Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas Casserole - Using Leftovers

I love the holidays and all the food that goes with it, but when Christmas is done, after a few days I'm a bit tired of all the leftovers in the fridge.

There's only so much heating up of ham and potatoes a person can stand before getting sick of it.  One thing I like doing with leftovers, is to make it into a casserole, add a few spices here and there and make a new dish that won't have everyone turning their noses up at.....not to mention, it's a great way to use up the leftovers and not throw anything away.

Just use whatever you have on hand.  I've done similar one for Thanksgiving leftovers too.

Christmas Casserole

Leftover baked ham
Leftover mashed potatoes
Leftover veggies (this time I had a green bean casserole)
Shredded cheese
Heavy cream 

In a baking dish, layer half of the potatoes, top with diced baked ham, and the green bean casserole.  I seasoned it to my liking with some more salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Next I sprinkled on some shredded cheese and poured about a cup of heavy cream over.

Top with the remaining potatoes, smooth out and pop in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

{ Christmas Fruit Cake }

 It's that time of the year.  By now, if you're going to be making Fruit Cakes for Christmas, you need to start baking them or at the very least figuring getting all your ingredients ready to go.  The sooner you make them, the better they turn out.

I actually made my first in October, and today I made another two.  I'm using a completely different recipe, one which I got from one of my favorite vloggers Helen from Wright At Home on Youtube.

This is her grandmother's recipe, and I truly believe that the best recipes are those handed down from generation to generation.  Too often I see people trying to create shortcuts or substitute this for that ingredient in an attempt to make things more glamorous, but it doesn't always turn out well.  It's been my experience that the simplest of ingredients and the simplest of recipes are often the best ones.

This was my first time using Helen's recipe, and I think it may just become my go to and favorite for the holidays.

Christmas Fruit Cake

Christmas Fruit Cake
Source: Helen Wright

200 gr flour
200 gr butter
200 gr sugar (I used half light brown sugar and half white)
4 eggs
800 gr fruit
half tbsp salt
4 tbsp spice and cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped cherries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients, until well incorporated.  I used my kitchenaid which made it easier to mix everything.

Line a cake pan.  The recipe didn't specify the size, but I used a round 8 inch pan for mine.  Make sure to line the bottom and sides of the pan.  Most fruit cakes require you to then wrap the pan in newspaper or brown paper and tie it, but this recipe didn't say to do that.

I was wondering if it would affect the bake, but it didn't and it baked up beautifully.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for one hour and a half to two hours.  The cake is ready when you insert a wooden skewer and it comes out completely dry.  Helen actually makes it a point to say that is what her grandmother used to say, so it needs to be absolutely dry which will help it keep for a long time once it's out of the oven.

Once baked, removed from oven and allow to cool completely, then poke holes with a wooden skewer and pour over either whiskey, brandy or rum. 

Christmas Fruit Cake

I use rum in my cakes, that's our preference.  There really is no measurement but if you need to measure then I would say about 2 tablespoons or so.

Christmas Fruit Cake

Allow it soak in, then double wrap the cake in saran plastic wrap, then double layer of aluminum foil.  You can keep the cakes in a tupperware cake box, or as they are, but keep them out of sunlight and in a dark spot.  I keep my cakes in the pantry.

Every week, until Christmas, unwrap them and feed them again with more drink of your choice.  These cakes will keep for a really long time.

Enjoy :)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Vanilla Popcorn

Hey everyone, I know it's a been a while but I have a great recipe to share with you today.

As the year winds down and the holidays kick in, I find myself in the kitchen more.  Holiday baking is something I love doing and I tend to start pretty early, around the beginning of November, even though this year, I seem to have got right into it a little earlier than usual.

I've made one Christmas Fruit Cake already and will be making more this weekend.

But, when it comes to holiday baking, one of the things we most enjoy is snack foods, and I'm talking anything from chocolate peanut clusters to cookies and of course, popcorn.

Vanilla Popcorn is this year's choice, and if you've never made it before, you're going to want to try it.  I think it may even become one of your family's favorite.

Word of advice, make lots of it, because it goes fast.

Word of caution, it is not exactly healthy and it's extremely addictive, I could easily go through a whole batch on my own, so I have to control myself.

Anyway, enough talking let's make popcorn :)

Vanilla Popcorn

Vanilla Popcorn

12 cups popped popcorn (I used 1/2 cup of kernels)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup white corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

In a pot add about 3 tablespoons of oil. Turn the heat on, and add 3 kernels of the popcorn to the pot. Once they pop, add the remaining kernels and cover. Shake gently over the heat as the rest of the popcorn pops, to prevent it from burning. Once the popping stops, remove from heat but keep the lid on for a few seconds more in case of any last minute kernels that may pop. Remove any unpopped kernels and pour into a big mixing bowl.

In a microwave safe bowl, add the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and butter, microwave for 30 seconds and give it a stir, then microwave for 2 minutes. Remove, stir again, and microwave for another 2 minutes. Once the time is up, carefully remove the bowl from the microwave (remember it's going to be super hot).

Add baking soda and vanilla and stir until it starts to foam. It will also thicken slightly. Pour over the popcorn and mix very well. Try to be quick because the caramel will start to harden.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, spread the popcorn on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment or foil. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, making sure to stir every 10 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it though so you don't burn the sugar.

Remove from heat, let cool slightly and enjoy. It will be delicious and crunchy!!!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

In the world of cakes, I am one who prefers simplicity.

Maybe it's the fact that I grew up used to simple homemade vanilla cakes, those that my grandfather would throw together at midnight, just because the 4 grandchildren said they wanted cake.  He was awesome like that.

He never really measured, he never really used a recipe, he actually didn't cook much but we all knew him for his perfect cakes.  There were no rich sweet gloopy frostings slathered on top, or complicated fillings.  They were homemade, plain, not too sweet, with a dusting of powdered sugar, and enjoyed over a cup of tea.

Those memories have stuck with me my whole life.

I'm not a huge cake fan, I've always been more into savory than sweets, and I really dislike very rich cakes especially with tons of frosting.  They make me feel quite sick, to be honest.  But once in a while I'll get a hankering for a slice of fluffy cake and I have to cave.

And here we are.....

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

If you like chocolate oranges, you are in for a treat, because this cake tastes just like one of those. My son loves the chocolate oranges and he was quite excited when I handed him a slice of this cake after photographing for the blog.

The recipe comes from one of my very much loved British cookbooks that I've had for many years.

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

For the cake
1 ½ sticks of butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
Grated rind of 2 oranges
1 ¾ cups self rising flour, sifted
2 tbsp milk

For the topping
Juice of 2 oranges
½ cup sugar
2 oz. semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease and line a 7 in. round pan.  Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well.  Add the grated orange rind, flour and milk and fold in with a metal spoon.

Turn into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan.

When cool, score the top of the cake lightly with a sharp knife.  Put the orange juice and granulated sugar into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.

Bring to the boil and boil for 1-2 minutes.  Pour over the cake.

When all the juice has soaked in, carefully remove the cake from the pan.  Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the top.

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

You can leave it as is, or do a dusting of powdered sugar like I did.

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

Monday, September 04, 2017

Fried Okra

Crunchy, golden brown, delicious Okra.

There really is much you can say about this yummy side dish, or appetizer, whatever you wish.

Again, I had no clue what Okra was until I moved to the States, it's not a vegetable that is available in South Africa or Portugal, but boy is it one of my favorite things ever.

Okra is a pretty sticky vegetable to work with which actually makes it quite easy to coat.  You will find a lot of variations and recipes for making the fried okra.  Family recipes, favorite recipes all using either flour, or breadcrumbs or panko crumbs, some using just cornmeal, but I like to use a mixture of both flour and cornmeal.

Fried Okra

2 lbs Okra, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
Vegetable oil to fry

Drizzle some buttermilk over the okra, just enough to coat it well. Sprinkle on the flour and mix well to ensure that it's all coated. Sprinkle on the cornmeal and once again give it a good stir until all the okra is coated and doesn't stick together.

Fry until golden brown, remove onto paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve.

Fried Green Tomatoes

I used to loathe tomatoes, like really loathe them.  Growing up, the worst thing you could do was give me tomato in any way, shape or form, it would actually make me gag.  I never quite understood why, but as I grew older I started liking them and now I absolutely love tomatoes.

When I moved to the States 19 years ago, it was the first time I had ever heard of green tomatoes, and especially fried green tomatoes.  Everyone raved about them, especially in the South but I wasn't quite sure that it was something I would enjoy, I mean I had started liking tomatoes but the thought of them fried wasn't exactly appealing to me.

Fast forward to about a year ago when I finally tried them and fell in love, they're now one of my favorite appetizers to get when we eat out.

A few weeks ago, the hubby and I went to the Farmer's Market and I bought beautiful green tomatoes and knew exactly what I would be making with them.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Source:  Divas can Cook

2 medium-sized green tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried basil
1 cup all-purpose flour (I added some garlic powder to mine)
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1¼ cup yellow cornmeal

Slice tomatoes into ¼- 1/2 inch slices.  Place tomatoes on several layers of paper towels.
Mix together salt, sugar, black pepper and basil in a small bowl.


Sprinkle tomatoes generously with spice mixture ( may not need all of it) and let sit for about 10-15 minutes to allow the extra tomato juices to drain out.

Meanwhile, prepare your dipping station! In one bowl, add the flour.  In another bowl mix together the buttermilk and egg.  In the last bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and yellow cornmeal.

Start by dipping the tomatoes slices into the flour on both sides and shaking off the excess flour. (be sure to get the sides as well)
Lay the slices into the egg mixture until both sides are coated with the mixture and flour no longer shows.

Place the tomato slices into the breadcrumb mixture and press to coat both sides evenly.  Let tomatoes sit for about 5 minutes to allow the coating to set.

Heat oil in a skillet until hot. (Do a test with a bread crumb first to make sure the oil is at the right temperature. The breadcrumb should begin to fry evenly immediately when placed in the oil.)
Place tomatoes into the skillet, without crowding the pan.  Fry each side for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown.

Place on a cooling rack with paper towels below to absorb the excess oil that drips off.  Serve hot.

Pudim Molotof - Egg White Pudding

When I was growing up, in Portugal, we used to go out on Saturday afternoons to a Pastelaria (bakery), and we would have an iced cold coke with lemon slices, and then a cake of some sort.  It depended on what I felt like in the moment, but Pudim Molotof was by far one of my favorites.

It's this amazing egg white pudding that just melts in your mouth with each spoonful, and is drizzled with caramel sauce or in some cases an egg sweet sauce almost like a curd, and toasted almonds.  It is absolutely divine.

I grew up loving it, I grew up wanting to learn how to make it, but was always very intimidated by the process.  It's a bit of a finicky recipe and if you mess with it too much it will go terribly wrong, flop and you end up with a chewy meringue instead of fluffy melt in your mouth egg whites.

About two weeks ago I was craving it and decided that it's now or never.  I sweated and my hands shook but I was determined that I would conquer this dessert.

And conquer it I did.  So pleased and now that I've made it it is no longer intimidating and I plan on making it again for Christmas.

Hint:  Do NOT touch the oven when it's baking, do not open the door at all even if you're curious and tempted to take a peek.


Pudim Molotof - Egg White Pudding

8 egg whites
8 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel:
1 cup sugar (175 gr)
1/2 cup water  (100 ml)

To make the caramel:  In a saucepan add the water and the sugar, stir until well dissolved.  Cook over high heat until caramelized and a beautiful dark brown.  Do not overcook or it will burn the caramel and be extremely bitter.  Once done, pour into a fluted cake pan and swirl all around to cover the bottom, sides and up the middle of the cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.   Place a baking tray in the oven with water, I usually fill with water about halfway up the baking pan.

In a standing mixer, add the egg whites and whisk until stiff peaks form, slowly add in the sugar a little at a time, and finally the vanilla extract.  Scoop the egg whites into the caramelized cake pan, smooth the top, then smack the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.  Place the pan into the middle of the baking pan with the water, you're going to cook the pudding in a Bain Marie.

Bake for about 20 minutes (do NOT open the door at all).  Once the 20 minutes are up, turn the oven off and let it sit in the oven with the door closed for another 30 minutes.  Again do not open the door at all, if you do the pudding will deflate.


Once the time is up, remove from the oven, let it cool down a bit and then remove from pan.  You have to do this really quickly and in one go or you'll end up with caramel sauce all over the place.   Remove the cake pan slowly so the pudding will release without breaking.

You can spoon some of the sauce over the pudding.  Enjoy!!!

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

My family loves Mexican food, and my husband's favorite are Fajitas.  It's not something I make too often, but when I saw this recipe for sheet pan fajitas I thought "now that's brilliant".

It saves time, the clean up is easier with everything in one pan and I can pop these in the oven while I get the rest of dinner finished off.

Go ahead and give these a try, you won't be disappointed.

Chicken Fajitas

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
Source:  Life Made Simple

3 tbsp. vegetable, grapeseed or avocado oil, divided**
3 bell peppers, seeds removed, ¼-inch thick slices
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 - 1½ lb chicken breasts, ¼-inch thick slices*
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher sea salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. coriander
⅛ tsp. chili flakes or cayenne pepper (optional)
1 lime

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a standard size rimmed baking sheet in the oven while it heats so that it's nice and hot.
In large bowl toss 1 tablespoon oil with the bell peppers and onions. Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and spread the peppers and onions evenly across the sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the same bowl, combine the remaining oil along with the chicken, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, paprika, coriander and chili flakes.

Remove the sheet from the oven, drain off any excess liquid and add the chicken, making sure to separate the pieces of chicken from each other. Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are roasted and the fajitas are golden brown.

Remove, squeeze the lime juice over top and serve with desired toppings.

Chicken Fajitas

Pork Dumplings

I absolutely love dumplings, but as always, with some dishes, I'm a bit intimidated by the thought of making them myself, and so I steer clear.

Well last week while making the new menu plan, I decided that I needed to conquer this fear.  Actually it seems that lately I've been conquering quite a few cooking fears, here and there.  It's a good thing, and I'm really determined to stop being so scared of trying new dishes and to just jump right in and go for it.  What's the worse that could happen?  I have to remake it again?

I actually found this recipe on Tasty.  If you don't know what Tasty is, you have to get on the ball, you can find them all over Facebook, Internet, Youtube and so on.

This was super simple to make, and the only real change I will be putting in effect next time I make these, is that I found the dough a bit too thick and I didn't put quite near enough filling because once it's cooked it tends to shrink. I also need to practice the art of pleating and folding a dumpling, which I am terrible at.

Other than that, they were delicious, with a very big Capital D.

Pork Dumplings
Source:  Tasty
Servings: makes 24-32 dumplings

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1¼ cups warm water
2 cups red cabbage
2 cups green onions, sliced
cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 pound ground pork
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


1. Combine the flour, salt, and warm water and mix until well combined.
2. Roll out dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth.

3. Separate the dough into 4 equal parts.
4. Roll out the piece into a thin log and divide into 6 or 8 pieces depend on the size of dumplings you want.

Pork Dumplings

5. Lightly flour the divided piece of dough and roll out piece to a thin circle roughly 4-inches in diameter.
6. Keep the dumpling wrappers separated with parchment paper, and repeat with remaining dough.

Pork Dumplings

7. Combine cabbage, green onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil and mix until well incorporated. Add pork, salt and pepper. 
8. To assembly dumplings, add roughly 1 heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of a dumpling wrapper.

Pork Dumplings

9. With your finger lightly coat 1 half of the outside of the wrapper with water.
10. Seal the dumplings using your preferred method.
11. With pleating, start from one side and pleat the half of the dumpling closest to you, keeping the other half still.

12. Heat oil on medium high in a pan and add a few dumplings, cooking them in batches.
13. Once the bottom of the dumplings start to brown, add in a splash of water and cover with a lid.
14. Steam for roughly 5 minutes, or until dumplings are cooked and water has evaporated.


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Whistle Dogs

If you've ever eaten at a A& W, then you will for sure know about their Whistle Dogs.  Although they've been discontinued from many of the A&W restaurants, you can still enjoy them at home.

They are so easy to make, but definitely take a normal hotdog to another level.  Bacon......melted cheese......sweet relish......all of these combined bring you a hotdog that is amazingly delicious.

Whistle Dogs

Whistle Dogs

Hotdog Buns
Bacon Slices
American Cheese
Sweet Relish

Begin by cooking your bacon in a skillet, until it is crispy.  Remove and set aside.

Slice the hotdogs in half lengthwise, making sure not to go all the way through.  In essence, you are butterflying the hotdogs.  Cook them in the skillet for a few minutes, then remove them and set them aside.

In the same skillet, toast the buns for a minute or so, until warm.  Remove the buns and return the hotdogs to the pan.  Now take a slice of cheese and top the hotdogs.  Cover with a lid until the cheese gets all melted and gooey.  Place the crispy bacon on top of the cheesy goodness, then using a spatula transfer the hotdogs to the warm buns.

Top with some sweet relish and serve.

Quick, simple, AMAZING!!!

Bacon, Corn and Shallot Spaghetti

This one came about purely out of what I had on hand.  I usually don't mix corn in with my spaghetti, but I wanted a pop of color and it did the job.

There is nothing to this spaghetti, no special sauce, or baking or anything involved.  Just a skillet, a couple of ingredients and a delicious pasta dish that everyone will enjoy.

Bacon, Corn and Shallot Spaghetti

Bacon, Corn and Shallot Spaghetti

12 oz Spaghetti noodles
6 slices of bacon
1 shallot, finely diced
1 can of whole kernel corn
Garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp or just tender, however your family prefers.  We all like crispy, except for my son, so I just cooked it until it was done so he would enjoy it as well.

Add in the garlic, the shallot and the corn and mix everything together.  Give it a stir and cook for a minute or two until the shallot is transparent.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, cook the spaghetti noodles until al dente, then drain and add to the skillet.  Toss everything together, check the spices, then drizzle on a little olive oil, giving everything a final toss.

Serve with a sprinkle of parsley (if you wish) and some shredded parmesan cheese.

Bacon, Corn and Shallot Spaghetti

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Sometimes you crave something sweet, but you don't want to go to a lot of trouble. You just want something quick and easy to throw together.

This is it. Not a lot of fuss, not a lot of ingredients, just delicious goodness that comes together pretty quick. I think it would be perfect for those days when company arrives without notice.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

1 cup oil
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
3 cup flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup butter, melted

In a large mixing bowl. combine oil, eggs, vanilla and milk together.  Add in the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Pour half the batter into a 9x13 pan.   Sprinkle half of the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture, then top with the remaining batter.  Sprinkle the leftover streusel mixture on top.

Drizzle with the melted butter.  (I know it seems like a lot, but it really does make the cake)

Bake, uncovered at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Pressure Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese

When I was growing up, one of our favorite meals used to be Spaghetti Bolognese.  Homemade Bolognese with wine and garlic and bay leaves and all that goodness.

I remember when my stepmother would call us for dinner, I knew immediately what we were having because that delicious aroma would waft in from the kitchen and into the whole house.  Homework was set aside, TV was turned off, and we gathered around the table, eager to sink our teeth into that yumminess.

My children have been blessed to have a mother who loves cooking.  You don't know how many times I've counted myself blessed to have been born into a house where the women were some of the best cooks around.

Down home filling, comforting good food.  I learned from a very early age that some ingredients went well together, and some didn't.  To this day my children, husband and family and friends will always say that they're amazed that I can come up with a delicious meal out of nothing, and always seem to know what goes with what.

Practice, and love.  Those two together can create amazing things.

Now as much as I love cooking and being in the kitchen, I'm not above using appliances that will make my meals come together faster, especially on really busy days.

Saturday was a busy one for us, we were outside working on the property.  We live on a 3 acre home out in the country and there is always something to be done.

This is where my trusty and much loved pressure cooker comes in.  This meal comes together in about 20 minutes and is absolutely delicious.  I sometimes throw in a veggie or two just because it's healthy and it's a way for the kids to eat it without complaining....well too much at least ;)

Pressure Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
garlic finely diced (to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
wine (we use whatever we have on hand, sometimes white, this time I used merlot red)
tomato sauce
frozen veggies (whatever you have on hand, I used a handful of peas this time)

Plug in your pressure cooker and set it to Saute.  I don't pop the lid on mine otherwise it will seal it and end up steaming instead of actually sauteing.

Either spray the pressure cooker bowl, or add a tiny little bit of olive oil.  Add your ground beef and saute until brown.  Add in the onion, tomato, garlic, seasonings to taste, tomato sauce and wine.   I just eyeball everything.  I added about half a cup of tomato sauce and about 1/4 cup of wine.  Stir everything well and check the taste.  Adjust accordingly.

Cancel the saute function.  Pop on your lid and lock it, then make sure the pressure release is set to airtight.

Select manual and click the + button until you get to 10 minutes.  That's it.

After it's done, I just use the quick release method.  To do that make sure you are not standing right in front of the valve as the steam WILL burn.  I usually just grab a big wooden and push the valve over to Exhaust.

Once it's done releasing the pressure, open and give it a stir.  If it's too watery, you can switch it back to saute and cook it for a few minutes more until it thickens up.  Mine is usually perfect for the 10 minutes.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Gnocchi Bolognese

So a couple years ago I was watching a vlog and this yummy looking meal showed up.  I am a total sucker for those Weekly Meal vlogs, I just enjoy watching what people are eating and it gives me tons of ideas when I'm menu planning.

I've been menu planning for over 20 years but here's the thing, you kind of go through phases where you draw a total blank and have no clue what to make......that's when I need all the help I can get.

I do have a few criteria I go by and if you've been reading my blog long enough you know what they are.  No gourmet, nothing that I can't make myself or find in my pantry, nothing that I need to go to a specialty store for and it must be pretty inexpensive, easy, quick to make and filling.

Those may seem like a lot of things to check off the list, but I learned how to cook with my greatgrandmother and she was all about feeding a big family, without breaking the bank and filling tummies with delicious food.

Thank you Bio Ema :)

Anyway, this recipe came up and I saved it and never got around to making it until tonight, and the only reason that even happened is because I was reorganizing and cleaning out my computer and the bookmarks and found it just sitting there, waiting patiently since 2013.  Poor thing.

I made it tonight and it was amazing, the family went crazy over it and it's been requested to be put on my MUST MAKES list. 

Give it a try and let me know what you think.  By the way, you can make your own gnocchi or use your favorite brand.  If you want to make your own, I do have a recipe for you :)

Gnocchi Bolognese

Gnocchi (the amount depends on you, but I find that one package is enough, or if making fresh, then about 3 cups)
1 pound ground beef
Spaghetti sauce (again, homemade or your favorite brand)
Fresh Mozzarella

In a skillet, brown the ground beef, then drain.  Pour in the spaghetti sauce, simmer for a few minutes, then add in a bunch of spinach, I just use a handful.  Cook for a minute or two more until it wilts down.  Take off heat.

Cook Gnocchi according to package directions, or if you are making it homemade, place in a pot of boiling water and cook until it floats to the top.  Don't overcook or it will fall apart.

Mix the gnocchi and the meat mixture, spoon into a casserole dish and add pieces of fresh mozzarella on top.  Bake in a 425 degree oven until cheese is melted.

I served mine with a salad and garlic bread.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Star Spangled Lemon Slab Pie

For the Fourth of July this year, I made two desserts.  One of them being the Red, White and Blueberry Pie, and the other was this Slab Pie which I had bookmarked for a while and ready to try.

It didn't take long to put together, especially since you make use of store bought pie crusts, but you can certainly make your own, which is what I did.

If you like cheesecake, and lemon pie, this is pretty much a combination of those two in one delicious and beautiful dessert.

Adapted from:

Star Spangled Lemon Slab Pie

3 refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box (from 2 boxes)

2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened (I used Neufchâtel)

1 (10 oz) jar lemon curd

6 cups assorted berries (sliced strawberries, blueberries and blackberries)

Sugar for dusting
star cookie cutters

Heat oven to 450°F. Remove 2 of the pie crusts from pouches. Unroll and stack on lightly floured surface. Roll to 17x12-inch rectangle. Fit crust into ungreased 15x10x1-inch pan, pressing into corners. Fold crust even with edges of pan. Prick crust several times with fork.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove another pie crust from pouch. On lightly floured surface, unroll crust. Roll to 12-inch circle. Cut stars using cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on large ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Brush with water; sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet. Remove to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

In medium bowl, beat cream cheese and lemon curd with electric mixer until smooth. Spread evenly into crust-lined pan. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until chilled.

Add berries evenly on top of cream cheese-topped pie crust. Place pie crust stars on top of berry mixture.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Oven Baked Basmati Rice

The perfect way to cook rice, especially if you're already using the oven for the rest of the meal.

The rice cooks up perfectly every time, it crisps on the edges and is just phenomenal.  It's also very versatile, you can add veggies, or different flavored bouillon cubes to compliment your main dish.

Oven Baked Basmati Rice

Olive oil
Basmati Rice
2 tablespoons Knorr Chicken Powder

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

In a baking dish, drizzle a little olive oil on the bottom.  The amount of rice and water is according to how much rice you want to make.  This is a great way to feed a crowd as you can use a bigger baking pan and a lot of rice.

For my family of four, the oven rice turns out very similar to my Portuguese Chicken and Rice, so I make 2 cups because my husband and kids love this rice and will often have second helpings and leftovers the next day.

So into the baking dish, add in your rice, sprinkle on the Knorr Chicken Powder, then pour in the water.  Remember the ratio is usually double the water to the rice, so in my case, 2 cups of rice and 4 cups of water.

Using a fork, stir well and then place the baking dish in the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered.  Remove from the oven, stir, then pop back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed.  Fluff with a fork, and that's it.

Island Teriyaki Chicken

So tonight's dinner came about purely by accident.   When I got groceries two weeks ago, it was right before Memorial Day and they had a few sales going on, one of which was a huge bag of Chicken Leg Quarters for only $4.  It was a 10 lb bag, so even though it wasn't on my list, I grabbed it.

For dinner tonight, I knew I wanted to make the chicken but I wasn't wanting the usual roast chicken that I make, I wanted something different.

I've also been dealing with some major sinus issues and feeling a bit light headed and achy etc, so I wanted something simple that I could throw together using what I already had on hand.

Something else I had purchased on my last grocery trip, was Teriyaki sauce but from a different brand that I had never tried before.  It is now my absolute favorite and I don't think I'll buy any other kind.  It's the Soy Vay Island Teriyaki.  Truly delicious.

The chicken was extremely easy to prepared, the trick though is to bake it for a long time, about an hour and a half to 2 hours.

But enough talking, let me show you.

Island Teriyaki Chicken

Chicken Leg Quarters (but you can use whatever chicken you have on hand)
Soy Vay Island Teriyaki Marinade and Sauce

Clean the chicken and place in a roasting pan.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Pour some of the teriyaki marinade on each piece of chicken and using a basting brush, slather all over making sure to cover well.

Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for about an hour.  My chicken leg quarters were huge so they took a while to bake, but if you're cooking smaller pieces just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

About an hour into the baking time, remove the foil, flip the chicken over and using the basting brush, baste the chicken with the juices in the bottom of the pan.

Continue cooking, basting every 20 minutes or so until the juices run clear.

Turn the heat up to 450, and finish off by allowing the skin to crisp and brown.  When done, you can baste with a little more of the juices, move to a serving dish and serve immediately.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

{ Cast Iron Buttermilk Biscuits }

I woke up this morning craving biscuits and gravy for breakfast.

I have to tell you a funny story first.  I'm sure most of you know that before moving to the United States, I lived in South Africa.  We spoke English but with a British/Afrikaans kind of accent, but for the most part everything derived from England's English, so we used terms like Flat (apartment), biscuits (cookies), jelly (jelly-o), Jam (jelly), boot (trunk), chips (fries) and so on.

When I met my husband, who is American, I found some of the words a bit strange and had a hard time understanding what he was referring to.

The first time he mentioned a Sausage Biscuit for breakfast, I almost puked, because in my mind I picture a sausage flavored cookie LOL  And let's not even mention Biscuits and Gravy, that was even worst.

It took me moving to the States to finally realize that what was referred to as biscuits here, was what we referred to as scones in South Africa.

Long story short, I finally tried the biscuits and gravy and sausage biscuits and fell in love.

Fast forward to today, this morning actually, and I wanted some biscuits and gravy but I wanted a new recipe to try, more specifically one that I could use my cast iron skillet with.  I've been trying to use it more and get it nice and seasoned.

I happened upon this recipe on the Lodge Cast Iron website, gave it a try and it was delicious.  Hope you enjoy it as well :)

Brigg's Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour, plus extra for dusting counter
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, plus an additional 2 tablespoons melted butter
¾ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted shortening

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a 10.25-inch cast iron skillet into the oven to preheat.
Measure the self-rising flour into a large mixing bowl.

Using the coarse side of a hand grater, quickly grate 1 stick (½ cup) cold hard butter into the self-rising flour. Working quickly, use fingers to gently distribute the shredded butter into the self-rising flour.

Add the buttermilk, then stir until just combined.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and, using floured fingers, quickly pat to approximately the size of an 8.5x11" sheet of paper, which will be about ½" to ¾" thick. Very lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour from your fingertips, then fold the sheet of dough into thirds, as when folding a business letter. Repeat the patting, dusting, and folding steps seven times, or fewer if you feel the dough begin to tighten–overworked dough makes for a tough biscuit! The final time, pat the dough to a rectangle slightly larger than the size of your skillet. Using a round biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, cut into about 7 round biscuits. Gather up the scraps to form the 8th biscuit by hand.

With a handle mitt, carefully remove the preheated skillet from the oven. Drop melted shortening into the preheated skillet, then return to oven for a couple of minutes, until it is melted. Place each biscuit into the skillet and, using a fork, immediately turn to coat both sides with shortening.

Place the hot skillet into the oven, and reduce the oven temperature to 425°F. Bake until tops of biscuits are golden brown, about 12-18 minutes.

Remove from oven. Brush tops with additional melted butter. Serve while hot!

Friday, May 05, 2017

{ Deep Dish Sausage Pizza }

Here's a great pizza recipe, easy to throw together and the results are magnificent.

I have a family of pizza eaters, teenagers and a husband who would probably be very happy with pizza every day.  I do enjoy it myself but I get a bit tired and bored of the same old pizza delivery or even the same homemade pizza.

Sometimes we need to kick it up a notch.

What I've done in this recipe is combine my own pizza dough with a Taste of Home recipe.  I don't like to brag, but I will say that this was one of the tastiest pizzas we've ever had, thick, soft crust and a delicious flavorful topping.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Deep Dish Sausage Pizza

Deep Dish Sausage Pizza
Adapted from:  Taste of Home

Homemade Pizza dough

4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
2 medium green peppers, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil and marjoram
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound Jones Dairy Farm All Natural Pork Sausage Roll, cooked and drained
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, well drained
2 ounces sliced pepperoni

Transfer to a well-greased 12-in. heavy ovenproof skillet or round baking pan, letting dough drape over edges. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella.
4. In a skillet, saute the green peppers, onion and seasonings in oil until tender; drain. Layer half of the mixture over crust. Layer with half of the Parmesan, sausage and tomatoes. Sprinkle with 2 cups mozzarella. Repeat layers. Fold crust over to form an edge.
5. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with pepperoni and remaining mozzarella. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until crust is browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing. Yield: 8 slices.

Deep Dish Sausage Pizza

{ Dad's Cajun Dinner }

When I was meal planning for these two weeks, I grabbed one of my Gooseberry Patch Cookbooks.  I've been collecting them for quite a few years, but haven't used them in a while and I really wanted to not only make use of my books but also try new recipes that I knew the whole family would enjoy.

This was one of the recipes that caught my eye.  Dad's Cajun Dinner.

Smoked kielbasa sausage, cajun seasoning, yep, definitely something I would enjoy.

It was a hit, and therefore will be posted to the blog.  I know that some of you wonder if I ever make dishes that don't turn out, or are not liked by the family, and the answer is, oh yes, absolutely.

I don't share them on here because I use this space as my online recipe binder, and I am only interested in keeping recipes that are tried and true and got big thumbs up.  No use in keeping something I know I will never try again.

Right, let's get going, this is a super easy recipe, perfect for a week night.

Dad's Cajun Dinner
Source:  Gooseberry Patch One Pot Meals

1 onion, diced
1 t. garlic, minced
2 T. butter
2 green peppers, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
3 T. Cajun seasoning
14-oz.pkg. Kielbasa, sliced
15-oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
14-1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
12-oz. can tomato juice
hot pepper sauce to taste
3 c. prepared rice

Saute onion and garlic in butter until onion is crisp-tender.  Add peppers, celery and seasoning;  continue to saute until vegetables are tender.  Add Kielbasa;  saute and additional 3 to 4 minutes.  Add beans, tomatoes and tomato juice;  cook until heated through.  Sprinkle with hot sauce to taste.  Serve over prepared rice.  Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

{ Better than Olive Garden's Fettucine Alfredo }

Fettucine Alfredo, one of the dishes I most enjoy from Olive Garden, and I'm talking about the plain Alfredo sauce, just creamy and garlicky and perfectly paired with thick fettucine noodles.

I've made Alfredo over the years but never this good, this is by far the best I've ever had and the newest family favorite.

It's very easy to make and you will absolutely love it.


Better than Olive Garden's Fettucine Alfredo

3 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper
1⁄2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3⁄4 cup mozzarella cheese

Melt butter in medium saucepan with olive oil over medium/low heat.
Add the garlic, cream, white pepper and bring mixture to a simmer.
Stir often.

Add the Parmesan cheese and simmer sauce for 8-10 minutes or until sauce has thickened and is smooth.

When sauce has thickened add the Mozzarella cheese and stir until smooth. STIR FREQUENTLY.
While the sauce cooks, boil noodles for 3-5 minutes.

Place pasta on serving plates and spoon sauce over pasta.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Victoria Sponge

If I were told to pick just one dessert, whatever it was, to have for the rest of my life, the choice would be simple, Victoria Sponge.  With Strawberry Jam and fresh whipped cream.

I can't begin to tell you how delectable this cake is.  It tastes like a million bucks, but it's actually quite easy to make, when you have the right recipe.

I struggled for years to get it right.  I always ended up with a not so spongy sponge cake, it was flat, it was chewy, it was terrible and nothing like what it's supposed to be.

After trying many recipes, I almost gave up on the idea of being able to produce a delicious Victoria Sponge, that is until I realized that the perfect recipe had been sitting in my pantry all along.

A few years ago I bought 2 cookbooks packed with British recipes, the best of the best the most common cakes, desserts and breads. 

So this afternoon while browsing through one of the books, I came across the recipe and I almost didn't make it for fear it would just be a waste of ingredients again, but I decided to set those fears aside and go for it.  I am SO glad I did.

THIS is it folks, this is the perfect no fail Victoria Sponge. 

But I'm going to stop talking and just share the recipe so you can go ahead and make it for your family too.....or for yourself.  Trust me, I know.  I have to be very careful not to inhale this baby all on my own.


1 and 1/4 cups self rising flour, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup soft butter or margarine
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Strawberry Jam
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Grease and line two 8 in. round sandwich pans.  Put all the ingredients except the jam and powdered sugar in a standing mixer and beat the living daylights out of them.

When the batter is fluffy, very pale and almost mousse-like, divide it between the two pans and smooth out.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center, comes out clean.  The cakes should be springy to the touch.

Cool on a wire rack, and when cool sandwich them together with strawberry jam and dust the top.

If you want to use cream as well, use a layer of whipped cream on top of the jam before placing the second cake on top.


{ Pressure Cooker Boiled Eggs - Instant Pot }

I've been meaning to add more Instant Pot recipes to the blog, but I haven't had a chance to update it or get back into my usual posting.

Two Christmases ago, my husband got me this instant pot which he knew I had been wanting.  Seemed to be all the rave at the moment and to be frank, I wanted one but was very intimidated by the thought of using it in my own kitchen.

My run ins with pressure cookers were in my greatgrandmother's kitchen.  That huge metal thing would sit on the stove and whistle loudly, the little pressure valve quickly snapping back and forth.  It terrified me.  It didn't help that I would hear horrible stories of pressure cookers blowing up in the kitchen.

But I also knew the perks and advantages of having one and now that they are electric and pretty much do their own thing, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and go for it.

I am so glad I did, I use it a lot, and it's become a wonderful addition to my kitchen.

I'm hoping to add a few more recipes here as I try them, but I thought I would share how to make boiled eggs, especially with Easter right around the corner, knowing that we are all going to be making a ton of these for deviled eggs and decorating with the kids etc.

Pressure Cooker Boiled Eggs

So here's how you do it.  I placed my metal rack on the bottom, and then sat the eggs on top.  You don't want the eggs to touch the bottom of the bowl.

Add 1 cup of water, and then set it on the rice setting for 9 minutes.

I've seen online where some people use their rice setting and turn it to 6 minutes, but my pressure cooker won't let me go below 9 so I went with it and it worked perfectly.

January 12, 2016

As soon as the eggs were done, I used the quick steam release, and dumped them into a bowl of ice cold water.  You DON'T have to use the quick steam release, you can just let the instant pot release the pressure on it's own.

They peeled off so well and were cooked to perfection as you can see below.

January 12, 2016

I'm trying some decorating techniques for Easter today, so at the moment I have another batch of eggs going in the instant pot. This is going to make Easter so much easier :)