Archive for the 'food' Category

Antipasto pasta salad

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

I know, I know.  Antipasto pasta salad is an oxymoron but if the vegetarians can have meatless hamburgers, why not?  This came about last summer.  We were going to a friend’s for a potluck gathering and I had said I would bring a pasta salad.  I don’t particularly like pasta salad but it is easy to make.  Pasta salad always sounds like a good idea but rarely tastes very good to me.  I was in the mood for antipasto but didn’t want to bring something other than what I had promised.  So I decided I would marry the 2.  And the results were fabulous.  Seriously lick the bowl, eat until you want to burst, get your cholesterol checked on Monday cuz this ain’t health food good. Great to take to a party because it makes a ton.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to dream this up but here is how I make it.  It is simple – just a lot of chopping.  Anything you can buy already cut up, do it. And feel free to substituted and add things – anything that you could put on an antipasto platter (think artichoke hearts) or in a pasta salad (more veggies) would work.

Antipasto Pasta Salad

1 box rotini pasta (my box was 13 oz), cooked and rinsed in cold water

1/3 lb sliced pepperoni, cut into bite sized pieces

1/3 lb sliced hard salami, cut into bite size pieces

1/3 lb sliced ham, cut into bite size pieces

1/2 red onion, sliced thin

1 tomato, diced

1/2 jar pepperoncinis, sliced

1/2 jar kalamata olives, pitted

1/3 jar green olives

Mozzarella cheese – I’ve used both fresh, chopped and the regular shredded.  Whatever you prefer.

1 bunch broccoli, boiled 1 minute, then plunged in ice water, then chopped

Toss all of this together in a really large bowl.  Pour dressing over.  Let refrigerate for a few hours or a day.

Dressing can be any Italian dressing you like but use a good one – this deserves more than Wishbone.  I used one loosely based on this one.  I used plain yogurt instead of mayo, only 1/3 cup of water, a squirt of Dijon mustard, more lemon juice, a tablespoon or 2 of the juice out of the pepperoncini jar, added some thyme (fresh is great but dried works), and a packet of splenda.  Basically, I played around with it until it tasted good.

Press button to visit Rachel for more recipes.

Swedish Meatballs

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I occasionally get kidded about my recipes having fancy ingredients or seeming complicated.  I tend to think they are pretty simple recipes with a few good ingredients that make them taste extra yummy.  But I get that not everyone cooks the way I do.  So here is a recipe for anyone.  There is nothing weird in here – I won’t even harass you about a unicorn losing its horn if you use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic because this is one recipe where it probably won’t make that much difference.  And bonus – it cooks in the crockpot.

Swedish Meatballs

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (I used the healthy request)

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (healthy request)

3/4 cup (light) sour cream

1 can evaporated milk

8 oz mushrooms (I sauteed them first)

1/3 cup white wine

1 tsp dijion mustard

1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce

onion powder (couple of shakes)

garlic (2 cloves or a couple of shakes of powder)

celery salt (couple of shakes)

nutmeg (1 good shake)

black pepper

dried parsley (4 or 5 shakes)

(optional: I also threw in about a tablespoon of horseradish for a little bite)

1 bag frozen meatballs (beef or turkey – whatever you prefer)

Put everything except the meatballs into the crock pot.  Whisk together.  Add meatballs.  Cook on high for 1 hour then turn down to low for 4 or 5 hours.  Serve over egg noodles.

Visit Rachel for more Mouthwatering Monday recipes:

Hickory Farms

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

My grandmother was a food nazi before being a food nazi was in vogue.  She was replacing oil with applesauce in recipes back in the 70′s and 80′s.  She ordered fish when we ate out (and always asked “Is it fresh fish?” “Fresh frozen ma’am.”)  She took vitamin supplements and sprinkled wheat germ on our cereal.  Obviously, she wasn’t the cookie and candy toting grandmother.  Perhaps that is partially why a box full of Hickory Farms goodness brings back such a rush of memories.  There was always one at my grandparents’ home during the holidays.  I have no idea where it came from.  It could have been a gift or something they bought themselves.  But I remember digging through the fake grass to find the little strawberry candies.  I don’t recall eating much of the meats or cheeses but those little strawberry candies were like gold in her candy-less house at the holidays.  (Well not entirely candy-less…there was always a hidden box of turtles but those were only for the grownups.)

As an adult, I’ve received boxes of Hickory Farms goodness at the holidays as a gift and I’ve given it as a gift.  I always enjoy the meats (summer sausage – yum!) and cheeses (always something smoked which I adore but never buy) but there is just something about the mustards.  I love me an interesting mustard.

My box was the party planner box ($40). It included 2 beef summer sausages, 1 turkey summer sausage, a smoked cheddar blend, mission jack blend, creamy swiss blend, big barn cheddar, cheese ball (drool), sweet hot mustard, cranberry mustard, and sesame, caraway, and sea salt crackers.  And of course, the little strawberry candies (which as an adult – really not something I love).  I wasn’t a fan of the crackers but that is my own personal preference – caraway seeds are blechy to me.  But everyone else liked them.  And the rest of it was YUM!  I especially enjoyed the smoked cheddar with the turkey summer sausage and a little cranberry mustard all perched on a club cracker.  Sigh…a little bit of heavenly indulgence at the holidays is good.  We haven’t eaten it all yet because did you see of the stuff in there?  We have at least 2 more football games worth of goodies to try.

Hickory Farms would also like you to know that for every Party Planner box sold:

you’ll be joining Share Our Strength®, the leading non-profit organization working to end childhood hunger in America. This holiday, we’ll donate $5 to their No Kid Hungry Campaign for every Party Planner you order. Visit to learn more.

Personally, I think a Hickory Farms box is a thoughtful gift to send to folks you won’t get to see at the holidays – they can put it out for their guests over the holidays and think of you.  Or it is a great general office gift.  Put it in the kitchen area and watch how quickly it disappears.  It also makes a nice thank you to someone you don’t know well personally – a teacher, a doorman, a dog sitter, etc.  Small samplers start under $20. I’ve recently learned that many teachers won’t eat food gifts made by the parents of students for fear their home isn’t clean or the kids helped and didn’t wash their hands (I think this is sad…but not my point today).  This would allow a thoughtful food gift that is all sealed up so they could enjoy it without worries.

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Hickory Farms and received a signature gift box from Hickory Farms to thank me for taking the time to participate.”

Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

My husband declared this the perfect dessert.  (It marries his 2 favorite things: cheesecake and pumpkin pie.)  I’m not a huge pumpkin person (I eat a piece of pumpkin pie once a year on Thanksgiving out of obligation) but I’ve been having daydreams about this cheesecake.  Really y’all – it is that good.  If you need any more convincing, I found the recipe on Pioneer Woman’s site and we all know that all things sinfully yummy/awful for you come from her site.  I rarely try any of her fabulous recipes because I don’t work on a ranch therefore can’t even pretend I burn enough calories to use the amount of butter and cream she is famous for.

Sorry for the rather crappy photo.

I bought a cheap spring form pan a few months ago after thinking about it for years.  I kept thinking I wanted to try making cheesecake but I didn’t have the pan and it seemed so intimidating.  I finally made my first cheesecake (plain to start) a couple of months ago.  I don’t want or need to have a whole cheesecake around the house so I have to wait until I have an event to take it to and something finally came along.  It was okay but nothing to make your eyes roll back in your head.

I started seeing pumpkin recipes popping up last month and had a vague memory of a yummy pumpkin cheesecake my ex-sister-in-law made years ago for Thanksgiving.  So I went on a recipe hunt.  And once I saw the one PW featured (it wasn’t her recipe but one given to her to try), I stopped the search.  Here is the link to her photos and step by step commentary.  Here is the link to the recipe.  I changed just a couple of tiny things but it was out of necessity (lacked ingredients for the crust) and personal taste (I like my pumpkin things a little spicier).  I didn’t change the core recipe because she is PW – she just beat Bobby Flay in a Thanksgiving Throwndown on Food Network!  Who am I to change her recipes?  (Can you imagine being her future daughter in law?  You would ever be able to have her over for Thanksgiving at your house.  Dude, she beat Bobby Flay!)

Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake

Sorry, I have no idea how to provide a printable recipe – I’m not really a food blogger…just a blogger who likes food

For a graham cracker crust (she used a yummy looking gingersnap crust):

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I actually bought a box of crumbs so no idea how many crackers that is)

1 stick of butter (this ain’t health food), melted

1/3 c sugar

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Lightly spray your 9 inch spring form pan with non stick cooking spray.  Mix the above and press it LIGHTLY into the bottom of your spring form pan.  If you pack it in too tightly, it becomes difficult to cut and serve.  The cheesecake will compact it down sufficiently. No pre-cooking of this crust is necessary.  If you are using PW’s gingersnap crust she directs a pre-bake so follow those directions.

For the cake (I doubled the spices so see the link above for PW’s way):

Let all items come to room temperature before beginning – including your eggs

3 8oz bricks of cream cheese (full fat…sorry, no making this healthier…it is cheesecake after all)

1 15 oz can pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling…plain pumpkin)

3 large eggs

plus 1 egg yolk

1/4 c sour cream

1 1/2 c sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp salt

2 Tbl all purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350*.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the pumpkin until incorporated.  Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, scraping the sides of your bowl between each egg.  Beat in the sour cream.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined.

You need a water bath which sounds intimidating but it doesn’t have to be.  Use your turkey roasting pan.  Most recipes will have you wrap your spring form pan tightly with foil so that you can put it in the water bath.  I mentioned I bought a cheap spring form pan…I was nervous about trusting it to be water tight even with the assistance of foil.  I read a brilliant idea on another cooking blog.  I’m sorry I can’t recall where I read it so I can’t give credit.  Instead of foil, buy the big turkey roasting bags (they are meant to be water tight and stand up to the heat of the oven).  Use that to keep the water away from your precious cheesecake.

Scrape the filling into the spring form pan onto the crust.  Using very hot (or softly boiling) water, fill your roasting pan with hot water until the level comes halfway up the side of your cheesecake.  Carefully put it into the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes give or take 10 minutes (a light jiggle in the center is perfect when you take it out…but not a jello-y jiggle.)  Run a knife around the side of the pan to loosen the cake sides to prevent cracking as it cools and pulls away from the pan.

For whatever reason, my cake cracked in the oven rather than during cooling.  Wasn’t pretty but it was darn  yummy!

You must have patience and put the cheesecake (still in the spring form pan…but not in the water bath) in the frig for 8 hours.  I know, I know, it seems cruel.  Kind of like buying a gun in non-red states, there is a waiting period so that your hips can decide if they really want that cheesecake.  It is worth the wait.  And you could always have cheesecake for breakfast if you make it the night before (not that I would know anything about that).

Tomato cream vodka sauce

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

My BFF visited over the weekend.  It was so awesome to see her but she didn’t stay long enough.  Our friendship is woven through with stories of traveling, drinking, and eating.  We always laugh a lot, and eat good food when we are together.  She wasn’t here long enough for either of us to cook but she brought with her a drink concoction that required heavy cream.  I was trying to decide what to make for dinner last night and kept coming back to my desire for pasta and the heavy cream in the frig.  Alfredo?  Nope.  Primavera?  Sounded better but I only had broccoli and peas in the vegetable category.  I started thinking about a vodka cream sauce.  In all honesty, I’ve never had one that I thought was all that great.  Most that I’ve tried have been out of a jar and quite forgettable.  I figured it was worth a try and combed through a half dozen recipes to get an idea of how to throw it together.

YUM!  It turned out fabulous.  I was really surprised by how different it tasted from my normal red sauce.  It had a deep, kind of smoky flavor – and it tasted so indulgent with the cream and cheese!  Before anyone asks, I have no idea if you can make it without the vodka.  I don’t know what it adds to the flavor because I never cook with vodka – but the result was yummy!  It certainly isn’t health food but worthy of being an occasional treat!


3/4 lb ground meat (I used lean beef but sausage, turkey, pork, or chicken would be good)

1/2 med yellow onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup vodka

6 oz tomato paste

15 oz can tomato sauce

1 Tbl dried Italian seasoning

1 Tbl dried basil

2 tsp smoked paprika

red pepper flakes to taste

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup heavy cream (half and half would be fine)

1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese (Parmesan or Romano would work too)

Salt & Pepper

12 oz  pasta

Brown the meat.  Drain off fat.  Throw in the onion and garlic.  Saute for 5 min or until onion becomes translucent.  Add the vodka.  Allow to simmer for 4 min or until the liquid has reduced by about half.  Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, seasonings, and Worcestershire sauce.  Add the cream and cheese (salt and pepper to taste).  Allow to simmer while you cook the pasta.

Toss with cooked pasta.

Pumpkin Mousse/Pudding

Monday, October 4th, 2010

This isn’t my recipe.  Rachel at Southern Fairytale posted it last week. Steve loves pumpkin treats so I decided to try it.  Steve loved it.  I liked it too.  I will likely make it again but I think I will decrease the Cool Whip a bit just to allow the texture to be a little more pudding like – it was a little mousse-like.  But the flavor was spot on.  And don’t skip the gingersnap crumbs – yum!

Pumpkin Pudding

  • 1 small box instant vanilla pudding (I used sugar free)
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup whipped topping (like cool whip)
  • 3 or 4 gingersnaps, crushed

Whisk together the pudding mix and milk.  Whisk in the pumpkin and spice until soft set.

Gently whisk or fold in the whipped topping.  Put into serving dishes and top with crushed gingersnaps.

Thanks Rachel!

Keeping it real

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

My MOMS Club had mom’s night in on Friday night.  We gathered for a pseudo Top Chef competition.  I made guacamole and s’more cake.  I made the guacamole because I was talking a little smack about mine being better than a local place that makes it table-side.  I figured it was time to put up or shut up.  The s’more cake I made because I thought it sounded yummy – it wasn’t something I had made before.

I often post recipes on Mondays.  Folks sometimes comment that they couldn’t/wouldn’t be able to make the things that I post.  To keep it real, I had a kitchen disaster at my Top Chef party.  I like to think I’m a decent cook but sometimes we all need a reminder to be humble:

A little reminder from me to you, my friends: Don’t put marshmallows under the broiler and walk away.

Fortunately, I didn’t burn down my friend’s house (good thing…she is my best friend around these parts and I would hate to make her homeless).  The only harm done was to the cake.  These photos are courtesy of another friend, Crystal, who proved her status as a true photographer by grabbing her camera to document the event rather than helping me douse the flames.  Is it any wonder why I love my MOMS Club?  One friend who is still speaking to me after I almost burn down her house and another who tells everyone to get out of her light so she can document the (hilarious in hindsight) near disaster.  Awesome!  So glad I found my peeps.

It seems rather anti-climatic to share that my guacamole won the best dish of the night.  It also seems a little unfair because there were some amazing dishes: pork sandwiches, cake that tasted like a Krispy Kreme donut, ceviche, mint chocolate cookies, and lots of other yummy things.  I’ve posted my guacamole recipe several times in the past.

All photos are stolen from Crystal.

Pesto w/o Pine Nuts

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

For years, I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t love pesto.  Basil, garlic, cheese, olive oil?  I should want to bathe in it.  But every time I had it, I just wasn’t a big fan.  After I ate another dish containing pine nuts, I realized the problem was that I really dislike pine nuts.  And my love affair with pesto began.   I mentioned this on Facebook a few weeks ago and my college friend Laurie asked for the recipe.  Anytime someone asks for a recipe, I feel a little panicky.  I really do want to share – I love sharing how to make good and simple dishes.  But unless I plan ahead of time to share something, I never measure anything.  I might glance at some recipes to get some ratios in my head but then I just do it and adjust until it tastes/looks like it should.  I made it again and tried to pay a little more attention to how much I put in but pesto is one of those things that you really can’t mess up.  Be aware that the consistency can vary greatly.  Some people make it with A LOT of olive oil and it becomes a sauce.  Mine tends to be closer to a loose paste consistency but when put over warm pasta the cheese melts and it becomes more sauce-like.  (I just don’t like it too oily.)  Feel free to keep adding oil until you get the consistency you want.


Fresh Basil (2 cups-ish of leaves) – you can also add other fresh herbs you like…I threw in a little parsley

Parmesan or Asiago cheese – 2-3 oz

Nuts of your choosing – I used a generous 1/2 cup of walnuts and 1/4 cup pistachios (toasted quickly in a hot skillet)

3 cloves fresh garlic

3 Tablespoons Water

Olive Oil (between 1/4 and 1/3 cup)

Juice of 1/2 a lemon (helps keep color green and adds acid) OR a tablespoon balsamic vinegar for acid

Salt is option – the cheese is pretty salty so I tend not to add any

Throw everything except the Olive Oil into the food processor and combine.  After it combines, drizzle in your oil (with food processor running) until you hit the consistency that seems right for you.  Taste it.  If you taste too much cheese or nut, add more basil.   I ended up adding another small handful of basil in addition to the strainer pictured above.

Toss it with the pasta of your choosing. We had it with chicken sausages and a green salad.

This makes enough for several meals.  It can also be frozen.  You can freeze small portions in ice cube trays and use the cubes in soups and sauces in the winter for a nice, bright flavor.  I also like it spread on sandwiches instead of mustard or mayo.

Breyers Smooth & Dreamy Giveaway

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

I might have mentioned once or twice or eleventy billion times that I love ice cream.  Really.  Love it.  A lot.  I like to have a little ice cream treat before bed and I’ve been trying to make it less of a caloric hit.  As a result, I’ve been trying some of the different brands of ice cream sandwiches and bars to control the portion.

I had a chance to try the Breyers Smooth & Dreamy Vanilla Fudge Brownie ice cream sandwich.  It comes it at 160 calories and 4 grams of fat per sandwich.  They were  a nice size and pretty satisfying.  I liked them but they aren’t my favorite of the different brands I have tried.  Just a personal preference because they were good and you better believe I ate them.  I also thought they were a little pricey but I tend to think most ice cream treats are a little pricey these days.

Want a chance to try them for FREE and make up your own mind?  I have 5 coupons to give away for a free box of the Breyers Smooth & Dreamy Ice Cream Bars or Sandwiches.  Leave a comment telling me which you like better – ice cream bars or ice cream sandwiches. (I’m an ice cream sandwich girl all the way…once the chocolate coating is off the bar I have little use for it.)  There are 5 coupons here on my dining table so your chances are pretty good to win one!

**Edited to add: I will choose 5 random winners on Thursday morning – 08/05/10.  Comments will be accepted until 9am on Thursday.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Breyer’s Smooth & Dreamy and received a coupon for a free sample to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate. Opinions are my own.

Banana Bread

Monday, July 19th, 2010

I can’t tell you that this is the best banana bread I’ve ever had.  It is the best one I’ve ever made myself.  The best banana bread I’ve ever had was at the Dona Luisa Bakery on 4a calle oriente in Antigua.  I used to buy a loaf once or twice a week and eat it for breakfast and lunch and dinner sometimes.  I don’t wax poetic about much of the food I encountered living in Guatemala but that banana bread was amazing.  I wish I could replicate it.  But since I can’t, this stuff is pretty darn good.  (Source for photo is Antigua Daily Photo.)

I started with this recipe from All Recipes and added a few things.  I think it is a tasty, moist, and banana-y bread/cake.  (Let’s face it, just because we put it in a loaf pan doesn’t make it bread.)

Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (you can omit this and use 2 cups of white flour if you prefer)

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

1/2 cup butter (I’ve also used I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter sticks) room temp

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs, beaten

5 (ish) over ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 1/3 cup)

In a large bowl, combine first 7 (through walnuts) ingredients.  In another bowl, cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs, vanilla, and mashed bananas until incorporated.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with rubber spatula or wooden spoon – stir only until incorporated.  Do not over mix.

Pour into loaf pan prepared with non-stick spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.


*When poking with toothpick, poke a couple of spots in case you hit a banana chunk.

* I always end up with 1 overripe banana – never 5.  So when I get one that is too ripe, I put it in a ziploc and throw it in the freezer.  I keep adding to the bag until I have enough for banana bread.  They turn black and gross.  Allow to thaw, snip off the end and squeeze the banana out.

* You can mash bananas with a potato ricer or a fork.

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