Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cookie Exchange 2009

We had 8 cookies and 6 people... one could not make it, but brought cookies anyway, and dear Carol made two cookies to represent her and Teresa. Yippee! The picture above shows Michelle's Angel Wings, Angelica's Festive Cranberry Crunch Bark, Janet's Gingerdoodles, Carol's Brownies and Sand Tarts and part of Adriana's Krinkle Cookies.

For some reason, the official Cookie Exchange photographer did not take a picture of ALL the cookies, including mine, Toffee Caramel Squares.

My cookies won best tasting at my office's cookie exchange, which brings my reign to two years. They are easy and very tasty!

Tonya's Buttermilk Pralines (also not photographed.. must get new photographer...) won for best tasting and they were delicious! They melt in your mouth without being too sweet.

Carol's Barefoot Contessa's Outrageous Brownies were voted prettiest. Carol iced and decorated five different ways. The coffee powder is a perfect addition to all the chocolate and really adds a nice flavor.

Here is Angelica, me, Tonya, Carol, Janet (with sleek, straight 'do!) and Michelle. Oh! And there are my cookies in the bottom right corner.

I wanted to serve savory appetizers to keep us all from going in to sugar comas. I made a double batch of my mom's famous vegetable dip:

1 packet Zesty Italian seasonings packet
8 oz cream cheese (can use low fat)
4 oz sour cream (can use low fat)

Mix all with a hand mixer and then use some milk to change to the thickness you like. You can also add more garlic salt or other herbs (I added some fresh rosemary).

I also served Florentine Artichoke Dip . As suggested by a reviewer, I made the following adjustments: used 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts (cut up) and only 1 block of cream cheese. I think this was every one's favorite appetizer!

For drinks I had Hot Apple Cider, and a fruit punch with cranberry, pineapple and orange juices and ginger ale. I realized later I neglected to add the ginger ale to the punch. Oops. I also added a small jar of cherries and floated frozen orange slices to keep it cool.

Rounding out the menu was the cheese log I had at Teresa's shower, mixed nuts, cheese, sausage, fruit and crackers.

Here we are again at another angle... we pose so nicely.

Monday, December 14, 2009


While I do not think cooking through my new favorite cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, is akin to cooking through Julia Childs, I am going to do it anyway. Even if it does not make me rich and famous!

I love pancakes. I will eat them for any meal. Lately I have wanted to make them from scratch. And scratch does not include Bisquick! Or maybe it does.... anyway, I was looking through my refrigerator, trying to decide what to do with that half used container of sour cream, when egad! Pioneer Woman has a recipe called "Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes". They were so easy! And soft and golden brown. Plus, the recipe calls for cooking them in an iron skillet. I NOW HAVE AN IRON SKILLET! And sour cream! This recipe is begging me to make it.

The recipe says it makes twelve, 4-inch pancakes. I made 5. Yes. Ok.. so one was like 6 inches, some were 5 and I guess that explains it. I ate the remainder tonight, after heating them in the oven, and they were just as delicious as last night!

Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes
by The Pioneer Woman

1 cup sour cream
7 tbs flour
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla

Place iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat to get it hot.

In a medium bowl put in sour cream, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir together gently, and stop short of completely combining.

Whisk together the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl.

Pour the eggs into the sour cream/flour mixture and stir together gently. Do not worry about completely combining.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet and pour in some batter. Cook a couple minutes each side, until golden brown and done in the middle.

Serve with butter, syrup, or however you like to do it!


Saturday, November 14, 2009

What I have been cooking....

I love buying bananas. If I don't eat them, they become a fabulous banana creation. I have a core group of friends at the office and they love helping me out by eating my goodies. Thursday night I made banana muffins. These had a great struessel topping and were very moist. I was able to make 12, unlike the recipe which says only 10.

I recently bought a lodge iron skillet. It is enamel coated and other than it being blue when I wanted red, it is perfect! And it was on sale, which is why it is blue when I wanted red. I made this corn bread recipe tonight and it was wonderful! I feared it would be too sweet, but not at all. The pan cleaned easily with some hot water and a dish towel. Next I want to make an apple pie in it, or maybe a cake. Whatever the pioneers would make in their skillets.

The corn bread was served with mashed potatoes, asparagus, cranberry sauce and TURKEY. HEB had a special where if you buy a pre-cooked turkey you get all kinds of other items for free. The turkey was very good and I will be eating on it the rest of the week. Which is fine, because I will be in Mexico for Thanksgiving and most likely eating fish tacos rather than poultry.

My mom joined us for our pre-Thanksgiving feast and she brought the dessert. It was chocolate mousse torte made with nilla wafers. It was very good and very pretty.

Chocolate Mousse Torte

Nilla Wafers
4 squares Baker's semi sweet chocolate, divided
2 packages (3.9 oz) jello chocolate instant pudding
2 cups plus 2 tbs cold milk, divided
1 tub (8 oz) cool whip, divided
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
raspberries for garnish

Line wafers on the bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie pan.

Melt 3 squares of chocolate.

Beat pudding mixes and 2 cups of milk with whisk for 2 minutes. Stir in melted chocolate and 1 cup of cool whip. Poor into prepared pan.

Beat cream cheese, sugar and remaining milk with mixer until blended. Stir in 1 cup of the remaining cool whip. Spread over pudding.

Garnish with raspberries and chocolate curls from remaining square of chocolate. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teresa’s baby shower, November 7, 2009

For our November gathering, we hosted Teresa’s baby shower at Carol’s house. Tonya had this thoughtful idea and we were able to showcase our skills!

We had a full spread, masterfully displayed by Carol. (Imagine pickles and olives on the empty tray).

On the menu:

Fresh fruit with Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
1 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
Zest of 1 orange
Juice from orange

Mix together the cream cheese and marshmallow cream.
Add zest. Add orange juice to get desired consistency. (smooth and creamy)

Crudites with Cilantro Dip

Crudites is the word of the day.

cru⋅di⋅tés  / kroo-di-tey; Fr.

–noun (used with a singular or plural verb) French Cookery. an appetizer consisting of a variety of raw vegetables, usually cut into strips or bite-size pieces, and served with a dip.

Gazpacho Salad Pasta
(Serves 10-12)

1 - 16 oz box Bowtie pasta
1 large cucumber, chopped
1 - 4 oz can sliced black olives, drained
2 tsp garlic salt
½ cup sliced salad olives
1 cup cilantro, chopped
6 green onions finely chopped (green and white ends)
1 – 8 oz bottle Ranch dressing
1 - 10 oz can Rotel tomatoes
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped

In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions on package. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water. Combine pasta with the remaining ingredients (except cheese). Mix. Chill overnight to let flavors marry. Just before serving, top with shredded cheese if desired.

Also served were:

Mary’s Chicken Salad Croissants

Cream Cheese with Cranberry Pepper Jelly

Yellow Cupcakes with Butter cream Icing. These were beautifully decorated by Tonya with green leaves and pink, blue and purple flowers. The icing was so light and very delicious.

Watermelon Buggy with fruit. Carol is gifted and so creative!

Fruit Punch (which mixed really well with white wine)

Congratulations, Teresa and Charlie! We can't wait to meet your little girl (who I hope comes on January 25, 2009, weighs 6 pounds and is 22 inches long).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 2009 Gathering at Janet's

Fall has arrived in Houston! We missed Teresa this time, but we are all looking forward to our special celebration with her next month.

Now that we can walk outside without melting, it seemed a good time to prepare some seasonal dishes to celebrate. Janet got the ball rolling with our main dish recipe, roasted pork and apples with cider glaze.

Tonya chose to bring an appetizer, crostini with roasted garlic, goat cheese and apple chutney.

Carol went all out with a soup AND salad, and both were delicious. The butternut bisque and pear, roquefort, pecans and mixed greens with celery vinaigrette recipes are by the Dining Diva, Molly Fowler.

Angie rounded out the entree with two side dishes, sweet-roasted rosemary acorn squash wedges and brussel sprout salad with pancetta and cranberries.

Mary, who is queen of donuts and desserts and still fits into those slim blue jeans, brought cinnamon roll bread pudding ... who wouldn't love that?!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Bananas that need to be eaten usually drive my weekend baking. I flipped through my "to be tried" recipe pile and found this recipe for Healthy Banana-Blueberry Muffins. As I have fresh blueberries frozen, this recipe seemed to fill my needs.

As I normally do, I modified it. (on a side note.. I recently read an article by a chef where she says to modify recipes before you make them the first time if you want... some people say to make it "as is" first, and THEN modify, but she said go ahead and do what you want. I like her.) I added some shredded coconut and pecans. Not too crazy, just adding more to the "Healthy" part.

The muffins were excellent and I will make them again!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Husband, the Chef

My status as pastry chef for the household is in jeopardy!

Joe made a pumpkin crumb cake last week. It was so delicious we ate it before I got a chance to take a photo.

Today, he baked an apple cake. He must be quite pleased with himself, because he has decided to rename it Saddle Creek Apple Cake, after our street. This recipe comes from a book my Mom gave me, Cooking Texas Style. The master chef thought a glaze might enhance the dessert, so he tested that out on one half of the cake.

He e-mailed me a photo of the finished cake while I was still at work, so I was dying to get home to try it. It was so moist and delicious! I am incredibly impressed that my husband baked any cake, especially one that did not even involve a cake mix.

Saddle Creek Apple Cake

A moist, delicious cake chock full of goodies that makes a wonderful gift-giving cake, especially in the fall when thoughts turn to cool weather, apple harvest time and mulled cider.

2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1.5 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon rum
3 cups raw apples, diced
half cup raisins
half cup nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease and flour a 10-inch tube (bundt) pan.
Beat the eggs well.
Add the sugar and beat again.
Add the vegetable oil and beat until smooth.
Sift together salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour.
Add to the egg mixture.
Blend in vanilla and rum.
Fold in apples, raisins and nuts.
Bake for approximately 1.5 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The best lemon cake ever

I am bringing a cake for a cake walk tomorrow at my church's fall festival and I wanted something "hearty" and portable. I also wanted something that reminds me of summer, which is almost over. I saw this Lemon Cake on Ina's show the other day and it looked wonderful. And, it makes 2 loaves, so I get to eat one and still give one away.

As the reviews state, read the directions carefully as some items are divided between the cake and the syrup and that's not overly obvious.

September, 27, 2009 Gathering

We had a super September gathering on the 27th. Tonya was not with us, enjoying some family time.

It was a comfort foods theme. While some of my comfort foods are tater tots and fish sticks, we were a little more gourmet.

Appetizer (Janet) – Cranberry Salsa served both over cream cheese with crackers and alone with tortilla chips. It was very yummy both ways. Fresh, sweet and tangy and such a pretty color.

Bread and Wine (Carol) - A trio of breads! Parmesan Herb Rolls, Rebecca Rather's Beer Bread (my second favorite) and Rather Rich Corn Muffins (my favorite!) All were very good and we could have made a meal from just this basket.

Parmesan Herb Rolls
Makes 1 dozen
1 c grated Parmesan cheese ( I grabbed the wrong container--I had Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano)
1 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried tarragon
1tsp garlic salt
1 pkg frozen yeast bread dough, thawed ( I use Rhode's frozen rolls)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Grease a 12 cup muffin tin and set aside. In a small bowl, combine Parmesan cheese, onion, oregano, tarragon, and garlic salt. Set aside.Cut 36 (1 inch) pieces of dough. Roll each piece in melted butter and then in cheese mixture.Place three balls into each muffin cup. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours). Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 12 - 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Rebecca Rather's Beer Bread
3 c all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1tsp salt
3 T sugar
1 (12 oz.) bottle good quality beer or ale
1/2 (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Pour in beer and stir until incorporated. The dough will be sticky and heavy. Pour half the melted butter into the bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Spoon in the bread dough and pour the remaining half of the butter on top. Bake 50 - 60 minutes until the bumpy top is golden brown. Remove from the pan and serve immediately.
Variation: can add chopped chives, child peppers such as jalapenos, green onions, or any grated cheese.
Rather Rich Corn Muffins
Yield: About 2 dozen
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 cups heavy whipping cream
3 large eggs
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 coarse cornmeal plus extra to sprinkle over
1 cup sugar ( can use 1/2 of sugar if you don't want so sweet)
2 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
optional -- add 1 cup fresh corn kernels or 1 canned corn, drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease 24 standard muffin cups or line them with muffin papers. Pour the butter, cream, and eggs into the large bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt on top. Mix at medium speed just until the ingredients are combined and not lumpy. Stir the corn into the batter. Using a medium sized scoop, fill the muffin cups abut 2/3 full with the batter. Sprinkle cornmeal over the tops of the muffins. Bake the muffins for 12 - 15 minutes, until lightly brown.
Muffins should spring back when you touch the top slightly with your fingertips. They are best served warm, and equally delicious toasted with butter. Tips: This batter can be refrigerated in a covered container for 3 days and baked just before serving. Be sure to add 3 to 5 minutes to the baking to compensate for the temperature of the refrigerated muffin batter.

Salad (Angie) - Parmesan, Walnut & Arugula Baskets. Parmesan cheese and walnuts were heated in a skillet then draped over a small bowl to make little baskets. The baskets can be made a day or two ahead and stored in an air-tight container. The salad was very simple and instead of arugula I used a spring mix with baby spinach. I also toasted the walnuts that were in the salad.

Parmesan, Walnut & Arugula Baskets
Taste of Home
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
4 cups fresh arugula or spring mix salad greens
1/2 cup green grapes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cheese and 1 teaspoon walnuts over the bottom of the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until edges are golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 seconds. Using a spatula, carefully remove cheese mixture and immediately drape over an inverted glass with a 2-in. diameter bottom; cool completely. Repeat with remaining cheese and walnuts, forming six baskets. For salad, in a large bowl, combine the arugula, grapes and walnuts. Whisk the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over arugula mixture; toss to coat. Place 1/2 cup salad in each basket. Yield: 6 servings.

Side (Mary) - Corn Pudding with Poblanos. This was so yummy and very much a comfort food. The poblanos gave nice flavor without being too hot or over powering. It looked really pretty with the sprinkling of green onions too.

Main (Teresa) – Oven Fried Chicken! OH MY! If you asked me what my last meal would be, it would be fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans and apple pie. Teresa had the chickens cut up at the market and soaked it in buttermilk about 6 hours. Mary did the dredging (excellent job!) and I did the frying (with much assistance from Carol). Teresa’s tall stock pot captured most of the splatters and it went very smoothly. By the last few batches the oil was getting darker, as was the chicken; however this did not affect the flavor. It did lead to conversations about fast food places and how often do THEY change out the oil?!

Dessert (Janet) – Coca Cola Cake. Thank heavens Janet pulled double duty and did not sacrifice dessert for an appetizer. This cake was so tasty!! The icing was a great consistency, like fudge, and blanketed the delectable cake. Yummmm… who knew Coke could make such a wonderful cake?!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Janet Cooks!

While we wait patiently for me to compile pictures and recipes from September's gathering, here are some recipes from Janet.

Blueberry (or any fruit) Puff Pastry Tarts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

one eight-ounce package of cream cheese
one-half cup of sugar
one tablespoon of lemon zest
one teaspoon of vanilla (or almond) extract; set aside.

Place puff pastry shells (thawed) one 10-ounce package on prepared cookie sheets. I like to use parchment for ease of clean-up.

Brush each with milk and sprinkle with tubinado sugar.

Bake in preheated oven until shells expand and turn golden brown ~10-14 minutes. Do not over bake.

Remove shells from oven, use a fork to remove the cap from each and set aside.

Spoon the cream cheese mixture (~ 2 teaspoons) into each shell, top with fruit. Place puff pastry cap on top of each shell over the berries (fruit).

Return to oven, and bake until pastry tops are golden brown and the filling is warm, about 5 minutes.


And what a beautiful fruit tart!

Finally, these are supposed to be the best chocolate chip cookies!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nice Buns!

This meal began with my search for a recipe for slow cooker pulled pork, but along the way I decided to make my own buns also. It may be the carb addict in me, but I think the bread ended up being the star of the show.

I went with the recipe for Beautiful Burger Buns on the King Arthur Flour website. Teresa, you will be happy to know that I made absolutely no recipe modifications! I had not baked bread in a very long time and forgot how wonderful it smells. These were definitely better than the buns in the bakery section in the store, and forget about even trying to compare them to the buns in a bag on the bread aisle.

For the pulled pork, I just ended up winging it. I made a rub with brown sugar, salt, cumin, Emeril's seasoning, chili powder and black pepper. I added some worcestershire sauce, and cooked on low for about 8 hours. After draining off all of the fat and juice that cooked out of the pork, I shredded the meat with a couple of forks, added a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's bbq sauce, and cooked on low for another hour. I think Joe will be happy if this makes it into the regular rotation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fruit Tart

We were invited to a South African braii last weekend. After consulting with wikipedia, I learned that a braii is a potluck bbq! Joe checked with our hosts, and they requested that we bring a dessert. My favorite, of course!

We knew they were already going to have at least a couple of cakes, so I decided to make a fruit tart. I bought a tart pan at the restaurant supply store a few months ago and have never gotten around to trying it out.

I consulted with the trusty Food Network website, and decided on a Paula Deen recipe. I really don't think Paula can go wrong as far as dessert goes. Of course, I did make a couple of changes. Instead of using vanilla in the cream cheese filling, I used lemon zest and almond extract. Just my personal preference for cream cheese flavoring. Also, I just used an apricot glaze for the fruit instead of the glaze recipe Paula uses.

I was relieved that the crust came out of the tart pan easily. This recipe makes more of a shortbread crust than a pastry crust, but I that was fine for this type of dessert. It was very easy to work with also.

The recipe was for a 12" pan, but mine is a 9.5", so there was enough left over to make some tarlets. These did not make it to the party, but were used for the chef and her husband to taste the recipe! It was delicious. Thanks Paula!

Monday, August 31, 2009

August 30,2009 at Mary's!

In the rush of Sunday, I forgot my camera! And so did Tonya! So the pictures this month are from the INTERNET.

This month's theme was copy cat recipes from restaurants. Mmmmm!

Appetizer (Janet): Delicious steak with tomatoes, basil and a blue cheese dressing on froccia from a steak house.

Salad (Tonya): Carrabba's house salad. Very good!

Sides (Carol): The best cooked carrots I have ever had (with maple syrup, rosemary and butter) and crisp green beans with lemon and butter.

Brennan's Maple-Glazed Carrots with Rosemary

Yields 4 servings
3 qts. water
1/2 T salt
1 lb baby carrots, peeled
2 T unsalted butter
6 T maple syrup
2 t finely chopped fresh rosemary
salt and white pepper to taste

Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.Add carrots and blanch about 4 - 6 minutes, drain and reserve. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add maple syrup and rosemary.Simmer about 1 minute. Add reserved carrots and saute until hot. Seasonwith salt and white pepper, serve immediately.

Bread (Teresa): Red Lobster's cheddar biscuit, sans all the greasiness!

Main (Mary): Red Lobster's tilapia. Really nice and crispy!

This Italian inspired dish features fresh tilapia baked with a delicious coating of fresh Parmesan cheese, butter and Parmesan crème.

Serves 4


4 ea 5-6 oz Tilapia Fillets
Non-stick Cooking Spray
½ lb. Linguini, cooked

Parmesan Crust:

½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs*
½ cup Parmesan Cheese, pre-shredded

Parmesan Base:

½ cup Parmesan Cheese, pre-shredded
1 Tbsp. Parsley, dried
10 oz Prepared Refrigerated Alfredo Sauce

Parmesan Cream Sauce:

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, Chopped
¼ cup Chablis or Chardonnay Wine, optional
¼ cup Half and Half


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9X13 baking dish with Non-stick Cooking Spray. Place the 4 Tilapia fillets in the dish and set aside. In a small bowl, mix the Panko bread crumbs and ½ cup Parmesan cheese to make the crust for the topping. Set aside.

To assemble the Parmesan Base, place ½ cup Parmesan cheese, 1 Tbsp. parsley and the prepared Alfredo sauce in a medium bowl and stir well. Remove ½ cup of the mixture (reserving the rest to make the Parmesan Cream Sauce) and brush onto the 4 pieces of Tilapia, making a thick, even covering on the fish.

Evenly sprinkle the Parmesan Crust on top of the fish. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until fish reaches 140-150 degrees and the crust is golden brown.

Meanwhile while the fish is baking, make the Parmesan Cream sauce. Place the remaining Parmesan Base in a medium sauce pan, add the fresh Basil, Wine, and Half and Half and heat over medium heat until the sauce is simmering, stirring often. Toss the Parmesan Cream Sauce and the Linguini together and serve with the Parmesan Crusted Tilapia. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.

Dessert (Angie): Chili's White Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

I made it by preparing a boxed yellow cake mix (I used the butter recipe kind) in cupcakes. When the cupcakes were cooled, I sliced them in half and spooned some melted white chocolate bark in the middle. I put the tops back on and put some chocolate bark on the top too and then in the fridge to harden. For the side, I made a simple strawberry sauce with strawberries, corn starch and sugar, heated, then mashed.

To serve: heat the cupcakes about 30 second to a minute to melt the chocolate, spoon strawberry sauce around the plate and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top (or not!).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Casserole, Cake, Cookies - the 3 Cs

Two weeks ago, on a Sunday, I made Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. I ate 3 before they were even cool, so I quickly realized I needed to take the offensive and get the cookies OUT OF MY HOUSE. I took them to work and passed them out to my friends. Apparently they were really good because 1 coworker keeps sending me emails reminding me how good those cookies were. I added 1 cup of chocolate chips to this recipe and it also suggested adding 1/2 cup toasted walnuts and 1/2 cup of pecans but I was out of nuts.

Last week I made Strawberry Streusel Cheesecake. It was easy and looked really pretty but I was not blown away by it. I think it was the strawberry pie filing... next time I think I will either use fresh strawberries or make my own sauce.

I also made Hearty Tex-Mex Squash Chicken casserole, which I got years ago from my sister but never made it, and invited my parents over for dinner. They helped me out by taking home some left overs and all of the cheesecake leftovers. Perpetual diet intact.

Hearty Tex-Mex Squash Chicken Casserole

Makes 8 generous servings

1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed
3 medium sized yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper cut in ½ inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tbs oil
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (deli rotisserie works great)
12 corn tortillas cut in 1 inch pieces
1 can cream of celery soup
1 8 oz jar sour cream (I use light)
1 8 oz jar of mild picante sauce
1 4.5 oz can chopped green chilies, undrained
1 1.4 oz envelope fajita seasoning
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Drain spinach well, set aside

Sauté squash, bell pepper and onion in oil in a skillet over medium high heat until tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in spinach, chicken and remaining ingredients including 1 ½ cup cheese. Spoon in to lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Spring remaining ½ cup cheese after removing from oven.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fleur de Sel Caramels

This was a Barefoot Contessa recipe ... of course. I've had this episode saved on my dvr for several weeks and finally got around to making this this weekend.

This recipe is the perfect example of why I like online recipes so much ... the reviews! I was not really paying attention to measurements when I watched the episode since I would go to the website to get the recipe. When I scanned through the comments/reviews though, I noticed that many people pointed out that the recipe on the website was wrong. I re-watched the episode, and sure enough, the online version of the recipe only had about 1/3 of the sugar called for. Non-sweet caramels ... yuck.

So, here is the link to the online recipe, but the adjustments are: use 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1 cup of cream.

Mine turned out just a little bit too hard. You cook them to 248 degrees, and once you start getting close, the temperature raises very quickly. I think mine probably got up to about 250 by the time I got it poured into the pan. They still turned out awesome though. Definitely the best caramels I've ever had.

An added bonus of making these was that Joe doesn't like caramels ... so more for me! He tried one of these though, and now he's a convert.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I made Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies for dinner at David's aunt and uncle's tonight. You all know my phobia about boxed brownies and not having a flaky top. Imagine my trepidation on making from scratch brownies!! Well... tada.. they were perfect! And flaky! The almond extract really made them taste so special too. I may add a swig to the next boxed mix I make. Very Sandra Lee-ish.

July 19, 2009 at Carol's

We had an international theme at Carol's house. As always, a beautiful table, place settings and party favors!

The menu:

Appetizer (Angie): Hummus (traditional, spinach with feta and sun dried tomato) with homemade pita chips. We also made a mushroom tart using the extra mushrooms and pastry from the Beef Wellingtons.

Salad (Janet): Israeli salad. So good and fresh! Very good as a left over too.

Main (Caro): Individual Beef Wellingtons decorated by us!

Sides (Tonya): Fennel Puree (SO DELICIOUS!!) and Fasoliyyeh bi z - zaty (huh? really good green beans!). Carol also made pop overs.
Dessert (Teresa): Mexican Chocolate Frozen Bananas (yummy and cold!)

Drinks (Mary): Rioja White Sangria. I could have had 10 glasses of this. But stopped at 2!

Sparkling White Sangria

2 bottle White Rioja
1 cup brandy
½ cup orange liqueur
1 can nectar (pineapple or orange pineapple work best)
7up for *sparkle*
simple syrup (1/2 to 1 cup)
sliced orange (blood orange if you can find it, works great)
sliced lime
sliced lemon

In large pitcher, combine wine, brandy, orange liqueur and nectar. Add simple syrup once cooled. Mix well. Add the sliced fruit and let all sit for few hours before serving. Pour about 2/3 sangria in glass and top with 1/3 7up.