Friday, March 16, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie for Company


Sometimes we have company over who I know go out to eat all the time. These are friends who travel a lot for business, or maybe they’re just really busy with their careers so they go out to eat all the time. For them, a steak, a nice roast or even Mexican food isn’t as much of a treat. They already eat that a lot at restaurants. What’s appealing to them is “home-style” food.

That’s why, for some guests, I’ll make up a chicken pot pie (or two) to serve to them. Add a nice tossed salad and maybe some homemade dinner rolls and a bottle of wine and you have a tasty, fairly easy and well-balanced meal. (I am guessing a lot of you reading this might think it’s the bottle of wine that makes this a “well-balanced” meal, right?!!)

What follows is the recipe I use for Chicken Pot Pie, which is the same recipe my mom used to make for company. I just made this for tonight’s dinner:


Pastry for double-crust pie (recipe below)
½ cup butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 ¾ cup chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
3 cups cooked chicken breast, cut into small cubes
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen peas and carrots

Over low heat, cook onion in butter in large sauté pan about 5 minutes—until onion is cooked and translucent. Stir in flour, salt and pepper, broth and milk and cook several minutes more, stirring constantly—until mixture is thickened. Stir in chicken breast and vegetables. Spoon into bottom of pie plate, and add top crust, and seal the edges of crust together. Cut slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Buttery Pie Crust

2 1/3 cups unbleached white flour
1 tsp. salt
6 T. unsalted butter (straight out of the fridge so it's very cold)
2/3 cup Crisco (frozen)
5-6 T. cold water

Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut in butter and Crisco until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (If there are some pea-sized pieces of Crisco or butter in the mixture, that is fine.) Sprinkle water on top of flour and salt mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. After each sprinkling of water, gently mix in the water drops with some of the dry mixture. After 5 tablespoons of water has been sprinkled in, the mixture should hold together in a ball. If it doesn't, sprinkle one more tablespoon worth of water onto the dough. Shape dough into two equal-sized balls. Roll one ball into a bottom crust and fit it into a 9-inch deep dish or 10-inch pie plate. Roll the other ball into an 11” flat circle for top crust.

Here’s a photo of my pot pie before adding the top crust:

Here’s the pie ready to go into the oven:

If you make one of these pot pies, I am sure you and your company will enjoy it. It’s a tasty “down-home” dinner!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Crock Pot Sloppy Joes


Yesterday we had 10 friends and their kids over for a euchre tournament. My husband and I enjoy playing cards, and we have a lot of friends who do too. Sometimes we just play with one or two couples. But yesterday, there were 12 of us playing. We had three tables set up, with two couples at each table. After we all finished a round, one couple from each table moved to the another. That way each of the couple-teams got to play at least one game with all of the other couples. It was loads of fun.

Including kids, we had 22 people over. The whole time all the parents were playing cards, the kids were all upstairs, playing video games, ping pong, board games, etc. Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening.

Before the euchre tournament officially began, we all had dinner together. It needed to be something simple to prepare for a crowd. I made sloppy joes in the crock pot. My guests brought salads and chips and dips. It couldn’t have been easier than that.

Now when it comes to sloppy joes, my hubby is quite particular. He doesn’t like sloppy joes that are too ketchupy, too vinegary, too sweet, or too sloppy for that matter. Several years ago, I found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens’ All-Time Favorite Crockery Recipes cookbook, and tweaked that a bit. He really likes that recipe…and our guests said they did too. I like it because it’s another do-ahead entrée that I can put together in the morning, and my food prep’s done. Here’s the recipe:

Crock Pot Sloppy Joes

3 ½ pounds lean ground beef
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
3 tsp. crushed garlic
¼ cups ketchup
3 T. dark brown sugar
¼ cup prepared mustard
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 T. (heaping) chili powder
16 to 24 hamburger buns, toasted

Brown ground beef, onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic together in large skillet. Drain grease, and then spoon into a large crockery cooker. Add brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and chili powder. Cook on low, for 6 to 8 hours. Spoon into toasted or steamed hamburger buns. Makes 16 to 24 sloppy joes (depending on the size hamburger bun you are using).


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mini Fruit Pies

My family’s favorite all-time dessert, hands down, is pie. Sometimes, though, “we” can’t seem to decide on what type of fruit pie “I” should make. That’s when I like to make mini fruit pies. I make them in individual 6-ounce sized Pyrex custard cups. That way you can make more than one variety. If you don’t have baking cups or ramekins, you can also use muffin tins.

I use this crust recipe:

2 1/3 cups unbleached white flour
1 tsp. salt
6 T. unsalted butter (straight out of the fridge so it's very cold)
2/3 cup vegetable shortening (frozen)
5-6 T. cold water

Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut in butter and Crisco until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (If there are some pea-sized pieces of shortening or butter in the mixture, that is fine.) Sprinkle water on top of flour and salt mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. After each sprinkling of water, gently mix in the water drops with some of the dry mixture. After 5 tablespoons of water has been sprinkled in, the mixture should hold together in a ball. If it doesn't, sprinkle one more tablespoon worth of water onto the dough. Shape dough into 16 equal-sized balls. Roll 8 of the dough balls into circles about 5 inches in diameter. Place these circles into the bottoms of 8 baking ramekins or muffin tins. The other 8 dough balls will be used to make the top crusts.

Next, make the filling. Here are the ingredients needed for the filling:

4 cups frozen blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or peaches, thawed slightly
1 cup granulated sugar (preferably ultra-fine or Baker’s Sugar)
4 T (heaping!) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 T. butter, cut into small pieces

Usually, I’ve always got a variety of frozen fruit in the freezer. The recipe I use calls for 4 cups total of frozen fruit. So I might make four different varieties of fruit tarts, using 1 cup each of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and peaches. I’ll get out four small mixing bowls, and put a different type of fruit in each. Then I’ll divide up the sugar, flour and lemon juice among the among the four bowls. Each small bowl of fruit will make 2 tarts. Put the filling in each of the bottom crusts. Then dot the butter on top of the 8 mini pies.

Next, roll out the other 8 dough balls into circles about 4 inches in diameter. Dampen the rim of the bottom crusts slightly with water to seal on the top crusts. If desired, you can make out a small cut-out in the top crust. Or, you can just cut out a slit on top to allow the steam to escape. You may also make a woven crust, or top the pie with a crumb topping (the topping I used in Friday’s strawberry rhubarb crisp works great; you’ll just need to cut down the amount of the recipe you make based on how many mini pies you are topping).

Bake the pies in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes—until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. These pies are wonderful right out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

What I really like about these pies is you can make them up ahead of time, wrap them in plastic wrap, and then freeze them for a month or two. You would just need to thaw them in the refrigerator 12 hours or so before baking.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

I've been trying to empty out our large chest freezer. There are a lot of "forgotten" packages of frozen produce on the lowest layer that need to be eaten up. For instance, I just came across some bags of frozen rhubarb and strawberries, from last summer's garden. What better way to use them up than by making a strawberry rhubarb crisp? YUM!

The recipe I use is actually a combination of my grandma's recipe and one I found from Food Network. You know how it is...there's never one "ideal" recipe in your cookbooks for what you might want to make. Usually there's something I like about several different recipes, and at the same time, something I'm not crazy about each of the recipes. (It's not much different from house shopping; there's usually something I'm not crazy about every house we look at. Then, we end up just building our own, so we get exactly what we want.) My husband and I don't like ginger very much, nor do we like excessive amounts of nutmeg, and my youngest son dislikes that was a couple of strikes against two of the recipes. One of the recipes had way too much topping. One of them used fresh fruit, which is great if you have it, but I'm working with frozen produce right now (and that's going to be the case most of the year). So I had to "adapt" some recipes and kind of pick the best elements of each. I think I was successful.

What follows is the recipe for what I think is the perfect mix of ingredients for strawberry rhubarb crisp. It's great served warm, topped with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. I hope you like it as much as my family does!


Fruit layer:
16-oz. bag frozen rhubarb, sliced into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces
16 or 20-oz. bag frozen strawberries, quartered (about 2 1/2 to 3 cups worth, once quartered)
3 T. cornstarch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Streusel topping:
6 T. cold, unsalted butter
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup oatmeal ("quick" or "old fashioned")
¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Lightly butter a 2 quart baking dish. In a large bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla. Spoon into prepared baking dish. In another bowl, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, combine all the topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle streusel over fruit. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes, or until bubbly and topping is golden brown. Let cool about 20-30 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hot 'n Spicy Crock Pot Chili

I said it before...and I'll say it again: I love my crock pots! (I say "crock pots" plural, because I have seven of them, in varying sizes. I use them all, often multiple crock pots for one meal. The main entree might go in a large 6 1/2- or 7-quart crock pot, and then I may have several side dishes cooking in the smaller or medium-sized crock pots. If I've got a large crowd coming over, I might have both of my two 7-quart crock pots cooking the same main entree such as roast beef.)

Cooking in a crock pot is an easy and stree-free way to entertain. You start the food cooking in the morning (You can even do all your advance food prep the night before and put the filled crock pot in the fridge until cooking time), and have very little, if any, food prep to do before your guests arrive (which means you can be relaxing beforehand!). And if it's a chilly day outside, you have the added plus of taking in all those wonderful smells coming from the kitchen all day.

I took advantage of my crock pot this past weekend. As I mentioned in previous posts, we had a Super Bowl party this past Sunday. We also had overnight, out-of-town guests coming over Saturday evening. I already had a lot to do Saturday night, with getting ready for the Super Bowl party. There wasn't going to be a lot of "free" time Saturday evening for fixing a big dinner. So my crock pot came to the rescue....again! I used my large crock pot, and made crock pot chili...which was enough for about 12 people. On the side we served sour cream, shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, diced onions, and Fritoes. Our guests brought corn bread and tossed salad. It was a very yummy...and filling meal. I made up the chili the day before--on Friday--and kept it in the fridge until Saturday morning. It cooked all day Saturday, and about 6 pm when our guests arrived, dinner was ready!

The recipe I use for chili is one that I adapted and tweaked from the small recipe booklet that came with my West Bend crockery cooker. Here it is:

3 lbs. lean ground beef
2 ½ cups chopped yellow onions (3-4 large onions)
2 ½ cups chopped green bell pepper (3-4 large bell peppers)
3 tsp. crushed garlic
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies, drained
4 (28-oz.) cans whole tomatoes (undrained), cut up
2 (15 oz.) cans dark red kidney beans, drained
2 (15 oz.) cans light red kidney beans, drained
4 T. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Brown ground beef with onion, green pepper and garlic in large skillet over medium heat. Drain excess grease. Transfer mixture to crock pot. Add remaining ingredients; stir to blend. Cook on low heat setting for 8 to 10 hours.



Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Quiz

We had a wonderful time at our Super Bowl Party yesterday. I say "our" but actually my 16-year-old son spear-headed the whole event. I thought he did a great job. He planned the guest list, the menu, the decorations, the food, and did all the set up and take-down.

My son also organized a couple of different football-related games for during the party. One of them was a Super Bowl trivia quiz, which he wrote himself. I've pasted the quiz below. We had a trivia quiz at last year's party and everyone said it was too hard. So, this year my son tried to include a mix of easy, medium and more challenging questions in the quiz. Yesterday's winning guest won with a score of 75 percent. Why don't you try out the quiz and see how you do?!!


GRAND PRIZE: Superbowl XLVI Mug with Bonus T-Shirt

Question 1. CATEGORY: EASY
What is the name of the team with a blue star as a logo?
A. Jacksonville Jaguars
B. Houston Texans
C. Tennessee Titans
D. Dallas Cowboys

Question 2. CATEGORY: EASY
Which team does Eli Manning currently plan for?
A. Indianapolis Colts
B. New York Giants
C. Denver Broncos
D. None of the Above

Question 3. CATEGORY: EASY
Which one of these teams is based in Illinois?
A. Bears
B. Cardinals
C. Chargers
D. Panthers

How many teams have never been to a superbowl?
A. 1
B. 4
C. 2
D. Every team has been in at least one superbowl.

Which team went to four straight superbowls and lost all 4?
A. Raiders
B. Steelers
C. Vikings
D. Bills

Which two teams participated in Superbowl III?
A. New York Jets & Baltimore Colts
B. Green Bay Packers & Kansas City Chiefs
C. Green Bay Packers & Miami Dolphins
D. Minnesota Vikings & Kansas City Chiefs

Question 7. CATEGORY: HARD
What was the name of the Tennessee Titans before they became the Tennessee Titans?
A.Houston Titans
B.Houston Oilers
C.Tennessee Oilers
D. Chicago Fire

Question 8. CATEGORY: EASY (Short Answer)
Name five NFL Quarterbacks:

Question 9. CATEGORY: EASY (Short Answer)
Name five NFL Running Backs:

Who has played both baseball and football professionaly?
A. Tom Brady
B. Marshall Faulk
C. Deion Sanders
D. Peyton Manning

Question 11. CATEGORY: EASY
Who is the current starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys?
A. Drew Bledsoe
B. Troy Aikman
C. John Kitna
D. Tony Romo

Question 12. CATEGORY: EASY
Whatone of these teams played in Superbowl 46?
A. Cleveland Browns
B. New England Patriots
C. Carolina Panthers
D. Detroit Lions

Which NFL team has won the most superbowls?
A.Pittsburgh Steelers
B. Dallas Cowboys
C. New England Patriots
D. Denver Broncos

Who was the superbowl I MVP?
A.Bart Starr
B. Joe Namath
C.John Elway
D. Vince Lombardi

What was the final score of Superbowl XLII?
A.Patriots 17,Giants,14
B.Giants 20, Patriots 17
C. Giants 17, Patriots 14
D. Patriots 20, Giants 17

Question 16. CATEGORY: EXTREME (Short Answer)
Which player has gained the most MVP (most valuable player) awards?

Question 17. CATEGORY: HARD
Which player holds the record for most passing yards in a single season?
A. Drew Brees
B. Tom Brady
C. Matthew Stafford
D. Dan Marino

Who did the Patriots beat in Superbowl XXXVI?
A. Denver Broncos
B. Philidelphia Eagles
C. Carolina Panthers
D. St. Louis Rams

How many people approximently watched Superbowl XLV (last year)?
A. 50 Million Est.
B. 162.9 Million Est.
C. 200 Million Est.
D. 500 Million Est.

Which City/Area has hosted the most superbowls to date?
A. City of Tampa Bay
B. Los Angeles Area
C. City of New Orleans
D. City of Miami

Answers: D, B, A, B, D, A, C, C, D, B, A, A, C, Joe Montana, A, D, B, D,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Homemade Spinach and Chicken Ravioli

Today’s adventure was making homemade spinach and chicken ravioli. We had it for dinner tonight, and I made a lot extra to freeze, which I’ll serve to company at a dinner party in a couple weeks. To me, there’s nothing yummier than freshly-made homemade pasta (or homemade pasta that’s been frozen and thawed!).

I’ll be honest with you…it’s a several hour project to make your own ravioli. But…it’s just as easy to make several batches at once rather than just one. So I make a lot at a time and freeze it, which in that sense is a time saver. Now, in addition to having dinner ready for my family for tonight, I’ve got homemade ravioli frozen to serve to future dinner guests, and it’s all set to go.

I use pasta and filling recipes from a Cook’s Illustrated book, The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles. I have “tweaked” the recipes a bit though. In this blog post, I’ll give you a rundown of the ravioli making operation at my house.

First, I’ll start with the recipes:


3 cups all-purpose, semolina or bread flour
1 tsp. salt
5 large-eggs, beaten
1-2 tsp. cold water

Place flour in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pour in flour and salt. Pulse food processor a few times to evenly distribute salt. Add eggs and pulse until mixture starts to cling together. It should come together in one large mass, without sticking to the sides. Mixture should not be wet. If it doesn’t stick together, add 1-2 tsp cold water, a half teaspoon at a time. Once it holds together, remove dough from food processor. Knead about a minute, until dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 to 60 minutes. This will make the dough easier to handle. While the dough is “resting” in the fridge, make the filling.

Here's a dough ball, resting...


¾ cup thawed, frozen spinach
1 cup cooked chicken breast cubes
1 small onion
2 T. butter
½ tsp. salt
1 cup ricotta cheese (whole or part skim)
¾ cup Parmesan cheese (ideally freshly grated)

Put chicken in food processor and pulse until chicken is coarsely ground. Set chicken aside. Next, squeeze out excess water from the spinach. Then put spinach in the food processor and pulse until spinach is chopped fine. Set spinach aside. Next, dice onion in food processor. Melt butter in large saucepan and add spinach and onion. Stir about 5 minutes, until onion is cooked and tender. Add salt, chicken and cheeses. Filling is now ready. (At this point, you can refrigerate the filling—up to one day—until you are ready to assemble your ravioli. This is actually a good time-saver; making both the pasta and filling for the ravioli, and assembling it, can be too time consuming for one day.)

Here's a photo of the filling, ready to be put into the ravioli:

To assemble your ravioli, you will need a pasta machine (to roll out the dough). It’s also helpful to have a ravioli maker to help you shape your raviolis (If you don’t have one, you can just put one sheet of dough on top of anther, and cut out your squares using a pastry wheel cutter—with a small spoonful of filling in the center of each.). The ravioli maker I use is made by Norpro, and consists of two parts—a metal frame that has 12 “holes” in it, and an indented, egg-carton shaped plastic form.

I’ll post a series of photos here so that you can see the process. Basically, what you do is use your pasta machine to roll out strips of the pasta dough. Start rolling your dough at the thickest width setting, and then pass the dough sheets through the machine several times, each time at a thinner thickness, until you’ve the dough’s been through the thinnest setting. The dough will be thin and translucent.

Next, cut out 12X4 inch strips of dough. Place a strip onto the metal frame (dust the strip of dough with flour first, which will make for easier removal of the ravioli squares when you’re finished).

Use the egg carton-shaped form to make indentations in each square. Fill each of these indentations with a rounded teaspoonful worth of filling.

Then place a second 12X4 inch strip of dough on top of that (again, lightly flouring the dough strip first). Roll across the covered frame with a wooden rolling pin. This will seal the two layers of dough together. The edges of the frame—showing the outlines of each ravioli square—will start to show through as you’re rolling.

When you can clearly see the metal edges, turn the ravioli form over and lightly tap it on the countertop. The raviolis will fall onto the countertop surface. If they don’t fall out by themselves, you can use the edge of a paring knife to carefully pry the ravioli squares out of the form.

Place the ravioli on a cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Freeze for about an hour to harden the ravioli so that they won’t stick together when you’re storing them. You can then put the ravioli in freezer bags and freeze them. They freeze well for 1-2 months. Or, if you’re going to prepare the ravioli fairly soon, you can store the ravioli in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking them.

If you’ve frozen the ravioli, thaw them in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours before cooking them. To cook the ravioli, place them in salted, boiling water. Let them cook for 8 minutes or until tender. Serve covered with marinara or Alfredo sauce.

I like to serve these ravioli with Afredo sauce. Here’s my recipe:


½ cup butter
4 T. cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add cream cheese and stir until blended with butter. Stir in heavy cream and half and half. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.


Sunday, January 29, 2012


We had some friends over last night for beef brisket and it was such a fun, relaxing evening! Everything I served, I made up in advance. We had cook-in-the-oven Texas-style beef brisket, garlic mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes (we still have frozen mashed sweet potatoes from my husband’s 2010 garden to use up!), and cornbread with whipped honey butter. I asked my guests to bring a warm veggie dish and tossed salad (I just provided the carbs and protein!).

I made up all my dishes on Friday and then kept them in the refrigerator until Saturday. Yesterday morning, I put the brisket in the oven. It cooked at a low temperature all day (kind of like you would do with a slow cooker, but the slow cooking in the oven doesn’t turn the meat into mush; it just makes it very tender.). Then I put the cornbread, sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes in our second oven about 30 minutes before our guests arrived. There was nothing else that needed to be done all day to get ready for the meal (I had already made a dessert the day before, which was still in the fridge. One of our guests was bringing a second dessert.). After our friends arrived, I was in the family room, sipping on wine and munching on appetizers (crackers and cheese/dips), while we waited for the dishes to finish cooking in the oven. I wasn’t having to rush around the kitchen doing all this last-minute food prep. I love easy meals like this. And the brisket (something I discovered since moving to Texas) is something people always seem to enjoy.

Really, this is the ideal meal for a Friday night or other weekday evening dinner, when you’re at work and away from home all day. You can put the beef brisket in the oven when you leave in the morning, and it’ll be ready when you get home. The other items can be cooked for 30 minutes after you get home—about the time you’re getting the brisket out of the oven to “rest” for a bit before cutting. It’s also a good meal to serve up after church; you can come home with your company and dinner’s just about ready. When your guests ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” there really isn’t; everything’s already done. It’s one of those meals that generates a super-relaxing atmosphere, because as the hostess, I’m not running around like a “chicken with its head cut off.” My husband and sons really appreciate that.

Here are last night’s recipes:


Rub, for 8 to 10 pounds of beef brisket:

4 T. chili powder
2 T. salt
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. onion powder
1 T. ground black pepper
2 T. granulated sugar
1 T. plus 1 tsp. dry mustard
3 bay leaves, crushed
4 cups beef stock or beef broth

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Trim excess fat on brisket. Mix the dry rub ingredients together, and season the brisket on both sides with the rub. Place the brisket on rack in a roasting pan, fat side up. Add beef stock to yield about ½ inch of liquid in the roasting pan (just enough so that the broth is really close to coming in contact with meat, but not quite). Put roaster lid on. Bake 8-10 hours (1 hour per pound of meat, after fat is trimmed). When done cooking, leave out at room temperature 15-20 minutes before cutting. Then slice the meat thinly across the grain. Top with juice from the pan, or serve with warm barbecue sauce on the side.


4 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all of the above and pour into buttered 1 ½ quart glass casserole dish. Then, mix the following together until crumbly, and sprinkle on top of mashed sweet potato mixture:

½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup butter
½ cup chopped pecans

Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until center is heated through.


5 lbs. Russet Potatoes, peeled
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup chives, rinsed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-2 tsp. salt (to taste)
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. paprika

Cook potatoes in boiling water about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes and mash. Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add potatoes and remaining ingredients except the paprika, beat just until combined. Spoon the mixture into a lightly buttered 2-quart casserole, sprinkle with paprika. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before baking. Uncover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated through. Serves 8 to 10. When baked in the oven like this, these potatoes get a “crust” on top and they’re light and fluffy inside….and they go fast when served.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/8 cups cornmeal
3 tsp. baking powder
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ cup shortening, chilled
2 cups milk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut in shortening until crumbly. Add milk and eggs and stir just until all the ingredients are well combined. Bake in a 7 X 11-inch greased baking pan for about 30 minutes. Serve with whipped honey butter. (For last night’s dinner, I made up the batter the day before, put it in a baking dish, covered it with plastic wrap, and then kept it in the refrigerator until baking. I like making up the batter ahead of time and baking it right before eating it. To me, cornbread always tastes best fresh out of the oven, rather than baked a day in advance.)


½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ to 1/3 cup honey (to taste)

Using a hand mixer, whip butter and honey together until light and fluffy.

Have a good rest of your weekend!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Decorative Chocolate Cream Pie

We’re having company over for dinner tomorrow night. I thought I’d make a post about what we’re having for dessert…chocolate cream pie. I’ve found over the years that chocolate cream pie is a dessert that practically everyone likes. This recipe comes from the 1980 Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. It’s the best chocolate cream pie recipe that I’ve ever found.

1 9-inch baked pie shell (I use the recipe I posted last July), cooled
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups whole milk
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, grated
3 large egg yolks
3 T. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Whipped cream for garnish, plus chocolate leaves, sprinkles or curls—if desired.

Whisk the three egg yolks in a pint-sized bowl and set aside. In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together sugar, flour, salt, milk and grated chocolate. Over medium heat, cook mixture, stirring constantly, cook until mixture is thickened and boils (about 10 minutes). Spoon about a half-cup’s worth of the chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolks and quickly whisk together. Pour this chocolate-egg yolk mixture back into the pan with the rest of the chocolate mixture. Blend together well. Stir over low heat until very thick (about two minutes), and mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon (don’t allow to bowl though). Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Then pour into baked pie shell. Cover the surface of the chocolate mixture with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cool and set—about 3-4 hours. Then you can remove the plastic wrap and garnish.

I piped whipped cream on my chocolate cream pie (above), and garnished it with dark chocolate, white chocolate and peanut butter leaves. I made these with a leaf mold, that I filled with melted Candy Wafers (available from Hobby Lobby). You can also use Wilton’s Candy Melts, which you can buy at craft supply stores like Michael’s, or "real" chocolate if you temper it first. One final touch was to sprinkle Cocoa Pearls on top of the piped whipped cream. These are available at Trader Joe’s, and add a special touch to the pie.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Favorite Super Bowl Munchies

With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, my youngest son and I have been planning our annual Super Bowl party. He’s actually spearheaded the whole event, planning the guest list, designing and writing the Evite invitation, and organizing games for the party. Now we’re down to creating the menu. Our guests will be bringing a lot of finger foods and beverages to the party. In addition, there are certain munchies we like to make every year. The recipes for our favorite Super Bowl treats are below. We’ll probably make these foods this year too. They’re not exactly low calorie food choices, but they sure do hit the spot while you’re sitting on the couch, cheering on your favorite team with your friends!


1 can refried beans (I use Amy’s Organic Refried Beans, which are seasoned and taste delicious!)
1 16-ounce carton sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 pack of dry taco seasoning mix or Fiesta Ranch dip mix
16 ounce containers guacamole dip (I use Wholly Guacamole—again, very delicious! And there are natural preservatives in there, so the guacamole doesn’t go bad even though it’s fresh.)
12 ounces finely shredded Monterey Jack and mild cheddar cheese mix
2 bunches green onions, sliced thinly
1 large tomato (chopped finely)
½ cup black olives, sliced thinly

Assemble the layers in a 7 by 11 inch glass baking dish. The layers will be thin, so that when you dip a tortilla chip, you get all seven flavors in every bite. First, spread the refried beans over the bottom of the dish. Next, beat the cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning together, and then spread that on top of the refried bean layer. Make the guacamole the third layer; spread it over the cream cheese mixture very carefully so that it doesn’t get mixed up in the first two layers. For the fourth layer, sprinkle the cheese on top of the guacamole. The last three layers are the green onions, then tomatoes, and black olives on top. Cover the dip with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Serve the dip with tortilla chips.


2 cups ketchup
2 cups bourbon
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 medium yellow onion, diced finely
1 T. plus 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. Tabasco sauce
3 (1 pound packages frankfurters—each hot dog cut into thirds) or 3 pkgs. Little Smokies cocktail franks

Combine ketchup, bourbon, brown sugar, onion, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce in saucepan. Simmer uncovered for a half hour, stirring occasionally. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place franks on a shallow baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking oil spray. Pour the bourbon sauce over the franks, coating them evenly. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake about 30-40 minutes, until heated through. Serve with toothpicks.


25 chicken wings
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
Vegetable oil for deep frying
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup hot pepper sauce (I like Frank’s “Red Hot” cayenne pepper sauce)

Cut wings at joint and remove tips. Set aside. Mix flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and salt together. Dip wings into flour mixture and coat well. Deep fry wings (about 10-12 at a time) in hot oil until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. In a small sauce pan, melt butter; add hot sauce to butter and stir well. Dip wings into hot sauce mixture. Cover; let stand one minute. Serve warm with celery sticks and your favorite sour cream ranch dressing.


1 cup finely ground smoked turkey
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
3 T. mayonnaise
2 T. fresh parsley, diced finely
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Blend first four ingredients together and chill for an hour until firm. Shape mixture into a bowl and then roll into chopped pecans. Store in refrigerator until serving. Can be made 2-3 days in advance. Serve with crackers and/or pita and pretzel chips.


1 (11 oz.) can golden sweet corn
1 bell pepper (green, red, yellow or orange), diced
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 red onion, diced
½ bunch cilantro, diced
1/3 cup hot salsa
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 ripe avocados, diced

Mix all ingredients together in bowl. Cover bowl, and refrigerate several hours before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.


1 ½ pounds lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 qt. fresh bean sprouts
3 large Spanish onions, chopped
2 pounds fresh carrots, peeled and shredded
1 cabbage, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
I package Lumpia wrappers, thawed in the refrigerator at least one day (these are available at Asian markets)

For filling: Brown ground beef and onion together. Drain, and set aside. Stir fry bean sprouts, carrot and cabbage together in 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in hamburger and onion mixture.

Carefully separate Lumpia wrappers. Put about 2-3 tablespoons worth of filling into each. Fold each side in a couple inches, and roll up “burrito-style.” (Usually there are instructions on the Lumpia wrappers package, for exactly how to fold them.) At this point, you can fry the egg rolls. Or, you can put them in freezer bags or containers (with waxed paper between the layers) and freeze them uncooked. About a day before serving, start thawing them in the refrigerator.

Cook them in hot oil for 2-3 minutes (until lightly browned), or baste them with oil and bake them on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve with sweet chili sauce (also available at Asian markets, as well as the international aisle of many supermarkets). My favorite is Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce.

Oh, I must add the a big batch of buttery popcorn—made the “old fashioned” way with a popcorn popper using oil—also makes for some good munchin’ at a Super Bowl party. It’s one of my favorite treats actually…and is “no sweat” to make.

Well, those are my son’s and my favorite Super Bowl treats. What about you? Do you have any great ideas for Super Bowl munchies that I didn’t mention here? If you do, drop me a note! I’m always looking for good ideas!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hosting a Roaring 20s Murder Mystery Party

In April, I made a blog post about our Old West-themed murder mystery party. Last night, we hosted a Roaring 20s-themed murder mystery party and dinner. It was a super fun evening!!! Here’s a run-down on the party:

We used a commerical murder mystery kit for the evening. I actually found two companies that have excellent roaring 20s-themed murder mystery kits. One was “Murder at the Juice Joint,” ( which was created by Night of Mystery, the same company I bought my “Murder at the Deadwood Saloon” kit from last year; and “Murder at the Four Deuces,” which is available from the company, Dinner and a Murder Mystery Games ( ). Since I already tried a game from Night of Mystery, I decided to go for the “Murder at the Four Deuces” kit this time.

I thought this kit was just as good as the one I bought last year. Some differences: with the Night of Mystery kits, you get a lot of ideas for decorations, including a lot of downloadable items like labels for booze bottles and crates and the templates for making your own name cards. But with the Dinner and a Murder Mystery games, you can buy a boxed kit—which arrives in the mail. That’s what I did. I liked that, rather than having to print everything up from my own printer. With this kit, you also get some extra activities for the evening, like a scavenger hunt activity, and an online party invitation and management system, which the other company doesn’t offer. But…the name cards included in the “Murder at the Four Deuces” kit were just the plain ol’ stick-on on kind, and they didn’t stick on too well. And there weren’t any templates for décor like you get with the Night of Mystery kits. I also found A LOT of typos in the character descriptions and other materials they sent me (I can’t help it…I’m an editor.). I also reworded and retyped up some of the scripts they gave me for key characters like the host and inspectors, which I think made the evening much more clear for our guests. But all in all, I thought the kit was a good value. It really just depends what you want. If you have a lot of time for making invitations, name cards, decorations, etc., go with a Night of Mystery kit. (This kind of “creating” can be loads of fun!). If you want all this printed up for you—without the same creative/artistic touch—go with the Dinner and Murder Mystery kit.

Decorating for this event was a bit of a challenge. The setting for this house was a speakeasy. I thought a lot of the speakeasy and roaring 20s decorations that were available from online party suppliers were a bit hokey. Every company out there basically sells the same the same old hokey, cheap-looking speakeasy decorations. And honestly, I thought it would have been a bit of a challenge trying to make our dining room, kitchen area and family room into a speakeasy with tables and a dark, smoky atmosphere. We have large windows throughout and big, Texas-sized furniture that I wasn’t going to try to move to make room for folding card tables. I did find a design online for a mock bar table we could have made out of plywood, but again, where would we find room to put it? Not only that, I didn’t want to spend money on making a bar. Now I thought it would have been fun to make some old booze bottles with old fashioned labels on them, and put those bottles around the house for decorations. But then my very logical son brought up the fact that during Prohibition, companies probably didn’t want to identify themselves too clearly as bootleggers, so they probably didn’t put labels on their liquor back then. Besides, I didn’t have a bunch of empty bottles on hand to put labels on. I also didn’t have big boxes to put fake booze labels on, which I had thought about doing.

So…I decided to just go with a more general 1920s style of décor. Black and white was a popular color scheme back then, along with anything sparkly and glitzy, so I went with that as my theme. I decorated with strings of pearls, black and white feather boas, black and white streamers, and black and white bandanas which I used for table coverings, which I found for good prices at Party City and Hobby Lobby. I also found some really elegant crystal candle holders from Hobby Lobby—during their ½ price sale week—which I put black candles in. I put candles all over the family room, kitchen, dining room and front office (which we used as our wine room), and dimmed all the main house lights, which created kind of a night club atmosphere. I also hung posters of Al Capone and other 1920s gangsters (which I bought online from poster companies), and found some black crystal confetti to scatter on the tables. I did have several sets of crystal candle holders for the dining tables, which actually were my grandmother’s, which she got for her wedding in the late 1920s. Anything crystal (as long as it’s clear crystal; the colored “Depression glass” didn’t come along until the 1930s) is ideal to decorate with for a 1920s-themed party.

Here’s a sampling of some of the decorating I did for the party, such as “The Four Deuces” sign I made out of glitter…

Wine glasses with black and white ribbons…

A couple of the tables…

I wrapped plastic cutlery around black and white napkins and tied them with black and white ribbons…

The right music also adds to an evening like this. For music, I bought a three CD pack of 1920s classics called, “I’d Rather Charleston,” which was a collection by various artists, and an online music download, “Charleston: The Dance of the Roaring Twenties,” by Walter Weeman’s Brass and Singers. We played these all evening, and it really added a lot to the fun, upbeat atmosphere of the evening (even with murders going on!). I bought the music from, which incidentally has a great selection of music from that era.

We had 22 characters join in the fun last night. (We were supposed to have 24 but one couple got sick and couldn’t make it). Plus, we also had 12 teenagers and younger children (sons and daughters of characters) over; they just observed and didn’t take on roles (actually, for most of the evening, they were upstairs in the game room playing ping pong and video games!).

I already included a lot of tips about how to host a murder mystery party in my April 3 post. If you haven’t read that and are interested in planning a murder mystery party, you might want to check out that post.

Some other useful tips:

**Give your guests a detailed outline of what-would-happen-and-when during the evening. Now most murder mystery kits will include a handout for what you give to your guests to explain the setting, etc., for the party. In addition to sending out that to my guests, I typed out a very detailed outline for my guests that explained specifically what we’d be doing at our party (which may be particular for us): when to arrive (I stressed that for this party, timeliness was very important), where to park, which door to use, when we would be eating, when we would be having the scavenger hunt, how the investigation would progress, which guests were playing which roles, what awards we would be presenting at the end of the party, etc. If you try to explain all this after you’ve already got a crowd gathering inside your house, it’s going to be too hard to do. It’s better to let your guests know these details ahead of time. Email this information to your guests in advance of your party (about 2-3 weeks before the event). Also stress that they should be studying up on their characters before they arrive.

**Have information envelopes available for each of your guests to pick up when they arrive. I had a wrought iron basket setting out, with two envelopes for each guest: an “A” envelope with their nametags, character descriptions (an extra copy of what they already were given before the party), play money for the game, and certain documents for particular guests. The “B” envelopes had character objectives for after the murder, voting cards (for best acting, best costume, etc.), and other documents and instructions that certain guests needed. The “A” envelopes were opened upon arrival; the “B” envelopes were opened after the murder. Organizing all the materials this way ensured that guests would receive the materials they needed, when they needed them…and as the host, I didn’t have to scramble around trying to find certain guests to hand them particular documents at various points during the evening.

**Make sure your evening’s “victim” knows exactly what he’s supposed to be doing during the evening. Last night’s victim had a lot of very detailed information in his “A” envelope about where to be standing when he saw his demise, and how to signal to the host (my husband) that he was ready to fall on the floor (and my sons would need to turn off the lights and make a loud bang sound by popping a balloon). You want this part of the evening to go very precisely. It sets the tone for the rest of the party.

**Have back-up cast members available for key characters. Last night several people were sick and couldn’t make the party. Another gal had a “family emergency” two days earlier and almost wasn’t able to make it. You have to be ready to “move characters around” or find replacements for key characters—just in case you need to. Something always seems to happen last-minute, especially if you’re planning one of these parties during the winter months, when a lot of cold and flu bugs are spreading. That’s not a reason to fret though. In any murder mystery kit you buy, there will be a list of “core” characters as well as supporting roles (that are not essential to the storyline, but do add to the evening if you have people to play them). On Friday—the day before the party—I had to find replacements for three key roles. One couple was sick, along with their kids, and they weren’t going to make it. Another couple had a very contagious little boy; the husband would have to stay home and watch his kids while the wife could still go. Friday afternoon, when I got the news, I was scrambling around to find replacements. I moved one couple who were playing less essential characters, to playing the more pivotal roles of the couple who got sick. I was able to talk my 18-year-old son into playing the part of the husband with the contagious little boy (so he could stay home with his kids)…which meant my son had two “older women” hanging on him during the murder mystery party. (Check out this pic. It says it all!)

**Assign character roles very carefully. If you’ve got introverted or shy friends, they’ll probably enjoy themselves more if you assign them supportive roles. What some people enjoy most about these kinds of parties is just dressing up, observing and trying to figure out “Whodunnit.” Usually the main character roles are best played by extroverts—people who naturally like to “ham it up.” My husband is a good example. He’s a classic introvert (married to a super extrovert who plans nonstop parties…well, we balance each other out!). Last year, he had the main male role, and the minute the party started, he was besieged by about 20 other guests who had character assignments to harass him or question him about something. By the end of the evening…well, probably 15 minutes into the evening…he was totally wiped out.

**Serve food that fits in with the theme for the evening, and requires absolutely NO last minute food prep or cooking on your part. For me, I was the hostess last night, and I was also one of the main characters. If you are going to be eating the main meal sometime after the party starts, have appetizers to eat beforehand. This is what we did last night. Our guests arrived somewhere between 6 and 6:45 pm. We had appetizers to munch on during this time. I asked a couple of the guests to bring cheese and cracker trays for appetizers. I also made an easy appetizer for the evening—cheese, sausage and olive kabobs. This was a popular snack in the 1920s, and the kabob sticks fit with the black and white theme:

The party “officially” started at 6:45, once everyone had arrived. The victim had about a half hour to complete a list of objectives (basically he had to say and do certain things to get other characters upset with him).

Here’s a photo of the evening’s victim, Jim Ravioli, telling his daughter, Rebecca Ravioli, she couldn’t marry Rhett Bumbler:

Here’s the victim lying on our front staircase:

After the victim was dragged away by the inspector and my husband (owner of The Four Dueces), dinner was served. This was about 7:15. Dinner was ready right then, and I didn’t have to do anything ahead of time to prepare it. Everything had been done ahead of time. I made a large tray of lasagna, which I put in the oven at 6 pm, right before our first guests arrived. I made crock pot chicken cacciatore, which I got going about noon. All I had to do at serving time was take off the lids of the crock pots. I made herbed spaghetti to with the chicken cacciatore and garlic bread loaves. Both of these were prepared in advance, and just needed to be heated in the oven about a half hour before serving. Being that the theme for the party was 1920s Chicago gangsters, and most of the characters were Italian, Italian food a perfect choice for the meal. It was a really good choice for me, because I didn’t have to do any last-minute food prep. Here are the recipes:


3 ½ lbs. chicken pieces (thighs and/or breasts)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. lemon pepper
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
¼ cup rose wine
1 T. granulated sugar
1 green pepper, sliced thinly
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (8 oz.) can mushrooms

Put all of the above ingredients in a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Serve with pasta.


1 lb spaghetti ( good quality)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried parsley
salt and pepper--to taste

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to manufacturer directions. Drain, and add oil and the rest of the ingredients. Put in an oiled casserole dish. Refrigerate until serving time. About a half hour before serving time, put spaghetti in covered casserole dish in 350 oven. Bake for 30 minutes—or until heated through.

DO-AHEAD GARLIC BREAD LOAF (I made 5 of these for the party)
1 loaf French or Italian bread
½ cup butter
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
Optional: ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Slice loaf into 1 inch slices; make your cuts 90 percent into the loaf, but not all the way (without cutting into the bottom of the loaf, so that the slices stay held together in the loaf). Melt butter. Add garlic powder, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Spread each side of each slice of bread with the butter mixture (a pastry brush works well to do this). If desired, lightly brush a little butter on the outside of the entire loaf as well. Wrap loaf in heavy-duty aluminum foil and freeze. Bake in 350 degree oven (straight from freezer; you do not need to defrost loaf) for 30 minutes before serving.

I asked guests to bring accompaniments for the meal: Caesar or other tossed salads, veggies and dip trays, bottles of wine and desserts. I also had chocolate, raspberry and peanut butter mousse cups in the freezer, which I brought out of the freezer to thaw at room temperature about 30-40 minutes before mealtime. Everything was on my kitchen countertops and center island and was served buffet style. The meal went very smoothly!

**One last tip: buy some small gifts that you can hand out with the award certificates at the end of the evening. Last night’s guest with the most game money at the end of the evening got a set of black and white gangster shot glasses (which fit in nicely with 1920s speakeasy theme). The guest who won “best actor” got a bottle of champagne in a black and silver velvet bag. The guest who won “best costume “got a large box of dark and white chocolates. The guests who correctly guessed the killer got chocolates too. Having the gifts to hand out ended the party on a special note.

Here’s a photo of our group which we took at the end of the evening:

I can’t lie to you…this isn’t an event that’s going to be totally stress-free for you, no matter how good of an advance planner you are. You’re hosting a large meal AND you’re organizing what’s basically an Improv performance. It’s going to take a certain amount of work. A lot is on your shoulders. But it all can go very smoothly if you plan things in advance… and the stress will be kept to a minimum. Keep in mind the work you put into the evening is well worth it!!! I sure had a lot of fun last night. My guests said they did too. These are the kinds of events that make for great memories down the road.

That’s all for now! If you’re planning a murder mystery party and you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Turkey (or Chicken) Noodle Casserole

When it comes to hospitality, I think it’s nice to always have a casserole in the freezer—ready to be baked—just in case you need a last-minute meal. True…a casserole may not qualify as a “fancy” dinner. However, you can still make a nice tossed green salad and pick up some dinner rolls to go with it and I’d say that’s good enough to serve to company.

One of my favorite casseroles is Turkey Noodle Casserole. This is something I often make after Thanksgiving, when I have a lot of leftover turkey breast to use up. It also tastes really good made with freshly-cooked boneless chicken breasts.

I’ve served this casserole a lot to company over the years, and people seem to really like it. I’ve also taken it a lot to new moms who just had a baby or people who just had surgery of some kind and needed some ready-to-bake meals made up for them.

You can make up this casserole ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator for 2-3 days before baking. Or, if you want to freeze it, that works well too. You can keep it in the freezer for 2-3 months; just thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before baking. A lot of times I’ll double up this recipe and make one pan for now and one pan to put in the freezer for a later date. Here’s how to make the casserole:


1 (12 oz.) pkg. wide egg noodles (cooked according to package directions and drained)
¼ cup butter
1 large yellow onion, diced finely
1 (13.25 oz.) can mushrooms
2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups Parmesan cheese (I used freshly-grated)
1 (7-oz.) jar diced pimento, drained
1 T. plus 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
4 cups cubed cooked turkey or chicken

Melt butter in a skillet. Add chopped onions and cook 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add mushrooms, cream of chicken soup, and milk and heat through. Stir in sour cream and ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, pimento and parsley. Stir in noodles. Spoon into buttered casserole dish(es). Top with remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake 15 minutes more.


Saturday, January 14, 2012


We went to a friend’s house for dinner tonight, and I got asked to make dessert. I made good ol’ fashioned PEACH Pie. I actually made two peach pies, and pulled them out of the oven about 15 minutes before we left for our friend’s home. That way, the pies were still warm when we ate them for dessert. Of course, we “had” to top the pie with ice cream. YUM!

Peach pie is probably one of our favorite desserts—especially during the late summer months when peaches are in season. Now it’s January and there aren’t always freshly-picked peaches at the supermarkets, and the farmer’s markets are closed down for the winter. I actually used frozen peaches in tonight’s pies—and these were peaches we bought from a farmer’s produce stand in northern Georgia on a trip this past summer. Georgia peaches are the best in my opinion—next to South Carolina peaches. They were delicious in tonight’s pies, and tasted just as good frozen as they were fresh.

In general, I recommend using frozen peaches in your pies during the “off” growing seasons. That’s true even if you don’t have your own frozen, tree-riped Georgia peaches. Any frozen peaches you can pick up from your local grocer are probably going to taste better (and be less expensive too!) than the “fresh” peaches that are available in supermarkets this time of year. (These “fresh” peaches were probably imported from far-flung lands in the Southern Hemisphere when the peaches were still green, and weren’t allowed to ripen on the trees…and they don’t usually have a whole lot of taste.) Actually it’s been said by many that frozen produce is often very good quality—even sometimes better than fresh produce, because there’s not a lot of time between harvesting and processing, so the fruit doesn’t go bad. So…in my peach pie recipe, it calls for frozen—not fresh—peaches. Just wanted to give you an explanation why. Here’s the recipe:


Pastry for double 9-inch pie crust
6 cups frozen peaches, thawed slightly
1 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 T. butter, cut into pieces

Line pie plate with bottom pie crust. In medium-sized bowl, combine peaches, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and flour. Spoon into bottom pie crust. Top filling evenly with butter pieces. Moisten crust with a little warm water, and put top crust on. Cut slits for steam to escape. Bake in 400 degree oven for about an hour.

Happy pie making—and eating!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

I love chocolate chip cookies!!! Who doesn’t?!! Sometimes though it can be hard to find just the right recipe. Some recipes make cookies that are too thick, chunky and cake-like, whereas other chocolate chip cookie recipes spread way too thin. I find that the recipe below is just right—not too thin and not too thick. It’s a recipe I’ve “tweaked” a bit from Pillsbury’s BEST COOKIES cookbook. This is another drop cookie dough that can be made up ahead of time in dough balls and frozen until ready to bake.

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup Crisco or other shortening
¾ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 (12 oz.) package semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts, chopped

Cream butter, shortening and sugars together. Add egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Blend in flour, soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips and macadamia nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, or until light golden brown. Makes about 2 to 2 ½ dozen large cookies.