Thursday, December 16, 2010

Virtual Advent Tour 2010 - A favorite Christmas story

Christmas truly is my favorite time of the year.  There is something magical about this time.  The lights, the decorations, the ornaments, a child's excitement that Santa is coming, snow on the ground.

One of my favorite memories from my childhood involves Saturday mornings.  We'd all pile onto my parents bed and sing Christmas carols before we got up for the day.  The one of the last things that we would sing is "Twas the Night Before Christmas".  Now, years later, I am reading that book to my girls and my brother reads it as part of our Christmas Eve tradition.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

I made chicken noodle soup the other night.  So good and it hit the spot on a cold day.


  • Chicken, rough chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 32 oz. chicken broth, plus enough water to make 5 cups
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Noodles
  • Place chicken, celery, carrots and onion in stock pot and cover with chicken broth and water.
  • Heat to a boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes.  The vegetables should be tender.
  • Add the noodles and cook on medium low heat for another 6 minutes or until the noodles are tender.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

French Onion Soup

I love French Onion Soup.  It is one of my favorite soups in the whole world.  Here is a basic recipe for making it.

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 14 1/2-ounce cans beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • Bay leaf
  • French baguette, sliced and toasted
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese or Gruyere
  • Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. 
  • Add onions and cook until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. 
  • Mix in the broth, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Heat to a boil and then remove from heat. Discard the bay leaf. 
  • Season to taste with pepper. 
  • Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Refrigerate. Rewarm soup before continuing.
Now you can finish this off one of two ways.
  • The first is to ladle the soup into broiler proof bowls.  Place the toasted baguettes on top o the soup and sprinkle with Swiss cheese.  Broil this until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.
  • The second way is to ladle the soup into bowls and top with toasted baguettes.  When toasting the baguettes, place the cheese on top so that it melts onto the toast.

Beef Stew

Here is a basic beef stew recipe that I've found and that brings back memories of childhood.

  • 2 lbs chuck roast, preferably with the bone
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 medium potato
  • 2 shallots
  • 6-8 springs of parsley
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 32 oz beef broth
  • water
  • Place the chuck roast (beef) into the bottom of the pot.
  • Rough chop all of the vegetables so that they are in bite size pieces.
  • As the vegetables get chopped up, place them in the pot on top of the beef.
  • Add salt and pepper then cover everything with the beef broth and water.
  • Simmer on medium heat for 3 1/2 to 4 hours stirring occasionally.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

White Chicken Chili

I was watching the Food Network a couple of weeks ago while I was cleaning the family room and saw a recipe that I simply had to try.  It was "White Chicken Chili" by the Neelys.  I've simply linked to their recipe instead of retyping the whole thing. Sorry about the extra click but this recipe is worth it.

This was a simple chili to make and when it was done was absolutely delicious!  The hardest part of the recipe was shredding the rotisserie chicken, although I had a little helper assisting me with that!

I'm still here...

I haven't posted in a while, but I'm still here and still cooking new things in the kitchen.  Since the weather started to get cold, I've been trying to cook soups and stews at least once a week.  These are turning out great.  My problem...I don't remember to take a picture of the soup until we're eating the last drop of soup!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ham Panini

For Christmas, my parents gave me a panini maker.  I didn't have a chance to get it out for a while with this and that going on in my life.  I got it out a couple of weeks ago and love it!  There are so many possibilities for meals with it!

Here is a basic recipe for a Ham Panini.  I've added some notes at the bottom of the recipe on ways that you can dressed it up a little and make it really yummy.

  • Olive Oil
  • Bread
  • Brown or Dijon mustard
  • Sliced ham
  • Swiss cheese
  • Preheat panini maker to the medium heat setting.
  • Brush one side of each slice of bread with the olive oil.  Put the olive oil side of the bread down on a clean surface.
  • Put a thin layer of mustard on a slice of bread.
  • Place 2 slices of ham on top of the mustard.  Make sure that the ham does not hang over the sides of the bread.
  • Add the Swiss cheese on top of the last layer.
  • Place the top slice of bread on top with the oiled side up.
  • Place the sandwich(es) on the panini make and cook until golden and crispy.  This should take about 5 minutes.
To dress up this basic ham panini:
  • Instead of using Swiss cheese, use grated Gruyère cheese.
  • Between the ham and cheese layers, add a layer of Béchamel sauce.

Basic Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel sauce, or white sauce, is a simple sauce to make that is used for a variety of sauces and dishes.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Add the flour, whisking constantly, until the mixture is a pale golden.  This should take about 3 minutes.
  • Next, slowly add the milk, still whisking constantly.
  • Simmer the mixture while whisking constantly, until it is smooth and thickened.  This will take about 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients, to taste.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chipotle Sauce

I saw this recipe in a magazine and thought that it sounded yummy so I gave it a try last week.  It was served in the magazine as a sauce for corn on the cob, but I used it for chicken.  It turned out really well.  My husband loved it.  I think that the next time that I make it, I'm going to use it as a dip for tortilla chips.


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 c. cottage cheese
  • 1/4 c. loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c. plain yogurt
  • 1-2 tsp. adobo sauce from can


  • Place garlic, salt and chipotle pepper in a food processor and process until minced.
  • Add the cottage cheese and the next 3 ingredients.  Continue processing until the mixture is smooth, stopping when necessary to scrap down the sides.
  • Stir in the adobo sauce.
  • Cover and chill until you are ready to serve.  This sauce can be stored for up to 24 hours.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Penne with lightly sautéd peppers

My local super market has a nice lunch/dinner bar where customers can get their lunch or dinner from a selection of items freshly cooked each day.  Last week, I happened to be there at lunchtime and decided to get something instead of cooking when I got home.  Unfortunately, there wasn't much left when I stopped at the hot bar.  They did have a pasta dish that I decided to try.  It was so good that I decided that I wanted to have some for dinner and made up my own version of it.

  • Penne pasta (or the pasta of your choice)
  • Olive oil
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes (optional)
  • Fresh Basil and parsley

  • Cook the pasta according to the directions on the packaging.
  • While the pasta is cooking, chop up the peppers into bite size pieces and put aside. 
  • Chop the basil and parsley and put aside.  For this recipe, I didn't have fresh herbs so I used dried.  
  • Drain the pasta and put aside.
  • Sauté the peppers and tomatoes lightly then add the pasta and herbs to the peppers and sauté for a couple more minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and serve.
  • A spring of fresh basil on top or to the side of the pasta would look nice when serving this dish.

Fruit Toast-tillas

I don't know about you, but when I am checking out at the super market, they frequently give me coupons and such based on my purchases.  Sometimes, there is a recipe in there that uses one of the items that I have purchased recently.  A couple of months ago, I was handed a coupon with a recipe that called for Dole Tropical Fruit.  I put the recipe aside because it sounded good and promptly forgot about it until a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for something to make for breakfast.

This was a relatively easy recipe to make and it let me use up some of the items that were taking up space in the pantry.

  • 1 jar (24.5 oz) DOLE Tropical Fruit
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 (6-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • powdered sugar, honey or maple syrup
  • Drain the tropical fruit, reserving 1 tablespoon of the syrup.
  • Combine the milk, egg and reserved syrup in a shallow pie pan, mixing well with a fork.
  • Lightly coat a nonstick skillet with vegetable cooking spray; place over medium-high heat.  Dip tortilla in egg mixture, coating well on both sides.  Place in hot skillet.  Cook for 30 seconds or until tortilla begins to puff up.  Turn the tortilla and cook for another 30 seconds.
  • Spoon 2 tablespoons yogurt and 1/4 cup tropical fruit mixture slightly off-center of each tortilla.  Fold the tortilla in half and transfer to a plate.  Top each tortilla with additional tropical fruit and yogurt.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Spreading the word...Mediterra Bakehouse

I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA eating Mancini's Bread.  Mancini's is a Pittsburgh staple and very good.  Great Italian bread that is light and fluffy on the inside and crusty on the outside.  Mancini's bread is eaten with pasta or used for sandwich rolls. 

However, a few years ago, I found something even better than Mancini's, Mediterra Bakehouse bread.  My parents introduced me to Mediterra bread shortly after they met the owner, Nick Ambeliotis and his family.  At the time, they had one location and sold their bread at a couple of farmer's markets.  Today, they have two locations (Pittsburgh, PA and Cleveland, OH) and sell their bread through a variety of small markets as well as the farmer's markets and online.

Mediterra bread is an experience.  At one time or another over the last several years, I've tried almost all of the breads that Nick makes and I haven't been disappointed with any of them.  My favorites, and yes I have a favorite or two, are their Parmesan Peppercorn Loaf, their Cranberry Pecan Loaf and their Chocolate Cherry Loaf.

They don't make every type of bread every day, so you need to find out the schedule of what gets made when in order to stop by and get a particular loaf when it is fresh out of the oven.  The last time I checked, the Chocolate Cherry Loaf was only made on Thursdays.  I have some time this week, so I think that I'll be stopping in at the bakehouse and getting a loaf since I will be in the area.

If you are able to stop in one of the bakehouses, they also have great bagels and pastries.  So you should make sure to try some of those as well.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Emptying the pantry and enchiladas

I was trying to figure out what to make for lunch the other day, knowing that I didn't have a lot in the kitchen that I could make, and I was having a craving for Mexican.  When I looked in the pantry, I saw a can of Old El Paso enchilada sauce.  However, when I looked in the refrigerator, I realized that I didn't have any chicken for enchiladas, but I did have some leftover Chicken Broccoli rice and Colby/Monterey jack cheese.  The result of this was pretty good.

  • 2 Tortilla shells
  • 1 can Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce
  • Approximately 1 cup of Knorr's Chicken Broccoli Rice
  • 1 cup of Colby/Monterey Jack cheese
  • Heat the over to 375.
  • Take a tortilla shell and spread approximately 1/2 cup of Knorr's rice on one end of the tortilla shell.
  • Cover that with 1/2 cup of cheese.
  • Spoon approximately 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce over this.
  • Roll and place seam side down in a greased glass pan.
  • Once both tortillas are in the pan, cover with the rest of the enchilada sauce and sprinkle with any remaining cheese.
  • Bake for 15 - 20 minutes.
My directions are a variation of the directions on the can which are for Easy Beef Enchiladas.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Raspberry Sherbet Punch

In honor of Delta Zeta's National Convention which is going on this week, here is my recipe for Raspberry Sherbet Punch.  I've used this recipe for recruitment parties.

  • 2 2-liter bottles of Sprite or Ginger Ale
  • 1 c. Concentrated Fruit Punch
  • 1 container of Raspberry Sherbet (lime sherbet may be substituted)
  • Pour one bottle of Sprite into a punch bowl.
  • Add the concentrated fruit punch.
  • Pour the second bottle of Sprite into the bowl slowly.  You might want to add it one cup at a time to avoid splashing.
  • Add the sherbet.
  • Serves 20 - 30.
Note:  To add an extra touch, allow the sherbet to start to melt.  Once this happens, add fresh raspberries to the sherbet and refreeze before adding the sherbet to the punch.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sautéd Zucchini

My Giant Eagle has cooked food that you can buy and eat without having to do any cooking, maybe just reheat the food when you get home.  When I'm at the grocery store at lunch time, I usually grab something from the food bar to save myself the hassle of making lunch.  The other day, I tried their sautéd zucchini.  Yum yum!

My take on their recipe is very simple.

Zucchini, green and yellow, diced
Red pepper flakes

  • Heat olive oil in a sauté pan.
  • Add the diced zucchini and the pepper flakes.
  • Cook until the zucchini starts to lose it's firmness.
  • Serve.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Stir-fry Veggies

We tend to eat a lot of stir-fried vegetables in our house, so this recipe has many variations. 

The basic recipe that I make is to cut up a green pepper and a red/orange/yellow pepper and some onion.  I put this into a large pan with a little olive oil and some minced garlic.  Add a little salt and ground pepper and then  I lightly saute this until the vegetables are just warmed.  Serve.

Sometimes, depending on what I can find in the grocery store that looks good, I will add green beans, snow peas, or snap peas.  Other items that can be added include bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and mini corn cobs.

This is a great meal by itself or it can be used as a side dish.

Rice Pilaf with Basil

Here is my take on Rachael Ray's Arugula and Basil Rice Pilaf which I found in her "365: No Repeats" cookbook and adapted it because of a lack of ingredients.  I love it and think that it's a great summer recipe that can serve as a side dish or stand on it's own if that's what you want.  Enjoy!

  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 box of Rice Pilaf
  • 15 leaves of fresh Basil, shredded or torn

Heat the water and butter in a medium size pot until it is boiling.
Add the Rice Pilaf, both rice and seasoning, to the water.  Reduce the temperature and simmer for 18 minutes, covered.
Remove from heat.  Add the basil and fluff with a fork to mix everything together.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hawaiian Chicken

  • 4-6 chicken breast, halved
  • 30 oz mandarin oranges (drained)
  • 30 oz. sliced pineapple (drained)
  • 16 oz. maraschino cherries (drained)
  • 1 package of stir-fry chicken seasoning
  • peppers, diced into large chunks
  • Mix all ingredients in the crock pot.
  • Cook on LOW Heat for 6 -8 hours or on HIGH Heat for 3 - 4 hours.
  • Serve over rice.
NOTE:  To give this dish a tangy taste, add in the drained pineapple juice.  Otherwise, add water to the crock pot until all of the ingredients are covered.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Baked Perogies

I saw this recipe on the back of a box of Mrs. T.'s Mini Perogies and love it.  It works for any size perogie and is a nice variation if you are tired of sauteing perogies or boiling them.

The mini perogies can be used for either a meal or an appetizer.

  • 1 box of frozen perogies
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 T. hot sauce
  • Heat the over to 400.
  • Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  • In a plastic bag, mix the perogies, olive oil, chili powder and hot sauce until the perogies are coated thoroughly.
  • Place the perogies on the baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, turning the perogies over half way through.
  • Serve with sliced celery and ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Easy Spinach Lasagna

I was in the mood for lasagna yesterday when I was at the grocery store and decided to be healthy at the same time.  Here is my recipe for spinach lasagna.

  • Fresh spinach
  • Jar of spaghetti sauce (or your own homemade)
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • Box of ready-bake lasagna noodles
  • Preheat the over to 350 degrees.
  • Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Mix the ricotta cheese,and parmesan in with the eggs.
  • Cover the bottom of a 13x9 pan with 1/2 cup of sauce.
  • Place a layer of noodles on top of the sauce, but not touching the sides of the pan.  Add a layer of the ricotta mixture, about a 1/3 cup.  
  • Next, add a layer of washed and trimmed spinach.
  • Cover this with a layer of sauce and then a layer of mozzarella.
  • Repeat these five steps twice more.
  • Top with a final layer of ricotta, spaghetti sauce and mozzarella.
  • Cover with a piece of foil and put into the over to bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Let the lasagna stand for about 5 minutes to cool.
  • Serve with your favorite spaghetti sauce.
NOTE: You can also use a box of frozen spinach that has been thawed and dried so that there is not a lot of excess water in it.

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    BBQ Chicken

    I used my crock pot for the first time last night.  I've had this since I got married 5 years ago and never opened it.  Well, that is a thing of the past!  I will be using my crock pot much more now.

    I made a really easy version of BBQ Chicken that was falling apart by the time that it was done, but was delicious!

    • 4-6 chicken breasts
    • 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's Honey BBQ)
    • Pineapple slices
    • Place chicken breasts in the crock pot then cover with your favorite BBQ sauce.
    • Place pineapple slices on top of the chicken.
    • Cook on LOW for 7 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
    • Serve with a side of BBQ sauce