"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all." ~Harriet van Horne


Orange Cream Cheese Cake Loaf

Published by: Kathy

  • Oct
  • 2

Oh, my, my, my! This thing just melts in your mouth!

A recipe for “Orange Cream Cheese Bread” popped up on my Facebook page.  I belong to “Just a Pinch Recipe Club” and so far I’m 2 for 3, when it comes to making one of their suggested recipes.  (In baseball-speak that means that I have been successful at preparing 2 of the 3 recipes I have tried…That’s a pretty respectable average!)  The recipe called my name and I knew I had to try it…Perhaps if was the fact that they used the words “orange” and “cream cheese” in the title.  Or maybe it was the beautiful picture the amateur chef responsible for the recipe posted.  Whatever it was, today was the day…The ingredient list is very basic, so I had everything on hand, except the fresh orange.  A quick trip to the store remedied that.

I put the recipe together in no time and was I ever excited with the finished product.  The “bread” was without question, a “cake”.  It was moist and light, with a velvety texture.  It reminded me of the cream cakes that Publix sells…only better!  At the risk of repeating myself…it just melts in your mouth!  A name change was definitely in order…Let’s call a “cake”, a “cake”!



  • 1  (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2  c. shortening
  • 1  2/3  c. granulated sugar
  • 2  eggs
  • 2 ¼  c. all-purpose flour
  • 1  tsp. salt
  • 1  Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1  c. whole milk
  • ½  c. chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 2  Tbsp. grated orange peel  (2 lg. oranges)
  • ¼  c. fresh squeezed orange juice  (from the orange you just zested)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine cream cheese and shortening, creaming well.  Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, beating well after each addition.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Mix well after each addition.  Stir in orange peel and walnuts (if you decided to include them).  Divide batter into two (2) greased and floured 8½ x 4½ x 3-inch loaf pans.  Bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Then, sprinkle orange juice over the loaves.  Remove to wire rack to finish cooling.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


















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Caramel Apple Martini - October's Martini

Published by: Kathy

  • Oct
  • 2

This autumn-inspired martini is like taking a bite out of chewy caramel apple…Except…it won’t stick to your teeth!

The martini portion of my food blog is the one that causes me the most stress…Unlike the food preparations, which are a natural part of my day/evening, making a martini doesn’t always fit into my schedule for the day.  (The reason is, that I am always ready to sample the food I prepare…morning, noon or night.  Martinis…not so much.)  In spite of my hesitation, the past few martini recipes have been prepared in the morning, when things are calm and quiet in the house and I can concentrate on my concoction.  Today is no different.  It is a Sunday morning and I am showered, dressed and ready for church…and I’m in the kitchen shaking up a martini…that I will taste…in my mouth….Did I mention it’s 10:30 a.m.?  This is wrong on so many levels.

Anyway, I promised you Martini Monday, so here it is!  I wanted my October martini to be reminiscant of the beginning of Fall and the things I associate with the (veeerrry) subtle change in weather.  I immediately thought of carnivals and Halloween. What popped up in my head next, were the deliciously gooey and chewy caramel apples I love to eat…Caramel Apple Martini sounded like the perfect intro into Fall.  I found a handful of recipes and most of them included butterscotch schnapps.  When I found caramel liqueur on the shelf at the liquor store, I decided to change it up a bit and keep with the caramel theme of the drink.  The finished product looks a little milky and wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be.  (This was a pleasant surprise, since I am a traditional martini girl…Vodka… dirty, dry and cold enough to cause a brain-freeze!  Not crazy about the really sweet drinks!)  The sour apple schnapps reminds me of granny smith apples and is a nice offset to the sweetness of the caramel.  This would make a perfect after-dinner drink.



  • 1  oz. vodka
  • 2  oz. caramel liqueur (I used Bailey’s Caramel)
  • 1 oz. Sour Apple Pucker® schnapps
  • Caramel sundae syrup (for decorating glass)

Drizzle caramel sundae syrup around the inside of a martini glass.  Place glass in the freezer for at least ten minutes.  Prepare martini by placing vodka, caramel liqueur and sour apple schnapps in a shaker with crushed ice.  Shake for 30 seconds and strain into prepared glass.




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Fig, Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Flatbread Pizza,...

Published by: Kathy

  • Oct
  • 1

Nordstrom’s Cafe, I am no longer traumatized by the fact that you have taken this pizza off your menu…I nailed it!

My absolute favorite thing on the Nordstrom’s Cafe menu (aside from the french fries and Kalamata olive aioli, of course), was their Arugula Salad with Crisp Prosciutto Pizza.  (The name Nordstrom’s gave to the pizza, doesn’t do justice to what I feel are the highlights of the dish…the caramelized onions and the fig preserves.)    I have been committed to making this pizza at home and so I went to the cafe two weeks ago, in the name of research (someone’s got to do it), to dissect this delicious offering, once and for all.  Imagine my surprise and disappointment, when they told me it was no longer on the menu!  Ugghh!  I was embarrassed to walk away, considering the line of people behind me, so I placed my alternate order and stepped aside.  While I stood there in shock, I tried to recall the layers of ingredients.  I remembered the basics, but not the details…I asked my waitress if there was cheese on the pizza.  After all, Pioneer Woman had made a similar version on her show recently, and she used fresh mozzarella…The Novice Chef posted her version, which had blue cheese.  No, the waitress recalled there was no cheese, but that’s about all she could tell me.  The rest was up to me and the fond memories I had of devouring that pizza, while my son, Eric reached across the table to pilfer whatever he could from my plate.

And so last night, under the magic of the new moon, my Fig, Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Flatbread Pizza, Topped with Arugula Salad, was born!  The pre-baked flatbread is first topped with a sweet fig jam…Next comes a layer of caramelized onions sprinkled with strips of crispy prosciutto.  Finally, to take this warm pizza to the other side of heaven, it is topped with a cool, peppery arugula salad and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  I was soooo excited!  It was really simple to prepare…I swear…Don’t let the long recipe title scare you away.  You have to try this!



  • The flatbread I used as the crust, made two small individual pizzas.  If you want a larger pizza, feel free to use regular pizza dough and determine your own size.  You may also want to make your flatbread from scratch.  Everything I have read, indicates it is a relatively simple process.
  • Prepare the caramelized onions and balsamic reduction ahead of time.  This way, when you are ready to put the pizzas together, that is all you will be doing.  Great idea if you are preparing these for guests.
  • While we are on the subject of guests, I think these pizzas would make excellent appetizers…Simply cut them into small squares, instead of slices.
  • When spreading the preserves on the flatbread, leave some room on the edge of the dough for handling.  This is kind of a sticky pizza that may require the use of a fork.  Leaving the dry edge, makes it easier to handle and gives you and your guests eating options.
  • Remember, a pizza is like a blank canvas.  The creation can be designed to suit your personal palate…Add or subtract anything you like. 



  • 2  pre-baked flatbread doughs (I used Stonefire™ Tandoori Naan)
  • Fig Preserves (I used Braswell’s® Fig Preserves)
  • Caramelized onions (recipe follows)
  • 6 slices of prosciutto, cut into thin strips  (I used Boars Head Prosciutto Piccolo)
  • Arugula
  • Balsamic Reduction (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400°.  Place flatbreads on a cookie sheet.  Spread each flatbread with 3-4 tablespoons of fig preserves. (Remember, the more you use, the sweeter the pizza will be, so use your judgement.)  Spread evenly, stopping within 1/2-inch of the dough edge.   Cover the preserves with a layer of caramelized onions and then top the onions with the prosciutto strips.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until dough gets crispy.  When out of the oven, top each pizza with a handful of arugula and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.  Cut into pieces and enjoy!



  •  2  c. thinly sliced onions (1 large onion)
  • 3  T. butter
  • 2  pinches of salt
  • 2  tsp. sugar

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the sugar and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the onions!  Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.


  • 1 ½  c. balsamic vinegar (the better the vinegar, the better the taste)
  • 3  T. brown sugar

In a saucepan, over  heat, bring vinegar to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and allow vinegar to simmer.  Add brown sugar and stir until it is dissolved.  Continue simmering uncovered, until the vinegar has reduced by half.  The reduction is done when it is thickened to the consistency of syrup.  It will continue to thicken as it cools.  Store any leftovers in the fridge.






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Grandma's Apple Brownies

Published by: Kathy

  • Sep
  • 12

No, this is defintely not anything MY grandma made!

For starters, I never referred to either of my grandmothers as “Grandma”…I had an “Abuela” and an “Abuelita”.  They were better known for their Flan (Egg Custard) and Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding).  And I’m pretty sure they never even heard of an apple brownie.

I found this recipe on the Just A Pinch Recipe Club website (An on-line recipe club I belong to.   Cuts down on cookbook purchases!) and it sounded wonderful.  It’s that time of year, when the season begins to change and the temperatures begin to fall from the familiar 97˚in the afternoon, to a brisk 92˚…Fall is almost here!  I am embarrassed to say that I already have all my fall decorations on display and am just itching to put a pot of chili on the stove.  I love the changing of the seasons, (Even though they are barely noticeable in Tampa) and really get into the spirit.

The recipe was very simple to prepare and didn’t even require the use of an electric mixer.  Peeling and dicing the apples was tedious and required the majority of time.  other than that, it was a breeze!  Although these are called “brownies”, I found the recipe more similar to an apple cake.  The “brownies” were extremely moist and delicious.  The original recipe didn’t call for a glaze, but I thought it would make a nice addition, so I made one.

Helpful Hints:

  • Dice the apples very small, so they will cook well during the baking process.
  • I thought the brownies needed a little more cinnamon and some nutmeg.  Taste the batter before putting it into the prepared pan.  If you would like a little more spice, add it it small increments, until you achieve the desired taste.
  • Don’t over bake!  The best thing about these brownies is how moist they are.  Over baking will dry them out.
  • This recipe can be easily cut in half.  I did and the results were excellent.  For the half recipe, I used a 10½ x 6½ x 1½ pan and baked the brownies for 37 minutes…PERFECTION!



  • 3  c. all purpose flour
  • 3  c. apples, peeled, cored and diced fine (3-4 medium apples – I used Gala)
  • 2  c. sugar
  • 1  tsp. cinnamon (add more if you like)
  • 1/4  tsp. nutmeg
  • 1  tsp. baking soda
  • 1  tsp. salt
  • 1/3  c. orange juice
  • 2  eggs
  • 1  c. vegetable oil


  • 1  c.  powdered sugar
  • 2  Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2  Tbsp. boiling water
  • 1/2  tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325˚.  Grease and flour a 13 x 9 pan.  In a large bowl, add the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon to combine.  Add the remaining wet ingredients and the chopped apples.  Mix with a wooden spoon, until everything is mixed well.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Check on the brownies after the 45 minutes.  If they are still too pale and wet looking, leave them in the oven for a few more minutes. 

While brownies are cooling, prepare glaze.  Mix together all glaze ingredients, until smooth.  Add more boiling water if glaze is too thick.  Drizzle over warm cake, using a spoon.  Serve as a breakfast treat or a dessert, with vanilla ice cream on the side.

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Grape Lemonade Martini - September's Martini

Published by: Kathy

  • Sep
  • 1

Just stick a straw in it and call it grape soda!

While doing some research for my Martini Monday blog post, at the local Total Wine liquor store, (Sadly, I love strolling the isles and and looking at all the pretty bottles.) I became intrigued and entranced by the hundreds of flavored vodka offerings.  While there is no excuse for some of the ridiculous flavors available, (e.g.: Cotton Candy, Gummy, Root Beer, Frosting, Cupcake, Bacon, etc.) there are some flavors that could really add a different twist to or enhance your favorite cocktails.  Nestled among the fruit varieties, was Grape vodka.  There were several brands available, but I won’t lie, the one I settled on was the prettiest shade of lavender.  I just knew it would make a beautiful girly-girl cocktail and I wasn’t disappointed!

My Grape Lemonade Martini, tasted more like grape soda, than grape lemonade…However, don’t be fooled by the comparison to adoloescent refreshments…This grape soda is all grown up and packs a punch!


Grape Lemonade Martini

  • 2  oz. grape vodka
  • 1/2  oz. triple sec
  • 1/2  oz. sour mix
  • 1  oz.  lemon-lime soda  (you can add an extra ounce, if you like)

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and gently stir for a few seconds, long enough to give it a good chill.  (You don’t want to shake this cocktail, because it contains lemon-lime soda, and when shaken,  it will end up all over your counter, instead of inside your glass.)  Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a slice of lemon.


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Mom's Chicken Fricassee

Published by: Kathy

  • Aug
  • 31

Don’t be scared away by the number of ingredients in this recipe. It really is very simple to prepare!

The tradition of Sunday dinner was one I have always loved.  Growing up in a family with four children, two working parents and a calendar filled with conflicting activities, it was the one day we could all be together… and eat at one time.  Even my oldest brother, once he moved away from home, (before he left the state, of course) would find his way back home on Sundays, to partake in the family meal.  Once I married and had a family of my own, I too started my own tradition of Sunday dinner and hold steadfast to it, to this day.  Years ago, even though my work-week was hectic and the weekends unpredictable, I knew one thing for certain…I would be preparing a big meal on Sunday, complete with dessert.  The evolution of my Sunday dinner has taken many twists and turns throughout the years.  Although I know that Sunday dinner is always going to happen, I never know who will be there.  What once would have been a crowd of 8-10 people gathered around my dining room table, has been reduced to the usual 3…My husband, my mother and myself.

There was a time when my son, Anthony, and his family were regulars at Sunday dinner.  Then, his love for the Tampa Bay Bucs and the need to watch them without any distractions on the “sidelines”, scratched him from my Sunday roster.  In the off-season, the excuse was that Sunday was the only day he had to lay around the house and do nothing.  I really do understand and eventually gave up on inviting him.  But, he always knows he is welcome.  A couple of weeks ago, I was making a dish he loves and I asked if he was interested.  His answer was a polite, yet emphatic, “Mom, it’s Sunday.”  Yeah, yeah, I know…Sunday…the Sabbath…A day of rest…Whatever!

Then there’s Eric.  Eric is always ready for a good meal….IF he doesn’t have anything better to do.  So, Eric’s presence on Sunday is always a big question mark.  This Sunday, however, Eric turned his reservation in early.  As a way to entice my boys to come for dinner, I will usually let them pick what they want on the menu.  I love cooking for them and hope that catering to their cravings will let them know how much I love them and how special they are to me.  Eric’s choice was Chicken Fricassee…This is my mom’s recipe and she has been making it for as far back as I can remember.  Although my mom made it the traditional way, in a pot over the stove, I have always used a pressure cooker.  I have provided the traditional instructions as well as the pressure cooker method.  Give it a try…it is delicious!


  •  3  lbs. chicken, cut up and skinned
  • ½  c. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½  tsp. cumin
  • ½  tsp. basil
  • ½  tsp. oregano
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1  lg. onion, sliced
  • ½  med. green pepper, sliced
  • 3  cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1  (10½-ounce) can chicken broth
  • ½  c. sherry wine
  • 1  envelope Vigo yellow coloring
  • 2  potatoes, cut in ½-inch slices
  • 3  carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch slices
  • 2  Tbsp. cornstarch
  • ¼  c. sherry wine

I cook this in the pressure cooker.  Heat olive oil and brown chicken.  Add all spices and place onion, green pepper, garlic on top of chicken in pot.  Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, ½ cup of wine and coloring; stir gently, just enough to mix liquids at bottom of chicken.  Once the pressure cooker has reached the “jiggle” stage, cook for 25-30 minutes.  Release pressure and remove chicken to a separate dish.  Put potatoes and carrots into liquid and start the pressure cooker again.  Once the pressure is right, cook 7-10 minutes.  Release pressure again and remove lid.  Mix cornstarch and ¼ cup of wine and add to liquid.  Bring to a slow boil until thickened.  Return chicken to gravy and heat thoroughly.  Serve over cooked white rice.  Serves 4.

Note:  If you choose to cook this in a regular pot, cook on medium low heat for approximately 1 hour, or until chicken is tender and pulls away from bone.  Add carrots and potatoes and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until they are fork-tender.

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The Cheesecake Factory Chicken Madeira (Copy-Cat Version)...

Published by: Kathy

  • Aug
  • 27

Look veerrrry closely and you will see a chicken breast nestled in a pile of mashed potatoes.

OK, so I’m still working on my food stylist and photography skills…But I promise you, I’ve got the cooking part down pat!

A recent trip to the Cheesecake Factory brought back fond memories of one of my favorite dishes off their menu….Chicken Madeira.  Not that I’ve ordered it for quite some time, due to the fact that their entree portions are so gargantuan.  I usually opt to make one of their appetizers my meal and leave a little extra room for dessert.  (Duh!  It’s the CHEESECAKE Factory!)

When I got home that night, (and was taking a few bites of my Turtle cheesecake) I remembered my handy-dandy Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 cookbook and recalled that it had a recipe for The Cheesecake Factory Chicken Madeira.  I made it last night  and, oh, yeah!  Another copy-cat recipe success story!   The gravy over the chicken was absolutely divine!  My husband noted that it would taste good on just about anything!  And, my potatoes were equally delicious.  Smashed potatoes are all the rage in restaurants these days and easier to make than mashed potatoes.  However, I ended up whipping them with an electric mixwer, instead of smashing them.  I thought a smoother texture would be better paired with the chicken.  Next time, I will go ahead and just hand-smash the potatoes, leaving them on the chunky side.

This post is a 2-for-1, because I’ve added the recipe I came up with for Garlic Smashed New Potatoes.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed in either recipe.


  • I purchased a pound of asparagus and in addition to putting it on top of the chicken, I served it as a side dish that evening.
  • My husband is a big fan of grilling the asparagus, so he helped me out by cooking them for me on the grill.  To do this, turn on your gas grill.  Season the cleaned asparagus with a little salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Place the asparagus directly on the grill, going opposite the grates, so that they don’t fall into the fire.  Grill for 3-5 minutes, (depending on the thickness) turning frequently.   Presto!  You have grilled asparagus.  Delicious!
  • Don’t overcook the chicken.  You cannot start your sauce until the chicken is done, because you will be using the juices in the pan to enhance the flavor of your sauce.  So…you should keep your chicken in the oven, covered and on a low temperature, so that it stays warm for the 20 minutes your sauce is simmering.
  • When making the potatoes, leave the garlic with the potatoes once you have drained them.  The boiled garlic is very soft and will easily incorporate itself into the potatoes as you smash or whip them.  It gives the potatoes a beautiful hint of garlic, without overpowering them.



  • 1  T. olive oil
  • 4  skinless chicken breast fillets, pounded to 1/4-inch thick
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
  • 8  asparagus spears
  • 4  mozzarella cheese slices



  • 2  T. olive oil
  • 2  c. sliced fresh white mushrooms
  • 3  c. Madeira wine (found in the Port section of your liquor store)
  • 2  c. beef broth
  • 2  T. butter
  • 1/4  tsp. black pepper
  • 1  heaping tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1  T. Madeira wine

In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil.   Sprinkle each fillet with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Sauté the chicken fillets for 4-6 minutes per side, or until chicken has browned just a bit.  Remove chicken from pan and wrap them together in foil to keep the fillets warm while you make the sauce.

To the drippings in the skillet, and the heat still on medium, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet.  Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for about 2 minutes.  Add the Madeira wine, beef broth, butter and pepper.  Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Mix cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of Madeira wine in a small bowl, until smooth and all the lumps are gone.  Add to the gravy and bring to a simmer, so that mixture will thicken to a silky consistency.

As the sauce is simmering, bring a medium saucepan, filled halfway with water, to a boil.  Add a pinch of salt to the water.  Toss the asparagus into the water and boil for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus spears.  Drop the asparagus in a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process.  The asparagus should be slightly tender when done…not mushy.  (Or you can eliminate this method and opt to grill them as I outlined in my Helpful Hints.)

Set the oven to broil.  Prepare the dish by arranging the cooked chicken fillets on a baking dish.  Cross two asparagus spears over each fillet, then cover each with a slice of mozzarella cheese.  Broil the fillets for 3-4 minutes, or until light brown spots begin to appear on the cheese.  To serve, arrange one 1 or 2 chicken breasts on each plate, then spoon 3 0r 4 tablespoons of Madeira sauce over the chicken.  Makes 2-4 servings.



  • 2  lbs. new red potatoes, washed
  • 6  cloves garlic, cut in half with ends trimmed
  • 6  Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4  c. heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/8  c. chopped chives  (optional)
  • 2  Tbsp. fresh bacon. cooked crisp and crumbled (optional)


Cut potatoes into uniform sizes (so that they all finish cooking at the same time).  Boil potatoes and garlic, until tender.  (20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes).  Drain.

While the potatoes are cooking,  in a small bowl, heat butter and cream in the microwave.  (I find it easier to work with melted butter and warm cream.  But, cover the bowl you are using in the microwave, and be careful you don’t have a boil-over situation…like I did!)  Using the back of a large spoon, or a potato masher,  smash the potatoes and garlic, so they are large and chunky.  Add the butter, cream, salt and pepper.  Stir gently to combine.  If you like, fold in chives and bacon bits.  Gently reheat if necessary.  Serve hot.  Makes 2-4 servings.


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Apple Deliciousness

Published by: Kathy

  • Aug
  • 26

Soooooo easy and yet soooooo delicious!!!

My daughter-in-law-, Kat, gave me this recipe a couple of months ago and told me how much my son had loved it.  She promised it would be simpler than the butterfinger-pie-from-hell recipe, which was also one of hers.  Well, I’ve had the crescent rolls on hand and have bought the Mountain Dew twice, with the good intentions of making this dessert, but never seemed to get around to it.  Tonight, after making a complete dinner, I was motivated to end the evening with the equivalent of hot apple pie and ice cream.

This was probably one of the easiest and most decadent desserts I have made in a long time.  Not sure what I was going to get, I was surprised when I cut into the baked apple roll, to find a steamy little pillow of apple deliciousness.  The sugary pastry tops had turned into a crunchy crust and the overflow of the mixture, combined with the soda, had become a luscious syrup. (Perfect for topping the vanilla ice cream I served on the side. )

What I loved the most about this recipe, is the ability to cut it in half.  I used one solo apple to create a dessert that was adequate for four people!  Kat, you have redeemed yourself!


Helpful Hints:

  • If cutting the recipe in half, use a smaller baking dish.  I used a 9 x 9 Pyrex baking dish for half a batch and it was perfect.
  • Do your best to wrap each slice of apple completely with the dough.  This might involve some creative folding and stretching of the dough, to accomplish the task.
  • When pouring the sugar mixture over the wrapped apples, be sure that all of the dough has some sugar mixture on it.  When baked, this mixture turns into a delicious crust and, trust me, you will want your apple rolls to be covered in it!
  • This dessert is best served warm or right out of the oven.  The leftovers, after being refrigerated, lost their appealing crunch.  (A few seconds in the microwave brought them back enough to enjoy for a questionably healthy breakfast…Don’t judge me..It had FRUIT!



  • 2  whole Granny Smith apples
  • 2  (8-o.z) cans crescent rolls
  • 2  sticks butter
  • 1  1/2  c. sugar
  • 1  tsp. vanilla
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1  (12-oz.) can Mountain Dew Soda

Peel and core apples.  Cut each apple into 8 slices each.  Roll each apple slice in a triangle of crescent roll dough.  Place apple rolls in a 9 x 13 buttered pan.  In a small saucepan, melt butter and remove from heat.  Add sugar, vanilla and desired amount of cinnamon and lightly stir. (The idea is NOT to disolve the sugar.)  Pour sugar mixture over apple rolls, coating each completely.  Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan, being careful not pour it on top of the apple rolls.  (You don’t want to rinse off any of your sugar mixture!)  Sprinkle with additional cinnamon and bake at 350˚ for 35-40 minutes.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and spoon some of the sweet sauce from the pan, over the top.  Makes 8 servings.





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Cream of Fresh Tomato and Basil Soup

Published by: Kathy

  • Aug
  • 23

There’s nothing like a bowl of hot soup to…

Wait a minute!  Why on earth am I making soap in the middle of August!  Who knows…I guess I just had a hankering for tomato basil soup.

In any case, last week  I made a pot of Cream of Fresh Tomato and Basil Soup.  The original recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten), but you can find it on page 35 of my cookbook.


  • 3  Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1½  c. red onions, chopped (2 large)
  • 2  carrots, unpeeled and chopped
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 4  lbs. vine ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (5 large)
  • 1½  tsp. sugar
  • 1  Tbsp. tomato paste (more works fine)
  • ¼  c. chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 3  c. chicken stock (find this in the soup aisle of the grocery store)
  • 2  tsp. kosher salt
  • 1  tsp.  black pepper
  • ¾  c. heavy cream
  • Croutons for garnish
  • Fresh basil, julienned, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot, over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, carrots and garlic and sauté for about 10 minutes, until very tender.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt and pepper and stir well.  Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for 20-40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.

Add the cream to the soup, remove from heat and allow to cool for a short time.   Ladle the soup, a little at a time, into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Repeat the blending process until all the soup is blended.  When ready to serve, reheat the soup over low heat and serve.  Garnish with croutons and/or julienned basil leaves. 

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Bow-Tie Pasta with Chicken ...

Published by: Kathy

  • Aug
  • 23

The origin of this recipe brings back good memories of happy times with very special people…My former co-workers and friends for life.

Years ago, when the first Macaroni Grill restaurant opened in Tampa, it quickly became the place of choice for the birthday celebrations, of my office “family”.  We were hard up for decent restaurants in our immediate vicinity and the 15 minute drive to the Macaroni Grill was the ticket.  On the menu, we found a pasta dish that appealed to all of us and without fail, the unanimous choice was “Farfalle Di Pollo al Sugo Bianco”, for the entire table.  This was bow-tie pasta, with slices of grilled chicken, pancetta bacon, fried crisp, red and green onions, tossed in an asiago garlic cream sauce…Divine!  (Macaroni Grill still serves this dish, however, they use crispy prociutto instead of the pancetta.)

On one of our many visits, when we placed our order for Farfalle Di Pollo al Sugo Bianco, we heard our server refer to the dish as “P-Ties” and that is actually what she wrote down on her pad.  When we asked her about the word, “P-Ties”, she said it was the abbreviation the servers used for the pasta dish.  (Is it any wonder??)  Well, that was all we needed to hear…”P-Ties” it was and still is, almost 20 years later!

I loved this pasta dish so much, I was determined to learn to make it at home.  Back then, I wasn’t all over the internet and didn’t have easy access to the copy-cat recipes that I do now, so I did the next best thing…I entered a radio contest, where I had to write something about why I liked eating at Macaroni Grill.  Me, writing about food I like to eat…It was a done deal!  I won!!!  The prize was a private dinner prepared by a Macaroni Grill Chef…Cooked right before my eyes!!  I was allowed to bring a guest, so I invited  the second biggest P-Tie fan I know, my friend, Maria.  (Me being the first biggest fan!)  The chef prepared several of Macaroni Grill’s most popular dishes, but I couldn’t tell you what they were…All I remember was seeing the P-Ties made!  I watched every move the chef made and memorized everything that went into his pot.  He wasn’t able to give me exact measurements.  I’m assuming that was because his knowledge involved the preparation of mass quantities of the recipe.  But no worries…after much trial and error, I eventually figured it out.  The recipe can be found on page 85 of my cookbook.

And now, in 2011 after all that, you can Google “Farfalle Di Pollo al Sugo Bianco” and find at least a dozen copy-cat recipes at your disposal.  But there would have been no memories made and no story to tell!

Bow-Tie Pasta with Chicken 

 Asiago Cream Sauce

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 6-8  cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1  c. canned chicken broth
  • 2  c. whipping cream
  • 1  lb. (3 to 4 cups) Asiago cheese, shredded


Melt butter in a medium saucepan.  Add minced garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add chicken broth and cream.  Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture begins to simmer.  Add cheese and continue to stir until the cheese is melted.  Continue to cook on low for approximately 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside until needed.


  • ½  c. red onion, chopped
  • 4  Tbsp. butter
  • 3  chicken breasts, grilled and sliced thin
  • ¾  lb. (1 cup)  pancetta bacon, diced and cooked crisp
  • 2  lbs. bowtie pasta, cooked al dente
  • 3  stalks green onion, sliced thin
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Sauté red onion in butter for a few seconds.  To the cooked pasta, add the chicken, bacon, red onion, green onion and cheese sauce.  Add salt and pepper according to your taste.  (Easy on the salt, as the pancetta and asiago cheese are very salty by themselves.)  Toss lightly and heat thoroughly.  I like to put it into the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 325º.  Serve immediately.  Serves 6-8.

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Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

Published by: Kathy

  • Jul
  • 28

Here is another slow-cooker success story!

Don’t think for a minute, that just because I’m retired, I have a lot of time on my hands.  After sweet talking my husband into dinner out two nights in a row, I knew I’d better put on my “Kathy in the Kitchen” hat and come up with something good.  Knowing I had a busy week ahead of me, I remembered a slow-cooker recipe I had printed out several weeks ago.  A little more research brought two other recipes to my attention and I decided to take what I felt were the best ingredients from each and make up my own version.

After 20 minutes of prep work, my dinner was on its way and so was I!

Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

  • 3  lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast and thighs, fat trimmed
  • 2  c.  onion, sliced thin
  • 2  (14.5-oz.) cans diced fire roasted tomatoes (run them thru the food processer, if you are not fond of a chunky sauce)
  • 1  c. sliced fresh mushrooms (add more if you like)
  • 1  small green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1  small red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 4  cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2  c. dry white wine
  • 1/4  c. tomato paste
  • 1  1/2  tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2  tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2  tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1  1/4  tsp. salt
  • 1/2  tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2  tsp. sugar
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1/4  tsp. celery seed
  • 2  Tbsp. all-purpose flour

Place sliced onion in the bottom of the slow-cooker.  Add chicken pieces.  In a bowl, stir together remaining ingredients.  Pour over chicken; cover.  Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.  Serve over cooked linguine.  Makes 4-6 servings.




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Estella's Pasta with Shrimp and Tomatoes

Published by: Kathy

  • Jul
  • 24

While cleaning out a drawer in my desk, I came across a folder with several recipes that I have never prepared.

Some of the recipes I found, I have eaten, but never prepared.  There was one recipe in particular, that I have heard about, but never tasted.  The recipe was for Shrimp and Angel Hair Pasta.  The recipe was hand-written and given to me by my friend, Rita’s mother-in-law, Estella.  (Everyone just calls her, “Stella”)  Through the years, Stella has been kind enough to share several of her recipes with me…Two of them were “cookbook worthy” and can be found on pages 62 and 83 of my book.  One of those recipes is titled “Estella’s Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes”.  The recipe I found, which incudes shrimp, is a variation of the other recipe.  There is some debate as to which recipe came first, but there is no arguing that both are to die for!   Rita tells me that Stella prepares this shrimp pasta dish on Christmas Eve, as her offering for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, (an Italian tradition.) and everyone raves about it.   I knew Monday, when I found the recipe, that this would be my Sunday dinner.  I served it with a salad and garlic bread…YUM!

The pasta was amazing!  It was very simple to make and ready to serve in an hour.  The sauce was light, yet full of flavor.  The shrimp were the perfect addition to turn this dish into a complete meal.  I can actually visualize adding scallops and mussells the next time I make it and turning it into a Seafood Pasta.

As usual, I tweaked the recipe, just a tad…My husband is not a fan of angel hair pasta.  It’s tricky to prepare and turns in to a ball of mush if you let it sit too long.  I agreed, and I made standard spaghetti noodles instead.  I also added crushed red pepper flakes for a little kick and cooked the sauce longer than the recipe called for.  It was perfection!


Estella’s Pasta with Shrimp and Tomatoes

  • 1  lb. spaghetti noodles (feel free to use Angel Hair if you like)
  • 1  1/4  lb. uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tails removed
  • 1/3  c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 6  cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2   (14.5-oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 5  green onions, chopped
  • 1/2  c. dry white wine (I used sherry)
  • 1/4  tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6-8  fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, over medium heat, saute olive oil and garlic; cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning the garlic.  Add tomatoes, green onions, wine, red pepper flakes and basil.  Bring sauce to a simmer, stirring frequently, then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 45 minutes.  Add the shrimp to the sauce, stir and cook for 4-5 minutes, turning the shrimp to cook on both sides.  The shrimp will be pink when they are cooked.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper to suit your taste buds. 

While the sauce is cooking, cook your spaghetti according to the directions on the package.  Cook al dente.  Drain cooked pasta and combine with sauce.  Toss well, making sure to coat all the pasta.  Sprinkle with parmesan or romano cheese and more chopped fresh basil.  Makes 4-5 servings.





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Butterfinger Overload Pie

Published by: Kathy

  • Jul
  • 24

This is the pie from hell…But tastes like heaven!

Before I scare you with the negatives, let me tell you all the good things about Butterfinger Overload Pie…This is four layers of absolute deliciousness…Believe it or not, the pie tastes very light and is not too sweet.  First, we have a chocolate cookie crust; next, a layer of chocolate-peanut butter pastry cream, followed by a fluffy whipped cream-peanut butter layer.  And finally, a layer of fresh whipped cream.  Three of the four layers are infused with crushed Butterfinger candy bars.  You can safely assume you will have Butterfinger in every bite…Nothing wrong with that!  But first, you have to make it.

Every now and then I am challenged by the complexity of a recipe and usually end the project by saying “Remind me never to make this again!”…This would be one of those times.  My daughter-in-law found this recipe some time ago and never had a chance to make it.  She shared it with  me, (Thanks, Kat!) and I have been anxious to try it out.  My “boys” love Butterfinger candy bars and I was sure this was going to be a hit.  I am a big proponent of reading a recipe before you begin making it…I should have had a glimpse of what lied ahead when I had to read the recipe at least 5 times before I started.  I think I read it another 5 times while I was preparing  the pie.   Fortunately, one of the benefits of reading my blog, will be to learn from my experience…

Helpful hints:

  • Definitely prepare this pie the day before you intend to serve it.  It needs time to chill completely, and get firm.
  • Use a store-bought, ready-made Oreo crust  (I followed the recipe using the real Oreos…Too much extra work and I think the ready-made crust tastes just as good.)
  • Do all your prep work and measure out all your ingredients before you start  (Pretend you are a Food Network star.)
  • This pie will require your undivided attention  (So, ask your mom to stop by after you are done making the pie.  This way, you won’t be distracted and forget to put Butterfinger in the final layer of whipped cream…You know what I mean?)




  • 14  cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies  (Oreos)
  • 4  Tbsp. butter, melted    


  • 1  ready-made Oreo pie crust

If you choose to make the crust yourself:  Preheat oven to 375˚.  In a food processor, process the cookies into fine crumbs.  Add melted butter to crumbs and continue to process until well blended.  Transfer mixture to a 9-inch pie pan and press evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Bake for 8 minutes.  The crust will puff up and shrink slightly.  Use the flat bottom of a drinking glass to gently press down on the crust.  Set aside and cool completely before filling.



  • 23 “fun-size” Butterfinger candy bars (15-oz. bag), divided

In a food processor, process 20 of the butterfinger bars into fine crumbs.  Divide the crumbs into two seperate 1/2-cup portions and one 1-cup portion.  (You will use these in the three layers you will prepare.)  Process the remaing three candy bars into coarse chunks, and set aside for decorating at the end.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pastry Cream 

  • 1/2  c. granulated sugar
  • 2  Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2  c. whole milk
  • 2  large egg yolks
  • 1/2  c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2  c. milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2  c.  Butterfinger crumbs

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and milk.  Slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Beat egg yolks in a small bowl.  Whisk eggs in hot milk mixture 2 tablespoon at a time, until eggs are tempered (slowly warmed up).  Then add eggs to remaining milk in the pan; stir to combine.  Bring  mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture is thick.  Remove from heat and whisk in peanut butter.  Scoop out 1 cup of the peanut butter mixture and put it in a medium bowl.  Cover and put in the refrigerator until ready to use in next phase of the recipe.  Add chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of the Butterfinger crumbs to the remaining peanut butter mixture in the saucepan.  Stir until chips are melted.  Pour this mixture in the cooled crust.  Refrigerate while you’re preparing the next layer.

Whipped Cream-Peanut Butter Layer

1  c. heavy whipping cream

1/2  c. Butterfinger crumbs

1  c. reserved peanut butter pastry cream  (you put it in a bowl in the fridge during the last set of instructions)

Beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form.  Scoop into the bowl with the reserved peanut butter filling and fold together with 1/2 cup of Butterfinger crumbs.  Remove pie from refrigerator and mound the whipped cream-peanut butter  mixture evenly over the chocolate-peanut butter layer.  Spread to the edges of the pie.


Topping   (Finally!)

1  1/2   c. heavy whipping cream

1/4  c. powdered sugar

1  c. Butterfinger crumbs

3  coursley chopped Butterfinger candy bars (I asked you to chop them and set aside at the beginning of the recipe)

Whip the 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.  Fold in remaining 1 cup of Butterfinger crumbs.  Spoon over the top of the pie, mounding slightly in the center.  Sprinkle coarsely chopped Butterfingers over the top of the pie.

Cover loosley and refrigerate untl ready to serve the next day.












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Bikini Martini - August's Martini

Published by: Kathy

  • Jul
  • 22

I’ts a premature “Martini Monday”, once again!

I know that I said I would be posting a new martini recipe on the first Monday of each month…Well, when you’re retired, it’s hard to stay on a schedule. Every day brings a new adventure… No, seriously, I am going on vacation with my Mom and will be in the middle of the ocean somewhere, on August 1st.  (The first Monday in August.)  Therefore, I am posting my August Martini in July.

It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over…School starts in a few weeks and Cracker Barrell actually has their Thanksgiving stuff out already!  Wait, not so fast!  I’m not ready for summer to be over yet. I’ve still got a little beach-time left in me.  So, in fond memory of the bikini I have not worn in 30 years (and will definitely NOT be wearing on my cruise), and out of reverence for the body that was once able to rock it…I present the “Bikini  Martini”.


  • 1  oz. coconut rum
  • 1  oz. citrus vodka
  • 2  oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2  oz. grenadine syrup
  • Maraschino cherries for garnish

Shake rum, vodka and pineapple juice in a shaker with ice.  Strain into a chilled martini glass.  Pour the grenadine slowly down the side of the glass.  (It will sink to the bottom of the glass, creating the appearance of a very cute bikini bottom. (It’s hard to see in my picture, because I used my dolphin martini glass.)   Garnish with marschino cherries.


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Whoopie Pies

Published by: Kathy

  • Jul
  • 14

I have seen a lot of hype recently about the “Whoopie Pie”.

They are showing up in a wide variety of flavors and sizes.  A Whoopie Pie is just like eating the top of a cupcake, filled with a fluffy marshmallow butter cream.  The legend of Whoopie Pies is that they evolved from little individual cakes that mothers would make their children, using leftover chocolate cake batter and frosting…The kids would like them so much, they would shout, “whoopie!”.  I’ll buy that!

On TV, I saw Bobby Flay  challenge someone to a Whoopie Pie throwdown.  Then, in the Parade section of the Sunday paper, there was a picture with a recipe that immediately caught my eye.  It was a sign…I must make Whoopie Pies!  My grandson, Andrew, enjoys dabling in the kitchen, and I was sure this would be something he would want to make with me…WRONG!  Ok, so he wasn’t interested in baking…I’m guessing he thinks baking  is not manly enough for him.  But, that didn’t deter me!  I would bake Whoopie Pies solo.  (More for me, Andrew!)   After researching the internet for different recipes, I did not use the recipe from the newspaper.  Instead, I found one that called for buttermilk, which I just happened to have on hand.  Also, the recipe I used, called for butter in the filling instead of shortening…Sounded good to me!

My pies weren’t as aesthetically pleasing as I would have liked, but they were deeelicious!  The Virgo in me was looking for perfect  360˚ circles.  What I got instead, was a mishmash of  shapes…Like snowflakes, no two were alike!  I made some large ones and some small ones.  My husband ate one of each (and yelled, “whoopie!”…No, seriously, it was more like a hum and went, “Mmmmmmm!”) and said  the smaller ones had a better flavor.  For the larger cakes, I used an ice cream scoop.  I took the time to flatten the scoops of batter with a knife.  They looked pretty good.  The smaller cakes were made using a cookie scoop.  (1 Tbsp.)  I did not flatten the scoops and they did not spread, during the baking process, as I had hoped.  This made for a dome-shaped Whoopie Pie, instead of a flatter, more cookie-like shape.  I will definitely flatten the batter balls the next time I make them.

Helpful Hints:

  • Lightly flatten scoops of batter, prior to baking them.  This way they won’t be so thick and will look more like a cookie.


Whoopie Pies


  • 2  c. all-purpose
  • 1/2  c . unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4  tsp. baking soda
  • 1  tsp. salt
  • 1  c.  buttermilk (shake well before you pour it out)
  • 1  tsp. vanilla
  • 1  stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1  c. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1  lg. egg


  •  1  stick  unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4  c. confectioners sugar
  • 1  c. marshmallow cream
  • 1  Tbsp. vanilla

To make the cakes:  Preheat oven to 350˚.  Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl until combined.  Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.  Beat together butter and brown sugar, in a large bowl with an electric mixer, at medium-high speed, until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add the egg and beat until combined well.  Reduce the speed to low and alternately mix in the flour mixture and buttermilk.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally and mix until smooth.

Spoon batter in desired sizes, using  either an ice cream or cookie scoop, 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment or silpat liners.  Bake larger cookies for 11-13 minutes and smaller cookies 9-10 minutes.  Tops will be puffed and cakes will spring back when touched.  Transfer with a spatula to a rack to cool.

To make the filling:  Beat together butter, confectioners sugar, marshmallow and vanilla in a bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Assemble pies:  Spread filling between the flat sides of two pies; repeat.

Makes 8-10 large Whoopie Pies, or 20-24 small ones.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.

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Slow-Cooker Jambalaya

Published by: Kathy

  • Jul
  • 10

While discussing what to prepare for Sunday dinner, my husband announced that he would like to eat something prepared in the slow-cooker…

EXCELLENT IDEA!  In my opinion, a meal prepared in the slow-cooker, is just like a day off from cooking!  A slow-cooker recipe means that instead of spending most of the day in the kitchen on Sunday, I would only spend a little time (approximately 45 minutes) putting things together in the morning.  The rest of today will be spent at the mall or somewhere equally exillerating!  When I get home this afternoon, the air will be thick with the aroma of Cajun spices and my dinner will be ready…Ahhhhh!  I love my slow-cooker!!

Ant did the leg-work…He logged on to the computer and Googled slow cooker recipes.  One for Jambalaya jumped out at him and I agreed it sounded good.  I  love Jambalaya, but have never prepared it at home.  Jambalaya originates from the French Quarter of New Orleans.  It was an attempt by the Spanish to make paella in the New World, where saffron was not readily available, due to import costs.  Tomatoes became the substitute for saffron .  As time went on, Frech influence became strong in New Orleans and spices from the Caribbean changed this New World paella into a  close cousin…JAMBALAYA!

As usual, one recipe is never enough for me, so I pulled a second one that included andouille sausage.  After comparing the two recipes, I merged them together, and came up with this delicious version.


  • 1  lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1  lb. andouille or smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1  lg. green pepper, chopped
  • 1  lg. onion, chopped
  • 4  cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2  stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1  14.5-oz  can fire roasted tomatoes, coarsely chopped (Hunt’s)
  • 1/3  c. tomato paste
  • 2  1/2  c. chicken broth
  • 1  Tbsp.  fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1  Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1  tsp. dry oregano
  • 2  tsp. cajun seasoning
  • 1  tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4  tsp. dried thyme
  • 1  16-oz can red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3  c. cooked long grain white rice
  • 3/4  lb. large shrimp, cleaned, shelled with tails removed

Place all ingredients, except beans, rice and shrimp, in a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  When cooking time is almost done and before you add the remaining ingredients, skim any excess fat from the top of the Jambalaya.  Add beans, cooked rice and shrimp during the last 20 minutes of cooking.  Serve and enjoy!

Oh, did I mention how much I love my slow cooker???


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Swedish Visiting Cake

Published by: Kathy

  • Jun
  • 26

If you look on page 141 of my cookbook, you will see this recipe.

This recipe was featured in the Tampa Tribune’s food section last year.  It is taken from famous cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.  The story behind the name of this cake intrigued me.   Apparently this recipe was passed on to Dorie by her Swedish friend, Angela Helgesson, who said that you could start making this cake when you saw friends coming down the road and it would be ready by the time they settled in and sat down for coffee.   After making it several times, I would not dispute this claim.  The cake is prepared in a single bowl, mixed by hand and poured into one solitary cake pan.  To say this cake is simple to make,  is an understatement!  However, the results are anything but simple…There is no leavening agent, so the cake is on the flat side.  Don’t let the appearance throw you off…The finished product is moist and chewy and the sugar/almond crust adds a crunch factor, that leaves you screaming for more!  I love to eat this cake warm out of the oven. 


  • 1  c.  granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 2  lg. eggs
  • 1/4  tsp. salt
  • 1  tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2  tsp. pure almond extract
  • 1  c. all-purpose flour
  • 1  stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4  c. sliced almonds
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Butter a 9-inch cake pan.  Pour the granulated sugar into a medium bowl.  Add the lemon zest and blend the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic.  Whisk the eggs, one at a time, into the sugar mixture, until well blended.  Whisk in the salt and the extracts.  Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the flour.  Finally, fold in the melted butter, until well combined.  Using the rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top.  Scatter the sliced almonds over the top of the batter and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar.  Place the cake pan on a baking sheet and put into the oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cake is golden and a little crisp on the outside.  DO NOT OVERBAKE!  The outside of the cake is light in color and the inside will remain moist.  Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool for 5 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it.  Turn out onto a serving plate or serve directly from the pan.  Dust cake with powdered sugar before serving.  You can serve the cake warm or cooled.  Makes 8-10 servings.

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P.F. Chang's Spicy Chicken

Published by: Kathy

  • Jun
  • 25

I am super excited to share this next recipe with you!

While in the check-out line at Kohl’s a few weeks ago, I looked up to see the granddaddy of all copy-cat cookbooks, “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2″,  on sale for only $5!!!  Although I have sworn off buying any more cookbooks, (At last count, I was approaching 250!) I couldn’t resist the affordable price tag and the opportunity to get my hands on a few more copy-cat recipes.  Well, I hit the motherload with this purchase…There were at least a dozen recipes I was excited to see!  Being able to make P.F. Chang’s Spicy Chicken at home,  is in itself, worth whatever I had to pay!

This recipe was fairly simple to prepare…As with most Asian dishes, the prep work is what usually takes the longest.  Once I had everything chopped and measured out, it took a total of 30 minutes to put together.  If I must say so myself, this was a winner, first time out!!  I did add some red pepper flakes for a little added heat…The recipe didn’t call for any and after a quick taste of the sauce, I realized that it lacked the familiar zing.  To complete my meal, I did cheat by picking up some vegetable fried rice at the nearby China Moon…I tried my hand at homemade fried rice a few weeks ago and let me just say, that I won’t be doing that again any time soon!  That recipe would have definitely made it to my “Hit or Miss” category.



  • 2  tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2  Tbsp. garlic (6-8 cloves), chopped
  • 3  Tbsp. green onions (about 3 onions), chopped
  • 1  c. pineapple juice
  • 2  Tbsp. chili sauce
  • 2  Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 4  tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1  tsp.  soy sauce
  • 1/4  tsp. crushed red pepper flakes  (adjust to suit your taste)
  • 2  Tbsp. water
  • 2  tsp. cornstarch

Make the sauce by heating 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan.  Saute the garlic and onion in the oil for just a few seconds, not allowing the ingredients to burn.  Quickly add the pineapple juice, chili sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes.  Dissolve corstarch in 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the other ingredients in the pan.  Bring mixture to a boil and continue to simmer on medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until mixture is thick and syrupy.  Reduce heat to low and keep warm while you make the chicken.


  • 2  boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/3  c. cornstarch
  • 1  c. vegetable oil

Heat 1 cup of vegetable oil in a wok or medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  While the oil is heating up, chop the chicken breast fillets into bite-size pieces.  Put conrstarch in a plastic zip-lock bag and toss the chicken pieces with cornstarch until dusted.  Saute coated chicken in the hot oil, stirring occasionally, until light brown.  Remove chicken to a stack of paper towels to drain for a moment.  Place cooked chicken into a medium bowl, add sauce and toss well to coat the chicken.  Serve immediately with rice on the side.  Serves 2.

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Star Spangled 'Tini - July's Martini

Published by: Kathy

  • Jun
  • 21

Martini Monday is coming early!

In order to give you ample time to hit the liquor store before the 4th of July, I am posting my July martini at the end of June. (If you prepared June’s posting, you should already have the Hypnotiq on hand.)  I am sitting here sipping on my first Star Spangled ‘Tini and it is soooo delicious!  It has a little pucker to it, so I will add the option of using sour mix instead of fresh lime juice to tone things down a bit. 


  • 1  1/2  oz. Hypnotiq Liqueur
  • 1  1/2  oz. mango vodka
  • 1/4  oz. fresh lime juice or sour mix
  • 1/2  oz.  grenadine
  • Blueberries and cherries or strawberries, for garnish

Chill glass in freezer.  Pour Hypnotiq, mango vodka and lime or sour mix in a cocktail shaker, filled half way with crushed ice, and shake well.  Strain into chilled martini glass.  Slowly add grenadine down the side of the glass, so it will settle to the bottom.  Skewer your fruit on a patriotic martini pick and gently drop into the martini.  Sip slowly and enjoy! 

Happy 4th of July, everyone!!  Be safe and drink responsibly!!

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Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin With Currant Sauce...

Published by: Kathy

  • Jun
  • 7

Every now and again, I plan to post recipes from my cookbook.

I have been cautioned not to do this on a regular basis, for fear that making the recipes available on the blog, will hinder my cookbook sales.  Well, I’m going to take the risk, because if you already have a copy of  “My Favorite Recipes…All in One Place!” ,  I want you to see what some of the recipes look like, once they are prepared. If you don’t have a copy of the cookbook, hopefully the visuals I provide will entice you to purchase one.

This post is a “2-for-1″ deal…The recipe for the “Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin With Currant Sauce, can be found on page 77 of my cookbook.  It is, without question, one of my favorites.  The dish is very easy to prepare and makes a wonderful summertime meal, because the tenderloin is cooked on the grill, eliminating the use of a hot oven on a hot day.  The red currant sauce is quick to put together and adds an amazing element of sweetness to the spicy pork.   Keeping with the Caribbean theme of this meal, the obvious choice for a side dish, is the “Coconut Rice and Peas”, page 55.  Add a side of ripe plantains, some tropical steel drum music and pretend you’re on an island somewhere!

Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Currant Sauce

  • 1½ lb.  pork tenderloin
  • 1 bottle Lawry’s Caribbean Jerk marinade
  • 1½  Tbsp. Mccormick Jerk Seasoning
  • 1 recipe Red currant sauce

 Trim the tenderloin of any excess fat.  Place the pork in a large ZipLock bag and pour in marinade to cover the pork entirely. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for 4 hours. 
When ready to cook, remove the pork from the marinade, and pat dry. Rub the Jerk seasoning evenly onto both sides of the tenderloins. This may take more than the 1½ tablespoons.
Coat the barbeque grill with non-stick cooking spray and cook until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 160°.   Serve with Red Current Sauce.

Red Currant Sauce

  • 1  jar red currant jelly
  • ¼  c. Dijon mustard
  • 1½  Tbsp. dark rum
  • Splash of orange juice
  • ¼  c. honey roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Whisk together jelly and mustard in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk constantly until thoroughly heated. The sauce should not come to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in rum and orange juice.  Add chopped peanuts and put back on low heat for a few minutes or until ready to serve.



  • 2  c. long-grain rice, rinsed well
  • 2½   c. water
  • 1  (13-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1  (15-ounce) can green pigeon peas, drained
  • ¼  c. scallions, chopped
  • 2  sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2  Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1½   tsp. salt

 Over high heat, combine all ingredients in a stock pot and stir.  Bring to a boil uncovered, allow to boil 2-3 minutes, then reduce heat to medium low.  Cover the pot and simmer for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to sit a few more minutes.  Remove thyme springs and fluff rice before serving.

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Bluebird Martini - It's Martini Monday!!

Published by: Kathy

  • Jun
  • 6

Boy, have I had a good time researching this new monthly segment!

I could never have imagined how many different martini recipes I would find!  Not to mention how many of them I would get to prepare and sample!  When I realized how expensive this project could get, I decided to do an inventory of my liquor cabinet and determine what I already had on hand.  With a check-list as a reference guide, I narrowed my search to martinis that included the liquor I already had in stock…It was a good place to start and limited the purchases I needed to make.  Now the question was, would the recipes I found taste any good?  The smile on my face is proof…It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!!


  • 1 1/2  oz. Hpnotiq liqueur
  • 1 1/2  oz.  coconut rum
  • 1  splash lime juice
  • Flaked coconut, for garnish

First, prepare a martini glass by dabbing a little honey around the outside rim.  (Try to limit the rimming to the outer edge of the glass to prevent a mini-avalanche from falling into your drink.)  Fill a saucer with coconut flakes and then dip the rim of the glass into the coconut, slowly turning it to coat.

Place all liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice and shake.  Strain into prepared glass and be sure to drink responsibly…Martinis are powerful stuff!

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Cava Sangria

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 31

Up until six months ago, I had never heard of “cava”.

One day, while snooping through Facebook, I noticed a friend’s post… She said that she and her husband were just chilling out with a bottle of cava.  I consider myself to be a fountain of knowledge when it comes to alcholic beverages (no comments, please), but “cava” was not something I was familiar with.  I put the new word I had discovered on a shelf in my brain, until I came across it again only a few weeks later.  At Sam’s Club, there was a liquor vendor sampling…guess what?  CAVA!  It was approaching New Year’s Eve and she was pushing her Cava, to ring in the New Year.  Apparently cava is Spain’s answer to champagne!  I never knew!  I tasted a small cup of the sparkling wine and it was delicious!  The vendor told me that if I didn’t want to drink it straight, it would make a very good sangria.  I was sold!  I bought two bottles at a very reasonable price an stuck them in the wine cooler. 

Surprisingly, I was able to find several sangria recipes using cava.  I wasn’t crazy about any one recipe, so I disected three recipes and took ingredients from each, to create my personal Cava Sangria.


  • 2  bottles Spanish cava, chilled
  • 1  c. white grape juice
  • ¾  c. simple syrup
  • ½  c. triple sec (orange liqueur)
  • ¼  c. brandy
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Ice cubes, for serving

Stir cava, grape juice, simple syrup, triple sec and brandy together in a large pitcher.  Drop in some sliced strawberries and raspberries, so that the fruit flavor will infuse into the sangria.  Serve over ice garnished with additional strawberries and raspberries.



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"Beach" Slaw - It's a "Miss"

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 31

I was determined to recreate the “Beach Slaw” served at Waltz Fish Shak in Madeira Beach, FL.

The delicious slaw is served as a side with every dish you order.  I love coleslaw of any variety, but my husband immediately turned his nose up at it.  One taste was enough to change his mind and had me addicted!  This slaw is so simple…It’s made with cabbage, carrots, raisins and almonds.  The dressing is vinegar-based but very sweet and “glossy”.  I’m guessing there’s either honey or Karo syrup in there somewhere, to add the glossiness.  There’s something intriguing about the crunch of the cabbage and almonds and the sweetness of the raisins and dressing.  Anyway, I searched cookbooks and the internet to try and come up with a copy-cat version of the “Beach Slaw” I fell in love with.  I found a recipe that seemed like it might work, so I tweaked it and tried it out.   With any experiment, there is a chance for failure, so I knew the outcome would be a hit or a miss.    My first attempt at Beach Slaw was a definite “miss” and even inspired the addition of a new  blog category…appropriately named, “Hit or Miss”.    Below is Beach Slaw…take one.  The first mistake I made was using purple cabbage.  I thought it would give the dish a lot of color…and I was right!  It actually gave it color-overload…It was so….PURPLE!   It didn’t even look very appetizing.  The second obvious flaw was the dressing.  I never got it quite sweet enough, even though I added a few tablespoons of honey, which the recipe didn’t call for.  Fortunately, I only made a small bowl and have eaten some of the slaw, just not to be wasteful.  What can I say? Rome wasn’t built in a day!  I will try again and let you know how it turns out.

Beach Slaw 

  • 1  small head purple cabbage (about the size of a softball)
  • 4  carrots, peeled and shredded
  • Slivered almonds
  • Craisins

Dressing  (Makes enough for 2 large servings)

  • 1  Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2  Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1  Tbsp. water
  • 1/4  tsp. salt
  • 1/4  tsp. sugar
  • 1  Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2  Tbsp. honey
  • 2  Tbsp. canola oil

Trim off a small amount of the bottom of the cabbage, where the stem was.  Quarter the cabbage and cut out the thick white cores on each piece.  Process through the slicing disc of your food processor, or slice thinly to make strips.  Shred carrots by hand or via food processor.  Toss cabbage and carrots together in a large bowl.  (If you think it’s too much cabbage, put some away in a zip lock bag for another day.)  Add craisins and almonds to suit your taste buds.  I put approximately 1/4 cup of each.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, except for the oil.  Slowly drizzle the oil in while whisking to emulsify.  Pour the dressing over the slaw in the bowl and toss.  Chill for a few hours before serving.  Makes 4-6 servings.

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Baklava Cups

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 28

It’s probably no surprise that I am a big fan of baklava.

This Mediterranean dessert is made with phyllo dough, nuts, butter and sugar.  Immediately after baking, a sweet syrup is poured over the pieces, allowing the syrup to be absorbed into the pastry layers…Yum!  I was first introduced to baklava about 20 years ago.  One of my salesmen was Greek and his West Virginia-born wife, made the most amazing baklava I have ever tasted!  For Christmas, she would bake Maria (my one-and-only clerical employee at the time) and I our own personal baklava tray.  I would take mine home and in a few days, I would have eaten the whole thing by myself!  Last week I went to a party at my friend Roz’s house.  On the dessert table were miniature baklava cups.  They were delicious and the first thing I did when I got home, was go on-line to see if I could find a recipe.  The recipe I kept coming across was one from Sunny Anderson of the Food Network.  While some baklava contains only walnuts, other variations include pistachios, pine nuts, almonds, or other nuts common to the Mediterranean and the Middle East.  Sunny’s version uses equal parts of pistachios, walnuts and almonds, so I thought I would give it a try. 

Although I liked the results, I must caution you, that if using salted nuts, be sure to eliminate adding any additional salt. (Your best bet would be to use unsalted nuts, if you can find them.)  When I tasted the baklava filling, I knew immediately there was something wrong…It was a bit too salty for a dessert.  I added 2 more tablespoons of sugar, hoping to correct the blunder, but it was only after I added the syrup at the end that I found the sweetness I was missing.  Also, chilling the baklava cups before eating them made a big difference.  They were delicious and I love how easy they are to pop in your mouth!

Baklava Cups

  • ½  c.  pistachios
  • ½  c.  walnuts
  • ½  c.  almonds
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 3  T. sugar
  • 2  T. butter, melted
  • 1  tsp. cinnamon
  • ½  tsp. salt (omit if using salted nuts)
  • ½  tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-3  boxes mini phyllo shells (15 shells each)


  • ¼  c. sugar
  • ¼  c. honey
  • ½  c. water 

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Arrange the pistachios, walnuts, and almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes.  Watch closely, so the nuts don’t burn!  Let the nuts cool slightly and add to a food processor, along with the lemon zest, 3 tablespoons of sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt (if needed) and vanilla.  Pulse to  finely chop nuts and combine ingredients.

 Place mini phyllo shells on a cookie sheet.  Add 1 teaspoon of the nut mixture into each shell.  Bake until filling is hot, for about 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, ¼ cup of sugar and honey.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook until reduced and slightly thickened, about 5-8 minutes.  When baking time is done, remove shells from oven and immediately pour 1 teaspoon of syrup into each cup and allow it to soak in.  Repeat with another teaspoon of syrup in each cup.  Refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight before serving.  Makes 30-40 cups.

 Recipe courtesy of Sunny Anderson, Food Network.



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Pineapple Chicken Salad

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 23

My research into the history of chicken salad, determined that the first version of chicken salad was served in 1863 in Wakefield, RI.

Apparently there is not one person responsible, but we can thank the Chinese for being the first to serve variations of “chicken salad”.  Of course, these versions were far from what we are familiar with today, but the general idea was pieces of chicken mixed with a variety of spices and oils, always tied together by a binding substance.

Chicken salad recipes are as diverse as the nation we live in.  If served in 100 different restaurants, you will get 100 distinct flavor combinations.  I prefer the sweet and savory varieties that contain both fruit and nuts in the recipe.  When I went searching for a recipe to try out, one caught my eye in particular.  It was probably the curry-based dressing that appealed to me, as well as the pineapple and almonds.  As always, I put my own twist to the recipe switching from almond slivers to sliced almonds and from raisins to craisins.   I really enjoyed the finished product and plan to make it again soon.  (I cut the recipe in half.  Feel free to do the same.)



  • 4  c. cooked chicken, chopped
  • 2/3  c. celery, chopped
  • 2/3  c. scallions, chopped
  • 8-oz.  can pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve the juice)
  • 20  small grapes, sliced in half
  • ½  c. almond slices, *toasted
  • 2/3  c. dried cranberries  (optional)


  • 2/3  c.  mayonnaise
  • 4  T.  pineapple juice (reserved from chunks)
  • 1  tsp. salt
  • 1  tsp. curry
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard

 *To toast almond slices, preheat oven to 325˚.  Place almonds in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet.  (Make sure to use almonds that are nearly the same size.  If you have almonds that are mixed sizes, you can risk burning some, while others remain undone.)  Bake for 5 minutes, opening the oven to shake the cookie sheet, to turn the almonds over every couple of minutes.  Remove from oven when almonds are lightly browned.  Unfortunately, you will have to “baby-sit” the almonds during this process…they tend to burn very quickly if you are not diligent.

 In a small bowl combine all dressing ingredients and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix all salad ingredients together.  Pour dressing over salad and toss.  Chill for several hours before serving.


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French Toast

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 22

Nothing says “Sunday morning” like the sound of French toast sizzling on the griddle!

When my kids were growing up, this was their favorite breakfast.  Back then, a French toast breakfast also meant, “Mom doesn’t have to go to work today and finally has the time to make us a decent breakfast”!   Whatever the message is, having French toast for breakfast, still puts a smile on my face and gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. 

This recipe is not a new one.  It can be found on page 56 of my cookbook.  I have been making French toast for as long as I can remember.  In my early years, I used traditional white bread.  It wasn’t until about 15 years ago, that I discovered the Challah bread (egg bread) from the Publix bakery and decided to use it instead.  I slice the bread into ½-inch thick slices and the results are amazing!  (For best results, buy the bread the day before you plan to use it.  Day-old bread seems to hold up better in the milk/egg mixture.)


  •  1  c. milk
  • 4  eggs
  • 2  tsp. vanilla
  • 4  Tbsp. sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1  loaf of egg bread, sliced thick (regular white bread can also be used)
  • 1  stick butter
  • Powdered sugar

Heat an electric skillet to 300º.  In a bowl, beat together milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt.  Add as much cinnamon as you like and mix well.  Pour mixture into a shallow pan.  Melt half the stick of butter in the skillet, being careful not to burn the butter.  Dip each slice of bread into the milk/egg mixture quickly (cover both sides of bread), being careful not to soak the bread.

Quickly place each slice of bread into the electric skillet. Cook approximately 3-5 minutes on each side.  When ready to flip bread, add more butter to skillet.  When ready to eat, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with maple syrup.  This recipe will make 10-12 slices of French toast, depending on the type of bread used. 

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Shrimp Etouffee

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 21

I have always loved eating Creole or Cajun food and will order it every chance I get.

There is a depth of flavor, unique to that cuisine, that I can’t compare to anything I have ever eaten…including my beloved Cuban fare.  One of my favorite dishes is Shrimp or Crawfish Étouffée.  “Étouffée” is a Cajun dish typically served with shellfish or chicken over rice and is similar to gumbo. (In french the word “étouffée” means “smothered”.)  When I decided to try making it at home, I immediately went to a tiny 64-page cookbook that I purchased years ago on my first trip to New Orleans.  I found a recipe for Crawfish Étouffée that looked pretty good.  Never happy to settle on one recipe, I went to the internet looking for some other options.  My research led me to a dilemma…To roux or not to roux??  The recipe in my Louisiana cookbook, did not call for a roux; it was thickened by the addition of cornstarch at the end of the cooking period.  However, the other recipes I came across started with the making of a roux.  That settled it, I was going to do this right…roux, it is!  Then the question became, “what color should the roux be, (i.e, peanut butter, caramel, dark brown-red) to give the most authentic flavor to my étouffée”?  Should I use butter or vegetable oil as my base?  Well, I finally settled on a “caramel” colored roux with a butter base.   Also, all the recipes I looked at used different liquid elements…chicken broth, clam juice, shrimp stock (made from scratch using shrimp heads), etc.  I took a chance and bought ready-made seafood stock (found in the soup isle of the grocery store) and picked a winner.  It worked great!   When it was all said and done, I had mixed and matched the components of two different recipes, to arrive at my interpretation of “Shrimp Étouffée”.  I have made it twice so far, and the results were incredible both times.


( Spicy Dish!)

  • 6 T.  butter
  • ½  c. all-purpose flour
  • 1  c. yellow onion, chopped
  • ¾  c.  green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1  c. celery, chopped
  • 3  cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1  t. black pepper
  • ½  tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1  tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • ½  c. green onions plus extra for garnish, chopped
  • ½  c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3  c. seafood stock
  • 1  (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1  tsp. salt
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and with tail removed
  • Cooked white rice, for serving

In a large Dutch oven melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir to make a roux.  Stir the roux continuously and cook until the color of caramel, 10-15 minutes, being careful not to burn.  Add the onions, green pepper, celery and garlic to the roux and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are limp.  Add the black pepper, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, ½ cup of green onions, fresh parsley, seafood stock, diced tomatoes, bay leaf and salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add shrimp and stir. It should take 3-5 minutes for the shrimp to cook.  DON’T OVER COOK!   Serve over cooked white rice and garnish with chopped green onions.  Serves 5-6.  


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"Jesus" Cookies

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 17

I have always enjoyed baking. It was the first thing I learned to do in the kitchen and it has remained one of my favorites.

Cookies are especially fun to make and even better to eat!  Christmas is that time of year when I bake dozens of cookies, gorge myself and swear I’ll never eat another cookie as long as I live.  This year, several weeks into the new year, my grandson, Andrew, asked me if I had any “Jesus cookies” left over.   I had no idea what he was talking about and he explained that he was referring to the peanut butter cookies I had made at Christmas.  I asked him why he called them that and he said that “they were so good, Jesus must have given me the recipe”.  God, I love that kid!!!

The recipe is an old one…the cookies are actually known as “Peanut Butter Blossoms” and they are meant to have a Hershey’s Kiss pressed into the top.  At the time, I had run out of Kisses and decided to score the tops of the remaining cookies, with the traditional tic-tac-toe, making them plain ole’ peanut butter cookies…These were the cookies that Andrew fell in love with.  And, just like that, using me as His instrument, “Jesus Cookies” were created…Who knew??

Today I was racking my brain, trying to come up with a treat for Andrew’s after-school-snack and remembered this story.  Yes, at 11, Andrew is quite the foodie…Among his favorite snacks are chocolate covered strawberries and banana-Nutella crepes. ( I cannot lie; I enjoy and look forward to “his” snacks just as much as he does!)  So, I decided to whip up a batch of Peanut Butter Blossoms, sans the Hershey’s Kiss and made one young man veeerrry happy today!  When he got in the car after school, I told him I had made him a surprise snack…he guessed it right away…”You made Jesus cookies??”  Yes, I did!


(aka: Peanut Butter Blossoms)

  • 1  (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • ¾  c. peanut butter
  • 1  egg
  • 2  c. Bisquick baking mix
  • 1  tsp. vanilla
  • Granulated sugar
  • Hershey’s Kisses (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a mixing bowl, beat condensed milk, peanut butter, egg and vanilla until smooth.  Add Bisquick and mix well.  Be careful not to overheat mixer, as batter will be VERY thick, and hard to beat.  Roll dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll dough balls in sugar and place 2-inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  If you want a regular peanut butter cookie, press a fork into the top of the cookie to make a tic-tac-toe (#) impression and slightly flatten the cookie ball.  Bake 9-11 minutes, or until lightly browned.  (Do not over bake!)  Allow to cool for a couple of minutes and remove cookies quickly from baking sheet.

Note:  If you choose to make the Peanut Butter Blossom, omit the tic-tac-toe and press chocolate kisses into the center of each cookie immediately, when they come out of the oven. 


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The Best Homemade Chocolate Cake

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 16

I am a huge fan of chocolate cake and pride myself in being a qualified judge in this area.

 Although I have made at least a dozen chocolate cakes in my lifetime, I could never find a recipe that delivered the results I was looking for.  In my experience, I find most homemade chocolate cakes to be on the dry side…until now.  I stumbled on this recipe months ago, while doing research for my food blog.  I was looking for formatting ideas and came  across the recipe for this chocolate cake in The Little Kitchen food blog.    Apparently it is an Ina Garten recipe from the Barefoot Contessa at Home book, so full credit should go to her.  The blogger gave the recipe her own title and intrigued, I was determined to see if it had any merit.  That same day I made a sheet cake and it blew my socks off!  I recently made the recipe into cupcakes for a bridal shower and am happy to report that they were a huge success.  I had a few left over and took them home with me.  They stayed fresh for days.  I am thrilled to finally have a go-to chocolate cake recipe.  I think you will agree…that it is, without question,  “the best homemade chocolate cake” ever!


  • 1¾  c. all purpose flour
  • 2  c. sugar
  • ¾   c. baking cocoa
  • 2  tsp.  baking soda
  • 1  tsp. baking powder
  • 1  tsp. salt
  • 2  large eggs
  • ½  c. vegetable oil
  • 1  c. strong black coffee black, cooled
  • 1  c. buttermilk
  • 1  tsp.  vanilla extract

 Preheat oven to 350˚.  Grease a 13 x 9 cake pan (or two 9-inch round pans). (This recipe will also make approximately 36 cupcakes.)  In a large mixing bowl, sift all dry ingredients together.  Add all wet ingredients to the dry mixture and beat with an electric mixer until well blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan/s and bake for 28-30 minutes.  Cool cake and frost with your favorite frosting, or use the Buttercream Dream frosting recipe below.  Hint:  The first thing you should do when making this cake, is make your coffee.  Allow it to cool down before adding it to your batter, to prevent it from scrambling your eggs.  Note:  If using this recipe to make cupcakes, reduce baking time to 18-21 minutes.



  • 1  stick butter, (salted), softened
  • 1  stick butter, (unsalted), softened
  • 1 c. shortening
  • 2  lb. bag of confectioner’s sugar
  • 2  Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 5-6  Tbsp. cold milk

 Using an electric mixer cream together butter and shortening.  Add vanilla and confectioner’s sugar and beat to blend well.  Add milk a tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  Add more milk if necessary.  Note:  This recipe called for less vanilla, but I increased the amount to suit my taste.  Note:  If frosting a 13 x 9” cake, cut this recipe in half.  You will have plenty of frosting with half the recipe.


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Sunshine Chicken - My Inaugural Post

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 1

Whenever I eat something I like at a restaurant, the first thing I want to do is recreate it at home. The “copy-cat” websites are pretty good when it comes to the chain restaurant menus.

I can usually find a few versions of the recipes I am looking for and then, with a little mix and match, and a lot of trial and error, I can usually come up with a winner. But what happens when the restaurant is of the local variety? That’s when I have to rely on my taste buds and instincts to come up with a recipe that remotely resembles what I am trying to duplicate.

The recipe in my inaugural blog post is an original recipe, but was inspired by a dish served at the Columbia Café at Channelside. It was a “special” one Monday night and my husband and my son both ordered it. The entree was called “Chicken Manchego”. The recipe wasn’t listed in either of my Columbia Restaurant cookbooks, so the challenge was on! Our server, Leticia, did a great job of describing the dish. Little did she know I was mentally taking notes…Details I wrote down as soon as I got home, just so I would be able to remember the key components of the recipe. The boneless chicken breast was coated in Cuban bread crumbs, pan fried and served with a citrus butter. It was then topped with melted Manchego cheese fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes. After preparing this dish, I was struck by the fact that, though the name of the dish would lead you to be believe otherwise, the Manchego cheese was not the focal point of the recipe (I actually elminated the cheese the second time I made this dish)…In my opinion, the citrus butter sauce is the star…The sauce is velvety smooth and tart, with just the right amount of pucker…When it hits the palate, it’s like having a mouth full of sunshine! 

I offer you “Sunshine Chicken”, my version of Chicken Manchego…it turned out amazing. My husband admitted that he thought it was even better than the Columbia’s…Wow! Not bad for my first try!!  I will add a disclaimer:  This is a complicated dish.  It’s not that the skill level is high, it’s  that there are several components to preparing it.  Things work much better for me, when I have an extra set of hands in the kitchen.  My husband takes charge of seasoning, breading and cooking the chicken.  This leaves me free to work my magic on the sauce and any side dishes I am preparing.


Citrus Butter Sauce

  • 1/2 c. fresh squeezed lime juice
  •  1 c. orange juice
  • 1/4  c. water
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  •  1/4 c. shallots, chopped
  •  2 T. Dijon mustard
  •  1/3 c. sherry wine
  •  salt and pepper to taste
  •  1 stick butter, cut into 4 pieces
  •  1 T. cornstarch
  •  2 T. sherry wine
  • 5  sun-dried tomates, cut into slivers

In a medium saucepan, combine lime juice, orange juice, water, sugar, shallots, Dijon mustard, sherry wine, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced by half, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter pieces one at a time, whisking until melted. Mix the cornstarch with the 2 tablespoons of sherry to make a slurry. Add the slurry a little at a time, to the citrus butter sauce, mixing well. If you feel you have the correct thickness, do not add all of the slurry, as the sauce will get too thick.  Allow mixture to simmer until thick and bubbly. Add sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce and stir.  Set aside and keep warm.  (If the sauce gets too thick while it sits, just add a little more water,)

  •  6 boneless chicken cutlets, pounded thin
  •  8 cloves garlic, mashed
  •  salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 eggs
  •  3 cups seasoned panko breadcrumbs
  •  1 stick butter
  • 1/2  c. olive oil
  •  8 fresh basil leaves, julienned
  •  6 slices Manchego cheese (optional)

Season chicken with salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Beat eggs with 2 tablespoons of water. Dip chicken into egg mixture and then roll in panko. Be sure to press chicken into the breadcrumbs to make sure it is coated well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Heat butter and olive oil in large skillet and fry chicken until it is golden brown (at least 3 minutes on each side). If you are going to use the cheese, remove chicken to a glass baking dish, and top each piece with a slice of Manchego. Place baking dish in a 350˚ oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.  Spoon citrus butter sauce over chicken and top with fresh basil . Serve Immediately.

This recipe was inspired by Chicken Manchego served at the Columbia Café at Channelside, in Tampa, Florida.



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