Friday, December 31, 2010

Things I have Learned as a Food Blooger on Foodbuzz! and Hanky Panks

 I started blogging out of my passion for baking and cooking, which coincided with seeing the movie Julie & Julia. Since I joined Foodbuzz in July 2010, I have had several revelations. The first and foremost thing I discovered was that there is such a wonderful, caring community on the other side of my computer screen.  Due to my naivete, I never knew that there were so many food bloggers. I want to thank all of my friends that have supported me, and offered suggestions.  At this point, I still feel like my blog is a WIP, Work In Progress.

The second revelation was that if you are a food blogger, you have to be a baker or chef/cook, writer, food stylist, photographer, and  marketing manager. Whew, that's a lot of hats to wear, and more to being a food blogger, than I first realized.  It's a lot of work, but also a lot of fun, and made wonderful friends.

The third revelation I had was that I need to learn a whole lot more about photography in general, and food photography, in particular, since I knew nothing about photography, when I started blogging.. I am in awe of so many food bloggers pictures and cameras, Also,  I have to get a new camera.  Santa brought me a new food processor, so I have to get the camera.  I probably can't get a D-SLR yet, so I need suggestions for a good point and shoot camera.

In addition to the wonderful friends, there are so many wonderful and delicious recipes to try.  I have discovered the beautiful pomegranates, quinoa, the ease of making pie crust,  the many joys of pumpkin and squashes, the world of candy in baked goods, cupcakes, and so many more too numerous to mention.  So as the year ends, I'll give you the recipe for this family tradition, Hanky Panks.

What are Hanky Panks you ask? Well, they are an appetizer recipe handed down from my late mother-in-law.  Cocktail rye is topped  with a mixture of ground beef, italian sausage, spices. and  melted velveeta cheese and baked or microwaved.  This recipe has evolved over the years, as health concerns and  food preferences surfaced, and now my sons are making these, too.It isn't Christmas without them. 

The top row of the plate is made with the traditional ground beef, Italian sausage, and Velveeta cheese.  The bottom row is made with ground turkey, chicken sausage from Trader Joe's, and Velveeta cheese.  The beauty of this recipe is that the Hanky Panks can be made ahead of time, assembled, and put in freezer bags.  then when you want to use them, take as many as you want out of the freezer and microwave them or bake them.  Also, this recipe makes a lot, big enough for a crowd. these will be going a  neighborhood New Years Eve party.  I want t wish all of my Foodbuzz friends a very Happy New Year and Great 2011.

Hanky Panks
1lb of ground beef or turkey
1 lb. of bulk Italian sausage, turkey sausage, or chicken sausage
1lb. Velveeta cheese
1Tsp. Italian Seasoning
2 loaves coscktail party rye

1. Brown ground beef or ground turkey and sausage, and spices.
2. Drain meats; Add velveeta cheese cut in chunks and heat until cheese is melted.
3. Broil one side of party rye in oven till lightly brown.
4.Put meat and cheese mixture on rye breads.
5. At this point, you can put the rye breads on a cookie sheet and freeze for 1 hour.  Remove from cookie sheet and put in freezer bag for future use. Take out as many as needed and microwave or heat in the oven, 350 degrees for about 10 min.  Enjoy

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

If All Else Fails, Make Split Pea Soup

Add caption
Well, if all of your leftovers are gone, except for the ham bone, It's time to make Split Pea Soup. Split Pea soup is very easy to make with a bag of split peas, some carrots, celery, onions, garlic. and a bay leaf..  What results is a thick, porridge like concoction, that makes your kitchen smell wonderful, even if you cook it in the crock pot.  Have you ever heard the saying, "as thick as pea soup".  It  refers to the fog being "as thick as pea soup."  The soup thickens after it cools and is placed in the refrigerator. The soup can then be thinned with chicken stock, cream, or milk,  if need be.  Most people either like Split Pea soup or they don't.  there is no middle ground, when it comes to this soup So, if you are in the camp that likes Split Pea Soup, you'll like this recipe.

If you are watching your sodium, this is a special treat, and we didn't add any additional salt to the recipe. We haven't bought a ham, since my husband's bypass surgery,   They had a spiral ham at their Christmas luncheon where he works, so he said that he would take it home, make Split Pea Soup, and take the soup back to work.  Here is the recipe.

1 16 oz bag of split peas, washed, sorted, and soaked overnight
8 c, of water
1 meaty ham bone
1 large onion, chopped
2/3 c  chopped carrots
2/3 c chopped celery
1 bay leaf

Wash peas. Combine, peas, ham bone, water, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, and bay leaf in slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour.  Turn to LOW and cook for 8-10 hours, longer if peas aren't tender.
Remove ham bone, chop meat, and return to slow cooker. Remove bay leaf from slow cooker.  Season with pepper. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Anticipation and Disappointment! Portillos Beef., Baked Mostaccioli with Marinara Sauce, and Snickers Salad

My son and his girlfriend got engaged December 23rd.  Our family has been anticipating this event for quite awhile, so I was over the moon, when this happened.  We were going to celebrate Christmas with the newly engaged couple and my other son and his wife on Dec.26th.  My nieces were coming, so now I  was planning an impromptu engagement party. I was so excited.

When your children and nieces are grown adults, you always want to make what they like, so we were going to have our traditional family appetizer, Hanky Panks, (to be posted later),  Portillos Italian Beef, (sorry no picture), my Baked Mostaccioli, (which is better than Portillos),  baked chicken breats, and Snickers Salad for my nieces, among other things, just to mention a few. If anybody reading this is in the Chicago area or has had Portillos Beef in the past, they know how good Portillos Beef is, and that you can't make it that good. I had also bought champagne and an engagement present. I was ready and full of anticipation to see my son and his fiancee, and the ring! They had sent a picture of the ring on my phone, but I wanted to see the real thing!  Then I got a phone call from my son and his fiancee saying that they got  locked out of their condo, and they had to wait for a locksmith to come. So we waited. Another phone call. The lock smith that came couldn't open the lock, short of breaking down the door, because they have hi-tech locks. Therefore, they wouldn't be able to get in their condo 'till Monday the 27th.  Disappointment!  Then, as it turned out, my nieces couldn't come either.  More disappointment! My parrty of eight quickly turned to a party of four.

However, my son and his wife were able to come, so we had a wonderful time. We had the Hanky Panks, Portillos Beef,  Baked Mostaccioli, and Snickers Salad, and all of the cookies. fudge and coffe cake!. Lindsey, this salad had your name written all over it.:) A good time was had by all.  The champagne is still chilling in the fridge waiting "till we see the engaged couple.

Baked Mostaccioli with Marinara Sauce- 375 degree oven 13X9 pan
1 lb. box mostaccioli, cooked al dente
1 med. onion diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1-8 oz can tomato sauce
1-6 oz can tomato paste

1 Tsp Italian seasoning
8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese

Heat olive oil in dutch oven  Cook onion and garlic in hot oil for about 10 min, until soft and translucent. Add  crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce,  paste, and Italian seasonings.. Simmer on for about 1 hour until  thickened.  Can be made several days in advance and refrigerated.

Spray a 13X9 pan with cooking spray. In large mixing bowl, combine cooked pasta and cooked sauce.  If you like a drier mostaccioli, don't add all of the sauce. If you like it saucier, add all of the sauce. Cover pan and bake  in 375 degree oven for about 40 min. Remove pan from oven. Turn oven to 400 degrees. Remove foil  from pan and sprikle cheese over top of mostaccioli.  Return to oven for about 10-15 min,. until cheeese is brown, and crusty.  Be sure to check oven often, because it can burn easily.  Remove from oven and let set for about 10 min, before serving

Now for the Snickers Salad recipe.  It really isn't "salad", just like dessert.

Snickers Salad- This is for my nieces.

6 candy bar size Snickers, diced in small pieces
6 apples, cored and cut in chunks.  I used 3 Granny Smith, 3 Gala apples
1  8 oz container Cool Whip( is this allowed on Foodbuzz?)  You could make your own whipped cream, if    you wish
I also added some chopped walnuts for more crunch, and craisins for garnish

Combine all of the above ingredients in large mixing bowl and chill until serving time.  Can be made a day in advance.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Cookie Plate is Full and Oatmeal Craisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I promised you  a picture of my cookie plate, when it was full.  Here it is left to right, Cinnamon Cracker  Toffee, Raspberry Bars, Peanut Blossoms, Oatmeal Craisin Choclate Chip cookies, and Oatmeal Candy Cane Chocolate Chip cookies.  I made the The Weekend Gourmet's Cinnamon Cracker Toffee, which is outstanding, and be careful, because it it addicting!  I also made several variations of the  Oatmeal Craisin Chocolate Chip cookies.  Instead of  using the white chocolate chips, I used the semi sweet chocolate chips, and also made a batch of  just Oatmeal Craisin cookies with no chocolate for my no chocolate son.  In addition,  I made Oatmeal Candy Cane Chocolate chip cookies, replacing the craisins with crushed candy canes, which were very yummy!  I have given sevral containers of the baked goodies to my friends and neighbors.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Craisin Walnut Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I want to wish all of my Foodbuzz friends a very Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays for those who do not celebrate Christmas.  Since I have joined Foodbuzz, I continue to be amazed at the outpouring of friendship and community, which I have received.  I never new that such a community of caring people existed on the other side of my computer screen. Thank you so much.

I have been making this coffee cake, or variations thereof,  for over 35 years. for Christmas morning. I got the recipe out of my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, circa, 1967. The coffee cake is a very moist cake with a craisin or raisin, cinnamon walnut filling layered with the cake, so good.  This recipe is another must have Christmas tradition of mine  The original recipe was called Spicy Raisin Coffee Cake.  I started using raisins, until the advent of Craisins.  I have mostly made this cake in a bundt pan, because I didn't have a 9X9 pan, and I still don't.  I have also made this cake in a  large Wilton tree mold pan, but that's a lot of work to decorate. This cake keeps well, if you have any left, and is best, when served warm.

Imagine my surprise when I read The Mom Chef's Walnut-Pear Sour Cream Coffee Cake post  and saw that it was the same basic ingredients, except for the pear filling and having been baked in a springform pan.  Also,  I only used 3 bowls Christiane, one for wet ingredients, one for dry ingredients, and one for the filling:) So you can see, this is a very basic adaptable recipe. You can save yourself two bowls to deal with if you like craisins. I Have always put a vanilla Glaze on the cake to dress it up for Christmas.  I used cinnamon red hots for the holly, and a teeny bit of green frosting in the center. Here is the recipe that I have adapted, and love.

SPICY RAISIN or (Craisin) SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE                             Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook Circa1967
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sift before measuring
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins  or craisins
Cream butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Blend in the sour cream. Sift flour, baking powder, soda, and salt into another bowl; blend into the creamed mixture, mixing well. 

Spread half of the batter in a greased and floured 9-inch square pan, or bundt pan. Mix nuts with 1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle half of the nut mixture over the batter. Sprinkle all 1 1/2 cups raisins over nut layer. Spoon remaining batter evenly over the raisins; spread carefully. Sprinkle remaining nut mixture over the top.
Bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes, until pick, inserted in middle, comes out clean.  Cool in bundt pan 10-15 min. then remove pan and put on rack.  Serve warm. Glaze, if desired and decorate.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We're At the Party-Mini Red Velvet cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

"Can you believe that we're at the party?", said one cupcake to the other. " I know" said another cupcake.  "We're all dressed up in our Red Velvet dresses with white collars and our red and green sprinkles   We look so pretty sitting on the tray  We have been to birthday parties,  an open house,.and Cupcake competition, but we have never been to Christmas party.  The Christmas tree looks so pretty with all the twinkling lights, and there is candle light all around, just beautiful. Now that we have been to a Christmas party, do you think that we'll make it to the cookie plate with cookies and a cup of milk for Santa?  Well you know, we cupcakes are very popular now, so we just might make it to the cookie plate"..  Tune in later, and see what happens Christmas Eve.

My girlfriend's daughter was having a Christmas party, and I volunteered to make mini cupcakes, since she was having miniature desserts.  I made the mini Red Velvet cupcakes, perfect for a Christmas party, which were a big hit. Here's the recipe, maybe your cupcakes will make it to the cookie plate on Christmas Eve.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1  cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring, or 1 oz.
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers, or 24 mini cupcakes.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a hand held electric mixer.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, 15-17 min. for the minis turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before and frosting.

I modified Stef's Lime Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe from to make the Vanilla Cream cheese frosting.
Vanilla Cream Cheese frosting 
 1 8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese  (room temp)
1/4 C butter (room temp)
4 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 t vanilla extract

1. Mix the cream cheese and butter.
2. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
3. Beat mixture until desired consistency.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Aunt's Christmas plate and Raspberry Walnut Bars

 Christmas , to me, is all about traditions that have been in my family for a long time, or traditions that I started with my children. I got this Christmas plate from my Aunt, that raised my Dad, when their mother died.  I love this plate and I had to show you this plate when it is empty because of the raised poinsettia on the inside of the plate and the leaves around the edge. At first glance, you might think that this plate is Milk Glass, but this plate is very heavy. For many years I never knew what is was.  Then I took it to an antique shop and discovered that the plate is actually molded glass that was produced in the early 1950's, an antique, just like me:)  The three holders at the top are for candles, which are lit, when I serve the cookie and treats.. Have any of you eve seen a plate like this before?  I never seen anything close to this, but this is one of my treasures.

Now let's make some Raspberry Walnut bars. A crisp buttery, shortbread crust, with tart raspberry filling with crunchy walnuts, topped with more buttery topping and a sweet vanilla glaze. These are the perfect Christmas treat for my cookie plate. I will show a picture of the plate, when all my treats are done. I still have to make oatmeal craisin cookies for my non-chocolate son, Cranberry Orange Nut Bread, and Sour Cream Coffee Cake.  Whew, I have to go and bake, bake, bake!
What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Raspberry Walnut Bars
Crumb Mixture
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup   butter, 2 sticks
1 egg, slightly beaten
12 oz raspberry preserves or your favorite flavor
1 c. chopped walnuts.
1 ½ c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ c milk
Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all crumb mixture ingredients in large bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 2 cups crumb mixture; set aside.

Press remaining crumb mixture on bottom of greased 15 X 10 X 1. Spread preserves to within 1/2 inch of edge. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over raspberry preserves Crumble reserved crumb mixture over preserves.

Bake 15-20 min. or until lightly browned. Cool completely; cut into bars. Combine glaze ingredients in small bowl and stir until desired consistency. enjoy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Invitation to A Cup of Christmas Tea and Peanut Butter Blossoms

                Start with some giving                    
  and a cup of caring,
Soon… everyone will
  want to be sharing.

  Add lots of kindness
and pinches of praise,
  It will smooth over
all of your rough days.

Heap in some patience
  and always be nice,
  Mix in some humor,
for just the right spice.

 Sprinkle good will and
  add some good cheer,
It will last throughout the year,

Remember the reason,
for the joy of the season,
     It makes this tea,
  much more pleasing.
Wendy Compton

 You are invited to my Christmas Tea. I love tea parties. My girlfriend Carolyn and I have had many tea parties with our granddaughters over the years.  We have even had Christmas teas with our friends.  There is something special about a Christmas Tea. Even during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it's a time to stop and connect and and enjoy the friendships that you've had all year long.. I'm having this tea for all of the wonderful friendships that I have made in the FoodBuzz community.
As you can see, I have A Cup Christmas of  Tea Cup,  plate, and little book. I do not have teapot, but they are out of production.  If anybody ahs a teapo or cups, that they would like to part with, let me know. A Cup of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg was touching little story about a nephew who had an elderly aunt that had  a stroke and was failing. His aunt had invited him to have"A Cup of Christmas Tea" , but he really didn't want to go.  She wasn't the same woman that he once knew.  Begrudgingly he went, and his aunt had recreated the Christmas from chilhoods past.  It was wonderful and he was so happy that he went, "he saw the triumph of a soul."  It's just a heartwarming little short story,  it's why I like Christmas teas
Come on in, have A Cup of Christmas Tea, relax, and sample the Christmas treats.

One way that you can pay it forward is to buy a few essential groceries and take them to your local food pantry, if you haven't done so already.  Due to the economy,  many food pantries are running out of food, especially during the holidays. . Thank you for doing this, and it will make you feel so good:)

Now,  In my future posts, I"ll have all the goodies I have had at my Christmas teas. I've always used the recipe on Hershey's Kisses bag, so here it is. Peanut Butter Blossoms


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Grilled PorkTenderloin with Pomegranate Success!

See this beautiful dish of ruby jewels sitting on my counter. I finally was able to find a good pomegranate, and we made Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Sauce.  Success at last.  If at first you don't succeed, try again, my mantra in the kitchen now..  It was actually fun removing the arils from the white membrane in a bowl of water. At least me and my kitchen weren't splattered in red juice. I watched a video to see how to peel a pomegranate. Now on to the Pork. This was a He cooks, She cooks event.

We eat a lot of Pork Tenderloin, you know the "other white meat, because it is low in fat, easy to prepare, and a good value for your dollar.  For this particular recipe, my husband, who is King of the Grill in our house, made a marinade of white wine and  Adobo salt free seasoning.  Adobo seasoning  is a blend of garlic powder, Telicherry black pepper, ground cumin, and Mexican oregano.  He got the pork on the grill just before our snow storm started in Chicago land Saturday evening,  Did anybody see that Chicago Bears "snowball" game Sunday?  That storm started Saturday night.  Now back to the pork... 

To go with the pork tenderloin, I made a pomegranate sauce, which went very well with the pork.  I reduced  1 cup of pomegranate juice and and 1/4 c. sugar you have about 3/4 c.and served it over the pork, sprinkled with the arils The sauce came out a pale pink color in contrast to the bright red arils.. I did learn one thing, that if I made this sauce again, I would use pomegranate molasses. From what  read, the pomegranate molasses gives you a much darker, richer sauce.  I guess I'll have to hunt down a store that carries it. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Coconut Cream Custard and Birthday Cupcakes

My best friend's birthday was last week and I wanted to make cupcakes for her. We have been friends for over 35 years! Our kids grew up together, and we've been down many roads together, . I knew the cupcake wouldn't be  chocolate,  She eats chocolate, but it's not her first choice. She likes coconut Cream  pie, so  I made Coconut Cream cupcakes. Unfortunately, my camera wasn't working , and I didn't get a picture of them.  I made a vanilla cupcake with coconut milk, filled with Coconut Cream , and topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut.  They were soo good, but no picture. The picture above, is the next best thing, Coconut Cream Custard in ramekins, so creamy and coconutty, if that is a word.  I had extra custard, so I put it in the ramekins. You can make this yummy cupcake recipe, and take a picture, send it to me, and enjoy the cupcakes. Or, if you don't have time to make the cupcakes, just make the custard and Enjoy!  Please Santa, bring me a new camera!

P.S.  She loved the cupcakes, of course, I made them:)

Ingredients Adapted from
    • 12 paper baking cups
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 2/3 cup low-fat coconut milk
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus
    • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, beaten to firm peaks
    • 1/3 cup coconut, flaked, toasted, for garnish
Coconut Custard recipe
    • 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
    • 1 cup low-fat coconut milk
    • 3 large egg yolks
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • Preheat oven to 350 F and arrange rack in center. Line 1 (12 cup) muffin pan with baking cups; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside. Beat together butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and extract; beat until combined well, about 2 minutes. Alternately add flour mixture and coconut milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until just combined.

  • Divide batter among baking cups and bake until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, remove cupcakes and cool completely on rack.

  • Holding a small knife at  an angle, cut a 1 1/2 inch round in the top of each cupcake, forming a shallow cone shaped opening. Remove tops and fill each cupcake with 2 tablespoons custard; re-cover. Dollop whipped cream on top of each cupcake and garnish with toasted coconut flakes.

  • Coconut Custard Directions:.Whisk together cornstarch, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Add milk, coconut milk and yolks; whisk until combined well. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring constantly; immediately remove from heat. 

  • .Add butter and stir until melted and combined well. Transfer to a bowl set over ice and cold water; let cool completely, stirring occasionally.
  • Tip to toast coconut. First,  I put the coconut on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven, and the coconut  got  too toasty, and I threw it out.  Then I put the coconut in a small dry skillet, and toasted the coconut  to perfection.  You have more control of the toasting in a skillet. 


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Monkey Bread and a Guest Baker-My Neighbor, Pauli!

Our neighborhood had a Christmas party last Saturday afternoon.  The neighbors hosting the party wanted to have a brunch on a Sunday, but timing wise, it didn't work out, so we went to a brunch at 3PM on a Saturday! We had so much fun, and my neighbor Pauli, made this beautiful Monkey Bread. I made Baked French toast, and Pauli's husband made his famous biscuts and gravy  Later on in the evening we, had appetizers and "dinner". The Brunch was a little crazy, but a lot of fun!

For those of  you that don't know, Monkey bread is a cinnamon sugar pull apart bread, with balls of biscuit dough  rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and  layered in a bundt pan with raisins and pecans, which are optional, and then a brown sugar butter mixture is pured over the biscuit pieces . This bread bakes in to a golden pan of goodness. It  is an simple quick recipe, which we all need at this time of year, and the kids would love to help. I'm sure Monkey Bread would be a nice addition to your Christmas Breakfast.. Here is a link to the recipe that Pauli used for her  Monkey Bread , or you can make a from scratch version from Brown Eyed Baker's Monkey Bread Recipe

Monkey bread may be a crazy name, but  according to, there may be several explanations of the name. One, the name came about because you have to "play around with dough, just like monkeys "play" around with their food with their hands. The second  one, is that  to some, the bread resembles the way that monkeys gather together tightly.  No one may know the real reason.  I'd say pick the the explanation that you llike the best and go with it. Any way you look at Monkey Bread is wonderful!  Enjoy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chicken and Broccoli, My Family's Pure Comfort Food

What is comfort food? Comfort food to me evokes memories of happy times and yummy deliciousness.  This dish fits the bill. I have been making this for many years, and have many fond memories of serving this to my family and friends,  Chicken and Broccoli is my kid's favorite request for Birthday dinners. I have made many of these dishes for people that have lost loved ones,  fighting cancer, or had new babies. Chicken and Broccoli is feel good food for me. Back in the day when I first started making it, you had to bake it in the oven. Now if need be,  you can cook it in the microwave.

Please, don't cringe, but this dish has Cream of Mushroom or Chicken soup, which was staple in my house for many years. There is a layer of broccoli and chicken combined with soup, mayonnaise, and curry powder with cheese on top.   One of these days, I will make a sauce from scratch for this dish, but  not now.  If you are having a very harried day with the crush of Christmas activities, this dish is perfect. Once the chicken is poached, you can have it ready to eat in the time it takes to cook long grain rice.  I usually serve the rice on the side, but when I take it to someone to enjoy, I cook the rice first, and then put the cooked rice in the bottom of the casserole dish first, and the rest of the ingredients.  if you have leftover chicken that works, too, or if your really crunched for time, you can use a cooked rotisserie chicken. I use chicken breasts, but you can use whatever type of chicken you prefer. You can also use leftover turkey.  Let's make Chicken and Broccoli.

Ingredients This recipe is for a 9X9 casserole dish- Double recipe for 13X9 pan

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked
1 lb. fresh broccoli, or frozen broccoli-16 oz
1 can Cream of chicken or Mushroom soup, Do not dilute 
1/3 c. Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip-I use Miracle Whip
Curry powder to taste
1c. grated cheddar cheese
 Cooked rice or noodles

Spray casserole pan. Par cook broccoli in microwave, for about 4 min., drain. Chop chicken breasts and layer over the broccoli in casserole pan. Heat undiluted soup, Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, and curry powder, till heated through, stirring to combine. Pour soup mixture over chicken and broccoli.  Microwave on high for about 5 min, depending on your microwave. You may also bake in the oven, 375 degrees, until bubbly, 20-25 min.  Remove from microwave or oven, and top with grated cheese. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pomegranate and Brie, Almost, and Christmas Bunco

I have played Bunco for a very long time, and for our Christmas Bunco, everybody brings an appetizer and gift to pass.  For those of you , who don't know what Bunco is, it's a dice game where you can play the game, eat, and talk, all a the the same time. it's a lot of fun.  Anyway, I wanted to make a recipe with pomegranate, because I had seen so many recipes on Foodbuzz.. Do you see any pomegranate in the picture? No, that's because when I cut opened the pomeganate, which I had bought, it was bad. This was the first ever pomegranate, that I had ever bought.  Needless to say I was disappointed..  I had even watched a video on how to peel a pomegranate. Now, when life gives you lemons, you make cranberry sauce.  Luckily I had an extra bag in the fridge.

The appetizer I ended up making was layers of  brie whipped with whipping cream, and home made cranberry sauce and walnuts, topped with more brie You have creamy brie, tart/sweet cranberry sauce,and the crunch of the walnuts, all in one bite. I know that you can't see all of the layers in the bowl, but I didn't have a smaller bowl with straight sides. This is a very simple, but beautiful recipe, and would beautiful on any holiday table.  I still want try this with a pomegranate, so wish me luck:)

12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
1 c. sugar
1c. water or orange juice
orange zest
8 oz, of Brie, white rind removed
1/3 c. whipping cream
1/2-3/4 c chopped walnuts

Combine the sugar and water or orange juice, and zest, in a large sauce pan, and bring to boil over medium heat. Add cranberries and boil until they are done "popping".  Remove from heat and cool.  The sauce thickens as it cools. Refrigerate until cool and thickened.  You could even make the day ahead..

Put brie in bowl of stand mixer and whip till smooth, about  1 minute.  Add in whipping cream, and whip for about 5 minutes, until mousse consistency.  Layer brie in bowl with cranberry sauce and walnuts.  Serve with crackers or bread toasts.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mom's Fudge and Ron Santo, Part 2

I have been making my Mom's fudge recipe every year for Christmas since I was a teen.  We always had it on Christmas. Eve.  For awhile I was putting walnuts in it, but them I started making it for gifts for various people, so some people didn't like nuts. Now there are so many nut allergies, I just decorated a few pieces with walnuts. Lately I've been making it plain, but now Lindsey from Gingerbread Bagels blog is rubbing off on me.  Now I feel compelled to try out different topping for the fudge, crushed candy canes, chopped up Snickers, walnuts and , M&M's. I'm pretty sure that I don't have the candy stash that Lindsey does.

This fudge recipe is very versatile and you can vary the toppings, or you can vary the flavor extracts: rum or peppermint,, or even add peanut butter.. You can even add liqueurs, Kahlua, Bailey's Irish Cream, or Grand Marnier. You get the idea depending on the recipient..  This particular recipe makes five lbs, so it  good for giving as gifts. I have no idea where my Mom got this recipe and I never asked her. So here's the recipe, which is very simple.


4 1/2 c. sugar
8 Tbsp butter, (1 stick)
1 large can of evaporated milk, 12 oz.  don"t use condensed milk
3 C. (1 /1/2 12 oz bags) semi sweet chocolate chips  You could also mix in some dark chocolate
7 oz jar of Marshmallow fluff
1 1/2 Tsp vanilla extract

Spray with cooking spray a 15X10X1 pan.

Combine, sugar, butter, and evaporated milk in a dutch oven. , Bring to a FULL  rolling boil, stirring over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 min, or until mixture gets to 234 degrees on candy thermometer, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat.  Add chocolate and beat well. Add in marshmallow fluff and vanilla stir until well combined. Spread into prepared pan and cool.  Cut in squares and Enjoy!

Ron Santo, iconic radio broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs, passed away early today. My husband and I feel like we lost a member of our family.  It is ironic that  I'm blogging about this on my My Mom's Fudge post because my Mom was a devout Cub fan and loved Ronnie. That is somewhat amazing , a Cub fan who grew up near St. Louis in Cardinal country, was a Cub fan, much to to the chagrin to my Dad, who is a lifelong Cardinal fan. In my Mom mom's later years, we took her to some Cubs games and my Dad was very quiet during those games. Had it be known, I think she liked the Cubs, just to bug my Dad.  They were married 65 years, however, so the Cub- Cardinal rivalry didn't really come between them..

 Here is my well worn Cub shirt, which I will wear today, in memory of Ron. Chicago, the Cubs, and his fans have lost an ambassador to baseball and JDRF, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He was the color commentator for the Cubs games for many years.  Ron also sponsored walks and has raised millions for juvenile diabetes research He was one of the first athletes to compete the Diabetes, Type 1, and was very passionate about finding a cure.  I could go on, but if  you want more information or remembrance, turn on your radio or computer to WGN, 720 a.m.. RIP Ronnie.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Door County Cherry Rum Pie and an Award

For the past few Thanksgivings my husband has been making  this Door County Cherry Rum Pie.He even makes his own crust and cuts out cherries from the crust, for the top of the pie. For those of you who aren't from the Midwest, Door County is a far North Eastern county in Wisconsin.  It is a getaway location for many people from the Chicago area.  They grow the most amazing cherries up there, hence the name Door county cherries.. We were lucky to have friends that were going up there for a weekend last August,, and brought us back the coveted cherries, small ruby gems bursting with flavor  We would be able have the Door County Cherry Pie, once again,

Ingredients Adapted from McCall's Cookbook
Preheat to 425 F

Make pie rust and refrigerate until ready to use.  He used Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker's Recipe for Perfect Pie Crust.
 32 oz or about 4 cups of tart cherries drained reserve  juice
 3/4 cup reserved Cherry juice
1/4 c dark rum
1 c sugar
1/3 c unsifted flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 egg yolk (for egg wash)
1/4 tsp almond extract

What to do
1. Combine sugar, flour, and salt.  Stir into reserved cherry juice and rum. Bring to
    boiling, stirring.
2. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 min, till thickened.  Stir in buter
3. Add almond extract and refrigerate. 
4. Roll out half of pastry on well floured surface, and place in 9" pan. Trim pastry even with pan      and fill bottom crust with cooled cherry pie filling
5. Roll out the other half of the pasty into an 12" circle
6.. Place pastry circle on top of your cherry     filling . Cut  a few large slits on the surface to allow      steam to escape. Crimp edges as desired. Brush with egg wash.      
7.Bake 30-35 Min., until pastry nicely browned. Cool on wire rack.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!

Now, for the Award!   Dimah at Orange Blossom Water, who has a beautiful blog with a lot Syrian recipes handed down from generations, gave me The Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you, Dimah.I appreciate it so much!  I have learned so much about your food and customs  That's what blogging is about, isn't it. Go check out her lovely bog, and I'm sure that you won't be disappointed!

Here are the rules for the award:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award and put a link on your blog back to the person who  gave you the award.
2.  Share 7 things about yourself.
3.  Pass this award along to 10-15 bloggers whom you have recently discovered and who you  think are fantastic for whatever reason, in no particular order.
4.Contact the bloggers that you have picked and let them know about it.

Here are the bloggers that I have chosen for the award:  Please stop by their blogs and check them out, if you already haven't done so.
Karen at Tasty Trials

7 things about me:

1. I don't watch scary or violent movies of any kind.  I have nightmares.
2.My favorite food is strawberries.
3. I have a Cock-a-Poo, named Baileywho is sweet, but high maintenance.
4 .I started blogging after seeing Julie & Julia. I wonder how many people started blogging     then?
5.I love tea parties! 
6. My favorite colors are green or purple.
7. I don't like mashed potatoes, turnips, or anchovies.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Post Thanksgiving Post-Things that I'm thankful for.

Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and for thinking of all of the things for which you are thankful.  However, when you are the one hosting Thanksgiving, there is hardly time to think let alone reflect After you have been in the kitchen from early morning until evening, the food looks better the next day.  That is why to me the best part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers. You can take the time to savor the turkey, the dressing, the sweet potatoes, and don't have to worry about playing hostess. Now don' t get me wrong , I love to entertain, but Thanksgiving, especially, is a lot of work. The day after Thanksgiving gives you time to reflect, even if you went shopping at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

In my moments of reflection I am very grateful for my wonderful husband, Scott, who has been there for me in the good times and the bad, as well as the fact that he cooks and bakes. I'm also grateful for my family and friends, that I see often In addition,. I am very grateful to all of my bogging friends that I have made in the past months. I never realized that there was such a caring, thoughtful community of people on the other side of the screen.  Several of my blogger friends played a part in my Thanksgiving dinner. I made Kim Kelly's Grand Marnier Cranberries , which were so good. Below is the "after" picture in my the dish that I got from my Grandma.  That's all that was left.

I also served Michelle from Brown Eyed Baker's Classic Green Bean Casserole with a few modifications. I used Trader Joe's frozen Haricot Vert, instead of the fresh green beans.  I also made my own caramelized onions, instead of the canned onions, and croutons to go with onions.  It was so much better, than everything out of a can.

My husband I both used Brown Eyed Baker's Perfect Pie Crust recipe. to make our pie crusts I hadn't made a pie crust from scratch in many years, so I made a pumpkin pie and my husband made Door County Cherry Rum pie, so good. The cherry pie recipe will be posted soon. Enjoy your post Thanksgiving activities and the time spent with your families.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monet's Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies Again and Happy 91st Birthday Dad!

I made Monet's Pumpkin Brownies for the second time in two weeks.  The first time that I made them, I didn't even get a picture, they went so fast.. Our neighbors were having a bonfire to christen their new gigantic fire pit.  What could be better to have than these wonderful, moist rich, chocolaty, pumpkiny (is that a word?) brownies. I could go on and on:)  See for yourself, if you need a quick, delicious addition to your Thanksgiving desserts. 

Monet and her family are going through a challenging,  stressful time in their lives right now.  Monet's nephew, Ryan, 22 mos. had a near-drowning experience in October, and is currently in a Children's hospital in the Denver area. Monet is a very  sweet, thoughtful person, and I've never met her, but I would certainly like to.
She just keeps baking these amazing sweets and breads.  Please keep Monet and her family in your thoughts and prayers

The second time that I made the Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies was for my Dad's 91st birthday.  He's in a nursing home, in a wheel chair with Dementia, it's like he's in his own little world.  What better to make for his birthday, but Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies!  My brother, two of his kids, my husband, and myself went to see him yesterday.  That's the picture of my Dad, my niece, and me. Every time I go to see him it's bittersweet., remembering the man he used to be and the man that he is now.  He seems happy in his own little world, so at this point that is all I can ask, and to love him.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Rum Baked Apples!

I always bake pumpkin bread  in the fall and I make a loaf for my son that doesn't like chocolate.  Inevitably. something chocolate shows up at dessert on Thanksgiving. This year we are having a small group. I think, so I wanted to change a few of the side dishes  I found this recipe for a Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Baked Apples in one of my Cooking Light cookbooks.  I had never made this recipe before, but  it only had 2/3 c. oil for two loves of bread.  I then changed the oil to 1/3 c. and added 1/3 cup of applesauce I got from my Jars of Love.  Also, I added 1 c. total of craisins.  This bread is so moist and flavorful and full of craisins.  Then when you make the Rum Baked Apples and put them on top of a warm piece of the Spiced Pumpkin bread, it's pure heaven. This would make a beautiful presentation on a Thanksgiving dessert table.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread Adapted from Cooking Light
 Yield:  2 loaves,

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup canola oil, I used 1/3 cup applesauce, 1/3 cup canola oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1/2 cup craisins or raisins, I added 1 c. craisins
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine canola oil, applesauce, eggs, and pumpkin in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in craisins.
Spoon batter into 2 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool loaves in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool loaves completely.

I only made half of the Rum Baked Apples, and there were still a lot left.  These Rum Baked Apples would be good over pancake, waffles, oatmeal or vanilla ice cream.  I might bake  my sweet potatoes with the Rum Baked Apples in a casserole.  I usually make the Candied Sweet potatoes with the marshmallows, but not that many people eat them, so I'm changing things up a bit..    I'm also using a re-made recipe for Green Bean Casserole, no cans only fresh ingredients.( a later post).  You have to be careful when you change tried and true  recipes too much, or some family members might protest! 

 Rum Baked Apples Adapted from Cooking Light
  • 2  cups craisins
  • 1 1/4  cups  coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 2  teaspoons  ground cinnamon
  • 6  Gala Apples, cored and chopped (about 3 pounds)
Place all ingredients in an ovenproof dish and bake in 350 degree oven for 20-25 min, until apples are tender.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Cupcake Duo, Part 2, Pauli's Butter Cakes

I am posting the recipe for the Butter Cakes cupcake recipe from my good friend and neighbor, Pauli. She's part of the The Cupcake Duo, from my last post.  She made Butter Cakes, which are white cupcakes with strawberry jam filling and  Sour Cream Frosting.  I can tell you that the cake is so good, and it  melts in your mouth with a sweet  strawberry surprise and cool sour cream frosting. the little cakes are perfect for any occasion, or no occasion at all.  Thank you Pauli for being my Baking Buddy.

Butter Cakes with Sour Cream Frosting, adapted from Good House Keeping 


  • 1  cup (2 sticks)  butter, softened
  • 1-1/3  cup  sugar
  • 3    eggs
  • 2  tsp.  vanilla
  • 2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2  tsp.  baking powder
  • 1/2  tsp.  baking soda
  • 1/4  tsp.  salt
  • 2/3  cup  buttermilk
  • Strawberry jam
  • 1  recipe  Sour Cream frosting, recipe below


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line twenty-four 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups.

2. In large mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium-high for about 1 minute. Add sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add flour mixture in two additions, alternating with buttermilk, and beating on low after each addition until combined.

3. Fill lined muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

4.Fill cupcakes using the cone method with strawberry jam. Frost as directed. After frosting, refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Sour Cream Frosting: In large mixing bowl beat 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter with mixer 30 seconds; beat in one 8-oz. carton sour cream. Gradually beat in one 2-lb. bag powdered sugar. Beat in 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 Tbsp. milk. Use at once or refrigerate up to 3 days. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before using

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Me & Pauli, The Cupcake Duo, Snicker Cupcakes and Butter Cakes!

Everybody has to have a BF or Besties,  Pauli and  are Besties.  She is my dear neighbor, and would do anything for you, and is so generous.  One day Pauli called me and told me to come over, I went over  next door, and she handed me a bag and inside was this darling cupcake apron, and she got one, too.  She got this for me because I love cupcakes, and I love to make them for any occasion, or no occasion at all. Her husband calls me "Cupcake", so sweet, no pun intended:)    Because we had matching aprons, and Pauli loves to bake, too, we decided we had to have a "Cupcake Event". Our cupcake event was a day where we both made different cupcakes in our homes, then we went to get a bite to eat with our husbands, and came back to my house for dessert.

Snicker Cupcakes
It took a while to schedule our Cupcake Event, but we finally agreed on a date, which was last Monday. I made Snickers Cupcakes with my left over mini Snickers.  I guess that reading Lindsey's blog with all of those candy laden recipes, rubbed off on me:)  Pauli made Butter Cakes, a white cake with strawberry jam filling and vanilla sour cream frosting.  which will be posted later.  (I have to apologize for my pics because the lighting in my house isn't conducive to good pictures, especially at night.  Daytime pics are not easy either, because I have so much shade,  so much for the pics).  However, the Snicker Cupcakes are wonderful., chocolate cupcakes filled with melted Snickers, chocolate butter cream,  and topped with chopped Snickers  We had so much fun eating cupcakes, taking pictures, and drinking coffee with our husbands  Here is the recipe.

Snickers Cupcakes
Makes around 20 cupcakes

  • 1 2/3 C all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1 1/2 C white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C buttermilk
       What to do 
  1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in eggs and extract.
  4. Beat in flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, until combined.
  5. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. ( I used a 2" ice cream scoop).
  6. Bake at 350 F for twenty minutes or until cupcakes bounce back when touched.
  7. Cool on rack until cool.
  8. Using the cone method, fill with melted Snickers. 
  9. Frost with chocolate butter cream frosting, and sprinkle chopped Snickers over the top.
     Unwrap 12 Mini Snickers, chop, and melt in microwave.
     Unwrap 12 mini Snickers, chopped.  Reserve for topping

     Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
    1 stick butter, room temperature
    1/2 cocoa
    4 c. confectioner's sugar
    1/4 c. milk, more or less

1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy
2. Add cocoa and 1c. sugar to butter mixture and beat until incorporated
3. Add half of the milk and remainder of sugar and beat until incorporated.
4. Continue to add milk until you get desired consistency

Here's a sneak peak of Pauli's Butter Cakes:

                                                                       Butter Cakes

Print friendly