Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Maybe it's a chef thing... maybe it's a personal preference... maybe I'm just crazy...

When I'm cooking (especially at home) and trying to find new ways of making our favorite dishes while seeing what I can use up in the fridge, I feel inspired and courageous in my preparations. 

Pierogies... these delicious pockets of potato, sauerkraut, onion or cheese filled delights make me smile.  Whether homemade or bought prepared, it seems that everyone has their own particular way of serving them.  Scallions, chives, butter, sour cream, crispy bacon and cheese sauces are popular. 

Tonight I tried something new and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome in a way that will forever change my future menu's for this dish. 

  • 12 pierogies
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large sweet Vidalia onion
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/3 diced vinegar peppers
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
Cook pierogies in boiling water, leaving them slightly underdone (they will finish cooking when pan seared; this prevents them from getting mushy and falling apart). Drain and spread out in an even layer on a plate; set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.  Sautee onions until caramelization starts taking place, approximately 4-6 minutes stirring frequently.  If the onions start to stick as they do have a tendency to burn if the heat is too high, add 1 tablespoon of water to steam and release the onions and reduce heat slightly.  Add in salt, pepper and sugar.  Once thoroughly incorporated, add in vinegar peppers, jalapeno pepper and butter.

Once the butter is melted and the onions & peppers have cooked down (approximately 2 minutes), add in pierogies and reduce heat to medium-low.  Carefully brown both sides of the pierogies.

Serve with sour cream and chives.
Creamy Sweet Vidalia Onions & Vinegar Peppers
Boiled Pierogies Pan Seared Golden
Bon Appetite

Winter Sangria

As I was snowed in today and perusing my emails I came across a recipe for Apple Cinnamon Winter Sangria...
and what a better day to test out a recipe like this when you want to get warm from your nose to your toes!

I LOVE Sangria, especially in the summer season both red and white.  This is a wonderful combination of Spiced Red Wine that you find around Christmas and a warm weather specialty. 

The original recipe is from Recipe.com and Better Homes & Gardens; as great as it is I change a few things around to make it more appealing to me and my crowds tastes. 

Try both and compare....
I know you will enjoy them and even make our recipes YOUR own by adding a twist or two!

Apple-Cinnamon Winter Sangria
  • 1/2 cup dried apples
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3 apricots, pitted and sliced thin (about a 1/4 inch)
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup Cointreau or grande manier
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 750 ml bottle Merlot
  • 2 cups ginger ale
In a large saucepan stir together the apples, cranberries, raisins, apricots, blueberries, brandy, honey, cointreau, vanilla bean, and cinnamon. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a gentle boil.
Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in wine. Transfer mixture to a decanter or pitcher. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours to blend flavors.
Just before serving, stir in club soda. Serve in glasses over ice. If desired, using a slotted spoon, spoon some of the fruit into each glass.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Leftover Holiday Candy Hot Chocolate

This post is a simple post to share an easy way
to make my absolute favorite cold weather beverage.
It seems that from Halloween to Valentines Day, there
is an overly abundant amount of candy that
accumulates. Here is an easy and fun way to use
some of these goodies up.  You can always
try them in a cheesecake too!
Crushed Dark and Milk Chocolate Bars with Peppermint
Candy Canes; Chocolate Truffles;
Chocolate Covered Cherries, Caramel filled Chocolate Squares;
Milky Ways; Mounds; Three Musketeers...
All make wonderful Hot Chocolates when crushed or chopped.
Over low heat, warm milk stirring often.
Whole milk works the best but non-fat and skim
are just fine.  Once milk starts to steam and froth, remove from heat and add crushed/chopped candy.
You will need approximately
4 tablespoons of chocolate to every 6 ounces of milk. 
Truffles can be added whole and stirred in. 
2-3 filled chocolates per every 6 - 8 ounces of milk.
Top with Whipped Topping and a drizzle
of your favorite accompanying liquor such as
Crème de Menthe or Chambord.  Enjoy!!!!

Sesame Noodles with Spicy Peanut and Sweet Chili Glazed Slow Cooked Pork Ribs

If you ever get the opportunity to go to an Asian Market, I highly suggest you do so.  It's like going into a book store; leave yourself plenty of time because no matter how large or small the market, you will truly be captivated traveling through each department and aisle.

The produce is OUTSTANDING and you will get the most out of your money with meats and fish. (Every thing is so fresh!)  The sauces are a glorious section of different soy sauces, chili sauces, curries and sirachi. The desserts are intriguing and the types of noodles and papers for spring and eggrolls are overwhelming. (In a good way!)

The following meal is one of my favorite to make. I have played around with these sauces many times, making them more spicy or mild depending on the meat alongside a variety of noodles that have been prepared as pad Thai with rice noodles, served cold with lo mein noodles or like below with egg noodles. A beautiful "salad" to go with there dishes is a take on coleslaw with shredded cabbage and carrots tossed in a wasabi aioli that is beautiful during the summer with grill rare ahi tuna. 

Bon Appetite!

Pork Ribs
  • 10 Bone-In Pork Ribs
  • 1 cup Chicken Stock or Water
  • 1 cup prepared Barbecue Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Thai Style Peanut Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Soy Sauce (Low Sodium preferred)
  • 1/2 cup Duck Sauce
Preheat oven to 265 degrees F.  Place ribs in roasting pan with stock or water, cover with aluminum foil leaving one corner slightly vented. Cook pork for 2 hours. Remove foil and turn ribs. Roast 2 more hours until most of the liquid has evaporated. 

In bowl, mix together Barbecue Sauce, Thai Style Peanut Sauce, Soy Sauce and Duck Sauce.  Set aside. Glaze ribs and return to oven, increasing heat to 350 degrees.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Serve any extra sauce and pan drippings on the side.

Sesame Noodles

  • 5 Egg Noodle Nests (you can also use Rice Noodles, Lo Mein Noodles or Angel Hair Pasta)
  • 1/2 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1/3 cup Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Soy Sauce (Low Sodium preferred)
  • 1/2 cup reserved Pasta Water or Chicken/Vegetable Stock
  • 1/3 cup Vinegar (Rice Wine, White or Apple Cider Vinegars all work well)
  • 1/3 cup Sesame Oil
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • Black Pepper to taste

Cook Egg Noodles 2 minutes less than according to package directions.  Drain and return to pan (don't forget to reserve some of the liquid) over medium heat.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to coat pasta well.  Keeping a close eye on your sauce, cook approximately 3-5 minutes, stirring often until sauce coats the pasta, is well absorbed and almost syrupy in pan.  Serve with fresh cracked black pepper as needed to taste.

A light and refreshing salad accompanies this dish well.
Crispy Iceberg Lettuce with a Mandarin Orange-Ginger Dressing,
Dried Cranberries & Crispy Wonton Strips
Perfectly glazed Pork Ribs
Smokey, Sweet, Salty & Spicy
Try adding some freshness with chopped Cilantro or Scallions.
You will want to eat an entire bowl of these noodles,

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blueberry Crumble Cake

When the cold winter weather hits, I get the biggest satisfaction out of testing new recipes and working on revising old ones.  I love dusting off old cookbooks and remembering that the most basic, original and simple ideas are usually the truest favorites.  I find that this is the season for baking and slow cooking...where in the summer we turn up the grill.  My heart is satisfied when the house is warm and the aromas of tomato sauce, slow cooks meats and cakes linger long after they are cooked. 

A few posts back I decided to make a very simple Cherry Tart with homemade crisp topping to modify the pre-made ingredients used.  Well I decided to do the same again but come up with something new since I had a ton of the crisp crumble left over and an extra pie filling.  After some research and debate I decided to make a take on another sweet challenge in coming up with a coffee cake by combining boxed cake mix with blueberry pie filling. 

This lighter, almost muffin like cake is less rich and fatty than many breakfast "cakes", yet a touch more dense that a simple vanilla or white cake.  Just the thought of having another slice of this little piece of heaven with a fresh cup of coffee or a hot cup of tea is delightful and I hope you try this masterpiece on the next snowy day... or rainy day.. or sunny day... JUST TRY IT ANY DAY!!

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F for shiny metal or glass pans / 325 degrees F for dark or nonstick pans.  Grease bottom and sides of a 13" x 9" pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, milk, blueberry pie filling, vegetable oil, vanilla, zest  & eggs on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes (scraping bowl occasionally).  Pour into pan and sprinkle generously with crisp topping.
  3. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  There may be a little stickiness to the cake filling due to some of the filling but not much.  DO NOT OVER COOK!  Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.  Let set for at least a half hour before cutting and serving. 
When using a boxed cake mix, add one extra egg and use milk instead of water.
Individual Muffins
These little cakes will soufflé in the oven and fall a little when cooling.
Try this recipe with Apple Filling and Spiced Cake Mix!
This cake is even better the next day!!!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wines In A Flash

I love wine... I love food.... but what dishes go with what wines??

It's always hard to pair, especially if you aren't well informed or are testing out a recipe for the first time and don't really know what it tastes like.  Are you going out to a restaurant and are unsure of an all around good table wine to bring for your party?

Here is a quick reference and little cheat sheet that is extremely helpful when planning a meal.

White Wines

  • Pair with: clams, crabs, chicken, turkey, pork, shrimp, veal, lobster, swordfish, salmon, cream sauces
  • Light-bodied: pale yellow with fragrant nose and typically dry
  • Medium-bodied: lemon yellow and richly scented
  • Full-bodied: straw yellow in color with oak and vanilla on the nose, usually dry and full lingering taste
Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pair with: shellfish, chicken, prosciutto, salads, goat cheese
  • Pale yellow color with greenish hues and apple or herb aromas; light, dry crisp finish
  • Pair with: pasta with seafood, cod, shellfish, grilled scallops, chicken with cream sauces, vegetable salads, vinaigrettes, citrus sauces
  • Light bodied and mildly fragrant that is dry, usually crisp, and refreshing
Chenin Blanc
  • Pair with: sole, flounder, snapper, curry, fruits, mild to spicy dishes, sushi, chicken and pork with light sauces
  • Pale gold color with fruity aromas and melon flavors with a medium body and dry finish
  • Pair with: sushi, smoked fish, grilled fish, Indian dishes, Thai dishes, scallops, baked ham, cheese
  • Citrus fruit aromas with pale yellow color; can have hints of sweetness or can be dry with a crisp finish
  • Pair with: pastas, salads, ham, turkey, BBQ chicken
  • Aromatic & floral, pale straw in color with dry, slightly spicy finish
White Zinfandel
  • Pair with: salsa, soy sauces, prosciutto and melon, ginger sauces, barbecue chicken wings
  • Slight pink in color, medium-dry with a fresh fruity finish
Red Wines

Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pair with: grilled meats, pastas with red sauces, lamb, venison, sharp cheeses, roasted pork
  • Medium-bodied: ruby colored with berry aromas and round finish
  • Full-bodied: dark rich color with jam and oak aromas with full, dry finish
  • Pair with: veal, duck, tuna, salmon, pastas, sausages, parmesan sauces, cheddar, fruit sauces
  • Black cherry aromas with medium body and soft tannins
Pinot Noir
  • Pair with: grilled tuna & salmon, chicken, quail, creamy sauces, spicy sauces
  • Medium bodied with hints of earthy and fruity aromas
  • Pair with: pasta, pizza, ribs, barbecued and grilled meats, roasted chicken, cheeses
  • Bright ruby color with spicy aroma and flavors; dry and medium to full-bodied
  • Pair with: ribs, roasted chicken and turkey, grilled seafood, rabbit, hamburgers
  • Smooth peppery texture; medium to full-bodied with spice and cherry flavors
  • Pair with: grilled lamb, venison, pasta with tomato sauces, cheese, pork loin, gnocchi
  • Medium to full-bodied spice, raspberry, cherry and anise flavors
  • Pair with: salmon, cheeses, fruits, chocolate, French fries (just try it...the salt compliments those bubbles like no ones business!!!)
  • Higher acid foods with higher acid wines (tomatoes, citrus, goat cheese with sauvignon blanc, pinto noir, chianti)
  • Rich, fattier foods (duck, lamb, beef, cheese) with oaky chardonnay or young cabernet sauvignon
  • Spicy and salty dishes with gewurtztraminer, Riesling, chenin blanc, beaujolais

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Nacho's Grande & Tangy Baked Wings

There is so much truth behind the saying "Food Makes Memories".  New Year's Eve was always THE BEST!! My father and I would make finger foods for the night and stay up late with my mom to ring in the new year!

Little toasted cocktail sandwich sliced bread layered with Cheddar Cheese & Pepperoni, Onion Soup Honey Glazed Chicken Wings, and Nacho's Grande.  As simple as these were, the recipes I am going to share go WAYYYYYY back and come from one of the very first cooks books that were ever given to me!!!  Super Bowl Sunday is almost here so give these a try for yourself and I guarantee they will come back for every party you have in the future!!!

Tangy Baked Wings
  • 1 pouch CAMPBELL'S Dry Onion with Chicken Broth Soup and Recipe Mix
  • 1/3 cup Honey
  • 2 tablespoons Spicy Brown Mustard
  • 18 Chicken Wings (about 3 pounds)
  1. In a large bowl, combine soup mix, honey and mustard; set aside.
  2. Cut tips off wings; discard tips or save for another use.  Cut wings in half at joints to make 36 pieces.  Add to soup mixture; toss to coat.
  3. In large shallow baking pan, arrange wings.  Bake at 400 degrees F. for 25 minutes.  Turn wings.  Bake 20 minutes more or until wings are no longer pink.  If desired, garnish with celery.

*Makes 36 appetizers.  Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 45 minutes

Nachos Grande
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) CAMPBELL'S condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup
  • 1/2 cup PACE Thick & Chunky Salsa
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 1 Small Onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 5 cups Tortilla Chips (about 5 ounces)
  • 1 Medium Tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 Fresh Jalapeno Pepper, sliced (optional)
  1. In 1-quart sauce pan, combine soup and salsa; set aside.
  2. In 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, cook beef and onion until beef is browned and onion is tender; stirring to separate meat.  Spoon off fat.  Add 1/2 cup soup mixture.  Reduce heat to medium.  Heat through, stirring occasionally.
  3. Over medium heat, heat remaining soup mixture, stirring occasionally.
  4. Arrange chips on large serving platter; top with meat mixture.  Spoon soup mixture over meat.  Top with tomato and pepper.  If desired, garnish with fresh cilantro, sour cream and guacamole.
*Makes about 2 cups or 8 appetizer servings.  Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes

If you are looking for a really good quality, pre-made guacamole, try Wholly Guacamole

Mini Cherry Tarts

This is an extremely simple dessert that will impress everyone and no one (but you and everyone who reads this blog) will know that most of the ingredients were bought pre-made.

In bowl place brown sugar, oats and flour together. 
Using the tips of your fingers,
work in cold butter until crumbly and well blended (like wet sand).
Evenly distribute the pie filling of your choice in shells.
Top each pie with a generous amount of crumble to cover the top.
Bake at 375 degrees F. for 35 minutes or
until the crisp topping is golden and the filling is bubbly.
Serve warm with Vanilla Ice Cream or Sweetened Whipped Cream!

Slop Around The Pot

Don't let the name fool you, this Sloppy Dish is an easy fantastic meal made in one pot (or maybe two depending on when you cook the pasta). I am not much of a meat sauce fan for "macaroni" but this is a comforting, warm you up kind of recipe that is a family favorite! 

This recipe below will serve 6-8 hearty portions!!

1 pound Shell Macaroni, cooked aldente
1 pound Ground Beef (I like the 85/15 or 90/10 meat to fat ratio)
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Cracked Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Seasoning Salt
1 tablespoon Chopped Garlic
1/3 cup Red Wine
1 large Bell Pepper
1 large White Onion
2 quarts Tomato Sauce/Marinara Sauce

In a hot skillet over medium heat, sauté onions and peppers until tender in vegetable oil.
Set aside.
In same pan sauté beef until meat is cooked through and all liquid has evaporated, skimming off any fat that rises to the top while cooking.
Add back in onion and pepper blend as well as tomato sauce. 
Season with salt, pepper, garlic, seasoning salt, worchestershire sauce &
red wine.
Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
Fold in cooked, drained pasta and toss well. 
Turn heat to low, let marry for 4 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Serve with side of Garlic Bread.... you won't want to waste this sauce!!!
Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese..lots of it!
For the Italians, a dollop of Ricotta is great!
Bon Appetite

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Jiffy" Corn Casserole

My mother came across this recipe a few years ago and made it one holiday...AMAZING!! It has become one of our favorite staples that is the perfect combination of cornbread, creamed corn, corn pudding and a soufflé.  Super easy and tasty, this recipe has even converted those who aren't big fans of corn.  I find myself constantly bragging about this dish and have the measurements memorized by heart so I can share it easily with friends, family and co-workers.  I think you will too!
Spoon Bread Casserole
(6-8 Servings)


1 pkg. "JIFFY" Corn Muffin Mix

1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
1 can (8-3/4 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (8-1/4 oz.) cream style corn
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.
Pour margarine or butter and corn into dish. Blend in sour cream. In separate bowl, beat eggs and stir into casserole. Add muffin mix. Blend thoroughly. Bake 35 - 40 minutes  or until center is firm.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Merlot Glazed Duck Breast

Cooking duck does not have to be so scary. I find many are intimidated by the process, yet when done correctly can be a simple alternative to any ones typical meal that elevates it an elegant dish. Whether a whole bird, breast or leg and thigh, duck is delicious and tender with a very mild game flavor that takes on seasoning and marinades extremely well.

For New Years Day I usually like to cook something special and this year I thought, enough with the seafood I'm going to do duck!  A merlot reduction with honey and sun dried cranberries, orange essence and garden rosemary, pan seared duck breast over a caramelized sweet onion risotto, roasted tomato and summer corn hash. Now doesn't that sound impressive! Hope you're willing to give it a try! I think you'll be happy with the results!

  • 1- 6 to 8 oz. duck breast
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 bottle merlot
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons local honey
  • 1 tablespoon grain mustard
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 tablespoon herb oil
  • 1 small onion, diced small
  • 1 small tomato, seeded and diced small
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels (if using frozen, defrost and drain well)
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Over medium heat place merlot, cranberries, orange zest, honey, mustard and balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan and reduce until syrup like. 
When the wine has been reduced by half BE CAREFUL the rest of the way! 
The reduction will burn easily if you take your eyes off of it!
Trim fat around duck breast slightly, score and
season well with salt, pepper & dried rosemary.
Pre-heat non stick sauté pan over medium-low heat for three minutes.
Place duck skin side down in pan and slowly render out  the duck fat until caramelized. (You will need to pour out the rendered fat from the pan about three times. 
Reserve in bowl.)
Once duck skin is caramelized and the fat has been rendered most of the way, flip over breast and sear on opposite side for 2 minutes.  Place in baking pan.
Cook duck breast in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes-15 minutes or until 145 degrees internal temperature.  This will give you a perfectly rare to med-rare duck. 
Cook longer if desired, medium is recommended at 155 degrees.
Let duck breast rest for 3 minutes before slicing. 
While the duck is being seared, start working on your risotto. 
The whole dinner will only table about 45 minutes to cook with minimal prep time.

Sweat onions in herb oil and 1 tablespoon of reserved duck fat, adding in garlic, tomatoes and corn.  Warm through for one minute and add rice. 
Adding one cup stock at a time, in three parts cook until aldente and all liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly.  Turn off heat and finish with parmesan cheese. 
Place slided duck over risotto and glaze with reduction, serving extra on the side. 

Bon Appetite!!