Monday, December 31, 2007

The Best Fruit Punch

Two posts in one day? Well, yeah. It is the last day of the year and I started my blog this past March so I felt I needed to end the year with a bit of a bang. And posting twice in one day sure is a special thing....isn't it :) Nah, I just have a lot of great party recipes and today feels like one of those days. The last big hurrah before things go back to normal. Bah humbug. So I decided to do something that means a lot to me and post a special family recipe that was passed down to me by my mom, who is not doing so well this year. It is on one of those recipe cards in her own handwriting, with all the special notations that family recipes are made of. It means a lot to me to share this recipe cause it means that a tradition in my family maybe gets to be a tradition in someone else's family. And isn't that what great recipes are for, right?

Fruit Punch

8 cups water
1 16-ounce can frozen OJ
1 12-ounce can frozen lemonade
2 46 ounce cans of pinapple juice
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 lime juice (or use lemon juice)
4 28-ounce bottles of ginger ale, chilled (or one 2 liter bottle works fine)
2 28-ounce bottles carbonated water or club soda, chilled

Fresh strawberries, oranges, etc cut into pieces (optional).

Combine water and juices, stir. Add sugar, stir. Chill. When ready to serve, slowly pour in ginger ale and carbonated water. Add fresh fruit if desired.

Makes 90 (4 ounce) servings

"Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance."

Laughter is brightest where food is best.
-Irish Proverb

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all."
-Harriet Van Horne

"I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol."
-Steven Wright

Party Time Sweet And Sour Meatballs

Party food! Yumm! Don't you just love the sight of a long table filled with a colorful array of food in all forms? We had these for Christmas but I think they would be perfect for a New Year's Eve party. This is the first year I tried these and they were seriously addicting. Good thing there were chocolates and cookies to distract me, cause I think I could've eaten this whole dish myself!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

1 pound ground beef (use extra lean for lower fat version)
1 pound ground turkey
1 small onion, minced
1/4 egg substitute
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs (I used regular and added Italian spices)
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup low-sodium Worcestershire sauce
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard

Combine first 5 ingredients. Shape mixture into 1 inch balls. Brown meatballs, in batches, in large skillet over medium high heat. Remove meatballs from skillet, and wipe skillet clean. Stir together ketchup and remaining 4 ingredients in skillet. Bring to boil.

Add meatballs. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until meatballs are no longer pink.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen

To make gf/cf: Substitute gf/cf bread crumbs and make sure ketchup is gf/cf. Very easy to alter and it still tastes great!

"At every party there are two kinds of people -- those who want to go home and those who don't. The trouble is, they are usually married to each other."
-Ann Landers

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Favorite Lemon Squares

Sweet and tart are the only way I can describe these tasty little squares. Sometimes, I just get the worst craving for lemon anything, and this recipe hits that craving right on the head. The crust adds crunch, while the lemon is soft and tart, and finally the sugar on top adds sweetness. Too good not to try!

All-Time Favorite Lemon Squares

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup flour
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Combine butter, flour and confectioner's sugar. Blend together until mixture clings together (use a fork or pastry blender). Pat evenly into a 9x9 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges begin to brown.

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Dash of salt
Confectioner's sugar

Beat together eggs, sugar, flour, lemon juice, lemon rind, and salt. Pour over partially baked crust. Return pan to oven and bake another 20 minutes or until set. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Cool then cut into squares (smaller ones for a tea).

Source: Best of the Best from Virginia

"The lemon tart, for instance: I've been doing the same lemon tart for fifteen years. I can't make it any better. To me, it's perfect."
-Thomas Keller

"We should indulge our cravings. When we deny ourselves an entire food category, whether it's starch or sweets, we deny our bodies and our minds valuable enjoyment and possibly nutrients."
-Naomi Orzech

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Luxurious Gifts...

Ohhhh, the hubby was good to me this year, bless his soul. We decided to not have a big Christmas this time, at least in terms of giving to each other. So we just got a few gifts to share, but even given that restriction, he did pretty good, I'd have to say.

The first gift, French soaps, are just luxury itself. I am a big fan of Bronnley soaps from England (when I can afford them!), but I do love French soaps as well. I hardly ever buy these things cause of the cost and when I do, I save them forever rather than use them up. My husband, knowing my interests well, searched the internet and found these soaps. They smell wonderful! And they are huge! They contain ingredients like olive oil and flowers, real ones. It is strange to feel texture of flowers while washing up, but it's a fun kind of strange! My husband doesn't remember the website he bought them from, but if he ever does recall it, I will pass it on.

I think I could have just got this last gift by itself and been as happy as a clam. These chocolate truffles are unreal, they are so good. I have limited myself to one a day so far, but it's hard, really hard :) They are from Candinas chocolates. Some of the flavors include irish creme, espresso, ginger, chai, hazelnut, and jasmine and green tea. Worth every penny and every calorie!
I hope you had a luxurious Christmas too!

"It is impossible to overdo luxury."
-French Proverb

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Blessings

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas full of the blessings of family, friends, lots of good food and tons of gifts (I'm kidding about the gifts, of course- but not the food ;) Now if I could just get my husband singing "Fleas on my Dog" to the tune of "Feliz Navidad" out of my head, I'd really be able to enjoy Christmas....

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
-Norman Vincent Peale

"Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts."
-Janice Maeditere

"The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin."
-Jay Leno

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas To Our Heroes

To all service men and women who are deployed, a special prayer for you and your families this Christmas. We pray that all of you come home safe, mission accomplished. Our family is thinking about you.

And to my brother, who is underway in the Navy, may God watch over you, and all who are with you, and bring you home soon to us and especially to your two beautiful kids. We love ya, man. Be careful out there.

"When asked what I am most proud of, I stick out my chest, hold my head high and state proudly, 'I served in the United States Navy!"
-John Fitzgerald Kennedy

"No matter what happens, the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught napping."
-Frank Knox

"Few needs are more pressing, or more deserving of our attention, than taking care of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces."
-Bill Richardson

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tracking Santa

Probably everyone in the world already knows about this site, but for the few that don't, this is a cute way for the kids (and some of us adults too!) to track Santa on Christmas Eve.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sinful Rum Cake

Oh, yum! Though I'm not much for alcohol, this cake is really good. I made it for a director at my husband's work place, but I think I'll have to make one for the family too. It's super easy to make and is very rich and moist. The batter and the glaze both contain rum, but I think you could probably cut back a little on the amount in the glaze if you'd like. If you need a fast, easy to make "fancy" type cake, this is a good choice.

Rum Cake

1 cup chopped walnuts
One 18 1/2 ounce package yellow cake mix
One 3 1/2 ounce package instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup dark rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan or a bunt pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. Mix remaining ingredients together. Pour batter over nuts. Bake for 1 hour. Cool. Invert on plate. Prick top with fork or toothpick. Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over top and sides. Allow cake to absorb glaze. Use all the glaze.


4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup rum (I might try 1/4 if you want less alcohol taste)

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in rum.

Serves 12 to 16.

From Paula Deen's The Lady and Son's Savannah Country Cookbook.

"A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece."
-Ludwig Erhard

"My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M's and a chocolate cake. I feel better already."
-Dave Barry

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gift In A Jar

I'm exhausted. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I love Christmas and all the fun that goes with it. And as much I love baking too, it's a lot of work. I decided this year to make gifts to give to teachers, far away friends, and my husband's co-workers. I happened to have a chance to catch Paula Deen the other week and she was making gifts in a jar. Now, I did this a few years ago with hot chocolate mix and I really thought it turned out great. But Paula was talking about a recipe called Five Layer Bars. They sounded so good I knew I had found the gift idea I needed. So I make the gifts, all 17 of them, yesterday. Let's just say I'm glad I'm done! Along with the making the mix in the jar, I added a wooden spoon for decoration. I could not fit the graham cracker crumb bag in the jar so I'll just attach those somehow. I also made a batch of these yesterday from some of the leftover ingredients. They are unbelievably good and so easy to make, at least once you have the jar!

Five Layer Bars

Five Layer Bar Mix
1/2 cup chopped pecans (again, I used walnuts)
1 cup butterscotch morsels
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 1/2 graham cracker crumbs

To Make Bars:

1 jar Five Layer Bar Mix

1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

In decorative jar, layer pecans, butterscotch morsels, coconut, and chocolate morsels. Spoon graham cracker crumbs into a small plastic or cellophane bag and place on top of the layers.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove graham cracker crumbs from jar. Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press into bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle remaining ingredients of mix over the layers. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and cut into bars.

The graham crackers did not completely cover the bottom of the pan so you could make it 2 cups if you wanted more.

"Every gift from a friend is a wish for your happiness."
-Richard Bach

"Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God's best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one's self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another."
-Thomas Hughes

"Everyone is gifted - but some people never open their package."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wholey's In The Strip

Wholey's in the Strip? I bet most of you thought "boy, that sounds a little dirty!" When I first moved here and someone told me about Wholey's (pronounced "Wool ees") and The Strip, I said the same exact thing. Huh? I pictured some bar on a seedy downtown street. But I found out that it's really a street just a block away from downtown Pittsburgh that includes Wholey's the fish market, a few Chinese grocery stores, a speciality coffee shop, Italian stores including prepared foods and several other unique stores, I loved it. There is such a mix of people from all over. You can go to one store and hear Chinese, the next store everyone is speaking Italian. There are street vendors selling fried foods and Chicken on a stick and tables full of sweets. And let's not forget Steeler shirts, hats, jewelry, scarves, etc. All for pretty reasonable prices.

But Wholey's is one of my favorite. I love fresh seafood but I also love the atmosphere. People are friendly and even if it's like a can of sardines in there (hee, hee!), it's fun. Grab a number and get ready to shout your order! And while you wait, you can watch the train race around the track suspended from the ceiling. My kids hold their noses all the way through the store cause of the seafood smell, but that's just part of the fun. As you wind your way through, you can pick up some fresh chicken or beef and finish up your shopping with the produce section at the end.

This is the front area where you can order your fish or seafood. They have tanks of live fish and seafood that they can cut up fresh, which is what the guy in the first picture is doing. A little too gross for me!

We got some of this crab to save for Christmas. It's one of my husband's favorites meals.

The meat department. It's a lot bigger than this, but the crowds make it hard to get a good picture!

The train, the train....everyone look at the train!

"Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks."

"The only kind of seafood I trust is the fish stick, a totally featureless fish that doesn't have eyeballs or fins."

-Dave Barry

Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl

Your Smile
brightens my day
Your kisses
melt my heart
I have been wrapped around
your tiny little finger
from the very start

In my heart
a special place you hold
You will always be my baby
even when you have grown
and are ready to start a family
with children of your own

When that day comes
my precious child
you will understand
why I will always love you
till the very end

Happy Birthday to my Baby Girl. I can't believe you are 11 years old today. Growing up so fast right in front of my eyes. But you'll always be my Baby Girl.
I love you, sweetheart.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Banana Crumb Muffins

I have high hopes and a dose of stupidity. As a mom, I think it's my job to buy food for my family that is healthy and nutritional. And like a dummy, I keep buying bananas, thinking that my kids will suddenly develop a liking to them. Sigh.... They never do. So I'm always searching for tasty recipes that will sneak those bananas into my kids, one way or another. I finally came across a good one. This recipe is so good that everyone kept requesting another muffin long after the last one was gone. That never happens in this family. It also got rave reviews on, which is where I snagged it from. Five stars and two thumbs up from everyone!

Banana Crumb Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 Tablespoons all purpose flour*
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 C). Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking power, and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugars, egg and oil. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 4 Tbl. flour, and cinnamon. Cut butter into mixture until it resembles course cornmeal. Sprinkle over muffins.

Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*To make this recipe gluten free/casein free, substitute the regular all purpose flour with gluten free all purpose flour mix:
2 cups white rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour

To substitute butter, I use Smart Balance Light spread, which is gluten and dairy free.

"On a traffic light green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it's just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the hell did you get that banana at..."
-Mitch Hedberg

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Snow Of The Season

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.....cause it finally snowed here today! Not just a coating, but a few real inches of snow. We joined some neighbor friends of ours for a some sledding....

And some snow angels (courtesy of my middle daughter). But the cold soon got us indoors wanting some hot chocolate......

And some time in front of the fire. Oh, I love the first snow!

"The English winter - ending in July, / To recommence in August."
-Lord Byron

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."
-Andrew Wyeth

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

I am not sure why I never think to make Sloppy Joes for dinner. It's incredibly easy and it's something all my kids will eat. Well, I finally got my act together the other day and made some. As you can imagine, there are tons of recipes out there for Sloppy Joes. And I've even tried a few in my time :) But for this dinner, I went to my reliable cookbook, Southern Living Homestyle Cooking. Hasn't steered me wrong yet and it sure didn't this time!

Sloppy Joes

1 pound ground beef or chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
3 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 hamburger buns, toasted

Brown ground beef and onion in a large skillet, stirring until meat crumbles; drain. Stir in ketchup, and next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon meat mixture over bottom halves of buns; top with remaining halves. Yields 5 servings.

"I don't need music, lobster or wine
Whenever your eyes look into mine;
The things I long for are simple and few:
A cup of coffee, a sandwich--and you!”
-Billy Rose

Friday, November 30, 2007

Classic TV On The Internet

This is a great site for all you out there who grew up when I did. You know, in the old "classic" days (cringe). It's a fun way to reconnect to the past when TV actually showed something worth watching ;) Just the cartoons alone are worth it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Four Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

When a friend of mine gave me this recipe for my son, who is on a gluten free casein (dairy) free diet, I could not believe it only had four ingredients. I was sure it meant they would come out yucky. No flour? No way! She assured me that they would turn out great. She had made them for her son (who is also on the same diet) for Thanksgiving, so he would have something sweet to eat. He had a few and everyone else ate the rest! Encouraged, I went home and made them that day. I swear, they are better than any version of peanut butter cookies I've ever had. Even if you don't have to avoid gluten or casein, you gotta try these.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg

Mix all ingredients well. Roll small sections of batter into about 1 inch balls, place on baking sheet. Using a fork dipped in sugar, make a criss cross pattern on the cookie, being careful not to flatten the cookie too much.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

"Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more restful."
-Mark Twain

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Rice Game

My daughter told me about this website she learned about at school. But I didn't get what she was explaining until I saw an article about it in the local newspaper. It's fun, addicting, and it's for a great cause. Who can argue with that?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Irresistible Chocolate Pecan Pie

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We managed to host Thanksgiving dinner without any burned food or relatives inflicting bodily harm on each other. Whew! And just to stir things up a bit this year, I tried a new Pecan Pie recipe- with chocolate! Am I an adventurous gal, or what?! Boredom was setting in with the same old pie every year so when I saw this recipe, I went for it. It is delicious! I think I might make another one around Christmas, for company, of course ;)

Chocolate Pecan Pie
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 Tblsp. butter, melted
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup (light or dark)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 pecans (I used walnuts-they were cheaper!)
1 unbaked pie crust shell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler (I used the microwave; it worked fine. Microwave only until warm then stir until melted). Let cool slightly. Add sugar, corn syrup, chocolate mixture, and vanilla. Stir until blended. Mix in pecans.

Bake in oven 50 to 55 minutes or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool to room temp. before serving.

"Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow."

-Edward Sandford Martin

"What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?"

-Erma Bombeck, "No One Diets on Thanksgiving"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup

One of the pleasures in life is having food that makes you feel warm and cozy inside. This Chicken Noodle Soup recipe does that for me. I make it frequently in the winter but I also make it in the summer too, especially on a rainy day. The ingredients are easy to put together, and the soup takes a few hours to simmer. It's all worth it. The end result with have you sighing with contentment :)

Chicken Noodle Soup
1 meaty chicken frame (I use leftovers from Rotissorie chickens we eat for dinner)
1 boneless chicken breast uncooked, if needed for extra meat
8 cups water
2 onions quartered
1 can chicken broth or 1 tblsp. instant chicken bouillion granules
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 tsps. dried oregano, basil, or thyme, crushed
3 cups any combination of sliced celery, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, cabbage

In a large pot, place chicken frame, boneless chicken, water, onions, broth (or bouillion), garlic, and bay leaf. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken frame and cool. Remove meat from bones and discard bones.
Cut up boneless chicken breast to bite size pieces. Add to meat from frame.

Strain broth, discarding solids. Return broth to pot. Stir in undrained tomatoes, spice, chicken meat, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir in vegetables. Return to boiling, reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Spoon over noodles. Serve with warm, buttered bread.

I usually use regular no yolk egg noodles for this dish but since my son is on a special diet and can't eat gluten, I used rice noodles from the "ethnic" section of the grocery store. They were very good and worked out well.

“To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.”
-Laurie Colwin

"Beautiful soup, so rich and green
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup! Beautiful soup!
Who cares for fishGame, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth of beautiful soup?"
-Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Note Of Thanks

Here is an easy and fun way to thank a soldier today. With the upcoming holidays, I'm sure they would really appreciate anything that shows we are thinking about them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cracker Barrel Grilled Chicken Tenderloins (Copy Cat)

Copy cat recipes are so much fun! So is going out to dinner, but when you are on a tight budget with a family, making restaurant meals at home can be a treat. This recipe is the ultimate in easy, especially since grocery stores sell frozen bags of chicken strips so all you have to do is thaw them and start cooking. Makes a great weekday meal.

Chicken Tenderloins Cracker Barrel Style

1 lb. boneless chicken breast tenders
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1 tsp. lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. honey

Mix dressing, lime juice, and honey together. Pour over chicken tenders making sure all chicken is covered. Marinate for 1 hour. Grill chicken or braise in a non stick pan on stove until lightly golden, but not dry.
Makes 2 servings (which of course I triple!)

"People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy after."
-Oliver Goldsmith

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Freedom Isn't Free

Thank You to all the Veterans and their families who gave so much to protect the greatest country in the world. We salute you today and everyday.

Friday, November 9, 2007

So Easy Jambalaya

I've always thought of Jambalaya as a hard recipe to fix. It seemed to have so many ingredients and that to me indicated it was tough to make :) So this morning when I got a sudden idea to make Jambalaya for dinner tonight, I was prepared to switch plans if the recipe turned out to be too hard. To my surprise, it was extremely easy to fix and very good! You can change the ingredients around and use 8 oz. sausage instead of chicken or in addition to it, if you like. Or add 8 oz. ham. It's so easy to alter, and there are so many versions, everyone can find a favorite. But anyway you like it, hot sauce is the only condiment needed for this dish!


1 pound medium size peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed if frozen
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 chopped celery (I omitted this- didn't have any on hand)
1/4 cup chopped green pepper (omitted too)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chicken broth (I used canned)
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
3/4 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 bay leaf

Spray a 12 inch skillet with cooking spray. Cook onion, celery, pepper, and garlic until tender. Stir in chicken broth, undrained tomatoes, chicken, rice and spices. Add 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to boil then reduce heat. Simmer until rice is tender, about 15 minutes (longer if needed).

Stir in shrimp. Return to boiling. Simmer, covered, for about 5 more minutes or until shrimp turn opaque. Discard bay leaf and serve.

Here are some different versions of Jambalaya:

"There are no set recipes. I go with whatever I'm feeling. I love just about anything, but I like it spicy."
-Tony Furtado

"A lot of people don't understand the cuisine. It's not all about the hot and spicy. It's a fusion of Creole, Cajun, Low Country and French."
-David Malone

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff

Creamy, tangy, and hearty about describes this dish. Sometimes there is nothing I want more than a big bowl of Beef Stroganoff, a large chunk of buttered bread and a salad. Add a tall glass of tea and I am happy. With the winter weather finally hitting the Northeast today (we actually saw a few snow flurries this morning!), you can't ask for a more satisfying dinner. Or more easy!

Beef Stroganoff

1 pound of round steak, cubed
1/2 cup chopped onions
10 3/4 oz. can cream of mushroom soup (I use the reduced fat version. Every little bit helps!)
1 8 oz. pkg. fresh mushrooms, cut into sections
1 cup sour cream (reduced fat works fine)
1/4 tsp. garlic salt

Brown meat in saucepan sprayed with cooking spray. Add onions and saute until just tender.
Combine all ingredients, except sour cream. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours, or high on 4 to 5 hours. In last 1/2 hour of cooking, add sour cream. Serve over hot brown rice or hot cooked noodles.

"Never argue at the dinner table, for the one who is not hungry always gets the best of the argument"
-Richard Whately

"Society is composed of two great classes: those who have more dinners than appetite, and those who have more appetite than dinners"

Friday, November 2, 2007

Before Fall Is Over Apple Crisp

I don't know if you've noticed, but Christmas has moved up from being a holiday after Thanksgiving to a holiday after Halloween. Where did Fall go? I think it was here two weeks before the Christmas craze started. I refuse to give in, however. I going to carry on like it's still Fall and Christmas really is two months away. Except for being half way through my Christmas shopping already, I'm going to hold to my guns. Seriously!

Here is my solution for stretching out Fall a bit longer. A different slant on the usual Apple Crisp. This recipe uses orange juice and the taste has made this dessert one of my new favorites. I have to tell you, though, that when I brought it out of the oven I thought it looked unappetizing. But after that first spoonful, I was hooked. I hope it does the same for you!

Apple Crisp with Orange Juice

4 cups sliced (or cut into large pieces) pared tart apples
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of salt
1/3 cup butter

Layer apples in a buttered glass baking dish and pour orange juice over them. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, spices, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over apples. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is crisp. Serve warm with cream.

Recipe given by Mrs. Barbara Bush, The White House, Washington, D.C.

"Autumn wins you best by this, its mute Appeal to sympathy for its decay."
-Robert Browning

"Ever since Eve gave Adam the apple, there has been a misunderstanding between the sexes about gifts."
-Nan Robertson

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Frightfully Good Dirt Pudding

My middle daughter had a assignment to write a recipe for a Halloween project at school. She wanted to make something with cookies in it, but wasn't sure what recipe to use. We came up with Dirt Pudding. It's a standard dessert that kids love and I daresay adults do too (but don't want to admit it!). My daughter said she was allowed to make the recipe to bring in with her written one, so we did. And wouldn't you know, that bowl came back completely empty!

Dirt Pudding
3 5 oz. boxes of cook & serve chocolate pudding
9 cups milk
3/4 package of Oreos
1 small package Gummi Worms
1 small package white ghosts, or other marshmallow decoration

Make pudding according to package directions. While that is setting and cooling, scrape the white icing off the Oreo cookies. Discard (or eat some, like I did). Place chocolate cookies into a large zip lock bag. Crush cookies until only small pieces remain, but not to crumb texture. Place cooled pudding into serving container. Sprinkle cookies over surface of pudding. Decorate as desired. Makes enough to serve approx. 20 3rd graders and a few sneaky adults. Enjoy!

"Put "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you'll get one thing done."
-Author Unknown

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Breaking News: Boiled Peanuts are Healthy!

Finally some good news about food! Now, since they don't sell boiled peanuts up here in the North, I've got to find me a good mail order source :)

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Mess of Greens

Talk about down home food! Greens are one of those basic, easy to make, goes with anything foods. If you've never had greens, try them just once. You have too :) After all, you wouldn't have a whole section of the country making them on a regular basis if there wasn't something to them!
I have made greens enough times that I don't really use a recipe. Every person I know who makes greens frequently says they have developed their own version- how long they cook the ham hock, how much spice they add, what kind of greens they use (kale, collard, or mustard or a mix, like I do) and how long they simmer the greens once they are added. This is my version. Hope you like it!

Southern Greens

1 large bag mixed greens or at least 5 bunches of mixed greens
1 ham hock or smoked turkey wings
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 teaspoon ground pepper
Cider vinegar

Place the ham hock or turkey in a large pot, add enough water to cover the meat. Add seasonings. Heat on high until boiling, then turn down the heat to medium high. Cover and cook for at least an hour, adding water if needed. Meanwhile, wash greens throughly. If using bunches of greens, strip leaf down thick stem by gripping end of stem and running your hand down. Add greens to pot. Greens will cook down a lot, so don't worry if it seems like a lot of greens to add. Cook greens on medium (soft boil) for another 1-2 hours, stirring as needed. Add more seasoning, if desired. Before serving, chop any ham or turkey meat and stir into greens. Remove remainder of ham hock or turkey. Serve with cider vinegar.

The liquid created when boiling the ham hock is called pot likker (pronounced like "liquor") and is eaten along with the greens by dipping cornbread into it, like a gravy. It's very good!

"Only a Southerner knows how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, beans, etc., make up "a mess."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coke-Butt Chicken

Coke-Butt Chicken is an odd name, I know. It's really called Beer-Butt Chicken but we didn't have any beer on hand (not really fond of the stuff) and Coke does such a great job of it anyway, why not? This recipe is one of my husband's specialties. He was the one adventurous enough to substitute the Coke for the beer and to figure out how to grill it so it turns out crispy on the outside and sweet and juicy on the inside. As you can tell, I had to get a picture of the chicken during dinner since everyone went at it so fast I didn't have time to grab the camera as it came off the grill! I made homemade greens and iced tea to go with the chicken. Very satisfying.
Coke-Butt Chicken

1 small roaster chicken, cleaned
1 can Coke, about 1/4 drained
1 sprig fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Place spices into Coke can. Insert Coke can into bottom of chicken and place chicken on grill with Coke can in upward position. Turn grill on high for about 10 minutes then lower to low heat, checking about every 10 minutes to be sure the chicken is not burned from the grease on the coals. Grill about 1 hour. Remove Coke can and serve.

"That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. If this wasn't firmly understood, you'd never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies and things on the front and messages like 'Come 'n' Get It'"
-William Geist

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Virginia's Best Apple Pie

I've got it bad. Real bad. Ever since we got back from Winchester, VA, I have been so very homesick. Again. So to help combat yet another attack, I used the apples I got at the Virginia Farm Market and made an apple pie. And it couldn't be just any old recipe. I had to use a recipe from my Virginia cookbook, "Best of the Best from Virginia". It uses the basic ingredients of a regular apple pie, but changes the way they are used so the pie comes out scrumptious. The employees at the Farm Market recommend combining sweet apples with tart for the best taste. They are right, it comes out perfect. And I feel a little less homesick. Just a little.....

Virginia Apple Pie
4 cups sliced apples
1/2 cup melted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 (9-inch) unbaked pastry shells

Pour melted butter over sliced apples and soak for a few minutes. Combine sugar, flour, and spices. Coat apples with sugar mixture, pour into pastry shell. Cover pie with top shell, crimp edges. Cut slits into top pastry so steam escapes during baking. Brush top of pie with beaten egg. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until brown and apples are tender. Serve warm with ice cream.

"Home is not where you live but where they understand you."
-Christian Morgenstern

Monday, October 15, 2007

Favorite Crockpot Chili

I woke up this morning with the idea that today I had to make chili for dinner. It had been a nice autumn weekend with temps in the 60's and the thought of a warm bowl of chili just felt right. I have a recipe that I've used for a while now and it always turns out great. I like my chili hot, but because of the kids and also my husband's sensitive stomach, I have to tone down the heat a bit. So, when I serve this chili, along with the cornbread, I add a lot of hot sauce. Yum!

Crockpot Chili

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
2 16 oz. cans kidney beans (I've also used Pinto beans)
2 14 1/2 ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, coursely chopped
2 gloves garlic, crushed
2 to 3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt

Brown the ground beef with the onion and garlic, drain if needed. Place all ingredients into crock pot. Stir once. Cook on low 10-12 hours or on high 5 to 6 hours. Makes 6 servings.

"Whenever I meet someone who does not consider chili a favorite dish, then I've usually found someone who has never tasted good chili."
-Jan Butel, author of "Chili Madness"

"Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili."
-Alleged dying words of Kit Carson (1809-1868) Frontiersman and Mountain

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Chicken Pizza Primavera

I love pizza. I like take out, but if I'm motivated enough, I make pizza at home. This recipe is my favorite. I found in a few months ago and I've made it twice. It turned out great both times. The only changes I made to the orginial recipe was using Asiago cheese spread instead of shredded Asiago. I thought the spread turned out better since it melts evenly and has a sharper taste. It offsets the Ranch dressing well, too. I also used frozen loaf wheat dough instead of 1 (13.8 oz.) can of refrigerated pizza crust. I like how it tastes, like homemade pizza crust. But either way, it would be very good.

Chicken Pizza Primavera

1 loaf frozen wheat bread dough (follow package instructions for thawing)
1/4 cup Asiago Cheese Spread (Sam's Club is a good source)
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
3 Tablespoons light Ranch dressing
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
1/3 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup torn fresh baby spinach or same amount frozen spinach, drained well
1 1/2 cup finely shredded cheese blend
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray 12 inch pizza pan or baking sheet. Spread dough out on pan, leaving extra around the edge for a crust. Lightly brush dough with olive oil. Drop teaspoons of Asiago cheese around dough evenly. Sprinkle garlic salt over dough.

Bake dough for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Spread Ranch dressing over crust. Top with chicken, bell pepper, onion and spinach. Sprinkle cheese blend and parm. cheese over top.

Bake 9 to 12 minutes longer or until cheese melts and pizza is hot. Cut into wedges.

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."
-Dave Barry

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Weekend in Winchester

I know I promised to not rub any vacations in anyone's face, but this was really just a weekend thing. No Aruba, Europe, or Arctic excursion. Just a simple trip to Winchester, VA. I missed going to the Virginia Farm Market this year so my husband suggested we take a trip and off we went (ok, it wasn't that simple, but it worked out :). I never knew that Winchester had so much to do! We always just drove through on our way to another destination. But I'm glad we stayed this time. Winchester is full of surprises.

Our first stop was the Virginia Farm Market. They have the best apples and their apple cider is like sweet nectar. It has always been my favorite. They also have a corn maze, a wooden train, and a tractor and old firetruck for the kids to play on. They sell Virginia hams, homemade muffins and ice cream, and too many other things to list here.

Our next outing was to the Historic Downtown District. This was a Civil War museum right in the middle of the Historic area. They also have outdoor cafes, a couple of wine stores, a soon to be opening Patsy Cline museum, a few craft stores and the Shenandoah Discovery Museum. We took the kids to the Discovery Museum which was packed full of interesting interactive displays and activities. Fun while learning is always a good thing!

As much as I wanted to get more food pictures from our trip into this post, this is as close as I got. These turtles live at Wilson's zoo, an surprisingly little zoo located on several acres of land. They had minature horses, bears, goats, exotic birds, deer, monkeys and more. We had the place to ourselves and just took our time strolling through and talking to the animals.

Poor Mr. Hogg here has a face only his momma could love, so we spent extra time talking to him and showing him some attention :)

On our last night in Winchester, the hotel was practically empty (as opposed to the noisy crowd that was there the night before), so we got the pool to ourselves. What a treat! We swam and played for almost two hours and it got to the point that even my kids had to admit it was time to go back to our room to get ready for bed.

We also visited the Apple Blossom Mall which was a nice surprise. Just enough stores but not too big. And we all agreed that they had the best Chinese food we've ever tasted in the food court. Yum!

All in all, Winchester is perfect for a long weekend getaway. Just a quiet little town with interesting sights and plenty of great places to enjoy and lots of fun. Go if you get the chance! (I sound like a tourist brochure, don't I?!)

“The alternative to a vacation is to stay home and tip every third person you see."

“Vacation is what you take when you can't take what you've been taking any longer."