Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's up Doc? - Orange Glazed Carrots

Glazed carrots have never had a good place in my mind. I don't know why. I don't know if it is from cafeteria days or what but I never really liked them. I typically like most things carrot and it is one veggie that my oldest son will eat without a fight. Glazed carrots are lovely and when given the right partners they can make for a killer side dish. I love them with pork dishes and with a good grilled chicken breast. These are simple and I always have the stuff on hand for them. Next time you are needing something beautiful and simple, cook up a batch of these. These would be the perfect side with a holiday ham.

Orange glazed carrots

1 2lb bag of petite baby carrots (you can easily peel and chop your own but we are going for quick and easy here!)

Place carrots in a heavy pan with a lid and cover with just enough water to submerge the carrots. Allow this to come to a boil, turn the heat down and cover. Allow them to gently boil for 10 minutes until fork tender. Drain.
In the same pot on medium low heat, to the drained carrots add the following:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup apricot jelly
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary

Toss the carrots in the mixture and allow them to gently cook for 10 more minutes. If they seem to be dry add a splash of water.

Enjoy Y'all!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Oatmeal Heaven - Baked Oatmeal

I didn't know that oatmeal could be that exciting. Really, I thought that oatmeal in the form of cookies with chocolate chips was about as good as it gets. I mean, it's oatmeal, right? But, have you had baked oatmeal? This, my friends, is heaven. When I was visiting my sister a few years back she hosted a brunch at her house. One of the girls brought this baked oatmeal and it took us all to a magical place, one where you forget that you have kids and dirty laundry and housework. This baked oatmeal is a must by a cozy warm fire in slippers with a big cup of coffee. It is delicious! You might be thinking, "get a hold of your self, it's just oatmeal". Well, no, it's not. It is heavenly oatmeal. This is like eating a giant bowl of oatmeal cookie fresh out of the oven. It is comfort food maxed out. Baked Oatmeal! The perfect start to a perfect day!

1/2 c. oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. sugar - Can use white or brown. Brown will give you more of that traditional earthy oatmeal taste.
Mix these together then add:

3 c. rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon (You can bump this up all the way to 1 1/2 tsp if you like it strong)
1 tsp vanilla

Stir together, pour into a lightly greased baking dish and bake at 350 for 30 - 35 minutes.  You must serve this warm with a splash of cream (or half and half, but really!?) and fresh fruit like blueberries, strawberries, cinnamon apples. If you want to go there, you can add in up to 1/2 cup of your favorite nut, like pecans or walnuts and 1/2 cup of dried fruit like cranberries or raisins. But, I am a purest so I keep it to cream and fruit...but I could almost skip the fruit! :)

Enjoy Y'all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Best Pumpkin Ever - Mom's Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread is the ultimate fall treat. One of my best friends is in love with the Panera pumpkin muffin and is sometimes caught drooling at them through the glass. I love pumpkin bread, muffins, whoopie pies, seeds, dip, really, you name it. I remember the first time I had pumpkin bread growing up, I know I am weird. It was so delicious and quickly became a family holiday favorite. We have had this recipe for many years but it is one of those that is too good not to share with all of you this time of year. I love it and if you like pumpkin then you will too. This recipe makes enough for two large loafs, 1 bundt, or 1 large and 4 mini. My favorite part about it is the browned butter glaze. That is something that my mom didn't have on it growing up but it is what sends this bread over the moon. I am telling you, you will be dreaming about this. Make a batch and take them to your neighbors....or bring it over for me to test with you. Thanks mom for this!

Mom's Pumpkin Bread
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup cooking oil
1 can 16 oz pumpkin
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Glaze (you might need to double, depending on how generous you are)
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp milk

In a large bowl mix together your sugar, eggs, oil then pumpkin. Sift together the dry ingredients then add them into the wet stirring just until combined.
Pour into your pans that are lightly buttered and floured (you must or they will stick)
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, reduce the heat to 300 then continue to cook for 30 minutes. Allow the bread to cool before adding the glaze or it will just roll off the sides.

For the glaze: In a heavy saucepan on low heat brown the butter. You will know it is browned when it becomes an auburn color and has a nice nutty smell to it and the fat has separated in it. Whisk in the sugar and milk. If it too thick add a splash more milk. Drizzle over your bread and allow it to set before covering with saran wrap.

Enjoy Y'all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birthday Brownie Pie!

I am having an affair. It is with a deep dish brownie pie topped with creamy peppermint ice cream. Shhhh, don't tell! I am in love! Well, it is my birthday after all so for my afternoon snack I made a yummy-lummy-licious brownie pie. I love brownies! In fact, if you have not tried my recipe for regular brownies then you are crazy! I especially love brownies when they are topped off with peppermint ice cream. Yum. Does it get any better than that? Since it is my birthday, I want you to be able to join in on the party, so I am going to share with you this recipe given to me by a dear family friend. She put together this wonderful binder for me when I got married of tried and true family recipes and stories of who they came from or memories of when she served the dish. I have treasured it every day since and it has now blown into a three part binder with a fourth part about to start. This recipe is one of her specialties that she can put together quickly for "the unexpected dinner guest". Well folks, pull out the confetti, light some candles and join with me in a celebration!

Judy's Deep Dish Brownie Pie
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 c good cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl, blend together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time stirring after each addition then add vanilla.
In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and whisk together to make sure they are thoroughly combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until blended.
Pour into a 9" greased pie plate or 8x8 pan. Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes until set. Cool and cut into wedges. Serve with a big scoop of pink peppermint ice cream (Blue Bell, of course!) and some hot fudge sauce.

Enjoy Y'all!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rockin' Red Velvet Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

Oh, how I love red velvet cake. For some reason there are two things that I am always drawn too, blue candy and red velvet cake. Weird I know but if I was offered any cake flavor in the world I would pick red velvet. Red Velvet is a velvety smooth buttermilk chocolate cake batter with a bit of twang from the vinegar and food coloring. It is amazing how quickly red velvet can go wrong. Some recipes have too little coloring or chocolate in my opinion. I recently found a red velvet recipe that is amazing and I will ever be able to go back to my old one. I can't share it but you can just dream about it. Last year I made a red velvet cake with a layer of cheesecake in between and covered it with old school cream cheese frosting. One of the partakers said she had been having dreams about it. Well, today I am going to share with you a new take on red velvet......the Red Velvet Pancake. Oh my. They are heavenly. These would be perfect for Christmas morning or eve. They are a dense rich batter and are delicious paired with a cream cheese glaze. This will get even the grinchiest of grinches into the holiday mood.

Rockin' Red Velvet Pancakes
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp good cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp vinegar
1/2 c sour cream
3 tsp red food coloring
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients (down to cocoa powder).
In a separate bowl, combine the milk and vinegar, stir, and allow it to sit for 5 minutes to curdle. 
To the dry milk, whisk in the eggs, vinegar/milk, sour cream, food coloring and vanilla.
Let your griddle or frying pan get hot and melt some butter in your pan. Using an ice cream scoop (if you have one...I prefer the 1/4 c scoop. It works for everything!) ladle in your batter and immediately sprinkle some chocolate chips over the batter. Flip once there are little bubbles forming in the middle of the pancake.
This recipe yields around 20 pancakes.

Cream Cheese Glaze

Whisk 2 cups of powdered sugar, 6 Tbsp softened cream cheese (you need it pretty soft so you might microwave it for 20 seconds before mixing), 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla into a bowl. Add a bit more milk if your glaze is too thick.

Serve pancakes with a light drizzle of the cream cheese glaze and a dusting of powdered sugar. These are rich so make sure you have a big glass of milk or cup of black coffee close by.

Happy Holidays Y'all!

Next Level - Garlicky Sausage Balls

Tis' the season to make sausage balls. The good old stand by that seems to be present at every holiday gathering. My sister recently made these for breakfast and I loved that idea. I mean, we like sausage so why not? It has all of the breakfast staples in it, right? Well, I made some today with a bit of tweaking and am in love. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. They are perfect for a bit size pick me up!

1 package of Bisquick garlic cheese biscuit mix
1 lb jimmy dean mild sausage- uncooked
1 8oz container of cream cheese softened
4 oz of sharp cheddar freshly grated
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Line a cookie sheet with foil and preheat your oven to 400. Combine all in a is typically best to do this with your hands. Form little walnut size balls and place on the cookie sheet, about two inches apart. Bake for around 20 minutes until balls are lightly golden brown on top. Allow to cool (if you can wait!) before eating.

Enjoy Y'all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chi-Town Christmas! - Grandma's Italian Beef Sandwiches

I think it is still funny that I married a Yankee. I don't know why but when I planned out my life map I never imagined I would marry someone who didn't wear cowboy boots and that we would name our first born after a baseball stadium not in the Lone Star State. I had many names picked out for my kids prior to having kids, like Tex and Dallas but never Wrigley. With his family came many new traditions. Besides bleeding Cubs blue they also have many foods that they are passionate about like pizza and sweet potatoes but especially Italian Beef. I had never had Italian beef in my life prior to my first year at his grandma's house. I like beef, I am a beef eater and I immediately fell in love with the dish. I cook mine slightly different then grandma does but they taste fairly similar. She has a lovely pot that she got when she was married many, many years ago that has cooked this family staple in on more Christmas Eve's then I can count. Italian Beef is sort of a northern twist on the southern pot roast, although you serve it between crusty Italian bread and dip it in it's own "gravy" or Au jus as the fancy pants call it. It is delicious. I love it and I have carried on this tradition around this neck of the woods for every Christmas eve since. This one's for you Grandma. I hope our grand kids enjoy this dish around our table one day as we gather to celebrate this wonderful season!

1 3-5 lbs eye of round roast
3 cups water
3 beef bullion cubes
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup red cooking wine
1 large sliced onion
2 green bell peppers sliced
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp dried Italian seasonings
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes

Place all ingredients into either a crock pot or a dutch oven. If cooking in the crock pot, set it to low for 6-8 hours. If cooking on the stove top, turn it to medium low and simmer. After 2-3 hours on the stove top and after 4-5 hours in the crock pot, take out the meat and thinly slice it. You can use a meat slicer or a good sharp knife, then return the meat to the pot and allow it to continue cooking, either 2-3 hours more on the stove top or 3-4 hours in the crock pot.
To serve you will need 8-12 Italian rolls
16-20 slices of provolone cheese

Split the rolls and place the cheese between the bread then layer in your meat and onions. Ladle some of the meat juice in little bowls to dip individual sandwiches in. I like to spread on some horseradish sauce on my sandwich but that is going against everything Grandma teaches.

Enjoy Y'all!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I owe you this one - Caper Dill Remoulade

I feel kind of bad that I have left you all hanging on a few recipes. I know I owe you a cheesecake recipe and I am sure there are more but today I am going to give you my caper remoulade recipe. I use this in place of tarter sauce. It makes everything taste better! I had a similar sauce at a local restaurant with a fish and chips order and it was all I could do not to just stick my spoon in the little ramekin and eat it up! It was so delicious. So, I came home and played around with things a bit and came up with my own. I love it and it is perfect with the marinated shrimp cocktail, fish sticks, baked salmon, crab cakes, anything! It is so much better than the creamy flavorless white stuff you buy. I love the salty dill taste and the bit of heat.

1 cup of good mayonnaise (I prefer Duke's)
2 Tbsp capers chopped
8 dill pickle hamburger chip slices minced  plus 1 Tsp pickle juice
1/2 Tbsp dried dill (or fresh)
4 dashes of Louisiana or Texas Pete hot sauce
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

Stir all together in a bowl. If time permits, allow it to sit overnight in the fridge for the flavors to marry. This will keep up to 5 days in the fridge.

Enjoy Y'all!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Magical Morning - Christmas Morning Casserole

I don't know if there is another morning that is as magical as Christmas morning! The house always smells more like fairy dust and glitter that day and the anticipation of goodies left by the big man puts everyone on edge with excitement! I love Christmas morning! It has changed a lot since having kids. Last year my oldest got a scooter and managed to get out of bed, crawl over grandpa, open three doors and walk past one uncle and got to his presents before anyone was awake! I could not believe it! We all woke up to hearing him ride the scooter through the house and yelling about all of the goodies Santa had left. My youngest rolled out of bed, walked in to find his new red bubble car and just parked his little booty inside the car until he was fully awake. Tradition in our house on this morning has always been breakfast casserole. We love it. I can make it the night or two before and just bake it that morning. It is hearty and keeps us full until we are ready to sit and eat a big meal in the afternoon. I usually have monkey bread and fruit with's Christmas after all!

Christmas Morning Casserole

8 slices of bread torn in pieces
1 lbs of mild pork sausage cooked and drained (use a potato masher when cooking any ground meat, it gives the meat a more even texture when cooking and doesn't leave you with huge chunks!)
2 cups frozen cubed hasbrowns
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
7 eggs
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

Grease a 9x13 and line with bread. Next, layer sausage, hasbrowns and cheese. In a large bowl combine the remaining ingredients and whisk to make sure everything is really combined. You don't want to bite down into a lump of mustard or full egg yoke. Pour mixture over the layers and allow it to sit for 30 minutes to overnight to soak in. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden and a knife comes out clean when inserted.

Enjoy Y'all!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fancy Shmancy - Marinated Shrimp Cocktail

I have said it before but I grew up a preacher's kid. We were on a very limited budget so there are things like steak and seafood and cokes that we didn't have much of growing up. I remember the day my mom finally allowed me to order a Dr. Pepper out in public and thinking that I had moved up in the world by ordering a big girl drink. So, growing up you can imagine that when someone would have seafood at an event I would thought that they were loaded. I mean, who serves seafood to their friends, right? I love seafood and don't get to eat it as much as I would like since it brings out some crazy reactions in my house. I usually buy one fillet at a time so I don't have a bunch of waste but I hate only cooking for one! I have had some yummy seafood in my life, everything from fresh caught halibut by a halibut fisherman in Alaska to gulf coast shrimp fresh off the dock in Galveston to wild caught Maine lobster right out of the crate. I love it all! Shrimp cocktail is one of the few seafood items, and I mean few, that my husband will eat. We don't have it much unless I get a crazy good deal on shrimp since we are now the poor ones. Seafood cocktail is great but usually the shrimp has a bland taste, as if it is begging for some spicy friends to join in the cocktail party. I came up with a quick fix that will liven up shrimp cocktail in a jiffy! You must have really good, really good, cocktail sauce to go with shrimp cocktail, first rule. Second, you must also have a good tarter sauce for those that want to live a little. I make a yummy caper remoulade that I will share one day, but today is not that day. Third, you will need a lot of sliced lemons to have on the side for those who want an extra splash. Forth, you must marindae the shrimp prior to serving. The shrimp need some love. I am telling you, once you make this shrimp cocktail recipe once you will never go back to the boring shrimp ring. Those are the rules, now get busy. Really, your friends will be begging you to throw all of the parties and serve this (especially if you are footing the bill for the food!) But, you must also partner this shrimp with Yellow Rose Cafe: I owe you this one - Caper Dill Remoulade. Promise, they were made for each other.

Marinated Shrimp Cocktail
2 lbs 31-40 count jumbo shrimp pealed and deveined (the count is how many there are per pound. This is enough for a large party for approx 25 guests)
3 lemons thinly sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp old bay seasoning
2 tsp Louisiana hot sauce (more if you like it hot!)
Pour all of this and the rinsed shrimp into a large ziplock bag. Shake it around and allow it to sit in the fridge overnight. Serve with fresh lemon wedges, tarter and cocktail sauce.
I know, it looks almost so simple that you shouldn't bother with it but it makes a world of difference!!

Enjoy Y'all!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

King Ranch - Homemade Ranch Dip

Ranch dressing might possibly be the most delightful friend that a veggie has ever had. I don't know why but I always feel so healthy when I am sitting down to a big bowl of carrots and ranch. I remember my mom buying huge bottles of Hidden Valley growing up and how it made everything taste better! I love Ranch. I don't know if that is just the Texas girl in me or just America in general but I love it! But, I don't like to pay 2-3.00 dollars for a little bitty two cup container of dip every time I am in the mood from some classic Lay's or carrots. I am way too cheap for that. So, I came up with a homemade ranch-like dip that I am in love with. I LOVE dill and this recipe has a ton of it. You can lay off of the dill a bit but you might be very sorry you did!! Hopefully, you will never buy another overpriced tub of love again!

1 cup good mayonnaise (I know, I sound like a snob. I am about some things and this is one of them. Don't go cheap!)
1 cup sour cream
2 1/2 Tbsp dried dill weed (fresh is best but I rarely have it on hand)
3 Tbsp dried onion flakes
2 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Fresh cracked black pepper

Combine all in a bowl. It is best if it can be made the night before to allow the flavors to fall in love with each other. This is great with veggies, chips, crackers, cheese, grilled chicken, taco topping...anything you can find to dip!

Enjoy Y'all!

Tassie Lassie - Perfect Pecan Tassie

Tassies are totally a Southern thing. I had never heard of one growing up and have since had to explain what a tassie is when I have made them for parties. Tassies are a genius idea. I love bite size things and tassies are the perfect little bit size pies. I really love pecan tassies. I am not a huge fan of pecan pie, typically I am good with one little sliver to last me through the whole holiday season. I found a recipe for some tassies and although they looked great I could tell I would have a total overflow of filling  to the amount of crust. So, I modified the recipe a wee bit and it turned out great. These are a perfect pick up treat to add with your desserts. These would also be lovely topped off with some cinnamon whipped cream...but then again, what wouldn't be? 

Perfect Pecan Tassie
1 pkg of refrigerated pie crust (there will be two per package)
1 cup of pecans
 1/2 stick of butter + 1 Tbsp
1/2 c corn syrup
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Using a mason jar lid, or a 2.5 " cookie cutter, cut out circles from your pie crusts and gently push them down into a heavily greased mini muffin pan, this recipe should yield 36 of those beauties. You can use the end of a rolling pen to help you get the crust all the way to the bottom of your pan.
In a heavy saucepan, place 1 Tbs of butter in with your pecans and turn the heat to medium low. You are going to saute your pecans for around 8-10 minute, stirring occasionally, until they get all nice and toasty. Then, take a little spoon and divide them into the bottom of your crust lined muffin cups and set aside.
In the same heavy saucepan that you cooked your pecan throw in your stick of butter and turn your head to a medium until it has melted. Once it has melted, turn the temp down slightly and allow your butter to brown. You will know it has browned properly when it is a nice amber color, it smells heavenly, I mean, toasty, and little fat particles are sitting around the top. Watch it closely so it does not burn on you. That is gross. Once the butter has browned, allow it to cool slightly then pour it into a large mixing bowl.
To the bowl, at the remaining ingredients and whisk well to make sure you don't have any large pieces of egg white. You don't want it to look like scrabbled egg pecan pies. I like to take this mixture then pour it into a measuring cup with a handle to help me pour it better, but if you have a small pitcher that works well. Pour about 3 tsp of filling into each cup until you run out of filling. Bake the tassies at 350 for 14-17 minutes until bubbly and set. If they have a slight wiggle to them, they will set up more firm once they are cooled. Allow them to cool before removing them.

Enjoy Y'all!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Spoonful of love - Chocolate Caramel Bread Pudding

If you have been with me all along you know that I am pretty honest about what I love and don't love. There are thing in my life that I don't love, even after telling myself that they are good or good for me I still can't do it. Like fresh tomatoes, I only like them thinly sliced on BLT's but I can't rock them otherwise. I remember the day I suddenly liked mustard and craved it on a burger and I remember the first time I bit into a mushroom and didn't mind that it squeaked a bit. This dish is one of those that I have grown to love. Bread pudding. I think you either fall into two categories, love or hate. There is no middle ground. I didn't have bread pudding growing up, at least I don't remember having it. I remember seeing it and kind of being grossed out by it but then I started thinking of things that I love that contain the same elements like breakfast casserole or french toast. Same idea, different outcome. I had a bread pudding at a local restaurant several years ago and remember being struck at how lovely it was, how it didn't gross me out but yet, how it had me begging for more. I then made a butterscotch bread pudding last year with a warm white chocolate sauce that that sealed the deal...I love it. I don't like raisins at all and I think that is a lot of why I have never cared for bread pudding. But, bread pudding in a pure form is so lovely to me. And, when you add in chocolate and put a warm caramel sauce on top....HEAVEN! SO, I made up this beauty today. I am hosting a girls group tonight at the house for a dessert only gather (which always stresses me out!) and I decided to try out a new recipe. I know, that goes against everything Ina preaches but a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do. I had a lovely loaf of french bread begging to be smothered in cream and chocolate and jar of caramel sauce hanging out so I combined the two and they have become instant best friends. I present to you chocolate bread pudding with warm caramel sauce. Delicious!

Chocolate Bread Pudding
6 cups stale french bread torn in chunks
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 light brown sugar
2 cups milk
3 eggs beaten
1/2 cup cold coffee
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup bittersweet cocoa chips
1 bottle of caramel ice cream topping warmed up

Toss the bread in a bowl with the cocoa powder, and sugars. In another bowl combine the remaining ingredients the pour over the bread and toss to coat. Be gentle as to not break up the bread and form a mush. Pour into a greased casserole pan, preferably one that is round with high sides, not a 9x13. Bake for approx 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool briefly. Serve into individual bowls and spoon over a heavy drizzle of warm caramel sauce. Top with a dollop of whipped cream if you want to be added to the naughty list.

Enjoy Y'all!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's not to love? - Banana's Foster Cheesecake

One word, cheesecake. Do you love it like I do?? I love it. Any flavor, any crust, any topping....I love them all. The cheesecake factory display counter is like a beacon of light drawing me in closer and closer. I usually find myself with my mouth gaping wide open at the site of all of the deliciousness that is only separated by a thin sheet of glass. Cheesecakes are a delicate treat and one that should really only be enjoyed ever so often due to the sheer amount of cream and love that goes into one. I am not a fake cheesecake girl, you know, the kind you open up a bag of some powder stuff and pour in some other stuff and then let it cool and it will set. Those don't fool me for a second. I want the real deal when I have one. I want to be able to glide my fork through the soft center and lick every morsel off of the plate when I am done. I have a cheesecake recipe that I will share at a later time but this recipe is for all of you who need a quick fix dessert and want to really impress your guests. Drum roll please.....I present to you Banana's Foster Cheesecake. Well, really you are only going to make the topping but you will take credit for the WHOLE THING! Got it!? This will have your guests begging for more, I promise. The sweet creamy texture of the caramel bananas and warm gooey sauce are a perfect blend with creamy cheesecake. Best part, it will only take you about 10 minutes to fool everyone.
First, you are going to start with a store bought plain cheesecake. I would buy a good quality one, I mean, don't go cheap now! This topping will make enough for around 6-8 servings so double if you are having a large party.

Banana's Foster Cheesecake
1 store bought cheesecake
4 bananas thinly sliced
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
zest of one orange (optional but delicious)
1/4 cup rum or 2 tsp rum extract (you can omit this all together but you will always wonder....)

In a heavy bottom large saucepan on medium heat combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon. Allow the sauce to bubble and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly, then add in the bananas. Allow the bananas to caramelize in the sauce, approx. 5-6 minutes. If you are not using rum you are ready to serve. If you are using run, remove the pan from the heat, pour in the rum, then return to the heat and light with a long lighter. Allow the alcohol to burn off, approx 2-3 minutes. Place cheesecake on individual plates then top off with sauce. You can also use this topping over ice cream, just pre scoop and freeze then bowls before topping.

Mock-Cocktail Time - Holiday Pomegranate Punch

I love punch recipes. They are all the same yet different. There is something fun about punch at a party and for some reason we only make punch for special occasions. If I could afford it I would have a coffee and punch bar set up year round. Punch seems to be the ultimate southern lady drink and it seems to taste the best when served in a small clear glass cup with your pinkie finger sticking out.
There is party that I have catered for three years now during the holiday. Like most parties they have a large bar area set up but I always make a non-alcoholic option for those who either have had too much to drink, or for those who don't want to even go there in public. It is a pomegranate punch that to me seems to have the perfect sweet and tart bite and it is a beautiful red color. You can easily change it a number of ways since, once again, it is pretty hard to mess up punch! So, for those of you throwing a good party this year, try adding this to your drink line. Don't for get the fancy clear cups!

Pomegranate Punch
1/2 bottle cranberry pomegranate juice
1 liter ginger ale
1/4 bottle orange juice
juice of one lime
Garnishes: frozen lime slices, frozen cranberries, frozen orange slice, fresh mint

Pour all into a large container and throw in frozen garnishes to keep the punch cold.

Enjoy Y'all!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cheesy Taters 101

I love potatoes. I especially love cheesy potato casserole. You know what I am talking about. We call them crack potatoes or my husband's family calls them funeral potatoes because that is what you always take to a family for a meal. Cracker Barrel was probably the first place I ever had cheesy potato casserole but I had them once when I was younger in South Texas and someone had used crinkle fries in the place of hash-browns. It blew my mind. I loved them. They also used cream of mushroom in place of cream of chicken and I loved that too. Really...I love them all!! So, I have decided to put together a basic cheesy potato casserole 101 for those of you out there who are afraid to live a little and step outside of your cooking box. A potato is a potato, you can't mess it up. No matter how much cheese and cream you add to it, it will always love you back! We will be making these in a few weeks for Christmas since this is typically the potato on Christmas day along with a spiral ham and southern green beans. So, pick your potato, pick your cream, pick your topping and get to work!

Cracker Barrel/Funeral/Crack/Cheesy Potato Casserole

Type of frozen potatoes that will always work:
Crinkle Cut Fries
Shoe String Fries
Shredded Hash-browns
Cubed hash-browns

Pick your soup- 1 can per bag of potatoes:
Cream of Chicken
Cream of Mushroom
Cream of Celery

Pick your Cheese- you need 2-3 cups:
Extra Sharp Cheddar
Colby Jack
Pepper Jack

Toppings - need at least 1 cup and you will add 2 Tbsp melted butter:
Crushed potato chips
Crushed butter crackers like Ritz
Crushed corn flakes
Crush gold fish
3/4 cup cheese (DON'T drizzle the 2 Tbsp of butter on this. Come on people!)


1-8 oz container of Sour Cream
1/4 cup milk
1 stick of butter melted
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

Additional Add Ins:
1/2 cup crumbled bacon
2 fresh diced jalapenos
1 small onion diced - can add either raw or saute in 2 tsp olive oil for 5-8 minutes then add in
1/3 cup green onion diced
1/2 cup red or green bell pepper diced

To assemble, pick your potato, pick your soup, pick your cheese (if you want cheese on the top then reserve back 3/4 cup) add the Must Have list. Top with your desired topping and drizzle over 2 Tbsp of melted butter(except if using cheese)

Few of my favorites:
Traditional: Crinkle cut fries, cream of mushroom, Colby jack cheese, sauteed onion and cheese topping
Texas Style: Shoe string potatoes, cream of chicken, add in bacon and jalapeno,pepper-jack cheese, potato chip topping
Kathy's: Shredded Hash-browns, cream of celery, cheddar, corn flakes
Caroline: Cubed hash-browns, cream of chicken, add in onion and red bell pepper, sharp cheddar and Ritz topping

Enjoy Y'all!

On a Roll!! - Maple Pork Tenderloin

Okay, I know, four posts in one day?! I am trying to make up for lost times. This weekend I put together my giant cookbooks that are full of items and recipes I have seen and torn from all sorts of magazines. Yes, I have even torn some out of magazines from the doctors office. I know, I am that girl! But, when I see something I must have it. I look flipping through the pages of these books. Some of the things I have in my books I clipped in college! Crazy. Other ideas I have in my books I have recently seen resurface on pinterest as "original" and yet I have clippings dating back ten years ago of the same thing! Anyway, I have several new things I want to make and found some of my recipes I scratched in pen in the midst of cooking that I hope to get to sharing with you all soon. I am getting a new camera for Christmas so my plan is to start taking more photos and posting those as well. Because once you start drooling you start cooking, right?!
Well, this recipe is nothing too original, just super yummy this time of year and super simple. It is a maple pork tenderloin and would be divine with creamy cheese grits (although I made noodle kugel with it)
This is great for when you have company and cooks up in a jif!

Maple Pork Tenderloin
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/3 tsp salt
2 pork tenderloins (the long skinny ones)

Pour all of the above into a zip lock bag. Rub the mixture all around and over the meat to make sure it really gets in there. You can marinade this for 30 minutes up to overnight.
Remove from mixture and place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes until meat thermometer registers 180. Remove and let it rest 3-5 minutes before thinly slicing. I like to serve with creamy horseradish sauce.

Enjoy Y'all!

What's up Butternut? - Instant Butternut Squash Soup

This time last year I was preparing to teach a holiday cooking class. It was gobs of fun and I enjoyed being able to research and write and read about food and calling it all "work". For me it doesn't get better than that. One of the recipes I sort of made up on the fly was an instant butternut squash soup. I am no expert on butternut squash, I have used it in several different methods and I have had many different variations of soups so my goal was to try to bring them all together to bring out the sweet buttery simple goodness of the lovely veggie. I think I might have pulled it off. My husband even ate a small bowl and that is saying A LOT!  So, for those of you and in a yummy soup mood try this one on for size. I hope it hits you in the right spot and brings you a little comfort during this joyous season!!

Instant Butternut Squash Soup
1 lb butternut squash cut in cubes (this can be found in most stores already ready to go this time of year)
4 cups chicken stock ( you can use veggies too)
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ginger
Dash of cayenne
2 Tbsp butter

Place squash in a microwave safe bowl with 1/3 cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 7 minutes until fork tender.
In a blender or food processor place all of the above ingredients, including the squash but NOT the butter and blend until smooth. Pour soup into pot,  add the butter and simmer on medium heat until warmed and slightly thickened.
Serve with sour cream and crumbled bacon if desired (but really, who wouldn't want to?! )

Enjoy y'all!

I've had the Lime of my life... - Brooke's Key Lime Dip

Okay, I know. Terrible title. But, once you have had this dip this will be the best way you will have ever enjoyed a lime in your life. Believe me, I know. I love limes. I grew up on sonic limeades and key lime pies. I hesitated sharing this recipe because once word ever gets out about this, I will be famous and I am holding the fame off for as long as possible. No really, if anyone has direct connections with the food network please hook me up. I don't need to have a show, just a book and publisher. Deal?! I will provide you with all of the lime dip you could ever imagine.
I made this for a women's event at our church. I have made it before but once you put something really yummy in front of a group of women, it is like throwing out chicken feed to the hungry coup. They all gobble up and cluck and shake with excitement. This had a similar affect on the women. I had one lady tell me she wanted to jump in the bowl and eat it, I witnessed another literally lick her plate as to note waste a bite. It's pretty good. And, when you see how easy it is you will be mad that you didn't think of it. But...hold on to your it is folks!!

Brooke's Key Lime Dip- to be served with fresh fruit, a must have with strawberries! you can even just serve with spoons!

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 10oz jar good quality lime curd (I like Dickinson's) warm it in the microwave in 20 second intervals about three times to loosen it up so it will mix in with a smooth non-lumpy texture.
2 limes - you will need zest and juice

Combine all in a bowl. If you want to double this (which you will) just add one additional can of milk and the zest and juice of 2 limes)
If you have any left overs (which you won't) fold it into a large container of cool whip and pour into a graham cracker crust for a yummy lime pie.

Told you, it was easy. Enjoy!

Edible Gifts - Ritz Toffee

Does it get any better then that? I love it when my gift are things I can savor and smell and share. This season I have been overwhelmed with sweets and sugarplums dancing in my head. Everything looks good! I have read and re-read recipes and flagged page after page of must tries that is is hard to know where to start. But, I must. So, last week I had a big group of girlfriends over and decided to try out a new recipe that I have been eyeballing for years. I had this item at a party years ago and the buttery richness and sweet salty after bite was burned in my memory. I found this recipe in a book of mine and it had very few instructions which 1. amazed me and 2. frightened me. I know that dealing with sugar can be tricky business so I am going to share with you the recipe with a few more details added that will hopefully help you put this on your top ten list of things to make to give to others. They are worth making and sharing, and making again and sharing again...because you don't want too many of these things hanging around your house or your heart will never be the same :) By the way...happy early holidays!!

Ritz Toffee aka Heavenly Crackers

1 Tube Ritz crackers
2 sticks salted butter
1/2 c sugar
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup good quality bittersweet chocolate (I prefer ghiradelli)

Line a cookie sheet with foil. Next, line your cookie sheet with the crackers. Set aside. Turn your oven to 350.
In a heavy saucepan on low heat melt your butter. When the butter is almost totally melted add in the sugar  and turn to a medium low heat and stir occasionally until the mixture starts to boil. Once the mixture reaches a boiling point, turn back down to a lower heat where it is still boiling and do not stir for three minutes. After three minutes, stir in 1/2 c of the almonds and pour the mixture over the crackers.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until the sugar mixture has reached a nice amber color. Remove from the oven.
Put the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until the chips are melted. Using a fork, drizzle the chocolate over the crackers then immediately top with the remaining almonds. Allow the mixture to cool completely before breaking into chunks. You can even pop it in the freezer to speed up the process.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tis the Season

Today, I will not be writing about food. If you are only in this for the food then let me say now that I am sorry. Today is the first of several that I have not had to wake up at the crack of dawn to start working on my to-do list. These past few days and weeks have been filled with flour and sugar and fondant and cupcake liners and soap and kind of makes my head spin to think about it. I fell into bed last night with one heavy sigh relieved that my brain could start to focus on something else other then orders to fill.
This season of life has had such an impact on my life. This season of fall or autumn has had quite significant meanings for me. The first date I ever had with my husband was in the fall, the birth of my second child was in the fall. My senses really heighten in the fall due to the wonderful beauty that is ever changing and surrounding me that is all created by an artist whose majesty I have yet to behold. The fall represents life and birth and love and death and a promise that we are not forgotten. We are part of an amazing life group through our church. Our group has changed the past few years for many reasons with some couples coming and going and others who had to leave because of life circumstances but there is a core group that has stuck together and we now have some wonderful additions to our group who have no idea what they are getting into. Our group has been through so much, these are the people that go through the trenches with you and come up on the other side with a better understanding of your life and you of theirs. We are perfectly imperfect people in a perfectly imperfect world. Last night our discussion was about our group and about God's church and about the promise of grace that we all have. I am so grateful for this gift that at times it is overwhelming to me that I could ever be worthy for such a gift. Today in my study of revelation we learned of the King of Kings who will come riding in on his horse to pick up his bride and what a site it will be for all of us. This wonder and amazement is almost too much to take in and yet I am so thankful that we have a slight glimpse of this promise to keep us going. I need it. I need reminders that this is not it. That my busy life filled with business is not it. That my heart ache or pain is not it. That my purpose is much greater then I will ever know.
Thank you God for your promise. Thank you for this group you have surrounded our family with who will love us and provide a little light as to what the other side will be like. Thank you for never leaving us even when we don't understand this season we are in. But, thank you for making me perfectly imperfect and for providing a promise of something greater then I will ever imagine.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chicken Can-Cantina Soup!

I love soup! I am sure you know that about now but I do. It is cheap, warm, comforting and you can put just about anything in a broth and make it taste good. I came across a simple and yummy looking recipe for an easy chicken fiesta soup and decided to put my own spin on it, and I am glad I did! This is an easy soup that can simmer all day in the crock pot and is one that can be easily multiplied to feed the multitudes. I love the rich creamy texture and the heat it has from the chilies and the fresh bite of cilantro added for some bright texture. Put this one in the books folks, it's gonna be a keeper!
Chicken Can-Cantina Soup

1 can rotel - undrained
1 can sweet corn - drained
1 can black beans - drained and rinsed (so your soup doesn't turn purple or grey!! yuck!!)
1 can nacho cheese soup
2 chicken breasts - frozen or thawed
4 oz cream cheese
1 Tbsp ranch dry seasoning
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tsp garlic salt
1 Tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp chicken soup base (better than bullion)
1/4 cup cilantro chopped

Dump all ingredients into either your crockpot if you are cooking it slow or stockpot if you are cooking it fast. Add to it two cans of water (I used the nacho cheese can so I could get out all of the goods. Something about bean water didn't sound so lovely. Crockpot - turn on low for six-8 hours, Stockpot, allow to come to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 min to an hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the chicken and shred it, then return it back to the pot. Right before serving, throw in cilantro and stir.
I like to serve this with a dollop of sour cream (because you didn't get enough with the cream cheese and nacho cheese) a wedge of lime and broken tortilla chips. You can also add fresh avocado and more cilantro or shredded cheddar.
Some jalapeno cheddar cornbread would be the perfect addition to serve with this.
Enjoy y'all!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Party On! - 21st Century Taco Salad

I don't know about you but we love to throw a good party! But, parties are expensive! I have thrown together many a party in my time and have served everything from spaghetti and meatballs to quick pantry throw together meals. We just enjoy opening up our home, no matter what shape it may be in, to those that we love. I believe that feeding others is really a way to nourish ones soul and I love pouring out my love to others through meals.
One of the classic party meals I remember from growing up was taco salads. You know the ones I am talking about, where items like Frito's, shredded coconut and Catalina dressing were part of the toppings. What a strange mix! We work with our youth at church and I believe that I if I tried to serve those items as part of a taco bar they might walk out on me. Well, I think I have found a solution to updating the old classic and still being very budget friendly!! Please welcome the burrito bowl. The idea comes from our new local joint, Chiptole. They are known for fresh food and flavors. My favorite meat on their menu is the pulled shredded pork, aka, carnitas. It has the perfect velvet texture when mixed with crunchy lettuce and creamy black beans. If you don't like pork, get over yourself. Kidding, you can use this cooking method on chicken I am sure...but you will be sorry :) That will probably cost you a lot more and will not be as lovely.
So drum roll please....I bring you Brooke's Burrito Bowl, aka, 21st Century Taco Salad!! (enough for 4 adults but can easily and quickly be multiplied)
(bear in mind, there are a few steps but they can quickly be done ahead of time and either quickly reheated or pulled from the fridge)

Fake Carnitas (you will notice that there is not a strong Mexican seasoning with this. I only used half of the butt that I bought so I mildly flavored it so that I can turn it into something else)
1-2-3lb pork butt (a 8-9 lb butt would serve 15-20, just double the cumin, pepper and garlic)
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 package of Lipton onion soup mix
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
(If you are using all of this meat for this dish and want to make it more authentic, add 2 chilies in adobo sauce chopped, 1 small can of tomato sauce and double the cumin to 2 tsp)
Throw all of this into a crockpot and let it simmer for 8 hours. Turn the heat off and let it rest, then remove from the pan and shred into a bowl. Spoon 1/4 cup of cooking juice over the top. Cover and wait for serving.

1 Can black beans- just open them up, pour them into a pan and add 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp garlic salt. Allow them to simmer on low. If you are serving a larger crowd then multiply as needed.

1 cup white rice- cook according to package instructions adding in 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp lemon pepper seasoning and 1/2 tsp cumin.
Once it is cooked add in:
Juice of one lime
2-3 Tbps fresh chopped cilantro

1/2 cup thawed frozen sweet corn (double as needed)

1 head thinly sliced romaine lettuce

Sour cream
grated sharp cheddar
avocado slices
tortilla chips

Set all ingredients out for your buffet line. You can add any topping you want including sliced black olives or fresh chopped cilantro and sliced limes. The idea is to layer this way: Rice, beans, meat, corn, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, salsa and chips are on the side.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Little Bite of Happy - Mini Brie Phyllo Cups/ Mini Chocolate Caramel Cups

I love all things small. I live for holiday appetizer parties because I love them. There is something about neat little small one bite things that makes me want to squeal like a schoolgirl. Whether it is mini cheeseballs, blt bites, sausage balls, whatever...I love them! So, when I discovered the mini Phyllo cups in the freezer section a few years back I knew that we would be instant best friends. The crispy crunchy Phyllo is just asking to be filled with anything your mind can think up! I have filled them with everything from chicken salad to feta and asparagus but two of my favorite fillings I am going to share with you today. Because I love you. And I want you to squeal like a girl too after you taste the first bite. I promise, you will be the star of any party with either of these babies. Enjoy!!

Mini Brie Phyllo Cups- Makes 30 cups but can easily be doubled
1 package mini phyllo cups
1 small wedge of brie (don't buy the cheapest kind or it will not be the same)
1/2 cup raspberry preserves

Remove the phyllo cups from the package and place on parchment paper lined foil sheet. Next, place a spoon full of brie into each cup (approx. 1/2-1 Tbsp per cup) You may need to gently mash it into the cup so as it melts the brie doesn't spill everywhere. That would be bad. Next, place a tiny dollop(1/4 tsp) of raspberry on top of the brie. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until the brie is soft and gooey. Serve right away.
*Variation- If I happen to not have raspberry preserves on hand I will sometimes use apricot preserves or just cook the brie in the cups alone then when they are warm give the whole pan a heavy drizzle of honey. Yum!

Mini Chocolate Caramel Cups
1 Pkg mini phyllo cups
1 jar caramel sauce (I like Smucker's or Hershey)
3/4 c chocolate chips (either semi sweet or bittersweet) I prefer ghirardelli at all times!!!
1/2 cup either chopped honey roasted or lightly salted peanuts or heath toffee bar pieces

Remove plastic cover from phyllo cups but keep them in their neat little package. Next, spoon is appox 1 Tbsp of caramel sauce into the bottom of each up.
Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and cook at 30 second intervals until melted, stirring in between. This should only take 1 minute total. Once the chocolate is melted, dip the end of a fork into the warn chocolate and drizzle over the caramel cups. Quickly sprinkle on either peanuts or toffee pieces (or both) and let the chocolate set before serving.
These will keep up to two days at room temp (if they can last that long!)

To smoke or not to smoke... - Un-Smoked, Smoked Pork Butt

We are a meat family. I am a meat girl, I married a meat man, we have meat children. We like meat. I am always up for a new and simple way to use meat but I typically revert back to my old ways with some things. This recipe I am going to share is one of those things that I always go back to. It is simple, delicious and you can't really mess it up at all which I love! This is perfect for a simple fall supper because you can stretch it out to feed as many as needed (within reason!) My husband is a big meat smoker but it is hard to find an extra 18 hours in the weekend to smoke these days. So, when you are in the mood from some good BBQ an don't have time for smoking, throw this baby in the oven and you will not be let down. Promise!!

Un-Smoked, Smoked Pork Butt (sorry, that is what it is)
1 6-9 lb pork butt. You can ask your meat man for this and he will know what you are talking about. It is the shoulder of the pork and has a large bone inside that will easily slip out once it is cooked.
2-3 Tbsp seasoned salt
1 Tbsp garlic Salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp ground mustard
3 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 onion sliced
1 cup water
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Bottle of favorite BBQ sauce (we love Sweet Baby Ray's)

Depending on if you want to do this in your oven or crock pot, either place the meat in your crock pot or a large dutch oven or roasting pan. Sprinkle all of the dry seasonings (seasoned salt, garlic salt, black pepper and ground mustard) on the meat and rub it in, just like you would lotion on your legs. Next, pour in the smoke and Worcestershire sauce over the meat. To the side of the meat and around it place the sliced onion, bay leaves and water. If cooking in a crock pot, cover and allow the meat to cook on low for 8-10 hours (however long you plan on sleeping) If you are cooking this in an oven, cover your pan tightly with heavy duty foil and you can place on 350 for 4-5 hours or on 225 for 8-10 hours. Once you have finished cooking, remove the meat from the heat source (or just turn the crock pot off) and allow the meat to sit for at least one hour. This steaming process will continue to cook the meat and make it juicy. After an hour, remove the lid and place the butt in another pan or bowl so you can shred it. You can discard the onion juice. Shred the meat using two forks and slide the bone out. After you have shred the meat, squeeze 1/2 bottle of BBQ sauce over the meat and gently toss. You don't want the meat to become meat mush mash (got that? ) Cover until ready to serve.
I like to serve mine with sliced dill pickles and a good drizzle of BBQ sauce. Depending on where you live you might want to top it off with slaw. Your choice. Either way, you can't go wrong!

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's Fall Y'all! - Roma's Meat Marinade

So, whatcha cookin' this weekend?? We are headed out on a retreat with our youth group for the weekend! I can not wait to sit around a campfire eating s'mores, drinking hot cocoa and singing worship songs! It is going to be beautiful!!! We are going to head up a bit early to help get lunch on the table (go figure) and on the menu is marinated chicken for Saturday night. This recipe I am going to share with you is not my own but I must be shared. It is delicious for pork tenderloin, pork chops, chicken....anything that walked on this earth (sorry to any of you vegetarians out there!) The meat is best if it has soaked up this love for two days, repeat, two days. And, it is best to grill the meat that has been in this lovely marinade. So, drum roll please.....
Roma's Meat Marinade

1 Part Newman's Own Oil and Vinegar Salad Dressing
1 Part Allegro Meat Marinade (in the marinade section, it is the bottle with the Gold foil lid. Fancy!)
1/2 part lemon juice
2-3 springs rosemary (my extra special touch)

Place meat and marinade in a bowl and allow it to soak for up to two days. This marinade can be doubled as much as needed and it is always delicious!! Take your meat out and let it rest before throwing it on a hot grill. Any meat that is cooked in this marinade is good served with a creamy horseradish sauce.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Feel Bad- Chicken Malano

I feel bad, I can't help it. I just looked and there were almost 70 of you last month who checked the site for something new and I let you down. I am sorry! Last a month that I will not soon forget. I really had to tell myself to stop so I could catch my breath! I officially launched my cake business so I made about 400 phone calls regarding that, filled several orders and participated in two shows, not to mention I hosted my own version of cupcake wars with some of my best girlfriends that lasted until 1:00AM! I hope to keep blogging regularly, I love it, I long for it. I think if things constantly I want to write and share with you but finding the time to sit is always tricky. So, today I am going to share with you a simple quick and easy recipe for those of you who are in a time crunch like me. I know three people who just had babies and several who have had other life drama so I am needing things I can throw together to quickly wrap up and deliver to someone in need. This is perfect for that quick meal. Ingredients are usually super cheap when you hit them on sale and as much as I don't like to buy things "bottled", I couldn't resist how easy this was.
I hope you will enjoy. My little ones ate this up! This is enough to for 6-8 adults. Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Chicken Malano (from Macaroni Grill)
3-4 chicken breasts
1 cup bottled Italian salad dressing
salt and pepper
Pour the above in a bowl and allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
1 box pasta (I like bow tie for this but you can use any long noodle, just preferably nothing hollow)
1 jar classic Alfredo sauce (I know, just go with me)
10-15 sliced mushrooms
1/4-1/2 cup half and half, heavy cream, milk
6-8 sun dried tomatoes diced
1 box frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry
3-4 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
2-3 Tbsp prepared pesto (I used trader Joe's brand and it rocked)
Bring 2 quarts water to a boil, add 2-3 Tbsp salt, dump in pasta and let it cook until al dente (not total mush!)
In a large saute pan, drizzle in 2-3 Tbsp olive oil. Toss in mushrooms and allow them to simmer 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile, go heat up your grill and start grilling the chicken breasts, approx ten minutes per side until cooked through. Bring them in and allow them to rest.
Back to that saute pan, to the mushrooms add the sun dried tomatoes, spinach, Alfredo sauce, and 2-3 Tbsp of the Parmesan cheese. Throw in a good dash of salt and a good heavy turn on fresh cracked black pepper(because you should have no other kind in your pantry. When I mean heavy I mean a good 10-13 turns) Turn the heat to low, stir then slowly stir in cream.
Once the pasta has cooked, quickly drain and return to the pot. Pour over cream sauce. Thinly slice chicken that has rested and add to pasta, stirring to coat. If it seems a bit dry, ad a splash more cream. Pour into individual plates or large serving bowl and drizzle with pesto and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. If you have fresh parsley on hand you can chop some and sprinkle on the top. Yummy!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Recouping - Apple Praline Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Well, the big muffin just returned from his big half day of school, all 3.5 hours of it. That was probably the longest 3.5 hours of my life. I went to pick him up from school and was delighted to see a huge smile across his face. Of course, he can't remember his teacher's name but who cares? He had fun!

While he was gone I decided to try some self therapy by making some cupcakes. And, they have hit the perfect happy spot that I needed. Since we are in back to school mood, I decided to try out some fresh apple cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and praline topping. Did you get all of that? It was sort of a recipe gone wild. I don't know about you but one of my favorite things in this whole wide world to eat are caramel apples. There is a store in Gatinburg that we must go to whenever we are within a good two hour drive. I can smell the caramel cooking as I wind through the Smokey Mountains. I always buy two, one to eat there and one for the way back. I have been known to jump out of my car in the middle of the road to run in and buy these apples. I love them so.

This cupcakes was kind of a duplication of a really good caramel apple...well maybe I went a little overboard. But, I really needed something to cheer me up! I hope these can help you when you need a little self therapy. Enjoy!

Fresh apple cupcakes

1 1/2 c veggie oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all purpose four
1 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 c peeled and grated apples (I had fuji on hand so they were extra sweet!)

Beat oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then slowly add to the oil mixture. Stir in apples. Divide evenly among paper lined cupcake pan (I got 28 cupcakes out of this batter). Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned and toothpick comes out clean.
Allow them to cool before topping.

1 8oz package of cream cheese at room temp
1/2 stick of butter (4 Tbsp) at room temp
1 Tbsp 1/2 and 1/2
2 cups powdered sugar

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until thoroughly combined. With the mixer set on low, slowly add powdered sugar. Add 1/2 and 1/2 and turn up to medium and mix until well combined.
Place cream cheese in a large Ziploc baggie and snip one corner in order to pipe a good dollop on the top of each cupcake.

Praline Topping
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 stick of butter
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar

In a large heavy saucepan over low heat, combine sugar, milk and butter and stir. Once the butter melts, increase the heat to medium/high and allow it to cook for 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add in vanilla and sugar. Allow the mixture to cool completely. I took a spoonful of the praline topping and rolled it in my hand to form a ball then lightly mashed it down to make the topping on my cupcake. I topped each cupcake with a red chocolate heart.


Not good, not bad, just fine.

When I was younger, my dad was always the one to drop me off and pick me up from school. It was his bonding time with us and was just what he did. Every day when I would get in the car my dad would say, "how was your day?" to which I would always respond, "fine". It could have been a terrible day and I would have said "fine". I could have been made fun of or won most popular and I still would have responded with "fine". It's not like I am a woman of few words, but for some reason that one word summed it all up for me.

Today was the beginning of a next major chapter in my life. My oldest muffin started Kindergarten today at our local school. He has been anxious about this moment for years, just like I have, but for many different reasons. I woke up at around 4:45 today and pondered with the thought of him calling in sick, just so that we could have one more day. I have been lucky enough to have my babies with me all day, every day since they were born. They have not been in any sort of preschool (other then when I worked at one) because the way I look at it, you only get five short years with them...then they leave. And things are not the same.

When we got to school he asked if I was going to stay to which I responded with a no. But, I almost said, "I will, if you want me too. And I will look after you, and protect you, and make sure kids are nice to you and that your teacher likes you and that no one says a cuss word. And I will even install a double sided window in your room so that I can sit and observe your every move". But I didn't. The tears started to flow before we even got on the school grounds and as we walked into his room I could feel them starting to creep back to my eyes. We found him a spot and he immediately went to work coloring and observing his new room and his new "friends" as they each made their way into the room. There is only one other boy that we know and it was a relief to see him walk into the room and sit by Wrigs. It gave me such peace of mind to know that he at least had one person who knew him, and to know that he would not be alone today, and hopefully any other day. I wanted to go up to the teacher and let her know how lucky she is to have my baby, my sweet tender hearted baby that I love, but I didn't. I just hugged him, told him I loved him, told him he would be fine and walked out. And the tears started flowing again.

We as women, and parents, are given such an amazing gift, this miracle of life. We are able to grow something and nurture it and pray over it and watch it grow. I pray that I have planted a good seed. I pray that many will come in and out of his life that will be a blessing to him and that he will, in return, be a blessing to them. I pray that my baby will be loved, and I am so thankful that there is one who is really watching over him, and all of us, through a double sided window. So today, I am fine. Not good, not bad, just fine.

And I will be waiting in the carpool line at least an hour early.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Aloha Cowboy! - Pineapple Salsa

I am a Texas girl. I love me some chips and salsa. I love super thin extra crispy chips with warm salsa. Here in Nashville one of my favorite places to eat is Baja Burrito. They have a lovely salsa bar that touches my inner soul and speaks to me. My favorite salsa combo is mixing the hot salsa with the pineapple salsa, yeah, I invented that. Last summer we had a luau with our church class and I needed an easy side dish, so I decided to whip up some pineapple salsa, cause I am a cheese ball that way. It ended up being the right heat with the right amount of sweet. You can easily adjust the heat to your liking. Enjoy!

Pineapple Salsa
1- 28 oz can pineapple rings, drained
1- 28 oz can whole tomatoes drained
1/2 videllia onion
1 large or 2 medium jalapenos, seeded with stems removed
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 bundle of cilantro roughly chopped

Place pineapple in the bowl of a large food processor (or do it in batches if you have a small one). Pulse until the rings are broken up then dump in a large bowl, but DO NOT RE-DRAIN this time! Next, place whole tomatoes in the food processor and pulse until tomatoes are broken up, but not totally beaten to death, then dump in the bowl with pineapple (DON'T RE-DRAIN THESE EITHER!). Next, lightly pulse videllia onion and jalapeno in the processor, then dump into the pineapple bowl. Throw in salt, cumin and cilantro and stir. This is best if you allow the flavors to marry overnight, but it is hard when you have something lovely waiting to be enjoyed!

Brownie, Brownie, Bo Brownie - Best Brownie EVER!!!

I have to admit, there are times that I am a cheap date. I like cheese out of a can (I can't believe I just typed that!) Bud Light (on the few occasions I actually drink) and good old Betty Crocker brownie mix. It is hard to beat a dollar mix when you know that 1) it actually is cheaper to make brownies from a box then scratch and 2) you can't really screw them up, that bad. I love chewy fudgie brownies, the kind that stick to the knife when you cut them because they are, what some might consider "under done". My husband is more of an outer edge sort of brownie guy so we make a nice pair. But, his mother is a fudgie brownie sort of gal so when they come into town...I will not go there.
I was looking through a cookbook the other day and came across a recipe called "The Best Brownies" and thought, yeah right! But, I looked over the ingredients and happened to have everything on hand so I decided to go for it. The recipe says it makes 16 servings, but we didn't get that many for some reason. Weird. I was more like six-ish. I mean I had a serving, then went back for one small sliver, then back again, so technically that all counted as one serving. Right? If you don't have these things on hand, stop what you are doing, go to the store to get the supplies and start baking! Your hips, I mean, loved ones will thank you. They are amazing. They are what the perfect chewy fudgie brownie should be. Don't be a cheap date like me on this one, they are worth it. Promise. Once again, if anyone makes this and needs a taste tester, just call and I will be there.

4- 1oz unsweetened chocolate baking squares
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose four
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
 1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease an 8x8 baking pan (I used a smaller glass baking dish and they were perfect)
2. Microwave chocolate and butter in a bowl on high for 1 1/2 -2 minutes, stirring every 30 second until smooth and melted.
3. In another large bowl, whisk together sugars, flour, salt, vanilla. Pour in melted chocolate/butter and stir. Stir in eggs, one at a time and mix just until combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes until set and toothpick comes out clean. Allow it to cool slightly (if you can keep your hands off of it!) before cutting.

Cool Cup of Joe - Cappucino Punch

I love coffee. I have been begging my five year old to learn how to make it for months so that I can wake up to a fresh pot...I mean since he wants to be up an hour before everyone else he might as well make himself useful! I remember my first trip to Starbucks, it was to the original location by Pike's Place Market in Seattle. I remember the overwhelming wonderful spell of freshly perked coffee and how I knew that it was not going to be just any old cup of coffee! Since I was nine at the time my aunt decided it would be best if I went with an iced coffee, so I did. And it was lovely. And my love affair with the bean quickly started.
This recipe was adapted from one I had years ago. It is the perfect iced coffee and the best addition to any party. We actually served this at our wedding, this and warm apple juice (someone forgot to add in the wassail mix!).  I love it. I could drink gallons of this! If you are a coffee lover, beware!

2 cups of strong coffee (decaf or regular)
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 quart of milk (can use chocolate to make it mocha)
1 pt half and half
2 tsp vanilla
whipped cream (optional)

Combine the coffee and sugar while the coffee is still hot. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into a large Ziploc bag (be sure your bag is inside a bowl in case it leaks!) and freeze for at least 6 hours up to overnight. Remove from freezer 20-30 minutes before serving. Mash the bag to break up any large chunks then pour into a large pitcher. Serve in individual cups and top off with a dollop of whipped cream and dash of cinnamon or chocolate shavings. Enjoy!

Makes 8 servings and can be easily doubled or tripled.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Big Mistake, Big, Huge! - Strawberry Mistake

So, most of you know by now that I am a baker. I guess you could say I do it for a living but it is what has allowed me to stay home with my babies for the past five years. I guess I am not your typical white wedding cake baker, more of a an ace of cakes sort of baker. It was a good was to combine my love of food with my artistic side and it was a natural fit for me. I have been very blessed with this business and some of the clients I have been able to serve. With that being said, last year at camp I decided to make a cake for one of our ministers who was celebrating his birthday during the week of camp. His favorite is strawberry cake so I thought, no problem, I will just make a huge cake. I went with straight out of the box strawberry cake since I was 1)feeding teenagers who will eat anything and 2)feeding teenagers who will eat anything. While the cake was baking I started working on a homemade cream cheese buttercream since that is, by law, what you must have when you eat a strawberry cake. The cake finished baking and after I let it cool I flipped over the pan to release the cake. And waited, and waited, and that never happened. Over half of the cake stuck to the bottom of the pan. So, I looked at the huge bowl of yummy buttercream and the huge pile of strawberry crumbles and decided to make a strawberry trifle. And it was good. And the three huge bowls were literally licked clean by our camp staff again this year! So, I share with you my Strawberry Mistake. Remember, when life hands you cake crumbles, make a trifle! (By the way, I had one male camp staffer tell me he had a dream about this dessert. Poor guy, he totally needs a date!)Enjoy!

Strawberry Mistake
1- Duncan Hines strawberry cake mix baked according to package directions. Let cool then crumble into chunks with your hands
1 8oz package of cream cheese softened
1/2 stick (4Tbsp butter) softened
4 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk/half and half/heavy cream
1 large container of cool whip thawed (or you can also make homemade whipped cream!)
3 cups of strawberries sliced and lightly sugared

Beat cream cheese and butter on high until combined (they must be at a very soft room temp!). Slowly add in powdered sugar and milk until you get a good creamy consistency. (To prevent your entire kitchen from getting covered in sugar, take a damp towel and drape it over the top of your standing mixer. If you are using a hand mixer, you are up a creek!)If the mixture is too thick, add a small splash of cream. Gently fold in the cool whip.

In the bottom of a large bowl, preferably glass, layer in 1/3 of the cake mixture. Next, layer in 1/3 of the cream mixture, followed by 1/3 of the sliced strawberries. Repeat twice. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 10-12 servings.

Pie oh my! - Oreo Ice Cream Pie

This summer has been so hot! If you live any where on planet earth then I am sure that you can agree with me. It was a mere 114 degrees when I was at my parent's house in Oklahoma and was around 100 degrees with 90% humidity the week we were at church camp in Eastern Tennessee. I could literally feel my make up slide off of my face every time I walked outside. One of my favorite easy desserts to help beat the heat is ice cream pie! It is cold, creamy, crunchy and the recipe makes two so you have a back up(or one to hide in the back of the freezer and nibble on when you are alone....not that I would ever do that!). The recipe can be made with any kind of ice cream but I will give you my top three favorites (you can thank me later). Enjoy!

2 chocolate graham cracker pie shells (feel free to make these from scratch but really, why bother?)
1 1/2 gallon of ice cream (I like moose tracks, mint chip and cookies and cream the best)
1 small container of cool whip
1 small jar of hot fudge sauce. warmed to a pourable consistency
Toppings (Reese's cups crushed, mini chocolate chips or peppermint patties, crushed oreos)

Allow the ice cream and cool whip to thaw slightly. Once thawed, pour both into a large bowl and lightly stir together. Add in half of the hot fudge and lightly swirl or fold (if using moose tracks I would also add in 1/2 cup melted peanut butter...but I am naughty that way!) Divide the mixture evenly between the two pie shells. Pour over remaining hot fudge sauce and top with your favorite topping (moose tracks=Reese cups crushed, mint chip=crushed peppermint patties, cookies and cream=crushed oreos...and the list can go on and on) Freeze overnight or at least four hours. Allow the pies to sit at room temp for 20 minutes before serving. Each pie makes 6 servings.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Just Peachy - Fresh Strawberry Peach Dump Cake

I love peaches. I love the smell of peaches in the farmers market and how their sweet smell can over power any other. I love their soft skin and how you need to wear a bib if you are going to really enjoy a good one.

Last week I was craving something sweet and had read on a blog a recipe for dump cake. You may be wondering what that is but if you have ever been part of a church pot luck then I am sure you have had dump cake. Dump cake is where you literally dump a can of cherries, pineapple, cake mix and pour a stick of melted butter over the top and bake. I love dump cake. I love how simple it is and how it turns out perfect every time. It is the perfect combo of sweet and salty and creamy and slightly crunchy. So, I decided to get to work and make up my own. I had some peaches that were a bit past their prime but would be perfect for dump cake. I also had some strawberries that were starting to look sad and lonely so I thought that they would be the perfect addition to the peaches. What turned out was dump bliss. This is the perfect dessert when you have any produce that needs to be used up quickly. You can use any berry or stone fruit and even apples if they were thinly sliced. Enjoy!

Strawberry Peach Dump Cake- serves 6
4 peaches pealed and sliced
1-2 cups strawberries hulled and quartered
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 package of butter cake mix (yep, good old Duncan Hines dry cake mix)(You can also use vanilla but I like the extra butter flavor. Freeze the other half to make another dump cake the next day)
1/3 c butter melted

Combine the first four ingredients and spread into a greased baking dish. Spread cake mix on top and drizzle butter on top evenly. Bake at 350 for one hour. Top off with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Try not to eat the whole pan.


This summer I had an unforgettable night with a B.L.T. I know what you are thinking, I must be crazy! I am telling you, it was an earth shattering moment that will forever change my love/hate relationship I have with a B.L.T.

One of the many exciting things I did this summer was to take a road trip to see my sister. My sisters is the mother earth of the family. She is organic, real, earthly, artsy, and enjoys soaking up the every day beauty that surrounds her. She is an amazing cook and when we get together we have months worth of prep that go into each meal we prepare. While I was at her house we had B.L.T's and they were simply amazing. I am not a huge fan of tomatoes but I thought I would be polite and try it anyway. life will never be the same. Something about the fresh lightly toasted wheat bread topped with thick applewood bacon, fresh bib lettuce and tomatoes so pink and juicy that they run down your arm, all topped off with a rosemary mayo. Did you see that? Let me repeat, rosemary mayo. That is the kicker. In order to have a truly successful B.L.T. you need all of these things. If tomatoes aren't in season, don't bother. If the bread is not super fresh, don't bother. If your bacon is thin and get my drift. But, if you can't make rosemary mayo to top it all off then stay out of the kitchen. I am not sure exactly what all she put in the mayo but here is my version. This will have you up in the middle of the night, you will have dreams about this. Just don't say I didn't warn you!

Rosemary Mayo (enough for 2-3 sandwiches)
1/2 cup good mayo (I like Duke's)
1 Tbsp FRESH chopped rosemary
1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
1 Tbsp Fresh flat parsley chopped
1/2 tsp dried dill (LOVE IT!!)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
10 good turns of fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Combine all in a small bowl. Will stay for 3 days in the fridge.

Squasheroo- Squash Casserole

This summer has been really unreal for us, especially the last few weeks. We have been so busy and in and out of things that we have not been able to be with many friends. We love entertaining. I feel there is no greater way to share your love for others then to invite them to share a meal around your table. It doesn't need to be fancy, just real. We have so many fun memories of meals!
This past Friday I decided we needed some company and quick since the only plans I had in mind were to take a road trip to Sam's (pathetic) so I called one of my best girl friends to see what they were up to. In the mean time I texted another girl friend to see what her family was up to...and keep in mind this was at 4:30. Within about 20 minutes of sending texts back and forth we had made plans for everyone to come to our place for dinner at 6:30. Awesome! No sweat. Luckily I had already had a dessert baking that would work and had a pork tenderloin soaking up some marinade. I didn't have much in the fridge, just some produce that needed to be used quickly, so I decided to throw together a squash casserole. I know, so 1990. I grew up on it. There is nothing really too original you can do with a squash casserole other then to love on it and let it shine, so that is exactly what I did. It turned out to be one of the best nights we have had in a long time, full of good laughs, good food and a simple reminder of the amazing blessing of good friends. Enjoy!

1 tube butter cracker crushed
1 cup cheddar, colby jack (whatever you have) shredded
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
4 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
3 large or 5 medium squash sliced thick
1/2 onion diced

Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl, set aside.

Place squash and onion in a pot and cover with water. Turn on med high and let it come to a boil, continue to boil for 8-10 minutes until squash is tender. Drain squash (really good) then smash with a potato smasher (you want to leave a bit of texture to remember what it is you are eating). There will be some liquid come from smashing it and that is ok. Combine the squash with the cracker love mixture. Pour into a greased casserole pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes until lightly browned.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime! - Fruit Tea

Hello dear friends,
Anyone there still? I can't believe it has been so long since I have been on the site. Crazy! So much in life has happened I can't even begin to explain it all but I am back with a new computer to use, a fresh keyboard to break in and I am ready to roll. This summer has been crazy hot, I can't even believe it. We were at church camp last week and I thought I might die from all of the heat. So, I thought I would share one of my favorite drink recipe with some of you guys. So sit back and sip away! Happy summer!
Fruit Tea (apparently, it's a Southern thing!)

4-Family size tea bags
3/4 c sugar
1 can frozen pineapple orange juice concentrate, thawed
Fresh lime or orange slices or mint for garnish (optional)

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. When it boils turn off the heat and stir in your sugar. Add the tea bags and let it steep in the water for at least 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, pour your tea into a large pitcher along with the frozen juice concentrate and add approx 12 cups of water (depending on how strong or weak you like your drink. Garnish and serve over ice.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow, Snow Go Away - Creamy Chicken and Barley Soup

It is cold. We have had around 5 inches of snow fall in the last 24 hours and this morning I awoke to my oldest muffin sick as a dog. Lovely. I don't know about you but when it is this cold outside I want nothing more than to sit and do nothing. My taste buds also seem to kick into overdrive and I crave everything that is NOT in this house and that I can't possibly make with the pantry items I have on hand. Last year when we had a snow storm I ordered from the local Chinese food place that delivered thinking they would be closed and not only did they deliver but the poor guy had to park at the bottom of our hill and run the food up so I had to give him a huge tip. I don't have the heart to do that again, as good as lo mein sounds.
But, if you are anything like me you are sick of the same old soups of chicken and rice, chicken with noodles, chicken and dumplings, chicken tortilla, you get my point. So, I thumbed through a few recipes and decided to combine a couple to make a new soup. The salesman's grandmother is famous for a wild rice soup that she makes every Christmas day that I love. I found a recipe that was similar to her soup and added what I did had on hand and it turned out very tasty. I am attempting to eat lower-carb and for some reason I feel like I did with this, despite the fact there are a few carbs in it. It is a relatively low fat soup that you can adjust to fit what you have on hand. Stay warm and Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken and Barley Soup
2 Chicken breasts
olive oil, salt and pepper
Drizzle the olive on and s&p on the chicken. Roast at 425 for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Once cooked, chop chicken and set aside. *You could also use 2 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken.

2 stalks celery diced
1 small onion diced
2 large carrots diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
6 oz button mushrooms(approx 12 standard size) chopped (I always prefer fresh but you could use a can)
6 cups chicken stock (I use water and add better than bullion chicken base)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp curry powder
2 heaping Tbsp flour
1 cup barley (I had quick cooking)
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/3 cup sherry

In the bottom of a large pot over medium heat, warm 2 tsp of olive oil. Add celery, onions and carrots and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the olive oil and sautee until soft, around 5-8 minutes. Next, add garlic and mushrooms and sautee for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in mustard, curry and flour and let cook for 1 minute so that the raw flour taste can cook off of the veggies. Next, pour in chicken stock and chicken and another splash of s&p and allow it to come to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low and add barley. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and allow barley to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once barley has become soft add in milk and sherry and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes to let the alcohol cook out. Serve with some crusty bread and a big salad and enjoy!

Monday, January 3, 2011


Wow. It has been a while. Is anyone still there? I have taken a break from typing the last two months, not by choice but when you have a million Trojans decided to eat up your hard drive you are not left with too many choices other than to close up the computer and just walk away. So much has happened since we last talked. We have had many of my favorite holidays pass us by and personal celebrations for me including my 30th birthday and 7th wedding anniversary. December was a totally nutso month for me, between cooking, baking, catering, working, wrapping, traveling, decorating...there was not much time to sit and reflect on too much. But, I love the New Years day and eve celebrations and the fresh start that you are able to get every year. It is like changing out the batteries on an old toy for my babies and seeing their faces light up with excitement over something that was once old but is now new again. This year I have put forth many goals, not really resolutions but just things that I need to do. There are many areas in my life that I feel have been put on the back burner for a long time but this year I am going to take care of me. I want to shed a few pounds, read a few books, pay off some debt and hopefully work my way into being one step closer into owning my own place. I have been dreaming for several months now about opening up the Yellow Rose. I have laid awake many nights dreaming of my turquoise tables and ladder back chairs and what my menu will look like and the kind of boots I want to wear with my apron opening day. I tend to dream in full on color with lights flashing and cameras rolling but I am ready to put that dream in place. Please pray for me and my goals as I pray for you and yours. I pray that your goals will make you a better believer and follower of God and the unbelievable power that he has over our lives and that you will ask for His faithful provisions as he leads you and your loved ones into this next year. Cheers!