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!