February 26, 2011

A Word about Old Joe!

Ahh…can’t start my day without a cup of Joe! I don't want to miss my morning coffee klatch. With one eye open I groan…COFFEEEE.
Yes coffee is part of our social as well as our addictive lives. And while I don’t get the caffeine crave (I admittedly drink decaf) I am guilty of coffee socialism. When I lived next to my best friend in our condominiums, well two doors away, I couldn’t start my day without popping in to her kitchen to share 10 minutes and cup of coffee with her.  Or she’d stop by midday and say “Put on a pot and we’ll chat.” After she got married and moved away, well my coffee socials ended and so did my every day morning cup.
According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia…
Today, coffee is the third most popular drink in the world, behind water and tea.

And I thought wine would have placed somewhere in there before old Joe. So coffee is a worldwide phenomenon, the universal drink which transcends language, culture and time. The cultivating of coffee expanded from Africa to the Middle East and then from the Muslim world to Eastern Europe, Indonesia and eventually to the Americas. The earliest signs of coffee consumption date back to the mid 15th century.
We here in the United States love our coffee with 54% of the adult population partaking of this tasty hot beverage according to National Coffee Association’s 2009 statistics. And the U.S. reportedly imports 4 billion dollars of coffee each year. We drink it to get the day started, we drink it for an afternoon jolt, we drink it with dessert, we drink it with alcohol, we drink it cold and we drink it, most of the time, piping hot.  I‘ve bought coffee scented candles and I even own coffee scented soap. The aroma of coffee appeals to even the non-coffee drinkers by evoking a feeling of home and comfort. It is so familiar to most of us that it becomes a means for complete strangers to bond. If you ever go into a Starbucks, people are generally in a good and relaxed mood, despite the stimulating affects caffeine has on their nervous systems.
So  regardless of the fact that I am not a regular coffee drinker, there are times when I do crave the taste of a hazelnut decaf, and this morning is one of them. With all that being said, I raise my cup of coffee to salute this drink of the ages, and all of the glorious ways it flavors our lives.
To you old Joe, for I have enjoyed you well!

February 25, 2011

My Mom's Homemade Fudge

My mom didn't do a lot of extra cooking while I was growing up, but she did make wonderful fudge. She put peanut butter in it long before they started making all the different types of fudge. This recipe is easy, quick and very creamy!!!


2 1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c butter
3/4 c. evaporated milk
5 oz of marshmallow fluff
6 oz of semi-sweet morsels
3 level T. of peanut butter

In 2 quart saucepan bring the sugar, marshmallow fluff, butter and evaporated milk to a boil. Make sure to continue stirring so the mixture does not burn. Once mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes and continue to stir.

Remove pot from heat and beat in the chocolate pieces. Beat until everything is blended then add the peanut butter and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into a buttered 8 or 9 inch square pan and refrigerate until the mixture is set. Cut into squares and  serve.

Chris's Rating...9 out of 10!!

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Shrimp

This is a perfect spring-like salad on a cold and rainy February day. I like the shrimp warm when topping a salad like this, it tends to melt the goat cheese just a little, and then you get the crunch of the almonds plus a little of the sweetness of the strawberries. You can also use red raspberries or raisins instead of the strawberries depending on the time of the year...both work nicely. I toss this salad with nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and a hint of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.


Fresh baby spinach
Raspberries, strawberries or raisins
Goat cheese
Sliced almonds toasted
Shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail fin removed
Mrs. Dash's lemon pepper
Olive oil and white balsamic vinegar
toasted sliced almonds
Dash of sea salt


Sprinkle the lemon-pepper on the shrimp and sauté in non-stick pan. (I use only a little water to sauté the shrimp)

Toss the remaining ingredients, season with the sea salt and top with the warm shrimp and serve

And here's the nurse in me coming out...if you pair a fruit rich in vitamin C like strawberries, with a food containing iron like the spinach, the vitamin C will actually help to boost the absorption of the iron during digestion when these two foods are consumed together.

A little tidbit from your foodie friend here!!!
Have a great day!

February 24, 2011

Souzoukakia ~ Authentic Greek Meatballs with Bacon

These meatballs have a unique flavor which comes from cumin in the meat and allspice and cinnamon in the sauce. This recipe is from a cookbook I bought when my husband and myself traveled to Santorini, Greece. Although the cookbook recipe didn't call for the bacon, I did have these meatballs with the bacon when I was in Greece and they were delicious!. Typically I like to serve this with rice and a tossed Greek Village Salad of cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese and greens sprinkled with vinegar and olive oil.


1 1/3 lbs of ground meat
4 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 c. soaked crust less bread
1 egg
12 bacon strips
1/4 c. olive oil
flour and oil for frying


Put first 6 ingredients into a bowl and knead well. Mold mixture into small oblong rolls and coat them with flour. Heat oil and fry them until they are browned and remove from pan. In the meantime, heat bacon strips in the microwave or in the oven until partially cooked and are flexible enough to be wrapped around one meatball. Secure the bacon with a toothpick and return meat bundles to the pan and cook until the bacon is cooked through.

Ingredients for the Sauce
1 1/2 c. skinned tomatoes, canned tomatoes are fine
2 c. water
1tsp butter
3 oz. canned tomato paste
salt and pepper
cinnamon and allspice

Put all ingredients and to a pot and simmer on low heat. When sauce is warm and blended, pour over meatballs and serve.

For more information on this topic just follow this link to My King Cook.

The Dirty Martini

Since I am a salt addict, it didn't come as any surprise to me that I'd absolutly fall in love with my very first "Dirty" martini! To me this was the original flavored martini. Using the brine of a jar of good quality olives will make a difference in the taste of your martini. You can also buy olive juice in your local grocery or liquor store depending on where you live. And if ordering this in a bar, specify how "dirty" you'd like your cocktail. This will let the bartender know how much olive juice to put your martini!

Bottoms up!!!

6 fluid ounces vodka
1 dash dry vermouth
1 fluid ounce brine from olive jar
3 stuffed green olives
In a mixing glass, combine vodka, dry vermouth, brine and olives. Pour into a glass over ice. Either drink on the rocks, or strain into a chilled cocktail glass

February 23, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Tilapia Soup

I love this soup!!! It's actually a twist on a red snapper soup recipe I have in one of my old cookbooks. I couldn't get the red snapper so I went with the less expensive fish tilapia, and I used roasted red peppers instead of plain peppers. This soup is easy and low on the carb scale. So if you need a no-fail main dish or even a no fail-starter, you can rely on this rich tasting soup with just a little kick of cayenne!


1 1/4 lbs. Tilapia, cut into 1- inch pieces
2 T olive oil
3 medium red peppers, roasted and peeled
1 medium onion, chopped
5 c. reduced sodium chicken broth
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 c snipped fresh Italian parsley


To roast peppers cut them in half,remove seeds and white membrane. Place cut side down in baking dish and place in readied broiler for 15 - 20 minutes, until skins turn black. Remove from oven and put peppers in a plastic resealable bag, let stand for 15 minutes. Remove from bag and let cool before peeling off the skins. They should be easy to remove by simply peeling up where they are charred. After peeling, chop red peppers.

In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil until translucent. Add the red peppers and the chicken broth along with both the black and red pepper and parsley and let simmer for 15 minutes.

 Let cool slightly and place in mixture in blender, reserving just a small about of the peppers to and toss back into the blended soup. Pour contents of the blender back into the pot, add the fish and reserved peppers and heat soup through. Garnish with sprigs of parsley and serve!

Macadamia and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Macadamias are one of my favorite nuts and this is one of the few cookie recipes I've come across which incorporates these delicious legumes. The combination of both white and dark chocolate along with the wonderful flavor of the macadamia melt together with each bite of this cookie!


2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. packed light brown sugar
3/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1 large beaten egg
1/4 c. cream of coconut
3/4 c. macadamia nuts, chopped coarsely
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
6 oz white chocolate morsels
1/2 c. flaked coconut


Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In medium size bowl mix together the flour and baking soda. In a large bowl beat together the brown sugar, butter, and sugar until it becomes fluffy. Beat in the egg and the cream of coconut until blended. Then reduce the mixer to low speed and gradually add the flour mixture. Once blended, add the coconut, chocolates and macadamia nuts and mix by hand.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto an ungreased baking sheet, keeping them about 2 inches apart. Bake in oven for 12 - 15 minutes, until they are lightly browned.

This recipes typically yields 48 cookies!

February 22, 2011

The Best Lasagna Ever!!!

This lasagna recipe has been in my family for almost 4 decades. When I was growing up a neighbor of ours shared this recipe with my mom, and to be honest, it is the only lasagna my family makes to this day! I think the secret to this great recipe is the white sauce incorporated into the center of the lasagna; it keeps the whole dish very moist.


1/4 c. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 gloves of crushed garlic
1 lb of lean ground beef
1 lb lean ground pork
1lb 12 oz can of whole tomatoes
3 6 1/2 oz cans of tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T dried oregano
2 bay leafs
1/2 lb of mozzarella
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese
1 box lasagna noodles

White Sauce:
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk


Heat oil in a pot or deep skillet and add the onions, cook until they are translucent. Add ground meat and crushed garlic and cook until meat is browned. Add the tomatoes, paste, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper and bring to a boil blending all the ingredients. Then turn heat down to low and let simmer or 20 minutes. (Remember to remove the bay leaves before assembling the lasagna.
In the meantime bring a pot of water to a boil and add the lasagna noodles. Cook until they are al dente, about 8 minutes, and then drain. You may want to add a little oil to prevent noodles from sticking together.
And in a separate pot, on a low heat, melt the butter and then add the flour. Mix until it makes a roux, then slowly pour in the milk. Stir continually until the mixture thickens and begins to boil, remove from heat.

Now you are ready to assemble your lasagna!

Place 1/3 of the meat sauce on the bottom of your pan, and then cover with 1/3 of the noodles. Put another third of the meat sauce over the noodles and sprinkle with 1/4 c. of the Parmesan cheese. Place 1/3 of the noodles on top and then place the mozzarella on top of the noodles, and cover with the white sauce. Place the rest of the noodles on top and then drop dollops of the ricotta on the noodles. Add the rest of the meat sauce and blend with the ricotta until the entire top is completely covered. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese and bake in the oven set at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let lasagna stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Pronto a mangiare!!
(Ready to eat!)

Chris's Rating a pure 8 out of 10!

Snazzy Sausage Stars

The spicy sausage mixture inside the crisp won-ton wrappers makes this recipe a favorite at our family gatherings. My cousins were the ones who introduced me to the snazzy appetizer and it has become one of my all time favorites. If you really want to impress your guests or show off your culinary skills, bring this appetizer to a party, it is the one that's sure to be a success!


1 lb. sausage (You can use breakfast sausage or mild Italian sausage with their casings removed)
8 oz. bottle of ranch dressing
Block of Monterrey Jack with jalapeno pepper
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
1 pkg of won-ton wrappers


Crumble and brown the sausage in skillet and then drain well. Shred the entire block of cheese and mix with the sausage, olives and ranch dressing.

Spray a mini-muffin pan with cooking spray and place won-ton wrapper in each of the muffin cups. Press wrappers in being careful not to puncture them. Bake in oven set at 350 degrees for five minutes and then remove from oven. Add the sausage mixture to the wrapper cups and return to the oven for 5-8 minutes. The wrappers should be a little brown on the tips.


P.S....The sausage mixture can be refrigerated for up to two weeks!


February 21, 2011

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This recipe has been one of my favorites for about the past 20 years. I found it in a little cookbook I had purchased back in 1990 titled Wine in Everyday Cooking "Cooking for Family and Friends" by Patricia Ballard.

 "The taste of  chicken breast stuffed with the prosciutto served in a white wine mushroom sauce is extremely delightful." according to the president and wine master of the Bargetto Winery in Soquel California, author of a letter written to Patricia back in 1981. And he's is right, not to mention the fact that its presentation is very elegant. I just want to warn you that the chicken does plump up with cooking so I added extra cooking time in the oven to make sure the chicken is cooked completely through!


8 boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
8 thin slices of prosciutto
8 thin slices of mozzarella cheese
2 eggs well beaten
1-2 c. seasoned bread crumbs
3 T olive oil
2 T butter
3/4 c. Chardonnay
1/2 lb mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced


Place chicken breast between waxed paper and pound until they are 1/2 inch in thickness
Place one slice of prosciutto and mozzarella on each chicken breast and roll them up securing them 3 or 4 toothpicks. Dip chicken rolls into the egg and then coat with the bread crumbs until well coated. Heat oil and butter in large skillet over low heat.

Add chicken but be careful not to crowd and brown about one minute on each side. Transfer to oven proof baking pan and cook breast at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. This may sound like a long time to cook the breast but it takes a little longer because of the fact they are bundled with the meat and cheese.

Meanwhile, add the chardonnay to the pan juices and simmer 2-3 minutes until the alcohol is burned off, Add the mushrooms and continue to simmer until the mushrooms are tender about 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven and pour the wine sauce, garnish with a few fresh sprigs of parsley and serve.

February 20, 2011

Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese

My husband and myself are big fans of blue cheese, so I wanted a recipe that would combine my favorite cut of beef with the salty richness of this cheese. I found this recipe but edited out the marinade of balsamic vinegar, as far as I am concerned there is no need to marinade filet Mignon!


2-3 extra lean filet Mignon steaks (about 16 ounces), trimmed completely of any visible fat
salt and pepper to season

Cheese mixture:
1 tablespoon light butter substitute or use whipped butter
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, 
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
Dash black pepper
1 tablespoon toasted walnut or pecan pieces


1.Season filets with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Add margarine or whipped butter, blue cheese, minced garlic, dried basil, black pepper, and walnuts to a small bowl and blend well witha fork and set aside.

3. Broil filets on a foil-lined baking dish, about 6-inches from the heat or flame, for about 4-8 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the filets).

4. Remove filets from the oven and distribute the cheese mixture over the top
of the filets. Return to broiler for about 30-45 seconds. (It's also o.k. to place the blue cheese mixture in the microwave and heat for 30 second before pouring it in the filets)


Scrumtious Apple Crumb Pie

This recipe it right out of my 20 year old "Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook". The pie crust is made from scratch but if you want to use a pre-made pie crust that's fine too.  If you should decide to go the route of making your own crust, the trick to getting your crust to work is to keep everything cold. Use cold shortening in a cold bowl with cold water and so on. Also I will refrigerate the dough for about 15 minutes before rolling it out! Remember to handle the dough as little as possible, this will help to ensure the crust will be flaky.


1 c. sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
6 cups of thinly sliced apple
3 T lemon juice
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c. oats
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground mace
3/4 c butter


Slice apples and place in bowl of water with the lemon juice and let soak for 10 minutes.Drain liquid from bowl and combine 1/2 c. sugar, 2 tsp. flour and toss with the apples. Fill a 9 inch pastry-lined pie plate with the apple mixture. Combine the remaining 1/2 c. of sugar and 1/3 c. flour and oats with your spices. Cut the butter into the mixture until it becomes crumbly and sprinkle evenly over the apples. Cover the edges of the pie with aluminum foil and bake in a 375 degree  preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes until the topping is golden brown.

Pie Crust

1 14 c. all-purpose four
1/2 tsp. salt
13 c. shortening
4 T cold water

Stir together flour and salt. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender until the flour and shortening begin to form small peas. Add the cold water and roll into ball. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove dough and roll out on wax paper until large enough to cover pie plate and trim the edges.

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