I am constantly amazed at how animated and talkative people get when you mention food. The mere aroma of certain foods can evoke memories that transport us back to a special place and time. Food can bridge the gap between all ages, races and ethnicities.
Let's face it, the only thing that should ever come between people is a table and some serving bowls.

Friday, October 15, 2010

From Pumpkin Patch To Table

Pumpkins give so much of themselves, they are decorative, they are fun, they are loaded with seeds for both snacking and replanting and all that glorious pulp to cook in a variety of ways.
We already have one very large pumpkin gracing our table with a beautifully carved witch all a glow by candle light. This very same pumpkin has given us golden toasted, slightly salty seeds to munch on. Now awaits the big hefty pumpkin sitting outside. This one is very heavy and extremely meaty and will be cut up and cooked down to be enjoyed in this recipe and probably several others by the size of it.

FYI- When preparing my fresh pumpkin, I like dividing the pumpkin into sections leaving the skin on. I then drizzle with a little oil and roast it at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour. Then just scoop out the flesh and put it into containers and store in the refrigerator. You may also cut the flesh of the pumpkin into chunks and boil but I find the roasting brings out the natural sugar of the pumkin and imparts more flavor.

Pumpkin Lasagna

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large onions, chopped
1 can (about 4 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained (sauteed fresh mushrooms, even better)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried, Italian seasoning
1 Pkg. of frozen spinach thawed, squeeze out all the liquid
2 cups of fresh pumpkin, canned works fine as well
1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese, preferably whole milk
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground, black pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup Alfredo sauce, jarred is fine
15 lasagna noodles (about 3/4 pound), cooked according to package

Cook time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and Italian seasoning, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and heat through; set aside.
Mix pumpkin and ricotta cheese in a large mixing bowl. Stir in Parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper and nutmeg until well combined.
Grease the inside of baking dish with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 3 noodles, covering the bottom of the dish. Spread 1/4 of the pumpkin mixture over the layer of noodles and scatter 1/4 of the green mixture over the pumpkin. Repeat layers of noodles, pumpkin and greens, until you have 4 layers of each. Top with the remaining 3 noodles; spread the remaining 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce over the top. Cover with a sheet of foil and bake for 45 minutes until bubbling around the edges. Remove foil; top with remaining Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Let lasagna rest for about 15 minutes before cutting, the squares will hold together better.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Basil In Winter

The nights are starting to get too cold to leave the herbs outside and I don't want to lose any of them. Herbs can sometimes be difficult to keep fresh once picked. You can dry them which will intensify the flavor. Plus by drying and removing all the moisture the herbs will last for a good length of time. I will sometimes layer the herbs between sheets of wax paper, place in a container and freeze. The shelf life is not quite as long as the drying method but the flavor is a little closer to fresh. One of my favorite ways of keeping that intense basil flavor and aroma for several months is by turning the basil into a pesto. I love reaching for that jar of pesto during the winter months it gives every meal a hint of summer.

Basil Pesto

2 Cups of Basil leaves, stalks removed and torn into pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4 Cup of pine nuts or walnuts
3 tablespoons Parmesan
3 tablespoons Pecorino Romano
1 1/4 cup olive oil

Put everything in a food processor and then slowly drizzle in the oil. You do not want this completely smooth. Serve on bread, flavor your meats or seafood or just toss some into your favorite pasta dish.

image WebECoist

Monday, September 13, 2010

Falling Into You

Falling Leaves, falling temperatures no wonder we call this the fall season quite aptly named I would say. While things are falling steadily outside the inside temperatures are on the rise. We slowly raise our thermostats and once again begin to turn up the burners for some cold weather cooking. For me it is an automatic reflex on our very first cold, dark damp day that my soul longs for a big bowl of homemade soup. I never know which one to make first, I have so many favorites but since it is that time of year filled with crisp aromatic apples and rich velvety squash in such great abundance I believe my soup journey should begin here.

Apple Harvest Soup

4 slices day old bread
3 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 lg. butternut squash, peeled and sliced
2 med. onions, sliced
4 c. chicken stock, canned or homemade
3/4 tsp. dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. apple wine, may substitute with apple cider
1/2 c. heavy cream
Sour cream

Make bread crumbs of the bread. Place in stockpot with all ingredients up to apple wine. Simmer 30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Puree the mixture and reheat to simmer. Add the apple wine and cream - do not boil. To serve, garnish with dabs of sour cream.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hot For The Picking

This time of year is bittersweet, sweet because most of the gardens bounty is ripe for the picking and bitter because it means summer is coming to an end.
On a brighter note fall is just around the corner and it brings with it crisp air and an abundance of apples, corn and squash to console us through the winter.
I had only planted a couple of jalapeno plants at the beginning of the season and to my surprise these plants are producing dozens and dozens of peppers. So here is a really nice salad that combines a little bit of everything; hot, sweet, tangy, crunchy but most of all delicious.

Jalapeno, Jicama and Mango Salad

1 small Jicama sliced thin, adds a nice crunch to the salad but can be omitted.
4 ripe mangos
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
4 fresh jalapenos, seeded and sliced fine
1/4 c. light oil
1/8 c. of apple cider vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
Dash of sugar to taste

Peel and slice the mangos and Jicama and combine mango, jicama, onion slices with the jalapenos. Make a dressing by stirring the oil, cider vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar together. Mix well and let stand for at least 2 hours before serving.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Eaten Not Stirred

My mother’s great grandparents came from Russia and one of the stories that I found most fascinating was their tradition for a Bloody Mary. According to them the Bloody Mary’s that we are all familiar with stray far from its origins. There was a time when the tomato and the vodka never married together in a glass instead the tomato was eaten with a little salt and then washed down with ample amounts of vodka. Over time when the Russians introduced this tomato eating vodka drinking tradition to the United States many people started to add their own twists and created the many versions of the Bloody Mary that we are all quite enjoyably familiar with today.
Since my cherry tomatoes in my garden are red, ripe and bountiful why not pay homage to them by making some bite size Bloody Mary's.
Please make sure you have some ice cold vodka chilling to wash these down with, we wouldn’t want to break from tradition afterall.

Bite Size Bloody Mary’s

1 box ripe cherry tomatoes or fresh from the garden, even better
1/4 c. very cold vodka
2 tbsp. kosher salt
Save the rest of the Vodka for drinking

Poke 3 to 4 holes in each cherry tomato using a toothpick, place tomatoes in a container that has a cover. Pour vodka over tomatoes, give them a stir then cover and refrigerate over night or longer if necessary. To serve place tomatoes in serving dish, in separate dishes have toothpicks and kosher salt. To eat place tomato on toothpick, dip in kosher salt and eat.

FYI- may also provide dishes of chopped dill and some hot pepper for those who like it spicy.

Bloody Mary

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sprouts And Spuds

I have added Brussel sprouts to my garden this year; it will be my first time planting them. I have always loved them so it will be especially nice to enjoy them fresh picked right from my own back yard. Brussel sprouts can be prepared in a hundred different ways from simple to over the top and turn out delicious every time. I like this recipe because it reminds me a little of the English bubble and squeak (cabbage and mashed potatoes). I guess you could mash this up and pretty much have the same thing either way it is just good eating made simple.

Brussel Sprouts and New Potatoes

About a dozen sm. red potatoes  washed and quartered
A dozen or so Brussels sprouts, trimmed with X cut in stem for quicker cooking
Tablespoon of butter
Tablespoon of olive oil
3/4 c. of chicken broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives or green onion tops

Place Brussel sprouts and potatoes in large sauté pan with olive oil and butter set to medium high heat. Once sprouts and potatoes are nicely coated with the butter and oil add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes then lower heat, cover and let simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes. Turn off heat, add salt, pepper, herbs and onion tops, give it a good stir and serve.

The addition of crumbled bacon or a dollop of sour cream is a welcome touch.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Daydreaming Garden

It is that time of year when I take great pleasure in watching my garden grow. As I wait for sun, rain and nature to take its natural course, I start to daydream of all the wonderful ways that I will prepare the fruits of my labor. Right now I am focused on just how pretty the sweet peas are winding and clinging to anything and everything. Their beautiful pinkish purple blossoms letting me know that something special is yet to come. Gardening is so magical and so satisfying in so many ways.

Sweet Pea Salad

3 to 4 cups of cooked rice, any type
2 c. of fresh from the garden sweet peas, may substitute frozen
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, taste much better if you toast the walnuts first
1/2 c. chopped sweet red pepper
1/4 c. sliced green onions (scallions)
1/3 c. bottled buttermilk ranch or creamy Italian salad dressing
Salt and pepper to taste

In bowl combine rice with peas, nuts, pepper and onions. Add salad dressing and gently toss to coat. Chill and toss again just before serving.
This salad is very pretty served in lettuce cups or over lettuce covered plates.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Holiday Heat Relief

The heat is on, the people have gathered and it is time to keep things cool this holiday weekend. Here is a last minute idea that is fun, quick and plays a double role; beverage and dessert. Plus it is easy enough to leave you free to join in on the fun.
Happy Memorial Day!

7-UP Fruit Freeze - It's a dessert, it's a cocktail, it's a punch, it's a Blast!

1- 6 ounce can of orange juice concentrate
1- 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of lemon juice
2 pkgs. of. Frozen strawberries, using the juice as well
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
6 bananas, diced

Combine all ingredients. Pour into 9 x 13 inch pan. Freeze. Take out 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Put a scoop of the fruit ice into glass of your choice and fill remainder of glass with 7-UP. It's just fruity, fizzy fun on a hot summer day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Prepped And Ready To Go!

Isn't it funny how our fruit consumption increases when someone else has taken the time to do all the work? Prime example, my uncle and I enjoy fresh pink grapefruit segments not the ones that come in a can or jar. Sure, we could purchase the grapefruits and segment them ourselves but it is so much nicer to enjoy the corning glass container full of them that could always be found in my grandmother's refrigerator. My grandmother prepped melons, berries and grapefruit every week and kept them chilled in the fridge ready to be enjoyed at all times.
Sometimes you just hate to work at your food but the rewards are great if you do and even greater when someone else is kind enough to do it for you.
I find I tend to eat more often and automatically healthier by having containers of fruit and veggie's prepped and ready to eat on hand.
I had a friend who would always have a large container filled with assorted melon balls in her fridge. In the heat of summer this was a much appreciated treat after a long day of yard work or just a day of fun in the sun. I am sure if that melon was not in the fridge we would have opted for something less than nutritious. My friend also made this sour cream dressing that went wonderfully with the melon. The dressing will add a few calories but all you really need is about a teaspoonful of dressing per serving for it is quite rich and flavor dense. Feel free to opt out of the dressing and just stick with the melon which is fine and satisfying on its own.

Melon Balls - Use any type of melon

1 whole watermelon
2 whole cantaloupe
1 whole honeydew melon
Juice of half a lemon, lime or orange helps fruit stay fresher longer while adding extra flavor.
Mint sprigs, optional

If you feel that your melon is not sweet enough just add a tablespoon of sugar to the cut up melon and stir in before placing in the fridge.

Scoop balls from melons (for less work you may just cube the melon). Chill and serve with garnish of mint sprigs.

Optional Dressing:

8 ounces of Sour Cream
1 Tablespoon of orange juice concentrate
1 Tablespoon of powdered Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla

Mix all ingredients together, place in covered container and refrigerate.
One spoonful of this dressing is just enough to make that melon salad extra special.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

A thirsty girl needs to start planning for all the hot weather ahead and what better way than with a pink girly girl cocktail. This will put the blush in those pretty little cheeks and keep you smiling through the rest of the day.
These slush type drinks are the perfect thing to keep on hand during the summer months. Whether it's a party of one or one hundred, it never hurts to be prepared!

Pink Lady Slush

1 lg. can pink frozen lemonade
1 lg. can water
1/2 c. grenadine
1 cup of vodka

Mix well and freeze until mixture turns to slush (at least 2 to 3 hours); stir occasionally. Fill glass 1/2 full with slush. Fill remainder with 7-Up or if you want your drink to pack more punch skip the 7-Up and use sparkling wine or champagne instead.

Just keep doubling and tripling the amounts, so your freezer never runs dry.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Black Beauty

                                                                Black Garlic

For all of us who can't imagine life without garlic, there is a new stinking rose in town and she's a beauty......a black beauty. Yes you heard me right, I was watching the Foodnetwork the other night and an ingredient that was being used on one of their shows was; Black Garlic. I know I nearly fell off my chair, why had I not heard of this and where do I have to go to get some. Well it turns out there is a website devoted to this amazing bulb. It almost looks like pieces of shiny black onyx cradled in antique white. I cannot wait to try it, so I am including the link to the website where you may order it direct or find a nearby location that carries it.
I look forward to seeing how it tastes and all the new recipes that I can create with it.
Here is one of the recipes from the website using this new culinary find. If anyone has already tried this please let me know what you thought of it and more importantly....what type of dish you made using it.

Here is another wonderful site for Black Garlic called Black Garlic Love, Thanks Lydia.


• One portion of linguine
• 4 cloves of peeled black garlic – sliced
• A glug of extra virgin garlic oil
• A handful of chopped fresh herbs – chives, parsley and basil
• Freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• A few slivers of fresh mild red chilli (optional)


1. Cook the linguine according to the instructions on the packet.
2. Once cooked drain thoroughly. Set aside.
3. Heat the garlic oil in the same pan. Add the black garlic, herbs and chilli (if using). Stir.
4. Quickly toss in the linguine. Stir.
5. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
6. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with a few whole fresh basil leaves.
7. Sit back, relax and enjoy!!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Abracadabra Watch Me Pull A Pie Crust Out Of My.........

As soon as I see a recipe for any type of impossible pie it instantly reminds me of my grandmother. My grandmother loved all of those impossible pie recipes and there was actually a period of time when she was making a couple different impossible pies per week. I think besides the fact that they were easy to make and that they tasted good, I believe my grandmother derived a bit of amusement and fascination by the crust that would magically appear from nothing but a pool of wet batter. My grandmother was not alone; all of us kids loved the magic pie crust trick....especially the part where we made the magic pie disappear one tasty bite at a time.
This impossible coconut pie turns out with the consistency of a crème Brulee that just happens to have a very thin crust. You could probably sprinkle some sugar on top and use a torch to melt the sugar and actually turn it into a coconut Crème Brulee pie.

Impossible Coconut Pie

4 eggs
1/2 stick melted butter
2 cups milk
1 cup coconut
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

You may substitute a 1/2 cup of Bisquick as a replacement for the flour and baking powder in this recipe.

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a greased pie pan. Bake 1 hour and 5 minutes at 350°F.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Now That's The "Spear-It"

Only twenty calories in five spears, nutritionally well balanced, in season and great tasting. Only a few minutes of cooking time and I am munching those spears one after another as if they were pretzel rods. I seem to do the same thing with brussel sprouts I eat them as if they were popcorn. It's not that I can't have the pretzels or the popcorn; I actually enjoy the asparagus and the brussel sprouts and find them to be a treat and not a deprivation.
Asparagus is so low in calorie that you can actually fill your plate without fretting over the portion size. This recipe is perfect if you are looking for something a little different with loads of flavor without packing on too many additional calories.
If you would like to have this salad as a meal rather than a side, just add some tuna for the addition of protein. The tuna would actually make this more of a traditional Nicoise salad.

Asparagus Nicoise

3 lbs. of asparagus trimmed
6 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar
3 Teaspoons. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. of olive oil
3 shallots minced
3 plum tomatoes, diced (any nice ripe tomato will do)
1/2 c. Nicoise or Kalamata olives, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 Tablespoons drained capers

Place asparagus in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 4-5 minutes, then drain. Transfer asparagus to bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process.

Whisk vinegar and mustard in small bowl, slowly whisk in the oil until it emulsifies. Then add in the shallots, tomatoes, olives and capers, salt and pepper to taste. Drain asparagus and arrange on individual plates or on a big serving platter and let everyone help themselves. Spoon Nicoise mixture over asparagus and serve cold

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Scent Of A Woman

As women choosing a fragrance that compliments our individual body chemistry is one of great importance. We match our shampoo to our hair type; our make-up must blend to match our skin tone depending on whether we are fair, medium or dark. Then their is the whole color palette thing for hair, eye shadow, blush....are you a pink or an earth tone, a blond, brunette or redhead? It can be exhausting always trying to look and smell our best working with and accentuating what God gave us. We do this not only as a form of vanity but as a way to embrace our womanhood, femininity and as a way of recognizing that girly girl inside all of us.
This feminine mystique doesn't stop at humans it can also be highly exhibited in our four legged family members. By this time, I am sure all of you are familiar with my very dear friend Christine. Christine is very much a girly girl in the very best sense and it would stand to reason that she would have a dog who reflects those same girly girl qualities. When you see Christine's dog Lena, there is no mistaking that she is female, from her long flowing silky blond hair down to the gentle sashay of her hips when she walks. As a female, Lena is meticulous about her grooming. That is also why she has always gone with very specific fragrances to enhance her natural womanly beauty; Eau De Spring Air, Eau De Flowers, Eau De Summer Breeze, Eau De Crisp Winter, Eau De Falling Leaves and Eau De Fresh Cut Grass. These fragrances have always worked well with her natural chemistry and have kept her feeling feminine and attractive to others. Unfortunately Lena decided to throw caution to the wind (literally) and go to a new perfume counter to experiment with something different. The girl behind the counter seemed nice enough with her long flowing black hair and that striking white stripe down the center of her back. Lena's curiosity to try something new drew her closer to that girl allowing the girl to take her atomizer and give her a little spray. Lena being immediately horrified by the smell asked;" What on earth do you call this, it makes a compost heap smell like a field of gardenias".
The girl politely replied; it is my own personal scent sugar, I call it Eau De Skunk now you have a nice day Darlin' and please don't come back!


Funny......well not so much for Christine or Lena for that matter. Happily the smell is finally starting to go away.
A stinky story deserves a stinky recipe and the very first thing that comes to mind.....Limburger Cheese of course!
Limburger cheese is undoubtedly one of the worst smelling cheeses in the world! Limburger actually smells far worse than it tastes. For many people though, the aroma is both the beginning and the end of the acquaintance.
I did not muster up enough courage to try Limburger until I was 37 years old but I must say I absolutely love it. Once you get past the smell it is one of the freshest tasting cheeses on the palate....hard to believe but true.

Limburger Cheese Sandwich

2 slices rye bread (dark, light or pumpernickel)
Prepared brown mustard or butter, I actually prefer the butter.
Limburger cheese, sliced
Thick slices of sweet onion

To assemble sandwich, spread mustard on rye bread slices; layer with limburger cheese and sweet onion slices.

Serve with your favorite beer.

Makes 1 sandwich.

Caution! This is not a perfume atomizer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Energizing Salad

I am always struggling with what to eat while doing my night job cleaning at an athletic club. The hours are technically hours that most people should not be eating. I am there from 9:30 pm until 6 in the morning. It is only three nights a week but it is a physically grueling job that requires a lot of energy that quite frankly I don't always have. So what to eat that isn't too calorie laden but yet packs enough protein to give me the energy that I so desperately need. Well, eggs are great which I do often either hard boiled or I'll make a nice vegetable frittata which always travels nicely but I also would like some variety. Then I remembered a tuna and bean salad that my grandmother made and kept in a covered container in the fridge. This salad is perfect; it keeps well and is not only delicious but packed with protein. So I made myself a triple batch of the recipe below using three types of beans; cannellini, black and butter beans. This is the perfect healthy go to food to keep on hand, especially for those of us constantly watching our weight.

FYI-Tuna has always been a favorite protein source especially for bodybuilders, dieters, and other athletes. Tuna is a very inexpensive, convenient food that is low in fat and a great source of protein and omega-3 essential fats. Beans and legumes are inexpensive and a common food all over the world. Very high in calcium and iron, beans and legumes are also a great source of protein and can be a nice alternative to meat.

High Protein Salad
Make a double or triple batch, this salad will keep for a couple weeks refrigerated. I usually allow myself a one to one and a half cup serving.

1 cans of cannellini beans, (15 oz.) drained & rinsed (may use any type bean)
1 lg. can white tuna, drained
1/2 c. chopped red onion
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
1 lg. tomato, seeded & diced, optional
Bell peppers, chopped, optional

Combine beans, tuna, tomato and onion in large bowl. Combine lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Add to salad. Mix in basil, season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's Really All About The Sandwich!


The basics of a good meat loaf seem simple at best but through the years and many a meat loaf later I can honestly say that there are some people who can take the humble meat loaf and make it taste like.....you know! Sadly my mother was one of those people, she was a really good cook with everything else but her meat loaf would make me shudder. To this day I still feel she put way too many onions in it. My mother was the queen of onions and in other recipes that was just fine but in meat loaf, not so great. My mother's meat loaf was three parts chopped onions to a little over one part ground beef. You couldn't cut a slice of this meat loaf if your life depended on it. Each slice would just fall apart; there was not enough ground beef to hold it together. I guess if she was serving some recipe called "Onion Loaf" this would have been great but when having meat loaf, I find that the meat part of the recipe should be the headliner.
I realize that I am extremely fussy when it comes to meat loaf, it is just one of those foods that I tend to be quite judgmental about. To be fair, I have even made some meat loaves that I wouldn't eat.
My mother liked topping her meat loaf with ketchup and bacon which is pretty common. I don't mind the bacon but I am not real big on the ketchup.
I actually prefer meat loaf with brown gravy or no gravy at all as long as the meat loaf is moist. I have had a couple people who have served me meat loaf and I have actually enjoyed it and gone back for seconds, my grandmother being one and the other being my dear friend Christine.
The funny thing is I could really care less about the initial meat loaf dinner, what I truly look forward to, obsess over and dream about is that meat loaf sandwich I am going to make with the leftovers! I am surprised by the number of people that feel the exact same way. I guess when it comes down to it meat loaf is less about dinner and more about the sandwich!

A Simple Loaf

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
2 eggs
1 cup of sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 or 4 slices bacon
3/4 c. bread crumbs or bread cubes
1/2 c. parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. of onion powder
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients except the bacon in a bowl. Briefly blend well and form into a loaf. Place the loaf on a rack in a 10" baking pan and cover with the bacon slices. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the meat loaf is firm and the bacon browned. Let the meat loaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A "Chili" Day in Painted Post N.Y. Sponsored by H&R Block

A day filled with activities, balloons, baked goods , face painting, Kyle The Clown
made animal balloons and played with the children. Kinder-printing was also available. Drawings were held for various prizes, including a free income tax return and free second looks.

H&R Block Painted Post, 90 Victory Highway sponsored its 1st Annual Chili Cook-off between the volunteer fire departments of Bath, Savona and Coopers Plains Long Acres on March 27th, 2010. All proceeds of the event being directly donated to those volunteer fire departments that participated

              Steuben County Legislator Carol Ferratella and Julie DelMastro making the rounds.

All winners will be selected by a panel of judges and the public. Joining the celebrity panel of judges this year were: Frank Coccho, the former mayor of Corning; Matthew Fregoe, H&R Block district manager, Julie DelMastro, owner of Noshtalgia Food Blog and Steuben County Legislator Carol Ferratella. Unfortunately Jeevan Vittal of WENY-TV news reporter got called away on assignment and was unable to join the judge's panel.

Being such a cool day tasting piping hot bowls of chili was just the ticket for warming things up. Each of the three fire departments came up with very different recipes for their chili. All three were quite good with very distinct flavors, textures and aromas.

Coopers Plains Long Acres chili captured that traditional taste that I think most of us can associate with. It was very flavorful with a nice mix of meat and beans that left you with a very mild tickle of heat at the back of your throat. Bill and Byron, the Chili Chefs for Coopers Plains had admitted to watching the Foodnetwork and learned that presentation is important. So the guys added a nice presentational touch with the addition of a little shredded cheese and chive garnish

Bath's chili was delicious and hearty with a nice bit of kick; it was definitely the chunkiest of the three chili's entered. This chili had loads of bell peppers and something you don't often see in chili; big pieces of celery. I have to say the celery was a nice addition and just added to the textures and flavors. Bath's team also made mini corn muffins to accompany their chili and also offered a garnish of shredded cheese and sour cream.
I asked their team who was responsible for cooking the chili and they insisted it was a team collaberation along with the help of their spouses and children.

Savona's chili was quite different from the others; their chili was actually quite sweet. It mainly consisted of meat and beans and some of us thought we detected a hint of cinnamon or some other unusual spice. It was really quite good and we appreciated that they stepped outside the box a little in terms of flavors. Dawn Phenes, CSP for H&R Block Painted Post shopped for the ingredients while Joe Rotsell, Volunteer Firefighter did the cooking.

Even though we (the judges) loved each of the chili's that we tasted, we were quite unanimous when it came to the chili that we felt stood out as being the best.....And the winner was....Congratulations to the Bath Volunteer Fire Department.

Karen Buck, Office Coordinator of H&R Block Painted Post and Matt Fregoe, District Manager of 
H&R Block presenting the award.

FYI - This blog is all about food and tradition and I just wanted to let everyone know a new tradition has been formed. That's right, mark your calenders because March 26th, 2011 get ready for the 2nd Annual Chili Cook-Off, sponsored by H&R Block.
Firefighters start your burners!

Kicked Up Con Carne
This is not one of the recipes from the chili cook-off but I am sure it is one you will enjoy. 

2 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 bunch celery, diced
2 lg. onions, diced
4 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced
2 green peppers, diced
2 red peppers, diced
1 Yellow pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. liquid smoke flavoring
4 oz. chili powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 (1 lb.) cans tomato puree
1 lb. can ground tomatoes
2 cans dark kidney beans, drained
1 can red beans, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

In large pot sauté onions, all peppers, and garlic in small amount of oil until tender. Add beef and pork. Stir around until cooked. Add flour to meat juices and mix well. Add 3 ounces chili powder, cayenne pepper, and liquid smoke and stir together.
Add tomato puree and ground tomatoes. Mix all together and simmer slowly for 1 1/2 hours. After 1 hour, add remaining chili powder and salt and pepper to taste. Also add drained beans and finish simmering for 30 minutes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eating For The Fun Of It!

Sometimes food should just be fun, carnival fun, food on a stick fun, fried ooey gooey fun. Hopefully leaving behind no regrets, nothing more than a full stomach and a sticky lipped smile. Save sensible for the remaining eighty percent of the week or ninety percent if you have to be really, really careful.
Sure sensible foods can be made to be fun like riding a Merry-Go-Round fun but sometimes you just need the exhilaration only a Roller Coaster can deliver!

Deep-Fried Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (This one is from the Food network and it is a definite keeper)!

Recipe courtesy George Duran


• 2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup pasteurized eggs or 2 whole eggs 
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups (12-ounce package) chocolate chips


• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 large egg (or 1/4 cup pasteurized eggs)
• 1/2 cup seltzer water or club soda, plus more if needed
• Vegetable oil, for frying


For the dough: Put the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and stir it with a whisk to combine. Set aside. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter until it is lighter in color. Slowly add in sugars and beat until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and beat until they are incorporated. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture using the low speed, then stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.
To form the cookies: Use 2 teaspoons of the dough and roll it into balls. Put the balls onto a cookie sheet. When they are all made, put them into the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up.
For the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add the egg and half the seltzer and whisk well to combine. Add more seltzer as needed until the batter is thick and the consistency of heavy cream.
To make the cookies: Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 350 degrees F.
Dip the chilled dough balls in the batter and carefully place them into the hot oil. Fry a few at a time, turning them over from time to time, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes total. Drain on paper towels and serve while still warm.


1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Candy bars (Mars, Snickers, Almond Joy, Kit Kat or Twix work well; use mini versions if you wish)

1. Chill or freeze the candy bars.
2. Combine egg, milk and vegetable oil in a cup.
3. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well with a wire whisk. Cover and chill for a few minutes while the oil heats.
4. Remove batter from the refrigerator and adjust the consistency if necessary. Heat about 4 cups of oil or shortening to 375 degrees F.
5. Dip the chilled candy bar in the batter and gently place into the oil. Cook only until the outside is golden. Remove and drain on brown paper. Allow to cool for a minute as the inside can easily burn your mouth.

Deep-Fried Stuffing on a Stick

This recipe courtesy of who else but Miss Paula Deen


• 5 tablespoons butter, divided
• 1 pound breakfast sausage, bulk
• 1 cup diced onion
• 1/2 cup diced carrot
• 1/2 cup diced celery
• 1 bag unseasoned bread cubes, for stuffing
• 1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
• 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
• 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
• 2 teaspoons ground sage
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 quart chicken stock
• 4 eggs, beaten

For Frying:

• Oil, for frying
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• Special equipment: 12 wooden ice cream sticks or skewers


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it is cooked through. Transfer to a plate, while spooning off the excess grease, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the skillet. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and melt. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté until softened. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, toss together bread cubes, saltines, poultry seasoning, parsley flakes, sage, salt and pepper. Stir the sautéed vegetables into the mixing bowl. Pour in the chicken stock and eggs and toss together. Turn the stuffing out into the prepared baking dish.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the juices in the stuffing are bubbling.

Preheat oil in the deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.

Cool the stuffing completely. Cut it into 12 squares. Remove each square from the dish and wrap it around a wooden stick, pressing it onto the stick with your hands. Make the stuffing form a log shape around the Popsicle stick, leaving 2-inches of the stick exposed for the handle. This should look somewhat like a lumpy corn dog.
Roll the stick in the flour, coating it well and then shaking off the excess. Gently lower the sticks into the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jack Attack

Chocolate, coffee and Jack Daniels made into a cake is it any wonder we were all asking for the recipe! There always seems to be at least one dish at every gathering that gets everybody buzzing. This cake was that very dish, I was pleasantly surprised. I am not a big fan of cake unless of course it is cheesecake. I really liked this one because it was exceptionally moist, had really deep rich flavors and the addition of pecans gave it a nice textural balance.
Just think you could serve this cake with a cup of hot coffee or a shot of Jack Daniels to wash it down and not worry about the flavors clashing.
You make this cake and people will be begging you for the recipe.

Jack Daniels Cake

1 box dark chocolate cake mix
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Jack Daniel's Whiskey
1/2 cup black coffee
1/4 cup broken pecan pieces
1 very ripe banana
1 stick butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using an electric mixer combine all the ingredients, except the pecan pieces. Mix on medium-high 1-2 minutes until ribbon like consistency is achieved (do not over mix or cake will be tough).

Spray a Bundt cake pan with Pam to coat lightly.

Put pieces of nuts in the bottom. When cake mix is mixed well, pour batter into the pan, level off in center, and bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center is nearly clean.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing it from pan.

Feel free to ice or glaze this cake with a nice drizzle of melted chocolate or a light dusting of powdered sugar or cocoa powder.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Choose Laughter

  Me with my Mother and Grandmother - September 2008

At times we get a glimpse into what might be while spending time with older relatives. You become an observer to what waits for you as you approach the end of life's road. It can be a very sad and painful time but luckily as with all other times in life it to can be fraught with joy and laughter as well. Thank God, we can laugh even through insurmountable sadness.
My mother spent her last several years of life living in a nursing home a potential existence most of us view with fear and dread. In my mother's case this was a welcome and much needed chapter in her life and fortunately in my mother's case her time in the nursing home was a very good, loving and nurturing experience.
My grandmother's road in life has lead her to an assisted living facility, considered to be a step up from a nursing home but in the eyes of many who are living there it is another cruel act of life that rids us of our independence and ability to choose.
What I have observed so far in my 51 years on this earth is; we live to gain as many chronological years as possible hopefully filling those years with love, laughter, hope and our God given free will of; "choice". Choice, the freedom to think independently and choose between what you deem right or what you deem wrong, what you feel that you need or that you don't need, what you want or don't want, who you love or don't love.....How you wish to be cared for, who will be doing the caring and where you will call, home.
What I have learned as I lovingly observe all these potential " future me's" is as we forge through this life with all its joy, hardship and never-ending changes. As we gain years our list of choices becomes smaller and the unpleasant choices seem to out number the pleasant ones.....except for one choice that is always ours to make no matter how old we are or where we are on this road in life and that is to laugh. Laughter will always  help us to rise above the gloom and shine down on us with a light that lets us know that we will and can survive this moment and any moment that life can throw our way.
I am posting a recipe for shrimp croquettes because they became a source of laughter while having a dinner visit with my grandmother. Let's just say a woman that was seated two tables away from ours took great issue with her croquettes and it just grew into being comical. My grandmother who was in a crabby mood (which is most of the time) even began laughing, she looks so much better with a smile on her face......so here is to the power of laughter, smile and enjoy!

Shrimp Croquettes

3/4 lb. frozen cooked shelled shrimp
3 tbsp. Crisco
1/3 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
1 tbsp. snipped parsley
Dash of pepper & paprika
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. fine dry bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. water
1 pkg. (8 oz.) frozen peas with cream sauce

Defrost shrimp, devein if necessary. Chop finely (about 2 cups). Melt 3 tablespoons Crisco. Blend in flour. Add milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until very thick and smooth; remove from heat. Add onion, parsley, lemon juice and seasonings; stir in shrimp.
Preheat Crisco for deep frying to 350 degrees. Shape shrimp mixture into 8 cones. Roll in crumbs. Combine egg with water. Dip cones in egg mixture roll in crumb again.
Deep fry a few at a time until brown, about 3 minutes. Turn if necessary, drain on paper towel
Prepare peas according to directions on package. Spoon creamed peas over croquettes.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, March 8, 2010

From Mashing To Smashing

My mother and I had been making our mashed potatoes like this for years just because we liked them that way. Who knew that it was actually a traditional French preparation called Aligot and a very popular one at that. I am sure that my mother and I may have strayed a bit from what is considered the authentic preparation but ours is pretty darn close. These potatoes are so rich you could almost get away without serving anything else. From what I have read Aligot is traditionally served with sausages or beef but from my point of view Aligot can be served with just about anything quite nicely.
Aligot is kind of like putting the fancy on plain old mashed potatoes.

Aligot (pronounced Ah-Lee-Go)

2 lbs. potatoes
4 Tbsp. of heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. butter
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
8 oz. Brie or Camembert with rind removed, sliced
Chopped chives or green onion tops

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water in large saucepan for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain; peel. Mash the potatoes with the heavy cream in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Sauté garlic in butter for about one minute, do not allow garlic to brown. Add Brie; stir until completely melted. Stir the melted cheese mixture into the mashed potatoes. You want to keep stirring the mixture until it has a gummy silky texture (may use mixer to accomplish this more easily, garnish with the chopped chives.

Serve immediately.

FYI - We have also experimented using shredded Swiss cheese instead of the brie and it worked exceptionally well giving the Aligot a more nutty taste.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Blue Passion

I could eat blue cheese by the crumble, by the chunk or by the wheel. I am telling you it is genetic my entire family magnetizes to blue cheese. I love stinky strong cheeses, to me the so called stink just speaks to the high level of flavor.
The other night I made a big batch of blue cheese dip/dressing which can be used for just about anything. That night it was used as a dip for homemade Buffalo wings . It was so delicious, more so because I added probably triple the amount of blue cheese one would normally use....what I can say. I am the same way with garlic as I pointed out in the previous post. Some may say that I have severe issues with certain foods; I like to think of it more as having tremendous passion about certain foods.
I am also passionate about soup one of life's most perfect dishes and by adding blue cheese  this dish is way over the top!


4 lg. onions, sliced thin
3/4 stick (6 tbsp.) butter
4 c. canned beef broth
1 c. dry white wine
1/4 lb. blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 c.)

1 baguette, for croutons. (Just slice, butter or drizzle a little olive oil on each slice and put in 400 degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes). Spreading with blue cheese is optional but really, really good!

In a large saucepan, cook the onions in the butter over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until they are softened. Sprinkle the onions with salt and pepper, stir in the broth and the wine, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 1 hour.
Remove the pan from the heat and add 3/4 cup of the cheese and stir the soup until the cheese is melted. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish it with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the croutons.