Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I was really looking forward to cooking on Christmas this year. We decided on turkey, but since we just made turkey on Thanksgiving, I had planned on making different sides and getting creative with my potatoes. However by Christmas I was feeling so worn out from the pneumonia that I had to let everyone else do the work. THANK YOU so much mom, dad, Jim, Stacy, and Jon for all of your help prepping, cooking, and cleaning up!!

Our menu - turkey fresh from Haring Brothers Farm, Jon's stuffing - a family recipe, roasted asparagus, my dad's mashed potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, and creamed onions.

The creamed onions were the one thing that I made from start to finish. My father-in-law has to have them with a turkey dinner -

  • I boiled frozen mini white onions for 5 minutes, drained them, and put them in a serving dish.
  • In the meantime I made a cream sauce by melting 2 tbsp butter in a pan, then adding 1 tbsp white flour to make a roux. Once thickened, I added 1 cup of heavy cream, a pinch of salt, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of parsley for color. I whisked everything until it came to a heavy simmer, then poured the sauce over the onions.

Dessert is my dad's domain. He is THE baker in the family. On Christmas Eve he made a fabulous pumpkin cheesecake, and on Christmas he brought Jon's favorite, an apple pie. How beautiful is this?

Here is his recipe:


  • 8 cups of Granny Smith Apples (sliced or chunks) -- he uses a Pampered Chef Apple slicer to make uniform slices
  • 3/4 Cups of granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp tapioca
  • 1 Tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 Tsp ground ginger
  • 1 Package of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (2) or make your own


  • Mix the apples, tapioca, sugar, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl until all the fruit is coated
  • Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the bottom of your pie plate; place 1 crust in the plate (the flour prevents sticking)
  • Pour all of the ingredients into the shell.
  • Place 4-6 pats of butter on top of the apples (about 1/4 inch thick).
  • Place the second pie crust over the apples and crimp the edges. With a fork, poke holes in the crust.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until crust is golden brown and fruit is bubbling.
    Tip: Use a pie shield for the entire baking time to protect the rim of the crust from burning OR cover the perimeter of the shell with aluminum foil removing after 20-25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.

This pie is SOOOO good! It doesn't even need ice cream on top!

Since I didn't even get around to taking any other food pictures, here are a few random Christmas pictures -

My sister and I made a few flower arrangements for our table

Daisy Mae sitting by the tree

Merry Christmas!!!

Christmas Eve Appetizers

Christmas Eve is a great night for a lot of appetizers and different foods - nothing fancy, just good, home cooking!

Unfortunately this year I couldn't do as much as I wanted since I had pneumonia. We ended up taking food over to my parents' house so they could do all of the work..thank goodness! We contributed two appetizers - my spinach artichoke dip and Jon's boiled shrimp and homemade cocktail sauce.

My Spinach Artichoke Dip

I tried a few different recipes and finally created my own. Believe me, if you make this one, it will be the best you have ever tried.

  • ½ sweet yellow onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 10 oz box frozen spinach
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup mozzarella cheese
  • Few pinches of red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Saute onion and garlic in olive oil and set aside
  • Cook spinach according to package directions; drain.
  • Mix spinach, onion, and garlic in large bowl.
  • Add cream cheese; mix
  • Add mayonnaise, sour cream, cheeses, red pepper flakes, and salt. Mix well.
  • Add artichoke hearts; mix; transfer to a baking dish
  • Top with some cheese.
  • Either store in fridge until ready to bake or bake on 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.
  • Serve with tortilla chips and/or raw vegetables such as carrots and celery.

Jon's Shrimp and Cocktail Sauce

It is a tradition in Jon's family to have lots of shrimp on Christmas Eve. Jon loves this tradition - it's another excuse to make shrimp!

Here is what he does -

  • Add 3 tbsp white vinegar and 1/3 cup of Old Bay seasoning to a pot of water; bring to a fast boil
  • Add 2 lbs of shrimp to the boiling water. Cook until firm, approximately 7 minutes.
  • Remove from the water and toss under cold water to stop the cooking.
  • Clean and de-vein the shrimp (unless you bought them clean)
  • Chill in the fridge

Cocktail sauce: Jon mixes ketchup, horseradish, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce to make his cocktail sauce. Whew is it spicy!!

Lobster Rolls...fresh from Maine!

My husband is from Maine and my father-in-law still lives there. Whenever he comes to visit we ask him to bring some fresh lobster meat. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve I made some lobster salad for lobster rolls. Of course for lobster rolls you have to have the special white-bread rolls only found in New England, so my father-in-law also brought them from Maine.


  • 1.5 pounds fresh lobster meat
  • 1 stalk celery finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise


  • Combine all ingredients and mix - that's it! You don't need much mayo at all so add it slowly. I let everyone add their own salt and pepper

I served the rolls with my corn chowder, my new favorite soup. My recipe can be found here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Meatballs in Homemade Sauce

Jon loves to cook and he can't wait until he can get back into the kitchen. Since his second and final wrist surgery was on Monday, he wanted something really hearty for dinner Sunday night. He requested meatballs - one of his own specialties - so I decided I'd try to make a homemade sauce to go along with it.

I have only made homemade sauce once but that was back in high school so I don't even remember what I did. I decided to give it a try tonight. I found this recipe for sauce that looked pretty good. I tweaked a few things, noted below.

Tomato Sauce


  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • Sea salt, preferably gray salt (I used Kosher)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (I used a bit more, maybe 4 large cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • I added basil, Parmesan cheese, a pinch of sugar, 1 tbsp tomato paste, and I cooked the meatballs in the sauce near the end.


  • Open the can of tomatoes and pour the juice into a bowl. Use the lid to press against the tomatoes to extract as much juice as possible.
  • In the can, avoiding cutting yourself with the rim, use your hand to squeeze the tomatoes to a pulp. Re-strain out the new juices, and reserve the juice and pulp separately. Fill the empty can half full with water and set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion and cook with a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook until golden.
  • Add the tomato juices and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer rapidly until the juice thickens, then add the crushed tomato pulp, oregano, the half can of water, bay leaf, and salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture thickens and reduces to about 3 1/2 cups, about 30 to 45 minutes. (I let it cook for 90 minutes, added the meatballs, and let it go for another hour or was still watery)
  • Discard the bay leaf.

The Outcome....I was not terribly happy with this recipe. The flavor was ok, but it never thickened up. However, it was really good on Monday night! I don't understand how the directions called for 30-45 minutes of cooking to thicken it. I didn't even use as much water as the recipe called for, I added tomato paste, and it still wasn't thick.

I will try sauce again, but I may just wing it..things seem to work better for me when I experiment rather than follow a recipe.

The Meatballs...Let's just say I'll let Jon stick to making the meatballs. They were fine, and I followed his recipe, but they just weren't the same as his.

I mixed 1-1/3 pound of ground beef with about 1 cup of breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp oregano, 1/2 tbsp garlic powder, salt, pepper, and an egg. I cooked them in a frying pan before adding them to the sauce.


Jon loves to make garlic bread. I've always heard him call it his "10-clove surprise" as he'd be making it. Of course I always thought he meant 10 cloves for just the bread. So since I was making this special pre-surgery dinner for him, I also made the bread.

I melted 4 tbs of butter and then cooked 8 cloves of garlic in it (pressed garlic). I poured the garlic-butter mixture over 6 slices of bread, wrapped it up in foil, and put it in the oven for about 12 minutes.

HOLY Garlic! We both love garlic, but wow. It was only after I made the bread that Jon told me that 10-clove surprise refers to the entire dinner - the sauce AND the bread. Oops! It was yummy but next time I'll stick to about 4 cloves.

Cold Night Comfort Food - Soup and Paninis

With a nor'easter on its way, we decided to stay in tonight and make some comfort food.

Tonight's menu: Cauliflower Soup and Turkey-Bacon Paninis

I had recently made my two favorite soups - corn chowder and roasted potato-onion-garlic soup - so I wanted to try something new. I came across
this recipe for Cauliflower Soup. I made a few small changes, noted below.

Cauliflower Soup


  • Coarse salt and coarse black pepper (I used about 1/2 tsp each)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter, separated
  • 2 small heads cauliflower, or 1 large, cut into small bunches of florets
  • 3 ribs celery and leafy tops from the heart of stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (I used 1 tsp dried thyme and it was more than enough)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 cup half-and-half or whole milk (I used whole milk; I think light or heavy cream would have been better)
  • Hot sauce, optional 3 tablespoons (I didn't do this - I used 4 dashes cayenne during the cooking process instead)
  • chopped fresh parsley leaves or chives, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, for passing at the table (I didn't add cheese - we both don't think it would go with the soup at all!)


  • In a large pot, heat up the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter, over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the cauliflower florets and stir with a wooden spoon.
  • Add celery, onion and thyme and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Push the vegetables to 1 side of the pot. Melt 1 more tablespoon of butter on empty side of pot and add flour to the butter. Cook for 1 minute, stirring the flour in the butter.
  • Mix in chicken broth and half-and-half.
  • Bring up to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Puree soup using an emersion blender, food processor or blender and return to pot.
  • Check seasoning and add a dash of hot sauce, if desired. (I really can't see the hot sauce working with this soup)

We both liked this soup, but agreed that we could make some changes next time. I think I'd add garlic, maybe a clove or two. I'd also use less thyme. The flavor of the thyme was a bit over-powering.


We used our panini maker to make turkey-bacon paninis.

Jon's sandwich: Marble rye bread, Swiss cheese, shaved turkey breast, bacon, and some mayo (we added the mayo after it cooked)

My sandwich: Marble rye bread, spreadable Laughing Cow cheese, shaved turkey breast, bacon, and tomatoes

Using the panini press was easy, but the sandwiches were SO flat. Jon said he would have just preferred a cold sandwich. I liked mine but think next time I'll use a different bread. I would also like to try spreading some of my homemade spinach-artichoke dip onto the bread with the turkey and bacon. I'll be making the dip for Christmas Eve so I'll post the recipe then.

I hope all my fellow North Easterners are keeping warm in this lovely storm we are having! It's a perfect weekend for some soup :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Homemade Fish Sticks with Creamy Mac-n-Cheese and Garlic Brussels Sprouts

I have tried every type of fish, and just a few months ago I discovered that I liked catfish. I think I like it because it is a fresh water fish and is very sweet. Jon loves seafood so I decided to get some catfish today. I didn't want to just bake the filets like I did last time, so I made fish sticks out of them.

Catfish Sticks


  • 3/4 pound catfish (this was 2 filets today)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 c milk


  • Slice catfish filets into 3-4 inch long, 1 inch wide pieces
  • In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the parsley, thyme, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and cheese.
  • Dip each piece of fish in the flour, then milk, then breadcrumb mixture and place on a baking dish/cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  • When you are done with all the sticks, cover them and put them in the fridge for 20-30 minutes
  • Bake on 375 for 15-20 minutes, flipping once
I liked these. Since I'm not a huge fish fan, the spices in the breadcrumb mixture added nice flavor and disguised the fish a bit!

My creamy mac-n-cheese recipe can be found here. Warning - it's not healthy, but it is oh-so-yummy!

I introduced Jon to Brussels sprouts a few months ago and now he loves them. I cannot remember where I found this recipe for garlic Brussels sprouts, but when I do I will post the link/source.


  • 20 (or so) fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp salt (I don't add salt since the chicken broth is a bit salty)
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper


  • Trim the end of each Brussels sprout; set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, saute garlic in 1 teaspoon butter and oil for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown
  • Add sprouts; toss to coat.
  • Add the broth, salt and pepper;cover and cook for 12-14 minutes or until sprouts are tender.
  • Serve with a slotted spoon; I like pouring some of the garlic broth over them on my plate
Look at these beauties!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Roasted Potato-Onion-Garlic Soup

This soup evolved from a basic potato soup - I don't even know where the original recipe came from or where it might be now! Over the past 2 years I have added ingredients and changed how it is cooked, so now this is my own recipe for Roasted Potato-Onion-Garlic soup.


  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped (big pieces are fine)
  • 1/2 bulb roasted garlic
  • 2 cloves raw garlic
  • 28 oz chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy or light cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/8 tsp cayenne and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Chopped fresh parsley as a garnish


  • Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat
  • Add onions and raw garlic; cook 4-5 minutes
  • Add potatoes, cook, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes
  • Add roasted garlic, then add broth and bring to a boil; lower heat, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender
  • Remove from heat. Puree soup either by transferring to a blender or by using a handheld immersion blender.
  • Add spices
  • Add cream and gently reheat soup
  • Garnish with parsley

I love to make this soup on a cold Sunday afternoon - the house smells great, it's a nice afternoon treat, and I love having lunch made for the entire week!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fettuccine Alfredo

Tonight's dinner: Fettuccine Alfredo with some hot Italian sausage on the side for Jon

I make a lot of different cream sauces, but wanted something closer to an Alfredo. I browsed several copycat recipes for Olive Garden's Fettuccine Alfredo, including
this one. Below is the recipe I came up with.


  • 8 oz uncooked fettuccine or a thick linguine
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley


  • Boil water, cook pasta to al dente; drain
  • In the meantime, heat butter and oil in a large pan. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for 2-3 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.
  • Add the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and cream. Whisk together until creamy.
  • Add the parsley, nutmeg, and black pepper
  • Add the pasta and toss until coated
  • Serve immediately

I loved this dish! No, it wasn't healthy, but I only ate a small amount and also had some sauteed spinach on the side. I think adding garlic to the sauce gave it great flavor. I'd make it again and may try light cream cheese and light cream next time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My take on soup-and-sandwich night

Yesterday the temperature was in the low 30s with 50mph wind gusts...what a perfect night for soup! Jon suggested that I make my corn chowder, a recipe I developed myself. It has a bit of a southwestern kick with the peppers, spices, and jalapeno cream. So what to pair with it? I had some chicken so I decided to make some chicken soft tacos with a creamy pepper sauce.

I first made this corn chowder for my dad's birthday a few months ago. I didn't mix crab in this time, but I did make the jalapeno cream.
Here are the recipes for both the soup and the jalapeno cream.


For the tacos, I took thin sliced boneless breasts of chicken, covered them in chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and onion powder before cooking them.

Once cooked, I shredded the chicken with 2 forks.

I then made a creamy pepper sauce. I sauteed chopped red and green peppers in just a touch of olive oil. I then added about 1/3 of a block of cream cheese and let it melt in the pan. I added just a pinch of shredded cheddar.

When assembling our tacos, I put a layer of the sauce directly onto the tortilla and topped it with the chicken, some cheese, and some of the Jalapeno cream. Jon put the sauce on top of his chicken, along with some cheese and jalapeno cream. The sauce kept everything creamy and the jalapeno cream was the perfect flavor addition to these tacos!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Beef Stew

This was my first try at beef stew and it was pretty good! (EDIT: Click here for my new favorite beef stew recipe).

To come up with the recipe, I thought about the flavors, talked to my mom about her beef stew, and read a bunch of recipes. I also got some advice on the cut of beef from a friend who is an amazing cook. I came up with my own recipe and was quite pleased. The only change I'd make next time is to use less of the tomato juice and more of the beef gravy.

The picture doesn't look that good, but believe me, it tasted great!!


  • 1 1/2 pounds beef; I used 3/4 lb chuck and 3/4 lb sirloin
  • 2 large potatoes chopped into big chunks
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 parsnip, chopped
  • 1 large (35 oz) can whole tomatoes; run your knife through the can to chop them up a bit
  • 2 packages dry gravy mix (beef mushroom gravy); enough to make 2 cups gravy
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 cup dry dry red wine (for marinating)
  • A few cloves of garlic or some garlic powder (for marinating)


  • Marinate the beef in the wine and garlic.
  • Sear the beef in a large pan; transfer to a stew pot.
  • Add carrots, potatoes, and parsnips, stir.
  • Add spices, stir.
  • Add tomatoes and gravy, stir.
  • Bring to a steady simmer and then reduce to low for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Adjust seasonings if necessary and serve.

Yesterday was our first snowfall so this beef stew along with some fresh crusty bread was perfect!