Saturday, May 28, 2011

Life's a Beach

I received a magazine in the mail recently and I absolutely laughed my way through it. Know why? Because it was a swimsuit catalog. Oh yes. The dreaded swimsuit season is here.

What cracks me up is the way the women look in that magazine. Most of them are about the size of a pretzel stick, about as smooth as creamy peanut butter, sitting in a pile of palm fronds or pouting their lips while kneeling in the surf, covered in a bikini the size of a tube sock tied with dental floss, and boobs that could be used as flotation devices all on their own.

Seriously, in my life, I've never been the size of a pretzel stick, I'm more about the size of a pretzel twist, about as smooth as a bowl of peas, and never in my life have I sat in palm fronds at the beach. Who does that? And have you ever tried kneeling in the surf? Honey, that sand just washes away, I'd sink so fast, you'd think the USS Iwo Jima had just set anchor.

When it comes to shopping for a swimsuit...let's just say, I'd much rather shop for a cheeseburger. After amusing myself with dozens of suits in the funhouse mirror of the department store that awkwardly highlights all of my imperfecions, I took to the internet in search of the perfect suit and I have to say, I found a lot that were perfect. Now, I'm not a plus size momma, but curvy...indeed. I found a site called Always for Me, that targets the curvy and the plus size beauties. Now even the smallest size is still too big, but I am in love with the suit I chose. It's like a swimming bedsheet. Not really. I feel comfortable and not the least bit self conscious. So....I'm welcoming summer with open arms! I thought there must be others that need to know about this wonderful site! You're welcome.

Well, it appears that the summer is officially here. Yippee!!!! We took a Subway picnic (EAT FRESH), packed a cooler of cold drinks, some brightly colored beach towels, a little SPF 5000, and we were all set! Temps in the warm 80s. And the long holiday weekend was ours to enjoy. We spent the day basking in the sunnyshine by the salty waters of the Chesapeake Bay hoping to evade the crowds of heinous families toting wagons full of inflatable monkeys and tube floats. Operation=Success!!

After the sun soaks its last bit of energy from your veins, it's nice to come home to a dinner that's been cooking in the crock. This time I was in the mood for Chicken Costa Verde. This marinade is also great for beef and you can use any cooking method you like. It's great on the grill, oven baked, pan fried, or slow cooked. Enjoy!!
Chicken Costa Verde
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
1 small can diced green chilis
2 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Splash of vinegar

Place the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, parsley, black and red pepper into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the chilis, liquid smoke, lime juice, vegetable oil, cilantro, and vinegar until evenly blended.

To use the marinade, pour into a resealable plastic bag, and add 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of meat. Squeeze out the excess air, seal, and marinate in the refrigerator 4 to 6 hours before cooking as desired.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Creamy Mushroom Chops

Since these warm temps are going to be hanging around for a while, I have a feeling my oven will be out of commission. I hate adding to the sticky heat of the summer in the kitchen, so the crock pot is my best friend. I want all of the flavor of a home cooked meal and the ease of not having to sweat my booty off in the kitchen.

Here's a yummy Creamy Mushroom Chops Recipe that you make in the Crock. It even cooks with the potatoes. Make a fresh garden salad and dinner is done!!

6 pork loin or rib chops, 1/2 inch thick
6 medium red potatoes (about 1 1/2 lb), cut into eighths
2 cans (10 3/4 oz) cream of mushroom soup
1 jar/can (4.5 oz) sliced mushrooms, drained
2 tablespoons dry white wine or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon diced pimientos (from 2-oz jar)
2 cups frozen sweet peas, rinsed, drained

Heat 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pork chops in skillet 2 to 4 minutes, turning once, until brown.

Spray 4- to 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place potatoes in cooker. In medium bowl, mix soup, mushrooms, wine, thyme, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce. Spoon half of the soup mixture over potatoes. Place pork on potatoes; cover with remaining soup mixture.

Cover; cook on Low heat setting 6 to 7 hours.

Remove pork from cooker; keep warm. Stir pimientos and peas into cooker. Cover; cook on Low heat setting about 15 minutes longer or until peas are tender. Serve with pork.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cobbler Crock

I'm pretty sure chocolate is in a food group all of its own. And I'm pretty sure one is supposed to have at least 6 servings a day. Or was it 16? I usually keep a stash of it at all times. It's on my emergency preparedness list too. Right next to bottled water. I really don't know how people go without it.

This Chocolate Covered Cherry Cobbler requires hardly any effort. You won't believe how delicious and chocolatey this is either. It's so rich and fudgy (not a lot of cherry flavor) and get this...Only 3 ingredients!!
1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling
1 box of chocolate cake mix (pick your favorite flavor. I chose Swiss chocolate for this recipe.)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter melted

Spray a crock with nonstick cooking spray.
Place pie filling in slow cooker.
Combine dry cake mix and butter in a medium bowl.
Dollop over filling.
Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.

This will be a super chocolatey and rich dessert that's so easy, no one will believe you made it in the crock pot. Served with lowfat frozen yogurt or topped with whipped cream makes this dessert a chocolate lovers dream come true!!


On a special occasion, as a kid, we'd sometimes swing by KFC on the way home from church. It meant, mom didn't have to cook. But it also meant Coleslaw. It was the only kind I would eat. For years, I thought the only sides KFC had were mashed potatoes & gravy and....coleslaw. I realized when I was around 20 years old, that KFC in fact had other sides to offer. Blew my mind. Unbelievable.

Not that I ever eat there because KFC is one of the worst offenders of homicide by MSG in the country, but I still love coleslaw.

I made a heaping happy bunch of it tonight alongside some Saucy Crock Ribs. I've come to realize I prefer my coleslaw a little more on the sweet side.

Start with a bag of pre shredded green and red cabbage with carrots.

1 1/2 cup real mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip) I prefer Duke's
3 Tbl white sugar
1 1/2 Tbl vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbl milk (optional, for thinning)

In a bowl whisk all ingredients together; taste, add more salt if needed.

Either use right away on your coleslaw or store, covered, in the refrigerator; keeps well for several days.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Caribbean Cupcakes

If you like Pina Coladas....and gettin' caught in the rain.....dangit, if that ain't one of those catchy tunes you just have to sing along with. Made me hungry for some Caribbean Cupcakes so I thought I'd share the recipe with you!!

It takes a regular box cake mix and adds pina colada flavors. You'll love it.

1 box yellow cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
3 eggs
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Heat oven to 375°F (350°F for dark or nonstick pan). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups. In large bowl, beat cake mix, oil, water, 1 teaspoon rum extract, the pineapple and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

Bake 14 to 19 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Dip tops of frosted cupcakes in coconut. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ice Cream Tropicale

Can you believe Summer is almost here?? I'm longing for days at the beach with my feet in the sand.

Summer means warmer weather. Beach time. The school year is over. A swimming pool and cannon balls. Sand.....everywhere. Aloe Gel. Picnics. Watermelon. Firing up the grill. Coconut scented tanning lotion. Sleeveless tops. Flip Flops. Sunburns. Tiki torches. Bug spray. Sweat and more sweat. Floaties. Lazy Rivers. Crickets. Fireworks. Heat. Air Conditioning. Lemonade. Tan lines. Cold treats. Sundresses.

An ice cream maker is a super nifty tool to use, but if you don't have one, don't sweat it. A few simple ingredients will make the creamiest of frozen treats. You may even have these on hand in the pantry. There are lots of great flavors. I'm sure you'll be seeing some of my favorites throughout the hot months ahead.

Here's a recipe for a Dreamy Tropical Pineapple Ice Cream

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple in pineapple juice, undrained
1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (great idea to keep this on the Fat Free)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
4 drops yellow food coloring
1 cup heavy cream (DO NOT buy whipped topping or Cool Whip)

Combine undrained pineapple, sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, lime zest, vanilla and food coloring, if desired, in large bowl; mix well.
Whip cream in medium bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until stiff peaks form. Fold into pineapple mixture.
Pour into 2-quart freezer-safe container. Cover; freeze until firm, about 3 hours.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baby Food

Okay, so I got to thinking.....about babies. No. No. I am completely out of the baby making business, I have 5 of my own,

I definitely have friends and family with plenty of these sweetie faced drooly love muffins. I take pictures of their precious faces all of the time. (You knew I was a photographer right?!)

Check out these cuties!!!I love on them and make baby gifts right and left (that would be the specialty gift business I have). I am a superb babysitter. Just ask some of the kids who they have the most fun with.

So, why not share my wealth of food knowledge with the babies, well at least with the baby mamas!!

Nowadays, there are a lot of babies with food allergies or Celiac Disease or maybe you prefer to eat organic or all natural foods to give your children the least amount of processed food.

We all want to make sure our munchkins get the best nutrition possible, whether they're 10 years old or 10 months old. Here are a few basic recipes for your healthy baby. Most of these recipes are geared to your toddler, but there are a few pureed foods that babies will love.

Toddler Chicken Toes

¾ - 1 lb. package organic chicken tenderloins
2 whole eggs
1 tbsp. water
1 cup baby cereal (rice, oatmeal or other

whole grain)
1 cup crushed walnuts, almost to “flour-like” consistency*
¼ cup wheat germ (optional)
Cooking spray
Pinch kosher salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice chicken tenderloins into 1-2 inch long strips and set aside. Mix baby cereal with crushed walnuts, wheat germ, and salt (if desired). Beat two eggs together with water and place in a shallow bowl. Immerse chicken in egg mixture and then dredge in cereal-nut coating. Place chicken fingers on greased cookie sheet (lightly coated with cooking

Bake in oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve immediately or freeze in freezer bags
to re-heat for another time.

*For babies with nut allergies, substitute walnuts with 1-¼ cups whole wheat flour.

or you can make them this way

¾ - 1 lb. package organic chicken tenderloins
1 cup vegetable puree, thinned out with water
1 cup baby cereal (whole wheat, oatmeal, rice, or whatever you have on hand)
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Cooking spray
Pinch kosher salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice chicken tenderloins into 1-2 inch long strips and set aside. Fill one wide, shallow bowl with baby cereal, another with the vegetable puree, and a third with panko bread crumbs. Dredge chicken in baby cereal, then in vegetable puree and go for a third dredge in the bread crumbs. (The baby cereal serves as a "primer", so the vegetable puree will stick to the chicken. The panko gives the chicken fingers "crunch".)

Place chicken fingers on greased cookie sheet (lightly coated with cooking spray).Bake in oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve immediately or freeze in freezer bags to re-heat for another time.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cinnamon
3 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix first 5 (dry) ingredients in bowl and set aside. In large mixing bowl, mix butter and sugars together until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla and bananas. Mix until bananas are well incorporated, then add flour mixture. Stir until just combined; over mixing will make the cookies tough.

Spoon cookies onto baking sheet and cook for 12-13 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Cookies can be stored in airtight container for 3-4 days. Or, uncooked dough can be frozen in logs and sliced for later baking.

Fishy Stix

½ lb. fresh tilapia fillets or other mild, white fish
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp. water
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Slice tilapia fillets into strips, about 3 inches long and ½ inch wide and set aside.

To make egg wash, combine beaten egg and water in medium bowl, and whisk with fork until well combined. Pour panko into separate container, preferably one with a flat bottom.

Dunk fish pieces in egg wash and then dredge in panko mixture. Place breaded fish on baking sheet and bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes, until panko is lightly browned and fish is an opaque white on the inside.

These Fish Stix are best served fresh, but once cooked, you can freeze them in a tightly sealed freezer bag for up to one month. Reheat in oven (do not microwave) at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.


2 cups cauliflower florets
3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped (about ½ inch pieces)
1 tbsp. unsalted butter

Steam cauliflower in steamer basket for 5-6 minutes, or until tender. Set aside. In pot of water, add potatoes and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and potatoes and cool slightly.

Combine potatoes, cauliflower, ¼ cup of boiling liquid, and butter to food processor.

Blend until smooth; add more water if necessary.

Disperse mixture into ice cube trays and freeze.

Go Green Beans

1 lb. fresh green beans, washed and ends removed
½ cup water

Place green beans in steamer. (If you don’t have a steamer, place metal colander over a
pot of boiling water and cover.) Steam beans for 7-8 minutes or until tender.
Remove cooked beans from steamer/colander and put in food processor.
Add water and process until completely smooth.

Once cooled, distribute mixture evenly amongst ice cube trays or cupcake tins, dependent upon desired portion size.

Green beans also serve as an excellent finger food; just skip the puree process altogether.


3 medium-sized ripe peaches
½ cup water

Cut peaches in half, removing pit. Place fruit flesh-side down into pan and add water. Simmer fruit on medium-low heat until thoroughly tender and skin peels easily from flesh – about 10-12 minutes. Once cool to the touch, remove skin. After skin is removed, add fruit and liquid to
a food processor and puree until completely smooth. Add more water if necessary.

Dispense peach puree evenly into ice cube trays and freeze until solid.

Pork "Chops" and Applesauce

Pork tenderloin (organic), cut into cubes
1 large sweet potato
2 medium apples (golden delicious recommended for their mild sweet, apple flavor)
2-3 cups of water

Peel and dice sweet potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Peel and core apple; dice into 1 inch pieces. Put apple, sweet potato and cubed pork into slow cooker and add water, just until ingredients are submerged in liquid.

Cook on low heat for about 5 hours until pork is well done. Let cool. Add all three ingredients plus some of the cooking liquid to food processor and blend until smooth.

Distribute mixture evenly amongst ice cube trays or cupcake tins, dependent upon desired portion size.

Peas Please

1 package frozen organic peas*
½ cup water

Place frozen peas in steamer. (If you don’t have a steamer, place metal colander over a pot of boiling water and cover.) Steam peas for 6-7 minutes or until tender.

Remove cooked peas from steamer/colander and put in food processor. Add water and process until completely smooth.

Once cooled, distribute mixture evenly amongst ice cube trays or cupcake tins, dependent upon desired portion size.

Peas also serve as an excellent first finger food; just skip the puree process altogether.

Sweet Potato Bites

3 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup baby rice/oatmeal cereal (use rice cereal for gluten free)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into ¼ inch cubes. Coat in olive oil and baby cereal. Spread out potatoes on 9x13 pan and cook for about 25-30 minutes.

Once cooked, wait for potatoes to cool on pan. Place entire pan, with potatoes spread out, in the freezer for about an hour. (This keeps the potatoes from sticking to each other in the freezer bag.) Once potatoes are partially frozen, transfer to freezer bag and place in freezer.

Apple a Day

3 medium-sized apples (Red or Golden Delicious)
½ cup water
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Peel and chop apples into cubes (about a 1 inch), discarding the core. Place apples in sauce pan with water and cinnamon and simmer on medium-low heat until apples are tender – approximately 10-12 minutes.

Once apples are tender, all contents of pan (including liquid) to food processor. Puree until smooth. Add water if necessary.

Dispense apple puree evenly into ice cube trays and freeze until solid.

Confetti Pasta

2 cups small whole grain pasta
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium zucchini
2 small yellow squash
1 small onion
1 medium carrot, grated
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley, finely chopped

Cook pasta in boiling water according to package instructions, about 5-6 minutes.

Drain and set aside. Dice onion, carrot, zucchini, and squash into small ¼ inch cubes (like confetti). Heat olive oil in sauté pan on medium heat. Add onion and carrot; cook until onions are translucent.

Add zucchini and squash. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add parsley.

In large bowl, combine pasta, vegetable mixture and parmesan cheese. Chop coarsely in food processor if necessary, or serve as is. Disperse evenly in ice cube trays (for babies) or cupcake tins (for toddlers) and freeze.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It was 1980 something

So last night my entire dream was completely set in the 1980s, I kid you not. I venture to say '86. But it could've been '87. I can't be sure. I'm not sure what year my DeLorean was set to and Doc was nowhere in sight.

Big shoulder pads, even bigger hair, Bon Jovi (80s JBJ, not 2011 JBJ),

PacMan, Ferris Beuller, and a strange mix of tube socks and short shorts combed through the scenes of my dream. But even more unsuspecting.....I was the only one still in 2011. I was like a lone Jetsons character. A futuristic girl. Getting strange, but awe struck looks, I felt a little like Lady Gaga when I woke up.

What does all of this mean I wonder? Where's Sylvia Browne when you need her? I better call Montel.
While I research this dream business, on the Menu we have a Slow Cooked Honey Mustard Chicken. A simple sauce is drizzled over plain old chicken and slow cooked to perfection. It's a super simple recipe. Perfect with some sliced home spuds or rice pilaf. Mmmmm.

4 chicken breasts (I prefer boneless and skinless)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sweet-hot, or dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch curry powder, to taste

Place chicken in slow cooker.
Melt butter. (To save time, I just zap it in the microwave for a few seconds) Remove from heat and add honey, mustard, salt and curry powder. Mix well. Pour over chicken.

Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chicken a la King

I was reading a foodie article (imagine that) and this little diddy made me giggle:

Victor saw a sign in the window of Barney's Restaurant, Droitwich Spa, UK, that read 'Unusual Breakfast'. Always an adventurous eater, Victor went in and sat down. The waitress brought him his pot of tea and asked him what he wanted to eat.

'What's does your unusual breakfast include?' he asked politely.

'Baked tongue of chicken!' she replied with a grin.

'Baked tongue of chicken?... baked tongue of chicken! Do you have any idea how disgusting that is? I would never even consider eating anything that came out of a chicken's mouth!' Victor cried.

Undaunted, the waitress asked, 'What would you like then?'

'Oh, just bring me some scrambled eggs,' Victor replied.

Life is good when you laugh!!

I had some extra chicken breasts thawed out, so I threw them in the crock to cook. I knew I'd use them within the next couple of days and since it was already cooked and ready to go, I decided to throw together Chicken a la King. It's got a rich creamy sauce, fresh veggies, and pimentos (which are simply a pickled red chili pepper). This can be served over rice or a bed of noodles. It's great with a salad and some crusty bread.

Did you know: Bakers used to be fined if their loaves were under weight, so they used to add an extra loaf to every dozen, just in case -- hence, the expression "baker's dozen". Well, there I go sharing useless information again. And here's a recipe for Chicken a la King. Enjoy!!

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 small green bell pepper, chopped (1/2 cup)
3 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced (3 ounces)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups chicken broth or stock
2 cups cut-up cooked chicken or turkey
1 jar (2 ounces) diced pimientos, drained
3 cups hot cooked rice

Melt butter in 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook bell pepper and mushrooms in butter, stirring occasionally, until bell pepper is crisp-tender.

Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in milk and broth. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in chicken and pimientos; cook until hot. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I am a huge fan of the waffle. There are about a hundred different recipes in my personal collection. I could write an entire cookbook about waffles alone.

My mouth waters at the though of a steamy hot waffle fresh from the iron, dripping with golden buttery goodness and gooey sweet maple syrup filling every deep pocket. It's a glorious combination.Whenever friends or family would come visit for the weekend, I'd spend hours preparing the house for their arrival, because I always want someone to feel as comfortable as possible when sleeping away from home.

I'd prep a basket full of toiletries, rolled towels, and I even made a tv guide list of channels for midnight browsing. Pretty much anything you'd find in a luxury hotel, you'd find in my guest room. I'd also include a menu for the know, so they knew what to expect. Fresh linens on a turned down bed would greet them happily.

For breakfast, I'd make a huge batch of these delectable beauties their first morning there. It was a treat for everyone and we had many repeat visitors. I'm quick to assume it was the waffles although hugs and kisses from the kids weren't bad either.

I realize now that I had a lot of time on my hands. Nowadays, although you'd still be privy to a home cooked meal, you might have to prop a plate on your lap and you'd be lucky to get an air mattress. Just kiddin'.

Here's a waffle recipe that's so delicious. The addition of yogurt makes these velvety and the granola adds perfect crunch.

Natasha's Granola Waffles

1 1/2 cups Bisquick
2 eggs
1/2 cup granola cereal
1 container (6 oz) vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Heat waffle iron; spray with cooking spray before heating.

In medium bowl, stir all waffle ingredients until blended. Pour batter by 2/3 cupfuls onto center of hot waffle iron; close lid.

Bake 2 to 3 minutes or until steaming stops and waffle is golden brown. Carefully remove waffle. Serve hot with syrup.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BLT Pasta Salad

Fresh tomatoes just SCREAM summertime!!! I can hardly wait to eat vine ripened fresh tomatoes. I'm still having to pick them up at the market. Heartbreaking really. I love the smell of a sun kissed tomato.
If anyone could grow a tomato, it was my grandma and grandpa....on my mom's side. THE best grandparents too, by the way. As a little girl, I remember getting to help them pick a few tomatoes, you know, when they were ripe. Although, I do remember getting carried away and picking some green ones. I don't recall getting in trouble though. Must've been my cuteness. :) On a side note, I can't recall "helping" pick tomatoes again, after that.

I spent many of my teenage summers visiting western Kentucky, sitting at a newspaper covered dining room table, shelling peas into a bucket, while my grandma stewed tomatoes for her homemade spaghetti sauce and perfected the canning process. Ah, the days of drinking out of a waterhose, hanging laundry in the sun, and watching lightening bugs.

My mom can make a mean BLT and I grew up eating those pretty regularly. Some toasty bread, plenty of mayo, crispy bacon, a fresh from the garden tomato, and crisp lettuce....I'm all nostalgic. (Although, I don't recall my parent's having a vegetable garden. It was more like a tomato patch in the yard....and it was delicious.)

Well, a BLT pasta salad is the next great thing. Take all of those great flavors and mixing them into a spicy mayo. Yum!!

8 oz. pasta (shells, rotini, or macaroni work best) cooked and drained
8-10 slices of crispy cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup mayo (I like Duke's Mayo the best.)
1/3 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp instant chicken bouillon
2 tsp sugar
1 tomato seeded, chopped
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 cups lettuce shredded

In a large bowl, combine mayo, chili sauce, lemon juice, bouillon and sugar. Stir in cooked pasta, tomato and onions. Cover and chill. Just before serving, stir in lettuce and bacon.

I Love Lucy

Last week, I was doing my normal office routine, when I'm handed a recipe card. "We think you should make this next." Thank you Robin and Lucy. You know I do love to bake things for the office. (I try to send something in once a week.) But this was no ordinary recipe card. It's a Williams-Sonoma recipe card. Oh how I love Williams-Sonoma. *sigh*

My dear friend, Lucy, is celebrating a birthday today and since she fancied this recipe I decided this was the ticket.
I Love Lucy!!
Isn't she beautiful?
When I first met Lucy, I thought she was the nicest lady I had ever met. She's sassy, she's funny, she's sweet and I want to be like her when I grow up. Seriously. She can make you laugh when you're having a crappy day. She is sincere. She is honest. She is a fantastic mother and grandmother. Oh, I could go on and on here.

Well, I took her a piece of this cake

as she sat in her office, happily chatting away with a client on the phone, at least I suppose that's who she was talking to. As soon as she hung up the phone, I began my rendition of the Happy Birthday song and she did a quick taste test. She gave me a sort of Exorcist head spin and said "Yo....Mama!!" I think she liked the cake.

I must admit, my cake was ugly. In fact, the frosting didn't set up well at all, generally, cream cheese frosting tends to be soft anyway and not very spreadable. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. And I don't exactly have a ready supply of kumquats to garnish with, and frankly other than Martha Stewart, I'm not sure of anyone who does. I improvised with fresh orange zest and a couple of orange slices. Eh, not so bad. I'm finding out that ugly cakes tend to taste the best. So, cheers for the ugly cake!! Mine was a smidge different than the Williams-Sonoma recipe, but tasty nonetheless.

I hope this year is full of happiness for you!

Williams-Sonoma Recipe for
Orange Chiffon Layer Cake

All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 Tb. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried blood-orange zest, *finely ground
1/2 cup canola oil
6 whole eggs, separated, plus 2 egg whites
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

For the Cream Cheese frosting:
1 lb. cream cheese
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 cups confectioners sugar
2 tsp orange blossom extract

1 jar orange marmalade
Thinly sliced kumquats for garnish (optional)

To make the cake, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans and line each with a parchment paper round.

Over a sheet of parchment paper, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, slat and blood-orange zest. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, orange juice and water until well blended. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until the batter is smooth.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold half of the whites into the batter until almost blended, then gently fold in the remaining whites until just combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading evenly.

Bake the cakes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the pans and carefully invert the cakes onto the rack. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the butter and beat for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time and beat until smooth and no lumps of sugar are visible. Add the orange blossom extract and beat until combined.

To assemble the cake, using a serrated knife, cut both cakes in half horizontally. Place one cake layer, cut side up, on a cake plate and spread with half of the marmalade. Top with a second cake layer, cut side down, and spread with 1/4 inch layer of cream cheese frosting. Top with a third cake layer, cut side down, and spread with the remaining orange marmalade. Top with the remaining cake layer, cut side down. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with sliced kumquats. Serves 12.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!!

May your Mother's Day be full of love and relaxation!
Take the day off from the kitchen and let someone else do the cooking!

I love being a mom.
Here are my 5 reasons why!!

Things My Mother Taught Me

My Mother taught me LOGIC...
"If you fall off that swing and break your neck, you can't go to the store with me.

My Mother taught me MEDICINE...
"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they're going to freeze that way."

My Mother taught me TO THINK AHEAD...
"If you don't pass your spelling test, you'll never get a good job!"

My Mother taught me ESP...
"Put your sweater on; don't you think that I know when you're cold?"

My Mother taught me TO MEET A CHALLENGE...
"What were you thinking? Answer me when I talk to you...Don't talk back to me!"

My Mother taught me HUMOR...
"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

My Mother taught me how to BECOME AN ADULT...
"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."

My mother taught me ABOUT SEX...
"How do you think you got here?"

My mother taught me about GENETICS...
"You are just like your father!"

My mother taught me about my ROOTS...
"Do you think you were born in a barn?"

My mother taught me about the WISDOM of AGE...
"When you get to be my age, you will understand."

My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION...
"Just wait until your father gets home."

My mother taught me about RECEIVING...
"You are going to get it when we get home."

and my all time favorite thing- JUSTICE
"One day you will have kids, and I hope they turn out just like YOU...then you'll see what its like."

Happy Mother's Day 2011!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Salsa Cruda

Beauties aren't they?? I scored these super fresh veggies at the market and knew they were just the thing to make a Salsa Cruda. The colors alone made me smile!! Who knew fruits and vegetables could have such an impact?

I also bought a bright beautiful bunch of cilantro and already had fresh garlic on hand, so here's a quick Salsa Cruda that is perfect and ready in minutes.

2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small purple onion, finely chopped
1 medium Jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
½ tsp salt
Juice from 1 lime

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir well and allow flavors to marry in a 30 minute ceremony in the fridge. Delish with chips or perfectly tops tacos, enchiladas and tostadas. Enjoy!

*TIP: To get the most juice from your lime (or any citrus) zap it in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Margarita Cake

I've never met a Margarita that I didn't like. Although I have met some that didn't like me.

I'm not a huge fan of eating out, but I do on the occasion love to hang out at Cheeseburger in Paradise. If you've eaten at one anytime recently, you'll know what I mean. The atmosphere is absolutely playful and live music is always a treat. They make the best frozen drinks with the CUTEST little fruit people garnishes. For a visual click HERE!

Well, here's the next best thing for your next get together. Margarita Cake!! It's got all the flavor of a margarita in a moist cake topped with a buttery vanilla frosting.

1 pkg white cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1 can (10 ounces) margarita mix frozen, non-alcoholic,defrosted, undiluted
1 tablespoon lime zest

Creamy Vanilla Frosting:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 stick butter or margarine softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract (brown vanilla will make your frosting off white)
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven 350°. Spray two 8-inch pans with vegetable spray.

In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, eggs, applesauce, and margarita mix until well blended. Divide batter into the two pans.

Bake according to directions on box or until cakes are golden brown and baked through. Cool on rack 10 minutes; remove from pans and continue to cool. Level cakes if necessary.

Prepare frosting:
In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

If it's too thick for spreading add 2 tablespoons milk, stir well, then spread over your cake.

Frost the bottom layer of the cake. Top with next layer. Frost all over. Garnish with lime twists.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco De Mayo oh My oh.....Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

It doesn't take much for me to get excited about a party!! Cinco de Mayo is no exception. I am certainly not Mexican Pueblan, but I sure do love to celebrate. Heck, I celebrate when I wake up and can fit in my jeans.

Mexican food is one of my all time favorites! Once in that smallish town in the middle of podunk Georgia, there was a little Mexican restaurant in a dinky CVS shopping center-strip mall of a thing. I forget the name. They had a buffet for lunch. Be still my heart. A Mexican buffet. All the cheese dip you can eat. Tamales, Enchiladas, a taco bar, you get where this leads. My jeans probably won't fit now, just from the memories.

Every year, on the anniversary of their opening, they would hire this authentic Mariachi band. Oh, boy! It was the most fun at a dinky small Georgia Mexican restaurant you could possibly have!!! We looked forward to it every year. The place was packed to the ceiling tiles with Corona drinking patrons and in true Mexican restaurant style you'd get a refill of chips and salsa every 4 minutes with impeccable service and delicious food.

The Mariachi would come table to table and take requests. Lemmetellya, they were decked out in their sombreros and gold trimmed black suits, just like rhinestone cowboys. They didn't speak much English, but they sure could sing it well. They sang a lot of oldies, country songs, and rocked out at our table to the Beatles classic Yellow Submarine. I'll never forget it.
I'll probably listen to some Beatles tunes as I make a Cindo De Mayo feast!

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas are on the menu with a fresh garden salsa and an avocado salad!! Can't wait!! Happy Cindo De Mayo everyone!!

3 chicken breasts cooked and cut into bite size pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can diced tomatoes and chilis (slightly drained)
2 cups shredded cheese (Mexican blend) reserve 1/2 cup
1 10 oz. can enchilada sauce or homemade sauce
Fresh cilantro, optional

In a large bowl, mix together chicken, soups, tomatoes, and cheese. Spread mixture in tortillas, roll and place seam side down in baking dish. Top evenly with enchilada sauce. Sprinkle top with reserved cheese.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown. Garnish with Fresh Cilantro if desired.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sweet Lemon Cupcakes

Mother's Day is right around the corner. You know what that means? You've gotta do something nice for your momma! I can not reveal the gift that my mother will receive in the off chance she might read this blog, so this is one time my lips are sealed.

What are some of your favorite memories of Mother's Day?

There are countless paintings, drawings, and homemade gifts I have collected over the last several years. I remember my first Mother's Day quite well. Isabella was 12 days old. (Yes, that's right. She just celebrated a birthday.)

It also happened to be the first time we took her to church. I dressed her to the nine's in a beautiful yellow dress with a huge white satin hairbow on a headband with pristine frilly lace socks and tiny satin shoes, not that her little baby feet could even wear them. My mom had made a yellow blanket to match the dress trimmed in eyelet lace. Yellow Overload. She. Was. Adorable.

Here's a great Sweet Lemon Cupcake recipe perfect for little hands to help mix. Share the happiness of Motherhood with some of the mothers in your life.

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sour cream

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add zest and vanilla; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Now for the Frosting, I chose my basic cream cheese frosting and topped these babies with coconut. Although a lemon buttercream would be delicious on these as well.

150 Likes, Yikes!!

It thrills me to see people realizing their inner foodie! It thrills me that you're enjoying the recipes and tips! And It thrills me that we reached 150 Likes on Facebook!

Now, I'm a sucker for a giveaway and just love to share the gift of "Kitchen" with other foodies. So, I had to have a great item for 150 likes!! This giveaway item goes to Leslie Brock in Arkansas.

Check out this adorable Designer Apron!

Made by the ever talented Jennifer at the SweetApronzNCupcakes shop at

Oh how I love Etsy!! I must admit I'm a regular Etsy shopper. I have this thing for supporting home businesses and I'd much rather buy something homemade than an ordinary item at the oversized impersonal department store with the well known name anyday.

These aprons are excellent! And I firmly believe cute aprons make you cook better. Just sayin'.

Check out the shop and snatch up one of these cute aprons! It would make a great teacher gift for the end of the year, a gift for a wedding shower, or buy one for yourself "just because".

Monday, May 2, 2011

Crock Parmesan Chicken Sammies

HAPPY MAY!!!! Gosh, May! When did that happen?? I think we still have Christmas ornaments out....with the Easter candy. Nothing wrong with that I guess.

Well, for our family, May brings with it 2 of our children's birthdays, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, and we are preparing for the oldest to graduate high school. Very exciting things are happening and we have many reasons to celebrate. All of my many ventures are blooming and it's keeping me extra busy these days, which means, I'm having a tough time getting dinner "on the table" quick.

Ah, it's time to break out the dearly beloved crock!! Again I will tell you I have an obsession with the crock pot. It's like a magic machine. I turn it on. Leave. Come home. Dinner is ready. How could I not be in love with cooking this way?

I did say that there are many events this month, which means more moolah spent on gifts and parties!! How about some Chicken Parmesan Sammies on the cheap?

Bonless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (about 3 1/2 pounds)
1 can/jar prepared spaghetti sauce
14 slices frozen Parmesan-flavor Texas toast from two 11.25-ounce packages
2 cups shredded Italian-style cheese blend (8 ounces)

Place chicken in slow cooker and top with tomato sauce.

Cover and cook on low heat setting 6 to 7 hours.

Remove chicken from cooker; place on cutting board. Pull chicken into large chunks, or shred, then gently stir into sauce in cooker.

Set oven control to broil. Place Texas toast on broiler pan rack. Broil with tops 4 to 6 inches from heat 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. To serve, spoon chicken mixture over each toast slice and top with about 2 tablespoons cheese.