Friday, December 2, 2016

White House Christmas Ornaments and My Cousin

A number of years ago I became acquainted with a cousin.  I know that sounds strange but we moved from Pennsylvania to the west coast when I was five.  I didn't grow up with cousins around me even though my parents both came from very large families.  I must qualify that...some of my dad's brothers and sisters moved to the west coast also, so I did see cousins from Dad's side of the family, occasionally.

Linda and I bumped into one another on the internet!  You see we both love genealogy and found one another on a message board researching the same family....and the emails started.  We have researched together for many years now. She is a wonderful researcher and problem solver.  I am so blessed to have found her and have her in my life.

She acquainted me with the White House Christmas Ornaments and I love them.  Each December she sends me the White House ornament for the year.  It has been a fun adventure.  I enjoy reading the history behind the ornament as each one is unique and has its own story.  I look forward to the package and adding a new ornament and piece of history to our Christmas tree.

I would love to share each ornament and the story behind it with you but decided it would be a very long I will share pictures of some of the ornaments and the story for one.

The 2011 ornament honors the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the United States.  Santa crossing the White House lawn exclaims, "I hear there are kids in the White House this year."  This was the first time since the departure of Grover Cleveland in 1897.

The backside of the 2011 ornament depicts a 1903 illustration of the moment President Roosevelt's son, Archie, revealed to his family the Christmas tree that he had hidden in the seamstress’s closet. The tree defied the president’s ban.  The picture highlights the simplicity of the Roosevelt family Christmas decorations and the president’s conservation ethic.

Linda tells me that the 2016 ornament is on its way!  For now, I am sharing ornaments from 2006 through 2015 and one special ornament that is a miniature of Julia Gardiner Tyler.  This miniature is in honor of the portrait Julia gifted to the White House.   It marks the beginning of the comprehensive collection of portraits of the First Ladies.

Thank you, Linda, for generously sending ornaments each year.  It is fun to have a Christmas ornament collection that celebrates the season and shares our country's history at the same time!

Friday, November 18, 2016

No Kidding...this is the Absolute Best Pumpkin Bread!

You know that moment when you think about your pumpkin bread recipe and realize it is really just "okay"?  That moment when you know there has to be something better out there?  That moment when you start looking but you have so many options that you aren't certain where to begin?  That was me.

Then, I saw the recipe for America's Test Kitchen Pumpkin Bread.  And I knew that a new recipe had arrived!  While the method of preparation is totally different, it is prepared on the stovetop before baking, I figured it was worth a try.  

They were spot on when it comes to a moist and tasty fall sweet treat...yet, it isn't overly sweet.

I kid you not, this is the absolute, very, best pumpkin bread!!

The Absolute Best Pumpkin Bread
slightly adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Yield:  2 loaves

5 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (Not pumpkin pie mix)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into  12 cubes
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine

Place the rack in the middle position. 
Preheat oven: 350° F.
Prepare (grease) two loaf pans (8 1/2 X 4 1/2-inches).  Set asked.

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients together using your fingers.  When the mixture resembles wet sand, set it aside.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, 6-8 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese to the pumpkin mixture and stir until combined. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes.  Mix until there are no visible pieces of cream cheese and the mixture is smooth.

Whisk together the eggs and buttermilk.  Add the egg mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.  Fold in the flour mixture until well combined. (Some small lumps of flour are okay.)  Fold the walnuts into the batter.  

Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of each loaf.  Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Allow the loaves to cool in their pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes.  Remove the loaves from their pans and continue to cool, about 1 1/2 hours.

Note:  If a larger loaf pan is used, start checking the bread about five minutes earlier.

This is my new go-to pumpkin bread recipe!  I can't imagine ever going back to my old recipe.  I hope you make it and enjoy it as much as we have!

You won't regret making this wonderful fall treat!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Apple Pear Coffee Cake

When I was in junior high I remember using the recipe for coffee cake that was on the Bisquick box. I wanted something sweet for Saturday breakfast. It was easy. It smelled good and it was something that I could do by myself.  I was pretty proud of that coffee cake.  Dad was always a good sport and ate whatever I made.  He always told me it was delicious, even if we both knew it could have been better.  I think we both wanted something sweet that Saturday as it didn't make it to the end of the day.

A lot of years have gone by since I made that coffee cake.  It has actually been a long time since I have made any coffee cake!  That was to change as for some reason, when I looked at the load of apples and pears in our weekly CSA box, coffee cake came to mind.

It was a great decision and it didn't last very long considering the amount!  I think this particular recipe is for a large gathering, but it could easily but halved.  Halving it is what I will do the next time...

Apple Pear Coffee Cake
adapted from Taste of Home

Yield:  12-15 servings

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cup chopped, peeled, cored apples
1/2 cup chopped peeled, cored pears

Preheat oven:  350° F.
Prepare 13 X 9-inch baking dish.

Prepare the topping
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the walnuts.  Set aside.

Prepare the cake
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.  Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream.

Fold in the chopped apples and pear.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the topping over the batter.

Bake at 350° F. for 35-40 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.


The cake was very moist....fall apart moist.  I did add a full cup of pear to the batter which was probably a mistake.  It didn't make a difference to the flavor, just the moistness.  Next time I will be obedient and follow the recipe as it is written.

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sopa de Abóbora aka Portuguese Pumpkin Soup and a Tour of Lisbon

Sometimes everything just falls in place.  That is what happened when I got my very last Secret Recipe Club assignment, Culinary Adventures with Camilla!  You probably recognize the blog name as I was just assigned her blog in July, when I made Watermelon-Tequila Granita, but it's no matter to repeat, there is never a lack of choices on Camilla's blog.  In fact, I found the dish I wanted to make first thing as her most recent post that day was Sopa de Abóbora which is Portuguese Pumpkin Soup! I was more tha excited to see her post!

Why?  Well, we had just returned from a recent trip to Spain and Portugal.  Thinking of the trip and the wonderful sights, sounds, smells and tastes we experienced, I knew I was going to be spending time in the kitchen.  Camilla's Sopa de Abóbora was a great inspiration and place to start.  

You really need to make this soup.  It was so smooth and flavorful with a very subtle hint of sweetness.  This is a soup that I would make again.  I did make a couple of changes in that I added carrots, garlic and cilantro.  It was delicious...

Sopa de Abóbora aka Portuguese Pumpkin Soup
Inspired by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

1 small pumpkin (about 2 lbs.), peeled, seeds removed, pulp cut into small cubes
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 tomato, diced (about 1 cup)
3 cups chicken stock, divided
1 tsp cinnamon or nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add the diced onions.  When the onions become translucent, stir in the garlic.  Cook for another minute.  Add the pumpkin cubes and carrots to the onions and garlic.  Cook until the pumpkin begins to caramelize.  

Add the tomatoes and 2 cups chicken stock to the mixture and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the pumpkin and carrots are easily mashed with a fork, about 20 minutes.

With an immersion blender process the mixture until it is smooth.  If the mixture is too thick, add the remaining cup of chicken stock.  Stir in the cinnamon OR nutmeg.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Mix in the cilantro leaves.  

Ladle into individual bowls for serving.  

Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds and a few cilantro leaves.

Camilla has an unending amount of energy.  She is the mother of three boys and describes herself as "a tree-hugging, veggie-crunching, jewelry-designing mean mommy who loves to cook but hates to clean."  She has spent time as a florist, waitress, SCUBA dive master, stock photo agency manager, stroller fitness teacher, writer, editor, and au pair. She also lived and worked in Rome where she learned to cook.  Camilla visited the markets, talked to farmers and fishmongers, and pestered them to learn how to prepare various dishes that are now part of her repertoire.

This busy woman uses any occasion to go into the kitchen and create delicious dishes for her family and friends.  It is her hope that her blog will be an inspiration to others and they will prepare their own creative dishes!

I must admit that I am intrigued with Camilla's recipe for Roasted Acorn Squash and Chestnut Soup. The fall is the perfect time to serve soup in the "squash bowl"!  But then, with the holidays approaching and knowing we would be entertaining, the idea of having homemade bitters on hand was appealing and Camilla just happened to have a recipe for making Meyer Lemon Bitters. Decisions...decisions.  


I am also sharing a collage of a few pictures from our brief two days in Lisbon.  In the morning of the first day, we took a general tour of the city which included Torre de Belem or Belem Tower (bottom center).  The tower was built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbor. It was imposing and beautiful.  As we walked along we came across the Wine with a View cart!  Director's chairs were set up enabling thirsty visitors to enjoy some great wine and the lovely view!  We thought this was a great idea!

Our afternoon was spent walking and walking and walking.  We made our way from the square pictured (bottom left) to the Moorish castle, São Jorge Castle (bottom right).  The oldest parts of the castle date from the 6th century!  I am always amazed at how old some of the structures are.

This is the last month for the Secret Recipe Club.  It is being dissolved.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit so many blogs and meet some really cool bloggers.  Thank you all for sharing your recipes! And thank you, Camilla, for leading Group B!!  It has been a fun adventure!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Spicy Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew with Chipotle

It is raining and it is cold.  On this type of day when I find myself standing in the kitchen thinking about dinner, I know that it has to be some type of comfort food.

I also have a new best friend of sorts, the New York Times Food site.  They have a page on Facebook. Everyday I see wonderful dishes just waiting for me!  On this day I saw a Spicy Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew that would be perfect!

The dish had all of the great flavors of Mexico, even chipotle, and my favorite, sweet potatoes. And... it's healthy!  What could be better?

Spicy Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew with Chipotle
slightly adapted from The New York Times

Yield:  8 servings

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
2 medium carrots, peeled, diced
1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils, rinsed
6 cups chicken broth (water or vegetable broth may be substituted)
2 medium sweet potatoes (dark orange flesh), about 1 to  1 1/4 pounds, peeled and cut in large dice
1 to 2 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped (to taste)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges for serving

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion.  Cook, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and salt.  Cook, stirring, until the garlic smells fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the ground cumin and carrots.  Stir together.

Add the lentils, broth, sweet potatoes, chipotles, tomato paste, bay leaf and salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes, until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Stir in the cilantro and simmer for another minute.  Serve with lime wedges.

NOTE:  Start with one chipotle and increase to your taste.


This was perfect for the cold weather we were having and there was enough leftover for lunch the next day!

I return to California tomorrow so there won't be any rain and it won't to as cold....I will miss the weather in Seattle.  Blustery, rainy days are my favorite!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chocolate Spiderweb Cookies

Halloween is just around the corner....really around the corner and Sabine and I are just now making cookies...but, better late than not at all.  Today we made Chocolate Spiderweb Cookies.  They were easy and had just enough steps so that a four year old could help and not get bored.

It was fun for me, too.  I have been in cookbook heaven of late.  Alison brought me three new cookbooks to read and Dorie's Cookies by Dorie Greenspan was one of them.  I have had so much fun dreaming about cooking my way through the book and then realizing that somebody had to eat all of those cookies, so I narrowed it down to one for now!

I selected the basic chocolate cookie dough which Dorie has named Do-Almost-Anything Chocolate Cookie Dough.  I was after a chocolate cookie that had a deep chocolate flavor with a bit of firmness to the touch but not crisp.  This was perfect!  Plan ahead if you decide to use this cookie dough.  I do need to mention that the cookies must be popped into the freezer for an hour or the refrigerator for three hours, prior to cutting and baking.

Chocolate Spiderweb Cookies
adapted from Dorie's Cookies

Yield:  40 cookies, 2-inch diameter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature
2/3 cups sugar
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven:  350° F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Sift the flour and the cocoa powder together.

Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or use your hand mixer to beat the butter, sugar and salt together on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and add the egg white and vanilla.  The dough may curdle but it will smooth out when the flour mixture is added.

At low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 or 4 additions, beat only until the flour is incorporated each time before adding the next addition.  Scrape down the bowl once or twice and mix until all the dry mixture has been absorbed into the dough.

Divide the dough in half.  Flatten each half into a disk.  One at a time, place a disk between two pieces of parchment paper and roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness.  Slide the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet. The two may be stacked on the baking sheet.  Freeze for 1 hour or refrigerate for 3 hours.

Work with one disk at a time.  Peel the paper away on one side.  Flip the disk over and peel the paper from the other side.  Use a 2-inch diameter cookie cutter to cut out as many cookies as you can. Gather the scraps together.  Make a disk, roll between parchment and re-chill before cutting and baking.  (Note:  Sprinkle with sanding sugar at this point if desired.)

Bake the cookies 18 to 20 minutes or until firm to touch.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat with the next disk.

Mix the powdered sugar and the milk together in a medium bowl.  Stir until smooth.  It will be stiff.
Spoon the mixture into a small zip lock bag and seal.  Snip a tiny whole in the corner of the bag. (It can always be made larger if needed!)

Working with one cookie at a time, pipe a dot into the center of the cookie.  Pipe two concentric circles around the dot.

Starting at the dot, pull a toothpick from the dot through the two circles to the edge of the cookie. This makes the web design.


Have a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Spiced Pear Muffins

I am back in Seattle and enjoying the rain which I rarely see at home.  I am probably one of those odd people who absolutely loves the rain.  I love to listen to it and watch it....snuggle up in a chair with a good book and bake!  Guess that could be boring but, it is not to me!  I think the baking part goes back to when I was a child.  My mom always baked on the days that it rained.  It is something that I love to do, also.  Needless to say there has been a whole lot of baking going on this week.  There has not been a lack of rain!

My daughter gets a CSA fruit box each week.  There are lots of apples and pears in the fruit basket....lots....and lots!  So, when she sent me the link to this recipe, we agreed that these had to happen!

The muffins are not really sweet which is nice.  The sweetness and the moistness comes from the pears.  We liked them but Sabine preferred to eat the pears and leave the much for the opinion of a four year old!

Spiced Pear Muffins
adapted from The Kitchn

Yield 12 muffins

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened 
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tsps baking powder
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2-2 1/2 cups pears, unpeeled, cored, and diced small
Optional ingredients:
1/4 cup candied ginger
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling on top of the muffins

Preheat oven:  425° F.

Spray the muffin tin with baking spray or use muffin liners.

Place the sugars and the softened butter into the mixer bowl.  Cream on high speed until the mixture resembles a fluffy frosting.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each.  Mix in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and salt.  On low speed, alternately mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/3 of the milk.  Continue until all of the flour and milk have been incorporated.  Do not over mix.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and gently stir.  Gently fold in the diced pears.

Divide the batter between the muffin cups.  The batter will fill the cups and be slightly mounded. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar.

Place the muffin tin in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 400° F.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.

The muffins are done when the tester is inserted and comes out clean.  The tops of the muffins with appear cracked and toasted when they are done.

Let the muffins cool and when they can be handled, transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Note:  Leftover muffins can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.  They may also be frozen for up to 3 months.  Frozen muffins should be reheated in an oven at 300° F. or for a few minutes in the microwave.


These were a super breakfast treat...snack...or for no reason other than you want one!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Shrimp Burritos Con Queso!

You know how sometimes things just click.  That is I the way I felt when I received a weekly menu planning email from Lea Ann at Cooking on the Ranch.  I was immediately motivated to hit the kitchen.  That said I was also still trying to kick the bug that descended when we came home from Spain.  But, planning and list making I could do!  The cooking would come....

The first recipe I settled on was the Shrimp Burritos Con Queso.  Who doesn't love a burrito now and then?  And, these burritos were stuffed with shrimp in a bit of creamy cheese sauce packed with red pepper, onion, Hatch green chile, tomatillo....well, you get the idea....and then baked with a a bit more cheese sauce on top.  These were totally heaven!!  As Lea Ann says, "Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you away."  These are so worth it!!

If you have never taken time to visit Lea Ann, put it on your to do list!  Lea Ann has some amazing recipes...I love perusing her blog!

Shrimp Burritos Con Queso
adapted from Cooking on the Ranch

Yield:  6 - 8 servings

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup sweet onion, chopped
  • ½ cup Hatch green chile, roasted, peeled, chopped
  • 1 tomatillo diced
  • ½ cup unpeeled zucchini, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 sup Monterey Jack cheese, grated and divided
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
  • ¾ cup green onions, chopped and divided
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped and divided
  • 6  8-inch flour tortillas

Garnish:  Avocado slices, cilantro leaves

Preheat oven:  350° F.

Spray a 9 X 9 baking dish with PAM.

In a saucepan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the red bell pepper, onion, chile peppers, tomatillo, zucchini, and oregano.  Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the salt, pepper and cayenne.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and water whisking to blend.  Add this to the bell pepper mixture. Stir.  Stir in the milk until well blended.  Reduce the heat and simmer until slightly thickened.  This should take about 3 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup of the grated jack cheese and stir until it has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sour cream.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the shrimp and 1/2 cup green onions.  Stir until the shrimp just turn pink, about 2 minutes.  

Add half of the cheesy bell pepper mixture and half of the tomatoes to the skillet.  Stir to mix. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Lay out the flour tortillas and fill with equally with the shrimp mixture.  Roll the burritos tightly and place them seam side down in the prepared baking dish.  Spoon the remaining cheesy bell pepper mixture over the top of the burritos.

Cover with foil.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until heated through.  Remove from the oven and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of jack cheese, 1/4 cup green onions and the remaining tomatoes.
Serve immediately with fresh avocado slices and a sprinkling of cilantro leaves, if desired.

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Mudslide - SRC

Time!  Time!  Time!

I arrived home, after an eighteen day trip of Spain and Portugal, on Monday at 11:00 PM.  I got to bed about 12:30 AM.
Of course I woke up at 3:30 AM.  Oh how I hate jet lag!

Tuesday afternoon the bug that we brought home with us appeared.  Terry at least was able to get out of bed.  I am not certain if I hit the bed because of the cold or jet lag.  Along came the fever.  I was anchored to the bed until Friday.  I was still getting up at least three times during the night...erratic sleep patterns are the pits.  The wee small hours of the morning are for sleeping not being wide awake!

Today I was able to pull myself out of bed.  When I read my emails I found the note that there was a post due for The Secret Recipe Club.  This is a fun group where each blogger is randomly assigned a blog belonging to another group member.  Our challenge is to find a recipe that we will enjoy, prepare it, and share the recipe as well as info about the blog.

I wanted to make a recipe that would soothe my throat so I went to my assigned blog, 2 Cookin' Mamas, and searched through smoothies and beverages........and cocktails, why not?  I considered the Chocolate Almond Smoothie and the Hawaiian Hazelnut Mocha Smoothie but would have had to go to the store....nope, can't happen.   Then, I looked at the cocktails.  I did have a stocked liquor cabinet.

I settled on the Frozen Mudslide!  We did enjoy this thick, frozen treat.  It certainly cooled the throat and maybe froze it a time or two also!  I did have to make a change...I only had half and half so I substituted it for the cream and I topped it with a drizzle of chocolate and chocolate covered coffee beans!  Perfect!

slightly adapted from 2 Cookin' Mamas

Yield:  2 servings

2 ounces Irish Cream liqueur
2 ounces coffee liqueur
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces cream or half and half
2 cups ice

Garnish:  Chocolate Syrup and Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

Pour all of the ingredients, except the garnishes, into the blender.  Blend until smooth and thick.

Prepare two glasses by drizzling chocolate syrup around the inside top portion of the glass.  Divide the frozen mixture between the glasses.

Add the garnishes as desired.

Note:  If you prefer to serve the drink over, add ice cubes to the glasses, drizzle each with syrup and divide the liquid between the two glasses.


I had fully intended to make the Crockpot Cuban Pork with Cilantro-Lime Rice before leaving on vacation but time slipped away too quickly and I became busy trying to use up most everything in the refrigerator so I wouldn't have to toss it!  I do plan to try the Cuban Pork dish as it sounds really great.

We are very fortunate to have a lovely next door neighbors who brought us homemade chicken soup for dinner one evening and lamb kabob sandwiches on another.  Bless them.  It was much appreciated!!

2 Cookin' Mamas is a mother-daughter team who love to cook and use the blog to share their culinary expertise and knowledge of nutrition.  Their blog has quite a variety of healthy and easy recipes and is well worth perusing thoroughly!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffee

Our neighbors held their annual crawfish boil this summer and I am so delayed in posting that I am just now getting to share with you.  It is such a fun event....great food, fine wine and beer, wonderful neighbors, great conversation and lots of laughter!  I am blessed to have so many great neighbors.

The crawfish is shipped in from Louisiana each year and even though this happens in the heat of our summer, the cooking crew hits the patio outdoors with huge pots and paddles to prepare the crawfish, shrimp, sausages, potatoes and corn for the feast!

The meal was delicious!  The next day my neighbor came over with a large zip lock filled with crawfish and shrimp.  I immediately knew what our dinner was going to be!

Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffee
adapted slightly from Emeril Lagasse

1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 pound peeled crawfish tails
10-12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup water
1 tsp Kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 Tbsp chopped green onion

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Add the onions, celery and bell pepper and saute until the vegetables are wilted, about 10 -12 minutes.

Add the crawfish, shrimp, garlic, and bay leaves to the vegetable mixture.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the mixture for another 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Dissolve the flour in the water.  Stir it into the crawfish mixture along with the salt and cayenne. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens, about 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the parsley and green onions. (Reserve a few teaspoons of parsley and green onion to use as garnish.)  Cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves.

Serve the etouffee over steamed rice.


I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Chili-Lime Chicken Fajita Salad

Sometimes, simple is best.  I was reminded of that the evening I served this colorful, salad topped with tender and juicy chunks of chicken breast, perfectly grilled peppers and onions, and creamy ripe avocado slices!

It was a light and refreshing meal. Which was what we were looking for.  Terry didn't have much of an appetite so I thought he might be enticed to eat when he saw this colorful salad....and he was!

You will love this chili lime marinade that also doubles as a dressing.  It was so tasty that I can see it appearing frequently!

Chili Lime Chicken Fajita Salad
adapted from CafeDelights

Yield:  Serves 3-4 dinner portions

Chili Lime Marinade and Dressing
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Kosher salt

1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided, for frying
2 chicken breasts, cut into chunky slices
1/2 red bell pepper, seeds and veins removed, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeds and veins removed, thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced (Slices cut in half)
5 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped
1-2 avocados, sliced

Garnish: Cilantro leaves and sour cream, if desired.

Combine the marinade/dressing ingredients by whisking briskly.  The mixture will be divided into two parts.  Pour half of the mixture into a small jar. Refrigerate to use later as the salad dressing. Pour the second half of the marinade into a zip lock bag.  It will be used as the marinade.

Place the chunky chicken slices into the zip lock bag with the marinade.  Allow the chicken to marinate for at least two hours

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet.  Add the chicken pieces and cook over medium high heat. Grill the chicken until golden brown, crispy and cooked through.  Grill in batches to prevent steaming the chicken.  Remove the chicken to a small plate to rest.

Quickly wipe the pan with a paper towel.  Add about 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet.  Quick-fry the onion and pepper strips to desired doneness.

Cut the chicken chunks into small slices, if desired.

Place chopped romaine into each serving bowl.  Top with chicken slices, pepper and onion mixture, and sliced avocado.  Remove the dressing from the refrigerator.  Shake the jar to mix.  Drizzle the dressing over the top.  Serve garnished with cilantro and sour cream, if desired.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pacific Coast Clam Chowder

Everybody has their preference when it comes to clam chowder. I don't mean in regard to red vs. white. I mean to say that all bowls of Pacific Coast (white) Clam Chowder, are not created equal.  At our house the clam chowder must be thick.  It must have lots of clams, potatoes and bacon along with some celery, onion and thyme.  When reading a recipe that's pretty much what I look for.

On this day, I was going through some of my pins and spied Cathy's recipe and decided to give it a try.  Cathy is the chef par excellence at Wives with Knives.  Her recipes are spot on and always tasty. And, while her recipe didn't call for thyme, that was easily remedied.

This chowder bowl was absolutely amazing...delicious....wonderful....  I guess you can tell that we loved it!  You really must give this a try.

Pacific Coast Clam Chowder
adapted slightly from Wives with Knives

1/4 pound thick sliced bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
3/4 cup celery, diced
3 cups unpeeled baby white potatoes, washed, chopped (Russets may be used but they should be peeled.)
3-4 cans minced clams, drained (retain the juice in a measuring cup)
1 1/2 cups clam juice or chicken stock
2-3 cups half and half
1bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1/4 cup butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup half and half
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Garnish:  Chopped bacon and/or oyster crackers

Fry the bacon in a soup pot until crisp.  Removed the bacon and drain on a paper towel.  Remove all but about 3 tablespoons bacon fat and saute the onion and celery until translucent.

Add the potato and 1 1/2 cups of the retained clam juice or use 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, if preferred. Add the bay leaf and the thyme.  Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

When the potatoes are tender, add 2 or 3 cups of half and half, your preference.  Heat until the soup is barely simmering.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan.  Stir in 3 tablespoons flour and blend well.  Cook the mixture for 2 minutes, then gradually whisk in 1 cup of half and half.  Stir constantly until the sauce is creamy and thick.

Add this mixture slowly to the simmering soup until it is the consistency that you like.  Add in the reserved bacon.  Keep a few pieces for garnish, if desired.  Simmer the soup for 5-10 minutes.

Serve garnished with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, some of the reserved bacon and oyster crackers.

Note:  If you prefer, fresh clams may be used.  You will need one cup or more fresh clams, shucked and diced.  Prior to adding them to the soup, they should be simmered in a little salted water for 5-10 minutes, until firm.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Just a Basic Peach Cobbler!

What is a basic peach cobbler?  For me it is one that is easy and the peaches and their syrup are spread on top of the batter.  It is the way that I have made cobbler for quite a few years.  It is not like my mom's.  It is not like my mother-in-law's.  Both of those ladies had the corner on the market for making cobblers.  But, I did what I usually do...make the batter and spread the fruit on top.

That said, this time, Terry said that he didn't like cobbler prepared that way. only took forty years for him to tell me. He likes a more crisp time.  He must have been thinking about his mom's delicious very yummy!  The crust had a crispness on the top but underneath it was gooey and wonderful.  I liked her cobbler too.  (She didn't use a I know what she did?  Nope, not the slightest idea.)

Just a Basic Peach Cobbler

Yield:  8 Servings
Preheat oven:  375° F.

5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup half and half
4 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

Place butter in a baking dish (9 X 13 inches) and melt in the oven.

While the butter is melting, whisk the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt together in a medium  bowl.  While continuing to whisk, gradually add the half and half.  Whisk until smooth.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, toss the peaches with the brown sugar, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla until combined.  Set aside.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and pour the batter over the batter.  Do not stir.

Pour the peach mixture over the batter and gently spread with a spatula.

Bake 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Top with vanilla ice cream, if desired.


This recipe is a little bit different from my go-to recipe.  I have no idea where the recipe came from.  It was one that I had tucked away in a cookbook.

From my perspective, enjoying peach cobbler is one of the finer moments to be had during the summer!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Roasted Tomatoes with Balsamic Vinegar and Fresh Basil

I answered the telephone to find my friend calling as opposed to the usual telemarketer.  That was a very nice treat!  She called to ask me if wanted some tomatoes.  Well, yes, I would love a few tomatoes.  Her concept of a few tomatoes was a huge box (apple-size box) of freshly picked Roma tomatoes!  How lucky is that!!!

I have never been faced with that many tomatoes!  The only logical choice was to share a few with a neighbor and then start roasting!  I faced a similar situation at my daughter's house last year.  She had so many tomatoes that I didn't know where to begin.  Ina Garten came to the rescue then as she did now.  In Ina's cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, it is suggested that olive oil and balsamic vinegar be drizzled on the tomatoes....that sounded great to me.  So I gathered everything together and after heading to the herb garden to trim the basil plant, all was ready!

My plan was to roast and freeze for use in the winter when store-bought tomatoes taste like cardboard!  This recipe only yields a serving for 4 to 5 people.  I just increased the amounts based on how many tomatoes I had on the baking sheet.

Roasted Tomatoes with Balsamic Vinegar 
and Fresh Basil
adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Yield:  4-5 Servings
Preheat oven:  450° F.

12 plum tomatoes, halved, seeds removed
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, mince
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
10 large fresh basil leaves, julienned

Preheat the oven to 450° F.

Arrange the tomatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer, cut sides up.  Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes. Then sprinkle them with the garlic, sugar, salt ad pepper.

Place the sheet in the oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to caramelize and the flavors are concentrated.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with julienned basil leaves.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE:  Since I was freezing the tomatoes for future use, I allowed them to come to room temperature and then placed them into freezer bags.  

I varied the herbs that I used.  Some trays featured oregano and rosemary!  Just remember to add the fresh herbs after taking the tray from the oven.

I roasted fifteen trays of tomatoes!  I do believe I have enough tomatoes in the freezer to last for a very long winter!  You will notice that, in the picture of the first tray, I got a bit excited about the basil and sprinkled it on before baking....not a good idea!!  Do wait!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bahamian Rum Cake - SRC

Ellie at The Hobo Kitchen says that this is not a true Bahamian Rum Cake, but she posted it anyway. I don't know what a true Bahamian Rum Cake is supposed to taste like and since she was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, I figure she would know.  But....I do know that this cake is boozy, ever so good, and one that I will make again!

Ellie also said that she rarely posts anything that starts with a box cake mix. She made an exception this time and I am so happy that she did!  From my point of view, there isn't anything wrong with starting from the known.  It can help shorten the process and if the end result is tasty, then it shouldn't matter.  Wouldn't you agree?

In making the cake, I did get a bit nervous about the volume of glaze that I was incrementally putting on the cake.  I knew that it was supposed to soak into the cake but, as I said, I got nervous so with about 1/3 left, I halted.  I think I should have gone ahead with the entire amount.  You can see the variation in the color of the cake in the picture.  That tells me that I wasn't overdoing it, it was absorbing just as it should.  I am not beating myself up because the taste was great!!  But, next time I won't panic.

Bahamian Rum Cake
slightly adapted from The Hobo Kitchen

Yield:  12 servings
Preheat oven:  325° F.

Cake Ingredients
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 15 oz. box yellow cake mix
1 3 3/4 oz box vanilla instant pudding and pie filling
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Bacardi Dark Rum (or any dark rum)

Glaze Ingredients
1/4 lb. butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Bacardi Dark Rum (or any other dark rum)

Powdered sugar to dust the cake (optional)

Make the Cake
Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Prepare the bundt pan:  Thoroughly grease a standard-sized bundt pan with butter.  (It was suggested that cooking spray also be applied.  I did not.) Dust the inside with about 1 teaspoon flour.  Shake to distribute evenly.

Sprinkle the nuts on the bottom of the pan.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a mixer bowl.  Beat on medium until everything is incorporated.

Gently pour the batter into the bundt pan trying not to disturb the layer of nuts.

Bake 45-55 minutes.

Make the Glaze 

When the cake is almost finished baking make the glaze.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Stir in the water and the granulated sugar.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Bring the mixture to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly, for five minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the rum.  The mixture will spatter and froth up as you stir in the rum.

Finish the Cake
Watch the cake closely. When the cake is a golden brown and pulling slightly from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, remove it from the oven.  (My cake was done quite quickly so do keep an eye on it.)

Immediately, gently run a thin knife around the outside edges and the center of the cake.  (I just pulled gently around the edges.)  Using a toothpick or wooden skewer, poke many holes into the cake.

Begin spooning the glaze over the cake while it is still hot and in the bundt pan.  Do this in 3 or 4 stages, allowing the glaze to absorb into the cake.  Wait about 5 minutes between each stage.

When the last of the glaze has been used, allow the cake to sit for 5 minutes. Turn the cake over onto a large cake plate or cake stand.  The cake should slide out of the bundt pan and onto the plate.  Allow the cake to cool fully.

Sprinkle the cake or the individual servings with powdered sugar before serving.

NOTE:  The flavor improves over time.  I recommend allowing the cake to sit overnight or at least six hours before serving.  

I learned about Ellie's blog through The Secret Recipe Club.  She was my assignment this month. When you visit The Hobo Kitchen you will find a variety of recipes, I know I did. I was tempted to make the Mocha Bread with Espresso Glaze and the Chicken Pesto Pizza and I will probably still do both...starting with the pizza!

I was really happy with the Bahamian Rum Cake and even though it may not be totally authentic, it worked for me and I fully intend to make it again!  Thank you, Ellie, for sharing!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mustard-Roasted Chicken

I love to thumb through cookbooks.  I have so many that it seems I never run out of cookbooks to read through and recipes to try out.  Now, whether or not I actually do more than flag the recipe for "another time" is the issue.  I have a tendency to "over-flag" cookbooks.  In fact, I think I have flagged more recipes than there are days in a year!  But when I saw this recipe and had chicken thawing in the refrigerator, I leaped!

I was reading through Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Foolproof when I found Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken.  She said it was easy and moist which sound good to me. We weren't disappointed. I can see myself making this white the crispness of panko....sounds as though it goes on the rotation!

Mustard-Roasted Chicken

Yield: 4 servings
Preheat Oven:  350° F.

4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dry white wine
3-4 pounds skinless chicken (I used a mixture of breasts and thighs.)

Fit your food processor with a steel blade.  Place the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper into the processor bowl.  Process until the garlic is finely minced.  Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil and melted butter.  Pulse a few times to moisten the breadcrumbs. Pour the mixture onto a large plate.  Whisk the mustard and white wine together in a shallow bowl.

Trim the chicken of excess fat.  Pat dry and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Dip each piece of chicken in the mustard mixture to coat on all sides.  One side of each piece is then placed into the breadcrumb mixture, press down so that the crumbs adhere.  Place the chicken on the baking sheet, crumb-side up.   The chicken may then be topped with any remaining breadcrumbs.

Bake the chicken for 40 minutes.  Raise the heat to 400° F. and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through.

Serve the chicken hot, warm or at room temperature.

Note:  This is a great way to prepare chicken ahead for a backyard get together!


This has been different for us.  Instead of enjoying the outdoors, traveling to the coast and enjoying the patio with friends, we have found ourselves in the construction zone, taking care of my mom's house, helping her adjust to her new surroundings or addressing medical issues.  I am anxious to get back into a blogging routine.

That said, we are looking forward to a great vacation.  We are leaving in two weeks for Spain and Portugal.  It is a cruise and there are other ports to explore also, but Barcelona and Lisbon have us especially excited!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Disaster

We built the house fourteen years ago.  I would have never dreamed that we would have to remove all of the tile and redo the floors.  But, that is what has happened.  Over the last year, we have watched the grout loosen and, as the dominoes fell, the tiles loosened.  Of course there was no way to repair it. Of course the same tile was no longer made.  And no, it hadn't been installed properly.

To make a long story short.  What a mess!  Oh the dust!  I can only be thankful that instead of 110° it was 99°.  Every ray of sunshine helped.

I worried my tile selection silly.  After weeks of trying to match what I had, it finally dawned on me to wipe the old tile and color out of my mind and start with a clean slate.  So, I selected something totally different. I worried and worried.  But, it is finished and I love it!

Now you know what I have been doing.  But that isn't the disaster that was waiting for me.

Story number two:  I bought a take and bake pizza.  I set the oven to preheat and went about my business.  Then, there was an awful smell.  I thought that was odd as I hadn't been cooking and I had definitely not been using my oven.  Upon deciding that something was burning, I opened the oven. And, there all lined up neatly were the items from the pantry that I couldn't find!  (I am either stressed or of that age...)  Center stage was the mayonnaise that was bubbling out of the container and all over the oven.  What a mess.  We worked quickly with tongs and a trash can to remove all of the baked pantry items!  Thank goodness I have two ovens!  Dinner happened and with an icy glass of beer!

Thank goodness I had made this Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp a few weeks earlier!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten

Yield: 6 servings

4 cups fresh rhubarb (4 to 5 stalks) 1-inch dice
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, diced

Vanilla ice cream for serving.

Preheat oven 350° F.

Place an 8 X 11-inch baking dish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and set aside.

Fruit:  In a large bowl, toss the rhubarb and strawberries, with 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar and the orange zest.  Dissolve the cornstarch in the orange juice and then stir it into the fruit mixture.  Pout the mixture into the baking dish.

Topping:  Using your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, salt and oatmeal.  At low speed, add the butter.  Mix until the dry ingredients are moist and resemble crumbles.  Sprinkle the topping over the fruit.

Cover the baking dish completely.  Bake for 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is a golden brown.

Serve the crisp warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


This was delightful...a crispy topping covering sweet and tart yumminess!  (If that is a word!)  This is a keeper recipe..quick, easy and certain to please.

I am sharing today at Full  Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's County Cottage.