Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas time is the best time!

Christmas is a very special time of year in our house.  First and foremost is the celebration of the birth of  the baby Jesus.   The music and the readings at Mass at this time of year are beautiful.   I love Christmas Day  when the trumpet joins in with the choir.  Such a blessed and joyous time of the year!

It also the time to gather with friends and family. We have plans for dinners with our peeps, cocktails with friend's, post Christmas party with family to keep the spirit of the holiday the whole season through.   Our first gathering of the season was my niece's  2nd annual cookie exchange last night. While it was a small gathering with two of my niece's,  my daughter, my two sisters,  one of my sister in laws, my neighbor "Giada from across the street", my great niece, great nephew and a friend of my niece (the host), all cookie types were well represented.

I remembered that last year there were an over abundance of butter balls so I dug back deep in the recipe file for some classic  pecan tassies.  This was a recipe I received when I had a Pampered Chef party and purchased the mini muffin tin.  I learned a very important lesson preparing for this exchange -  don't try to save time and double the batches.  If you need more than the recipe calls for take the time and make separate batches.
We found these great boxes at a local kitchen store and packed each one with 8 cookies.  My recipe only makes 24 cookies so the 3 batches gave me 9 sets, 6 for exchanges and the rest for eating! 
It was a great party and the cookies are going fast.  The boys got into them as soon as they got home. 


Pecan Tassies


Tart Shells
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1   egg
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup pecan halves, finely chopped
 Powdered sugar (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°F. For tart shells, beat butter and cream cheese in bowl until well blended. Add flour; mix until a soft dough forms.

Using Small Scoop, shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls of dough into ungreased cups of Mini-Muffin Pan. Dip Mini-Tart Shaper in flour; press into dough with even pressure until dough rises slightly above rim of pan.

For filling, place butter in Small Batter Bowl; microwave on HIGH 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Finely chop pecans using Food Chopper; add to batter bowl and mix well.

Using Small Scoop, fill each tart shell with level scoop of filling (do not overfill). Bake 17-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven; cool in pan 3 minutes. Remove from pan to Stackable Cooling Rack; cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
Yield: 24 servings of 1 tart

Friday, December 5, 2014

Saturday Dinner Decisions


Bow Tie Pasta with Red Pepper Cream Sauce

Running some errands on a recent Saturday morning after my Pilates class I realized that we had not decided on our dinner plans that morning.  We went out the night before to our favorite Italian restaurant for pizza and salad and knew that we wanted to stay home that Saturday Night.  Hubby was off picking up our son from a sleep over and running his pre Thanksgiving errands as well.  I called his cell and said " We will go with my plan for dinner".  This is a running joke in the house,  when one of us comes home and dinner wasn't decided that morning, you will hear  - "I think we will go with your plans for dinner!"
I stopped at the local Italian grocery store Vince's for two things that morning.  The first was the ingredients for some cookies I was making and the second was to browse their prepared food case to see what would taste good.  I had already pulled out the recipe for the pasta and had all the ingredients to make this,  but needed something to go along with it.  I always remember when our little Giada from across the street made Braciole for one of our first dinner clubs.  We still talk about it to this day.  Well, Vince's had some and the perfect size for the three of us.  Just needed the sauce to cover it and with this recipe I had plenty!
The Braciole was delicious, but the pasta dish was the biggest hit!  Especially with our son, the pasta eating machine!


1 pound uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil  
1/2 cup finely chopped onion 
1 (12-ounce) bottle roasted red bell peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 
1 cup half-and-half  
1 tablespoon tomato paste    
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
Thinly sliced fresh basil (optional)


Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add bell peppers; cook 2 minutes or until heated through. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in vinegar; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.
Place bell pepper mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Return bell pepper mixture to pan; cook over low heat until warm. Combine half-and-half and tomato paste in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir tomato mixture into bell pepper mixture, stirring with a whisk until well combined. Stir in ground red pepper.
Combine pasta and bell pepper mixture in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup cheese, tossing to coat. Spoon 1 1/3 cups pasta into each of 6 bowls; top each with about 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese. Garnish with basil, if desired

German Christmas Traditions revisited

German Lepkuchen



My mom grew up in the depression, the youngest of 5 children.  She tells stories of working around the house helping my Grandmother, of sleeping on cots on the porch at their camp, ice skating down the Street at the pond and going off flying with her older brother nights after dinner.  She tells of playing a game of Monopoly that would go on for days, of war ration coupons and hand me down clothes.  The family had deep German roots and a hard work ethic.  My grandfather ran a local furniture store with his sisters which was not the most prosperous with a family of five children at home to feed and cloth and you split the earnings with your siblings.  I never got to meet my grandfather because he passed away two years before I was born, but I do have a few memories of my grandmother. 

I loved going to her house and playing with the milk box outside her side door, or playing underneath the evergreen in the front yard.   A few years ago my mom gave me her recipe box with my grandmothers recipes.  With our interest in cooking she thought we would enjoy looking at some of the old basic recipes and some of the great German cookies and Christmas treats from her past.  I have found that there is little detail and measures like "a pinch" or "dash".  Grandma passed away soon after my 6th birthday, but her memories live on.

The one recipe my mom has talked about for years is her mother's Lepkuchen.  She remembers sitting on the floor with a big wooden bowl between her legs, stirring, and stirring the heavy batter.  When I decided to make these cookies for my mom's 87th birthday, I enlisted my son for the stirring.  This is a very heavy batter and makes a ton of cookies.  When you do make them you hold off on the frosting until you are almost ready to serve them.  Of the two recipes I found one said "will hold for 2 to 3 months un-frosted" and the other said "indefinitely".


1/2 pint of molasses
1/2 pint of white corn syrup
1lb. Dark brown sugar
1 lb almonds in shell}     3 cups chopped meats (nuts)
1/2 lb Brazil nuts }
1/4 lb citron, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup brandy
1tablespoon of baking soda, mix in flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 to 7 cups of flour - bake sample cookie to see if more flour is needed.  Should not be too porous.

Let dough chill.  Take out in small amounts, roll and cut into rectangles or squares.

Dough is very sticky if it warms up.  Bake at 350°, about 9 minutes.  Very hard when cool, store in large container.  Frost with confectionary frosting when needed.  The frosting will soften the cookies overnight.  The unfrosted cookies will keep up to 3 months.

Ok, so you read this and said what goes where?  That is what I thought, but figured wet ingredients together and then dry ingredients , mix together. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Beef Barley Soup

One of my favorite memories of growing up in the diner was my father's soups.  I don't remember him ever following a recipe.  He would just throw things together and the most delicious soup would come from that.  I have heard stories that at times he would run out of the soup well before lunch even started.  He had customers who were drivers from the highway department stopping in late in the morning after plowing snow and grabbing a bowl of hot soup. Dad would then have to whip up another batch for the lunch crowd.

There are three soups that I really remember well. The first is a very easy soup to make that doesn't need a recipe.  He made cream of tomato soup ( using milk and not water) from the condensed cans, but then adding cooked elbow macaroni.  The end result was Tomato Macaroni Soup.  Then he made something called Chuckwagon Soup and I believe that was a beef based soup but was a combination of whatever he had as left overs.  My all time favorite soup and the focus of this blog post was Beef Barley Soup.  Now as I said, there are no written recipes from Dad so I had to find my own.  So I went to one of my favorite chefs Ina Garten for her version of Beef Barley Soup complete with Oxtails.  

I didn't know what Oxtails were or what part of the cow it was from.  Thank goodness we shop at a store that has a great meat department and a good butcher to ask.  Our Oxtails were found in their freezer section and we picked the meaty ones.  Oxtail is the tail end of the cow if you haven't guessed. 


  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef oxtails
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) diced carrots (4 carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup (1/2-inch) diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 10 cups canned beef broth
  • 1 cup pearled barley


    Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Add the oxtails, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until browned all over. Remove the oxtails with a slotted spoon and reserve.

    Add the leeks, carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown.
     Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and add to the pot along with the bay leaves.
    Return the oxtails to the pot and add the broth, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Discard the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and skim off the fat.

    Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the barley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, drain, and set aside.

    When the soup is ready, add the barley and cook the soup for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Depending on the saltiness of the stock, the soup might need another teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Serve hot, with or without the oxtails


    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    Apple Bread

    Yummy Apple Bread!  A special treat for fall when fresh apples are in abundance.  We have had this recipe for quite some time and Sunday following our vacation we picked up some good baking apples to replenish our treats.  Hubby likes to cut the apples larger than expected so that you can see the apple in the bread.
    This recipe makes two loafs so plan ahead to either share or freeze some for later.   Could be a good addition to Thanksgiving dinner. Hubby made this on Sunday and we were able to send some to our daughter in a care package.

    Apple Bread

     (From Penzeys)

    4 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped, about 4-5 large apples
    4 large eggs, beaten
    1 cup vegetable oil
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used Penzeys.)
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    2 cups granulated sugar

    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/2 cup butter, room temperature

    For the bread and topping, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two standard bread loaf pans and set aside. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Cut into good-sized chunks, about 1 inch in size. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until fluffy.

     Add the oil and beat until combined. Add the vanilla extract, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Beat until thoroughly mixed.

    Next, add the flour and sugar and mix on low just to blend. Turn the mixer to high and beat until the mixture is smooth. The batter will be very thick.

    Fold in the chopped apples, mixing by hand with a spoon so the apples do not get broken up. Divide the mixture between the two pans.

    To prepare the topping, combine flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut the butter into the mixture with a fork until all the ingredients are moist and crumbly. Sprinkle equal amounts of topping on each loaf.

    Bake for about 1 hour on the center rack of the oven. The loaf should feel fairly firm when touched in the middle; if not, bake an extra 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pans.


    Sunday, November 9, 2014

    Favorites from the islands and a little taste of home

    I just got back from 5 wonderful days in one of my favorite places to visit, St. John, USVI.  It was, as my husband dubbed it, the week of Joanne!   Hubby and I and our food friends finished off our big birthday celebrations with my birthday trip to my favorite island and favorite place on earth.  

    While we were there we lounged around at the pool, along side the hotel's beach front and visiting Cruz Bay restaurants and stores. The day we selected to rent a car and visit the beaches was a bit overcast and some intermittent rain showers, so I really didn't get a chance to stroll along Cinnamon Bay or snorkel in the beautiful blue waters of the islands because we were unsure on the weather.  Now that we are home I am getting a little bit jealous of the post our friends are sending.  Their children are all grown up so they have no young kids at home that they have to take care of. A big Thanks to my niece, hubby and I got 5 days in the warmer weather to celebrate. 

    The island is so laid back and non commercial unlike St. Thomas.  There is no rush to go anywhere, the people are very friendly and shorts and a tshirt is all you need besides the bathing suit.  And while we were there we visited some of our favorite places to eat.  Our friends were surprised at the great restaurants on this small little island.  My absolute favorite restaurant The Lime Inn was not fully opened, but we still visited the bar for a cocktail.  If I had to rank our dinners I would start with Rhumblines for the awesome Thai cuisine, then waterfront Bistro for the great chorizo stuffed chicken breast, Ocean 362 for my birthday dinner of steak and a snicker doodle ice cream sandwich and then Morgan's Mango for the taste of the tropics.  All had great food, excellent service and the laid back island atmosphere.  But a trip to St. John is not complete without a stop at skinny legs for one of the best burgers anywhere.

    Now, while we were there our foodie  friend Mike wanted to make us lunch one day.  Our villa had a full kitchen and barbeque grills available.  Mike brought with him some risotto, truffle oil and spices.  He picked up some chicken breast and fresh zucchini at the local market and made the most amazing lunch.  It was like having dinner club in the islands, only we just had to bring the champagne and wine.  

    A special thanks to our hotel for the champagne and putting up my birthday banner. An even bigger thanks to our friends for helping me celebrate and a huge, and I mean huge thank you to my wonderful husband. He really did make this the week of Joanne.

    Slow Cooker Asian Beef with Cashews

    Looking for something new to make in the crock pot?  Rummaging through the stack of recipes last weekend that we  had printed off from earlier in the year I found this tasty dinner entrĂ©e.  We had a majority of the ingredients and it looked super easy and the potential for great taste.  I did make one addition to make sure it had the Asian flavor - a little bit of toasted sesame oil. 
    This would make a great week night dinner that when you come home to the house smells delicious, or make it on the weekend and have it cooking while your prepping your house for winter or decorating for the holidays. 
    The family loved it and tagged it a make again recipe.  My  only regret is not having some fortune cookies  to nibble on post dinner!


    Asian Beef with Cashews


    4 Green onions
    2 tbsp. oil
    1 Boneless Beef Chuck, cubed (about 2 to 2 1/2 lbs.)
    3 Cloves of garlic minced
    1/4 cup teriyaki Sauce
    2 red bell peppers chopped coarsely
    1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
    2 tbsp. corn starch
    1/2 cup Asian Toasted Sesame dressing
    2 cups snow peas, cut diagonally
    1/2 cup Planters Cashew Pieces
     toasted sesame oil


    Slice onions, keeping the sliced white bottoms and green tops separate. Heat oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add meat; cook 5 min. or until evenly browned, stirring occasionally and adding garlic for the last minute. Stir in teriyaki sauce, bell peppers, crushed pepper, white onion slices and a small drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Pour into slow cooker; cover with lid.
    Cook on LOW 5 to 6 hours (or on HIGH 3 to 4 hours).
    Mix cornstarch, dressing and a touch more sesame oil until blended. Add to slow cooker with snow peas and nuts; stir. Cook, uncovered, 10 min. or until slightly thickened. Top with green onion slices and serve over rice.


    Friday, October 31, 2014

    Getting chilly, so we need some Chili!

    Happy Halloween! 

    Fall is finally here.  We have had it pretty easy up until recently and now it's time to start gathering those cold weather recipes.  This one is perfect for those weeknights or busy Sunday afternoons.  When we had this recently our son said "Hey, we don't have chili until Super bowl Sunday, how come now?"  The answer was easy - he had a ton of activities for us that day so when we left the house at 9:15, we put the crock pot on a timer and when we came home at 4:00 dinner was ready when we were.   Hubby prepped everything the day before and had it in the refrigerator all set in the crock pot liner.  One hint - don't cut the onions up until you put in all in the crock pot or your refrigerator will smell like onions. ( A small dish of baking soda will take care of odor.)




    Slow Cooker Chili

    2 lbs. lean ground beef
    3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1 onion chopped (save time by using one cup of frozen chopped onion)
    1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, un-drained (or 2 – 14.5 ounce cans)
    1 – 16 oz.  can chili beans in sauce, un-drained (use hot chili beans if you like it spicy)
    1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
    2 tablespoons chili powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper

    In a large skillet, brown ground beef (I give the meat a sprinkle of salt and pepper), onions and garlic over medium heat until beef is cooked; drain.  Place beef, onion, garlic and remaining ingredients In 4- to 5-quart slow cooker.  Cover and cook on Low heat setting 6 to 8 hours.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    Home is where....

    Love my girl!

    Home is where Mom is... As my daughter posted this weekend on social media.  She came home for fall break and we had a packed weekend from tailgating with our peeps to a birthday dinner for my husband's mother.  And while she was home we dropped her off to see her best friend from high school best for the night at our old Alma Mater, that came with a return trip to pick her up18 hours later.  Felt a bit nostalgic driving around the campus.  

    And while we all know home is where mom is, in our house home is also where Dad asks "what do you want special for dinner?  The reply was "that shrimp dish with the arugula and pasta".  No problem!  This dish has been a Lenten favorite as the kids call it, so we haven't made it in awhile.  It has all of the kids favorites in one dish - pasta and shrimp, and from our favorite Italian chef Giada.

    Dad and his little Girl
    Our local college team versus the Nations #1 Team

    We served this with Roasted Brussels Sprouts that were tossed with some diced red onion and diced pancetta.  The roasting in pretty easy with this dish and makes a great aside dish.   Trim the sprouts and place them on a foil lined cookie sheet.  Toss with some olive oil,  1/4 cup chopped red onion and 2 oz. of diced pancetta.  Sprinkle with sea salt and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. 


    Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon Oil


    For the lemon oil:
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1 lemon, zested
    For the pasta:
    1 pound linguine pasta
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 shallots, diced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    16 ounces frozen shrimp
    1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
    1 lemon, zested
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    3 ounces arugula (about 3 packed cups)
    1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


    For the lemon oil: Combine the olive oil and the lemon zest in a small bowl and reserve.
    For the pasta:  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
    Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked linguine, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Turn off the heat and add the arugula. Using a mesh sieve, strain the lemon zest out of the reserved lemon olive oil and add the oil to the pasta. The zest can be discarded. Add some of the cooking water to desired consistency. Add the chopped parsley to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
    Brussels Sprouts with red onion and pancetta

    Monday, October 13, 2014

    Dinner Club Time....

    I have been a bit busy lately and haven't posted much. As I was looking through my recent pictures I found a bunch from our last dinner club.  We changed things up a bit for this one.  Nobody got the recipes before hand.  All they got was a list of groceries to bring.  And to make things even more surprising, the ingredients were switched up a bit.  We wanted to make it a bit of a guessing game.  So one couple got a list of some of the ingredients for apple crisp but had to bring a jalapeno for the green beans made on the grill. 
    We went with this concept to make it very easy for all parties.  Our part was setting the table, picking up the filet's we were preparing and making the Easy Risotto. 

    After the table was set I set up the work stations for the couples.  Some of the basic ingredients we provided and we gave them the recipe and the prep tools they needed.

    Set up for Apple Crisp which I have blogged before.

    Set up for the appetizer recipe shown below.

    Set up for Jill's grilled green beans.
    The main course was blue cheese stuffed tenderloins, an old favorite recipe of mine from my favorite restaurant in the Virgin Islands, The Lime Inn.  We also made Ina's Easy Risotto, a great side that is made ahead without all of the stirring that is normally involved with Risotto.
    So the recipe I wanted to feature was the appetizer I had my neighbors, Giada and Mike, from across the street make.  It is one of my favorite recipes to make that is very easy and very tasty.  None of the recipes we choose were new to use, but were new to our guest besides the tenderloins.
    This recipe calls for simple ingredients and takes about 15 minutes to make.  The honey makes this dish.

    Crostini with Gorgonzola and Honey

    From Giada De Laurentis

    36 slices (1/2-inch thick) baguette bread, about 1 loaf
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    8 ounces Gorgonzola, sliced
    3 tablespoons honey
    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
    Arrange the sliced baguette on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.
    Arrange the cheese on the toasts and bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.
    Drizzle the toasts with honey. Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.

    Sunday, October 5, 2014

    Thai peanut noodles

    Many years ago a co - worker asked if I wanted to be featured in our papers cook of the week section.  I went ahead and did this making up a few dishes to have photographed and sat with the reporter to give some stories behind the dishes.  This was probably around the time of our dinner club started and when we really started trying new recipes and dishes.  One of the dishes I featured was spicy peanut noodle.  The sauce for that dish is made ahead of time and slowly gains "heat" as it sits. I love this dish, but you have to plan ahead.  So when I found this recipe on Pinterest I had to try it.

    Hubby was have a business dinner and so my son and I were on our own.  I knew I had all the ingredients except the scallions, so a quick stop at the farm market on the way home solved this.  Since this only called for 8 oz. of linguine and I knew my son wouldn't even try it I made the whole pound into Thai Peanut.  I split the noodles when done and topped his off with the remaining pesto in the refrigerator.  It came out great.  Very easy to make and taste authentic.  Hubby got home from his dinner and had some.  He liked it too!

     Thai Peanut Noodles

    3 Tablespoons Peanut Butter
    3 Tablespoons soy sauce
    1 teaspoon sesame oil
    ½ cup chicken broth
    1 teaspoon minced garlic (I used jarred ginger)
    1 teaspoon ginger
    1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
    8 oz linguine noodles
    sesame seeds for garnish
    green onions for garnish

    Cook the noodles in a large pot according to package directions. While the noodles are cooking, in a medium sauce pan whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, ½ cup chicken broth, minced garlic, ginger, and sriracha chili sauce. Cook over medium heat until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.
    Drain the noodles and toss in the peanut sesame sauce. Serve immediately

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014

    Care package delivered

    This past weekend it was "family weekend" at our daughter's school.  In anticipation of this trip I whipped up a few of her favorite treats.  I also did some shopping, gathered supplies and packed up some remaining clothes that she wanted.  It was our first real experience as parents of a college freshman and I think we did ok.

    As soon as I finished work on Friday I quickly got home to help pack up the car and get on the road.  Hubby and our son we're putting the finishing touches on their packing.  

    Our departure was about 15 minutes later than planned.  I was excited to see her since it had been 3 weeks from our last visit.  Each time has gotten a little longer between visits.  We had a two hour and 15 minute ride to her dorm, but that turned into a three and one half hour trip with two separate construction zones and nothing going on.  

    We finally arrived and showered her with gifts and treats.  On every happy girl and one beautiful weekend.  

    So along with her favorite cookies I made my Rosemary Hummus and our favorite snack food- Spaghetti Pretzels.  This recipe was discovered a few years back while on a local wine trip with our foodie friends.  They served them with a local red wine and as we were leaving the winery I quickly memorized the recipe.  

    Spaghetti Pretzels

    20oz. Bag of pretzels 
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1 package of Spaghetti Suace mix ( McCormicks)
    1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
    2 tablespoons red wine

    Mix all ingredients together  and pour over pretzels in a roasting pan and bake on a low oven (250 degrees) for 1/2 hour.

    This recipe was first blogged in October 2013 for our college visit trip to UConn.  I really think the extra flour in these cookies makes them taste better than the standard Toll House Cookies.  

    Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookies - 1970's recipe


    2/3 cup  shortening
    2/3 cup butter, softened
    cup  granulated sugar
    cup  brown sugar, packed
    teaspoons  vanilla
    3 1/2  cups  flour
    teaspoon  baking soda
    teaspoon  salt
    cup  chopped nuts
    2 (6 ounce) packages  semisweet chocolate pieces


    Heat oven to 375° degrees.

    Mix thoroughly shortening, butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Blend in remaining ingredients. 

    Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto un-greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Cool slightly before removing from baking sheet.

    NOTE: If using self-rising flour, omit soda and salt.
    SPECIAL NOTE:  Too keep them soft, place a piece of bread in the container.  It works!

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    Penne, Sausage and Tomatoes - Who doesn't love this one!

    The garden is winding down now and we had an abundance of tomatoes to use.  I felt like I hadn't cooked in a while and it was my turn to put together a new recipe.  Rummaging through the freezer in the morning I found a pound of Italian sausage that would be the base of my dinner. I checked out the   web I found an article on the 25 healthiest pasta dishes on Cooking Light's My  site.  This one called out to me and I knew it would be a hit with hubby and our pasta loving son.  And given that we have a growing 14 year old boy at home, I doubled the recipe.  (This kid knows how to put away the pasta)

    Fresh Tomato, Sausage and Romano Penne

    8 ounces uncooked penne
    8 ounces sweet Italian sausage
    2 teaspoons olive oil
    1 cup vertically sliced onion                            

    2 teaspoons minced garlic
    1 1/4 pounds tomatoes, chopped
    6 tablespoons grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese, divided
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves


    Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

    Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add sausage and onion to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring to crumble sausage. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 2 tablespoons cheese, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and basil.

    Presto Pesto!

     It is an all time favorite in my house!  Pesto Sauce that is.  I have had this recipe for pesto since hubby and I were first married.  I found this recipe from Mr. Food - a TV chef who appeared back then on the local evening news and had the familiar line - "oh, it's so good".  My pasta loving kids love it and it can be used as a pasta sauce, pizza topping, marinade and even a dip. 

    Now I know I have posted this one before over my friend Melina's gnocchi, but I have not show it as a topping to grilled turkey breast filets.    You can even freeze the sauce, maybe in old ice cube trays and pull it out during the middle of our snowy winters when fresh basil is rare.

    Use the sauce to taste.  You might like just a little for flavor or use the full amount for the full effect.


    Pesto Sauce

    2 cups fresh basil, lightly packed
    1 cup olive oil
    1 cup grated parmesan cheese
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 cup pine nuts, almonds or walnuts finely chopped
    Dash of nutmeg

    Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth.  Store in refrigerator covered until ready for use.  Mix well.  Serve warm or cool.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    Summer Salad Before Summers' End


    It was a late summer Saturday.  Yard work was completed, laundry was done and we needed a relaxing afternoon on the patio.  Hubby scoured the big blue binder and found a recipe we have tried before.  We knew it was a hit because it was an Ina Garten recipe and the notation on the page was "great".  We would love to live next door to her and be invited over to sample what she is making.

    Off to the grocery store for the necessary ingredients and other dinner accompaniments.  It is a costly salad but it makes a ton.  You will be eating this for days!  It was a great late summer salad to make and went very well with our Rombauer Saturday.  

    Tomato Feta Pasta Salad

    1/2 pound fusilli (spirals) pasta
    Kosher salt
    Good olive oil
    1 pound ripe tomatoes, medium-diced
    3/4 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced
    1 pound good feta cheese, medium-diced
    6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
    For the dressing:
    5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
    2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    6 tablespoons good olive oil
    1 garlic clove, diced
    1 teaspoon capers, drained
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
    1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped

    Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Boil for 12 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, feta and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

    For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

    Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and parsley, and toss well.

    Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake

     So I started this blog to share recipes  with my friends and family.  At first it was very private and I didn't even share it with my husband and kids.  Then, once I felt comfortable I let them know about it and then slowly started to place post on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.  Now 2 years later my husband has taken over the kitchen and prepares some new and old favorites.  This one is an old favorite I have made before, but now it was his turn.  You should see him once he has plated something he immediately says "Take a picture".  

    This recipe came from the Penzey's spice catalog and is great at this time of year to use up your zucchini and summer squash along with any tomatoes you may have.  A great early fall dish to accompany any dinner.   Wonder what he is making later this week?


    Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake


    2 medium tomatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
    2 small zucchini, sliced
    2 small yellow squash, sliced
    1/2 tsp thyme
    1tsp basil
    1tsp granulated garlic powder
    1/2c shredded cheddar cheese 
    1/2c grated parmesan or romano cheese 
    1/3c dry bread crumbs
    1c shredded mozzarella cheese 


    Preheat oven to 350. Combine the tomatoes, zucchini, squash, seasonings, and cheddar cheese. Place in a 1.5qt baking dish. Top with the parmesan or romano cheese and bread crumbs. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. If you want, you can then sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top and let stand 5 minutes, so the cheese melts before serving.