Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monster Cookies

I first had this cookie as an adult.  While I was engaged and living down at West Point, I went to a Chi Alpha meeting and someone had made these cookies.  I was in love with them from first bite.  I looked for the recipe online and in cookbooks for years, but did not know what they were called.  I just remember I thought the were something to do with "everything but the kitchen sink" because they had candies, choc. chips, raisins, oatmeal and peanut butter in them, which to me, seemed like everything but the kitchen sink.  But no, they are called Monster Cookies, I guess because they are supposed to be huge?  Or maybe they are fit for a cookie monster?  I don't make them huge, but this recipe does make a ton of them!  And while they do have 2 cups of sugar and a stick of butter... there is no flour in them, only oatmeal and lots of peanut butter.  So they are a little healthy, right?  But, I don't care, because they are really yummy! :)



  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter (softened)
  • 12 oz peanut butter ( maybe 1 1/4 cups ish)
  • 1/2 cup choc. chips (let your cup runneth over!)
  • 1/2 cup m&m's (whoops! some extras fell in!)
  • 1/4 c. raisins (ish) (opt.)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups oatmeal (not instant, but old fashioned)


Preheat oven to 350.  Line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats.  In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugars.  Mix until well combined.  Add corn syrup, vanilla, salt, peanut butter and butter and mix well until all butter is incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips, m&m's, rasins, oats, and baking soda.  Mix until all combined, scraping bottom of bowl well.  Batter will be sticky and clumpy.
Drop by tablespoons (or spoonfuls) onto prepared cookie sheets.  A cookie scoop works fabulous for these cookies. 
Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Do not overbake though.  Remove from oven and let stand on cookie sheet about 5 minutes before trasferring to wire racks to cool. They freeze very well!
Yields 5 dozen 

**  can add 1/2 c. butterscotch chips for variation, or white choc. chips or even chopped pecans! **

Breakfast Cookie

I have a hard time calling these a cookie.   They are a very healthy energy type cookie/bar maybe.  Anyway, I got this recipe from my friend Jenny.  My kids love these, and actually, I enjoy them as well.  They really are a great morning food for a play date (Jenny always made them for our weekly play dates) or maybe a healthy afternoon snack.  Normally, I don't allow "sweets" like cookies for a snack for my kids.  Cookies are a dessert only in this house.  But I would make an exception for these.  The flavors are actually rather complex and  you can really taste many of the ingredients distinctly.  Maybe because there is zero sugar (yes, you read that right, NO sugar) it doesn't mask the other flavors.    Honestly, I had a craving for monster cookies and thought maybe these would satisfy it, but nope...  I am back to the kitchen after I type this post to make monster cookies. Oh well!



  • 1 banana- mashed
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. dry powdered milk
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. raisin or craisins (opt.)


Preheat oven to 350.  Mix first 4 ingredients (wet).  In a separate bowl  mix together oats, w.w. flour, dry milk, cinnamon and baking soda.  Mix dry into wet ingredients.  Then add raisins or craisins.  Mix.  Place on greased cookie sheets by spoonful and bake 14-16 minutes (watch them.. I did 15 and they were almost burnt).  Makes about 20-24.  Keeps 3 days or 2 months in freezer.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Root Beer Bundt Cake

This is my new favorite chocolate cake.  I have made it several times and I crave it!  The chocolate is very intense and it is very moist and just so good.  It was on my friend Cristine's blog.
I will post it because I have made a few changes.  The root beer is subtle, but you can taste it.  And the frosting is rich and just plain yummy.  But basically, just a great cake!  Just a warning, have some milk and ice cream standing by!


  • 2 cups root beer (do not use diet root beer)
  • 1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. choc chips (opt.)

  • 2 ounces dark chocolate (60% cacao), melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup root beer, then more to thin
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch bundt pan with baking with flour nonstick cooking spray; alternatively, butter it, dust with cocoa powder, and knock out the excess powder.

In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder, and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten, temper with a couple spoonfuls of cocoa mixture, then dump in cocoa mix and whisk eggs into the cocoa mixture until combined.  Add vanilla. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture.  The batter will be slightly lumpy–do not overbeat, as it could cause the cake to be tough.  Just try to get the big lump by pushing them against side of pan/bowl.  Fold in choc. chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a small sharp knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto a platter.

For the frosting:

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth.  Add more root beer to thin if necessary.

Use a spatula to spread the fudge frosting over the crown of the Bundt in a thick layer. Let the frosting set before serving, with the ice cream on the side.

Roasted Chicken with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

I really love sun-dried tomatoes.  There is something about the sweetness and that concentrated tomato flavor that I just really enjoy.  So, I had some chicken that I had to do something with.  When we lived in El Paso, we went to an expensive restaurant called Cafe Central and I ordered the chicken.  It was delicious, but I remember thinking, "I could so make something like this."  This is my version of that dish, and may I say, it was moist and very flavorful and did not disappoint. Of course, I added my twist.  It was so easy too! Here it is!


  • 3 large chicken breasts (bone in and skin on)
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomato pesto, divided (my was Trader Joes, but could use sundried tomatoes in oil diced fine)
  • Poultry seasoning
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • drizzle of EVOO
  • 1/2 c. feta


Preheat oven to 350.  Rinse chicken and pat dry and place in baking dish. Mix feta with 1/4 c. of sundried tomato pesto.  Gently slice breast about halfway through and stuff 1/3 of the feta mix inside.  GENTLY, with a finger, separate the skin from the breast.  Take some pesto and with finger shove down under skin.  Then slather on top of skin as well.  Use 1/4c. for each breast (roughly), dividing between under and on top of the skin.  Repeat with each breast (I didn't stuff the kids breast).  Sprinkle with seasoning salt (I used bucks), some fresh black pepper and a drizzle of EVOO over top of each breast. (This all took about 10-15 min at most).  Place in oven and bake for 1 hour uncovered.  (can slice to make sure it is done).  After removing from oven, let rest for 10 minutes and slice off bone.  This will yield lots of juice.  Drizzle chicken with juices after on the plate.  Serve with pasta or cous-cous. 


Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

Use tiny cooked pasta or cous-cous and mix with some sun-dried tomato pesto.  I minced a few sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil and drizzled the pastina with the oil from the jar, good sprinkle of garlic and a handful of parm. cheese.  I had leftover pastina, but was going to do the same with cous-cous.  Serve the chicken over it!  So simple!

Grown Up Tuna Casserole

I love comfort food.  I think of tuna noodle casserole as comfort food.  I have made it the traditional way with the cream of mushroom soup, but I wanted something a bit more grown up.  I did my normal, looking on the internet and pulling a recipe that looked good from and then changed it up to suit my taste.  This is what I came up with.  It was delicious and satisfied both my craving for comfort food, but also something a bit more grown up.  So, here is my grown up tuna casserole, er...  did I mention, no tuna?  Enjoy!


  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 c. frozen green peas
  • 1/2 c-3/4c. white wine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2-1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (6-oz) can crab, drained and rinsed
  • 1 box favorite pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (I used some plain panko because I didn't have enough, could use reg. in a pinch)
  • 1 c. shredded cheese (mozz. or cheddar)

    Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9x13 baking dish.

    Cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter and good drizzle of EVOO, with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over med. heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms, then sauté, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about 2-4 minutes. Add white wine and bring to simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced. Remove from heat.

    Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Add to mushroom mixture, then add lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper and peas. Flake crab into sauce, add 1/2 tbsp butter and stir gently. 

    Cook pasta until al dente (almost cooked but firm). Drain pasta in a colander and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading evenly.  Place in oven for about 10 min.  

    Meanwhile place breadcrumbs in pan with good drizzle of EVOO.  Toss to coat and cook over med-high heat until browned.   Mix with cheese and crumble over pasta, evenly.  Return to oven and cook until cheese is melted, topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pesto Caramelized Onion Pizza

Not really sure what to call this pizza.  Everyone in my family just calls it "Beck's pizza".  I will not lie, this pizza is a lot of work.  But it is so worth it.  I get regular requests from my family for it.  I do not think is the most appetizing looking pizza, but it is one of the best tasting ever.
I have tried making my own dough with a bunch of different recipes and I am always disappointed.  So, I usually make it with Wegman's pizza dough.  However, we have no local Wegman's.  But recently, I found a local pizzeria with a great dough and was able to buy the dough for $2.00 each.  You can ask your local pizzeria with your favorite dough if they sell their dough.  This is my favorite pizza.   Update: now making own pizza dough! 

PESTO PIZZA (Beck's Pizza)

  • pizza dough
  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • olive oil
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 large sweet onion, caramelized
  • 1/2 c. fresh pesto (I bought from local grocer, Sam's or Costco)
  • 2-3 vine ripened tomatoes sliced and seeded
  • 2 cups mozzarella


Roasted Garlic:  Preheat oven to 350. Take whole bulb of garlic and cut top off so all cloves are exposed.  Put on piece of tinfoil and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place in oven for 45 min-1hr until golden brown and soft.  Squeeze bulb and remove from casings into a bowl. 

Caramelized onions:  Slice onion thinly and put in skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil and  tbsp of butter.
Salt and pepper.  Cook over med./ med. high heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes until all of them are browned, soft and sweet.

For pizza: 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray pizza sheet with nonstick spray.  Spread pizza dough and place in oven and bake for 5 min to parbake.  Take out when no longer sticky to the touch.

In a small bowl place goat cheese.  Drizzle with tbsp of EVOO and mix, adding more olive oil while mixing, until pliable and spreadable.  Add in roasted garlic and mash into goat cheese until well combined (okay if there are still chunks of garlic).

Spread goat cheese garlic mix on parbaked pizza dough.  Spread caramelized onions over the top.  Top with
1-1.5 cups of mozz. cheese.  Place sliced tomatoes on top.  Top tomatoes with cheese (may not need full 2 cups.  Eyeball it!).  Bake for 12-15 minutes until cheese is golden and bubbly and bottom of crust is light brown.
Remove from oven and with spoon, drizzled/smear pesto over cheese to taste (may not need full 1/2 cup).  Cut and enjoy!

Buttermilk Pancakes

We used to do a big waffle or pancake breakfast on Sunday's.  But we have had to change it to Saturday's because we often have to be at church early for worship and it makes Sunday mornings a little too crazy.  So I bought some lowfat buttermilk this week and decided to make some homemade buttermilk pancakes this morning.  We did some plain, some with choc. chips and some with fresh blueberries.  They were all delicious and the kids were asking for seconds before I even got a chance to start eating.
I took the recipe form my friends Cristine's blog.  I have made a ton of her recipes and her stuff is always fantastic.  I did add a couple tbsp. more of buttermilk than the recipe called for because I like a thinner batter.  I also added a tsp. of vanilla and a touch more sugar.  Hard for me to follow a recipe completely.  These will not disappoint!

Banana Bread

Quick breads are a family favorite around here.  My kids can devour a whole loaf as a morning or afternoon snack if I let them.  For awhile I made friendship bread and was making breads constantly.  Eventually I will get back into making some, but I needed a break after making it for about a year. 
I am a banana bread snob though.  I don't like nuts in my banana bread.  It ruins the texture for me.  Plus, I am not a walnut fan, and it is usually the nut of choice to put in quick breads and desserts.  My family likes nuts, so they aren't nearly as picky as me.   My banana bread recipe is from an old church cookbook, from my Aunt Val.  Not sure where she got it from,  but it is an excellent bread.  The only bread I have had that is as good is a different type of banana bread, more like a spongy cake, much lighter.  This bread is dense and very moist, and delicious.  The sour cream is the secret I think. I have changed the recipe some in effort to make to make it a little more figure friendly.  And while the changes still produces an excellent banana bread, the original produces the best bread.  So, I will share both, the big change being with the butter, and let you decide which way to try it.

by Valerie Czyz


  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter- softened *original*
  •  2 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/2 c. AP flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 c. light sour cream**original**
  • 2 c. mashed ripe bananas (3-4)
  • 1 c. nuts or choc. chips (opt.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add vanilla and lemon juice; beat.  Add eggs and beat well.  Add sour cream and mashed bananas and beat again.  In separate bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking soda and powder.  Add dry to wet and mix until well combined, but not overworking.  Pour into greased/floured bread tins.  I usually dump some choc. chips in one loaf and work them in with a knife at this point.  Bake 50-55 minutes @ 350 until toothpick comes out clean from center.  (will probably cook longer in gas oven).  Makes 2 loaves.

  • *can use 3/4c. canola oil (I substitute 1 individual plain applesauce drained [which comes to about 1/3c.] dump it in my measuring cup and then add the rest oil)
  • **I use light sour cream for about 1/2c. and non-fat plain greek yogurt for the other 1/2c.

Chicken Picatta

I love lemon.  There is something so fresh about it.  My Italian grandmother makes a lemon salad.  Yum!  Brad asked me a few weeks ago for some lemon chicken with capers and mushrooms, but I did not have all I needed to make it.  Finally, I got what I needed for it.  So, I took some chicken out of the freezer and whipped some up.  It was pretty easy, but a little time consuming with the cutting, pounding, dredging and cooking.  But it really was very delicious.  The chicken was incredibly tender and moist.  If you don't like lemon, omit the lemon and add some chicken broth, or more wine.
In my research of a good recipe, which I never follow, but use a bunch of recipes as guidelines and go with my instincts instead, I had some confusion to what the difference is between chicken picatta and chicken francaise? One is Italian and the other French, but they are basically the same thing, lemon chicken.  Anyway, here is my chicken picatta.



  • 3 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 3/4 cup sliced mushrooms (more or less to your liking)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I use Moscato)
  • 3-4 Tbsp capers, rinsed (I forogt to rinse, didn't matter)
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Preheat over to 350.  Place butterflied chicken in piece of plastic wrap and pound out until  1/4"-1/2"thick.    Season flour with some garlic powder and salt and pepper and lemon zest. Whisk eggs well in separate bowl.  Dredge chicken in eggs, then flour and shake off excess.In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for browned. Remove and transfer to 9x13. Repeat until all chicken is browned on both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the 9x13. Place chicken in oven.
Meanwhile, into the pan add the mushroom and let cook over med-high heat until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook about another minute.  Add  lemon juice, wine and capers. Salt and pepper. Bring to simmer, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously.  Add parsley and pour sauce over chicken.  Return to oven for another 5 minutes.  Serve with pasta (I olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, fresh parsley and pecorino romano cheese my pasta).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas

I love to change up the kinds of food I make every now and then.  And I do enjoy Mexican food.  So, why not enchilada?  I have made these for years  This time I had bought a new kraft cheese and it did not really melt.  Kinda scary.  Hence the picture.  But it did still taste good.  So, I apologize about the lack of melted cheese, but I assure you, it still tastes great.  I recently discovered, thanks to my in-laws, that non-fat, plain greek yogurt can make a lovely substitute for sour cream.  I have made it with both and it still is great.  And it is so much more figure friendly with the yogurt.   Enjoy!



  • 1 lb chicken
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt pepper, paprika, cumin, garlic powder
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 small can chopped chilies (opt.)
  • 1 cup light sour cream or nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 2 cans or one large jar enchilada sauce (I use mild)
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 8 tortillas (I use whole wheat)


Preheat oven to 375.  Place chicken baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and season well on both sides with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.  Pull out and let cool.  Meanwhile cut up onion and saute in pan over med-high with a little olive oil, until soft and lightly browned.  5-10 minutes.  Shred chicken with 2 forks or tear apart with fingers.

In a large bowl mix cooked onion, shredded chicken, 1 cup cheddar, 1 cup sour cream, green chilies and sprinkle of garlic powder.  Mix together.  If more moisture is still needed add more sour cream.

Spray 9x13 with cooking spray.  Place chicken mixture on tortilla, spreading out end to end and roll and place seam side down in baking dish.  Continue until all are rolled.  Eight should fit in the pan, but tightly. 
Pour sauce over and top with cheese and sliced black olives too, if you like.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbly.  Serve with beans and rice.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chocolate Truffles

I have always wanted to make truffles.  Holiday time was the perfect time to try.  I just couldn't decide which recipe to try.  So, of course, having a bit of OCD sometimes, I made two!  These were both very tasty, the balsamic dark chocolate had a surprise little bite and the milk chocolate were melt in your mouth.  The cocoa powder on the outside is bitter, so I do think these would be best covered in regular melted chocolate or powdered sugar instead of cocoa powder.  I think the milk chocolate lasted longer as far as shelf life.  The balsamic ones needed more cream than the original recipe called for, so I adjusted it.  Honestly, I think about 1/2 cup of  cream for each recipe would be about right because the plain chocolate, though super creamy, had to stay in the refrigerator even after they were complete, or they would lose shape and start to melt.  


adapted recipe from Giada De Laurentiis


  • 8 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder


Melt the chocolate and cream in a double boiler over hot but not simmering water. Place melted chocolate in a small bowl. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Cool the chocolate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, until firm but moldable.

Use a teaspoon to scoop out chocolate. Use your fingertips to shape into balls about the size of a cherry. Set the chocolate balls on a parchment-lined tray.

Place the cocoa powder in a small shallow dish. Place 6 truffles at a time in the cocoa powder and roll the truffles around to coat, and return the coated truffles to the baking sheet. Continue with the remaining truffles. Place the truffles in a serving dish or airtight package.



8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons alcohol (Cognac, brandy, Grand Marnier, kirsch, rum, bourbon, or Kahlua to name a few) (optional)
Different Coatings for Truffles:
Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
Confectioners Sugar (Icing or Powdered)
Toasted and Chopped Nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
Toasted Coconut
Shaved Chocolate

For Truffles:  Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside.  Heat the cream and butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.  Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth.  If desired, add the liqueur. Cover and place in the refrigerator until the truffle mixture is firm (this will take several hours or overnight).
Place your coatings for the truffles on a plate. Remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator. With your hands, or melon baller or small spoon form the chocolate into round or mid-shaped bite-sized balls. Immediately roll the truffle in the coating and place on a parchment lined baking sheet or tray. Cover and place in the refrigerator until firm. Truffles can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or else frozen for a couple of months. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Makes 30 small truffles.
To Toast Nuts: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds) about 8 - 10 minutes or until brown and fragrant. For hazelnuts toast about 15 minutes or until the skins start to blister. Remove from oven and roll in a clean dish towel. Let the nuts 'steam' for about 5 minutes and then remove the skins. Once the nuts have cooled, chop coarsely. 

Avocado Salad

Another super easy, delicious side salad.  We had this at my favorite restaurant in Germany.  It was kind of out of the way.  They served it in the avocado casing and it was just a great combination of flavors.  Enjoy!



  • 2 large ripe avocados diced 
  • About 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes or diced ripe tomatoes
  • 2 scallions diced fine
  • handful of fresh parsley or cilantro chopped fine
  • drizzle of good seasons Italian dressing made w/ balsamic
  • salt and pepper

Put it all a bowl and just before serving, lightly toss with dressing until coated.  Serve chilled or room temperature.

Roasted Red Pepper Salad

This salad is at our holiday dinner every year.  It is so delicious with some rolls or bread and we love to dip our bread in the juice.  It is so simple and delicious!  Would also be great over pasta!



  • 1 can med. black olives, drained
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts (drained well and cut if large quarters)
  • 1 jar/can roasted red peppers drained and cut bite size (about 16 oz)
  • 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic whole, but crushed with side of knife
  • 1/4-1/2 c. good olive oil

Put it all in a bowl and  let flavors meld couple hours.  Serve room temp. with bread or rolls.

Homemade Marshmallows

First, I apologize for the poor quality of the picture.  We got a new camera, so pictures should improve.  These were pretty easy all told and very yummy.  I topped some plain with melted chocolate and those were the definite favorite.  Then I did some with toasted coconut.  Good, but not great for me.  The plain were amazing in hot chocolate. I am not a huge marshmallow fan, but these were so much better than the store bought.  And fresh after beating, you would have some delicious homemade marshmallow fluff!

adapted from Alton Brown- Food Network


  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray


Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For miniature marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper, spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the confectioners' sugar mixture.
Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch between each strip. Sprinkle the tops with enough of the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture to lightly cover. Let the strips set for 4 hours or up to overnight.
Cut into 1/2 inch pieces using a pizza wheel or scissors dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I do love pumpkin!  It may not look appetizing but this is an excellent dessert.  I brought two 9x13's for a brunch where there was a ton of other food and there was maybe 1 serving left.  People were taking plateful's home "for their husbands".  Yeah, right! ;-)  Plus, this dessert has won 2 dessert contests.  It is sooo good and obviously loved by many!  The homemade caramel sauce is so easy and really compliments the bread pudding nicely.  Really this is kind of a baked french toast.  The challah bread can be hard to find, but any sweet bread would probably do.   I got this recipe from a social event I went to with a group of army wives.  Don't wait, make this this weekend!



2 cups

1 15 oz. can
1 cup and 2 Tbsp
1 1/2 tsp.
1 1/2 tsp.
1 1/2 tsp.
10 cups
1/2 cup

half and half (I Have used fat free and still VERY good!)

pure pumpkin
dark brown sugar
large eggs
pumpkin pie spice
ground cinnamon
1/2" cubes egg bread (about 10ozs.)                       
raisins or chopped apples!

Preheat 350 oven.  Whisk half & half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla in a large bowl to blend.  Fold in bread cubes.  Stir in golden raisins, regular Raisins or apples.  (I think I like it with apples best!)  Transfer mix to  11" X 7" glass baking dish.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Bake about 40 minutes or until the knife test comes out clean. Top with caramel sauce and whipped cream if desired.


1 1/2 cups
3 c.
3 t.
1 large can

evaporated milk

Heat all together and bring to a boil, stirring to prevent cooking.  Cook for 15 mins. Keeps well in refrigerator.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bread Salad (Panzanella)

Really a crouton salad, but it is delish!  It is an Italian dish and can be simplified if desired.  I make homemade croutons first and then work on the rest while they are baking.  It is a wonderful side dish and is even great over field greens. 


  • loaf of hearty whole grain seedy bread (can be couple days old and can use ciabatta bread if don't like whole grain)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated parm. cheese divided (please, no kraft from pasta isle)
  • garlic powder
  • fresh ground pepper
  • onion powder

Preheat oven to 400.  Cut bread into1/2" to 3/4" cube and place in large bowl.  Drizzle olive oil over starting with lesser amount and adding more if necessary.  Toss to coat.  Add crushed garlic, 1/4 c. parm cheese and good sprinkle of garlic and onion powder.  Few turns of pepper and toss again until coated and all bread has light coating of the olive oil goodness.  Place on cookie sheet and bake, turning croutons every 10 min so it browns evenly.  Bake until firm on outside but still slightly chewy on inside about 30-40 minutes.  Top with another 1/4c. parm. cheese and more garlic and onion powder if needed.

  • 1 pint halved grape tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 shallot, diced finely
  • 1/3 cup sliced pitted kalamata olives 
  • 1/2-3/4 cup diced fresh mozzarella or halved mozz. balls
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil leaves (or parsley)


In medium serving bowl, add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let sit for 10 minutes before adding the beans, shallots and olives. Just before serving, add cheese and mix in the bread cubes and combine gently.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar and salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle in the oil, whisking to blend. Pour over the salad just before serving. Add the basil and toss. Taste for seasoning before serving.

Poached Pears

My sister-in-law Danette, has a long standing tradition for doing brunch on Christmas day.  Last year, we were fortunate enough to have her and her family come out to New York for Christmas.  So, as a result, my family got introduced to brunch on Christmas day.  We liked it so much that we decided to make it a new tradition in our family as well.  So I got busy baking and cooking.  We had homemade cinnamon rolls, pumpkin bread pudding, baked apples, a chicken wreath and poached pears.  The poached pears were a new add this year and I do believe will replace the baked apples for years to follow.  They were incredibly easy and so delicious.  It was a "mmm" every bite good.  I pulled a bunch of recipes off line and put in a little of this and that, and honestly, I don't think you can mess these little beauties up. I didn't measure anything, but did a guesstimate (yes, it is a word, look it up).   I loved the festive red color too.  I will be making them not just at holiday time too, because they were that good! 



  • 6-8 ripe but firm pears, peeled, halved and cored (or can peel and leave whole increasing cooking time, leave stem on)
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • couple peels or orange zest (no pith)
  • cinnamon stick or tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3-4 cloves.
Put it all in a big pan and let it simmer gently at least 45 minutes or until your hearts content.  Turn off stove and let rest for 15 min. Serve warm with whipped cream or cold if you prefer.

A few hints: 
  • Can substitute cranberry or red grape juice for red wine, if prefer . 
  • If doing whole pears, take an unused plastic scrubby and go over peel strokes to make it smooth.  
  • Can also add 1/2 cup or so of orange juice.  
  • Can add vanilla beans if desire. 
  • Can also serve along a rich dessert to lighten it up.  
  • And finally, if you have time you can simmer away that delicious cooking liquid and let thicken into a topping sauce to go over finished pears.  

Peanut Butter Balls (Buckeyes)

These are a trraditoinal easy cookie, or candy really.  My mom always made them at Christmas and so now I do.  They are easy to pop in the mouth and let melt away.  Always a favorite and classic.

adapted from Joy of Baking

  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 - 2 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
  • can add 1 c. crushed graham crackers or 2 c. rice crispies)
  • Chocolate Coating
  • 9 ounces semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or choc. chips
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening


Place the peanut butter, unsalted butter, and salt in a microwaveable bowl, and heat in the microwave for about one minute or until just soft (check and stir the ingredients every 20 seconds). Stir in the vanilla extract and confectioners sugar and mix until it has the consistency of a dough (add more sugar if necessary). Then add rice crispies or graham crackers crumbs.
Roll the dough into 1 inch, or smaller, round balls. Place on cookie sheet and refrigerate for about one hour, or until firm.
Melt the chocolate and shortening in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water or in 30 second intervals in the microwave. Dip the balls, one at a time, in the melted chocolate, making sure the entire ball is coated with chocolate. Then, with two spoons, remove the peanut butter ball from the melted chocolate. Place the covered balls back on the baking sheet. After all the balls have been dipped in the chocolate, place in the refrigerator until the chocolate has set. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. To serve: place in small fluted candy cups.
Note: If you want to make Buckeyes: place a toothpick into each peanut butter ball and dip, one ball at a time, into the chocolate, leaving the top quarter of each ball undipped.
Makes about 40 pieces, depending on size.

Raisin Filled Cookies

And so the holiday baking has been complete for some time, yet I still have quite a few things to post.
These cookies are my husbands absolute favorite.  His mom makes them and I am sure hers are better than mine.   I am not sure where she got the recipe though.
Quite honestly, these are not my favorite cookie.  I find them kind of boring.  However, they are tender and the raisin surprise in the middle adds something.  My husbands whole family devours them in a flash.  They are a fair amount of work with the rolling, cutting and putting together.  But with making all the cookies I did, I could not excuse myself from making my husband's favorite.  So, you can try and see where they rank with you. 

adapted from Vernita Bigler


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla


Mix all dry ingredientsexcept sugars in large bowl.  Add sugars and mix until incorporated.  
Cut butter in until particles are fine.  Beat eggs and vanilla together and add to flour mixture.  Mix until smooth dense dough.  Chill in 3-4 patties and make raisin filling.


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix all but vanilla in sauce pan and boil gently, stirring until liquid is clear and slightly thickened.
Stir in vanilla and remove from heat.  Let cool while rolling out dough.  (I also added some cinnamon to it)


Roll patties to 1/8" thick.  Cut in 2" diameter (biscuit cutter works great for this).  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Place scant tsp. filling in the center of each circle.  Top with 2" diamter dough.  Pleat edges with fork and prick top to vent (I forgot and it was fine).  Bake @ 375 for 10-12 minutes.  Makes 3-4 dozen.