Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Snacks for a Tribal Themed Sip and See

Last week I had the joy of co-hosting my first ever "Sip and See" party. Apparently this is a southern tradition that has become increasingly popular in other parts of the country. It's actually a way to share the joy of a new baby's arrival by having a bunch of friends and family gather together to view the little one. I gather that it's not usually a shower, although it could be if the guests had not attended one before the baby was born. Of course any party has to include some yummy snacks! Since the guest of honor has a tribal themed nursery, we incorporated that idea into the decor and the food served. Pinterest gave us the idea of the skewered fruit arrows. I found a cute little tribal raccoon on an invitation and printed the image off to tape on small wooden sticks which I then stuck in the cupcakes. I made the tepee sandwiches from thin Pepperidge bread, pretzel sticks, and canned aerosol cheese. I just cut the crusts off and cut the sandwiches on the diagonal. Because the filling couldn't be too thick, I opted for homemade ham salad and (a nod to the south) pimento cheese.

Ingredients for Three Cups of Ham Salad:

1 pound cubed, cooked ham
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pickle relish (dill or sweet)
2 green onions

Using a food processor, "grind" the ham cubes until they resemble coarse sand. Rinse the green onion,  cut the roots off the bottom, and thinly slice. Mix the ground ham, mayonnaise, pickle relish and onion with a spoon until well combined.

Use as a sandwich filling or cracker spread.

Ingredients for Three Cups Pimento Cheese - from Cook's Illustrated Magazine

2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 oz.) jar pimentos
1 (8 oz.) package finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 (8 oz.) Package regular shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
14 (or less) teaspoon cayenne pepper

With an electric mixer, gently combine all ingredients together just until spreadable.

Use as a sandwich filling or cracker spread. 

Ingredients for about 20 Cupcakes (via tidymom.net):

1 box good quality Red Velvet cake mix
3 eggs
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted
1 cup water

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting to ice about 20 Cupcakes:

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use an electric mixer for two minutes to combine the cupcake ingredients. Put about 1/4 cup of the batter into each cupcake liner. Bake for 20 minutes. An inserted toothpick should come out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.

To make the frosting, use the electric mixer to whip all the frosting ingredients together until fluffy. 

I was under time pressure when I iced the cupcakes, and the frosting started to get all "crumby". To save the situation, I crumbled a cupcake up and scattered the cake bits over the frosted ones. It camouflaged the disaster! 

For variations on this cupcake recipe, enjoy my Cupcake Celebration post!

Monday, April 18, 2016

BBQ Chicken Lollipops and Classic Coleslaw

In February of this year, Roy and I splurged and spent the entire month in our motor home parked at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground. Although I've never been a Disney fanatic, it was magical! We had a great time taking advantage of all the wonderful amenities this fabulous park has to offer; if you want to see my commentary on our adventures click HERE !  There was just one little wrinkle that invaded our quest to have fun every minute. We were/are trying to sell our existing RV in order to upgrade to another one. (If you would like to peek inside it, click HERE).  One evening we got a call from an interested party who said they were flying in the next day to look at it. I got up that morning and cleaned the place so thoroughly that someone could go over it with a Q tip and not find a spec of dust. It was tired and hungry when I finished. Since it was lunchtime and we had a couple of hours to kill before our "showing", I suggested we go to the Trails End restaurant on the grounds.  I ordered the fried chicken lollipops which came with coleslaw. They hit the spot which made the phone call we got from our prospective buyer a little easier to swallow; he had gone to look at a RV before ours and had just bought that one. We still have our RV for sale, but at least I got an idea for a blog post! I'm a big kid at heart and I loved the idea of chicken lollipops. Disney's coleslaw had apple and fennel in it, but the version posted here is just my easy, traditional version. I got the BBQ sauce recipe from the Chef Mickey Cookbook sold in the campground Trading Post. Of course any store bought bottle of barbecue sauce would work just as well. 

BBQ Chicken Lollipops - Serves 4 to 6


12 chicken leg drumsticks
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup of BBQ sauce, bottled or recipe below


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take a very sharp knife and make a cut all around the top of the drumstick leg. Pull off the skin and push the flesh downward to expose as much as the chicken bone as possible. Scrape the top of the leg to remove the skin there.

Brush a foil lined baking sheet with oil. Place the chicken legs on it. Brush each leg with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes.

Take the chicken out of the oven and slather barbecue sauce all over each leg.Turn the oven down to 375 and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Repeat this step one more time.

Ingredients for 1 cup of Disney's BBQ Sauce:

1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2  teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat.Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently.  Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Classic Coleslaw


1 (14 oz.) package coleslaw mix - about 4 1/2 cups shredded cabbage w/carrots
1/4 cup finely diced purple onion
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper


In a large bowl, toss the coleslaw mix with the onion.  In a separate bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper together. Pour over the coleslaw mix and gently stir to completely coat.

Serve the chicken lollipops on top of the coleslaw. May all your days be magical!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Chickpea Curry with Black Rice

My love of Indian food began when Allison's good friend Ashik presented me with a cook book as a Christmas present. He knew I loved to cook and since he was often around at dinner time, I think he was hoping I might try some of the recipes. Roy claims he doesn't like Indian food, but this is one dish he says is yummy. I didn't find it in Ashik's cook book though. The inspiration came from Jamie Oliver's book Food Revolution. He recommends using Patak brand curry pastes as a quick and easy way to make curries. They definitely speed up the process and the results are delicious. Using black rice is a nice change of pace. Besides adding a ton of nutrients, it's nutty flavor pairs really well with the chick peas. Of course, white rice could be substituted and cooked chicken could be added if an additional source of protein is desired.

Ingredients for Four Servings:

1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 medium onions
bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
1 small pepper such as a Serrano or jalapeno
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup of store bought curry paste such as Patak brand
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup uncooked black rice
Plain yogurt and wedges of lime or lemon for serving

While assembling the curry, cook the black rice according to the directions on the package. Peel the onions and thinly slice them. Wash and chop the cilantro up, stems and all. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the ginger and dice it up. Decide how much of the pepper to use and remove the membrane and seeds, then mince it.

Over medium low heat, saute the onions, cilantro, ginger, and pepper in the oil until they are tender. Add the chickpeas and curry paste. Mix well and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and turn the heat down to low. Continue to simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with the black rice, wedges of lime or lemon, and a dollop of plain yogurt.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So Easy Summer Rolls/Fresh Spring Rolls

Jennifer & Allison in Hoi An - Viet Nam

My attempts fall short in the looks department - but the rolls still tasted yummy!

This fall, Allison and Jennifer traveled around Asia and had the time of their lives. They did it on the cheap by staying in hostels and avoiding fancy restaurants. Taking advantage of all the local culture had to offer, they visited lots of museums and explored each area they visited. One fun thing they did was partake in some cooking classes in Thailand and Vietnam. When they got home, we had a great time going to an Asian market and then cooking up some of dishes they had learned to make. One of them was what restaurants here call Summer Rolls - but their cooking school in Vietnam called them Fresh Spring Rolls. I was surprised that they were so easy to put together. I have had summer rolls in the States made of lettuce and rice noodles, and my Vietnamese friend Kim makes the absolutely best ones I have ever had with pork and pickled vegetables. I imagine this recipe could be used as a starting point and anything that sounds could good be put in a spring roll such as avocado or even cooked asparagus. It would be fun to let guests or kids assemble their own. Likewise, the dipping sauce here is great, but any number of different sauces could be used. Kim serves her's with a divine peanut sauce. Another post on this blog -  Lettuce Wraps -  has three fabulous sauces that would all be great to use with these rolls. Enjoy the recipe posted here - I'd love to hear back about anyone's experience's with summer rolls!

Ingredients and Procedure for Fresh Spring Rolls

Recipe from Gioan Restaurant & Family Cookery School in Hoi An - Viet Nam

5 pieces of hard rice paper (the first one might be unusable as part of learning curve)
1 cucumber grated into long strips (we ended up using a spiralizer)
1/2 carrot grated into long strips
5 tablespoons fresh mint
1 tablespoon white rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
5 teaspoons of onion flakes (optional but nice)
5 pinches of pepper
10 shrimp, cooked and peeled

Dipping Sauce

1 fresh chili, crushed
2 choves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoonlemon juice or lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce or soya sauce

Combine and mix well

*Side note - the recipe the girls were given says "serves four" but note all the "5s" 

Love the name!

Mix cucumber, carrot, salt, sugar, and vinegar in a bowl. Then put in a cloth and squeeze the liquid out.

Soften a piece of rice paper in cold water and put on a plate. (We turned it around so it got nice and wet every where. After it is on the plate it continues to soften.)

Place a heaping tablespoon vegetable mixture onto the edge of the rice paper.
Place pinch pepper, 1 tablespoon mint, l teaspoon onion flakes on top of vegetable mixture.
Fold both sides into the middle.
Roll twice.
Add 2 shrimps on top.
Roll up the rest of the way.

*Side note - as seen above, we didn't follow the directions exactly. It's forgiving!

Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Messy, Yummy Cuban Sandwich with Rice and Black Beans

The weather in January never seems to be very good - no matter where someone is. At the beginning of the month, Jenn and Allison left the Northern Hemisphere for another round of adventure, so Roy and I traveled down to the Florida Keys. I know I shouldn't complain, but I would say we saw a lot more rain that sunshine. The great thing was, since we couldn't hike or bike ride, we went out to lunch a lot. As a result, I got hooked on Cuban Sandwiches as well as Cuban Rice and Beans. Of course I had to try and make them myself and the recipes posted here are the culminations of my experiments. Some restaurants served the beans and rice separately in "Moros y Cristianos" (Moors and Christian) style, but my favorite was when the ingredients were combined together and perfectly spiced. I had a hard time getting the seasoning right until I finally added a teaspoon of Old Bay powder. It dawned on me that since I was eating the dish in places that served seafood, maybe the restaurant kitchens were adding it to the rice as well as their main dishes. Well, it seemed to do the trick and I finally got a nod of approval from Roy. Another couple things turned out to be key; I substituted beef broth for water and did not drain the liquid from the beans. That seemed to add flavor and gave the rice the color I was looking for. As for the sandwich - what a meal! It's a really delicious combination and a great use for leftover shredded pork and ham slices. 

Cuban Marinade Ingredients for a Two Pound Pork Shoulder:

1 orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 gloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions for Cooking the Pork

Whirl all the marinade ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside and refrigerate 1/3 cup of the marinade to use when serving. (It is especially good on a Cuban Sandwich!)  Pour the rest of the marinade over the pork. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Then, place the meat in an oven safe pan. Pour the liquid it was marinating around it. Bake covered in a preheated 324 degree oven for 4 hours. At the end of the cooking time, remove the meat from the pan and place on a serving platter. Shred the meat using two forks.   Enjoy the meat with a drizzle of the set aside 1/3 cup marinade. Use the left overs in a Cuban sandwich - see below.

Ingredients and Directions for Cuban Rice and Black Beans

1 cup uncooked white rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, including the liquid
2 cups beef broth
1 large onion, skinned and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a press
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Saute the diced onion in the olive oil until tender. Add all the rest of the ingredients and cook according to the rice package instructions. When done, all the liquid will be absorbed and the rice will be tender. I have also cooked this in a crock pot for 2 1/2 hours on low and the result was perfect.

To Assemble a Cuban Sandwich:

For each sandwich slice open some kind of crusty bread that is soft inside such as Cuban bread, French bread, or a Mexican bolillo shown above. Slather on side with yellow mustard. On the other side, put a healthy amount of mayonnaise. Lay some sliced ham on the mustard side. The shredded pork goes on top of the ham. Drizzle some of reserved marinade over the pork.  The cheese goes right next to the mayonnaise. Put the sandwich together and brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Grill each side so that a nice crust appears and the cheese melts. Serve with lettuce, tomato, and dill pickles.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hearty and Tangy Spaghetti Squash Bowl

The January weather in the United States is atrocious. Granted, the slightly chilly 60 some degrees Fahrenheit and rain in the Florida Keys or Southern California sounds pretty good compared to Chicago's forecast of  negative one and snow. Either way, a New Year's resolution to eat healthy is hard to keep when the weather is cold and what's really being craved is cozy comfort food. To answer this dilemma I came up with a quick and easy little recipe that is warm and satisfying, as well as a colorful treat for the eyes. If a bit of decadence had to be added to this dish, the Parmesan cream sauce from the post Savory Pumpkin Stuffed Pasta Shells would do the trick! Most of the people I know don't even make New Year's resolutions because they are hard to keep - or perhaps they are just doing life right anyway! But, for what it's worth, click on the for a small article I wrote about how to keep them:  "Tips for Keeping Realistic Resolutions."  In the meantime, enjoy this spaghetti squash bowl; it is yummy even if it is healthy. A side note - I think grilled shrimp or chicken would be a great addition if some protein was desired.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

1 good sized spaghetti squash
1 (5 oz.) package of arugula
1 carton of cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more to sprinkle
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns
Some salt and pepper for sprinkling
Extra olive oil for drizzling 


To cook the spaghetti squash cut it down the middle lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Fill an oven or microwave safe pan with about 1 inch of water. Put the squash skin side up into the pan. Either bake the squash in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or microwave it on high for 20. Squash will feel soft to the touch when it is done. Carefully remove the two halves from the pan, and with a fork "rake" the flesh to loosen the stands of spaghetti squash into a bowl. Set aside.

Roasting the tomatoes is nice, but optional. Wash and dry the tomatoes, cut them in half, and place them in an oven safe dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle them with a bit of salt & pepper. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until they are softening but still hold their shape. Set aside.

Wash and pat the arugula dry.  Arrange the spaghetti squash, tomatoes, arugula, and Parmesan cheese in a large serving bowl or divide and the ingredients among four individual bowls. In a small bowl whisk together oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Drizzle enough of the resulting dressing over the spaghetti squash, tomatoes, arugula, and Parmesan cheese to coat when gently tossed.

To serve, sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Lucky Little Black-eyed Pea Salsa

Here's a quick little appetizer to put out for friends or bring to a New Year's gathering. It's very similar to White Bean Salsa . Actually there is a lot of room for variations in this recipe; any veggie diced small enough could be thrown in. Likewise, various spices could be added to punch it up such as chili powder, cumin, or even curry. It is said that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's will bring good luck. I'm not sure about that, but this recipe does add a bit of fun to any festivities - and it's yummy!


2 cups cooked black-eyed peas (I use a 15 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup combination of colorful peppers, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 small clove garlic, put through press or finely diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Crackers or pita chips to serve with the salsa


In a serving bowl gently combine the black-eyed peas, peppers, onion, tomatoes, and jalapeno pepper. In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the black-eyed pea mixture and carefully toss. Serve with crackers or pita chips.