Monday, October 15, 2012

216. Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing


This is my daughters favorite color.  This color also represents something else.  It has become the color that symbolizes Breast Cancer.

The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It  is a time for women and men to think about getting mammograms, offer monetary support for the foundations that they support and to bring awareness to everyone that is involved, has been affected by cancer, survivors and those that have past.

Breast cancer is affecting more and more people and the disease is hitting closer and closer to home.  With the technology of modern medicine the doctors are able to diagnosis and treat the cancer sooner.

My own life has been affected by the scare of finding lumps.  Both times it was assessed that they were benign.  Thank goodness I was fortunate to have dodged that bullet.

I can only relate my own thoughts of fear and sadness each time I saw the  technician leave the room to get the doctor as they returned to scan the mammogram.  On my left breast it was determined that the mass was a cyst and was nothing to worry about.

The second time, on my right breast.  It was a different story.  All I can say is to me it looked like someone had shoved a tootsie roll candy deep inside, up against my rib cage.  I could not feel it.  That was frustrating. I wanted to feel it. I wanted to know what was inside my body.

I was scared.  I saw my kids grow up without a mother.  I know that not all lumps are a death sentence but I am human and I thought the worst.  After the fears, comes the calming knowledge that you will do what ever it takes to rid your body of the disease.

This all happened at a time when I was very sick trying to figure out other reasons for me being so sick.  It was soon after this that I learned I had celiac.  We were also about to embark on our year long trip around the US in our motor home with the kids.

The next day I was asked to come in so that they could aspirate the "tootsie roll".  I went in and watched as they entered long needles into my right breast to try and drain it.  Unfortunately my doctor was unable to complete the procedure.

We chatted and he felt assured that what we were dealing with was not of great concern.  He wanted me to wait and get a new mammogram in six months.

Six months later and many miles behind us, we found ourselves in Texas. I had the date written on the calendar and found a specialist in this field. I carried my xrays with me and after being retested and visiting with the doctor she felt that what we were dealing with was another cyst.

For two years, I had to return every 6 months and have a new mammogram to make sure that the "tootsie roll" was not growing or changing.   It never did.

I still need to be aware of this and as I prepare to go to my new doctor next week for my yearly visit, I will be carting my xrays in to her office to monitor any changes.

I learned a lot about myself during the time of waiting. Our minds are powerful cheerleaders when the possibility of the worst is before you.  I was grateful for doctors and modern science that could help me make the decisions that I had been faced with. I was grateful for my family.

I gained a greater sense of living each day to the fullest.  I was one of the lucky ones.  My husband bought me a pink ribbon charm to remind me how fragile life is.  He knew what a mental race I had just endured.  I was one of the lucky ones that received good news.  Others are not so fortunate and for this my heart breaks to those that have lost the battle too soon.

In honor of this month, I wanted to create a pink recipe.  With Thanksgiving right around the corner and cranberries having their roll in our turkey dinner I thought this would be a nice addition to our dinner, Cranberry Vinaiegrette Salad Dressing.

I served this dressing on a  broccoli  and cranberry salad.  It can be tossed together or the salad can be served on a side plate with the dressing available for each guest to pour themselves.

I like the cranberry flavor, thick consistency and twang of the apple cider vinegar.

Please enjoy this recipe and remember to get mammograms early for early detection.

Recipe: Cranberry Broccoli Salad
Makes 6-8 side servings

3 cups of raw broccoli, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup of crispy bacon, diced
1/4 cup of caramelized pecans
3 tablespoons of red onion, diced small
1/3 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of cranberry vinaigrette (recipe below)

Toss the above ingredients together.

Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Makes about 2.5 cups

2 cups of fresh cranberries, washed
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of white sugar
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 cup of cranberry sauce
Sprinkle of clove, to taste
Sprinkle of cinnamon, to taste
1/2 cup of light olive oil

In a blender combine all of the above ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil.

Blend until small specks of cranberry can be seen.
Once it is blended, turn your blender onto medium speed and slowly add the olive oil.
Taste. If too tart, add a bit more sugar. Cranberries can be extremely tart.

Salad dressing can be used immediately or stored in refrigerator for one week.


Friday, October 12, 2012

215. Parker House Rolls


Warm rolls on cool days with a big bowl of soup brings a smile to my families faces and warms their heart and spirit.

Can you ever have too many rolls?

This is a recipe that I have used for years making crescent shaped rolls for the holidays. The original recipe makes about 4 dozen rolls.  For large gatherings this is great but when at home with my family of five I know that we won't eat that many.

I decided to cut the recipe in half and reshape them to see if the flavor and texture would still be there.

It was.

Enjoy these at your next gathering or with your friends and neighbors for Sunday Supper.

Recipe: Parker House Rolls

2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of yeast
1 cup of warm water
3-4 cups of flour, the dough should not be dry.  Start with less and gradually add until a ball forms.
1 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs

1/2 stick of butter, melted

Combine water, sugar and yeast. Let set for 5 minutes until yeast is activated.

In a large bowl or table top mixer, add salt and flour.

Add yeast/water/sugar and eggs to flour and salt.

Mix until dough comes together and pulls away from bowl. Add more flour if dough is too sticky.

Let dough rest for 30 minutes. Cover with a towel.

Preheat oven to 425.

Melt butter in bowl. Find a large circle cookie cutter.

Flour surface and roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness.

Cut dough into circles and dip the whole circle in to the butter so that both sides are coated.

Fold in half and lay next to each other on cookie sheet. 

Let rise 30 minutes.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Pecan Bars

Sometimes I don't want pie.  

I don't want to make the crust and hope it turns out.  I just want something easy that I can take to family parties that will be easy to eat and enjoyed by others.

This dessert is always well received.  I have made both versions (regular and gluten free) for family and friends.  

The one that gets the most praises is the gluten free.  They love the crust.  The almond meal adds another layer of rich flavor and texture.

I like to add extra pecans so that they are the star of the show.  If you don't have enough, then the bars look a bit naked, if you ask me.  See the picture below of the "Naked Pecan Bars"….boring.  When compared to the image above you can see what I mean.  The three cups in the recipe will give you ample pecans but please feel free to add a few more to your liking.

I also made these in small ramekins to see if I could do individual portions.  It worked like a charm.  I find that guest like to have their OWN small dish.  I used a knife to go around the outer edge and they popped right out.  They make the perfect mini pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream balanced on top.

 Recipe: Pecan Bars

Makes 9X13 pan

For the crust:

2 sticks of butter, softened

2/3 cups of packed brown sugar

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour (for gluten free substitute, see below)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

*To make this gluten free, use this conversion: 2 cups of almond meal plus 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of brown rice flour for the regular flour.

For the topping:
1/3 cup of butter

1 cup of packed brown sugar

1/3 cup of honey

2 tablespoons of heavy cream

3 cups of chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9X13 pan with parchment paper or spray individual ramekins with Pam. (see picture)

Combine the crust ingredients. Push into 9X13 pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the crust is cooking, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey and cream in a saucepan. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute and add pecans. Stir to combine.

Remove crust from oven and add the topping. Spreading topping to cover all of the crust. If baking individual size portions, scoop enough filling into each cup to cover crust.

Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove bars and let cool completely in pan. Remove bars by lifting parchment paper out of pan. Cut into squares.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sifting Through Life: Fried Calamari

Sometimes I add a recipe to this segment and sometimes I don't.

Today is your lucky day because here it is: Fried Calamari.

My first experience with calamari was with my dad, many many years ago.  I don't remember the exact location, the year or the occasion. I just know it was squid and my dad had an intrigued kid about to try something new.  He had my full attention.

I remember being with my dad for the first time in a very long time.  My parents were divorced and we rarely saw him because we lived in two different states.  For a long time my parents despised each other with good reason.  Infidelity in a marriage is never easy to digest.  Towards the end of his life they rekindled their friendship and he left this earth while on good terms with my Mom.

I must have been around 8 years old, the oldest of three girls for this first encounter with calamari, squid  or the little squiggly sea creature with long tentacles.  This is how my Dad described it to me on my first try so long ago.

Dad loved seafood and I believe this is where I inherited the taste for fish as well.  I cannot recall a time that I did not enjoy the flavor of the sea.  This all occurred long before the days of Google or smart phones.  Today I would have looked it up on the spot.  I like to know what I am eating.

As the dish arrived I could tell that it had been fried.  Fried is always a good place to start with kids and fish.  The oil and crispy texture hides a bit of the fishiness that comes with the territory of dealing with seafood.

I recall the sauce that was served, it was light yellow with a hint of lemon.  Lemon was good.  I liked sour things and so the twang from the lemon added another layer to mask what I was about to partake of.  I like the taste of seafood but sometimes the aroma is a bit intense.  To an 8 year old nose, scents can make or break the deal.

The rings were easy.  What little girl did not love rings?  Rings of white with a lightly crisp exterior.  It was the other part that took some convincing, tentacles.




Those were all of my responses…LOL  It wasn't until I became an adult that I would venture into the area of eating the tentacles.  It actually took the bravery of my daughter to do this for me.  I say bravery because some times certain foods just don't look good or appetizing.   They are creepy.  Our minds are powerful and we over think things.

Imagine swallowing a tentacle and having it suctioned to the inside of your throat…hey, it could happen.

In all honesty I doubt it could, but these are the things that I think of.  That I thought of for many years after my first try with calamari.

My daughter is always level headed and she gave me the look.  You may be familiar with it, the "really Mom…don't be so dramatic."

I don't remember when my kids did not like fish.  They were raised on it.  So eating calamari was not a big deal for them including the tentacles.  I closed my eyes and went for it.

There was no suctioning to the inside of my mouth, throat or tongue.  Although, that would have been hilarious to have been able to stick my tongue out and have this little thing hanging from it.  LOL  I can only imagine the look of horror and shock on my daughters face.

Today, in my 40's,  I love the whole squid…body and tentacle.

Our issue seems to be finding calamari that is perfectly made to how we enjoy this dish.  We know how we enjoy this dish and how we do not.  We do not like calamari that is over battered, over cooked or is too chewy.

Why over batter something that is so good when lightly encrusted is ideal?

It is no secret that we live by the water and have an abundance of seafood within our everyday reach.  I love going to the fish market and seeing the variety that is on display.  Whole fish, filets, scallops, oysters, mussels…you name it, we have it in Annapolis.

I can purchase calamari fresh or frozen.  I only buy it fresh if I am going to prepare it that day otherwise I will buy a frozen package and save it for the upcoming menu.

This is a quick dish.  If you purchase the calamari frozen, thaw and rinse.  Using a sharp knife cut the body into ringlets.  I like mine to be as wide as my index finger, just under a 1/2 inch.  The tentacles don't really need much other than I trim them so they are all the same length.  Every once in a while you get a tentacle that is really long.

I use a combination of brown rice flour and spices to dredge each piece in.  Again, I am not a fan of an overly thick batter but I know lots of people who enjoy it this way.  You can also use corn meal, almond meal and all purpose flour to achieve the same style of calamari.  I season the flour with garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper.  This is a personal preference and you can literally add anything you want to based on what your palette prefers.  We like to keep it simple.

The KISS method.  Keep It Simple Sexy.  I don't like the word stupid.

It takes just a few minutes of frying in hot vegetable oil.  The rings and tentacles are tossed in.  The bubbling of the oil starts.  The white squid body rings start to open up and float on the oil like little rafts lost at sea, tossing in the oil.

I use a wire strainer to flip the rings over in the oil.  I like them to each be golden brown.  I remove everything to a paper towel and proceed to cook the rest.

These are usually gone before I can get them to the table.  The kids can smell the scent in their rooms and they slowly make their way down the halls.  They see the paper towel with the golden rings of yumminess and start "sampling".

Each person issues the same comment, " a quality check is needed".  

Calamari, in my opinion, is best on its own.   My family likes it served with a sauce.

The variations are endless.  Here are a few suggestions:

Lemony Mayonnaise:  lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt.
Wicked Awesome Sauce:  Sriarcha sauce, mayonnaise.
Cocktail Sauce:  ketchup, horseradish sauce
Tartar Sauce: diced onion, dill relish, mayonnaise

I don't have a lot of childhood memories of time spent with my Dad.  It was not until I turned 18 that I developed a relationship with him.  He passed away when I was 23 in an airplane crash.  I will always be grateful that I took it upon myself to reach out to him and became friends.  I am also so happy that he was able to meet and approve of my husband.  I am sad that he never met his grandkids, of which, he would have been so happy and proud of.

My thoughts of my Dad this week were sparked by the relationship that I see my own kids having with their Dad.  I missed out on so much and yet I see what an influence he has on their every day life.

I can honestly say that Cory is the best Dad.  He is Isabella's best friend, Drakes mentor and Rye's life coach.  He provides things for the kids that I don't.  I love seeing them in action together as they solve problems, laugh, learn and live.

Dad's have the ability to hold the hearts of their children in the palms of their hands.  I know that so many fall short of this obligation and this is why I am grateful everyday for the man I chose to be the father of our children.

I am thankful for the few memories I do have and I hold them dear to my heart.  Growing up I did not know all of the details of why my family was not whole.  I judged my parents harshly.  I was broken and broken hearted because of the divorce.

Today, I see things and life events through the eyes of an adult.  I see how hard it is.  I know the sacrifice, devotion and endurance that a good marriage takes.  I have forgiven my parents.  I believe they did the best they could given the circumstances of the times they were living in.

Would I have done something different?  I don't know.  I like to live for today and not in the past.

Playing the "what if" game is something I stopped doing long ago.  I know that in the final days of my Dad's life he had regrets about choices he made that affected all of us.  I am glad that my parents were friends before he passed.

Every time I eat seafood I think of my Dad and this experience with the Calamari.  Do you have memories from your childhood that are attached to food?  In my world, food is attached to many memories and good times.

Calamari is a dish that many may not enjoy, but for those of us who do, it is a real treat.

My hope is that you will take the chance to try it and to even make it at home.

Something so delicious and simple is a real gourmet treat for family and friends.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Creamy Parmesan Corn

I love this side dish.

I have always been a huge fan of corn and this dish is by far my favorite corn dish.  I used to make this without bacon, but then we all know that bacon makes everything taste that much better.

I like this recipe best cooked in a slow cooker for a few hours verses heating it up on the stove top.

In the slow cooker it gets nice and creamy and the corn has a chance to drink in the flavors of the parmesan and cream cheese.

Leftovers, if there are any, are the best.  The parmesan really shines the next day along with the smokiness of the bacon.  I make it a priority to have left overs of this dish.

I have only used canned corn to prepare it, so if you try to use fresh corn please let me know. I would love to hear how that turns out too.

A simple side dish of corn turned into a gourmet treat for your family.


Recipe:  Creamy Parmesan Corn

3 cans of corn, drained
1 (8oz.) package of cream cheese, soft
1/2 stick of butter, soft
1 cup of parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/2 pound of bacon, cooked crispy
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a slow cooker add the above ingredients.

Cook on high for 3 hours, stirring occasionally or on low for 6 hours.

Serve immediately.


Monday, October 1, 2012

211. Pumpkin Pudding

I cannot believe that it is October 1st.  Where does my time go and why does it fly by so fast?

Here we are though.

The leaves are turning red. The morning is cool.  The air fresh.

This morning as I walked Isabella to school I stepped onto my cracked cement steps, filled with my pots of flowers. The last few blooms of red, yellow, orange and pink trying to hold on for one more day.

The air is too crisp for me to not run back inside to fetch a light jacket.  My breath is visible as I run back outside to meet Isabella for our 5 minute walk to the school.

We notice that our neighbors tree has started to turn red.  We see the puddles left over from the rain the night before.  Change is coming.

I love change.  I love the feeling of something new in the air.  I am always reminded of the movie Chocolat and the wind that always signified change.

It's a good thing.

I have been ready for it to be cooler for a month now. Our summer was blazing hot.  Our waters too full of jelly fish to enjoy the beach.  We missed that family tradition and so we were longing for the traditions that follow us into the months of October, November and December.  My favorite time of the year.

This weekend we planned out our month with the kids.  We are heading to the tree house camp to spend 3 days as a family, we will hit the pumpkin patch somewhere close to our home, do a ghost tour of Annapolis and visit our family in VA.

Our month will be busy and it will go by way to fast.  Like last month.

How do we slow it down?  Do I want to?

For me, I plan it out.  If I don't then time goes by and we don't do anything fun, as a family or for ourselves.  It is important to make the time.  All too often I hear the words from my family, "do we have to go", "can't we stay home",  "lets go next week" or , and this is my favorite, "this will be so boring".

We go any way.  I listen to the groans, and words spilled under their breathe.  WHY?

I know.

I know that this might be our last time together.  I know that we always have a good time.  I know that I can't freeze time.  I know that my kids will grow up and be gone before either of us knows what hits us.

I know.

Time is unstoppable and so is our decision to live our lives.  If we don't do the things we talk about or plan then we will be 20+ years into our life and looking back wondering.

I don't ever want to do that.  I want to look back and know that I spent every ounce of my life doing something for good, sharing it with those that I love and spending my time wisely.

This time of year is always reflective because it is where some of my most precious memories reside from my own family growing up.  I travel back in time and think about time spent with cousins, traditions of pumpkin patches, dressing up in costume and laughing.

We can't stop time but we can certainly make the most of it.

I spent some time last week making pumpkin pudding.  Oh is it good!

I hope you enjoy this simple recipe that can be eaten in a dish with a bit of whipped cream or layered in a trifle with gingerbread chocolate cake and caramel.  The pudding is rich, thick and taste like pie.

It's a keeper of a recipe for this time of year.  ENJOY!

Recipe:  Homemade Pumpkin Pudding

2 cups f 2% milk
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup of corn starch or arrowroot starch
2 large eggs
1 cup of pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Toppings:  whipped cream, sprinkled cocoa powder and chocolate curls

In a sauce pan, add milk, brown sugar and corn starch.  Whisk to combine.  Bring to a boil.

Boil for 3 minutes.  It will start to thicken. Remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, add eggs. Whisk.

To combine the eggs with the boiled mixture you have to do several things.  You do not want to scramble the eggs so this step is required to slowly integrate the eggs into the milk mixture.

I use a measuring cup and take 1 cup and slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs.  Whisking the whole time.

This brings the eggs up in temperature so that they can easily be added to the remaining milk mixture.

Combine the two, by slowly pouring the egg/milk into the milk/sugar mixture.  Whisking the whole time.

Return to stove and bring to boil.  Boil for 3 minutes.

Pudding should be thick.  Stir in pumpkin, salt and pumpkin spice.

Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cooled.  For individual portions, add the pudding to the cups before the set.

Serve with whipped cream, chocolate curls and chocolate sprinkled cocoa.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cantaloupe Salad

I know that Fall is upon us in part of the US, but there are others that are just starting to feel the first rays of sunshine or reaching a temperature that is still warm and hot but finally bearable.  Florida and Arizona come to mind for the later part of that sentence.

I for one will not complain that our temperatures are finally in the 70's and far away from the 90's of the last few months.

What I love about this salad is the combination of sweet from the cantaloupe and savory from the tomato and green onion.  This salad is delicious on its own with a bit of salt and pepper or I enjoy adding a bit of olive oil and a flavored vinaigrette.

The oil and vinaigrette stores are showing up all across the US.  If you are like me, I get a bit overwhelmed walking up to the oil aisle of my favorite grocery store.  There they are in their beautiful bottles, fancy labels and price points.

Where to begin?  Does it matter that one is $5.99 and the other is $25.99?

Samples are galore as you enter the oil and vinaigrette locations.  They are eager for you to try and taste their product, in some cases drink it.  LOL  I always feel so guilty taking more than I will use yet they fill it right up.

My favorite flavor is peach.  It has the fresh flavor of a peach that I miss this time of year. It is a gentle reminder of the summer that has past and the summer to come.  This is the flavor that I add to my cantaloupe salad.

I usually buy the Italian Herb Olive Oil.  It pairs well with most things that I prepare.  I am looking forward to returning and purchasing the garlic infused, now that sounds dynamic to me.

Enjoy this simple salad.

Recipe:  Cantaloupe Salad

1/2 cantaloupe, cubed
1 tomato, diced medium
1/4 cup of diced green onions
1/2 cup of cubed mozzarella cheese
salt to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of peach vinaigrette (optional)  OR use your favorite flavor

Combine all ingredients, toss and serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apple Nacho's

I remember coming home every day from school hungry.

I usually had cereal for breakfast and a school lunch.  Most of the time I did not eat lunch because I was too rushed to play.

After all, all the fun stuff happened on the play ground; not in the classroom.  Of course now I beg to differ.

At the age of 8, I was all about playing in the dirt, hanging upside down on the monkey bars and chasing my friends in a game of tag.

My friends and I would go into the furthest parts of the dirt fields.  This must have been strange to the school aides watching from the steps of the playground to see 4 girls run and spend their time dragging their feet in the ground, occasionally running around holding our hands like "hooves".  You know, your elbows bent to a 90 degree angle, close to your bodies with the tips of your hands curved.

Horses.  We were busy playing horses, building corrals and running free in the wind.  Our mains (strawberry blond, dark chestnut brown and blonde hair) blowing freely in the crisp California mountain air.

15 minutes. 30 minutes.

It did not matter how much time we had, we did the same thing everyday.

On the weekends we were riding real horses.  At school we were imaginary horses.  My Little Pony was a glimmer of an idea in some young entrepreneurs mind as we were playing the real thing everyday.

Coming home from school hungry, I would have enjoyed this treat welcoming me on the counter every once in a while.  I lived a different life.  I usually had another bowl of cereal or a Pop Tart.

I try to have healthy snacks ready for the kids because I know one thing after all these years, kids still come home hungry.  They may not be playing horses in the fields but they skip out a bit early on lunches to meet up with friends in the halls or the foyers of most schools.

What were your favorite after school snacks as a kid?

Recipe: Apple Nacho's

1 red apple, sliced thinly
1 green apple, sliced thinly
caramel sauce (recipe below)
mini chocolate chips

Spread apples on a plate.  Put caramel in a baggie to pipe on or use a spoon to drizzle sauce over apples.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

NOTE:  You can also serve the apples sliced with the caramel in a bowl.

Recipe:  Peanut Butter Caramel
This makes one cup of sauce.  It is great served over ice cream or over a skillet cookie.

1/2 cup of coconut oil, warmed
1/2 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon  of real maple syrup
1 tablespoon of vanilla
pinch of salt

Combine all of the above ingredients into a blender.  Blend for 3 minutes until thick.   Refrigerate leftovers.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Apple Dip

"An apple a day will keep the doctor away." 

I must have heard this several times a week as a kid.  I tell my own kids this more than they probably care to admit.

I think fruit is important and sometimes it's boring to just eat a plain apple or banana.  

I try to come up with creative ways of encouraging the kidlets and their friends to eat a bit healthier.  I say a bit, because the dip is, well, a bit sugary.

We make our popcorn in a plain brown bag with REAL butter and salt.  That's it; nothing more or nothing less.

I found a small bag of Halloween popcorn that the kids must have gotten last year hidden behind a box in my pantry yesterday. 

 SCORE, was my first thought. 

 YUCK, was what happened after I tried the first popped kernel.

I personally could not handle all of the "seasoning" on the popcorn.  

I will stick to buying my organic, Amish sold popcorn kernels.  I love the whiteness of the popcorn once it is popped.  I can gage the amount of butter and salt.  It works for us.

This little after school snack has been a treat in our family for a few years.  We shared it with the cousins and now they love it too.  

The apple is crunch, the dip is soft.  The apple is sweet and the popcorn is salty.  With this combination you will soon find yourself looking into the bottom of an empty bowl.  

Oh, maybe that is just me…LOL

It's pretty dang good.  I recommend it.  ENJOY!

Recipe:  Apple Dip

1 package of cream cheese, soft
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend all together until smooth.

You will need apples, popcorn and dip.  Take apple wedge, dunk into dip then roll in popcorn.  DONE.

Puff Pastry Buffalo Chicken Appetizer

I love to make my own puff pastry.  It is time consuming, but the flavor is amazing.  When you take that first bite and the layers just snap apart in your mouth as your teeth cuts through each flaky tier, you can't help but smile with pride.  

I always wait anxiously the 24 hours it takes to make the puff pastry wondering several things:

1.  Did I just waste $8.00 dollars worth of butter?
2.  Will it rise in the oven?
3.  How am I going to use this much puff pastry?

The recipe I use makes a lot and so, it should be noted, that having a few recipes on hand is a good 

I always use the left over dough to make bread twist or cinnamon sugar treats for the kids.
I brushed these pieces with butter and sprinkle Old Bay Seasoning on them before baking.  "Super good" quote from one of the teachers at school.
I get a little bit excited about my puff pastry or I should say Emeril's because it's his original recipe that I use.  You can find my step by step pictorial HERE if you would like to make your own.
Fear not, because store bought works too!

I have readers that range in "new" to experienced", so I like to give lots of options.

I knew that a buffalo style appetizer was in the works when I made my first batch of puff pastry.  I felt that the buttery layers combined with a cheesy sauce and spice chicken would shine.

I will be honest...THEY DO!..LOL

The key to making this appetizer be a success and not a mess is having the circles of puff pastry large.  I used a 3.5 round cookie cutter.  The cheesy sauce should be kept to a small spoonful.  If you add too much they will spill over.  By adding the chicken after they bake, you insure that the layers all rise.  You won't have the doughy bottom.

You are now prepared to make an appetizer that is sure to impress your friends.  These can easily be made at home, covered and transported to your game day party.  If they need to be warmed up, just pop them into the oven ( heated to 325) and warm for 10 minutes. 

Recipe:  Puff Pastry Buffalo Chicken Appetizer
Makes 24, depending on size of circle cutter used 

1 box of puff pastry, thawed

2 cups of cooked, diced chicken breast

1/2 cup Franks Hot Sauce

1/2 (4 oz) package of cream cheese, soft

1/4 cup of mayonnaise

1/4 cup of diced celery + 1/4 cup for garnish

1/4 cup of gorgonzola cheese

1 cup of jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425.

Dice and cook chicken, drain off any juice and add hot sauce. Keep pan warm on stove. You will add the chicken right before serving.

Flour your surface and roll out pastry thin. Less than 1/4 inch. Using a 3.5 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles place them 1 inch apart on cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.

Combine in a medium size bowl cream cheese, mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of celery, gorgonzola cheese and jack cheese. Blend until well combined.

On each pastry circle add a small spoonful of cheese mixture. Spread with the back of the spoon until the center is covered. Leave the edges of each circle clean from filling. If you add too much it will spill over onto the pan when baked.

Bake for 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown on the middle shelf.

Remove from oven and gently place a scoop of buffalo chicken in the middle. The middle will sink a bit. Garnish with diced celery.

205. No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Balls

Balls is such a funny word.

In our family for a while we just could not even mention the word without someone dying of embarrassment (usually our pre teen son) or a joke being cracked (usually by Dad).

I say balls to my 5 year old and she is running to the closet to get her soccer ball or basketball.


I love words.  I always have.  Challenge me to a good game of Scrabble or Boggle and I would stop almost anything to play.

Words can be funny, terms of endearment, hateful, loving, harsh, whispered, spelled out or shortened to an acronym.

Words connect a family, a recipe, a thought.  We must always choose them wisely.

In using the name balls for this recipe,  it just fit.  Orbs sounded to scientific.  Circles too boring.  Round cookies was not specific enough.  So you have balls.

No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Balls that are easy to prepare and a change from the ordinary no bake cookie.


Recipe:  No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Balls

1 cup of almond meal (buy at Trader Joes)
1 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter, softened
¼ cup of peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar, for tossing each ball in

Combine all ingredients, except powdered sugar, in a large bowl and mix until a dough is formed.

Using a cookie scoop, firmly pack the scoop and place each scoop on a cookie sheet.

Chill for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl add powdered sugar. Remove cookies from fridge and toss each cookie in powdered sugar until well coated. Shake off excess.

Place on a plate and chill for 10 minutes.

Keep leftovers in refrigerator

Friday, September 21, 2012

204. Parmesan Ranch Salad Dressing

Raise your hand if you grew up on Hidden Valley Ranch.  

Yeah, me too.

We ate this stuff on everything and with anything.  Most notably pizza and mashed potatoes.



NEVER! Not as kids at least.

When I got a bit older we slowly used it to dip a carrot or two, this was on a rare occasion, every once in a while and usually when our Mom wasn't around.  If she thought my sisters and I were eating a vegetable of our own accord, who knows what type of hysteria that could send her into.

I must have ruined myself.  I have tried this dressing at different times of my adult life and, honestly, I can't stand it.  I am convinced they sold out and changed the recipe.  It taste of artificial sugars and blandness.  

When we eat out, I usually get ranch on the side and then something else.  On the rarest of outings, do I find a salad dressing, let alone, a ranch that I love.

I do eat a lot of salads, especially being wheat free. Most restaurants have some type of lettuce entree that I can usually eat if nothing else will work.  So dressing is important to me.

I have honestly thought about taking my own dressing with me when we go out to eat.  

Doesn't that defeat the reason for going out?  LOL

I make Parmesan Ranch Dressing two ways: thick and thin.  Thick for us to use as a dip.  The obvious, thin for salads.  I personally like it thick on my salads too but my family does not.

My favorite way to eat this salad dressing is to buy those little heads of lettuce, they usually come 4 to a package at Whole Foods.  They are the perfect size for a single portion of salad.  I wash the green and purple leaves with ice cold water to keep the crisp green leaves at their best.  I give the small head a shake or two and then I ever so gently twist the end off.  It feels almost violent at how easily it falls off into the palm of my hand.  The lettuce tearing at the resistance of being twisted against its will.  

I unroll two sheets of paper towels and lay the leaves out to dry.  I fold the two sheets together to sop up the pools of water that nestle in the crevices of the leaves ridges.  Once dry, I transfer the leaves to a plate.  I cut up celery, carrots and bell pepper into long sticks.  Grab a small bowl of salad dressing and find a quite place to sit at our table.  Usually looking into our back yard at the trees swaying back and forth in the wind.  

Taking a lettuce leaf and holding in the palm of my hand, I lay a stick of carrot, a stick of celery and one of bell pepper.  Roll it up and dip it into the Parmesan Ranch Salad Dressing.  What emerges is a thick white blend of sour cream and mayonnaise, sprinkled with garlic and green onion.  The obvious presence of parmesan is visible.  This is where the flavor resides.  

I double dip, again and again.  

My belly is happy, my taste buds are satiated.  

Such a simple item to have in your arsenal of condiments.  I have blended this into mashed potatoes, steamed cauliflower and creamy soups.  

Tell me what your favorite salad dressing is below in the comments.  I am always on the look out for new flavors.

Recipe:  Parmesan Ranch Dressing

1/4 cup of sour cream
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of finely chopped green onion
splash of Worcestershire Sauce
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt
dash of pepper

Combine all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.

NOTE:  If you wish to make this thinner, add a small amount of milk or buttermilk.  Shake or stir really well.

I have not tried substituting yogurt for the sourcream or mayonnaise, but this is an option if you are trying to reduce fat.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nutella Peanut Butter Cookies

When you find a cookie this AMAZING, you realize it just has to be shared. 

Neighbors, friends, kids and spouses will sing your praises for days or even weeks once they bite into the perfect balance of soft and crunch of this cookie.

Of course the combination of Nutella and Peanut Butter are already a proven dynamic duo.  Our family enjoys this combination in smoothies, syrups, brownies and cakes.  Why not a cookie too?

A bigger note of importance for me, no wheat!  

I made a batch of these and within minutes they were gone, like a speeding bullet they vanished into thin air. 

Let me know in the comments below how your family enjoyed these cookies.  

Recipe:  Nutella Peanut Butter Cookies
recipe adapted from

1 egg
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of milk
1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup of Nutella
3/4 cup of Old Fashion Oats, not cooked
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium size mixing bowl or a table mixer, mix until smooth: egg, brown sugar, milk, peanut butter and Nutella.

Add the salt, baking soda and oats. Stir well.

Use a cookie scoop and drop cookies every two inches onto to parchment paper.

Bake for 8 minutes.

Cool cookies for 2 minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to cookie rack.

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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