Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Maraschino Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone?  Planning anything fun for the evening?  It's quiet here, but I'm anticipating my New Year's Day Hoppin' Johns. 

I ran across this recipe some time ago and thought it sounded pretty good.  Dark chocolate chips and maraschino cherry, a natural combination.


1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped

Mix the butter and sugars in a bowl, beat in the egg followed by the vanilla extract.

Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet until they are just incorporated.

Mix in the chocolate and cherries.

Place the dough on a parchment paper or Silpat-lined cookie sheet one Tablespoon at a time and bake in a preheated 350F oven until lightly golden brown around the edges, about 8-10 minutes, let cool on sheet for 2 minutes and transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe Source: www.closetcooking.com

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gene Roddenberry's Lima Beans and Ham

Some time ago I heard about a cookbook called "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook."  Obviously the title intrigued me and I had to pick it up.  Unfortunately, as far as recipes go, it has a pretty dated content.  Most of the recipes sound like things that were in vogue maybe in the 50's.  Not exactly healthy but a fun memory journey, nevertheless.  I do wish they had included a story about why the celebrity liked the particular recipe submitted.

However, thumbing through it a few days ago I found this recipe using HAM!!!  And with some tweaking, this came out to be very tasty.  This recipe (from Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) called to cook the beans for 5 hours and to boil a ham for 3 1/2 hours.  What?!!!  And the only seasoning it lists is salt.  So I added some marjoram and Montreal Steak Seasoning.  I also adjusted the amount of celery and onion.  So the recipe below is not the one found in the book but works much better with the way we eat today.


1/2 pound dried large lima beans
1/2 to 1 cup cubed cooked ham
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
salt, to taste
marjoram, to taste, optional
pepper or Montreal Steak Seasoning, to taste, optional
cooked rice for serving
grated cheddar cheese for serving

Put lima beans in a pot with 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer.  Cook until tender, about an hour (you may need to add more water during cooking).

Drain, reserving water.  Cook onions and celery in reserved water until tender.  Return to beans, along with ham and seasonings of  your choice.

Serve over rice and sprinkle with cheese.

Recipe Source:  The Dead Celebrities Cookbook by Frank DeCaro, 2011, p. 125

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ham Jambalaya

OK, friends!  Here's another great use for your leftover ham....Jambalaya!  Although you could certainly change it to add shrimp, andouille sausage, or even some of those wonderful chicken sausages.  This original recipe (from the Honeybaked Ham website) doesn't call for okra but, to me, jambalaya isn't jambalaya without okra.  And an added note, being that it's December and okra isn't in season, you'll need to cook it a bit longer or it will be too tough.

A few other notes.  I used smoked paprika in lieu of regular paprika.  And this dish really developed after a day or two.  So much better.  So if you can, make it ahead to let the flavors develop.  It is so worth the wait.

HAM JAMBALAYA (4 servings)

1 1/2 Tbsp EVOO
1-2 sweet onions, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 1/2 tsp garlic cloves
8 oz okra, sliced, optional
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juices
1 cup diced ham
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp paprika (use smoke paprika if you have it)
1/2 Tbsp chili powder (use chipotle chili powder if you want extra heat)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
hot sauce to taste
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp long-grain white rice

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.    Add the onions, peppers, and garlic until tender (about 10 minutes).

Mix in and add the tomatoes, ham, wine (or chicken stock), thyme, basil, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne.  Stir in the rice.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed (about 20-25 minutes).  Season with S&P.

Recipe Source:  www.honeybaked.com

Friday, December 27, 2013

Red Potato Salad

Red potatoes are my favorite of all those out there in potatoland!  I love 'em baked, boiled, roasted.  I looked for a recipe which also included some fresh dill since I still had some in fridge.  This is a pretty basic potato salad recipe, but it came out wonderfully.  I generally cut down the amount of dressing a potato salad recipe calls for, but since this called for all reduced-fat sour cream and mayo, I added the entire amount.  And it came out perfectly.  My experience using the reduced-fat versions found that after a day they tend to break down and get watery.  But this has stood up as well on the second day. Plan ahead:  This needs to chill at least three hours before servings. 

A great accompaniment to our leftover Christmas ham.

RED POTATO SALAD (6-8 servings)

1 1/2 pounds (about 5 medium) red potatoes, cut into chunks
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup light mayo
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp distilled vinegar
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 dill pickle, chopped
1/4-1/2 celery stalk, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1-2 dashes hot sauce
1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/4 tsp garlic powder
dash onion salt
S&P to taste

Place the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until easily pieced with a fork.  Drain, and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream, mayo, mustard, vinegar, eggs, pickle, celery, green onions, and hot sauce.  Season with dill, garlic powder, onion salt, S&P.  Pour over the potatoes and gently toss to coat.  Chill at least 3 hours in the fridge before serving.

Recipe Source:  www.allrecipes.com

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Breakfast

Happy post-Christmas, friends!  I meant to get this up yesterday, but just kept forgetting.  Do you have a Christmas breakfast tradition?  My family never did, but Jim's family had what I always thought was a quite unique tradition:  ham and scrambled eggs with.....ready?......lima beans, tomatoes, dinner rolls and (drumroll.....) watermelon rind pickles!  (Get the theme?  Red and green for Christmas.)

Well, I've done real good these past 16 years on the pickle part, but this year I waited until the last minute and my local markets don't carry them.  But it won't happen again.  I can get them on-line and as you can imagine, they will last for just about forever in the frig.  We did, however, update from lima beans to edamame and from eggs to Egg Beaters.  It is, actually, a very nice healthy, tasty breakfast and a lovely way to start your Christmas Day (and another notch on my ham-belt!)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cheesy Ham and Hash Brown Casserole

Good Christmas Eve, friends!  I hope you're all enjoying a lovely day with friends and family.

Here's one more ham dish if you're looking for a home for your leftovers.  I made it as a breakfast dish, but honestly, this would be a great lunch or dinner served with a green salad, or a fruit salad like I served with breakfast.

Be sure to cook the full hour and make sure the top is golden brown so you can get those crispy crusts.  But I would advise not to season the mixture with salt, as you will get plenty of sodium between the soup, cheese, and ham.  I did add some dried parsley and black pepper for a little pop of color.  I cut the recipe in half, baked in an 8x8 dish and it was more than enough for the two of us and four dogs!


1 (32 oz) package frozen hash brown potatoes
8 oz cooked, diced ham
2 (10.75 oz) cans condensed cream of potato soup
1 (16 oz) container sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
dried parsley, shake in enough add some color, optional
black pepper, shake in enough to add some color and to taste, optional

Preheat oven to 375F.  Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix hash browns, ham, soup, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.  Spread evenly into prepared dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven or until bubbly and lightly brown.  Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Source: www.allrecipes.com

Monday, December 23, 2013

One Dish Baked Orzo with Spinach, Ham, and Feta

Hello, Friends!  Are you ready for Wednesday?  I wish I could say we were going to have a white Christmas, but, alas, no such luck.

I'm gearing up by trying to come up with some new recipes in which I can use ham.  We received a beautiful ham as a gift and I wanted to try some new dishes.  This was first up and I'm tellin' you......if you are going to have any leftover ham, you have got to try this!!!  It is dee....lish!

It's a simple mixture of orzo with some freshly chopped dill and feta cheese with some chopped ham and spinach sandwiched in between.  And then a thin layer of grated Romano or Parmesan cheese on top which bakes into a lovely crispy crust.  You can put this together very quickly and bake it immediately or the next day.  I would make the full recipe in a 9x13 baking dish or half the recipe and bake it in an 8x8 dish.  I served this with a Greek salad.

ONE DISH BAKED ORZO with SPINACH, HAM, and FETA (6-8 servings)

2 cups ham, cooked and chopped
1 pound orzo pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped (or more, to taste)
1/3 cup grated Romano, Parmesan, or Asiago cheese
14.5 oz can chicken stock
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 pound crumbed feta cheese
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and completely dry (it's important to squeeze out all excess moisture)
S&P to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Pour the chicken stock into a large pot.  Add enough water to the stock to almost fill the pot.  Sprinkle with salt and bring to a boil.  Stir in orzo and boil until just tender (8-10 minutes) but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.  Drain well.

Return to pot.  Mix in cream, oil, feta, and dill.  Season with S&P.  In a prepared baking dish, layer 1/2 of the orzo mixture.  Top with the ham and then spinach.  Layer the remaining orzo mixture over the spinach and top with the Romano cheese.  Bake uncovered until heated through, about 40 minutes.

This dish can be prepared a day ahead, just cover and refrigerate.  When you're ready to cook it, bring it to a room temperature before you bake it.

Recipe Source: www.smithfield.com

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli (Copycat)

Whenever we go to Olive Garden and Jim gets soup, he always choses the Pasta e Fagioli (I go for the Zuppa Toscana!)  But for a wet December night dinner, I thought this would be a good choice.  Warm and hearty for an easy winter meal.

OLIVE GARDEN PASTA e FAGIOLI (approximately 8 full servings, 12 small servings)

1 lb ground beef (I used 90/10)
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz can tomato sauce
15 oz can beef broth
15 oz can kidney beans (with liquid)
15 oz can great northern beans (with liquid)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
2" x 2" Parmesan rind (optional)
8 oz dry ditalina pasta
grated Parmesan for garnish, optional

Brown ground beef in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until no longer pink, lightly seasoning with S&P.  Drain, then return to the pot.  Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, lightly season with S&P.  Saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the reamining ingredients, except for the pasta, and simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, cook pasta according to directions.  Rinse, drain,  and set aside.

About 5 minutes before serving, remove Parmesan rind (if using) and add cooked pasta to the soup.  Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Recipe Source:  www.topsecretrecipes.com

Friday, December 20, 2013

Italian Pigs in a Blanket

I caught this recipe on The Today Show with Giada De Laurentiis a few days ago.  It's an adult version of the hot dog in a crescent roll snack.  And what a great game day appetizer this would be!

Four ingredients, five minutes prep, less than half an hour in the oven.  What a great idea for a fun new appetizer!  Have some yellow or Dijon mustard (or, if you must, ketchup) on the side for dipping and voila!!!  Easy, fast, tasty snack!


1 sheet puff pastry from a 17.3 oz package, defrosted
1/2 pound mortadella, cut into 1/2" x 1/2"x 2 1/2" batons
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup (approximately 2 oz) grated Swiss cheese

yellow or Dijon mustard (or ketchup) for dipping, optional

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Roll the sheet of puff pastry to an 11" square.  Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/2" strips.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Wrap each baton of mortadella in one strip of puff pastry, overlapping the dough slightly with each wrap around and leaving the ends exposed.

Place the rolls on prepared baking sheet leaving an inch between each one.  Brush each roll with the egg and top with a good pinch of grated cheese.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and puffed.  Serve warm with dipping sauce, if desired.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crab Cakes with Remoulade Sauce

I have loved crab cakes since the very first time I tried them.  And you can only imagine that growing up in Oklahoma in the 60's, one didn't get a lot of shots at good seafood!  So maybe because it was such a treat to find quality seafood while on vacation, every single bite was that much more special (and I was also fortunate to have a father who encouraged me to try all foods at least once.)

But as with many recipes, you don't always get a good crab cake.  Many are so full of filling and light on crab that they're nothing much more than fried crackers.  This recipe is a fine, basic recipe.  You can, of course, adjust some of the ingredients to your liking but start here.  For me, green peppers are essential the the taste of a good crab cake.  Hence, I tend to add a bit more.

This time I fried the cakes, although reader comments included a suggestion for baking which I will try next time (to bake the cakes, saute the onion and green peppers, cool, mix with other ingredients, then make patties.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray with a cooking spray, and then bake (do not flour patties) at 375F for 20 minutes, flip and continue cooking for another 20-25 minutes).

And about the remoulade sauce:  I love this sauce with crab cakes.  I found this recipe and it is the best I've ever found.  Of course you can serve this with other fish and seafood, but it is particularly delicious on these cakes.

CRAB CAKES (4-6 servings)

1 pound crabmeat, picked free of shells
1/3 cup crushed crackers (butter crackers like Ritz are recommended)
3 green onions, green and white parts, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup mayo
1 egg
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt or Cajun seasoning
Dash cayenne pepper
flour, for dusting
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Remoulade sauce (recipe follows) and/or lemon, optional

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except for the flour, oil, and sauce.  Shape into patties and dust with flour.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When oil is hot, carefully place crab cakes in batches, in pan and fry until browned, about 4-5 minutes.  Carefully flip crab cakes and fry on other side until golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Serve with sauce and/or lemon, if desired.

Recipe Source: www.foodnetwork.com (Paula Deen)


1 cup mayo
1/4 cup chili sauce
2 Tbsp Creole mustard***See NOTE below
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp hot sauce
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 medium scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 Tbsp minced celery
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp caper, chopped (optional)

Mix together mayo, chili sauce, mustard, olive oil, hot sauce, lemon juice, and Worcestershire.  Stir in scallions, parsley, olives, celery, capers, and garlic.  Season with chili powder and S&P.  Cover and refrigerate.

NOTE:  To make your own Creole mustard, mix 6 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce to taste.

Recipe Source:  www.allrecipes.com

Monday, December 16, 2013


Snickerdoodles have to be just about the most perfect cookie.  Simple ingredients, crispy around the edges, soft and chewy on the inside, and a simple dusting of cinnamon and sugar on the outside.  Good year around.

This recipe came from the Allrecipes magazine, but I do believe it's pretty universal with few if any changes.  What I love about this magazine are the reader's comments.  One suggestion I thought would be really helpful is to freeze the dough in the measured balls and then cook them as you need/want them (6 minutes at 400F, then 8+ minutes at 350F).

This is a great suggestion given that Snickerdoodles don't keep for long.  So unless you're making them for a group and have scheduled a pig-out session for yourself, you might want to give this a try!

SNICKERDOODLES (makes about 4 dozen cookies)

1 cup butter, softenend (or 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening)
1 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups AP flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cream together butter (and shortening, if using) and 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Blend in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  Shape dough by rounded Tablespoons into balls.

Mix remaining 2 Tbsp sugar and the cinnamon.  Roll Balls of dough in mixture.  Place 2" apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes, or until set but not too hard.  Remove immediately from baking sheets.

Recipe Source:  Allrecipes Magazine, December/January 2004, p. 39

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cliff House Clam Chowder and Cliff House Spice Blend

I love soup.  Really.  I could eat it everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I love making it and eating it.  And I love so many kinds of soup.  But if I were put in a corner and had to come up with a Top Three, Clam Chowder would always make the cut.  More specifically, New England Clam Chowder.

And I have made a lot of NECC and a bunch of different recipes.  But hands down, I think this is my favorite. It comes from the Cliff House Restaurant in Ogunquit, ME.

Two reasons:  1) it's simply, utterly delicious and I always keep everything needed in my pantry so I can make it without much notice.  2)  it comes with a spice blend that is, for me, the perfect seasoning for this chowda.

Now, there are gonna be some New Englanders who will no doubt debate my choice for eternity.  But isn't that one of the great things about this country:  we are all entitled to our opinion.  But for those of us who don't live in clam country and rely on canned clams and clam juice for an outstanding meal, this will not disappoint.

Two notes:
One:  This spice blend recipe listed after the recipe makes an amount that will make many pots of this soup.  DO NOT USE THE ENTIRE AMOUNT IN ONE RECIPE OF THE SOUP!!!!!! Keep the remainder in an air-tight container in your frig.....mine has kept for over a year.
Two:  While this recipe calls for half-and-half, you can certainly use any kind of milk.....full fat, reduced-fat, fat-free.  However, if you use the reduced-fat or fat-free milk, you may want to add some instant potatoes at serving time to thicken the chowder. But don't add it during cooking or it won't thicken as much.


1 slice bacon, minced
1/2 tsp butter
1 cup onion, minced
1 tsp fresh garlic
1 tsp Cliff House Spice Blend (recipe below)
1 Tbsp flour
1 can clams (6 1/2 oz)
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled, and diced (I prefer baked red-skinned potatoes, with skins left on for prettier presentation)

In a heavy-bottomed two quart soup pot, saute butter, bacon, onion, garlic, and spice blend over low heat.  Do not allow to burn.  Drain clams and set aside, reserving the juice.  Slowly stir the flour and clam juices in the saute mixture.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat.  Add milk and simmer 20 minutes.  Add white pepper, potatoes, and clams.  Heat to serving temperature.  Do not allow to boil, as this toughens the clams.


4 tsp dried oregano
4 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried marjoram
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp dried thyme
4 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried sage
4 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried tarragon
1 Tbsp flour

Crush with a mortar and pestle.  Store in an air-tight container and keep in refrigerator.

Recipe Source:  www.gonewengland.about.com/morerecipes/r/recclfschowder.html

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Carrot Dill Soup

I just love carrot soup and I hadn't made it in quite some time.  Why?  I don't know.  This is the simplest recipe I have calling for just eight ingredients (I like extra dill in mine).  And it's great year around.

CARROT DILL SOUP (2-4 servings)

1 pound carrots, sliced
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup chopped onion
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp (or more, to taste) chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

Bring large pot of water to a boil.  Add carrots, and cook until tender.  Drain and return the carrots to the pan.  Cool.

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the onion and garlic to the pot with the carrots and pour in chicken broth.  Turn heat to medium low.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes to blend flavors.

Puree the carrot mixture in a food processor or blender in small batches.  Return to the pot and stir in the milk, dill, and chives.  Cook until heated through and serve.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Green Chili Cheesecake with Mango Salsa

This is one of my favorite appetizers.  It's a beautiful presentation and it's good all year around.  And it's very adaptable.  The original recipe was written to make one big 8-9" cheesecake, but I prefer to make individual cakes in cupcake tins.  The large cake will serve about 25 people, or you'll get about 18 individual cakes using the cupcake tins.  And the great thing about making the small cakes is that you can freeze each one and just pull one out when you need a little savory treat.

Also, you can adjust the heat in this.  This calls for 4 Tbsp chopped marinated jalapenos, but I halved this and there was still plenty of heat (and that's what the cooling mango salsa is for).  But for me, the best part is I always half this recipe, making just 9 individual cakes which freeze beaitufully.  They keep for quite a while in the freezer, I know I've had some in over six months which still thaw and dip beautifully.  Also, reduce the calorie/fat content by using reduced fat sour cream, cream cheese, shredded cheeses, and egg substitute for fantastic results.

I have always served these with the blue tortilla chips, but I notice the green and red chips in the store for the holidays.  What a great appetizer for Christmas, New Year's, or the Super Bowl.  Not but come summertime either served with a margarita.

GREEN CHILI CHEESECAKE with MANGO SALSA (serves about 25 or half the recipe making about 9 individual cakes)

1 1/2 cups roasted poblano, about 6 peppers
1 1/2 cups regular or reduced-fat sour cream
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
16 oz regular and reduced-fat cream cheese
2 Tbsp butter, softened
4 Tbsp chopped marinated jalapenos
1 Tbsp fresh minced fresh dill leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Mango salsa (recipe below)
blue tortilla chips

Roast and peel poblanos (line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Place peppers on foil and place in an oven with broiler set to HIGH.  Cook for about 10 minutes, turning 1-2 times, until black and blistered.  Remove from oven, place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit 10-15 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  Peel skin from pepper and remove stem and seeds.)  Finely chop.

In a food processor blend sour cream and eggs, add cream cheese and butter and blend until smooth.  Transfer mixture to bowl and stir in poblanos, jalapenos, cheeses, dill, and cilantro.  Pour into an 8" or 9" springform pan lined with parchment paper (or about 18 cupcake tins lined with cupcake liners) and bake at 325F for about 25 minutes (the cupcake-sized cakes also took about 25 minutes) until center is just set, but still jiggles.  Don't overbake or your chips will break when trying to dip.

Cool to room temperature and serve or refrigerate.  When ready to serve, take out an hour in advance.  Cut around the inside rim (if using the springform pan) and invert on a serving plate.  Top with mango salsa and serve with blue tortilla chips.

MANGO SALSA (makes about 4 cups)

3 cups chopped fresh mango (I use two 20 oz jars {found in the produce department} which each yield about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
3 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 red pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced, optional

Stir all ingredients together.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Party Potatoes Deluxe

Here's a basic potato casserole.  Good for breakfast or hearty enough for a big spread during the holidays.  It's a breeze to put together and can be make ahead of time and baked later.


1/2 cup butter or margarine, divided (or less, especially in the topping)
1 lb country-style (shredded) frozen hash browns, thawed
1/4 cup (or more, to taste) green onion, chopped
1/2 cup regular or low-fat sour cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 can condensed cream-of-anything soup
1 cup crushed corn flakes

Preheat oven to 350F.  Melt 1/4 cup butter in an 8x8" baking dish in the oven while it heats.

Meanwhile, combine hash browns, green onion, sour cream, cheese, and soup in a large bowl.  Transfer mixture to the baking dish after the butter has melted.  Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Melt remaining 2-4 Tbsp butter in the microwave, then mix with crushed cornflakes.  Sprinkle on top of the potatoes evenly and bake for 15 more minutes.

Recipe Source:  www.iowagirleats.com

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vanilla Kifli Cookies

Here's a great holiday cookie for your cookie swaps.  A basic shortbread cookie with a twist:  use vanilla beans instead of extract!  Same delicious outcome with flecks of beautiful black vanilla bean seeds.  Kinda makes you want to break out the ice cream maker, doesn't it?

VANILLA KIFLI COOKIES (makes 20 cookies)

Sugar Coating:
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3 Tbsp sugar
Seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean

1 cup, plus 1 Tbsp AP flour
2 oz blanched almonds
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
Seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
1/3 cup, plus 1 Tbsp confectioners' sugar
1 large egg yolk

To prepare the sugar coating:
Place both sugars and the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the seeds are distributed throughout the sugar.  Pour the mixture into a small bowl and set aside.

To prepare the cookies:
Place the flour, almonds, and salt in the same processor bowl.  Pulse until the almonds are finely chopped, then set the mixture aside.

Mix the butter, vanilla bean seeds, and sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until fully combined.  Add the egg yolk to the bowl and mix until creamy.  Add the flour-almond mixture and continue working until fully incorporated.

Form a disc with the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 90 minutes.

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the frig, and with your hands, roll the dough into 1/2"W x 3"L logs (20 grams), making sure that the ends of the logs are slightly tapered, then curve the dough slightly to form a crescent shape.  Place the crescents onto the prepared cookie sheet, about 1" apart.

Bake the cookies for 7 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 7 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and place it onto a wire rack.  Let the cookies sit for 3-4 minutes, then gently toss each one into the vanilla-sugar mixture until completely coated on all sides.  Let the cookies cool before serving.

Recipe Source:  www.qvc.com/vanillakaflicookies.content.html

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lindie and Nellie

A few nights ago while eating dinner, Jim looked down and saw these two buddies squished together in a tiny dog bed.  He said "that would make a great picture."  Luckily, I had the camera at hand and after half a dozen shots, got one while they were both still.  Talk about two peas in a pod!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Steak and Marinated Red Pepper Salad with Apricot Brandy Vinaigrette

Here's one dish on which you can use those wonderful marinated vegetables.  Not to mention a new wonderful vinaigrette to use on just about any salad.

This recipe calls for marinating a ball tip steak, but I had some leftover New York strip which I used.  And as usual, I used the small pickling cucumbers.  I used this as a side salad for my French onion soup, but in a larger portion, this would make a great entree salad.


1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
3 Tbsp minced shallots
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apricot brandy

Marinated ball tip steak, grilled
mix of spring greens and romaine
grape tomatoes
cucumber slices
marinated red pepper strips (see yesterday's post)

To make the vinaigrette:
Whisk all ingredients together.

To make the salad:
Mix salad ingredients except steak and toss with apricot brandy vinaigrette.  Slice steak thin and place on top of salad and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Marinated Vegetables

This was a recipe we used at a restaurant I worked at while living in Minnesota.  And it was their most requested recipe.  The owner never gave the recipe away until she closed the restaurant and published a cookbook (so I'm not giving away any secrets!)  We served this as a garnish with all of the sandwiches and most of the hors d'oeuvres.

It is so simple, so pretty, and so delicious!  As a snack or a garnish.  We used a crinkle cutter for a prettier presentation, but you can certainly simply use a knife.  Whatever you use, just try it!


3 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp dried dill weed

4 carrots, julienned
2 green zucchini, julienned
2 red peppers, julienned

Monterey Jack cheese, cut into thin strips
Green onion tops, cut into strips

To make the marinated vegetables:
Mix marinade vegetables in a plastic ziplock bag.  Add vegetables, turn bag to coat.  Refrigerate overnight, turning bag occasionally.

If you would like to make elegant vegetable bundles:
Put onion tops in boiling water for a second or two; remove and cut into strips.  Select one of each vegetable strip, add a strip of Jack cheese; stack up and tie with an onion green.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

French Onion Soup

French onion soup is one of my very favorite soups.  And I don't make it often enough.  And I don't think I've ever used the same recipe but have never, ever been disappointed.

This is one of the first recipes I ever tried, but when I originally made it I followed the recipe to make my own beef stock.  Don't get me wrong, it was delicious, but took quite a while to make, not to mention difficult to find the bones to use given we now live in a society where meat markets are hard to find, unless you live in a large city like New York.  So this time I settled on beef broth found in the soup aisle with a very respectable result.

Also, since this was kind of on the fly, I shredded the Swiss cheese I had in my cheese drawer instead of making a special trip to the store for Gruyere.  Regardless, it's a lucious winter soup (winter?????  no.....any time of the year) that pairs well with a simple green salad.  Plan ahead.....you need to let the onions initially simmer for about an hour.  In fact, you can make this ahead of time, the morning or day before serving, and then just reheat at serving time.

FRENCH ONION SOUP (4 servings)

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 pounds yellow onions, sliced 1/4" into half circles
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp AP flour
1/3 cup dry sherry
3 cups beef broth
2 tsp fresh thyme
S&P to taste
1/2" slices baguette for the crouton
8 oz Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated (about 3 cups)

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot on medium-low heat.  Add onions.  Spread them out in as thin a layer as possible.  Spinkle with sugar and cook, stirring just as needed to keep onoins from sticking until soft, golden brown, and beginning to caramelize, about one hour.

Sprinkle flour over onions and stir to coat.  Add sherry, stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer.

Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to combine.  Season with S&P to taste.

Meanwhile, lightly toast baguette slices under broiler; set aside.  Ladle hot soup into four ovenproof bowls.  Arrange bowls on a baking pan.  Place 1-2 slices of bread on each soup bowl.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated cheese over bread in each bowl, and place under broiler until cheese is melted and crusty brown around the edges.  Watch carefully so the edges don't burn.  Serve immediately.

Recipe Source:  www.marthastewart.com/340253/french-onion-soup

Friday, December 6, 2013


Have you ever had a pizzelle?  I just love these little cookies.  They're not too sweet and you can vary the flavor.  I tend to prefer the anise cookies, but I went with an almond recipe this time, I think it would appeal to more people.

Obviously, you do need special equipment to make these: a pizzelle maker.  I think I bought mine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and they run around $40-50.  It's like a little waffle iron and makes two cookies at a time.  I love trying to eat around the design without breaking the pattern (those of you who separate their M&Ms into different colors and eat the ugly colors first know what I mean!)

I generally just make these during the holidays and package up for gifts, although they're a great year-around treat. 

PIZZELLES (makes about 3 dozen)

1 3/4 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp almond extract
1 Tbsp orange zest
1 stick butter, melted
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting, optional

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.

Beat the eggs, sugar, almond extract, and zest together in another medium-sized bowl.

Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture.  Stir in the melted butter.

Preheat your pizzelle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Drop a scant Tablespoon of the batter onto each patterned cookie grid on the bottom plate of the iron.  Close the iron and cook the pizzelles, 30-60 seconds depending on how crisp you like them.

Remove the cookies from the iron andp lace them on a rack to cool. When you're ready to serve, dust with the confectioners sugar, if desired.

Recipe Source: www.qvc.com/pizzelles.content.html

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Italian-Seasoned Turkey Chili

OK....we all have our favorite chili recipes.  Or do we?  I don't know about you, but I generally just kinda toss whatever I have in the frig into my chili.  Maybe I should call this produce drawer chili.

I had some sweet peppers and onions that needed to find a home.  I generally use about half ground turkey breast and half turkey Italian sausage.  But when I went to the store the other day, I found something new:  Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey.  Hmmm.....two birds with one stone?

So I went ahead and picked up some Italian-style diced tomatoes.   And then I used what I had on hand.  And this is the result.  A pretty darned good chili.  The ingredients below are simply what I had on hand....use what you have/like.  Chili is one of the most versatile winter dishes to have on hand, and it freezes great.  So you'll always have a wonderful dinner or snack.  I love it with cheese and sour cream.  Use tortillas for a dip.  Or the ever-wonderful Frito Chili Pie.  Or........

Make ahead if you can.  Chili is always better the second day.

ITALIAN-SEASONED TURKEY CHILI (makes about 6-8 servings)

1 Tbsp EVOO
1 pound Italian-seasoned ground turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 leek (white part), chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 green pepper, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, light or dark, your preference
1 (15 oz) can Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup V8 juice
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp chili powder
crushed red pepper, to taste
S&P to taste
1/4 cup red wine
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Toppings (optional)
sour cream
shredded cheddar cheese
sliced green onions
chopped sweet onions
corn chips
tortilla chips
hot sauce

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan.  When hot, add onion, leek, garlic, and peppers.  Cook until wilted, about 10 minutes.  Add turkey.  Cook until no longer pink, another 10 minutes or so.

Add tomatoes, V8, cocoa powder, and seasonings.  Let simmer about 15 minutes.  Add wine and cilantro, simmer another 10 minutes or so. 

Top with any toppings you like. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Almond Roca

OK, I posted this recipe a few years ago.  And I kept making it with great results.  Just like the English Toffee before it.  And then, WHAMMMM!!!!  Just like the English Toffee, it failed.  Twice yesterday.  Just as it reached temp, it separated.  Both times.  So a pound of butter, 2 cups of sugar, and a bunch of almonds....gone.  What is going on???

Just by luck my friend and former neighbor, Pat, called.  She thought maybe it could be that I was using store-brand butter instead of a name-brand or maybe unsalted instead of salted butter.  Could that be?

I love to cook.  But I don't care much for baking and candy-making is at the bottom of my like-to-do list.  So when I had two failures in one day, I had just about given up.  But today's grocery ads came out and..... voila!!!!.....Lake o' Lakes SALTED butter was on sale!  Name-brand salted butter.  It was an omen.  I had to give it one more shot.

Guess what?  It worked!  Perfectly.  So I don't know if it's the salt-edness or the brand-name-edness, but I'll never take another chance.  So if you've had this disheartening problem, try this solution for fantastic results.

And thank you, Pat!  You may have just helped more than one person.

ALMOND ROCA (makes one 16x12" jelly-roll pan)

1 cup salted, name-brand butter
1 cup sugar
6 oz slivered almonds
1 1/2 to 2 cups chocolate chips (I prefer milk chocolate)
3 oz sliced almonds
Kosher or sea salt, for sprinkling

Line a large rimmed packing sheet with foil.  Spray with cooking spray.

Place the slivered almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 300F for 5-6 minutes, checking often, until the almonds are golden brown and toasted.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and sugar and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula (I used a wooden spatula) until the butter is completely melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Don't rush this step!  It may take up to 5-6 minutes for the sugar to dissolve but you don't want the heat too high during this part of the process.

Once the sugar is dissolved and butter melted, turn the heat up to medium and stir gently as the mixture comes to a boil.  Again, this may take a few minutes.  Once it comes to a boil, clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue stirring gently as it cooks.  The mixture will gradually turn to darker shades of brown until it reaches the hard crack stage and should register 300F (hard crack) on your candy thermometer.  As  you stir during this process, don't scrape the sides of the pan, just gently stir in a figure-eight motion.

Immediately take the roca off the stove once it hits 300F and stir in the toasted, slivered almonds.  Pour the candy onto the prepared baking sheet, taking care not to scrape the bottom of the pot as you pour it out.  Using an offset spatula, quickly spread the toffee into an even layer on the baking sheet.  It will cool quickly making it hard to spread.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot toffee and tent with foil.  Let the chocolate melt for 2-3 minutes, remove the tented foil and spread the chocolate chips into an even layer.  Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top of the roca, sprinkle with salt and set the candy aside to let set and cool completely (place in your frig for quicker cooling/setting).

Once cool and the chocolate is set, break into pieces.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

As Good as Mashed Potatoes

Let me preface this recipe by saying I would not make these potatoes again exactly as the recipe states.  They instruct you to mash the potatoes with the water they have cooked in.  I do prefer the creamier taste of mashing them with dairy.  That being said, the rest of the recipe is fantastic!

I had never thought of adding mustard and horseradish to mashed potatoes but these tasted spot-on to me.  But taste it as you add.....you may like a bit more punch to yours.  There's not enough of either to overwhelm, but they add a wonderfully complex flavor, plus the little "snap" of the mustard seeds satisfies my texture compulsion!

So if you're looking for a variation on a basic mashed potatoes, give this a try.  It will definitely be a new dish on our table.


1 1/2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed (I think I used 3 white potatoes)
1 1/4 cups water
4 tsp minced garlic
4 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp yellow mustard, or to taste
2 tsp whole grain mustard, or to taste
2 tsp prepared horseradish, or to taste
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream

Pare the potatoes or leave skin on, according to taste.  Cut into 1" cubes and place in a heavy medium saucepan.  Add water, garlic, parsley, hot pepper sauce, and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat, cover and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring and breaking up the potatoes with a fork, add more water if potatoes seem too dry.

Continue stirring and mashing the potatoes for about 5 minutes until the water is absorbed and the potatoes are soft and lumpy.

Remove from heat, stir in the mustards, horseradish, and sour cream.

Recipe Source:  Chattanooga Times Free Press, 11-13-13, p. E4