Corned Beef Tater Tot Casserole

Corned Beef Tater Tot Casserole | Pinky's Pantry
This is another dish that’s going on my Christmas Breakfast table this year. It’s a play on one I saw from the Food Network Kitchens a couple of years ago. It’s different because it’s made with tater tots instead of the usual hash browns. I use canned corned beef which is more readily available year round from my local grocery store. If you prefer to use fresh corned beef, by all means go for it! Just chop 1½ pounds fresh corned beef into ½-inch cubes and use it in place of the canned corned beef in this recipe.
Corned Beef Tater Tot Casserole | Pinky's Pantry

CORNED BEEF TATER TOT CASSEROLE

  • 1 bag (32 ozs.) frozen tater tots
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cans (12 ozs. each) corned beef
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil or cooking spray.
  2. Set aside about 2 cups of the tater tots to use for topping.
  3. Arrange remaining tater tots in single layer on bottom of prepared baking dish.
  4. Drizzle a little olive oil over the tater tots or spray lightly with cooking spray.
  5. Bake about 25 minutes or until tater tots are golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  6. In large skillet set over medium-high heat, sauté onions, red and green peppers.
  7. Add corned beef and cook, breaking up corned beef with the back of a spoon and stirring together well. Allow to cool.
  8. Whisk eggs together in a bowl, then whisk in milk, mustard, salt and pepper.
  9. Spread corned beef mixture over cheese.
  10. Pour egg mixture over everything. If making ahead, cover the casserole at this point and refrigerate overnight.
  11. To cook, remove casserole from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  13. Scatter reserved 2 cups tater tots over casserole.
  14. Top with shredded cheese.
  15. Bake until egg mixture is set and top is golden brown, 55 – 60 minutes.
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Breakfast Corn Casserole

Breakfast Corn Casserole | Pinky's Pantry
This is a great casserole to serve for breakfast on a weekend morning. I’m making it for Christmas breakfast this year actually. It’s easy to do and better still, you can make it a day in advance. I like to serve this casserole with a bowl of salsa on the side. Yum!

BREAKFAST CORN CASSEROLE

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 ozs. chopped fresh kale
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (can substitute dried)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 2 cans whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 cans cream-style corn
  • 1 lb. ham, diced
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 box cornbread mix (like Krusteaz or Marie Callenders)
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13 pyrex glass baking dish.
  2. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. Add onions, kale, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until kale is soft and onions are translucent.
  4. Add corn, ham, and sour cream, and cook until hot and bubbly.
  5. Pour corn mixture into prepared baking dish; set aside. If making ahead, cover and refrigerate overnight at this point.
  6. Next day, remove casserole from refrigerator at least half an hour before baking.
  7. Prepare the cornbread batter according to directions on the back of the package.
  8. Stir 1 cup cheese into cornbread batter.
  9. Pour cornbread batter over corn mixture in baking dish.
  10. Top with remaining 1 cup cheese.
  11. Bake for 35 minutes or until corn is bubbling and corn bread topping is done.

Sausage Apple Stuffing

Sausage Apple Stuffing | Pinky's Pantry
Every year, when Thanksgiving would roll around, I would try a new stuffing recipe to serve with our turkey. I tried making chestnut stuffing, cornbread stuffing, caramelized onion stuffing, ciabatta stuffing, cranberry nut stuffing, sundried tomato stuffing, you name it. The kids never liked any of them! Then came the year when I finally gave up and said, “I’m not making stuffing this year.” Strangely enough, everyone went up in arms when they heard that. So at the last minute, I sent Old Goat to the grocery to buy some Stove Top “instant” stuffing. Well wouldn’t you know it, for the first time in years, there wasn’t a lick of leftover stuffing in the bowl!

Well I’m nothing if not a quick learner. Stove Top was the key! Since then, I’ve made Stove Top stuffing every year. I just doctor it up with a few ingredients to make it fancier and no one ever guesses that the stuffing wasn’t made from scratch. The empty bowl each Thanksgiving is a testament to how yummy this stuffing is. And my big smile is the testament to how easy it was to actually make.

The amount of stuffing you make depends on how many people you’re having over for dinner. I usually make 6 boxes for our family shindig, but we have a large family. I’ll post the ingredients for one box of stuffing and you can just multiply it as you need to.

EASY SAUSAGE APPLE STUFFING

  • 1 box (6 oz.) Stove Top stuffing
  • ½ lb. bulk sausage
  • ¼ medium onion, diced
  • ½ stalk celery, sliced
  • ½ – 1 apple, peeled and cut in cubes
  1. Prepare stuffing according to package directions in a large pot.
  2. In a skillet, brown sausage with onion and celery.
  3. Stir in the apple and continue to cook until apple is beginning to soften but isn’t mushy. You can use a half to a whole apple, depending on how much you want.
  4. Drain and discard any grease rendered by the sausage.
  5. Pour sausage mixture into the pot with the prepared stuffing.
  6. Stir to combine well.

Hot Artichoke Dip

Hot Artichoke Dip | Pinky's Pantry
The first time I tried artichoke dip was at a restaurant in San Francisco. It was to die for. They served it with thin, crispy tortilla chips. The dip was warm, cheesy, gooey, in short, everything you want in a dip. One bite and I was a fan for life.

This dip is easy to prepare. If you have a food processor, you could throw everything except the artichoke hearts in there and get it all blended together. Then add the artichoke hearts last and pulse them a few times so they’re chopped but not mush. Scrape it all into your gratin dish and bake.

HOT ARTICHOKE DIP

  • 1 pkg. (8 ozs.) cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 can (14 ozs.) artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.
  3. Beat in mayonnaise until well combined.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and stir together well.
  5. Transfer mixture to a pie plate or shallow gratin dish.
  6. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until mixture is bubbling and top is golden brown.
  7. Serve hot with bread, crackers, tortilla chips, or veggies.

Crescent Breakfast Wreath

Crescent Breakfast Wreath | Pinky's Pantry
Everybody knows Pillsbury’s famous Taco Crescent Ring. Well, this is a play on that recipe but made into a yummy breakfast dish. I just love crescent roll dough, don’t you? It’s so versatile and you can do so much with it from sweet desserts to savory meals. This recipe is really easy to put together and is great for a breakfast or brunch shindig.

CRESCENT BREAKFAST WREATH

  • 1 can (8-ozs.) crescent roll dough
  • breakfast meat:  ½ lb. bulk breakfast sausage, browned; or ½ lb. ham, chopped; or 8 slices of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped green or red bell pepper
  • 1 cup frozen hash browns
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, colby, monterey jack, or any kind you like)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. (I didn’t have any so I used waxed paper.)
  2. Unroll crescent roll dough and separate into eight triangles.
  3. Arrange triangles in a circle on prepared cookie sheet with the short ends of the triangles towards the center and overlapping a little, and the long ends pointing outwards to form a sun shape.
    Crescent Breakfast Wreath | Pinky's Pantry
  4. Fry the onions, bell pepper, and hash browns in a large frying pan until potatoes begin to brown.
  5. Remove from heat, add cooked meat to hash brown mixture and stir together well.
    Crescent Breakfast Wreath | Pinky's Pantry
  6. Scramble the eggs in a skillet until eggs are almost cooked but still moist.
  7. Stir scrambled eggs into hash brown mixture.
    Crescent Breakfast Wreath | Pinky's Pantry
  8. Spoon filling over overlapping portion of crescent rolls, using your hands to help press and shape the filling into a ring.
    Crescent Breakfast Wreath | Pinky's Pantry
  9. Pull points of triangles up over filling and tuck under dough in center to form a ring.
    Crescent Breakfast Wreath | Pinky's Pantry
  10. Carefully sprinkle cheese over top of ring.
    Crescent Breakfast Wreath | Pinky's Pantry
  11. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and crescent rolls are golden brown.
  12. Cool slightly to allow filling to set.
    Crescent Breakfast Wreath | Pinky's Pantry
  13. Slice into wedges and serve.
    Crescent Breakfast Wreath | Pinky's Pantry

NOTE:  To transfer the wreath to a serving platter, carefully run a spatula between the ring and the parchment paper to separate them, then slide the wreath onto the platter.

Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Jellied Cranberry Sauce | Pinky's Pantry
My brother-in-law, Anthony, hails from Arkansas. He loves canned cranberry sauce. He grew up eating it as part of their Thanksgiving dinners and looks for it every year so I’ve made it a point to always have a can on hand for him each Thanksgiving. That being said, have you looked at the ingredients list for the canned stuff? It’s not very healthy. It’s made with high fructose corn syrup, for one.

So several years ago, I decided to try making my own jellied cranberry sauce. I even bought a pretty mold to put it in. Now the operative word is “tried.” I tried several times and failed…. miserably. Somehow, the sauce never quite seemed to work. It either didn’t jell, or didn’t taste good, or something was always wrong. But now, by jove, I think I’ve got it! Finally, this one not only tastes good but holds its shape when taken out of the mold! If you really have to have that can shape, you can pour this into an empty can or two and chill them in the fridge until ready to serve.

This sauce uses a lot of cranberries because you only use the liquid that you get from straining them. That leaves a lot of cranberries to discard. If you don’t want to waste the cranberry solids, don’t throw them away. Use them to make a second batch of cranberry sauce so your guests will have 2 kinds to choose from. Just stir in 1/2 cup or so of orange juice, or water, or even wine like cabernet or merlot into the solids. Transfer to a bowl and serve. You can even jazz it up by adding the zest from 1 large orange, a little cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, chopped pecans, etc.
Jellied Cranberry Sauce | Pinky's Pantry

JELLIED CRANBERRY SAUCE
(Makes about 6 cups)

  • 4 (12-oz.) bags fresh cranberries
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cold water
  • 2 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
  • ⅓ cup cold water
  1. Place cranberries in a colander and rinse them under cold running water, picking out and discarding any wrinkly or mushy ones, or any stems you might find.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, and 3 cups water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until all the berries have burst, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Pour into a large fine-mesh sieve set over a 2-quart glass measure or bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all the juices. If you want your jelly to be more “clear” with less of an applesauce consistency, don’t press on the solids. Just pour the sauce into the sieve and let stand about 30 minutes or until all juices have drained through. Note that you will get less liquid this way.
  5. While cranberries are draining, place the ⅓ cup water and gelatin into a small sauce pot and stir together with a wire whisk. Let stand about a minute to soften.
  6. Add 1 cup of the drained cranberry liquid to the gelatin mixture and bring to a simmer over low heat, gently stirring with the whisk till gelatin is completely dissolved.
  7. Pour gelatin mixture back into remaining cranberry liquid and stir well.
  8. Pour cranberry sauce into lightly oiled decorative mold or small individual molds.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic wrap against the cranberry sauce to prevent a skin from forming, and set aside to cool.
  10. Place in refrigerator to chill until firmly set, preferably overnight.

TO UNMOLD:  Run tip of a thin knife between edge of mold and cranberry jelly. Tilt mold sideways and tap side of mold against a padded work surface, turning and tapping to break the seal and loosen cranberry jelly. Keeping mold tilted, invert a plate over the mold, then invert cranberry jelly onto the plate.

NOTE:  Jellied cranberry sauce can be chilled in the mold for up to 3 days.
It can also be unmolded 1 hour ahead and kept chilled or at room temperature before serving.

Holiday Sausage and Wild Rice

Sausage and Wild Rice | Pinky's Pantry
This recipe makes a great side dish to serve during the holidays or any time of year really. I got the original recipe from Rosemary, one of the nurses at my office who’s retired now. I’ve changed it up just a smidge to make it more appealing to my family, but the basic recipe is the same. If you want to serve it during other times of the year, you can omit the cranberries and still have a great side dish to go with a roast or some chicken. If you ask me, though, I think this dish is really perfect for Thanksgiving and is wonderful on a plate next to some turkey smothered with gravy and a pile of green beans. Yum! I can’t wait to serve this at our Thanksgiving dinner this year!

HOLIDAY SAUSAGE AND WILD RICE

  • 1 cup brown rice (2 cups when cooked)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 boxes (4.3 oz. each) long grain and wild rice blend (like Rice-a-Roni)
  • ½ cup pine nuts (can substitute slivered almonds)
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 8 ozs. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 bag (9.6 ozs.) turkey sausage crumbles (can use pork sausage)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
  1. Cook brown rice in rice cooker or stove top. To the cooking water, add the bay leaf, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt.
  2. In another pot, prepare wild rice blend according to package directions.
  3. Place pine nuts on a baking sheet and roast in a 375ºF oven, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. Melt butter or margarine in a large stock pot.
  5. Sauté onions and mushrooms in melted butter until onions become translucent.
  6. Add sausage crumbles to pot and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Stir in cooked brown rice, cooked wild rice, toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries, and frozen peas.
  8. Continue cooking until peas are heated through.
  9. Transfer to a casserole dish.
  10. Serve warm garnished with chopped parsley, if desired.

Halloween Fondant Ghosts

Fondant Ghost1 | Pinky's Pantry
To add to the treats I was making for the kids this Halloween, I decided to make some fondant ghosts. You can make your own homemade fondant like I did, or buy ready-made fondant. Obviously, homemade marshmallow fondant tastes a hundred times better than the store bought kind, but it can be a pain to make so it’s entirely up to you. The ghost bodies underneath the fondant are made by stacking chocolate candies that you “glue” together with melted chocolate chips. Whether you choose to make your own fondant or buy the ready-made kind, assembling these ghosts is definitely easy and fun to do! They look adorable on your Halloween table, too.

HALLOWEEN FONDANT GHOSTS

  • 1 recipe marshmallow fondant (or you can buy ready-made white fondant)
  • 1 bag Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups
  • 1 box Whoppers malted milk balls
  • 2-3 tbsp. chocolate chips, to use as “glue”
  • powdered sugar or cornstarch, for dusting
  • 1 tube of black ready-to-use decorating icing
  1. Heat chocolate chips in microwave in 30-second increments until completely melted.
  2. Smear a little melted chocolate on top of a Reese’s peanut butter cup and press a second cup on top of it. This is your ghost’s body.
    Fondant Ghost2 | Pinky's Pantry
  3. Next, smear a little dollop of melted chocolate on a Whopper and press it onto your peanut butter cup stack. This is your ghost’s head.
  4. Knead the fondant till it’s soft and pliable.
  5. Dust work surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch.
  6. Pull off a piece of fondant and cover the rest with a damp towel. I like to work with fondant in small batches to keep the big piece of fondant from drying out.
    Fondant Ghost3| Pinky's Pantry
  7. Roll out the piece of fondant you pulled to a little less than a quarter inch thick.
  8. Cut out 4½-inch circles from the fondant.
    Fondant Ghost4 | Pinky's Pantry
  9. Break off another piece of fondant, roll, and cut out more circles.
  10. Repeat till you have the number of circles you need for however many ghosts you’re making.
  11. Drape a fondant circle over a chocolate stack, arranging it so it drapes in nice folds.
    Fondant Ghost5 | Pinky's Pantry
  12. Pipe two eyes with black decorating icing. If desired, you could add an “O” shaped mouth as well.
    Fondant Ghost6 | Pinky's Pantry
  13. These ghosts can be served as is, or use them as cupcake toppers or to decorate a cake.
    Fondant Ghost7 | Pinky's Pantry

Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops

Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
I decided to make some marshmallow pops for the kids this Halloween. I’d seen a picture somewhere of cupcakes decorated with a Frankenstein head which gave me the inspiration for these Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops. They were fun to make. Just plan on giving yourself a little time to let the corn syrup dry after you roll the sugar onto the marshmallows and to let the icing dry after you pipe on the hair and faces. If you can start making these a day or two before you want to hand them out, all the better.

Also, having the right piping tips makes easy work of piping Frank’s hair and face. I used a “grass” tip to do the hair and a fine round tip to pipe his eyes and mouth. I also found this bottle of Wilton bug sprinkles at my local grocery store which I thought would be perfect to use for Frank’s bolts. If you can’t find the same bug sprinkles, you can use candy coated licorice which will be just as cute.
Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry

FRANKENSTEIN MARSHMALLOW POPS

  • 1 bag marshmallows
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • green decorating sugar
  • store bought green, black, and red icing
  • Wilton bug sprinkles, for bolts (or could subsitute black candy coated licorice)
  • lollipop sticks
  1. Lightly brush bottom and sides of a marshmallow with corn syrup. No need to brush the top of the marshmallow because it will be covered with icing “hair.”
  2. Press the bottom and roll the sides in green sugar until well coated.
    Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
  3. Set aside to dry for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. Once dry, stab a lollipop stick into the sugar-coated bottom of each marshmallow.
    Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
  5. Cut some green Rips candy into small strips to use for Frankenstein’s brow.
    Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's PantryFrankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
  6. Glue the brow to the top of each marshmallow with green icing.
  7. Using a grass piping tip, pipe hair onto the top of each marshmallow by squeezing a little icing out, then stopping and pulling straight up.
  8. Switch to a small round decorating tip and pipe eyes and a mouth with black icing.
  9. Change to red icing and pipe a little scar on Frank’s cheek.
    Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
  10. Push a little bug sprinkle into each side of the marshmallow for bolts.

    Bug Sprinkles | Pinky's Pantry

    These are the Wilton bug sprinkles I found that I thought would make perfect “bolts.”

Yogurt Cream and Berry Parfaits

Yogurt Cream Berry Parfait | Pinky's PantryYesterday was the 4th of July. We went over to my sister Helen’s house for a barbecue. My aunt Miriam and her beau were coming over, as well as my uncle Manny, his lovely wife Melissa, and their two beautiful daughters, Sierra and Aspen. We hadn’t seen them in years so we were all looking forward to the festivities. Manny’s my uncle but he’s younger than I am. His sister, Miriam, is my age. How, you ask? Well, my grandfather was married three times and had a total of 13 children. My Mom was child #2 by his first wife. Manny and Miriam are children #11 and 12 by his third wife. Hence the huge generation gap, and that explains why I have an aunt and uncle my age and younger.

Anyway, I wanted to make something red-white-and-blue to take to the barbecue for dessert so decided that yogurt cream parfaits would be good. They’re refreshingly cool on a hot summer day. I put them in mini champagne flutes and thought they looked absolutely adorable.
Yogurt Cream Berry Parfait | Pinky's Pantry
I whipped up 30 of the little confections the day before the barbecue and had them chilling in the fridge all neatly lined up on a wooden tray like patriotic little soldiers. When we were finally ready to leave for Helen’s house the next day, I painstakingly pulled the tray out of the fridge and walked ever so slowly towards the front door, carefully balancing the tray in my two hands. I have no idea how but to my utter distress, right when I reached the door, one of the little flutes began to teeter precariously on the tray. I watched in horror as almost in slow motion, it toppled over and hit the one next to it and one by one they all began toppling over like dominoes! I screamed as I juggled the tray in a futile effort to stop the disaster which only served to make matters worse! Some of the desserts crashed to the floor while others flung their contents onto my chest and down to my feet. Nooooooo!!!

Old Goat comes running over and sees me standing there in the middle of a huge mess of red, white and blue, with yogurt cream splashed on my nose and running down my pretty blue blouse. “What are you doing?” he asked perplexed as he took the tray from my stunned hands. I took one look at him and burst into tears as I ran upstairs to our bedroom. All my hard work of the day before, gone in about 5 seconds!

I washed up and changed my shirt, then went back downstairs to find that my sweet Old Goat had mopped up the floor, and with the help of No. 1’s girlfriend, was trying to salvage and wipe clean the flutes that had just tipped over but remained safely on the tray. So, long story short, they managed to rescue about a dozen of the 30 desserts. They looked a little worse for wear, but we brought them to Helen’s house anyway.
Yogurt Cream Berry Parfait | Pinky's Pantry

YOGURT CREAM & BERRY PARFAITS

  • 1 cup plain, honey, or vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp. or ¼ cup sugar
  • strawberries, washed, dried and hulled
  • blueberries, washed and dried
  • extra sugar (optional)
  1. Chop strawberries into small pieces. If strawberries aren’t sweet, sprinkle a little extra sugar over them, toss together and set aside.
  2. Place greek yogurt and whipping cream in bowl of electric mixer.
  3. Beat until soft peaks form.
  4. Add sugar and beat until well combined.
  5. In little flutes or parfait glasses, layer yogurt cream, strawberries, more yogurt cream, blueberries, and end with yogurt cream.
  6. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

NOTE:  If desired, you can garnish the top of each parfait with a blueberry, a small strawberry, some finely chopped almonds, or a sprinkling of granola.