Wednesday, January 30, 2008

.sorrow like no other.

This is my sister, Wendy. The photo was taken a couple years ago when she and her boyfriend at the time went on a cruise. It's hard to see her so alive and vibrant in this photo knowing she's gone now. She passed from this life this evening around 6:00 p.m. EST.

Her current boyfriend went to go see her and when he got to her place, she wasn't responsive so he drove her to the emergency room. She was admitted with pneumonia...very, very severe pneumonia.

She went into cardiac arrest but they were able to resuscitate her. She was experiencing multiple organ failure and her body was in shock. They had her hooked up to all kinds of machines.

This afternoon I got a call from my sister, Marcia that she wasn't getting better. They were concerned about brain damage she might have gotten when she crashed the day before. The infection was getting worse. There was swelling on the brain. The prognosis was not good.

Then I got the call. It's a call you never EVER want to get. My baby sister was gone. Returned to our Father in Heaven.

I have the family packed and ready to go first thing in the morning for Seattle. In fact, we're leaving at 3:30am so that's technically the middle of the night. I spoke with Marcia again tonight after she texted to see if I was doing alright. She said when I get home I will feel much better. How can I feel better when there is so much sorrow in my heart?

Pray that my family can get through this time. This is the first death in our immediate family. She was too young to die. She was only 25. Hug your loved ones. Life is too precious.

Monday, January 28, 2008

.the cookie club.

Two years ago, someone suggested to me that I should start a cookie club. I thought it was a pretty good idea! I had about 12 dozen cookies going out a month and it was insane! In fact, one month I had TWENTY DOZEN go out.

Then of course I opened my bakery and subsequently got pregnant (something I never thought would ever happen again) and the cookie club floundered a little. The ladies who were signed up were fabulously patient. I am thankful for that!

I've recently been thinking whether or not I should keep this going. I've decided yes.. I will keep it going. I've had some people interested in joining and I hate turning anyone away. I am only offering 3 or 6 month subscriptions. For 3 months, it's $30.00 (not including shipping), and $60.00 for six months (not including shipping). I can't take on any year long subs right now because we're supposed to be moving in October and I don't want myself commited to something of this magnitude. I will probably have more sign ups once we're settled in our new place.

If you're interested in joining, please send me an email at . I will need to know your zip code to factor shipping charges. Once that's been decided, you'll need to have PayPal to lock in your place. I will only be able to take about 10 new people so act fast!

Let me know if you have any questions! Thanks! :D

.hola amigos.

Yesterday we had company over for dinner and had a delicious fajita dinner with all the fixings. Rice and beans, sweet corn cake, flan... mmm. It was so good!

Since I adore dessert, I thought I'd start off this entry with the flan! This recipe came out of a magazine (remember my food magazine addiction?) I bought years ago. Don't know what flan is? It's a custard with a burnt sugar top. It's rich and yummy... a lot like creme brulee, spanish style. There are two things you can bake this in. A bundt pan, or ramekins. I like using ramekins when we have company because they make the perfect single serving size. I really suggest you get yourself some ramekins if you don't have any.


Use a paper towel and dip it in some oil. Lightly rub the inside of your ramekins or bundt pan.

Put 2/3 sugar in a saucepan and put on the stove over medium heat. Stir constantly until you get a nice amber brown syrup. The sugar goes through a couple stages before getting to the syrup. When it first begins to melt, it forms what I like to call crack. HA! Seriously.. it looks like rock cocaine or something. So if you get this and think you've messed up, no worries, my friend! You are doing things just right.

Spoon a little of the sauce into each ramekin, or bundt pan. Set aside. (Soak your saucepan immediately with hot water otherwise you will have permanent sugar on your pan.)

In a large mixing bowl, put: 4 large eggs, 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk, 1 3/4 cups milk, 2 tsp vanilla, and a dash of nutmeg. Whisk everything together until the egg is mixed in well. Ladle into your prepared dishes over the burnt sugar. Put the ramekins (or bundt pan) in a baking dish and fill the baking dish up 1" with water. Don't let water get into the ramekins. Loosely cover the entire thing with foil. Put into a preheated 350* oven and bake for an hour. When they're done, remove the ramekins from the water. Let cool a little and then put in the fridge (cover with saran first) to chill completely.

To serve: Run a butter knife along the inside of the ramekin to loosen it from the sides. Put a plate on top and then flip it over. Shake gently to release the flan from the dish.

I top this with some fresh whipped whip cream and a marashino cherry. Absolutely delicious! I know you'll enjoy this and while it's super easy and quick to make, it is a SHOW STOPPER dessert! Don't you agree?

Printable version:

Now onto the fajitas. This is a mock recipe of Chili's fajitas. YUM! YUM! I use flank steak and chicken because we like a combo. You can use shrimp too if you want. You'll want to marinate your steak and chicken overnight. Here's the recipe:

1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/3 c. water
2 Tbsp oil
2 clove garlic, minced
3 tsp vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
dash cayenne pepper
dash black pepper
dash onion powder

The following day, (when you're actually going to cook these) prep your veggies -- onion, green bell pepper, red bell pepper. I was in such a hurry to get things done, I didn't get very good pictures. I apologize! But hey.. here's a picture of them in a baggie right before I put them into the cast iron skillet to sautee.

I prepped my things early in the day so I wouldn't be stressed out before my company got here. This is a huge time saver. Trust me.

Grill up your steak and chicken on the bbq until nice and done. Remember: Sear the meat on high on both sides, then lower the heat and the lid and let cook all the way through. The centers will be firm and non-spongy. Don't cut into the meat to check for doneness. That will cause the juices to leak out and you'll be left with a dry piece of shoe leather.

About 10 minutes before they're finished, put your veggies on to sautee in a hot skillet (I use cast iron). Slice the steak and chicken on the diagonal and then mix together with your cooked veggies.

For presentation, I like using these plastic faux terra cotta dishes. Secret. These came from Lowe's. In the garden section. They sell those fake terra cotta pots and they have the bottoms. Clean it really well and you've got a great dish to use that looks real and only cost a fraction the cost of something say at... bed, bath and beyond!

Serve with warmed tortillas, shredded lettuce, cheese, and pico de gallo. Oh and don't forget the sour cream and fresh guacamole (I make my guac with nothing but a little fresh lime juice and seasoning salt).

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and pithed (that's the ribbing on the inside), diced
Cilantro, chopped
1/2 a lime, squeezed
dash salt, pepper, and sugar

Mix all of this together. I make this early in the day too so the flavors have a chance to marry.

Okay.. on to the very last dish in our little fiesta night! Sweet corn cake. You don't want to skip this. It's like very very moist corn bread.

The ingredients you'll need are: Cornmeal, masa harina (which is a mexican corn flour used to make tortillas.), cream, butter, and frozen corn.

Preheat your oven to 375*.
In a blender, cream 1 stick butter until there aren't any lumps. Add 1/3 c. masa harina and 1/4 c. water. Mix. Add 1/4 c. cornmeal, 1/3 c. sugar, 2 Tbsp cream, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder. Mix well.

Thaw 1 1/2 c. frozen corn. Use a food processor and pulse the corn a little. I personally don't have a food processor anymore. So I used my handy dandy Pampered Chef food chopper to break down the corn. Mix in the frozen corn by hand.

Spoon the entire batter into a baking dish and smooth out. Put your baking dish into an even larger one. We're going to steam this much like we did the flan. Fill the baking dish 1/2 way up with water and then cover the entire thing with foil. Put in the oven and bake for an hour.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

.sausage and zucchini tortellini casserole.

When I was 19, I lived with my older sister, Ronda. This was a dish she used to make and I absolutely love it. It is pretty easy to make yet is quite a show-stopper dish that will easily impress your friends. They don't need to know how easy it is, right? It'll be our little secret.

My husband is not a very big veggie eater. I have learned to camoflauge veggies in dishes that he will eat so I know he is getting his nutrients. He actually loves the zucchini in this so if you have skeptics in your home, let them try it first before casting judgement!

Shopping List:

  • Mild italian sausage
  • Onion
  • Zucchini
  • Tortellini (fresh from the deli)(2)
  • Alfredo sauce (2)
  • Garlic
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Bacon
  • Caesar croutons
  • Caesar dressing
  • Romaine
First, break apart the sausage into a skillet and fry. When it's halfway done, add one diced onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, and zucchini cut in half and sliced.

This is how you want to slice the zucchini!

You don't want to overcook the zucchini, because this dish will go in the oven for a little while and you don't want it to turn to mush. So cook only until the sausage is no longer pink.

This is the type of tortellini I buy. These packs hardly had any pasta in them and I am MAD! I will have to remember to pick up family sized packs next time I'm in at Costco.

Boil your tortellini in salt water as directed on the package. When it's done, drain thoroughly. Dump into a 9x13 casserole dish. Dump your sausage/zucchini/onion mix on top of the pasta and stir gently to mix.

When I'm in a hurry and don't have time to make my own alfredo sauce, I pick up the fresh stuff that is usually right next to the pasta (above). BUT, the commissary was out of it, so I substituted using this Classico Four Cheese alfredo. We'll see if it's any good. Honestly, any alfredo sauce will work well, but I like to use the expensive good stuff because it has the best flavor. That's my opinion though. You go with whatever you want!

Pour the alfredo sauce on top of the pasta and meat and zucchini. Mix up a little. Grate some fresh parmesan cheese on top.

At this stage, this dish can be covered and put in the fridge until later. Bake in a 350* oven until it's nice and bubbly. Serve with caesar salads and french bread. (See recipe below for caesar salads)

This is very easy to put together.

Chop one head of romaine.
Fry up some bacon, drain the fat and cool.
Grate some fresh parmesan cheese.
Toss in caesar croutons.
Use your favorite caesar dressing. My absolute favorite is
Great Caesar salad dressing by Johnny Foods. It's impossible to find out east but I usually pick up a bottle or two when I'm in Seattle visiting my family. I've even been known to order big bottles of the stuff online. Yes.. I love this dressing *that* much!

Mix everything together. Put some fresh ground black pepper on top, mix again and serve!

.black bottom cherry cheesecake.

Alright, let's try this again! I had the entire thing typed up and when I clicked submit, I got an error and lost it all.

*vent over*

So.. I'm the choir director at church and we are performing this Saturday. The last rehearsal before the performance, I always bring a little baked snack to share. Usually it's cookies or brownies, but this time I thought I'd take a cheesecake.

Many years ago I bought a cookbook (Land O' Lakes Country Classics) that's no longer in publication. (Sorry) In it, is this recipe for sweetheart cheesecake..and since I think it's a rather hokey name, I changed it to a nice standard one. Cheesecake is considered a custard and is usually steam baked. This one is just baked, which gives it a different texture. It is very delicious. It has a yummy chocolate crust, light filling, sour cream topping and cherries! What could possibly be better?


  • 9" springform pan
  • butter
  • 2 8oz packages cream cheese
  • cherry pie filling
  • lemon juice
  • baking powder
  • cornstarch
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • sugar
  • chocolate graham crackers

Put one package chocolate graham crackers in a ziploc. Squeeze out the air and seal. Use a rolling pin (or something heavy) to crush the crackers. Spoon in 2 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 stick melted butter. Smoosh everything around until all the crumbs are coated.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9" springform pan using a measuring cup or some other item. Bake the crust in a 325* oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Separate 4 eggs. Put the egg whites in a mixing bowl and set the yolks aside. Whisk until firm peaks form. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, cream 1 stick butter (softened), 2 8oz packages cream cheese (softened) and 4 egg yolks until no lumps appear. Add 1 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Mix well.

Fold in half the egg whites. Once they're incorporated, fold in the remaining half. Pour on top of the crust and put in the oven. Bake for 60-80 minutes. The top will be slightly cracked. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen cheesecake from side of pan by running a knife along the inside. Cool completely in the fridge. The center of the cheesecake will dip. This is not what you normally want with cheesecake, but with this one you do. While it's in the fridge, make the sour cream topping.

In a bowl, mix together 1 cup sour cream, 2 Tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla. Spoon into the dipped
portion of the cheesecake. Cover and chill overnight. Serve with cherries.

Since I was taking this somewhere and didn't want to have to deal with spooning out cherries, I put them on top of the cheesecake. Sadly, my husband moved it to an unlevel area in the fridge and the cherries shifted to one side. That is why my photo looks the way it does. Ignore the ugliness... yours will be beautiful I'm sure! :D :D Enjoy!

Printable version:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

.donkey likes waffles.

I love the movie Shrek. And I love Donkey the most. And I love how he always says he wants waffles. Imagine a waffle-lovin' donkey. Pretty funny, huh? Paige loves waffles too. Perhaps I should re-think her name and just start calling her donkey? I don't know if she'd love that very much!

This morning I decided to treat the family to big waffle breakfast with hashbrowns and bacon. Here's my recipe!


Separate 2 eggs, putting the whites in a mixing bowl, and the yolks in a little bowl. Using a mixer on high speed, whip, using the whisk attachment, the whites until stiff peaks form. Transfer the egg whites to another bowl and set aside (if you only have one mixing bowl).

Put in the mixing bowl 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp sugar, and 1 Tbsp baking powder. Mix using the same whisk attachment. Add 1 3/4 cup milk, the 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla and 1/2 cup oil. Mix until lumps are gone.

By hand, use a rubber spatula tofold in 1/2 of the egg whites. Once those are incorporated, fold in the rest. This will make your batter light and fluffy. Don't be tempted to forego whipping those egg whites in the beginning and just dump in eggs. You will wind up with heavy, flat waffles.

Ladle spoonfuls onto a hot waffle iron and bake.

TIP: When I make these big breakfasts, I always start by cooking the meats (bacon and sausage). Then I fry up my hashbrowns. Transfer to a baking dish if you're not using an ovan-safe pan. The bacon, sausage, and hashbrowns hold well in a 200* oven while you work on the waffles. I keep a plate in the oven so when each waffle is done, I can put it in the oven to keep warm.

Once the waffle batter is all used up, pull everything from the oven and enjoy!

Printable version:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

.tuscano soup.

You're probably asking, "What is tuscano soup?" It's a soup offered at Olive Garden and if you've ever had a chance to try this soup there, you know you're in for a treat. It's essentially a potato and sausage soup that is FABULOUS. This recipe is my adaptation, which I enjoy a lot more than theirs. I used to make tuscano soup at the bakery and it was talked about all over town. Everyone LOVED it. I'm sure you will too.

Begin by peeling 5-6 yukon gold potatoes. Cut in half and then slice. Set aside.

Dice one medium onion and finely mince a clove or two of garlic. Set aside.

I use two different types of italian sausage. This soup is supposed to have a little kick to it. Since I have a child in this house who can't tolerate spicy food, I use 3 of the mild sausage links, and 2 of the hot. If you want mild soup, use only mild. If you like it spicy, use all the hot. At your house, you can make it any way you want!

Cut off the tube casing and break the sausage apart. Put in a stock pot and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cook over medium high heat.

When the sausage is halfway cooked, add the onion, garlic, and potatoes. Cook until the edges of the potatoes become translucent.

Add 3 cans chicken broth and 2 cans beef broth. I use a combo to give the soup a richer flavor. At this time, put in 1 to 1 1/2 cups frozen spinach. Olive Garden uses kale, but since I have a tough time finding kale, I use spinach. And in fact, I actually prefer spinach! Don't worry about thawing and draining. Just dump it right on in. Reduce heat and cover with a lid. Let simmer 20-30 minutes. When potatoes are fork tender this is ready to serve!

If you're not scared off by spicy food and if you want to, as Emeril would say, "kick this up another notch"... then add some dashes of crushed red pepper flakes to the pot. If you have kids in the house (like I do), then add the flakes to your own bowl and not the entire pot.

Ladle soup into a bowl, filling it 3/4 of the way up. Add a little half and half and spoon in some freshly grated parmesan cheese. I add the half and half into each bowl individually instead of the entire pot so it doesn't curdle. That's a bad thing. It also helps cool this soup down so you don't burn your tongue. ;)

Voila! Tuscano Soup Suzanne style. Enjoy!

Printable version:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

.family treasure.

While living in Hawaii, my mother, sisters and I decided to compile all of our recipes into a cookbook. Some were new, but many were recipes that had been in the family for generations. I took the task of typing them up on the computer and a couple months later it was complete. The master was sent to Ronda, who made numerous copies, collated it all (wow and yikes!) and then she and our other sister, Marcia (pronounced mar-see-yuh) put the pages in sheet protectors and stuck them in 3 ring binders.
This is our family treasure.
It is divided in different sections: appetizers, soups, salads, breads, side dishes, main dishes, cookies and candy, pies and cakes. Sadly, the dessert sections are the largest. We love our sweets!
So if you have a lot of recipes and they're completely disorganized, put together your own cookbook!

Monday, January 14, 2008

.chook on the barbie.

Years ago I got this recipe from my sister, Ronda. If you've ever eaten at Outback and had their Alice Springs Chicken, you'll know how yummy it is. Marinated chicken breast grilled on the barbie, topped with sauteed mushrooms, bacon and cheese. Can you ask for a more heavenly combo? This is a mocked up recipe that we all love. I know you'll love it too. If you don't like mushrooms, leave them off... but trust me... you'll want them on! Go on. Be brave!

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Bacon
  • Mushrooms (I bought pre-sliced to save time)
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Dijon mustard
  • Honey
  • Liquid smoke (found near the bbq sauce in your grocery store)
  • Lemon juice
This morning I whipped up my marinade and put it in a ziploc with my breasts... (chicken breasts.. not MY breasts).
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
a couple shakes liquid smoke
Let this marinate in the fridge all day. If you want to marinate it overnight, even better! The longer this sauce soaks into the chicken the more flavor it will have.

If you don't have a bbq grill, you could probably fry your chicken up in a pan, but it won't have the same flavor. I really recommend you grill your chicken on the bbq grill.

Preheat your grill.

While it's heating, fry up the bacon. Set aside. Then saute as many mushrooms as you want. Grate some cheddar cheese.

Put your chicken on the grill and sear each side for 3 minutes. Lower the heat/flame and lower the lid. Allow to cook until chicken, when pushed in the center is no longer spongy, but firm. If it's HARD, your chicken will be too done and will probably be very dry. You don't want that. Whatever you do, don't be tempted to cut your chicken to test it. This will make all the juices leak out and you'll be left with chicken cardboard. I repeat... push the fattest part of the chicken breast and if it's firm, it's done.

Put the cooked chicken in a baking dish and top with some slices of bacon, the sauteed mushrooms, and some cheddar cheese. Put the baking dish in a 350* oven until the cheese has melted completely.

This is what it will look like. We like to serve this dish with baked potatoes and salad. To time it just right so everything is done at the same time. Put your potatoes in a 400* oven half hour before you turn on the bbq grill. While the cheese is melting, I throw together the salad. Perfect!
Printable version:

.on the road to a meltdown.

Not me but Perry. I was getting some shots of her today because she was SO smiley. Doesn't last long...

I'm pretty cute, aren't I?

ACK! Adorable little piggies!

A moment of contemplation.

Uh oh..

Oh boy.. here it comes..

Yep.. better go. Guess my fun is over. :)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

.comfort food part 2.

I decided to make a fresh entry with the pot roast recipe because there are a lot of pictures and steps and hated the thought of you guys reading on and on and on.

I have to admit that I used to really struggle with pot roast. It was never awesome. I finally tried a combination at the suggestion of a friend and it is now really good and we love it. I cook mine in the oven, but this recipe can be converted for a crock pot.

Shopping List:
  • 5 lb chuck roast
  • Yukon gold potatoes
  • baby carrots
  • pearl onions
  • 1 can french onion soup
  • 1 bottle beer

Peel and half the potatoes. Peel the pearl onions. (NOTE: To peel pearl onions, dump into a pot of boiling water and let cook 3 minutes. Remove by using a serrated spoon and immediately put in a bowl of ice water. This is called blanching and the reason for the ice water is to stop the cooking. Use a paring knife and slice off the root end, then squeeze gently the onion and the center will come out of the dried onion layer.)

In a pie plate, put 1 1/2 cups flour, 4-5 Tbsp Seasoning Salt, and 2 tsp thyme. Mix up and coat the roast on all sides.

Put 1/4 stick butter and about 2 Tbsp Crisco in a skillet (or dutch oven if you have one). Saute your carrots for a few minutes then remove and set aside, then saute potatoes on all sides, remove and set aside when done...then sear the roast on all sides. This will lock in the juices.

Put the seared roast in a baking dish. Put carrots, potatoes, pearl onions, and 3 cloves garlic in. Pour the can of soup and bottle of beer on top. Salt and pepper generously. (NOTE: I don't drink alcohol so I don't know what beer is good, but my husband picked up Killian Red and given the price, it better be the best out there. )

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 2 1/2 hours at 350*. What you wind up with is a delicious, moist roast with perfectly tender vegetables on the side. I ladle some of the broth over my meat and potatoes. Yummy!

.comfort food is good for the soul.

Yesterday it was so dark and rainy and yucky. When it gets like that, I crave comfort food. One of my favorite comfort foods is pot roast so I thought I would make that for dinner! When I was at the store picking up a few items for this week's meals, I spotted Rhodes rolls in the freezer section. I knew I wanted rolls with dinner but didn't think I had enough time to make them myself. Well, it was going to take 3-5 hours just for those thing! I decided to make my own.

I have this cookbook...bought it about 16 years ago. I was working as a receptionist and this girl came in selling books/cookbooks. It looked pretty good and it has been one of my absolute FAVORITES! I'd link you to where you can buy it online, but it's no longer in publication. Anyway, there'sa roll recipe in it that I've been curious to try. They're Oatmeal Molasses rolls. Interesting, huh? I thought so too! Here's the recipe:

In a bowl, put 2 cups oats (I used quick oats) and 1/4 cup butter. Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water on top of them and set aside until the butter is melted.

In a mixing bowl, put 1/2 cup warm water and 2 pkgs yeast (4 1/2 tsp). Let proof 10 minutes. Add the oat/butter mixture along with 1 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs, 2 cups bread flour, 1/3 cup molasses, and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Mix using a dough hook. Add more flour until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides and bottom of bowl. Dump out onto floured surface and knead in more flour, stopping when dough is no longer tacky.

Spray your mixing bowl with Pam and put the dough in and let rise until double. The dough was pretty sticky after that rise and I needed to knead in a little more flour before shaping into small balls. The aroma was wonderful! Pull dough apart and work into balls. Put in a sprayed bread pan. Do this until the dough is all balled up. Cover pans until double in size.

Preheat oven to 375* and bake risen rolls for 20-25 minutes or until nice and golden brown on top.

After sampling more than I really needed to, I have to say they were AMAZING. They are really moist and a little sweet from the brown sugar. Very tasty. Jim gives them 2 thumbs up!