Monday, December 27, 2010


My mom put me in charge of this recipe for Christmas dinner.  Why?  Because it's easy and she didn't trust me with any of the other dishes?  Possibly.  No matter, it's my kind of cooking...

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Make 6 servings

15 red potatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs fresh rosemary
1 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix potatoes, olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt.  Place on baking tray and bake 40 minutes, or until soft.  Finish with a broil to crisp them up if desired. 

Note:  Use different colored potatoes to mix it up.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Alison's 1st birthday arrived and I skipped the fondant cake idea. Not for lack of trying. I just didn't have enough red food gel to dye the fondant cherry red, to go with Alison's red dress, the red balloons, the red vases, the red candles, the red ribbon around the candle holders, the red ladybug stuffed animals, and well you get the idea.
Heaven forbid I should serve a pink cake with all that red! Instead, I opted for serving the red velvet cake I originally bought to decorate in fondant as is, with the simple white cheesecake frosting. Which of course coordinated with everything else. And for Alison, she got a giant cupcake for her smash cake. A smash cake that didn't get smashed so much because all she did was pick at it. Oh well, we tried.

Giant Cupcake
2 boxes cake mix
Vegetable oil
Pam spray
1 can frosting

Preheat oven according to cake directions.  Coat molds with Pam spray. 

Fill cupcake base mold 1/2" from the top and bake for 10 minutes. 

After 10 minutes remove from oven and fill cupcake top mold 1/2" from the top.  Finish baking for 60 minutes. 

Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing cupcake halves.  Cool for at least 2 hours before assembling.

Chocolate Cupcake Shell
1 bag candy melts
Pam spray

Coat cupcake bottom mold with Pam spray. 

Follow directions on candy melts bag to melt. 

Coat cupcake bottom mold with melted candy melts.  Use a spatula to spread evenly, pushing it into grooves.   

Cool in refrigerator or freezer for about 20 minutes.  Remove from mold when set up.  Use a knife to clean up the edges if needed.

To assemble, place cupcake top back into the mold and level with a knife.  Place cupcake bottom into candy melt shell and push it into the shell snug.  Level the bottom against the shell. 

Ice the cupcake top, following the Instant Fondant Icing Recipe. 

Instant Fondant Icing
1lb dry fondant mix
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup butter, softened

Combine ingredients in saucepan and stir thoroughly, until fondant is dissolved and mixture is smooth.  Stir constantly over low heat.

Place upside down bowl on large plate.  Place cupcake top on upside down bowl.  Pour fondant icing over it from the tip of the cupcake, letting is coat the entire top, with excess dropping onto the plate. 

Immediately sprinkle any toppings on the fondant icing while it's wet. Once fondant icing starts to set, it won't hold any sprinkles to it.    

Let fondant icing fully set up before placing on the cupcake bottom.  To place halves together, coat cupcake bottom piece with 1/4 cup canned frosting on the cut side.  Place cupcake top onto the bottom. 

Note:  If fondant icing needs to be touched up, use a hot spatula or spoon to melt fondant and reshape.  Dry fondant mix can be found at cake decorating shops like, The Decorette.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


At $8 a slice for their custard French toast, Cafe du Berry was easily ruining our weekly food budget.  So custardy, their French toast was unlike anything we'd ever had.  No need to eat it with a knife because it was so soft.  It was like eating dessert for breakfast.  So flavorful, the restaurant didn't serve syrup with it, and nobody ever asked for syrup.  Except for me. 

Cafe du Berry you will no longer ruin the budget.  And I will no longer be intimidated to ask for syrup.  Why?  Because I've figured out your recipe.  Or at least come very close to it!

Custard French Toast
Makes 6 servings

12 slices French bread (cut diagonally, 1 inch thick) or Texas Toast
3 T butter, melted
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Powdered sugar
2 lemons
Maple Syrup

Layer bread into a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. In a large bowl, beat eggs and yolks. Add milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, and melted butter; mix well. Pour over the bread slices. Cover and chill overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

On a greased rimmed baking sheet or baking pan, lay bread down in a single layer.  Bake, uncovered, at 425° for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with powdered sugar, lemon wedges, and maple syrup.

Note:  This isn't your typical French toast.  It's custardy on the inside and almost has a stuffed appearance to it. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Everything tastes better with cheese. With two different vegetables smothered in cheese, this dish is perfect for kids. And adults who don't like vegetables.

Cauliflower Gratin
Makes 6 servings

1 head cauliflower or broccoli
1 T butter
2 tsp flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup carrot or butternut squash puree
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boiling. Cut cauliflower into bite-size florets.

Blanch cauliflower for 2-3 minutes. It should be tender, yet still firm. Drain in colander and set aside.

In same saucepan melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute over medium heat.

Slowly whisk in milk to prevent lumps from forming. bring to a boil. The mixture will begin to thicken. Cook 2-3 more minutes.

Reduce heat to low and add cheddar cheese, puree, salt, and pepper.

Add cauliflower to the cheese mixture and transfer to a greased 9" baking dish. Top with parmesan cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until gratin is bubbly and top begins to brown.

Note: Broccoli can be used instead of cauliflower. Carrot/squash puree isn't a necessity in this recipe, but it's a great way to get in some extra veggies.

Carrot Puree- peel, trim, and cut carrots into 2-inch chunks. Steam for 10-12 minutes. Use a food processor or blender to puree into a smooth paste. Add a few teaspoons of water if necessary.

Squash Puree- roast unpeeled butternut squash halves, seeds removed, on a baking sheet in the oven at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or poke with fork and microwave until soft. Scoop out flesh and puree.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Why re-invent the wheel? Trader Joe's coffee cake mix is easy to make. Not only that, but it's delicious. Who cares if it's not from scratch, it almost is. And besides, presentation and taste are what count, right?

Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake
Makes 8 servings

1 box Trader Joe's Coffee Cake
1 egg
9.5 T Butter
2/3 cup milk

Follow directions on box.

Note: Use a 9" round pan instead of a square pan. It looks fancier. Add crushed raspberries to the mix for something that looks even more fancy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


How could a dish with just two ingredients taste so good?  Two ingredients.  That's my kind of cooking. 

Chorizo-Stuffed Mini Peppers
Makes 4 servings

4 Cups mini peppers, assorted colors
2 chorizo sausage links

Pre-heat oven to 350 degress.  Cut a slit into the banana peppers.  Remove sausage from casings. 

Push banana pepper in so it puckers, creating an opening at the slit.  Fill with chorizo sausage.  Place on rimmed baking tray. 

Bake for 15 minutes and then broil until browned. 

Note:  For a sweeter and milder taste, use andouille sausage instead. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Growing up, this was a favorite dish that my mom made (and still makes) for every single dinner event.  Lori's birthday, cheese potatoes were there.  My birthday, cheese potatoes were there.  Thanksgiving, cheese potatoes were there.  Christmas dinner, there they were again.  You get the picture.  So, if this doesn't count as comfort food, I don't know what does. 

Janet's Cheese Potatoes
Makes 8 servings

5 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cube butter, melted
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Boil and peel potatoes.  Cut into cubes and place in large mixing bowl. 

Combine potatoes, butter, cheese sour cream, and salt.  Place in baking dish and cover with foil. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake and additional 10 minutes to brown top. 

Note:  An easier way to make these is to microwave the potatoes.  Don't forget to poke holes in them to vent with a fork before microwaving.  Combine all the ingredients and instead of baking them, microwave until the cheese it melted.  You miss out on the golden brown cheesey top layer, but it still tastes the same!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


When plain old, run-of-the-mill fruit salad won't do, this is a fancy alternative. Meat and fruit?  Who knew you could combine them like this.  It'll shock and awe your guests.  Yet it's easier to make than it looks. 

Cantaloupe & Prosciutto Salad
Makes 8 servings

5 slices prosciutto
1 cantaloupe
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
mint leaves, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake prosciutto 10 minutes, or until crisp.  Break into small pieces.

Cut cantaloupe into wedges and shave off ribbons from each wedge, using a vegetable peeler. 

Toss cantaloupe, prosciutto, mint, and olive oil together.  Season with salt.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


What do you bring to a potluck when you have less than an hour to not only cook something, but to get ready as well? (This is what happens when the neighbor lady tells your husband and he forgets some minor details, like what time it starts). You could cop out and buy something pre-made, but to avoid any embarassment, this is an easy dish.

Caprese Salad
Makes about 18 servings

1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
4 roma tomatoes, sliced on the diagonal
Basil Leaves, chopped
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Drizzle tomato slices with balsamic vinegar.  Arrange one tomato slice on each mozzarella cheese slice. Sprinkle with chopped basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: For an even easier caprese salad, use grape tomatoes and mini-mozzarella balls. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and serve.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Tater tots and cream of mushroom soup for dinner? So odd, yet surprisingly so good. Growing up I was convinced that only my mom could have come up with a random recipe like this. That and tuna casserole.

So odd, that surely we were the only family that ate this. And then I married a Minnesotan.   I came to the realization that this is what everyone in the midwest eats everyday. Hot dishes as they're called over there. Casseroles to us on the west coast. This is comfort food at it's best.

Tater Tot Casserole
Makes 8 servings

4 pounds frozen tater tots
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cans cream of mushroom soup

Preheat oven to 375 degress. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, place a layer of tater tots down. On top of this layer add ground beef and onions, season with salt and pepper.

Spread layer of condensed cream of mushroom soup on top. Add final layer of tater tots on top.

Bake for 60 minutes, or until meat is cooked through.

Note: This dish holds up well throughout the week, making it great for leftovers.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I've been dying to get my hands on this recipe ever since I tasted one of these tasty treats in Minnesota.  My mother-in-law's good friend, Lucy, is known for this signature sandwich.  And thanks to Siri, one of my sister-in-law's good friends, who got her hands on the recipe, I now have the recipe!  Thanks Siri, you made my day when you posted this recipe!

Your guests will love these sammies.  You'll love these sammies.  You'll love them until you figure out just how much butter is in each individual sammie.  Don't do the math.  You'll never enjoy one of these the same way if you do...

Lucy's Ham & Cheese Sliders
Makes 12 sandwiches

1 stick of butter
1 T mustard
1 T worcestershire sauce
2 T brown sugar
1 T poppy seeds
12 dinner rolls
12 slices black forest ham
6 slices Swiss cheese

Assemble sandwiches and place in a baking dish. Use 1/2 slice of Swiss per sandwich. 

Bring butter, mustard, worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and poppy seeds to a boil in a saucepan.
Pour sauce over the sandwiches. Marinate sandwiches for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes covered,  then 10 minutes uncovered.

Note:  Hawaiian sweet rolls are tasty, but if you're making this in bulk and want to save money, Costco's dinner rolls are the way to go.


Round 2 of the birthday cake dress rehearsal.  This one was made to celebrate the half birthday party for all the babies from our birthing class.  Seven 6-7 month old babies all in a room, along with their first-time parents.  Chaos.  But tons of fun! 

Lessons learned from this attempt:
1.  Hire a bakery to bake and frost the cakes.  It's so much more fun to decorate it than bake it. 
2.  Cakes are heavy.  Be sure to use wood dowels and cardboard in between layers. 

Yeah, it may look like I got a little lazy and didn't use the dowels.  That's why this cake is sinking under its own weight on one side.  Not that I didn't try, those things are hard to cut with a knife.  After one attempt and one injured finger, I decided it wasn't worth it.  Next time I think I'll make Mike cut the dowels with his table saw. 


Here's another recipe from the back of a pasta package. Thank goodness. If it weren't for these recipes, Mike would only ever be eating pasta paired with canned spaghetti sauce.

Veggie Sauce with Chicken Mozzarella Ravioli
Makes 4 servings

17 oz (1 package) chicken mozzarella ravioli
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 eggplant, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Parmesan cheese
Prepare pasta as directed. While pasta cooks, prepare sauce.

Saute onions and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil and set aside. 

Cook yellow pepper, zucchini, and eggplant in 1/4 cup olive oil until tender.  Add can of tomatoes (use about 1/2 of the tomato liquid in the can), salt, onions and garlic.  Let simmer for a few minutes.   

Add cooked ravioli.

Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled over top. 

Note:  Pairs well with pinot gris.  This is a great meal to get rid of any veggies laying around in the fridge.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


This salsa was originally prepared with mahi mahi fish tacos, Mexican coleslaw, and an avocado salad.  It took Mike over an hour to clean all the dishes from this dinner.  Seeing as how Mike doesn't like doing dishes all night and I don't like fish,  odds are I won't ever cook this meal again.  But I will definitely make this delicious salsa again.

Mango Pineapple Salsa
Makes 1 medium bowl full

1 mango, chopped
1/2 cup pineapple, chopped
4 medium tomatoes, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1/4 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 T olive oil
1 tsp salt

In a medium bowl, combine the mango, pineapple, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic. Stir in the salt, lime juice, red onion, and olive oil. To blend the flavors, refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


The hardest thing about this dessert is trying to figure out how to cut a mango.  It probably would've helped had I figured out how to pick a ripe mango.  Had it been ripe, I imagine it would've been a lot easier to cut and I wouldn't of been worried about whether or not I was up to date on my disability insurance, as I precariously wielded the Wusthoff.  Next time I make this dessert, I'm going for the softest mango in the grocery store.   

Upside-Down Mango Tartlets
Makes 6 servings

2 mangoes
1/8 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T dark rum
3 T butter
1 pinch salt
vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pastry into 6 3-inch circles to fit jumbo muffin pan.

Combine brown sugar, dark rum, and salt in small saucepan, bringing to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 1 minute, then add butter and macadamia nuts. Stir until butter's completely melted.

Divide sugar-nut mixture into the muffin pan cups. Place on layer of mangoes into muffin pan cups. Top each cup with puff pastry, tucking it around fruit and pushing out large air bubbles.

Bake 20-25 minutes, until pastry's golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes. Run butter knife around edges to loosen . Place rimmed baking sheet or pan over the muffin pan. Invert to release tartlets. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Note: Use other fruit and nuts like peaches, strawberries, raspberries, pears and walnuts. Mini tartlets can be made using cupcake pans.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Comfort food that can go from city chic to outdoor rugged? But how you ask? 3 recipes in one, that's how. This dessert can be cooked just like the way you remember Mom doing it, or you can dress it up to impress dinner guests. How?  Martini glass.  Anything looks fancy in a martini glass. Or, dress it down for the great outdoors. This is a favorite for car camping or a day out on the beach crabbing, when smores just won't do.

Fruit Crisp
Makes 10 servings

1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp nutmeg
5 T butter, softened

5 peaches or tart apples (Fuji, Gala, Braeburn, Granny Smith)
1 banana, sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

vanilla ice cream
mint sprigs
caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut apples/peaches into halves and hollow out. Place in ungreased pan.

Mix flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg together. Cut butter into small pieces and add to dry mix. Mix until there is no powder remaining and the the mixture is moist and crumbly. Add walnuts, cranberries, and bananas.

Overfill fruit halves with mix. Make sure to pack it in and condense. Bake for 40 minutes or until topping is golden brown and fruit is tender.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and garnish with caramel drizzle and mint.

Camping Fruit Crisp: Wrap each fruit half in tin foil. Cook on coals of fire, rotating occasionally. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until fruit tender. Open and add 1 marshmallow to topping. Close foil back up to melt marshmallow for a few minutes and then serve in foil. Always cook a few more than needed because inevitably, some will burn to a crisp in a hot spot.

Traditional Fruit Crisp:  Cut fruit up and place mix over it, using an 8 x 8 pan. This will usually cook in about 30 minutes.

Note: Pre-made crisp mix exists! If you're feeling lazy, you can find it at the store in either the baking section or produce area near the apples and caramel dip.  Just add butter and fruit.  It tastes just as good as the real stuff! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I came across this recipe on the back of the ravioli package and it's amazing.  Butter sauce?  Well of course it's going to be amazing.  What could be better than that?  Adding bacon to it of course.  That was my contribution to the recipe.  Now it's perfect. 

Brown Sugar Butter Sauce with Butternut Squash Ravioli
Makes 4 servings

17 oz (1 package) butternut squash ravioli
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 T butter, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 T fresh sage, chopped or 3/4 tsp dried sage
2 T cream
1/4 cup bacon

Prepare pasta as directed.  While pasta cooks, prepare sauce. 

Slice bacon into small strips, cook, and set aside.  Using a large, wide saucepan or skillet, toast walnuts on medium heat until just fragrant and beginning to color.

Reduce heat to low, add butter and stir. 

Add brown sugar, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, sage, and bacon.  Stir until completely melted.

Whisk in cream.

Add cooked ravioli.

Note:  This dish pairs well with plain asparagus.  You can make it a little healthier by substituting milk for cream.  But with all the butter and bacon in it, why bother?

Monday, May 3, 2010


In preparation for Alison's birthday, I thought it'd be fun to try a birthday cake.  Fun?  Maybe for some, but not this girl.  Although I did learn a few things:

1.  Look for cake mix with pudding in it.  That's what makes it moist and seem like it's homemade.  Thanks for the tip Courtney!
2.  Icing a cake is harder than it looks.
3.  Pre-made fondant can be bought at craft stores.  Craft stores?  Kind of weird that they sell edible stuff. 
4.  With all the money spent on pre-made fondant and accoutrements, I could've bought a whole lot of professionally made birthday cakes and avoided the hassle of doing dishes. 
5.  Thanks to the internet, I was able to pull off a halfway decent looking cake.  It only took two attempts. 

Attempt #1: 
Attempt #2:

Beauty, eh?  Although I should've rolled the fondant much thinner.  Fondant has a playdough-like texture and with it being so thick, it brought back memories of pre-school as I tried to eat through it.  Now the big question is, will Alison be getting a homemade cake, or a bakery cake on her first birthday?