready to top the stew with the dumplings.
Serves 6 to 8

• 5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
• Salt and ground black pepper
• 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
• 4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
• 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4* inch thick
• 1 large onion, minced
• 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup dry sherry
• 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
• 1/4 cup whole milk
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 cup frozen green peas
• 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

• 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup whole milk
• 3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat (or unsalted butter)

1. FOR THE STEW: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Pour off the chicken fat and reserve. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off and reserve any chicken fat.

2. Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves. Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.

3. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones, then return it to the stew.

4. FOR THE DUMPLINGS: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.

5. Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve.

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Warm Onion Dip

Title: Warm Onion Dip

From: Cat Cora


1 tbsp evoo
1 c finely chopped onion
¼ c mayonnaise
¼ c sour cream
½ c finely grated sharp white cheddar
¼ tsp Tabasco
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp chives, chopped
Tortilla/pita chips

Preheat the overn to 350F. Heat oil in a large nonswtick skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not yet shimmering. Add the onion and cook, sirring, until beginning to brown, about two minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, cook ten minutes until golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool. Mix mayo, sour cream, cheddar, Tabasco, and salt. Add onion and stir. Spread in shallow 5×7 baking dish, bake until bubbling slightly browned, about 20 mins. Stir in the chives. Serve warm.

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Baking Dish Info

Choosing a Baking Pan

There is very little “wiggle room” in baking! Always use the baking pan size specified in each recipe. The wrong size baking pan may cause your creation to overflow, burn around the edges and bottom, or sink in the middle.

Try It!Here are some cake recipes from our collection:

Read the recipe carefully to make sure you have the type of baking pan that is called for. You also should be aware of the baking pan material, because it can affect the outcome. In general, glass baking dishes require a 25-degree
reduction in oven temperature. Some recipes
may actually specify which material, metal or glass, will get the best results.

Often, you can determine what type of baking
pan and what material will work best by carefully noting the description used in the recipe method. These general definitions usually apply:

  • A baking dish is a glass utensil.

  • A baking pan is a metal utensil.

  • A pie plate is usually glass.

  • A pie pan is usually metal.

  • A baking sheet is a sided pan (15 x 10 x 1 inch); sometimes called a half sheet pan.

  • A cookie sheet has no sides and is used for cookies only.

  • A springform pan features two pieces: a bottom and a rim with a buckle for releasing cakes or tarts.

  • A tube pan is a deep, round metal pan with a hollow center tube.

  • A Bundt® pan is a shallow tube pan that is curved and fluted for baking a specific style of cake.

  • A tart pan is usually metal. Unlike a pie pan, it has straight sides (some fluted, some not) and many have a removable bottom.

  • A silicone baking pan — the newest type — is made of highly flexible polymer. The material is non-stick; can withstand oven temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit; and is safe for use in the freezer, microwave, and dishwasher.

Once you’re sure you have the right baking pan, it is important to prepare it properly. Read on to find out how.

Preparing Baking Pans

Some cakes require greasing and flouring the baking pan and some call for using parchment or waxed paper. To assure the best results from every baking recipe, always prepare baking pans as instructed in the recipe or in the manufacturers’ directions. Common preparation steps include:

Greasing a baking pan: Use a pastry brush, paper towel, waxed paper, or fingertips to apply a thin, even layer of butter, margarine, or shortening to bottom and sides of the baking pan, as directed. As an alternative, coat the baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Softening shortening, butter, or margarine slightly in the microwave will make it easier to use a pastry brush.
Softening shortening, butter, or
margarine slightly in the microwave
makes it easier to use a pastry brush.

Greasing and flouring a baking pan: Use a pastry brush, paper towel, or waxed paper to apply a thin, even layer of butter, margarine, or shortening to bottom and sides of the baking pan, as directed. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons flour to each baking pan. Tilt the baking pan slightly. Gently tap and rotate the pan until bottom and sides are evenly coated with flour. Invert the baking pan and tap bottom gently to remove excess flour.

Gently tapping the sides of the greased baking pan helps distribute the flour.
Gently tapping the sides of the greased
baking pan helps distribute the flour.

TIP: When a recipe for chocolate cakes calls for greasing and flouring the baking pan, use cocoa powder instead of flour. No more white spots on the surface of the baked cake!

Lining a baking pan with paper: Invert baking pan; place a sheet of parchment (or waxed paper) on top. Press all around the edge of the baking pan to form a crease in the paper. Cut out the paper along the crease. Grease the baking pan, but do not flour it. (Coating the bottom with non-stick cooking spray is another option.) Press the paper into the bottom of the greased baking pan. Continue with the recipe, greasing and flouring the paper if so directed.

Use fingertips to press paper firmly around bottom edge of the baking pan and make a crease.
Use fingertips to press paper firmly
around bottom edge of the baking pan
and make a crease.

Preparing a springform pan: Tear off a piece of heavy-duty foil that is at least 2 inches larger than the pan, all the way around. Line the bottom section of the pan with foil, tucking the edges under the bottom. Attach the rim, making sure it fits securely in the groove around the edge of the bottom. Untuck the excess foil and bring it up around the side of the pan; trim if necessary. Grease the foil-lined bottom and side of pan.

All springform pans leak a little bit. Wrapping with foil prevents the batter from spilling out.
All springform pans leak a little bit.
Wrapping with foil prevents the
batter from spilling out.

A Bundt® pan: To prevent sticking, be sure all the creases and flutes of the pan are well greased (and floured, if recipe calls for it) before pouring in the batter.

A pastry brush works well for greasing all the creases and curves of a Bundt® pan.
A pastry brush works well for
greasing all the creases and
curves of a Bundt® pan.

Now that you’ve got the right baking pan and it’s perfectly prepared, you are ready to start baking! Learn all about cake baking on the next page.

Not what you’re looking for? Try these:

  • Cake Recipes: Find basic cake recipes as well as ideas for types of cakes you may have never even heard of, all on our Cake Recipes page.
  • Cake Decorating: Whether you just want to add “Happy Birthday” in piped icing or are ready to attempt a field of frosting flowers, this article will provide the cake decorating tips you need.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.

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For some reason, my mother bought a bunch of avocados. I’m talking a whole lot of ’em. Like ten. I haven’t the faintest idea why she did that, as no one in our house likes avocados. Except in the form of guacamole. According to my brother’s best friend, whose mother is Latina, I make guacamole like a Mexican housewife. Even my brother, a self-proclaimed guacamole hater, enjoys it 🙂 Unfortunately, a lot of the avocados had become over-ripe by the time I came home for Christmas break and got to make them into something more delicious…However, it still turned out pretty yummy, even with avocados that were nearing the point of being unusable and without fresh cilantro like I usually use.

Ingredients for my guacamole 🙂

You can tell the ripeness of an avocado by feel. Press lightly with your thumb against that soft, pebbly skin. If it’s hard, it’s not ripe yet. If it’s firm, yet has a bit of give, it’s ripe. If it’s soft and has an excessive amount of give, to the point of being squishy, it’s over-ripe. If you cut into it an over-ripe avocado…Well…

For illustrative purposes, this is what the inside of an over-ripe avocado looks like...Compare to the beautiful green of the ones in the background.

And now, something pretty, to make up for all the ugliness in the photograph above. Red onions and avocados are just downright beautiful, I think. Just look at these colors.


Moving on!


3-4 ripe avocados
1/2 a red onion, diced
1-2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
red pepper flakes
juice of one lime or lemon
chile powder
sour cream (optional)

Begin by halving the avocados. Simply slide your knife through the flesh until you feel the pit, then run the blade lengthwise before grasping the two halves and twisting. They should come apart easily, revealing the lovely, creamy green insides and the slippery, ovular pit. You can then take the knife and give the pit a good whack with the sharp side of the blade, imbedding it in the surface, in order to pull the pit free. It’s much too slick to get it out with your fingers. Throw away the pits and then, using a spoon, scoop out the guts of the avocados, scraping the insides of the skins clean and then disposing of them as well. Use a fork to mash up the avocados in the bowl before adding your diced tomato, red onion, and minced garlic. Mix together thoroughly, then add the citrus juice and other seasonings. Lime is best, I think, but I only had lemon juice on hand. I prefer to use fresh cilantro, but in lieu of that, dried cilantro still gives a good amount of flavor. Also, most recipes call for fresh, spicy, jalapeño chiles, but I am a huuuge wimp when it comes to spicy things, so I just used a couple shakes of red pepper flakes and a pinch or two of chile powder. You can use couple of dried ancho chiles if you prefer. Finish with a few grinds of fresh cracked black pepper and salt to taste. You can also add a dollop or two of sour cream, if you like. Some people may cringe at the addition of sour cream to guacamole, but in this case it helped me make the most of the few suitable avocados we had left. Plus, my mother over-bought on the sour cream too, so we have three whole containers of it right now! I figured I’d use some of it up 🙂


I only managed to get one picture of the finished product before my family descended upon the bowl and completely desecrated it, leaving it feeling empty and violated. I guess that’s a testament to how tasty fresh guacamole can be! 😉

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Holiday Shortbread.

This recipe is actually one I haven’t tried yet, but it’s probably my absolute favorite holiday treat.  Each year, Laure Kawa, my mother’s friend from work, gives us a perfectly round, delightfully buttery, fork-pricked shortbread.  It’s something I look forward to each year and, one year, I’m going to try it myself, but for now, I’d just like to share with you the recipe she shared with us.  🙂

Laure’s Shortbread

Butter (2 sticks, unsalted)
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. flour

Set the butter out to reach room temperature. Mix sugar into the softened butter. Slowly add flour and knead it into a ball. Flatten it out, pull in the sides, and prick the surface with a fork. Set the oven to 300F for 50-60 minutes.

Lovely holiday shortbread from Laure! 🙂

Super easy, huh? Check out how pretty it looks when you’re done!

Happy holidays, everyone!

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Biscuits and Gravy

Well…I just attempted to make biscuits and gravy for breakfast, from scratch. It was, to say the least, a disaster. The biscuits didn’t rise properly, which meant they were dense and not at all tasty. The gravy was too salty. The base was also made with mostly olive oil left over from my Spanish-style fried egg, since the sausages I made gave off an unusually miniscule amount of fat, for some strange reason.

Now, I think that it’s possible that I measured wrong. I am not one to measure. I’m an eyeball-er. Which I think tends to be my downfall when it comes to baking. I need to be more patient and meticulous, which is the last thing I am when it comes to cooking. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Take one glance at a recipe, get the basic gist, and wing the rest. There’s a possibility that the baking powder I used was old. Granted, it was an un-opened box, but, in my mother’s kitchen, there’s just no knowing with these things. There is also a distinct possibility that my oven was not hot enough. I set it to 450F just like Mr. Alton Brown suggested. What I did not do was check the oven thermometer to make sure it was really at 450 when the pre-heat timer dinged. Based on my post-disaster research, the lack of rise in my biscuits could have been on account of an oven that was not hot enough. Baking powder is activated by heat. If the temperature wasn’t hot enough, it didn’t get the powder working properly by the time my biscuits had had their 15 minutes of oven time.

So, anyway, before I hit the computer to do some research, I was sitting there moping and thinking to myself for the thousandth time that I’m just not a baker. That I will be relegated to canned biscuit dough and store-bought cookies for the rest of time. That I will never be able to bake light, tender biscuits for my future husband and our offspring. And then it occurred to me that maybe biscuit-making (and all other forms of fixing baked goods) is not a natural born gift, but something that is learned through trial and error. Which is why old Southern ladies are so damn good at it. They’ve had a lot of time to practice. And so I said to myself, “Self, it’s not that you’re destined to be a baking failure for the rest of your life. You just need practice! It’s OKAY that your first biscuits turned out like lumpy, tan hockey pucks. You’ve got plenty of time to gain experience.”

It’s not like I stepped into the kitchen one morning and whipped up a perfect batch of creamy scrambled eggs and flawlessly crisp bacon the first time. I had to practice. Maybe I just don’t understand baking the way I understand cooking – in a manner that gives me something close to an instinct as to when things are done and what flavors go well with what ingredients. It’s something that comes with trial and error, hands on experience, hours and hours in the kitchen. I’ve got time to learn. Just gotta keep pluggin’ away…But, for the time being, I’ve got one positive thought to cling to…

At least the dogs liked them.

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