Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Home for Christmas....New Years Resolutions?

Hello everyone!  I've missed you.  We have been on a "holiday" visit to where I grew up in Michigan.  (11 hours, round trip)  We stayed at a hotel with a pool.....yes, I went swimming, sort of.  I will tell you this, nothing like putting on a swim suit in the dead of winter, in harsh lighting, when Christmas cookies have been a part of your daily diet for at least two weeks.    No New Years resolutions, I'd just like to take better care of myself, like I do my family.

I like lists, so here is what I'll be trying to do in 2010:

1)  Be gentle with myself, as I would be with my best friend. 
2)  Sit down when eating.  (yes, I tend to stand at my kitchen counter while eating lunch)
3)  I'm going to try to eat 8-10 fruits and vegetables a day. (I usually get 4-5)
4)  I am going to make it my goal to exercise at least 3 days a week.  (I'm going to treat it like an activity I've planned for my kids, wouldn't dream of cancelling, now would I?)
5)  I will take time for myself to be with my girlfriends, who I cherish and keep me sane.
6)  If someone is sick or suffering, I will comfort them with food from my kitchen.
7)  When I am in public, I will compliment at least one stranger.

Well, there it is.  My top 7 things to do in the New Year.  I'd do top 10, but that would ordinary, besides, no need to overwhelm ourselves with unrealistic expectations, right?

You may now be wondering when I will stop babbling and post a recipe.  I'm in recovery mode, I don't think I knew the date the entire month of December.  I have many, many ideas.  I'll give you some hints tomorrow.
I promise you, they will be really good!

Have a great evening.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas....

Hello and Merry Christmas.   I don't think Ryan would have lasted another day.  This is just about the sweetest time I've experienced with him.   Last year when we saw Santa at the mall, I asked if he'd like to go and talk to him, and very suspiciously he said "no Mama, I'll just look at him."    Ryan is pretty cautious, so I know not to push him if there is something he isn't comfortable doing.  This year, late November, we went to the mall and there wasn't a soul in line to see Santa.    He made eye contact with santa and waved with a sweet, unsure smile.    He was very pleased to talk to Santa, who was a beautiful looking Santa with a REAL beard.  We then of course had to write to Santa, twice.  In the first letter he asked for a  monkey pillow pet & a crane.  After much contemplation he decided he needed to add a Gordon train.      A couple of  weeks later, he came to me in tears,  he said that he forgot to ask Santa for something else.  I explained to him how very fortunate he is, that many little children don't have toys, or even food to eat, and that they may be hungry.....he then said to me, "Mama, you can give them my Thomas trains."   I don't think I've ever given him more kisses in one sitting, ever.  

Let us remember those less fortunate.  Let us be kind to one another. Let us remember the true meaning of Christmas.  Let us savor the magic and the beauty of a child's belief in Christmas, there is really nothing like it.

Have a wonderful Christmas.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reflection & appreciation.....

Good morning.  It is very early and the thing is, I start getting ideas on what I'd like to write about between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.  I'm thinking it's because no one is interrupting every thought I have in my brain, "have you seen my ipod charger?  Where is my hat?  Can you sign this, and I need $10...."   you know what I mean.  So I begin having all these thoughts and there is no way I can go back to sleep.  I need to have a pen and paper near my bedside, yes, that's what I'll do.

As previously written, I am from a very small town.  I moved to Chicago right after college, so that would be about 22 years.   Writing for my blog has been so incredibly theraputic and has led me down memory lane as well as self discovery.  Here are some things about me:

I love my family and always want them near. (well, most of the time!)
I have a strong love of nature and open green spaces.
I love anything old fashioned.
My love of cooking is related to my desire to please the ones I love.
I don't NEED many things.
I don't WANT many things.
I love learning about the history of most anything.
I love to talk to people with many years of life experience, I love to learn how they grew up and how it used to be.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
I am a cancer survivor. (don't worry, I'm ok!)

So.  There it is.  My list.  Now, don't get me wrong, there is one thing I've always wanted....a kick bucket kitchen....I'd like at least a 6 burner range...double ovens... someday.  The main reason being that we don't have enough space to entertain the whole family at holiday time, I really want to be able to do that.

My little one is up, it's 6:37 a.m., he wants juice, and so it begins....

Thank you for reading and have a blessed Christmas.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Egg & Sausage Breakfast Bake

Hello!  I'd like to share one of my favorite "make ahead" recipes for Christmas morning.  You can add any ingredient you like.  Simply put it together the night before & when you get up, before you open presents, put it in the oven.  It takes 45 minutes to bake and after only about 20 minutes you start to smell the aroma of breakfast, yum!  It's also nice to serve some sort of bread, try the blueberry streusel, it's very good and you can make it a couple of days ahead and freeze.  I defrost in the microwave for 2 minutes and it's ready to go!  Stress free and delicious breakfast, so easy.

1 lb. sausage, cooked and drained (any kind you like, you could also use cooked and crumbled bacon or no meat at all)
Vegetables-any you like, cook them first, otherwise there would be too much moisture.  Mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, any one or all of these would be great!
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
6 slices of whole wheat bread, cubed
2 teaspoons dried mustard
6 eggs, beaten

Evenly coat a large casserole dish or a 9 x 13" pan with cooking spray.  Add cubed bread.  Cook and drain sausage, add evenly over bread.  (if you want to add any vegetables, cook and add them now) Beat the rest of the  ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour over bread and sausage.  Cover and chill overnight.  Place in cold oven and set temperature to 350', bake for 45 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blueberry Streusel Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups milk
½ cup canola oil

Streusel topping:

1 cup sugar
½ cup flour
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1)  Pre heat oven to 350’.  Evenly coat 7 mini loaf pans with cooking spray, set aside.
2)  In a small bowl, combine all streusel ingredients with your hands until you have a nice crumbly mixture.  Set aside.
3)  In a large mixing bowl, combine first 5 ingredients, mix well, add blueberries, gently stir to coat, make a well in center.
4)  Add wet ingredients into well, stir until just combined.
5)  Add a large spoonful of batter into each pan, top with a small amount of streusel, add more batter to fill pan to 2/3 full.  Top each loaf evenly with remaining topping.
6)  Bake for 30-33 minutes.  Test with a toothpick for doneness.
7)  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, then carefully remove from pans and allow to cool completely on rack.  Package in cellophane bags or wrap in saran.  Freeze if you will not be using immediately.

Another food memory.....& random thoughts....

I just love when I run into a college classmate and they ask me, "hey Ang, do you still make those cinnamon rolls you used to make?"  Well, of course I do!  Isn't it something that people remember those kinds of things?  In the upcoming new year, why not choose one or two dishes that you love to eat, and work on perfecting those dishes.  Make them YOUR specialties.  There is nothing like a special request for something you make.  We all don't have to be great at everything, how about just some things?

I spoke of cinnamon rolls, I learned how to make them with my Grandma Henderson....don't worry, I won't break into tears today!  Question, do some of the commercials on tv make you teary?  You know the ones, Folgers coffee, when the guy comes home from Africa to be with his family on Christmas?  Geeze, it gets me every time!  And what about Extreme Home Makeover, Home Addition?   I will not watch the new one, Find My Family....I'd be a mess!  Am I alone here?

Anyway, back to the subject!  If you do not work with yeast, I really would love to be the one to teach you.  When I was a young girl, I thought it was so fascinating that dried yeast would make my dough "puff up."  It is actually a very simple process.  Your loved ones will flip out when you make these.  I love the reaction I get from Jack and Chris, it's something I really wish I could bottle.  I also love when they approach me and say, "hey Ang, you know what you haven't made in awhile?"  This kind of thing really warms my heart, good stuff.

I am so looking forward to 2010, we are going to have so much fun together!

Have a wonderful day.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coconut Macaroon Cookies Dipped in Chocolate

I love this recipe, it's beautiful and festive and doesn't involve that much time for decorating.  Dipping them in chocolate is optional, I perefer them with chocolate, of course!  I also love that the ingredient list is so short, you just mix the first three ingredients together, top with a cherry, & bake. 

I also love to package my cookies in a small goodie bag, I usually put 1/2 dozen in each bag and tie with a pretty ribbon.  These make the most beautiful gifts, and I feel like I'm sharing a small piece of my heart!  Merry Christmas!


1 14 oz. package sweetened flaked coconut
3 tablespoons flour
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 jar of maraschino cherries, halved
1 ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips (optional)

1)  Preheat oven to 350’.  Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper-very important!
2)  Empty bag of coconut into a large mixing bowl.  Measure flour into coconut and toss to coat.
3)  Add vanilla and pour condensed milk over coconut mixture.  Mix well.
4)  Using a 1 ½ teaspoon cookie scoop, portion out onto parchment paper, being sure to level off when scooping to make for evenly sized cookies.  There is no levening in this cookie, so you can place them pretty close together on your sheet.
5)  Top cookie with maraschino cherry, I cut them into pieces if they’re too large.
6)  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, slide entire sheet of cookies off of baking sheet onto cooling rack.  Cool completely.
7)  Pour chocolate chips in a microwaveable glass dish, shallow enough to dip the bottoms of your cookies into.  Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between, do not over heat chocolate, it will burn!  You want to stir until smooth and all chips seem to be melted.  It does not have to be hot.
8)  Carefully dip each cookie bottom into the chocolate and place right back onto your parchment paper.  Allow to set up.  To move the process along, you can place the entire sheet in your refrigerator.  When they’re set you’re good!  They can be packaged or put onto a tray without mess.


Santa Thumbprint Cookies

Ahhhhh, a butter cookie topped with some delicous raspberry preserves, what's not to love?  I love this simple, old fashioned cookie. 

1 cup softened unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped nuts
¾ cup raspberry jam, or your favorite

1)  Preheat oven to 400’.  Cut a sheet of parchment paper to cover your cookie sheet.
2)  In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream butter, vanilla & sugar until light & fluffy.
3)  Combine flour and salt; add to butter mixture and blend well.
4)  Place nuts into a small bowl.  Shape dough into 1” balls and roll in nuts to coat.  Place on cookie sheet and press a divot with your thumb into the center of each cookie.
5)  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat and carefully slide the parchment with the hot cookies onto your cooling rack.
6)  Using a small spoon, carefully spoon about ½ teaspoon of jam into centers.  Cool completely.  I like to let these cookies sit out overnight for the jam to set.  Store in an air tight plastic container being careful not to disturb centers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"People Cookies"

Hello everyone!  These are actually Gingerbread Cookies, however, since Ryan could talk, he has called them "People Cookies."  I think it's the most appropriate name for them as no one of them looks the same, they all seem to have their own personalities.  Try to bake them when your family is home, the aroma is amazing, I believe companies have tried to make candles with this scent!  Involve your kids in the decorating, they will LOVE it!  I do the piping and my boys place the raisin eyes and cinnamon buttons on each cookie.  They also are more than willing to taste, you know, to be sure they're good....

You will want to be sure to refrigerate the dough at least an hour before you roll it out.  I like to make the dough a day or two ahead of time, then bake.  When you do this, the dough gets pretty hard.  You have to let it sit out at room temperature for at least an hour.  I start out by cutting off about a 4" chunk and I work it with my hands until I'm able to put it onto a floured board and roll it out.  From that point on you just keep adding new dough to the scraps on the counter, kneading it together to form a pliable dough you can roll out.  Also, when measuring the flour, be sure you sift the flour to be sure that you aren't using too much, the dough will be too dry with too much flour and will make it hard to roll out. If this is the case, simply add a little water, kneading to get it to a rolling out consistency.

When baking, I line my cookie sheets with parchment paper.  This makes for non stick baking, as well as easy removal right out of the oven onto a cooling rack.  The cookies will cool faster on the rack on  parchment than on the pan.  In addition, wait until they're mostly cool before you remove them to give them a chance to set up.

Decorating takes practice.  I use an icing that I pipe onto the cookie, I use a Wilton 12" featherweight decorating bag with tip #5.  You can find these at most any craft store, I got mine from a Michael's and I think JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts carry them too.  After decorating, I let them sit out, uncovered over night for the icing to set up.  I then carefully package them. You can use royal icing as well, however, it gets extremely hard and I don't like the taste as much.

Here is the recipe.  Enjoy!

Gingerbread Boys and/or Girls

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons molasses
3 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dark raisins
Cinnamon candy for buttons or gumdrops

1)Cream butter and sugar together in  large mixing bowl or stand mixer. 
2)Add egg, beat until light & fluffy. 
3)Add molasses, mix well. 
4)Sift dry ingredients & mix into creamed mixture a small amount at a time.  Knead into a ball, cover with saran wrap & chill.
5)Preheat oven to 375'.
6)Roll out to 1/4" on a lightly floured board.  Cut with gingerbread boy/girl shapes. 
7)Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Watch carefully, smaller cookies may take 8 minutes while a very large cookie may take 10-11 minutes.  It is good to remove them from the oven when they're slightly brown and puffed up.  When they cool, they settle into a flat cookie.  You will have a crunch exterior and a soft interior, YUM!


4 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons water

Beat in a medium size bowl butter and vanilla.  Add powdered sugar and add water, a tablespoon at a time.  You may have to add a small amount more for the right consistency for piping.  You do not want too much water as the icing will run down the sides of the cookie.

My little boy absolutely loves these cookies.  I hope you and your family have as much fun as we do making, decorating, and eating them!  Have fun!  Email me if you have any questions!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Hello everyone!  I must apologize for the lack of posts the last couple of days.  Last night I took my final exam for recertification in food safety in the State of Illinios.

I also have been working on cookie recipes and photos to post by Wednesday, I actually have a few of my favorites I will be sharing with you.

I hope you all are taking time to enjoy this bessed time of year.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Favorite Pans....& Memories....

My favorite pans may not be the most sophisticated, but I think they are the best.  They last forever, in fact, you can find the best ones in antique stores, they are non stick, you don't have to worry about using the right utencils when cooking with them for fear of scratching, they are not expensive (bonus!), and lastly they have excellent heat conduction.    They are old fashioned, which I adore.  (Grandma Inez's kitchen was full of them)  They are cast iron pans. 

I bought a two burner griddle pan a few years back on Ebay, I just love it!  I also have a couple of Griswald skillets, they are antiques, they are amazing for even heat distribution when you're searing or frying.  You have to care for them properly to keep them in good working condition.  You never use dish soap on them, this will remove the natural seasoning that is created through cooking.   Simply fill the pan with hot water, clean food debris from the pan with a scotch brite scrub pad (non soap), dry the pan with a paper towel,  put about a teaspoon of oil into the pan and rub into the pan, top and bottom with a paper towel. Should they become rusty, not a problem.  You have to remove the rust with steel wool & water, rinse well, dry with paper towel & coat with oil.  Place into a 300' oven for about an hour, you're ready to go.

If you have a chance, go to an antique store and just look at all the beautiful utencils and kitchen gadgets, they're fascinating.  I loved my Grandma's kitchen, it was full of rustic & very functional kitchen tools, pots & pans.   She would have me overnight and she would very gently supervise me in the kitchen, allowing me to make messes and mistakes.  I so love her for those memories.  Ok, now I'm teary!  Geeze!  I started out talking about pans and I am now really missing my Grandma.....

Aren't memories precious?


Friday, December 11, 2009

One of my favorite comfort foods....

It is absolutely freezing here!   All I want to do when it's like this is cook and bake....or read cooking magazines....or read cookbooks.....or if I can wrangle the tv away from my four year old Ryan, watch the Food Network...all food related, of course!  Speaking of cookbooks,  everyone should have a good basic, go-to cookbook for general reference.  I love The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  You can find just about anything you need for the basics.  Mine was given to me as a birthday gift from my Mom, I think in 1992.  It has split in half and completely tattered, it's my favorite cookbook.  I thought to write about this today because I had to go to it for reference on cooking a whole chicken....

If you don't cook whole chickens, it's time to start.  I see roasting chickens on sale all the time, prices range from $ .49/lb to 1.49/lb.  That's a great deal!  I will buy a couple for my freezer and use when needed.  In addition to it being so economical, it's one of the easiest meals to prepare, you can usually get a couple of meals out of them (especially if you roast two), and it is absolutely the most moist and tender chicken you can make.  I simply rinse the chicken thoroughly, pat dry with paper towel, rub with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and season top and bottom generously with salt & pepper.....that's it.  Roast at 325' for 25 minutes per pound.  Internal temperature should read 170' or higher.  When you remove it from the oven, let it rest with a little foil over the top for about 15 minutes, then enjoy!  The skin will be crispy and the meat juicy and tender.  You can season the chicken any way you like, my friend Deb's Brunswick Chicken stew has really gotten me hooked on smoked paprika, you could certainly sprinkle your chicken with that as well, yum!  Consider throwing baking potatoes in the oven with your chicken and a vegetable and dinner is a done deal.  EASY & DELISH! 

Of course, I recommend removing all the chicken from the bone when you're through with dinner & store in plastic bags, label & date, and into the freezer.  (or refrigerator if you're going to use within a couple of days)You can use that at a later date, for maybe, chicken burritos, tacos, or quesidillas?  Soup?  Chicken salad?  Chicken pot pie....endless possibilities!    Don't forget to save the carcass, it makes for the best stock ever, you can use the recipe I posted last month for the turkey carcass.

Have a good day!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Memories & Traditions....

I will never forget the time I was doing some holiday shopping at a JC Penney and was in a checkout line to purchase some gifts for my boys,  and struck up a conversation with a very pretty 70 (ish) year old woman.  We began a short dialogue of small talk and we both agreed that this very special season had gotten out of hand.  She then began to reminisce of her childhood and spoke of how the treat they most hoped for was to find an orange in their stockings on Christmas morning.   She beamed when describing how incredibly delicious it was.   Foods did not travel the way they do now, fruits & vegetables were truly seasonal.   She shared with me how special it was to go to church on Christmas Eve because burning candles illuminated the Christmas tree.   They kept a bucket of water next to the tree to put out the occasional flare up.  I was very touched that a stranger would share her fondest memory of Christmas with me.   How beautiful and simple, I just love that.

My favorite Christmas memories, of course, involve food.  Every year, my Mom would make gingerbread cookies.   Nothing says Christmas like the smell of cinnamon & cloves wafting through your house.  She would outline the gingerbread men with white icing,  give him raisin eyes, a wide smile, and cinnamon candy buttons....soooooo cute!  The cookie itself is the best holiday cookie I've ever had.  It has a slightly crunchy exterior with a chewy interior, very, very delicious.  It is a tradition in my house to make these with my boys, we cut them out to bake and we decorate them together. My little Ryan calls them "people cookies".   It's great fun and we all look forward to it every year.    I would love to share that recipe with you next week, when I regain my energy from this week's posts.  It's never too late to start a new tradition!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shrimp Cocktail

1- 2 lb. package frozen cooked & peeled shrimp

1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons brown sugar

To thaw shrimp, place into a large bowl in sink and allow water to slowly run into bowl, stir frequently.  Drain well.

Mix well, refrigerate.  Serve with cooked & peeled shrimp.  Garnish with fresh parsley and fresh lemon wedges or slices.

Light Artichoke Dip

Yes, this is my version of that delicious coma inducing holiday dip that I could easily eat half of the pan!  It actually tastes very much like the original, but significantly lower in fat. FYI, non fat anything is against my religion. 

1 8 oz. softened light cream cheese
½ cup non fat plain yogurt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 15 cans drained and chopped artichoke hearts

1 tablespoon melted butter
¼ cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried

1)  Preheat oven to 350’.
2) Coat a small 10” casserole dish with cooking spray.
3)  Into a medium sized mixing bowl, beat cream cheese.  Add yogurt, mayonnaise & parmesan cheese, beat with mixer until well blended.  Fold prepared artichokes into bowl.
4)  Spread evenly into prepared baking dish.
5)  Melt butter in a small microwaveable dish, add bread crumbs, parmesan and parsley, mix well.  Top artichoke mixture evenly.
6)  Bake for 25 minutes, serve immediately with gourmet crackers

Chunky Vegetable Salad

Use the following vegetables, washed and cut into bite size pieces, you can use whatever you like.  The brighter the better, a nice alternative to the typical vegetable tray, it’s a very festive looking dish for your table.

1-2 heads of broccoli
1 head cauliflower
2 seeded cucumbers, skin intact
2 pints of grape or cherry tomatoes
1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 large carrots, peeled
2 large stalks of celery

Combine all vegetables in a large mixing bowl.  Generously drizzle olive oil over vegetables, about ¼ cup.  Mix well.  Season with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon granulated or powdered garlic, 2 teaspoons dried oregano.  Toss to evenly distribute seasonings.  Splash about 2 tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar over veggies and mix well.  You can keep in the refrigerator for a day or two before your party, the vegetables will marinate.

Caramelized Onion, Toasted Walnut, & Brie Flatbread

Ok, we saved some calories on the artichoke dip so we can enjoy the triple cream brie appetizer.  It's all about checks and balances, right?  This is SO delicious.  The combination of sweet caramelized onions, toasted walnuts and brie are simply heaven.  This also is a very beautiful presentation and quite impressive to serve your guests.

5 large sweet onions, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1lb. Wheel of double or triple cream brie
2 packages of whole wheat flat bread (5 pieces/package)
½ cup toasted walnuts
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Honey for drizzling

Caramelized onions:  place a large skillet over medium low heat, add oil and onions.  Stir very often, once they begin to change color, you really have to watch and stir often.  This will take about 45 minutes to one hour, it will be worth it!  You can make a day or two ahead and refrigerate.

Toasted walnuts:  Spread walnuts over a cookie sheet and bake at 300’ for 8-10 minutes.  You can make these a day or two ahead as well.  Once cool, coarsely chop.

Assembly of flatbreads:  Onto a flatbread, top with a couple of slices of brie and caramelized onions.  Bake at 350’ for 10-12 minutes.  Drizzle with honey, top with a sprinkle of parsley and walnuts.  Cut into 4 wedges.  Serve immediately.

To make ahead, assemble flatbreads and layer in a plastic container with wax paper between to prevent sticking.  Simply warm and serve when you're ready, don't forget to top with parsley and walnuts!

Brunswick Chicken Stew with Smoked Paprika

This is an amazing stew that we have served during the holidays (usually as the Christmas Eve Entree) for the past several years.
It has always been a crowd pleaser and most folks have gone back for a second helping! I usually make a double or triple batch so we have a better chance of having leftovers because we love it too!
The best part is it is healthy and low fat and you would never guess it!
This recipe can be made the night before serving. The flavor of the smoked paprika becomes more pronounced (yum!) the longer it is made in advance.
To speed up the cooking time, you can use a store bought pre-roasted chicken. For variety (and extra protein), you can add 1 cup frozen lima beans, thawed.

2 1/2 cups cubed Yukon Gold potatoes
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 (14 ounce) cans of less sodium chicken broth (or 4 1/2 cups less sodium chicken broth)
2 bacon slices cut crosswise into 1/2 inch strips
3 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts
1/2 - 2/3 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (Can be found at Penzey's Spices in Oak Park or on line)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (use black pepper if you want less heat)

Makes 6 1 1/2 cup servings.

Combine first six ingredients in a Dutch oven (or large pot) over medium-high heat, then bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer covered for 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked (soft with the poke of a fork) - stirring occasionally.
Stir in chicken, paprika, salt and pepper and simmer another 15 minutes.

Goes great with a chunk of hand torn crusty bread and a lighter red wine such as a Pinot Noir or a glass of chilled champagne.

I wish to thank my friend, Deb Grigg, for sharing her lovely recipe with us!


Corn, Cheddar & Green Onion Drop Biscuits

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 green onions, thinly sliced
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Wet ingredients:
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup milk

1)  Preheat oven to 350’.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2)  In a medium mixing bowl, mix cornmeal through shredded cheese, make a well in center.

3)  Add all wet ingredients into dry all at once, mix until just combined.  Drop by about ¼ cup spoonfuls onto parchment paper.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.  Allow to cool on wire rack and serve

French Silk Parfaits

Bottom crumb layer:

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter


¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ cups milk
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tub cool whip topping
1 large Hershey bar for garnish

In a small mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter, mix well to combine.  Divide evenly among 6-8 margarita or martini glasses. (depending on the size)  Set aside.

In a medium sized sauce pan, whisk sugar and cornstarch together, add milk and whisk until blended.  Stir constantly over medium-low heat until it thickens and comes to a boil.  Remove from heat and add chocolate chips, mix well.  Place pan into a large bowl with ice for quicker cooling.  When cooled completely, spoon into a medium size bowl and fold in half of the cool whip until nicely blended.  Divide evenly among prepared dishes.  Top with remaining cool whip.  Using a vegetable peeler, make chocolate curls to top your beautiful dessert.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Whew!! What was I thinking?

Good Monday morning to you all.  Ryan, my four year old is over the moon about waking up to see snow on the ground!  I have to say, I love it too.  I really love the change of seasons and when there is snow, it's holiday time.  It's time to cozy up in our kitchens and fill our homes with aromas like cinnamon and the smell of absolutely any cookie.....good times.  Anytime it is raining or snowing I feel the need to nest inside, it's really quite wonderful.  Ok, time to snap out of it and tell you about how I should follow my own advice. 

On Saturday, I shopped, cooked, styled & photographed (Scot did the pic's) all the recipes that will be posted this week.....what was I thinking?  The whole idea is to plan and cook ahead, the whole process took me about 7 hours.....geeze!   Anyway, I did not have to cook the Bruswick Chicken Stew, that is a delictable recipe from my sweet friend, Deb Grigg.  She was kind enough to share her recipe as well as make a serving for Scot and I to photograph.  Note to self, anyone who makes anything delicious for us to photograph must be required to supply us with many, many servings.  For creative purposes, of course.  You MUST try this recipe, she uses smoked paprika, key ingredient, your house will smell like heaven!

Expect SEVERAL recipes very shortly.  They are wonderful recipes to delight your friends and family without overdoing it in the kitchen while you are entertaining.

Happy Snow Day!!!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Discovering the Love of Cooking.....

I grew up in a very small town in Michigan.  We didn't live on a farm, as much as my husband likes to tease me about it, but we had a substantial garden and several amazing fruit trees.  The fruits of our labor included:  green beans, yellow (wax) beans, huge beautiful tomatoes, sweet corn, radishes, a couple varieties of lettuce, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelon, green apples, several different squashes, red apples, cherries, & a walnut tree, which served as home plate, didn't ever bare any fruit, I wonder why?  To this day we are very displeased with our Mom for picking that spot for a tree!  One other downside was that we had to "weed" the garden.....for 25 cents per row.....imagine how long that took to earn enough money to buy Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans, geeze!

My Dad was a carpenter, he actually built our house (with a pretty awsome kitchen!) and my Mom, pictured above, stayed at home with us until my youngest sister Cherie was in first grade.  I also have three brothers, Rich, Steve, & Rod.  We had the most amazing childhood, we simply played.  No summer camp or play dates...simple, unorganized FUN!  We played baseball, kickball, 500, you name it.  We were outside from dawn till dusk, it was fabulous!  My Mom would ring a large cast iron bell, it could be heard from anywhere in our neighborhood, much to our chagrin, it was our signal to return to base camp.

My Mom was a "canning" machine.  Do you know what canning is?  I am not so sure that many people do it anymore, it is somewhat of a lost art.  She would purchase large amounts of fruit and vegetables, and then process them into beautiful, shiny jars filled with delictable foods that could be enjoyed throughout the winter.   We weren't fond of canning, not because we didn't enjoy the food, but we had to "assist" in the process.  I remember once we had to snap two bushels of green beans before we could go on vacation.....to say it was a daunting task would be an understatement!  Can you even imagine the complaining?!   Eventually we finished and we went on vacation, to this day that is discussed at huge family gatherings and laughed about!  Like most people, I have many, many memories surrounding food.

I remember the very first thing I made, on my own.  Into a cast iron skillet went about 1/2 cup of oil, sliced potatoes,  and onions.   Yes, I did burn myself.  Lesson number one, dang, hot oil smarts when it spatters on your skin!  Even though I suffered a pencil eraser sized 3rd degree burn, I was not discouraged.  I was so proud of my fried potatoes & onions!  With no food network or internet, I began to read cookbooks, a true love was born.

I hope you've enjoyed this little snippet, I just realized that I have so much more to write about, more about me another time......wow, about me....what a foreign concept.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Easy Entertaining Ideas for the Holidays....

Hi Everyone!

If you're thinking about entertaining for the holidays, it's time to pick a date and invite your guests.  I don't know about you, but the last place I want to be is in the kitchen sweating over pots and pans while my guests are enjoying appetizers, cocktails, and titilating conversation!   I don't mind warming up a dish or two, but come on!  I love to serve appetizers, maybe alternate between cold & hot offerings.  When guests start to arrive, put out a cold appetizer, serve cocktails, (don't forget yourself!), you can then throw the next appetizer into the oven, don't forget the timer.  If anyone asks to help, for God sakes, accept!  You don't have to prove to anyone that you're Wonder Woman, even though you are!

Everything I serve is made ahead, and I love to serve buffet style.   I'll do something delicious that can be held in a crock pot, that way if guests arrive at different times, you'll have something nice and hot to offer.  Keep in mind that you may have to borrow a crock pot or two from friends, depending on how many you'll need for warming. 

Serving dishes, platters, & glassware.   I like to put a post it note on each platter with the name of the dish I'll be serving on it, that way you won't be searching for platters after your guests have arrived.  Think about serving desserts in glassware that you hardly ever use.   For example, I have some beautiful martini glasses.  I enjoy a martini when I go out for dinner on occasion, however, I do not feel it necessary to be serving up martinis to myself on a Tuesday evening......you get my drift.  Anyway, why not use that pretty glassware to serve an amazing dessert!  It's made ahead & easy to serve.

Now, with all that information in mind, let's plan a party!  Keep an eye out for next weeks "make ahead" recipes & serving ideas, I can't wait! 


Monday, November 30, 2009

Parmesan Turkey Meatball Soup

I love this soup, it is quick and simply delicious!  You can use your own homemade stock or Better than Bouillon. 


4 quarts turkey or chicken stock (16 cups)
5 large stalks of celery, cut into ½” pieces
5 large carrots, peeled & cut into ½” pieces
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 12-16 oz. package whole wheat soup noodles cooked according to package directions  -or- 2 cups cooked brown rice
1 16 oz. package frozen vegetables, mixed, green beans, peas, anything you like!
Salt & pepper to taste, at very end


1 ½ lbs. ground turkey, I use the 93% lean
1 cup dried bread crumbs, or 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 large eggs
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped (or 2 T. dried parsley)
1 teaspoon each granulated garlic & onion (or powder)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

In a large stock pot, add the stock through the onion.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes.

For the meatballs:  In a large bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients.  Shape into 1” balls and drop into simmering stock & vegetables.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add cooked rice or noodles & frozen vegetables, simmer for another 10 minutes.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Add additional chopped parsley if you like.

Festive Peppermint Brownies

I consider these "knee buckling", be sure to be seated when you try this brownie.  They stay together very nicely when you cut them.  I recommend using York Peppermint Patties, they seem to bake up the best in my experience.

1 1/3 cup flour
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1 1/3 cup sugar
½ cup butter
3 T. water
1 ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
15 York Peppermint Patties, quartered
1 ½ t. vanilla
3 large eggs

1)  Generously coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.
2)  Preheat oven to 325’.
3)  In small bowl, mix flour, soda, & salt.
4)  In a small sauce pan, combine sugar, butter, & water, bring to a boil, remove immediately from heat.
5)  Stir in chocolate chips & vanilla until mixture is smooth and chocolate is melted.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl, cool completely.
6)  Stir in eggs one at a time, beat well after each addition.  Gradually add flour mixture, mix until smooth.
7)  Add enough brownie batter to just cover bottom of prepared pan, evenly place peppermint patties over batter, top with remaining batter.
8)  Bake for 28-30 minutes.  Cool completely, cut into bars.  Store in a tightly sealed plastic container.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tantalizing Tid Bits....

I will be posting one of my favorite soup recipes next week (you can use the stock from your turkey)   as well as yet another, knee buckling chocolate dessert....this is serious, will surely become one of your favorites!  Stay tuned....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I would like to wish you all a beautiful holiday with your friends and family.  In addition to being thankful for my family, friends, and the health of everyone I love, I am so thankful for your support.  I very much appreciate your suggestions, comments, & of course, all the positive energy you have sent my way!

I am thankful for my creative director, Scot McIntosh.  He has graciously shared his time & talent with me to create and maintain my blog, I am so grateful.

I am looking forward to sharing many more recipes,  tips, and cooking techniques.  We have so much to look forward to!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turkey Stock & Soup.....

Making your own stock will make an amazing soup.  If the turkey carcass is frozen, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. 

Stock Recipe:

One turkey carcass  
One bunch fresh parsley
One medium onion, quartered
2 large carrots, halved
2 large stalks of celery, halved

Place carcass into a large stock pot and cover with water & add vegetables.  Simmer over low heat for 2 1/2 -3 hours, you do not want the liquid to boil.  You will notice that you do not add salt or any other seasoning at this point, you want a simple, flavorful stock.  You do this so that whatever you will be making will not be over seasoned.

Remove the bones and vegetable pieces with a slotted spoon, discard.  I like to carefully strain the broth through a fine sieve over a very large bowl.  You then have a beautiful, pure stock.  If  If using the same pot for the soup, wash thoroughly and add the stock back to the pan.  (you want to remove any foam debris from the pot to keep your soup stock clear)  You can also allow it to cool, stirring often, and freeze.

Simple Turkey Vegetable Noodle Soup

Soup stock
Leftover turkey meat, torn into bite size pieces
2 16 oz. packages of mixed frozen vegetables
1 l6 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach (not the block)
1 12-16 oz. package of whole wheat soup noodles, cooked & drained
1 bunch of rinsed, chopped fresh parsley

This will take only a few minutes to make.  Over medium heat, bring the stock with the turkey meat to a simmer, add the vegetables and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the cooked pasta.

NOW season with salt, pepper, & fresh parsley.   If you're going to top your soup with fresh parmesan cheese,  keep that in mind when seasoning, the cheese has a high sodium content.


Food Safety Tips for Leftovers.....

So, you've spend hours and hours preparing all that delicous food, and it's over in 30 minutes...talk about anticlimactic!!  You then have the daunting task of dealing with all that leftover food!  Enlist your guests to help you to get everything into the refrigerator soon after eating.    I use plastic zip bags for all leftovers, they will fit beautifully in your refrigerator when space is at a minimum.  I recommend dismanteling the turkey first, reserve all the meat and SAVE THE CARCASS!!  We are going to make some beautiful stock with it very soon, remove the meat saving any pieces such as wing tips and any bones, wrap with cling wrap and put into a large zip bag and freeze.   If you haven't eaten a good amount of the turkey meat after a couple of days, why not freeze for later.  Always label the bag with the contents and the date it goes into the freezer, Sharpe pens work great on plastic bags.

It is important when you use leftovers that you heat them to a high enough temperature before eating, a minimum temperature of 165'.  It is important too, that you allow microwaved food sit for at least 2 minutes for even heat distribution.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Apple Crumb Pie

6-7 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored & sliced
½ cup sugar
½ t. cinnamon
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. flour

 ¾ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chilled butter
½ t. cinnamon

One prepared pie crust.

Preheat oven to 400’.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients, mix well to evenly coat the apples.  Pour into prepared pie crust.

Using your pastry blender, combine the crumb topping until all ingredients are incorporated and you don’t have large butter clumps. Top apples with crumb topping.

Bake at 400’ for 15 minutes, lower temperature to 350’ for an additional 35-40 minutes. Serve with real vanilla ice cream.  Simply fabulous!   (single pie crust recipe below)

Butter Pie Crust (single)

The main thing to remember is that you want to handle the dough as little as possible.  You want to incorporate the butter into the flour/salt mixture very well, you do not want chunks of butter in your crust.  Also, don't be afraid to handle it when you are forming the ball of dough, you need to knead it a few times so that you have a nice smooth ball.  When rolling it out, start from the center of the dough and roll, try not to stretch the dough.  Make sure you make your circle for your pie pan large enough so that there is no need to stretch it to fit.  If you stretch the dough, it will shrink during baking and the crust will cave in.

1 ¼ cup flour
6 T. cold butter, cut into ½” pieces
½ t. salt
5-7 T. ice water

In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, & add cubed butter.  With a pastry blender, incorporate butter into flour.  This will take a few minutes, you want it to resemble cornmeal.  One tablespoon at a time, add the water.  Mix using a fork.  Once the flour seems to be moist, use your hands to bring together into a ball of dough, you may need to knead about 4-5 times.   You do not want to over handle the dough as this will create too much gluten and it will be tough.  Wrap with saran and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

1- 14 oz. can pumpkin
1- 12 oz. can evaporated  milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 T. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. ginger
½ t. nutmeg
¼ t. cloves

Preheat oven to 350’.

In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients well until completely incorporated.

Pour into prepared pie crust and bake for 50-55 minutes. Center should be set. Cool completely before covering loosely with foil and refrigerating.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stress Free Thanksgiving Day......

Many of us have to really juggle what to make and when because that big bird takes up so much space in our ovens. Refrigerator space could be an issue as well, consider making some of these items ahead and putting into gallon size zipper plastic bags, they will fit much easier than a large bowl. If you are in charge of most of the cooking I would recommend making the following a day ahead:

1) Pie baking & baked goods- Pies actually taste better when they sit for a day. Consider serving pies that do not need refrigeration; apple, pecan, blueberry, etc. Refrigerate pumpkin.
2) Dressing, especially if you are going to stuff the bird, remember, cold stuffing into cold bird.
3) Cranberry sauce-if you want to make the sauce, which is very simple, you could even do this two days ahead.
4) Mashed potatoes- I'm not suggesting you actually whip them a day ahead, why not peel, slice, and put into cooking pot, cover completely with water, let sit on the range over night, then add salt & boil when you're ready. I like to have completed the potatoes 1/2 hour before guests arrive, leave in the cooking pot and cover tightly with a lid. Also drape a heavy kitchen towel over to retain heat. (of course towel away from any flame!)
5) Salad-you can make the entire salad ahead. I put all the yummies in the very bottom of the bag, top with the clean and dry greens. (instead of diced tomatoes, you could use grape tomatoes to cut down on moisture in your salad) Store in the refrigerator until you're ready.

Consider resting time as cooking time. For birds 16 lbs. or smaller, rest 20-30 minutes, 17 lbs. or larger rest 30-40 minutes. Remember to use a large piece of aluminum foil to "tent" or loosely cover your turkey. Your oven is free for enough time to warm the following:

6) Sweet potatoes
7) Green bean casserole
8) Dinner rolls

When you're organized and much of the work is done ahead, it makes for a more relaxing holiday!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Homemade vs. Convenience/Processed Foods

I'm sure you've already gotten the idea that I'm not a fan of processed foods. With a little planning, we can create our own convenience foods by cooking ahead and freezing. Our country, as a whole, really needs to get back to basics; wholesome, good for the body foods. Our children need to learn this as well, get them in the kitchen, they learn so much from us, we're their best teachers. Going forward, with your well stocked pantry, I am going to give you many recipes for your own spice mixes(minus the salt, msg, & additives), recipes for homemade items such as quick cheddar biscuits, pie crust & pies (next week), endless baked goods, soup stocks, working with yeast, yes YEAST, and many entrees that will please even the pickiest eaters. Believe me, YOU can do all of these things, I am so sure of it!! All homemade, you are going to be so proud of yourselves! If you have any topic/recipe requests, please let me know! I'm working on recipes for next week as previously mentioned. Have a good day!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turkey Cooking Tips....

Be sure to have a good instant read thermometer for your Thanksgiving bird. You will want to take the temperature in two places, in the thickest part of the breast, and in the thickest part of the thigh. Internal temperature should read 170'-175, you then let it rest, tented with foil, for 15-20 minutes, if your bird is over 20 lbs, let it rest for 30-45 minutes. For a stuffed bird, cooking temperature should be 325', for a 16 lb. or less bird you cook for 15 minutes per pound, for birds 17 lbs or larger you cook for 12 minutes per pound. For an unstuffed bird, season the cavaty with salt, pepper, & about 1/2 teaspoon of poultry seasoning. Stuff with 4 stalks of celery, 5 springs of fresh parsley, and 2 large onions, quartered. Cooking time is the same as a stuffed turkey. You will want to prepare your stuffing ahead of time so that it is completely chilled when you stuff your bird. NEVER put warm stuffing into a cold bird, it takes too long for the stuffing to reach the proper cooking temperature. Be sure your turkey is completely thawed as this would greatly affect cooking time and you would end up with tough meat.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tomato Basil Soup-may be a bit spicy.....

The tomato basil soup recipe may be a bit spicy, I would suggest adding only 1/4 t. red pepper flakes and add more to your taste. I changed the measure on the recipe below. Thanks!

Three Cheese Penne Pasta with Turkey Sausage....

This recipe is soooooo good, why not double the recipe and enjoy on another hectic night! When freezing, I take a sheet of saran cling wrap and put it right onto the food to prevent freezer burn. I then cover tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil. You can write on the foil with a sharpe pen the contents and the date. You'll want to use within about 2 months. You could also just double the sauce portion of the recipe and freeze it, just thaw, boil some pasta and you have dinner!

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 ½ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
3 T. fresh parsley
1 lb. whole-wheat penne
1 T. olive oil
1 ¼ lb. turkey sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, chopped, 4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1- 28 oz. can tomato sauce,
1- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 t. dried oregano, 1 t. salt
½ t. red pepper flakes
½ t. ground black pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Pre heat oven to 375’. Coat a 9”x13” pan with cooking spray. In small bowl, combine ricotta, ¾ cup mozzarella, & parsley. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add turkey sausage, cook through. Add onion and cook until translucent, you can add a little olive oil if turkey is too dry. Add garlic, cook about one minute. Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper flakes, & black pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, about 15 minutes. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to box instructions. Drain well. Remove sauce from heat, add cheese mixture and pasta; mix well. Pour into prepared pan and top with remaining mozzarella & parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours, bake at 350’ covered for 1 hour. Remove foil; bake additional 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and heated completely through. Enjoy!

Red Cabbage & Avocado Salad

This is one of my favorite salads, it's fresh, delicious and easy to prepare. Red cabbage has the same heart healthy benefits as green cabbage with the added photochemical that acts as an antioxidant that can improve memory & protect against cancer. It is very easy to get your daily vegetable requirements with a salad like this!

1 small head of red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed
½ small red onion, finely chopped
1 avocado, pitted & cut into small chunks
2 T. olive oil
1 T. cider vinegar
½ t. granulated garlic
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle olive oil over cabbage and gently toss. Add granulated garlic, a couple of pinches of salt and a pinch of black pepper, gently toss. Add vinegar and gently mix well. Taste before serving and adjust seasoning if needed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Delicious Sauteed Cabbage.....

There are so many ways to prepare vegetables that are simply fantastic! Oven roasting, pan roasting, braising, just to name a few. For a delicious twist on cabbage, why not try sauteing? When you apply a slow, steady heat to cabbage (or onions), you bring out the natural sugar in the vegetable, causing it to caramelize. You simply thinly slice 1/2 head of cabbage, removing the core. In a large saute pan, heat over medium heat until very hot; add about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, add cabbage and STIR OFTEN to prevent burning. Add salt and pepper to taste, I recommend tasting throughout cooking to get the seasoning right. The cabbage cooks down and becomes very sweet & tender, simply delicious! (cooking time is about 40 minutes) You could also add a little garlic at the end of cooking and toss with hot cooked linguine pasta and some fresh grated parmesan cheese, OH MY!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stress Free Gift Giving.....

It's that time of year again! I have been doing most of my gift shopping on line for the past few years, it's convenient, you can avoid crowds, save gas, and you can do it in your pajamas with a hot cup of coffee (and possibly a nice piece of Texas Sheet Cake!) If you have a foodie on your list, Cooking.com is the ticket. You can find absolutely ANYTHING you need for the kitchen, at many different price points. Anyone who loves to cook loves to receive something useful for their kitchen, myself included! Take a moment to peruse cooking.com, you will be amazed!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Texas Sheet Cake

This cake is so moist and delicious! The recipe is very easy and will become a family favorite for years to come. There is just a hint of cinnamon in the recipe that gives it a very interesting twist.

RECIPE: For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 t. baking soda
½ t. ground cinnamon
½ t. salt
¾ cup water
½ cup butter
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 t. cider or white vinegar
1 t. vanilla; 2 large eggs

6 T. butter
1/3 cup milk
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla.

1) Preheat oven to 375’.
2) Coat a 15”x 10” jelly roll pan with cooking spray, dust with 2 teaspoons flour.
3) In measure out 1 cup milk, add vinegar & stir. (we are making a buttermilk substitute)
4) In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon, & salt; stir well with a whisk.
5) Into a small saucepan, combine ¾ cup water, ½ cup butter, and ¼ cup cocoa, bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Pour into flour mixture and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add milk, vinegar, 1 t. vanilla, and eggs; beat well. Pour into prepared pan; bake at 375’ for 17 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
6) To prepare icing, combine 6 T. butter, milk & ¼ cup cocoa in medium saucepan; bring to a boil stirring constantly. Remove from heat, with your electric hand mixer, gradually in powdered sugar and 2 t. vanilla. Spread over hot cake. Cool completely. **if you do not have a 10” x 15” pan, you can use a 9” x 13” pan, bake at 375’ for 20-24 minutes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Black Bean & Corn Salad

This is an amazing salad that keeps very well in the refrigerator, make it at the beginning of the week and enjoy for lunch throughout the week. I love to add a few slices of fresh avocado. Also great with grilled chicken, fish, tacos or fajitas.


1- 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen white corn, thawed
½ red pepper, finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded & finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, cleaned & chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 T. honey
1 T. olive oil
1 large crushed clove garlic, or 1 t. granulated garlic
½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper.

1) In medium sized bowl, mix black beans through cilantro.
2) In small mixing bowl, whisk remaining ingredients until blended. Pour over bean mixture and mix well. Refrigerate immediately after use. Best when used within 5 days. Makes about eight ½ cup servings.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Test your food safety knowledge.....

What is the best way to defrost a frozen turkey?............A. In a bowl of water on the counter, B. On the counter on top of paper towels, C. In the refrigerator, D. In the microwave..........................The answer is C, in the refrigerator. You must allow several days for a large bird to defrost. If after several days it is not defrosted, you can place the bird in a large bowl in the sink and allow cold water to run into the bowl, overflowing down the drain. I would recommend ordering a fresh turkey, you can pick it up the day before Thanksgiving and simply bake it on Thanksgiving day! Butch Novack, at The Villager in Oak Park sells fabulous fresh turkeys, I believe you must order ahead. The number is 708-386-1800. The address is 1135 Chicago Avenue.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quick Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese & tomato soup are really the definition of comfort to me! This recipe is so quick and delicious, add this to your rotation of favorite dinners. Your kids will applaud you!


1 large onion, finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. olive oil
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried oregano
1 T. Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base
2-28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1-28 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 T. sugar
2 t. kosher salt
½ t. ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh basil, rinsed

In large soup pot over medium heat add oil and onion, cook until translucent. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, & oregano. Sauté one minute. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, sugar, salt, & pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Roll basil leaves and slice thinly. Add to soup just before serving. Serve with grilled cheese. I love to use brie with apple slices on sour dough or sharp cheddar & smoked ham on whole wheat as an alternative. Brush with olive oil and grill until golden brown. Deeeeelish!! **if you don’t have the bouillon base, you can simply substitute 2 cups of chicken stock** Yields about 12 cups of soup. Why not double this recipe and freeze for a another hectic night?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Equipment Corner.....

Due to the economy, many of us are spending more and more time in our kitchens. This is not a bad thing, meals prepared at home are healthier and much less expensive. I highly recommend a food processor, many of you may already have one. You could certainly start out with a mini cuisinart, they run about $50 and would be worth the investment. You will save money making your own graham cracker crumbs, bread crumbs, and chopped nuts. I also use mine to make small batches of salad dressings and to chop herbs. If you have one and seldom use it, please get it out! It is one of the safest items in the kitchen as you can't turn it on unless the top is properly attached. Don't be afraid, you can do it!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Test your food safety knowlege......

Where is the best place to store eggs in your refrigerator? A. In the vegetable crisper; B. In the door; C. In the deli drawer; D. On a middle shelf towards the back .............................................. The answer is D. This is the coolest part of the refrigerator. You do not want to store them in the door because it is the warmest part of the refrigerator due to teenagers standing at the open door waiting for something delictable to magically appear.....and yes, this happens repeatedly.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Glazed Cranberry Citrus Bread

I love this recipe! I especially like the cranberries chopped, you don't get a sour bite. The flecks of red are very beautiful and festive. Freezes beautifully up to 3 weeks, bake ahead for Thanksgiving hostess gifts.


2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2 T. baking powder
2 T. wheat germ
1 t. salt
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped (pulse in food processor 7-9 times, or chop by hand
½ cup canola oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup low fat milk

For icing:

1 cup powdered sugar
3 teaspoons lemon juice, fresh or bottled

1)Pre heat oven to 350’. Prepare 5 mini loaf pans with cooking spray.
2) In a large mixing bowl, combine flour through salt and whisk until blended. Mix in chopped cranberries. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and add oil, eggs, & milk. Stir until just blended, do not over mix.
3) Divide among prepared pans. Bake for 28-30 minutes. Top of bread should be firm to the touch and tooth pick should come out clean. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
4) While bread is cooling, prepare icing. In small bowl combine powdered sugar and lemon juice one teaspoon at a time. If icing is too thick add a very small amount more of lemon juice.
5) Let bread cool in pans for 10 minutes, gently remove and place on cooling rack.
6) Drizzle icing over warm bread. Cool completely. Use a serrated knife to slice in a gentle sawing motion. Enjoy!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Welcome to Angie’s Pantry

I’m so happy to have this venue to share many helpful cooking and baking ideas to nourish you and your family. There is nothing like coming home to the smell of a slow roasting whole chicken in the oven, or maybe the delightful smell of homemade cookies….simple and unprocessed. I am hoping to inspire anyone who would like to cook delicious and healthy food with a very simple approach; a well stocked pantry and a plan. I will be passing on many time saving tips, recipes, meal planning strategies, fun baking and decorating ideas, & information on the very important food safety.

Let’s Get Started

I have a very practical and simple approach to the kitchen. Waste NOTHING. Many of the foods we buy have traveled many, many miles to reach us. Let us be grateful and honor those who put their heart and soul into planting, growing, and harvesting our healthy whole foods by wasting nothing. Many processed foods are very expensive, not to mention chock full of many ingredients one can’t pronounce. We have more information than ever, and we know that highly processed foods simply are not good for the human body. Whole foods, that’s what we are striving for. Let’s get our children used to real foods, fostering good eating habits and let’s involve them in the cooking process, we learn what we live. I am very confident that information in this blog will be a tremendous benefit to you and your family. I’m so anxious to get started, I have so much to share. I thank you so much for your participation. Let’s get started!!! You should take some time to look through your pantry. What kinds of items do you have? You will want to weed out any processed items you may have. Together, we will get your pantry in order. I have come up with an extensive list of “must haves” for the pantry. You will want to replenish any of these items by simply putting them on next week’s shopping list, I keep a running list on my refrigerator. This list is quite long and may seem a bit overwhelming. I use items on this list weekly. It is really great to read through a recipe and know that you have most of the items on hand.

Fresh Tossed Garden Salad with Creamy Yogurt Ranch Dressing

It is more important than ever that we eat fresh, raw vegetables. I have come up with a delicious and lighter version of ranch dressing. The ingredients are real, low fat, and you can pronounce them! Use any fresh greens and vegetables you like.


1 cup low fat plain yogurt
1 T. mayonnaise
2 t. Dijon mustard
2 T. cider vinegar
¼ cup honey
1 t. kosher salt
½ t. fresh ground pepper
1 t. granulated garlic
1 t. granulated onion
¼ cup olive oil

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Refrigerate immediately after use. This will remain fresh refrigerated for two weeks.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Bread

This pumpkin bread recipe is so delicious. Extremely moist and the spices leave a lovely aftertaste on the pallette. I recommend having it with a nice cup of coffee or tea. I would also recommend sharing, why not wrap one in a cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon. Great for teacher gifts, hostess gifts, or just to cheer someone up. The bread also freezes very well.


Preheat oven to 350'.

Prepare 8 small bread pans with cooking spray. (you can buy mini aluminum bread pans in the baking isle in most any grocery store)

In a large mixing bowl, combine:

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon each of nutmeg,cinnamon, cloves, & baking powder

Mix well with a whisk. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and add:

1- 15 oz. can pumpkin
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 cup of water

Mix well until all dry ingredients are incorporated. You may add 1 cup chopped walnuts & 1/2 cup raisins if you like. (optional) Bake for 30-35 minutes. Insert a toothpick to check for doneness, also, when you lightly touch the top it should be firm. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then carefully remove from pans and let cool completely and wrap in cling wrap. I prefer the pretty cellophane bags you can buy at the craft store. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Easy Oven Fried Chicken & Potato Wedges

This is a fantastic dinner to prep in 15 minutes and put in the oven. The chicken and potatoes get golden brown and crispy. It's one of my family's favorites!


1 whole cut up chicken, or 2-3 lbs of chicken pieces of your choice
Kosher salt & pepper
Dried thyme
1 cup all purpose flour
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375’. Line a cookie sheet (with sides) with Reynolds non stick foil. Rinse chicken and drain well. Season each piece generously with salt, pepper, & thyme. Put flour into a medium size bowl. Dredge each piece of chicken in flour and shake to remove excess flour. Place on foil lined sheet. Drizzle each piece of chicken with olive oil. Bake for one hour.


2 lbs. red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces, or russet potatoes cut into wedges
1/2 t. granulated garlic
½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper
½ t. dried thyme
1 t. dried crushed rosemary
2 T. olive oil
3 T. flour
Olive oil for additional drizzling

Preheat oven to 375’. Line a cookie sheet with Reynolds non stick foil. Wash potatoes to remove any surface dirt. Cut into bite size pieces or wedges and place in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, & rosemary over potatoes. Mix well. Drizzle olive oil over potatoes & mix well. Sprinkle flour over potatoes & mix well to coat. Spread over foil lined sheet, drizzle with a little additional olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes, turning half way through baking. For a little extra flavor, after potatoes are done toss with 1-2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese.