About Me

My photo
My favorite memories have all centered around friends and family enjoying a meal together! It might have been a special holiday or a celebration, or it might have been dinner with friends at a great restaurant. I hope you will enjoy some of my favorite recipes and take time to fellowship with those seated at your table. You might make a memory to last forever!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lemon Drop Cookies

A friend of mine gave me the idea of this delicious, tart lemon cookie!  It's a little crunchy, a little like candy, and a whole lot tart; a true lemon lover's treat!  It is so easy to make...give it a try!

Lemon Drop Cookies

1 package sugar cookie mix
1 small bag of Lemon Drop candy

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare sugar cookie mix as directed on bag...for drop cookies.
Using a mallet, crush lemon drops into tiny pieces.
Mix well into cookie dough.
Place 1 tablespoon cookie dough 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool completely before moving to cooling rack.

Easy Lemon Pound Cake

I had the privilege of making my best friend's birthday cake this evening!  I ask her what "flavor" she wanted, but, of course I knew what it was...Lemon!  It is so awesome to have a friend that you know so much about!  One of the reasons I know so many things about my friend is...we have so much in common!  Well, food, that is! (Her movies are way to scary for me!)  We like the same fast food, the same adult beverages, the same restaurants, etc.!  The list goes on and on!  So, of course, with my love for lemon...I knew exactly what "flavor" to make!  I love making everything from scratch, but sometimes there isn't enough time in the day!  That's when a cake mix comes in real handy!  Of course, it need not fly alone...there are so many ways to dress it up!  So, always keep one or two boxes of cake mix in your pantry...and you will be prepared to make a yummy cake on a moments notice!  This Lemon Pound Cake is so moist; it is delicious served just as it is...warm from the oven or with a lemon glaze drizzled over top! (This happens to be my Dad's favorite cake!)  But, for my friend, I thought it needed a creamy, lemony frosting!  Enjoy!!

Easy Lemon Pound Cake

1 Lemon Cake Mix
1 (3.4 oz) pkg instant lemon pudding and pie filling
4 large eggs
1 cup water (or milk or buttermilk)
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 10-inch tube pan.

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water and oil in large bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Pour into pan.

Bake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 25 minutes. Invert onto heat resistant serving plate. Cool completely.

Glaze: Combine 2 cups powdered sugar and enough lemon juice to make it a drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Easy Lemon Icing:  Combine 1 tub of lemon frosting with 1 8 oz. cream cheese (softened).  Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy; add lemon frosting and blend until well combined.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Aunt Barbara's Peanut Butter Pie

Happy National Pie Day!  I never need a reason to make a pie, but today being National Pie Day, I had no choice!  I have many recipes, as I love to make pies for dessert; they are so much easier and faster than cakes!  The one that I chose to celebrate on National Pie Day is a very old recipe that has been handed down through the generations; to be exact...my husband's side of the family! I suppose this is probably his favorite dessert (he's not much of a cake man!).  He remembers his Aunt Barbara making this rich, creamy, peanut buttery pie when he was a child.  It is a true compliment for him to say "it's just like I remember"!  It might seem a little time consuming, but it is worth every minute!  I made my own crust, recipe below; but you can definitely use a store bought crust.  However, I  wouldn't take short cuts on the custard...so delicious!  I prefer to eat this pie after it cools a little, but still warm!  Of course, make sure you have a tall glass of milk to go with it!

Aunt Barbara's Peanut Butter Pie

1 baked pie crust
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter

basic custard:
2 cups milk
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yokes (whites reserved for meringue)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbl. butter

3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/4 tsp. cream of tarter
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar

Combine powdered sugar and peanut butter in medium sized bowl.  Stir, with a fork, until crumbly.  Set aside.

Make custard.  Combine flour and sugar in medium saucepan; stir.  Slowly add milk, while stirring, over medium heat.  Cook until bubbly and beginning to thicken.  Slightly whisk egg yokes; temper by stirring a small amount of hot mixture into the yokes; slowly stir into hot milk mixture.  Add vanilla.  Cook until thickened (pudding consistency); remove from heat and stir in butter.  Stir until smooth and creamy.  Cool slightly.

While custard cools, make meringue.  Beat egg whites in a large bowl at high speed of an electric mixer until foamy; sprinkle cream of tarter, vanilla and salt over egg whites; continue beating until soft peaks form.  Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.  Spread over filling to edges of crust, covering filling.

Place all but 1/2 cup peanut butter crumbles in bottom of cooled crust.  Pour custard over all.  Top with meringue; sprinkle with remaining crumbles. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven until slightly brown.

Foolproof Vodka Pie Dough

This is my favorite pie dough, so tender and flaky!

from America's Test Kitchen
Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor — do not substitute.

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1½ cups flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening, and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds, and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

For a custard pie or prebaked pie shell, I half this recipe. 

Flour work surface well.  Roll pie dough in a circle to fit your pie pan, with about 1 inch hanging over.  Place in pie plate.  Fold edges under and flute or stamp with tines of a fork. Using fork, poke small holes in crust before baking.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for appx. 25 minutes or until lightly brown.  Cool completely before filling.

Tip:  Fold rolled pie crust in half and then in half again.  Place point in center of pie plate and unfold.  Easy way to transfer crust to pie plate.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lidia's Baked Ziti


I wanted to share this recipe with you from Lidia's Italy.  It is absolutely the most amazing Baked Ziti I have ever made!  It seems a little time consuming, but it well worth the time!  The addition of fresh Basil leaves and Ricotta cheese gives this dish the most intense flavor!  It is very important that you use fresh Mozzarella (found in the deli section of store) and fresh Basil leaves.  I also bought the Provolone in the deli; it is so much better than the pre-shredded, bagged kind; ask for about an 1 1/2 inch slice of the cheese and shred it yourself!  You will be glad you used the freshest ingredients!  This makes a lot, so be sure to invite someone over for dinner! 
serves: 6-8

Baked ziti is a real crowd pleaser. It is easy to assemble, so it's one of those recipes that you can double or triple on those occasions when you have to feed your kids' whole soccer team. It is also a versatile recipe as we become more aware of our intake of nutritious proteins and vegetables; it is delicious if you add chicken or steamed vegetables (even leftover veggies would make a great filling). Legend has it that as Attila approached Rome, Pope Leo I brought baked ziti with him to meet the invader. After the meal, Attila developed serious gas, considered a bad omen by the gods, and turned around and left Rome untouched. I don't know many who could leave a steaming plate of baked ziti untouched. Sicilian in origin, this was a favorite of many Italian immigrants, who could take the ziti into the fields or mines with them and have a tasty lunch.

Baked Ziti
kosher salt
1 pound ziti
1 pound fresh ricotta , drained
9 fresh basil leaves
1 pound low-moisture mozzarella, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 cup shredded provola (Provolone)
5 cups Marinara sauce (Recipe below.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add ziti. Cook the ziti until just al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes, and drain.

Meanwhile, bring the marinara sauce to simmer in a large skillet. Stir in the ricotta and basil leaves. (I only added about 4 basil leaves to this mixture.)

Spread ½ cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 15-by-10-inch Pyrex baking dish. Layer half of the ziti on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella cubes and half of the provola. Pour 2 cups of the sauce over the cheese, and spread in an even layer. Top with the rest of the pasta, and spread 2 cups sauce over that layer of pasta. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses, and dollop with the remaining ½ cup of sauce.  (I used a 9 x 13 dish.)

Place the dish in the oven and bake, uncovered, until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting. (If you want to assemble this ahead of time, bake for 15 minutes covered with foil, then, when ready to serve, uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes.)


The difference between marinara sauce and tomato sauce is this: Marinara is a quick sauce, seasoned only with garlic, pepper, and, if you like, basil or oregano. The pieces of tomato are left chunky, and he texture of the finished sauce is fairly loose. Tomato sauce, on the other hand, is a more complex affair, starting with puréed tomatoes and seasoned with onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf, and left to simmer until thickened and rich in flavor. Make this sauce with fresh tomatoes only when the juiciest, most flavorful ripe tomatoes are available. (Increase the amount of olive oil a little if you make the sauce with fresh tomatoes.) Otherwise, canned plum tomatoes make a delicious marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 35-ounce can peeled Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid
kosher salt
peperoncino (I used about 1 1/2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes.)
10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a 2 to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife, toss them into the oil, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Carefully slide the tomatoes and their liquid into the oil. Bring to a boil, and season lightly with salt and peperoncino. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and cook, breaking up the tomatoes with a whisk or spoon, until the sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil about 5 minutes before the sauce is finished. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chocolate Craving

Have you ever had a chocolate craving?  Who am I kidding!  If you are reading this blog, you obviously enjoy cooking, and most likely, love desserts; preferably chocolate!  This afternoon I decided that I had that said craving; I was going to make a chocolate cake!  I didn't have a particular recipe in mind, as long as it had cocoa powder, chocolate chips, baking chocolate or chocolate syrup, etc. in the recipe!  I began to collect the basic ingredients for baking a cake; you know, flour, sugar, etc.  I went to the fridge to get the eggs...and...I remembered that I had fried the last one for breakfast!  I really did not want to go to the store for just one item...then I remembered reading a recipe for a chocolate cake that did not require eggs!  I searched online and found this recipe...oh my...it is so moist and chocolately!  And who would have thought that the magic ingredient would be vinegar!  Sounds weird...but let me tell you...it works!  Delicious!  There are many different kinds of chocolate frosting recipes...I chose to make a Chocolate Buttercream Frosting!  I hope you enjoy this rich, chocolate cake as much as I did!

"No Eggs" Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water
1 tsp. white vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients except vinegar in medium size mixing bowl.  Mix until smooth.  Add vinegar; stir again.  Pour into greased 8x8x2 pan.  Bake for appx. 20 minutes.  Cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Cream butter until smooth;  add vanilla.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar and cocoa.  Add milk.  You may add more or less milk to get the consistency you prefer.  Frost cooled cake.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Microwave Popcorn

I'm sharing this great idea with you from another blog!  I had never thought to make popcorn in the microwave using a brown paper bag!  So much healthier!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pantry Staples

With the cold weather, and always a chance for snow, it is nice to have a few "go-to" recipes for those days when we want to stay inside!  This is a good time of year to have items in the pantry and freezer to prepare dinner without going to the store!  Of course, my shopping list always includes onions, garlic and peppers; so I always have a few fresh ingredients, too!  Some recipes will allow you to use frozen vegetables; either from the frozen food section or freshly chopped and frozen in small containers.  You can also buy chopped garlic stored in jars...a handy substitute for fresh garlic!

I hope you enjoy the snow...if it snows where you are!  Our kids will come in cold and starving; looking for something warm to eat!  Keep the fridge full!!

This recipe is requested by my oldest son...I often forget that I have the ingredients to make it!  It really isn't a casserole; it is a skillet or one pot dish!  The addition of sour cream seems a little strange, but it is so good!

Sausage Casserole

1 lb. breakfast sausage (regular or hot)
Onion, chopped (per your taste)\
Bell Pepper, chopped (per your taste)
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbl. sugar (optional)
1 cup macaroni noodles
2 cups sour cream

Brown sausage; when almost done, add onions and peppers.  Continue to cook until vegetables are tender.  Add tomatoes, chili powder, salt and sugar.  Bring to a simmer; add noodles.  Cook, covered until noodles are tender.  Stir in sour cream; heat until warm, but not boiling.  Stir until well combined.  Served with a salad...dinner is ready!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Last Minute "Christmas" Goodie

I hope all of you have had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Time has flown by, but it has been a wonderful and blessed season to rekindle with friends and framily. Our Christmas break didn't start until December 23 for teachers and kids, so I didn't have time to make all of the goodies that my family loves!  However, we do have two weeks after Christmas, which means we are still celebrating!  So, for a late Christmas treat, I made these addicting little treats!  One thing that I cannot resist is the combination of salty and sweet...salty crackers, peanut butter and white chocolate!  I think I'll go have one now!

White Chocolate Dipped Crackers

Ritz Crackers (appx. 2 sleeves)
Peanut Butter
1 Bag White Chocolate Chips
2 Tbl. shortening

(You can also use the white dipping chocolate (a.k.a. Almond Bark).

In the top half of a double boiler, pour baking chips and add shortening.  Keep water simmering on low.  As chips begin to melt, stir until smooth.  For dipping, you may remove the top bowl to counter surface.  If mixture begins to thicken, place bowl back over simmering water; stir til smooth.

Prepare peanut butter crackers.  Go easy on the peanut butter, it will squish out the sides of the crackers!

Dip each sandwiched cracker in white chocolate using a dinner fork; shaking excess off with the tines of the fork.  Place carefully on waxed paper or parchment paper!  Allow to cool for appx. 1 hour!  Enjoy!