Thursday, December 31, 2009


I have taken a week off from writing to spend with my family. It has been joyful and fun, filled with good times, good food and making memories with our grandsons.

It has been an amazing year in blog land and yes, sometimes stressful with work and family issues. But I raise a toast to all of you for your wonderful and insightful blogs, your fantastic ideas and creativity, and your amazing friendships. Happy 2010, everyone!! See you in the New Year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pasta Shells with Cauliflower, Canadian Bacon and Spinach

Did you ever notice how "comfort food" makes you feel like you have eaten lead weights? It tastes so good going down, but can be loaded with fat calories. I found a recipe in my new issue of Cooking Club and I am going to make it for dinner after Christmas. Instead of Canadian bacon I am going to use pancetta, but due to the small amount in the recipe it shouldn't affect the calorie count. Using the cauliflower takes the place of some of the pasta and allows you to have a generous portion without piling on the calories. I will also choose to use the provolone, giving this more of an Italian flair. What I also like about this recipe is that it makes enough for 5 servings. And it uses the whole head of cauliflower. If you don't want to make this much, cut everything in half. Then you will have a half cauliflower to use for a side on another day. This will also take about a half hour to prepare and get table ready, leaving plenty of time for getting some New Year party planning done!

Pasta Shells with Cauliflower, Canadian Bacon and Spinach

1/4 cup Panko crumbs
3 Tsp olive oil, divided
6 oz. medium pasta shells (2 1/2 cups)
1 (1-lb) head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets (4 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup diced Canadian bacon (2 oz.)
8 cups baby spinach
1 cup Gruyere or sharp provolone cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Toast panko on 1 tsp. of the oil in small skillet over medium-low heat 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown, stirring constantly. Remove panko. Cook pasta with cauliflower according to pasta package directions. Drain, reserving 2/3 cup cooking water. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tsp. oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook onion and bacon 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add spinach; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or just until wilted. Remove from heat. Add pasta, cauliflower, reserved cooking water, cheese, salt and pepper to skillet; stir to coat well. Serve sprinkled with panko. (I would sprinkle a little smoky paprika over the breadcrumbs for a little more color.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pomegranate Mimosas

A few posts ago, I mentioned that our son, Anthony is always responsible for Christmas brunch. This year on Christmas Day, he will join us at our daughter Rhonda's home and we can observe how the magic of Santa has transformed our 2 grandsons. They live 2 hours away, so we will pack up early and get on the road. This is always so exciting. Not that the trip down is exciting...but watching the kids enjoy all their good fortune is so much fun. Back to brunch.... Because we are so busy opening presents in the morning, Anthony makes brunch after all the presents have been exchanged.... and it is always with flair! (And this is our son who made his debut appearance with his sister on the Food Network last night!) This has been his contribution for several years so we all look forward to it. I am making a contribution this year by bringing the mixings for Pomegranate Mimosas. Our other daughter who lives in Atlanta will not be able to join us. so we can offer a toast to her and her family with this colorful morning spritzer which I found in Southern Living. I'll just pack this all in a cooler with ice and it should be nice and chilled when we are ready to drink it. This will look very festive on the table and also add a little bit of healthiness to the day! (wink, wink) The nice thing about this is that you can either make a pitcher full or make it by the glass so even the kids can get in on the fun because you can easily do this without the alcohol. Easy...pretty...and toss a few pomegranate seeds in there to make it even better!

Pomegranate Mimosas

Just mix to taste

Leaded: Pomegranate Juice

Unleaded: Pomegranate Juice
Sparkling water or Sprite

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Favorite Cookie Recipe!

Thought you might enjoy a copy of my favorite Christmas cookie recipe:

1 cup of water
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup of brown sugar
lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila

Sample the Cuervo to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Cuervo again, to be sure it is of the highest quality. Pour one level cup and drink.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.

At this point it's best to make sure the Cuervo is still OK. Try another cup...just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy.

Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick the frigging fruit off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Who giveshz a sheet. Check the Jose Cuervo. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table.

Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher. CHERRY MISTMAS

Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Onion Tart for Brunch

On Christmas morning we are usually eating brunch and then having our dinner later in the day. I love brunch but unless we go out, we hardly ever make it at home. Our son is the brunch cook! He makes omelets to order...bless him. He doesn't go to bed until he has chopped and prepped for the next day. And he has gotten to the stage in his life where he finally cleans up too! I found this recipe and I thought it would be a great brunch item . I might even make it! (Although I do have a fun drink that I am making that I am posting later on in the week!) This will be lighter than bagels and more fun than plain toast. It is different and filled with yummy flavors and I think it would also make a very good appetizer.

Onion Tart
Heat 2 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Add one thinly sliced Vidalia onion. Cook 20 minutes, stirring until onions are browned and caramelized.
Add 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves and 1/4 tsp. salt.
Unfold 1 sheet puff pastry onto greased nonstick baking sheet and prick with a fork.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Spread onions over pastry, then top with 3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese.
Bake at 400 degrees for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven, cut into squares and serve.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Super-Chunky Christmas Cookies

We get together with friends every Christmas and usually there are homemade gifts for everyone. This year, I made jars of cookie mix. I filled glass jars and topped them with candycane striped fabric, tied with a ribbon. These make great teacher gifts, hostess gifts or something to take to your boss! And when you are done here, stop over to see Jen at her Homemade Gift Ideas party with a beautiful giveaway!

Super-Chunky Christmas Cookies
Using a 1-1/2 liter glass jar, layer as follows:
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
3/4 cup red M&M's
1 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped cashews
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup toasted coconut

Here are the directions for the gift tag:

Beat 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1 stick butter with a mixer until fluffy. Beat in 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add the Super-Chunky Christmas Cookie mix and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until set, about 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


We are excited! Our son, Anthony, Jr and daughter, Rhonda entered a Food Network Challenge and their show will air on Friday, December 18th at 10:00 PM. The name of the show is "24 Hour Restaurant Battle".

After numerous and exhausting interviews over the phone and in person in New York, they were selected to compete. They filmed the show in NYC this past September. The competition consisted of putting a restaurant together in 24 hours. They had to have a theme, menu, prepare it, decorate the restaurant, serve it and be judged.

Neither of them has any culinary training which is part of the fun. Both are excellent cooks and have great taste. Our son worked in the food industry as a waiter for awhile locally and in one of the very top restaurants in NYC. Our daughter caters on the side. Other than that....well...they are just talented! Am I bragging? A little I guess, but we are very proud of them and I hope you get a chance to check out the show!

Christmas Musings...2 weeks to go!

I am so envious of those blogs I read where I see Christmas decorations in every nook and cranny. There, I said it. Those of you who fill your homes with Christmas decor of all types are creative, artsy, and seem to be so energetic. This past Sunday, I put up a smaller tree, but decorated it with love. I also decorated the fireplace mantle....stockings hungwith care, even for the kitty! However, I was very selective about what went on the tree and there are very few other decorations placed around. Where are those days that I even decorated the bathrooms? It seems that my weekends are full with family and friends. I had to forego an invitation to the local community Messiah sing to stay home and decorate. I work full time outside the home, and when I get home, I am mentally exhausted. I get dinner on the table...sometimes my husband helps...we clean up and I try to accomplish a few chores before I collapse! How our lives change through the years. We have 3 (and a half) grandchildren whom we love to pieces, take care of our aging parents and still worry about our 3 adult children and their spouses. We have active social lives with our friends. We travel, we have plenty and give back to our community. So now that I have put my thoughts down, I can see I am doing the things that are me. Can I still be envious of those beautifully decorated homes? You betcha! But as we gather this year, it is not so much about the decorations in my is more about how my heart is decorated with the beauty of the season and the love I can give and receive. So now I will sit back with a cup of tea, raise a toast to all of you in blogland and bask in the glow of the tree lights. Thank you for sharing your lovely homes, your creativity, your skills, your recipes and most of all your on-line friendships. I can't believe that I have been blogging for just over a year. It has been a fun hobby and creative outlet for me. Never in my dreams did I ever think I would have been able to do this and enjoy it as much as I do! I hope the next couple of weeks before Christmas find you joyful and filled with peace. As for me....I will be busily scrambling around the kitchen, baking cookies for the holiday trays!! Whew....but then, it wouldn't be Christmas without them!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Asparagus Rolls with Prosciutto

First...stop by at the Style Sisters blog for a chocolate giveaway....YUM!

Second, I must be in an entertaining state of mind as I am thinking of and reading about appetizer ideas. This is another easy and elegant idea. My favorite way of serving asparagus is to roast it with some extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. It takes on a nutty and rich flavor and is so delicious. When I read this recipe, it jumped right into my appetizer file because it sounds so good. I can't wait to try it. I think you can blanch these and wrap ahead of time. When you are ready to serve, just place the baking sheet in the oven so they will be fresh for your guests.

Asparagus Rolls with Prosciutto

Trim 2 bunches of asparagus. Cook 3 minutes in boiling water. Take out of the hot water and place in a bowl filled with ice water. Remove from water and let dry.
Sprinkle dry asparagus with 2 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp black pepper.
Cut slices of prosciutto in half lengthwise (about a half pound).
Roll up 2 asparagus spears in a prosciutto half and transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with all asparagus and prosciutto.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cheese Filled Endive

I love using Belgian endive in appetizer recipes and adding to salads. It is so crisp and fresh and not overpowering. When I saw this in a recent issue of Family Circle, I knew I had to add it to my holiday "pick-ons" list! It looks so pretty and takes no time at all to prepare. Placed on a pretty plate, it will look as though you really fussed! The mixture used to fill the endive leaf, would be handy to make ahead and keep in the fridge. You could stuff some celery for an after-school snack for the kids. Also, I think just putting out a bowl of this on an appetizer table with some nice crackers and celery stalks would be just fine as well. I think it is a versatile and delicious way to use two of my cheese and dried cranberries.

Cheese-Filled Endive
8 oz. cream cheese (use Neufchatel)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped sweetened dried cranberries
2 TBSP milk.
Trim end from one head endive and separate leaves. Dollop 2 teaspoons cheese mixture onto each leaf. Serve.
The recipe also states that this pairs well with a medium dry sparkling wine such as Prosecco. I discovered how good this wine is a few years ago. If you have not tried it, it is bubbly like champagne, but fruity. It is a nice drink at cocktail hour and I agree that this would be a very good selection with this recipe.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Warm Blue Cheese Dip

This may not be the healthiest item on your hors d'oeuvres table, but, I can tell you that it is delicious! There are so many unbelievably good favors going on in here. If you are out on a cold morning getting that Christmas tree, make this before you leave. While everyone is waiting for lunch to be ready, they can munch on this. I loved it with celery, especially. If you serve it with crackers, use Table Water crackers. With all the flavors you don't want a cracker to compete. And, if you happen to have some dip left over, save it and top a baked potato or add to some mashed potatoes! This would also be a nice item on a bruschetta bar with crusty French baguette slices. Next I am testing this with turkey bacon, Neufchatel cheese, and low-fat half and half. If there is a way to shave some calories out of this, I at least have to try! Believe me, you can eat this with a spoon if you like blue cheese!

Warm Blue Cheese Dip
8 slices hickory smoked bacon, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8-oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese (1 cup)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 Tbsp chopped almonds
Chopped fresh parsley Crackers, French bread and/or fresh vegetables

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium high heat for about 8 minutes or until nearly crisp. Drain bacon; wipe skillet dry. Return bacon to skillet; add garlic and cook over medium heat until bacon is crisp, about 3 minutes, making sure garlic doesn't burn. Drain on paper towels. With mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add cream; beat well. Fold in bacon, garlic, blue cheese and chives. Transfer to 2-cup baking dish. Sprinkle top evenly with the almonds. Bake until heated through and browned on top, 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with crackers, bread and /or vegetables. Makes 8-10 servings.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Check out this giveaway!

I was contacted by Ashley of the Food Service Warehouse about their cool giveaway. Here is the link if you would like to enter Dinnerware Holiday Giveaway. They are giving away a $600.00 value Holiday Dinnerware gift. And you have to look around the website at the really great items they carry. And if you order this week, there is free shipping!
Who can't use some fill in items for entertaining?