Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31, 2012 - National Macaroon Day

Two of my favorite candy bars is Mounds and Almond Joy, so of course I also love macaroons.  They are a super simple cookie to make.  I’m sharing them with you today since today is National Macaroon Day.  Really, I don’t just come up with these.  I wonder who does.  Anyway, if you love coconut, you'll be happy it is Macaroon Day.  


2/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.  I use a Silpat.  I love these things.  A bit expensive but worth every penny and cleans up so nice.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, coconut and salt. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla using my favorite kitchen utensil, the hands, until well blended. Use a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon to drop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about golf ball size.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the coconut is toasted nice and brown.

Variation – Since I love Mounds and Almond Joy,I also make them like the candy bars by adding a few  chopped almonds to the dough before baking. Once out of the oven and cooled dizzle with melted milk chocolate or just dip them.  For those Mounds lovers, drizzle with semi-sweet chocolate chips. 

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Melt chocolate and cool slightly before adding to beaten egg whites and sugar mixture.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar to stiff peaks then add sugar 2 tablespoon at a time and beat until combined.

Add melted chocolate, stir to combine everything.

Drop cookies with a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon onto your prepared cookie sheets and bake for 10-11 minutes.  The finished cookie should be moist and chewy.  These make a great Christmas cookie or gift also.

Have a sweet day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Goin' Bananas

Yesterday a FB friend from Denmark posted a simple grilling idea I had never seen or tried before and I am sure going to try it.  Thank you for sharing Helle Andersen.  Thought I would share with you also to try.  It is a great idea.  Above is a picture of the bananas she used.

She took at whole not overerly ripe banana and with the skin on grilled it until it was almost black.  She opened it up and put ice cream on it and served it as a dessert.  You can go crazy with ideas of toppings or different ice creams for a banana sundae.  You can have everyone grill their own and set up a bar of different topping for everyone to make their own sundaes.  Topping ideas could be several different ice creams, nuts, chocolate or strawberry syrups, whipped cream, strawberries, sprinkles for the kids, or chopped candy bars.  Next time I have out the grill, I'm sure going to try it.

These pictures I'm sharing are from her FB page where she shared her feast of the day in Denmark.  Isn't that a great idea?

Helle wrote:   And the adult version is with brown sugar, whiskey and whipped cream or ice cream. If you don't like whiskey you can use Baileys instead. It's a nice and easy dessert for all, as long as you like bananas.  

Be happy, share ideas and may God bless you and yours.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28th is National Hamburger Day

I have always had a problem with the hamburgers name.  Shouldn’t it be made out of ham?  So in honor of Hamburger Day, I’m making my hamburger out of ham loaf.  Ham loaf is readily available in Iowa and you can get it at our local grocery store in the meat market.  If you can't get it, it is 50% ground ham and 50% ground pork. 

My True Hamburger

Ham loaf (50% ground ham and 50% ground pork)
Bib lettuce
Swiss cheese
Sweet onion
Salt and pepper
Ground ginger
Ground gloves
Mandarin oranges (or pineapple)
Buns (Something crusty like a Kaiser roll or an onion roll goes nicely)

Make patties out of the ham loaf and put a thumb print in the middle to help cook them even.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fry until they are completely done (170 degrees in middle).  Top with Swiss cheese to melt and take off heat.

I like to just use plain ham loaf and use the condiments to flavor the burger.  You can also grate a small onion, add an egg to bind it all together and put a pinch of pepper flakes in the loaf and spice up the burger if you want something more in your patties.  I prefer to sauté my onion and put on top of the burger for the sweetness.


½ cup Mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 small pinch ginger
1 small pinch glove
¼ cup well drained and blended mandarin oranges (or crushed pineapple)

In a blender, blend your oranges (or pineapple) after you have drained them very well.  Add your mayo, mustard and spices (you can heat up with a few pepper flakes if you like hot).  

Sauté onions until sweet and golden brown.  Grill a crusty bun with mayo on it.  You can also turn these into sliders and make them small using a small slider bun.

Slice and salt and pepper an avocado.


Put mayo on both sides of the bun and grill it until it is nicely grilled.  Put a leaf of lettuce and a slice of tomato on bun and top with the cheese ham patty.  Cover with the slices of avocado and sautéed onion. To make it over the top you can also add crisp bacon.  This is a true hamburger.  Play with it and add the flavors you think go well with ham to make it your own.  I made it a little sweet and spicy like a baked ham with the mayo.  

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day.  Remember to pause and give thanks to those who have fought for all we have.  How blessed we are to live in this country.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hot Outside

It is suppose to get up to 94 degrees outside today so I’m thinking about staying in and a meal of something cold.  In fact,  just the idea of 94 degrees does not make me even want to cook or eat.  It will truly be a lazy Sunday here. 

So I think it is look-in-the-frig-veggie-bin time and see what I have for a salad.  I have canned Mandarin oranges, part of a cucumber, chopped pecans in the freezer, ice burg lettuce, and celery so that is what is going into my lunch salad. 

I’ll share with you today the dressing I’ll make. 

Juice from the Mandarin oranges
Balsamic Vinegar (Got some great white peach Balsamic vinegar in Chicago I’ll use that is so great you can drink it out of the bottle)
Salt and pepper

Pretty simple huh?  

If I had some cold chicken I would add that, but I don’t and I’m not heating up the stove to add it.  The pecans will be the protein.  I think I’ll make some cold lemonade to go with it. I'm starting to get my appetite back.  

What in your refrigerator? 

Stay cool and have a great lazy Sunday.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Thought I would share a wonderful meal from camping at Yellow River.  Fresh trout caught and eaten the same day with fried potatoes and summer squash, tomatoes, onions and zucchini.  Staci says she thinks it is the best meal she ever ate.  I'm inclined to agree with her.  My grandson's caught the trout and Staci, Eddie and I prepared the meal and we all ate it together filling it with much love and adding to the whole eating experience.  It could not get any better than that.  We are looking forward to going up again this summer.  I can't wait for the fresh trout.  I even got me a trout stamp on my fishing license already.

Keep it simple (are you getting tired of hearing that yet?) and take the old cast iron skillet with you. 

Saylor's first fish
Sawyer caught the first, biggest and the most fish

Sam and his catch
Sawyer and Sal with catch of the day.  Sal didn't catch any and it broke his heart.  This year he will.

Grilled Trout

Olive oil
Garlic cloves
Black pepper
Grated lemon

Mix together the olive oil and garlic. Spread evenly on the inside and outside of the fish. Add oil to a heated cast iron skillet on the preheated grill.  Sprinkle fish with lemon, salt and pepper and grill for 4-5 minutes on each side over a medium heat. Do not turn over or move until done or it will stick to the grill. 

Variations:  You can add other seasoning depending on how much you want to pack.  Try stuffing the trout with some rosemary, basil, lemon and/or parsley on the inside.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  Good fishing.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend …. Simple and Inexpensive

I’m reading Katie Couric’s  book The Best Advise I Ever Got (great book) and in it Mario Batali writes about keeping his recipes simple and true to himself being part of his success.  I’m in total agreement with him.  I think the more complicated and complex the recipe is the less I like it.  It is the simplest and often the most inexpensive foods that I love the most.   I know part of that comes from my up bringing, but it also comes from enjoying things that have simple tastes that my pallet can identify and enjoy.

With this being Memorial Day weekend grilling is on most peoples’ minds.  If you wish to grill an expensive piece of meat and can afford it, do so.  Me, I’m going with what is on sale and the cheaper cuts of meat.  Grilling adds char and smoke flavor so my rule of keeping it simple means just adding salt and pepper and maybe some barbeque sauce on the side for those who wish it.   If I do pork chops, I’ll probably marinate them because it will make them moister.  My marinate is usually some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a little lemon, thyme, salt and pepper and I like to marinate over night to make the meat very tender.  I will be getting groceries today so I’ll decide at the meat counter what it is going to be. 

I hope you have a safe and fun filled weekend.  Remember what this weekend is about.  Thank you to all those who have served, made the ultimate sacrifice and are currently serving.  A thank you goes out to their families who serve with them.  I’ll be visiting the graveside of my uncle who died in WWII and walking the cemeteries in Andrew and Maquoketa to put flowers on markers for my grandparents and great grandparents. Please take time to remember.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Muffin Man

When my son Josh was very little he wanted to be muffin man when he grew up or a clown.  I made a sign for his door that had a muffin man on one side, his name in the middle, and a clown on the other side.  Of course he grew out of it, but he still likes muffins. 

I thought today I would share a couple of muffin recipes with you.  I have several muffin pans, but my favorite is the small coated muffins tins that when you make them you can almost pop a whole one in your mouth. 

Basic Muffin Recipe      

1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoon melted shortening
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Beat egg, milk, and melted shortening. Add egg mixture all at once to flour and stir only until flour is moistened and well combined. Do not attempt to beat until smooth or your muffin will be tough. Fill the muffin pans half full of batter.  Bake in a hot oven for 15 to 25 minutes depending on the size of your muffin tin.  Smaller muffins pans may be used, making from 15 to 20 muffins.   I use the tooth pick method for testing for doneness. 



Use the basic muffin recipe; substitute 1/2 teaspoon of soda for 2 teaspoon baking powder. Use 1 cup buttermilk instead of milk.

Marmalade Muffins

In each muffin pan place 1/2 teaspoon or marmalade and cover with muffin batter, making pans one half full. The addition of the jelly or marmalade will make two or more additional muffins.

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Muffins

Use the basic muffin recipe, substituting soy flour for white flour.  Substitute soy milk or almond milk for the milk.

Fruit Muffins

Use the basic muffin recipe, adding 1 tablespoon additional shortening, 2 tablespoons sugar and 3/4 cups berries, craisins or chopped apples. Add fruit at the same time the liquid is added. If you add apples add a little cinnamon to your taste.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the first four ingredients. In a small bowl, beat egg, milk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 to 25 minutes (depending on the size of your muffin tins) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for only 5 minutes before removing so they do not stick.  Put in a large baggie to keep moist. 

Double Chocolate Muffins

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat tin with cooking spray if non stick or use paper muffin cups.

Shift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl or parchment paper. Beat the eggs, butter, brown sugar, milk, oil and vanilla.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry.  Fold in the chocolate chips.   Never over mix the batter or the muffins will be tough. Divide the batter among the muffin cups (1/4 cup of batter per muffin). Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  15 to 20 if you are using the small tins like I like to use.

Cool a bit and take out of tins while still warm so they don’t stick.  Wonderful if served warm.  Put in a large plastic baggie to keep moist.  

Warm muffins gives me a nice memory and a smile when I make them.  

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chocolate Madness Cake

Like most people I love chocolate.  This cake is over the top with chocolate and beautiful to look at.

I haven't been blogging lately because I can't seem to post pictures.  I've reported it, but still can't post pictures.  I'm a very visual person and think in this case the picture would say an awful lot, but will post anyway and you will have to just imagine this cake with chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate covering it.  The great thing about the recipe is you can use your imagination and use your favorite candy bar or candies.  I love Heath so went with them.  You could also go with Andres mints. You can get them already chopped for the sides and have whole ones on the top.  Just get your imagination to work.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
1 cup butter, melted
4 tsp. corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Want to make it even easier?  Use a good moist chocolate cake box mix.  I find them just as moist and good and time saving. 

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/3-1/2 cup whole milk (start out with 1/3 cup of milk and add more milk to your desired consistency)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2-3 Tbs. heavy cream
Semi-sweet chocolate chips and Heath Candy chips for the sides of the cake
Small chocolate Heath candy bars for the top of the cake (You may substitute your favorite candy bar like Snickers or Babe Ruth to make it your own and you can drizzle caramel over the chocolate to make it even more sinful.  You can also add peanuts to the sides if you are doing a nut candy bar on the top.)

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Grease and dust two to three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans with flour. Set aside.

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, combine milk, butter, honey and vanilla extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the milk/butter mixture. Mix until combined.  Fold in the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Pour in the batter into prepared cake pans. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and wait for about 10 minutes to remove from cake pans and place on a cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before decorating.

For frosting shift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add the butter, milk and vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer, slowly mix together at a low speed. Once all the ingredients are combined, increase the speed and beat till fluffy.

To assemble the cake, place the first cake layer on a plate or cake circle.  Spread an even layer of frosting. Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. Cover the sides and top of the cake with frosting.  Cover the sides of the cake with semi-sweet chocolate and Heath chips.  Cover the top with chocolate chips and small Heath Candy bars cut in half (or candy bar of your choice). Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the top of the cake and let it drip down the sides of the cake.  You may also drizzle caramel sauce on top and down sides if you like (Use a jar of caramel sauce you would use for ice cream).

What would you put on this chocolate cake to make it yours?

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pop Corn

At my mother’s yesterday, I had a mix of different popcorns that I would have never thought of, but the mix was wonderful.  It was a mix of buttered popcorn, caramel corn and cheese corn.  The sweet, cheesy, salty mix was addictive.  It got me to thinking about all the different ways I’ve fixed popcorn.  At Christmas time, I have made a white chocolate mix that I given out as gifts.  I also have made a dark chocolate mix that I’ve given as gifts.  So today, I thought I’d share some ideas for popcorn and for gift giving. 

Caramel Corn

7 cups popped popcorn (or one microwave popped bag)
¾ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 Tbsp light corn syrup
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp vanilla

Optional Add-Ins:

1 cup M&Ms
1 Cup peanuts or mixed nuts
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Pop the popcorn and pour into a 9×12 glass baking dish.

In a small saucepan, mix the sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Use a candy thermometer and bring the caramel mixture to 250 degrees.

Remove from heat.  Stir in the baking soda and vanilla.  Pour caramel mixture over the popcorn and stir.

Bake in 300 degree oven for 5 minutes. Stir and bake for another 5 minutes.

Pour mixture on parchment paper or aluminum foil and cool completely before mixing in any add-ins.  Store the mixture in air tight container.

Variation:  If you want to make it even more decadent, melt semi sweet chocolate chips and drizzle it over the caramel corn and then decide what if anything you want to add to the mix.

Mom’s Popcorn Balls

A wonderful childhood memory of mine was helping make popcorn balls.  This is my mother’s recipe that I have on an old yellowed recipe card that I’ve saved for over 40 years.  I can remember us helping her make them.  We would all wet our hands with cold water so we would not burn ourselves when we touched the hot syrup and squeeze hard to form the balls. 

1 cup sugar
1 tbs. vinegar
1 cup white Karo syrup
Large bowl of popped popcorn  (I now use 4 bags of microwave popcorn, but mom would never do that)

Pop the pop corn and salt to taste .  Mix sugar, vinegar and syrup and boil mixture until syrup forms a hard ball in cold water  (Test is take a drop of the hot mixture and put in tablespoon of cold water.  If it turns to a hard ball the mixture is done)   Pour hot mixture over the pop corn.  Make sure you have a bowl of cold  ice water next to the hot mixture.  Place your hands in the water and them take handful of popcorn mixture and form a ball.  You will want to let cool just a bit.  Do not press too hard put hard enough to keep balls together.  Put your hands in the cold water each time you form a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap after balls have cooled.  Makes over 12 small balls.

White Chocolate Popcorn Mix

1 bag of microwave buttered popcorn
2 cups pretzels
2 cups of Rice Chexs
1 can of mixed nuts
1 bag of Nestle’s white chocolate
1 bag of small M & Ms 

Pop your pop corn and put in a large bowl.  Add you pretzels, Chexs, nuts and mix carefully not to crush the mixture. 

Melt you white chocolate in a double boiler and pour over your mixture and toss until it is well coated.  Turn out onto parchment paper and spread it out so it does not stick together.  Once cool, and your M & Ms and store in an air tight container. 

You can go wild on what you add to this mix.  This makes a great Christmas gift.

Chocolate Butterscotch Popcorn

3 bags of microwave buttered popcorn
1 bag of Nestle’s Butterscotch chips
1 bag of Nestle’s Semi Sweet Chocolate chips
2 cups of salted peanuts

Pop your popcorn and place in a large bowl.  Set aside.  In a double boiler, melt your chocolate and butterscotch chips.  Pour over the popcorn and stir until it is all coated.  Lay out on parchment paper and spread out so it does not stick together.  Once it has hardened, put in an air tight large bowl and add your peanuts or mixed nuts if you like.  This makes a wonderful gift and take it to a party as an offering. 

Hope this has given you some ideas on how to add lots of love to your popcorn and to share it with others. 

I'm sorry I could not share any pictures today.  The image insert feature does not seem to be working in blogger.  Will try again tomorrow.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Left Overs

Chicken Salad Sandwich

I just picked a left over chicken clean from a roast chicken I made today.  I’ve seen Arby’s advertising a chicken salad sandwich that looks really good so I thought I would make chicken salad with the left over chicken.  They advertise they put it in a wrap or on honey wheat bread.  I thought I would take a stab at making a similar sandwich.  I’m putting mine on Brownsberry oatmeal bread because that is what I have in the house. If I had them in the house, I think I would add Craisins.  Arby's does not have them, but I think they would really add to the apple and pecans.  You could also use walnuts.  I love both, but like the pecan the most.

Arby’s sandwich has grilled chicken, but I’m going to use my roasted cubed chicken, seedless red grapes cut in half, a chopped red apple, a stalk of celery and chopped pecans.  I’m adding mayo to bind it together and a pinch of salt and sugar.  I’m putting leaf lettuce from the garden on the sandwich to finish it off.  You don't have to make it into a sandwich, you can just eat it as a salad.  It stands very well on it's own.  

Baked Potato Soup

I also have 3 left over large baked red potatoes and not wanting to let anything go to waste, I’m making Baked Potato Soup.  Since I had left over demi-grace from the roast chicken (Gel made from cooled juices from cooking meat with bone in), I’m using it to make chicken broth.  I made broth by heating it and adding water.  Don’t ever toss out the dripping from a roasted chicken.  It has too much flavor to toss out.   The broth is already seasoned from the seasoning I had on the chicken (onion, garlic, salt and pepper) so I just added enough water to the demi-grace to cover up the sliced baked potatoes.  I still had left over demi-grace, so I put that in a container, refrigerated, and will use it for making more chicken broth in the near future.

Warm, quick and easy
I added some frozen kale I had in the freezer that I grew and cut up some pre-cooked bacon from the freezer (I always have this in my freezer).  I only had to heat everything up since potatoes were already baked.  I tasted the broth for seasoning and it needed a bit more salt, pepper and onion powder.  I added milk (2% but you could add cream) to the broth and once it began to boil I added a corn starch slurry of just cornstarch and water (about 2 large tablespoons) to thicken. 

In serving, I’ll put some grated cheddar cheese on top with a bit of cut chives from my herb garden.  I have enough for a couple meals this week.  Guess I’ll be eating chicken salad and potato soup for a couple of days. 

I always make too much.  That comes from being from a large family.  Coming from a large family also taught me not to let anything go to waste.

Tomorrow is snack day.  I love popcorn and will share some popcorn recipes I've collected and love.  

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chinese Tonight

I love Chinese and we are lucky enough to have a Chinese restaurant in little Maquoketa.  They have a terrific buffet for lunch on Friday and Saturday evenings.  When ever Sam visits for the week end it never fails he always wants to go there.  I lack imagination and have the same old, same old each time because I love them so.  Here are some of my favorites that I always get when we go or do take out.  They are awfully close to The Great Wall's here in Maquoketa.  

Egg Drop Soup 

4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 beaten eggs
1 drop yellow food coloring (optional)
½  teaspoon salt
½  teaspoon ground white pepper

In a small saucepan, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce and sesame oil. Bring to a boil. Stir together the cornstarch and water to dissolve cornstarch; pour into the boiling broth. Stir gently while you pour in the whipped eggs and yellow food coloring if using. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Crab Rangoon

8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces canned crab meat
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
White pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 package won ton wrappers
1 small bowl water

Combine the cream cheese, crab, onion, Worcestershire, soy sauce, pepper, and garlic.
Wet the edges of the won ton wrapper.  Add a teaspoon of filling to the middle.

Fold over the edges of the wrapper to make a triangle. Wet the edges with water and press together to seal.

Keep the completed Crab Rangoon covered with a damp towel or paper towel to keep them from drying out while preparing the remainder.

Heat oil for deep-frying. When oil is 360 drop in the Crab Rangoon taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Deep-fry until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning once. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Sesame Chicken

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 dash sesame oil
1 pound cubed, skinless, boneless chicken breast

1 cup chicken broth
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons  white vinegar
2 tablespoons  soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup water

1 quart oil for frying
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder into a bowl. Pour in soy sauce, water, vegetable oil, and a dash of sesame oil; stir until smooth. Add the chicken to the batter and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Bring chicken broth, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili paste, and garlic to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Dissolve 1/4 cup cornstarch into 1/2 cup of water, and stir into boiling sauce. Simmer until the sauce thickens and turns clear, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and keep sauce warm.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer or large saucepan to a temperature of 375 degrees F.  Drop in the battered chicken pieces, a few at a time, and fry until they turn golden brown and float to the top of the oil, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.   Drop the fried chicken into the hot sauce pan and stir.   Put on serving plate and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds to garnish.

Chicken Lo Mein

Sam always has the Chicken Lo Mein

1 lb. boneless chicken breast cut in strips
1 tbsp. oil
1 16 oz. pkg. frozen oriental vegetables
1 c. water
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 Swanson chicken flavor packet
4 oz. of cooked spaghetti

Heat oil in 10 inch skillet over high to medium high heat. Add chicken and stir fry until lightly browned about 3 minutes. Stir in vegetables, water, soy sauce and flavor packet.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in spaghetti until well mixed and heated.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1/3 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 4 teaspoons water

Mix the vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce together and bring to a boil in a small pot. Mix together the cornstarch and water, add to the other ingredients and stir to thicken.

You may want to double this recipe.  It keeps nice in the refrigerator.  Serve as a dipping sauce on the side.

Sweet and Sour Pork

3/4 pound cubed pork tenderloin
2 - 3 teaspoons soy sauce
Pinch of cornstarch

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup warm water, as needed
3 cups oil for deep-frying, or as needed

Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes. Marinate in the soy sauce and cornstarch for 20 minutes.

Heat the oil for deep--frying to 375 degrees F.

Combine the flour and cornstarch. Stir in the egg white and vegetable oil. Add as much of the warm water as is needed to form a thick batter that is neither too dry or too moist. (The batter should not be runny, but should drop off the back of a spoon like pancake batter).

Dip the marinated pork cubes in the batter. Deep-fry in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the oil. Deep-fry the pork until it is golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels.

(If desired you can deep-fry the pork at second time to make it extra crispy. Make sure the oil is back up to 375 before you begin deep-frying again).

Serve with the above sweet and sour sauce and rice.  You can follow the same recipe and do it with chicken for fried chicken to dip in your sweet and sour sauce.

For gluten free just replace the flour with corn starch and double the corn starch.  Make sure any soy sauce you might use is gluten free.

You can use the same recipe but substitute it with chicken.

Chinese Fried Rice

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
½ small onion
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 large carrots, diced
3/4 cup frozen pea
6 cups cooked white rice*
2 scrabbled eggs
1/3 cup soy sauce

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft.  Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, the carrots, peas and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the cooked rice and stir thoroughly until heated through.  Stir in scrambled eggs and 1/3 cup soy sauce, heat through and serve hot.

You may add a little meat to the rice if you like.  Add chopped ham, small shrimp or chicken after sautéing the onion.

* For the cooked rice, follow the recipe on your rice package. 

To save money and a trip to pick up your take out, try making your own.  These are really quite simple.

Tomorrow to save money, I'm talking left overs.  

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

National Chocolate Chip Day

Today is National Chocolate Chip Day, so in honor of it I’m making Chocolate Chip cookies.  Get out your favorite chocolate chip recipe and make something wonderful for your family.  

Toll House Cookie

I really don’t have to give you a recipe because I use the Toll House Cookie recipe on the back of Nestle’s Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips package.  They have some other good recipes on the back also.  I have never found any better chocolate chip cookie than the Toll House Cookie.  I’ll just give you my little secrets which I think I have already shared in a previous blog, but in case you didn’t catch it….here goes.

Measure very carefully.  It must be exact measurements or it will not be the great cookie it can be.  

I like my chocolate chip cookie very soft and moist (chewy, ewy good as they say and warm out of the oven is heaven).  Do not over bake them or they get hard.  I only bake them for 10 minutes at 350 degrees and then take them out of the oven.  You might be temped to let it brown a little more, but it continues to bake a bit after you take them out of the oven.  I take them off of the cookie sheet as soon as possible so they don’t continue to bake more also.  As soon as they have cooled, I put them on a paper plate and into a large baggie to stay moist.

I only use butter.  It makes a big difference in the taste.

I love nuts so add pecan to my recipe.  My grandsons do not like nuts so if I’m making them for them, I make some without nuts and then the last batch I put in the oven I add nuts just for me. 

I do have a gluten free chocolate cookie that I make for my grandson I will share, but I’m sorry it is not as good as the Toll House cookie.  It is a moist cookie.  He also has to have dairy free so I use a dairy free chocolate chip and he likes these. 

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 10 oz. bag of Enjoy Life Mini Chips which are dairy, nut and soy free  (there is a recipe on the bag but I use a simpler one) 
2/3 cup Crisco
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cup soy flour
½ tsp. soda
½ tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Mix Crisco, sugars, egg and vanilla well.  Mix soy flour, salt and soda and add to mixture.  Stir in your chips.  Drop with a teaspoon onto a Siltpat, parchment paper, or ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes or until very lightly browned on edges.  Makes a little over 2 dozen.  Put in a large baggie as soon as possible to keep moist. 

Hope you have a wonderful National Chocolate Chip Day and have a cookie or other dessert full of chocolate chips.

Tomorrow it is my favorite Chinese recipes.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rhubarb Season

My sister Wendy gave me a bunch of rhubarb from her huge rhubarb patch.   I had to replant mine and she generously gave me 5 new starts so I will have lots in a couple of years.  Mean while, now I don't have to wait thanks for Wendy, so I’m making rhubarb crisp.  I thought and thought of what to do with it, and since I like things simple I thought I would do a simple crisp with it and freeze the rest of the rhubarb for my next dessert inspiration. 

Wendy makes the best rhubarb cheesecake and I love rhubarb strawberry pie.  Maybe I’ll do that with the next dessert.  So I thought I would share just a simple rhubarb crisp recipe with you.  I have a whole chapter on rhubarb in my book and have posted that chapter on an earlier blog if you want to look at that chapter for other ideas to do with rhubarb. 

Picture of this recipe.  It is delicious.

Rhubarb Crisp

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
3/4 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, butter and cinnamon for your crumble. Press half of the brown sugar and oats mixture into a buttered 8-inch square baking dish. Slice your rhubarb into 1 inch pieces.  Top the bottom layer with the cleaned and sliced rhubarb.

In a saucepan combine 1 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, and the 1 cup of water and vanilla. Cook together until clear and pour over rhubarb.

Top rhubarb with remaining crumble mixture and bake at it 350° for 45 to 55 minutes.  This crisp is really great served warm with vanilla ice cream.

Variation:  You can always add strawberries to the rhubarb to make it a rhubarb strawberry dessert.  Add  2 cups of  rhubarb and 2 cup of strawberries.

I had rhubarb crisp with ice cream at book club 2 months ago and it was so tasty I have wanted it again.  Thank you Wendy for sharing.  Hope you have someone who shares or that you have a patch of your own. 

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

I purchased this love spoon at a wood craft show that is held every year in the Little Amanas usually the first week in August. My mom and I used to go to it every year.  The artist told me that young men would carve love spoons for their new bride as a gift of love.  The artist also told me it was a tradition in Denmark and Germany.  Being of Danish and German roots, I bought this one in honor of my love for my mother and have it on my kitchen wall.  It will always be there in honor of her and all the meals she prepared for us 8 kids over the years. 

In researching it, I find out that the love spoon is an art form that dates back to the seventeenth century.  The earliest love spoon originates from Germany and is dated 1664.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and all moms.  Mom, you are my rock and my hero.  I love you with all my heart.  Thanks for always being there for me.  God bless you.

My mother.  She will be 87 May 26.  
Since it is Mother’s Day, I hope you are doing something special for your mother.  Here is a nice hot chocolate you can make for a brunch to celebrate her day. 


Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mexican hot chocolate is heavily spiced with cinnamon and is a much more complex drink than our hot chocolate.  When I was last in San Diego, I visited Old Town and picked some up Mexican Chocolate Bars and a molinillo (moh-lee-nee-yoh).  A molinillo is a wooden tool that is used to whisk the hot chocolate and make a nice froth on top.   You put the handle between you hands (your hands should be like you are praying) and roll your hands back in forth to mix and make froth.  You can buy chocolate tablets or bars (usually Ibarra or Nestle Abuelita brands on the internet) or make your own blend from scratch with chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla.  I’ve signed up for another Chicago market trip this summer and hope to buy some then to stock up for fall and winter.

To make your own, here is a recipe.

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I use Hershey’s Coco Powder)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 quart milk (For diary free this works well with Almond Milk)
1/4 cup half-and-half (Replace with Almond Milk if  you are going dairy free)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine cocoa, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Heat 1 cup of milk in a saucepan until bubbling to help dissolve the powdered ingredients. Stir in cocoa mixture and whisk until smooth. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 3 cups milk and return to simmer. Never boil your milk or it curdles. Before stirring, whisk until frothy (I use my molinillo, but you can use a whisk); stir in cream and vanilla and heat through again.

Pour the hot chocolate into cups. You can serve with a dollop of whipped cream but then the froth is lost and that is the best part.  

Serve it with warm Mexican Churros. 


Churros are like a sweet hot donuts.  You eat them just out of the fryer with cinnamon and sugar.  They are maravilloso (wonderful).  

Vegetable oil, for deep frying
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 stick butter
1 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg*
4 eggs

Fill a deep-fryer or large Dutch oven halfway with vegetable oil and heat to 350 degrees F.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a large shallow bowl, set aside.  Combine the butter, water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once it has come to a boil, lower to a medium heat and add the flour, and nutmeg, stirring constantly until it comes away from the pan and it forms a ball. Transfer dough to a bowl and use an electric mixer to help cool it off so you do not scrabble the eggs when you add them. At this point you can whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until it becomes a smooth batter. Transfer the mixture into a large piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  Working in batches, carefully pipe 4-inch long ribbons directly into the hot oil to fry.  Use a kitchen scissors to cut the dough as you pipe it.  Fry until golden, turning if necessary, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. Transfer the churros into the sugar/cinnamon mixture and toss to coat. Serve immediately while still warm.

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


When I lived in California, many of my neighbors had avocado trees.  They were truly blessed.  I had a lemon tree, but no avocado tree.  I was lucky enough though to have a young boy in the neighborhood that would come around and sell me avocados from his families’ tree for 12 for $1.00.  I wish that was the case now.  I’m feeling lucky when I can find them for sale at a $1.00 each and ripe.  If they are not ripe you need to plan ahead by buying them a week in advance and putting them in a brown paper bag to ripen.  Avocados have been on sale lately and available in Maquoketa stores.  It must be harvesting season south of the equator. 

I love avocados and am happy to just eat them plain with a little salt on them, but to add one to a salad or sandwich it becomes a whole new lovely thing. 

Some years ago, I invested in a molcajete so I could make authentic guacamole.  This is a Mexican tool that is like a mortar made of lava rock.  I had to prep it when I first bought it by rubbing it with garlic.  I thought I would share my guacamole recipe with you and a couple more simple avocado recipes today. 


3 large, ripe avocados, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 finely diced red onion (Once chopped, rinse in strainer with water running through it to take bite out.)
1 ripe jalapeño chili peppers, seeds removed and finely diced (Keep seeds if you like it hot)
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon  Kosher coarse salt
1/2 freshly squeezed small lime

Although I have a molcajete, you can do this in just a blender or processor. 

Add the onion to the molcajete, along with the garlic, jalapeño and some salt. Grind them together until the bits have fallen apart slightly, and the mixture looks wet and smells aromatic. Add the avocados into the molcajete and grind some more, until the mixture is mostly smooth, leaving a few avocado chunks here and there for texture. I like chunky guacamole.  Add your cilantro and squeeze your 1/2 of  lime.  Taste and see if it needs more salt.  Add more salt and lime juice if needed. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.  My grandsons like to make them and have them warm.  You just cut up a corn tortilla with a kitchen scissors and fry in hot vegetable oil until they are crispy and drain on paper towel.  You can also oven bake them until they are crispy if you like.  We prefer frying them.

The lime helps delay oxidation, but not all.  Eat right away.  If the guacamole is stored overnight, you will have a dark discoloration. This will not hurt you, and will not change the taste but looks are important also.

Variation:  Some people like their guacamole with a little tomato.  You can add some if you like, but there should be more avocado than tomato.  I’m a plainest and like mine without. 

Avocado Tomato Melt

Crusty sliced bread
1 ripe avocado
1 large sliced thin heirloom tomato (I planted mine this week)
Coarse salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (Planted mine also this week. This is an annual in Iowa)
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper
1 garlic clove 
Preheat oven broiler to high. Under the broiler, toast the bread slices on a baking sheet until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately rub the toast with a peeled garlic clove.

Salt the tomato and let sit on a paper towel to take out some of the liquid.

Top pieces of toast with sliced avocado pieces and a slice of tomato.

Sprinkle chopped basil leaves over the tomatoes. Put a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese over the basil, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, and top with a pinch of black pepper.

Broil for approximately 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and serve warm. 

You know what would make this even better?  Bacon or Canadian bacon.  Everything is better with bacon.
Add it before the slice of mozzarella cheese. 

Guacamole Pasta

6 ounces uncooked linguine pasta
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 large minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoon prepared salsa of your choice (has onions and chili already in it for you)
1 bunch fresh cilantro or for those who do no like cilantro use parsley
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Cook pasta in boiling salt water according to package directions until al dente. 

While the pasta is cooking, place the avocado, lime juice, garlic, prepared salsa, cilantro, salt, and pepper into a food processor or blender. Process until mixture is smooth and creamy.

When pasta is al dente, remove it from heat, drain, and place the cooked pasta into a large serving bowl.  Safe some of your pasta water.  Add the guacamole sauce and toss until the pasta is well coated. If  it is too thick you may add a tiny bit of pasta water.  Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Tomorrow if Mother's Day.  Do something very special for her.  Fix a nice brunch for her or take her out to brunch.  

I'll see ya tomorrow.  Enjoy your weekend.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.