Every Thursday night I get to be a part of 30 to 50 you adults and leaders, where we share dinner, hang out and talk about life. It’s literally the best night of my week. Each week we pick a theme for the food, Mexican, Salad Bar, etc. Last night we had to bring food that starts with the same letter as your first or last name.

Even though it was my idea, I had no idea what to bring. Kiwi’s? Garden Salad? Kale Chips? Green Beans? I spent a couple days wishing my Kathy started with a C, chicken is just so easy…

Then yesterday morning it dawned on me – GORP! Good Old Raisin’s & Peanuts. A Girl Scout favorite.

I found a fun recipe on AllRecipes.com and revised it a little.



6 c Rice Chex cereal
3 c pretzel sticks
1 c raw almonds
1 c dry roasted peanuts
1 c craisins
1 c dark chocolate M&M’s
12 oz white chocolate

In a LARGE bowl, mix cereal through the M&M’s.

In a microwave safe bowl; melt the white chocolate – 1 min at a time, until smooth.

Pour the white chocolate over the cereal mix 1/3 cup at a time and mix until all pieces are coated.

Turn out onto a large piece of parchment or wax paper until cooled.

Put the whole mix back in a giant, brightly colored bowl and enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

I’ve never been a huge fan of bread pudding, but this one looked interesting enough to try. ¬†The chocolate chips didn’t hurt too much either. ūüôā

This recipe is from Nigella Kitchen.

Substitutions made, noted below.

choc chip Collage

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

9 oz stale bread, cut into 1′ cubes (approx 5 1/2c of cubes) – I used the 2nd loaf of the Portuguese Sweet Bread
1/2 c bittersweet chocolate chips – I used dark choc chips
3 eggs
3 tblsp light brown sugar
2 tblsp dark rum – I didn’t have any rum, so I used vanilla extract
1/2 c heavy cream
2 c whole milk – I used 2%
4 tsp turbinado sugar
1 ovenproof dish, approx 9′ diameter x 2 1/2′ deep (approx 1 1/2 quart capacity)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. ¬†Grease a round pie dish lightly with butter. ¬†Tip in the stale bread cubes; if your bread isn’t stale, then leave sliced to dry first, for awhile, on a wire rack before cubing and using.

Toss in the chocolate chips to spread evenly among the bread cubes.

Whisk together the eggs, light brown sugar, rum, heavy cream and milk.  Pour this mixture over the bread and press the cubes down to coat them in the liquid.

Leave all to soak for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with the turbinado sugar and put straight into the oven for 40-50 minutes.  If your oven browns unevenly, turn the dish around halfway through cooking.

Let the dish stand for awhile before serving Рif you can.  The smell as it bakes is almost overwhelming, and it can be hard to wait once it is out of the oven.

Make Ahead Note: Assemble bread pudding 1 day ahead, but don’t sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. ¬†Cover and keep in the refrigerator. ¬†Remove from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for 15 minutes, then sprinkle with the turbinado sugar and bake as directed in recipe.

choc chip bread pudding 3

cartoon-strawberry-9Nigella is quickly becoming one of my favorite celebrity chefs. ¬†I’m itching to get my hand on every book she’s written and work my way through each one. ¬†This came out of the oven perfectly crispy and gooey and yummy. ¬†Using the sweet bread, I should have used orange extract instead of the vanilla. ¬†Using a sourdough or french bread, the vanilla or rum would be perfect.

Supr√™mes de Volaille √† Blanc

I picked up As Always, Julia on the sale rack at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. ¬†The edited letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. ¬†A friendship created in letters about food, politics, family, housekeepers and the cookbook. ¬†I’m about half way through and am in love with these two women.

This recipe is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Substitution made, noted below.

Suprêmes de Volaille à Blanc

Suprêmes de Volaille à Blanc

4 suprêmes (boned breasts from tow fryers) РI used boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
Big pinch white pepper
A heavy, covered, fireproof casserole about 10′ diameter – I used my dutch oven
A round of waxed paper 10′ diameter and buttered on one side
4 tblsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the suprêmes with drops of lemon juice and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Heat the butter in the casserole until it is foaming.  Quickly roll the suprêmes in the butter, lay the buttered paper over them, cover casserole and place in hot oven.  After 6 minutes, press top of suprêmes with your finger.  If still soft, return to the oven for a moment or two.  When the meat is springy to the touch it is done.  Remove the suprêmes to a warm platter and cover while making the sauce (2-3 minutes).   My chicken took about 17 minutes total to cook.

For the sauce:
1/4 c white or brown stock or canned beef bouillon
1/4 c port, Maderia, or dry white vermouth
– I used a brown vegetable broth, and didn’t have any wine on hand. So I¬†substituted¬†1 1/2 tblsp of Balsamic Vinegar and stock to fill a 1/2 c.
1 c whipping cream
Salt & Pepper
Lemon juice as needed
2 tblsp fresh minced parsley

Pour the stock and wine into the casserole with the cooking butter and boil down quickly over high heat until liquid is syrupy.  Stir in the cream and boil down again over high heat until cream has thickened slightly.  Off heat, taste carefully for seasoning and add drops of lemon juice to taste.  Pour the sauce over the suprêmes, sprinkle with parsley, and serve at once.

cartoon-strawberry-9Holy Shmoly this sauce is rich and buttery. ¬†But, we were having some friends over for dinner and I didn’t take enough time to thicken the sauce. ¬†I served the chicken with red quinoa and fresh green beans. ¬†Perfect meal for a summer night.

Cheese Ravioli w. Toasted Walnuts

I was looking through my recipe files looking for a vegetarian friendly recipe.  BUT since I was feeding it to husband, I had to include some hard core protein.

This recipe is from Real Simple, November 2007.

Substitutions made, noted below.

ravioli 2

Cheese Ravioli w. Toasted Walnuts

14 to 16 oz pacakage cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen)
1/3 c olive oil – I used 1/4 c
1/4 c walnuts, roughly chopped – I used pecans
1 clove garlic, sliced – I used minced garlic
2 tsp lemon juice
Kosher salt & pepper
1/2 c fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped – I used approx 1 tblsp dried
1/4 c grated Parmesan

Cook the ravioli according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving 3 tblsp of the cooking water.

Heat the oil in a med skillet over med heat.  Add the walnuts (pecans for me) and garlic.  Cook, stirring until the nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, parsley and reserved cooking water.

Add the ravioli and toss to coat.  Divide among individual plates and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

ravioli 3

cartoon-strawberry-9I wasn’t sure how I would like ravioli drenched in oil, which is why I cut back on the amount of oil in the first place. ¬†The lemon gave the sauce a good zing and the pecan/garlic combo added a bit of heartiness to the dish. ¬†In the future, I’d cut back on the oil by half and add in some shredded chicken for an “all in one” meal.

Macaroni Monday

What better treat to have on a rainy Monday than a saucy, gooey pot of Mac n Cheese?

This recipe is from Mac & Cheese – 80 Classic & Creative Version of the Ultimate Comfort Food.

One substitution made, noted below.

sweet onion mac n cheese 1

Sweet Onion Mac & Cheese

1/2 lb orecchiette
1 tblsp olive oil
1 c canola oil, divided
1/2 c (1 stick) unslated butter, divided
1 lrg sweet onion (Vidalia or Maui), diced
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/3 c all-purpose flour
2 c whole milk, warmed – I used 2%
2 oz Fontina, grated
3 tblsp freshly grated Parmesan
2 oz sharp white cheddar, grated
1 lrg shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 c rice flour (substitute cornstarch)
1 tsp snipped fresh chives
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Cook the pasta until al dente.  Drain the pasta, run it under cold water, and return it to the pot.  Toss the pasta with the olive oil.

Heat 1 tblsp of the canola oil and 2 tblsp of the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, and toss to coat with the fat.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes.  Raise the heat to medium-high, sprinkle the onion with salt and pepper and cook, uncovered for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the onion is golden brown.  Puree the onion in a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in a blender, and set aside.

Heat the remaining butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir in the flour and cook stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, or until the mixture turns slightly beige, is bubbly and appears to have grown in volume.  Increase the heat to medium, and slowly whisk in the warm milk.  Bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Reduce the heat to low, and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until it thickens.

Add the cheese to the sauce by 1/2 c measures, stirring until the cheese melts before making another addition.  Stir in the onion puree, and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

While the sauce simmers, heat the remaining canola oil in a small saucepan to a temperature of 350 degrees.  Coat the shallot slices with the rice flour, shaking off any excess.  Fry the shallot slices for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove the shallots from the oil with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.

To serve, stir the sauce, chives and parsley into the pasta.  Cook over low heat until the pasta is hot and coated with the sauce.  serve immediately, garnishing each serving with some of the fried shallots.

Note:  The sauce can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated.  Bring it to a simmer over low heat.  The pasta should not be cooked and the shallots should not be fried until just prior to serving.

sweet onion mac n cheese 2

cartoon-strawberry-9I liked the sweetness the onion added to this sauce. ¬†But I hate using orecchiette pasta, it always clumps together in lines of six or seven pieces of pasta. ¬†And this was enough sauce for a full pound of pasta. ¬†I would use rotini in the future. ¬†And as you can see, I didn’t fry up the shallots. ¬†We were hungry and I didn’t feel like making the mess. ¬†Next time for sure.

ps РTrying photograph all white food?  Super boring.

Oven Roasted Tomato Salsa

My momma is a mild salsa kind of person.  She likes just enough heat to add a little kick, but not one to set your mouth on fire.  So when she decided to take a bite out of a jalapeno pepper, my dad and I watched expectantly, guessing at what was to come.  (I was in Jr.High at the time.)

A big intake of breath, a tinsy bite off the end and then the yelling and dancing commenced.  Daddy and I giggled, then laughed and then tired to help.  To this day, it’s one of those family jokes that can get us laughing to the point of tears.

This recipe is from Super Salsas.

One substitution made – noted below.

salsa 2 Collage

Oven-Roasted Tomato Salsa

12 Roma or plum tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
6 clvoes peeled garlic
5 serrano chiles, whole – I used jalapeno’s
2 to 3 chipotle chiles, canned
Salt & Pepper to taste
Lime juice to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place tomatoes in a roasting pan, grouped together, and add onion, garlic and chiles.  Cook for 45 minutes, or until tomato skins are blistered.

Let cool and remove stems from chiles, along with the seeds if you’d like a milder salsa.

In a food processor, place ingredients from the roasting pan and chipotles; process until well blended, but not pureed.

Add salt, pepper and lime juice to taste.

salsa 5

cartoon-strawberry-9Woo! This is some spicy salsa!  And I took out ALL  the seeds from the chiles.  In the future?  Add 1 or 2 chipotle chiles, not 3.  Spiciness aside, this is good stuff.  You will keep eating it even though your mouth is on fire and your upper lip is sweating.

Ode to a Strawberry


I love strawberry season. ¬†I’ll buy 2 lbs of strawberries and eat them all myself in just a few days. ¬†And there are endless recipes to be found using fresh strawberries. ¬†Below I’ve listed the few I’ve made in the last month or so. ¬†Click on the title to link to the recipe.

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

roasted strawberry buttermilk cake

I made this for sweet Kari’s birthday cake. ¬†Super Yum. ¬†I would double the strawberries being roasted, just to be sure you have enough for the cake and extra for topping. ¬†The roasted strawberries would be great too as a topping for yogurt in the mornings.

Strawberry Almond Bread

strawberry almond bread

I’ve made three loaves of this bread in the last month or so. ¬†It’s great for toasting or sandwiches, and husband loves it. ¬†I’ve used plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream each time.

Fresh Strawberry Mint Lemonade

strawberry-mint lemonade

I’m a sucker for anything with peppermint in it. ¬†I did strain out a bunch of the pulp from the berries, but it’s still thick and wonderful. ¬†I cut in a little Trader Joes Sparkling Lemon water to thin it out.

Strawberry Crumb Bars

strawberry crumb Collage

We had some friends over for dinner and I made this as our dessert.  So buttery.  So crumbly.  So good.  Make this now and invite some friends over for dessert.

Peanut Butter Hummus

Hummus may be my favorite food ever.  Creamy & Smooth, able to take on a variety of tastes, and needs to be eaten with veggies or pita.

This recipe is from Nigella Kitchen.

No substitutions were made.

peanut butter hummus

Peanut Butter Hummus

2 – 15oz cans chickpeas
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 to 5 tblsp regular olive oil
1/3 c creamy peanut butter
3 tblsp lemon juice (or more as needed)
2 tsp kosher salt or 1 tsp table salt (or to taste)
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 to 1/3 c plain greek yogurt
2 tblsp peanuts, finely chopped, to serve (optional)
1 tsp smoked paprika, to serve (optional)

Drain and rinse the chickpeas.  Put the garlic, chickpeas, 3 tblsp oil, peanut butter, lemon juice, salt and cumin into a food processor and blitz to a knobbly puree.

Add 1/4 c of the yogurt and process again; if the hummus is still very thick, add another 1 to 2 tblsp of yogurt and the same of the oil.  (This will often depend on the chickpeas, as different sorts make the hummus thicker or not.)

Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice and salt if you feel it needs it.

On serving, mix the chopped peanuts with the paprika and sprinkle on top if you wish, and put an array of bits and pieces to eat with or dip in, as you see fit.

cartoon-strawberry-9This is a nice alternative to a tahini based hummus, the peanut butter adds a different depth of flavor. ¬†Mine was a little too thick, I should have added a bit more lemon juice and oil. ¬†But there’s always next time. ūüôā

Chicken & Herb White Pizza

I made this pizza twice. ¬†Because it’s that good? ¬†Partially. ¬†Mostly because I’m easily distracted and didn’t take a single picture the first time I made it. ¬†The second time? ¬†Totally forgot the onions.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, October 2011.

Substitutions made, noted below.

chicken pizza 1

Chicken & Herb White Pizza

1 lb regridgerated fresh pizza dough – I used the whole wheat dough from Trader Joes
cooking spray
1 tblsp butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tblsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 c 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 c grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese – I used the Parm/Reggiano blend from Trader Joes
1 tblsp yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 c shredded rotisserie chicken breast
1/4 c diced red onion – I used sweet white onion (the first time)
1 tblsp chopped fresh oregano – I used dried
1 tblsp chopped fresh chives – I used dried basil
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley – I used dried

chicken pizza Collage 1

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. ¬†– I read a tip recently. ¬†Heat your pizza stone/pan in the oven for approx 10 min. ¬†This will help cook the center of the pizza, so you don’t wind up with a doughy center. ¬†Totally works!!

Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray; let dough stand, covered for 15 minutes.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add flour and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Cook 3 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal; roll dough into a 12-inch circle on prepared baking sheet. ¬†(I rolled my dough out on a pastry mat and transferred to my pizza stone.) ¬†Spread white sauce over dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. ¬†Top with chicken and onion. ¬†Bake at 450 degrees on bottom oven rack for 17 minutes or until crust is golden. ¬†Sprinkle with herbs. ¬†(I just read that. ¬†Herbs on after it baked? ooops…)

chicken pizza 4

cartoon-strawberry-9We ate this pizza twice, both times were wonderful. ¬†The sauce is rich and cheesy, and the onions and herbs add a good bite. ¬†I added cheese to the pizza before it went in the oven, because who doesn’t love a little extra cheese on a pizza?