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