Thursday, February 28, 2013

Keeping Warm with Soup

As the February days wind down ready to march on towards spring there is still time to reflect on some presidential eloquence.

It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one-George Washington

I recently came across a copy of the poster that was used for Washington's campaign. The words at the bottom were surprising. He certainly raised the bar.
Mushroom Vegetable Soup
Cook's notes: Beef or chicken pieces could be added as well as other vegetables such as  zucchini, peppers
recipe comes from MB and I was fortunate to have a cup served on her mother's very fine china :) 
  • 3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (use matchstick carrots) 
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped, drained
  • 1 med. onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped or pressed
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 2 TB. oil
  • 2 cans beef or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. Rosemary
  • 1 TB. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Sauté mushrooms, carrots,celery, onion, and garlic in butter and oil until tender-crisp. Add in mushrooms and tomatoes the last part of sauteing. Stir in broth, water, barley, and seasonings. Simmer 30 minutes covered.

Serve with garlic bread sticks or croissants with a meat and cheese tray  

Reader Alert: Only 10 days till Daylight Savings Time!!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hidden Gem-Nutella

Nutella, a hazelnut spread, seems to be gaining lots of popularity in the United States. Lately I've noticed a variety of recipes that call for Nutella in cooking magazines and on the Internet. It is  popular spread on toast in European countries.  The spread is a unique blend of roasted hazelnuts, sugar, skim milk with a hint of cocoa. It can be found in the aisle near the peanut butter.
Nutella was created in the 1940's by a baker from northern Italy, Pietro Ferrero. His company developed Nutella because at that time chocolate was in short supply with rations during World War II. Ferrero developed a product that used hazelnuts which were and still are plentiful in the Piedmont region to extend the chocolate supply. It was originally sold as solid block but in 1951 a creamier version was introduced. Nutella made its first appearance in the US in 1963.

Cook's notes:If you like brownies than this cookie recipe is for you. It is slightly crunchy on the outside with a chewy fudge center. The recipe comes from Cuisine at home magazine December 2011 issue. The recipe makes a soft dough so it is important to make sure dough is thoroughly chilled for at least 4 hours or place in freezer for about an hour.  I was out of hazelnuts so I used a combination equal parts almonds and walnuts finely ground in the Cuisinart as substitution.

Nutella Cookies
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each baking soda and salt
  • 1 stick of softened butter
  • 1-1/2 cups of sugar
  •  2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • finely ground hazelnuts or almonds
  • In a bowl whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt-set aside
  • Beat butter and sugar on medium spped 5 minutes
  • Add eggs one at a time
  • Add Nutella and vanilla beat until combined
  • Add flour mixture and mix only till combined
  • Chill dough at least 4 hours or overnight covered (I did put in freezer for an hour and that  worked fine) 
  • Preheat oven 350 and line baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Scoop dough out (about 3 TB. I used asmall ice cream scoop) and then roll ball in nuts be sure to press nuts into the dough
  • Place dough ball on cookie sheet and bake 9 at a time until edges are set about 15 minutes
  • Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack for final cooling

As you can see from the photo the 9 cookies are large and the recipe makes about 20. Roll the dough balls smaller if want a different size cookie but decrease baking time to 12 minutes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mac'n Cheese-Big Business

Mac'n Cheese is a big business. Besides being the ultimate comfort food there is also Internet shopping. The range of items to choose from is quite amazing; ties, shirts, pins, stickers, stationary, buttons, magnets, valentines and the list just goes on and on.  

Here's a Mac'n Cheese option that will appeal to the grown-ups
Baked Mac'n Cheese with Kielbasa
recipe adapted from February 2012
Cook's notes: This is hearty comfort food with German inspiration.  There are several options to this casserole; type of cheeses, noodles and sausage
Parts of the recipe can be made day before and refrigerate till ready to use:
Cook the sausage, slice into small pieces
Mix bread crumb topping mixture and place in a zip lock bag  
Rye Bread Crumb Topping
Mix in a Cuisinart and set aside
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh rye bread crumbs 
  • 2 TB. dried parsley flakes 
  • 2 TB. melted butter


  • 8 oz. Sausage (I used Kielbasa) but there are other types that work just as well
  • 8 oz. dried cavatappi or elbow pasta
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 TB. caraway seeds
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup Gouda cheese shredded
  • 1 cup Appenzeller, Gruyere. or Emmental cheese
  • 1 TB. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Grease a 2 qt. dish
  • Cook pasta in salted water but only till al dente rinse and set aside 
  • Brown sausage, drain and set aside
  • Melt butter in saucepan with minced onion and caraway seeds 
  • Cook about 3 minutes with a wooden spoon to stir
  • Whisk in flour to coat seeds and onions, whisk in milk and cook till slightly thickened 5-8 minutes
  • Reduce heat to low and add in cheese by handfuls stirring till smooth
  • Stir in mustard and Worcestershire, pasta and sausage
  • Pour mixture into a baking dish
  • Sprinkle bread crumb mixture overthe top
  • Bake uncovered 20-25 minutes
  • Let sit 5 minutes before serving 
And don't forget the cook deserves a German beer/ale for his or her cooking efforts
Bon Appetit 


Monday, February 25, 2013

And the winner is...

And the winner is....well you can check your local paper or the Internet to find out who were the winners for the 2013 Oscars but for me the true winners were two of my sisters. Their creativity knew no bounds with this Red Carpet event. 
Here are some DIY ideas for your next themed party. 
This is a creative use for tux and wedding dress boxes from the dollar store. The heads at the top of the boxes represented some of the nominees. Each photo was secured on to the box with double stick tape at the bottom of the photo. Can you spot Sally Field? Or how about Jennifer Lawrence?

These carnival ticket tape bowls are by far the most creative DIY craft I have come across in years. Each bowl is made with just one package of tickets from Office Depot or Office Max. The tickets come in a variety of colors.  Remember all the Mod Podge glue projects from the 70's and 80's ? That is the glue used for the final application to hold the bowl shape.  
this is the link to the very easy detailed directions and it is a Pinterest project 

Roast Beef Spiral Appetizers
Cook's notes: These appetizers were very easy to put together and make 16 using the ingredients below.
I used a basil Dijon mustard which gave a little kick to the flavor.
1/2 LB. deli roast beef (use a high quality brand)
Swiss cheese slices
Bibb lettuce
Dijon mustard

this product comes in different flavors-I used Italian Herb

Lay one soft crust on cutting board and brush lightly with mustard over the crust
Assemble on the soft crust: 2 slices of roast beef, Swiss cheese slices and 2 pieces of Bibb lettuce

Roll tightly and cover each log with plastic wrap and refrigerate. You will have 4 logs. To serve cut each log into fourths for 16 spiral appetizers..

Revised Spinach Puffs
Cook's notes: This recipe was recently posted from Bon Appetit magazine 2012. I made several adaptations so posting my revisions. The other Spinach Puff recipe was made in a regular size muffin pan. I chose to make mine smaller in a mini muffin pan. This recipe makes 16 appetizers. While working with one sheet of puff pastry keep other one wrapped and chilled till ready to use
  • 1/2 of a 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry with paper towels and then let dry out some in a colander.  The spinach needs to have moisture out otherwise filling will make puffs soggy.
  • 3/4 cup Swiss cheese but crumbled Feta or Gorgonzola works
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic (from a jar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 box frozen Puff Pastry thawed (you will use a sheet and a half)
  • In a bowl add spinach  and next 6 ingredients. season with salt and pepper. 
  • In a small bowl whisk 1 egg and fold into spinach mixture-reserve other egg
  • On a floured surface very lightly roll pastry sheet just to press together perforations-cut int three strips and then cut other direction forming squares
  • Press each square into muffin tin pressing into bottom and up sides.
  • add a heaping teaspoon to each pastry square
  • Fold pastry over filling pressing corners to meet in center
  • Whisk other egg with 1 tsp. water-use a pastry brush to lightly coat tops of the puffs
  • Puffs can be made ahead but cover with wax paper and chill
  • Bake 400 for 17 minutes watch on the last minute so puffs do not overcook
  • Cool on a wire rack

Side note: I was side tracked on Red Carpet events so grown-up Macaroni and Cheese will be posted next  time

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quintessential Comfort Food-Macaroni and Cheese

This Kraft box of macaroni and cheese represents one of the most quintessential comfort foods. My children have consumed many, many macaroni and cheese dinners courtesy of the Kraft manufacturers during their childhood. Truly it was one of their favorite foods. I liked it because it was so easy to make. 
It would probably surprise you considering all the cooking and testing of recipes that I do that I have never made macaroni and cheese from scratch.  Perhaps I have always been suspicious of the main ingredient used in most recipes: Velveeta Cheese. It is not a refrigerated product but has an amazing shelf life. The best thing about this product is that it produces a very creamy sauce.

Recently I needed to come up with a recipe that was both economical and tasty to feed a large senior group.  This following recipe has been senior and kid tested for approval :) 
Macaroni and Cheese
Cook's notes:  When I made this recipe as shown in photo I used bow tie pasta as I was out of elbow macaroni.
  Serves 6-8
  • 3 TB. butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups 2 % milk
  • 5 oz. Velveeta cheese-cubed
  • 1-1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3-1/2 cups dried elbow macaroni or 5 cups cooked macaroni
  • ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 large tomato sliced
  • dash nutmeg


  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 Tb. parsley flakes
  • 1 TB. melted butter

Topping Directions:

  • Use a Cuisenaire to crumble bread slices
  • Add in melted butter and parsley flakes

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Grease a 2 qt. casserole dish
  • Slice tomatoes drain on a paper towel-set aside
  • Boil noodles, drain-set aside
  • Use same pan as noodles and melt 3 TB. butter
  • Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute
  • Whisk in milk and while bringing this mixture to a slow boil, add in cheddar cheese, Velveeta cubes, onion, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard
  • Keep stirring till sauce in smooth
  • Stir noodles into sauce mixture
  • Add macaroni to casserole dish
  • Sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg
  • Arrange tomato slices on top
  • Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of tomato slices
  • Bake uncovered 30 minutes
Next blog posting I have another grown-up version of macaroni and cheese that uses 2 different kinds of cheeses than the above posted recipe.  I am surprised how often macaroni and cheese dishes are listed on restaurant menus. Check out this creative presentation of macaroni and cheese my friend ordered for her lunch.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Time to Read

In the book of life, the answers arent' in the back.
Charlie Brown
Looks like the Charlie Brown gang is really engrossed in their books. Perhaps they are getting a jump start on the Read Across America, reading  initiative program, that starts February 25. It is a week long series of reading based activities to foster a life-time of good reading habits. It also celebrates Dr. Seuss's birthday March 2.   
As I left our local public library recently with a stack of 6 books I thought to myself how some things never change.  One of my favorite memories growing up was taking the bus downtown with my sister or a friend every week to the public library. The excitement of exploring the children's section at the library afforded endless possibilities. (my favorites were Little Women series, Secret Garden, Boxcar Children series and Nancy Drew series) I eagerly loaded up with books often 10 at a time and I even read them all in a week. 
My recent library adventure was going in for one title and coming out with 5 other unexpected finds. I was excited to get started reading but like us all wished there was more time to read.   
This is Stacy Cordery's new book,  The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts Juliette Gordon Low. It is quite a well researched book that seems like a cross between a biography and a history book. Juliette Low, a social entrepreneur and community organizer, was able to use her talents, connections and wealth to impact millions of girls. She overcame deafness, a cheating husband and the stifling mores of her time. 
Low grew up in post-Civil War Georgia and had the nickname "Crazy Daisy". She fell in love with a British aristocratic and slightly dangerous Willy Low. A premature death left her widowed and wealthy in England. She was dissatisfied with the aristocratic way of life and began looking for a sense of purpose. She became acquainted with Robert Baden Powell's popular Boy Scouts. Low went on to organize her own organization called Girl Guides. She then moved the organization back to her hometown of Savannah, GA. It later was renamed Girl Scouts.  Low was a one woman grass-roots campaigner to get her organization flourishing up and down the East Coast. She wanted the Girl Scouts to be an organization that taught domestic and career related skills to girls but also allowed them to have fun. And we all know the rest of Juliette Gordon Low's success story.

This book Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow was one of my unexpected finds. I knew of the author from his collaboration on the following books: Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture.
Chesley Sullenberger: Highest Duty and Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly: Gabby, A Story of Courage and Hope and his own book The Girls From Ames

While looking up the author I was shocked to learn of his untimely death a year ago this month. He was 53 and on a book tour for this book Magic Room.   

This is a charming non-fiction book that looks at the bridal shop business, particularly that of Becker's Bridal Shop which still operates in the small town Fowler, Michigan. It is a 4th generational family business. While the book does overview the bridal business in today's world it also chronicles eight families on their quest for the perfect bridal gown and their stories. Zaslow's initial intent writing this book was to look at the topic of love as he raises his own three daughters. 
Magic Room at Becker's Bridal Shop is the place where the bride-to-be stands on a pedestal and models different wedding gown choices to family/friends. Side note from me...This is just like at the award shows when a  movie star steps on the 360 so audience can get a view of their dress from all angles :)  
     This book was another unexpected find. It was written by Monte Schultz, Charles Schultz's son. The book is a terrific testimony to the talented Charles Schultz. In the introduction it was interesting to learn that he felt his father had never thought of himself as a true writer. Charles Schultz did not consider the comic strip as high an art form as the novel or stage plays. But he did love to talk about writing and meet with other writers. His son wrote about his father being an avid reader of all literature genres, the bible and enjoying classical music. A variety of Snoopy cartoons were shown that reflected his father's love of the artistic expression: Schroeder played Beethoven, Snoopy read Tolstoy and Schroeder laying on ground with Charlie and Lucy thinking how the clouds looked like profile of Thomas Eakins, famous painter or the Apostle Paul. Schultz's cartoons had subtle references to the things he valued in life.
The book profiles many best selling authors who had some connection to Schultz.
A Snoopy cartoon is featured on each page to illustrate a writing technique and then each author incorporates the cartoon into writing advice for the reader.

Is your Oscar ballot filled out yet? The prize for who has the most correct guesses is the chocolate foil wrapped Oscar in the photo. It's up for grabs at the party I am going to on Sunday.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Red Carpet Menu-Appetizers Ideas

The Oscars is all about glitz and glamour coming out for a night to celebrate the movies. These links below have a lot of great ideas for Red-Carpet menu and appetizers.

The question was posed on some of the websites What if these nominated movies up for best picture were recipes?
Here are a few ideas that I thought noteworthy and helpful
A Taste of India and the Middle East

Critical and audience favorite Life of Pi is great excuse to make delicious and authentic Indian dishes. Try Indian Tandoori Chicken with basmati rice, authentic Indian Naan, or the delicious creamed spinach dish known as Saag Paneer.
Both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty are set in the Middle East, where there's no shortage of tasty dishes. Start with sliced pita bread with Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus, and serve it with sweet-savoryMeatballs with Raisins and Honey. Authentic Ash-e-jow, or Persian Barley Soup, is a flavorful comfort food perfect for winter TV watching. For dessert, pass around warm Baklava and serve with strong Turkish coffee.
A Taste of French Food
Les Miserables is a rousing tour de force set during the French Revolution. And Amour is a heartbreaking French film focusing on the different flavors of, well, love. So why not enjoy French hors d'oeuvres that will please any crowd? French Crepes are so versatile--you can fill them with sweet or savory fillings. French Onion Soup Gratinee makes an elegant presentation and is easy to assemble ahead of time. Or consider throwing a French wine dinner. Since in Les Miserables, a classic French novel, it all started with Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread, be sure to include a French bread on you menu. 
A Taste of Southern Food
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Hush Puppies 
Patriotic Foods

There were so many food choices but here are the three I finally decided on  for Sunday's Oscar party.

Spinach Puffs from BonAppetit 2012
  • 1/2 of a  10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry with paper towels
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta or Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese 
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed, rolled out to a 12- inch square, kept chilled

Special Equipment
A standard 6-cup muffin pan

Using your hands and paper towel squeeze spinach until dry, forcing out as much water as possible (too much water will make for a soggy filling; you should have about 2/3 cup well-drained spinach). Mix spinach and next 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg to blend; fold into spinach mixture.

Cut puff pastry into 3 equal strips. Reserve 1 strip for another use. Cut each remaining strip into 3 squares for a total of 6. Place a square in each muffin cup, pressing into bottom and up sides and leaving corners pointing up. Divide filling among cups. Fold pastry over filling, pressing corners together to meet in center. DO AHEAD Spinach puffs can be assembled 3 hours ahead. Cover puffs and chill.

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Beat remaining egg to blend in a small bowl. Brush pastry with egg wash (this will give the pastry a nice sheen). Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let puffs cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp paring knife around pan edges to loosen; turn out puffs onto rack to cool slightly before serving.

Cheesecake Bars  from
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3- 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature$
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 80 fresh ripe blueberries (about 1 cup) 
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry jelly

   1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. Mist foil with cooking spray.
   2. Make crust: Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely chopped. Add flour, brown sugar and salt, and process until well combined. Add butter and pulse just until mixture begins to come together; it should not form a ball. Press mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until set. Let cool on a wire rack.
   3. Make filling: With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to medium-low and add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Beat in lemon juice, vanilla and salt.
   4.Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over crust. Tap pan on counter top 3 or 4 times to burst air bubbles in filling. Place pan on a large roasting pan and put in oven. Pour hot tap water into roasting pan until it comes up about an inch around baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes, or until filling is just set. Cool completely on a wire rack, then cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  5. Use foil overhang to lift cheesecake out of pan and onto cutting board. Heat a large sharp knife under hot water; dry knife. Trim off edges of cheesecake. Carefully cut into 16 bars, rinsing knife under hot water and drying thoroughly between each cut.
  6. Transfer bars to a serving platter. Decorate each bar with 5 blueberries in upper left corner to resemble stars on the American flag. Place jelly in a ziplock bag, seal bag and snip off about 1/6 inch at one bottom corner. Pipe jelly in thin lines on each bar to resemble stripes on flag.
   7.  Note: Be sure to use seedless jelly so that you can pipe it in smooth, even lines onto the bars.

  Hush Puppies from Southern Living
   1-1/2 self-rising white cornmeal mix
   3/4 cup self rising flour
   3/4 cup diced sweet onion
   1-1/2 TB. sugar
   1 large egg
   1-1/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature 
  1. Pour oil to depth of 3 inches into a Dutch oven; heat to 375°. Combine cornmeal and next 3 ingredients. Add egg and buttermilk; stir just until moistened. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into hot oil, and fry, in 3 batches, 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Keep warm in a 200° oven.
  Try these twists: 
       Bacon-and-Caramelized Onion Hush Puppies: Increase onion to 1 1/2 cups. Cook 5 bacon slices in a medium skillet over medium heat 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp; drain bacon on paper towels, reserving 2 Tbsp. drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon. Sauté onion in hot drippings over medium-low heat 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Proceed with recipe as directed, stirring in onion and bacon with cornmeal mix in Step 1. 
      Jalapeño-Pineapple Hush Puppies: Prepare recipe as directed, stirring in 1/2 cup canned pineapple tidbits and 2 to 3 Tbsp. seeded and diced jalapeño pepper with cornmeal mix in Step 1
    Shrimp-and-Corn Hush Puppies: Prepare recipe as directed, reducing buttermilk to 3/4 cup and stirring 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked shrimp (about 3/4 lb. peeled) and 1 (8- 1/4-oz.) can cream-style corn into batter in Step 1.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day Brighteners

Some creative ways to present ordinary breakfast food items that will make you child smile :).
Make Ahead Eggnog French Toast  
Cook's note: The great thing about this recipe is that it can be made ahead several days, popped in the freezer and then thawed when ready to bake on a cookie sheet. A griddle can also be used. 
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups half and half'
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 16- 18 slices firm white or whole wheat bread (another option is to use cinnamon raisin bread and omit cinnamon from egg mixture)
  • melted butter

  • Line 2 cookie sheets each with parchment paper
  • In a blender add eggs, half and half, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla
  • Mix well and pour into a large bowl
  • Using tongs dip bread slice one at a time into egg mixture
  • Place each piece on the cookie sheet and cover with foil
  • Freeze each pan 2 hours
  • Remove from freezer and stack frozen slices in a large container. Use wax paper between the stacks
  • Wrap entire stack with heavy duty foil and return to freezer
  • When ready to use brush each frozen piece with melted butter
  • Thaw French toast pieces for about  an  hour
  • Preheat oven to 425 place buttered side on cookie sheet and brush top side with melted butter 
  • Bake uncovered 10 minutes then turn over -sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg 

Tomato-Cheddar Strata with Broccoli
recipe adapted from Country Living
serves 8
options adding ham cubes, green or red peppers 
  • 5 cups French bread cubes
  • 1-3/4 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1-1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes, patted dry on a paper towel
  • 1-1/2 cup broccoli florets 
  • 2 TB. parsley flakes
  • 3/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3-1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup chopped onion
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

  • Grease a 9 x 13 pan and place bread cubes in pan
  • Top bread cubes with 1-1/4 cup cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes, onions and broccoli 
  • In blender add eggs, milk, salt, pepper, parsley and herbes de Provence
  • Pour egg mixture over bread mixture and gently press in to soak every cube
  • Add dollops of ricotta over the top and then sprinkle with remaining cheese
  • Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight
  • Before baking bring strata to room temperature-about an hour
  • Bake 350 about 50 minutes or until strata is puffed and lightly browned 
  • Set aside for 10 minutes before cutting  

Oscar Alert: 
His big night is Sunday but there still is time for me to add some appetizer recipes to the blog just in case you are planning a celebration. Check out Ever Ready on Friday. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs

Here are some ideas for breakfast/brunch to help get your day off to a good start. Note on the right side of the blog are photos of more breakfast/brunch ideas. 
Salmon Scrambled Eggs
Cook's notes: Recipe serves 2 
There are a lot of options with this recipe 
Type of cheese-goat-feta -Gruyere
Type of toasted bread-ciabatta, English muffin, bagel
Asparagus on the side or chopped in small pieces and added to egg mixture
  • Toasted bread
  • asparagus
  • smoked salmon 2 oz. chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • dill and dry mustard 1/2 tsp of each
  • 1 TB. butter
  • chopped onion (about 3 slices)
  • cubed cheese
  • tomato slices
  • Roast garlic on a foil lined cookie sheet-drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and 2 lemon slices
  • Cook uncovered in oven at 400 for 20 minutes while preparing eggs
  • Chop salmon-set aside
  • Chop onion slices-set aside
  • Cube cheese-set aside 
  • In  blender add eggs, spices and 1/4 cup milk
  • In fry pan saute onions in butter on medium heat
  • Add egg mixture to fry pan with chopped salmon and cheese cubes-scramble eggs on a medium heat use a wooden spoon
Toasted bread-tomato slices, egg mixture, fresh sprig parsley or dill or sprinkle dried dill on top

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Healthy Start to the Day

I knew right away when my friend loaned me her book it was going to be a very good read. She had many page corners turned over, lines underlined and notes written in the margin for reference purposes. As I got into the book I wished I had my own copy. I also wanted to underline, turn page corners and write in margins. So I resorted to note taking in my journal which in turn did slow down my reading a bit. But there were so many well written and thought provoking sentences I felt compelled to get them down on paper.

"The Latehomecomer" by Koa KaliaYang is an outstanding Hmong family memoir. The author begins the family's remarkable journey by chronicling her grandmother's story which midway through the book becomes part of the author's story. Yang gives an insightful look into the Hmong culture, their political situation, how powerful family connections can be and the challenges the Hmong people face adapting to a new land.

The Hmong began immigrating into the US after 1976. They are a people without a country and lack a written language. The 2010 census showed that California has the largest Hmong population followed by Minnesota.

Koa Kalia Yang's book is a wonderful tribute to her family. They settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. As the story unfolds, she captures her family's remarkable spirit as they survived a harrowing escape across the Mekong River, seven years in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp and the challenges of making a new life in a different country. I was impressed with the family's determination that their children receive a good education. Koa Kalia Yang and her sister Dawb had to overcome great odds. They are grateful along the way for the many teachers who encouraged and helped them succeed. Yang is a graduate of Carleton College and Columbia University. She and her sister are co-founders of Words Wanted. This is an agency dedicated to helping immigrants with writing, translating and business services.

Add "The Latehomecomer" to your reading list.

Write what should not be forgotten.
Isabel Allende
Chilean Journalist and Author

Yogurt with Berries and Granola

Cook's notes: Here's a healthy breakfast to celebrate Valentine's Day, Two Presidents' Birthdays and Fourth of July. One 5.3 oz. container yogurt will make two medium sized parfaits. I used Greek Yogurt OIKIOS Toasted Coconut Vanilla by DANNON. But you can be very creative as there are many flavors to choose from in this brand as well as other brands. One container is only 160 calories and that would be for 2 servings for this breakfast item. Instead of granola I used several tablespoons of Oats & Honey with Almonds All Natural Cereal. Tasted just as good :)

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries
Granola or Oats & Honey with Almonds


Starting with yogurt layer in a glass alternate with fruit and granola mixture ending with granola on top.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The World According to Bella and Easy Breakfast Ideas

Snow banks at the lake are getting to be a challenge for me. Once over the banks my leaping, bounding and exploring are slowed down by all the snow. But this trip to the lake I have managed to stay out of trouble by not eating fish skins or unexpected cleaned fish fillets from my next door neighbor. I guess all my barking at deer sighted on MY property alerted Paul, our neighbor of our arrival.
With added outdoor exercise trying to get through the snow my tummy growls with hunger pains all day long. My first hunger alarm goes off at 5:30 AM. If I get an early breakfast out of Mrs. S my next hunger alarm starts at 3:30 PM. I really think my food ration could be upped a notch during this weather. Don't you?
Yesterday after a long nap I was up for writing one of my stories called Busted Again for WWN (Rockport, Texas) newsletter. Check out my story by following this link
Ina Garten in her book Barefoot Contessa Parties  (p.26) offers some wise words, "I can't say enough about assembling food rather than cooking it. I keep telling myself that my friends won't have more fun if I spend two days making daquoise ( a dessert cake made with a layer of almond hazelnut meringue and whipped cream) for dessert than if I find a delicious pound cake at a bakery, serve it with store bought lemon curd and fresh raspberries. In fact, they will have more fun because I'm relaxed and having fun, too."
So this week will be posting some breakfast/brunch items that are easy to put together so you can put more fun into your day.
Strawberry and Banana Smoothie
recipe adapted from
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 large banana cut into slices
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 6 frozen strawberries and 6 frozen raspberries
  • granola
Place all ingredients except granola in blender for 20 seconds-then scrape sides and mix another 15 seconds
to serve top with granola
follow this link for more healthy smoothie recipes 
Ever Ready Eggs Benedict
Cook's note: And easy recipe that looks like you spent a lot of time in kitchen. A side of roasted asparagus would be a great addition.
  • Canadian bacon
  • eggs
  • English muffins
  • dill weed
  • tomato slices 
  • Knorrs Hollandaise sauce mix package

  • Make Hollandaise sauce according to package directions-set pan aside with lid on to keep warm 
  • Slice tomatoes set aside on paper towel
  • Wrap bacon in foil and place in oven cook @400 for 15 minutes
  • Cook eggs sunny side up in fry pan
  • Toast English muffins
Muffin, bacon, tomato slice, egg,sauce and a sprinkle of dill weed on top

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...