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181 posts categorized "11) Parties, Holidays & Celebrations"

06/23/2017

~ Simple & Sweet: Homemade Strawberry Topping ~

Strawberries, one of the first fruits to ripen in the Spring, are considered to be the fruit that announces "Summer is here", and, here in Central Pennsylvania, we've been enjoying our own homegrown and locally-grown farmers-market strawberries for a couple of weeks now. From pancakes, waffles and French toast, to cheesecake, shortcake and ice-cream (to name a few), the 20-30 minutes it takes to make strawberry topping is well-worth the effort. It's luscious. Those who scratch-make this pretty-to-look-at positively-yummy tart-and-sweet topping make it to their own liking. Some folks hull and toss the berries in whole, then after it has...... View full recipe for "~ Simple & Sweet: Homemade Strawberry Topping ~"

05/21/2017

~ Joe's Caribbean Chicken Dog w/Joe's Island Salsa ~

Because a lot of Americans will be firing up their grills this weekend, there's no time like the present for me to talk about an experiment I conducted on myself this week: chicken hot dogs. For years I've been telling people "I think I was a hot dog in a past life" (that is how much I love high-quality all-beef franks). That said, chicken hot dogs have been popping up (again) in stores of late. For years I've been saying, "If you dislike something, you really ought to try it once every ten years, just to see if your taste...... View full recipe for "~ Joe's Caribbean Chicken Dog w/Joe's Island Salsa ~"

03/24/2017

~ Spring Forward: Pea, Carrot & Potato Salad Olivier ~

Known in Eastern European circles as "Salad Olivier" or "Salad Olivye", and, "Russian Salad", there are as many variations of this refreshing side-dish or main-dish salad as there are cooks who are willing to take the time to do a precise job of uniformly cubing, dicing and properly cooking the components. What this salad looks like is as important as how it tastes. For young Eastern European girls, who were almost always required to assist their mother and grandmother in the family kitchen, it was how they honed their knife skills for later in life in their own kitchens (while...... View full recipe for "~ Spring Forward: Pea, Carrot & Potato Salad Olivier ~"

02/04/2017

~Cold & Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip w/Wonton Cups~

Crab meat. I love it. Fresh, frozen or pasteurized, it's an ingredient that has rocked my food world. With it, I make an array of hot and cold appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. I use it to make steamy crab bisque and add it to several seafood soups and stews too. I adore an ice-cold crab salad or crab salad sandwich, and, I can't resist a well-made crab cake or crab cake sandwich. There's more. I can't count the of number classic main-course meals I make with crab. If you've eaten in a Chinese-American restaurant you know what crab Rangoon is...... View full recipe for "~Cold & Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip w/Wonton Cups~"

01/31/2017

~ Open Sesame Asian Chicken Slaw Wonton Tacos~

What in the wild-world-of-culinary-sports made me ponder turning wonton skins into mini-taco shells? Over the weekend I made two popular deep-fried Chinese-American appetizers to celebrate Chinese New Year: crab Rangoon and firecracker shrimp. Yesterday, I roasted a chicken, for the purpose of making some Asian chicken salad today -- to use up a few of the miscellaneous Asian ingredients that were leftover, which, included some wonton skins. Wonton tacos? Why not? They're a ton of tasty fun. A bit about making mini- wonton cups & wonton taco shells: For those who don't know, these small squares of flattened dough are...... View full recipe for "~ Open Sesame Asian Chicken Slaw Wonton Tacos~"

01/28/2017

~ Have a Blast: Hot and Crispy Firecracker Shrimp ~

Start with really big shrimp (no alternative facts here). Simmer down. What's the point of having a blog and being on social media if you're going to lie -- about anything? Here on KE, where I test, write and photograph my own recipes, it's easy to speak truth. Experience has taught: the bigger the shrimp the better the firecracker shrimp, and, since their count, which determines their size, is clearly-labeled, you will have no where to run or hide if you don't use 21-25 count (jumbo), or ideally, 16-20 count (extra-jumbo) shrimp, to make this appetizer. No matter what you...... View full recipe for "~ Have a Blast: Hot and Crispy Firecracker Shrimp ~"

01/25/2017

~ Crab Rangoon w/More Crab than Cream Cheese ~

Crab meat, scallions and seasoned cream cheese all wrapped up in a wonton, deep-fried and served with a sweet dipping sauce (like duck sauce or sweet and sour sauce). It's a staple appetizer on most Chinese-American restaurant menus, and, an appetizer I almost never order. Why? Because 99% of the time, both the sweet flavor and delicate texture of the crab (or worse -- imitation crab) is 100% lost to the cream cheese -- akin to seasoned cream cheese spread. With Rangoon (the capital city of Burma) in its name, most people think this is an authentic Asian specialty. It's...... View full recipe for "~ Crab Rangoon w/More Crab than Cream Cheese ~"

12/28/2016

~ Eggnog Breakfast Brioche in the Bread Machine ~

Eggnog bread -- most folks associate it with quick bread (like banana, zucchini and date-nut). It's referred to as quick bread because it's a quick to mix together loaf that is leavened with baking powder and/or baking soda instead of yeast -- it rises as it bakes in the oven. It's semi-dense texture is very similar to a muffin or a poundcake and it's usually topped with a sugary glaze of some sort before slicing. It's easy to make and it's quite delicious too. That said: I make an eggnog brioche that most folks don't know exists. A bit about...... View full recipe for "~ Eggnog Breakfast Brioche in the Bread Machine ~"

12/25/2016

~ Holiday Fun 101: Deck the table w/a Pizza Wreath~

Fact: I want pizza once a week. Fiction: Pizza isn't festive enough to serve on Christmas Day. The fact is, when you crave pizza once a week, you'll figure out a way to serve it for any holiday. The truth: This post is simply my foodie way of wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year -- or any holiday you celebrate. I chose pizza because it's universal. A slice of ooey-gooey cheesy pizza piled high with some great toppings of choice brings a smile to everyones face, and, for as long as I have been...... View full recipe for "~ Holiday Fun 101: Deck the table w/a Pizza Wreath~"

12/22/2016

~ Thick Creamy Eggnog & Rum Milkshakes 'n Malts ~

Sipping milkshake cocktails in front of a warm fire and a twinkling Christmas tree with the snow falling outside might not be everyone's 'ideal', but, I'm not everyone -- I am an eggnog lover who adores thick, creamy, rum-laced eggnog malts. On years when Joe and I are alone for the holidays, scratch-making eggnog isn't a priority for me because I can purchase seriously high-quality eggnog from my local Meyer Dairy. So, once a year, I "milk" the situation. Whenever applicable, eggnog replaces milk in my beverages, and, I bake and cook with it too. I make eggnog cookies, poundcake,...... View full recipe for "~ Thick Creamy Eggnog & Rum Milkshakes 'n Malts ~"

12/20/2016

~ Eggnog Pancakes w/Butter-Rum 'n 'Nog Bananas ~

Eggnog is a staple in my refrigerator during the Christmas and New Years holidays. Besides sipping on it throughout the days leading up to the holidays, I bake and cook with it too. To name a few, I make great eggnog cookies, eggnog pound cake and eggnog shortbread, and, when it comes to breakfast or brunch on Christmas or New Years Day, either eggnog pancakes, French toast or waffles always make an appearance. There's more. Bananas are one of my favorite fruits (I eat one every day), and caramelized bananas, like the kind used to make Bananas Foster, are my...... View full recipe for "~ Eggnog Pancakes w/Butter-Rum 'n 'Nog Bananas ~"

12/17/2016

~ Old-Fashioned Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch ~

Caramel, butterscotch, English toffee and American buttercrunch. These rich butter-and-sugar-based candies are all related, and, I have an affinity for them all. As a little kid, my hand gravitated to the bag of those little chewy squares of Kraft Caramels, and, when I got a little older, I always kept a few cellophane-wrapped Brach's Butterscotch hard-candies in my purse -- they were a way to enjoy an otherwise long and boring class at school or sermon at church. I developed a crush for English toffee in London the 1990's. There was a Confectioner across the street from our hotel and...... View full recipe for "~ Old-Fashioned Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch ~"

12/15/2016

~ Holiday Appetizers 101: Make Lots of Crab Balls ~

As I always tell people, "You can never be too rich or too thin, and, when it comes to holiday entertaining, you can never make too many crab balls." Crab balls are to the cocktail table what rum balls are to the dessert buffet. You do not want to risk running out of either one. I've never hosted a party or attended one where the crab balls weren't the first appetizer to be inhaled by the guests -- and nobody can eat just one. I plan on a minimum of three-four per person. "So", you ask, "what makes a crab...... View full recipe for "~ Holiday Appetizers 101: Make Lots of Crab Balls ~"

12/12/2016

~ Boozy Confection: Coconut Rum & Walnut Balls ~

In my lifetime, I can't recall a holiday season without encountering these boozy little sweet treats somewhere. As a child, one of our neighbors, Agnes, always served rum balls at her Christmas party and we kids made a point of sneaking a few when the adults weren't looking. As an adult, I typically serve them alongside my rum-laced eggnog to ring in the New Year. If there is a person who doesn't like a chocolatey rum ball rolled in coconut, I've yet to meet him or her. Rum balls are on my top 5 list of "easiest holiday confections". Rum...... View full recipe for "~ Boozy Confection: Coconut Rum & Walnut Balls ~"

11/30/2016

~ Dried Cherry-Berry & Walnut Holiday Cheese Ball ~

'Tis the season for holiday cheese balls or cheese logs. They're in all ordinary grocery stores and specialty cheese shops, or, they can be ordered from catalogs or on-line. For the most part, they are a popular addition to the holiday nosh table -- given to the right person, they make a thoughtful gift too. They pair great with any type of wine or champagne and almost any cocktail. Did you know these tasty (and often pricey) cheese balls are really easy to make at home? Back in the 1970's and 1980's, port wine cheese, and, the relatively inexpensive store-bought...... View full recipe for "~ Dried Cherry-Berry & Walnut Holiday Cheese Ball ~"

11/20/2016

~ Easy Rosemary-Kissed Butternut Squash Bisque ~

This sinfully-simple, creamy-rich butternut squash bisque is one of my favorite go-to Turkey Day specialties. I don't serve it every year, but on years when my husband has harvested a bumper crop, it starts off our traditional feast. It looks pretty and tastes divine. There's more: It is indeed easy to prepare, and, it can be made two-three days in advance too. All it needs is a gentle reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave and it's ready to take to the table and serve. A bit about butternut squash: Butternut squash is one of our healthy super-foods. That’s...... View full recipe for "~ Easy Rosemary-Kissed Butternut Squash Bisque ~"

11/15/2016

~ So Sophisticated: Sweet Potato & Frangelico Tart ~

"So sophisticated." That was my mother-in-law's comment when I served this dessert in place of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving a few years back. I hung onto those words because Ann was a woman of few words who didn't hand out compliments often. We were having an unusually small gathering of eight people that year. Making one easy-to-serve dessert to feed us all, enabling me to offer seconds to a few, and, save me time too -- it worked out perfectly. Sweet potato or pumpkin pie (in addition to Dutch apple, pecan, and rhubarb) was/is always a part of my three-four...... View full recipe for "~ So Sophisticated: Sweet Potato & Frangelico Tart ~"

11/10/2016

~ Eggs a la Goldenrod or Creamed Eggs on Toast ~

Once upon a time, this vintage egg recipe was reserved for Easter breakfast or brunch. Why? It was a tasty way to make use of a dozen or so of those hard-cooked, pastel-colored eggs that got dyed by the children to celebrate the holiday. In my kitchen, eggs a la goldenrod is simply a delicious way to enjoy hard-cooked eggs, which I always keep on hand. Besides liking eggs a lot, as a busy food blogger and host of a TV segment, I hard-cook several eggs at the beginning of each week -- it's ten minutes well spent. I consider...... View full recipe for "~ Eggs a la Goldenrod or Creamed Eggs on Toast ~"

11/02/2016

~ Simply Divine: Chocolate Tart (Tarte au Chocolat) ~

Don't look now but the season of holiday entertaining and festive gatherings is quickly approaching. If you're like me, you're always "in the market" for another elegant yet easy-to-make dessert to serve at your own get-together or take to someone else's. A chocolate tart is a perfect ending to any occasion, and, in the case of this recipe, it doesn't require the skills of a trained pastry chef -- feel free to keep that a secret and let 'em think you slaved all day over it. "Tarte au Chocolate" -- No special skills required. A chocolate tart, or as they...... View full recipe for "~ Simply Divine: Chocolate Tart (Tarte au Chocolat) ~"

10/27/2016

~ Pucker up for French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron) ~

One thing I love about the late Fall and Winter is the vibrant-colored citrus fruit. Because it's available all year long, a lot of folks don't realize that citrus fruit (lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges) are in fact "winter fruit". This year, for some reason, the citrus fruit I've been purchasing, is extra-over-the-top, plump, tart 'n sweet and juicy. I've been eating grapefruit every morning, putting orange segments in our salads, lime slices in my gin and tonics, and, today I'm baking a lemon tart for dessert. Tarte au citron is a classic French dessert and every patisserie (bakery) in...... View full recipe for "~ Pucker up for French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron) ~"

10/08/2016

~ Classic Pommes Anna: The Ultimate Potato Cake ~

This just might be the most impressive potato dish ever placed on a fancy-schmancy dining room table. It's a gorgeous golden cake constructed of layers of ultra-thin-sliced potatoes that have been baked in the oven (just like a cake layer) and turned out onto a serving plate. When sliced into wedges, each person gets a pretty, pie-sized wedge of potato heaven: buttery-rich, nicely-and-lightly seasoned potatoes, with a crispy golden crust and a soft tender center. Impressive to look at & surprisingly simple to make. While pommes Anna does take a bit of time to make, for a French dish, it...... View full recipe for "~ Classic Pommes Anna: The Ultimate Potato Cake ~"

10/02/2016

~ Duchess Potatoes (Pommes de Terre Duchesse) ~

Mashed potatoes are the quintessential American side-dish for the Sunday roast or pot roast and the gravy that comes with it. While there are a lot of ways to prepare potatoes, the ethereal smell of a chicken roasting in the oven or a pot roast simmering on the stovetop compels me to peel potatoes and bring a pot of water to a boil. To us Americans, mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, and duchess potatoes, a fancy French-named mashed potato dish made of piped egg-laced mashed potatoes which are baked to a beautiful golden brown, is an impressive-to-look at,...... View full recipe for "~ Duchess Potatoes (Pommes de Terre Duchesse) ~"

07/28/2016

~Grilled Chicken Wings w/Peachy Keen BBQ Sauce~

Purists will tell you there is no substitution for deep-fried chicken wings. I used to think that too, and, if you want to stay wed to that train of thought, for the time being, it's still a free country. While wings that are oven-fried or grilled can't technically be referred to as Buffalo wings (no self-respecting Buffalo-wing-maker cooks them in the oven or on the grill), wings that are oven-fried or grilled really can be as good as deep-fried wings. I make wings all three ways, I know. Whenever I have a lot of wings to make for a indoor...... View full recipe for "~Grilled Chicken Wings w/Peachy Keen BBQ Sauce~"

06/10/2016

~ Creole Crawfish Beignets w/French Remoulade ~

Crawfish, crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs: The last time I saw these small, freshwater, lobster-esque crustaceans here in Central Pennsylvania, fresh or flash frozen, was -- never. The only time I've ever encountered crawfish was in Louisiana, Commander's Palace to be exact, and, "crawfish beignets" was an appetizer choice. I ordered it because I was surprised to find the word "beignet" used in a new-to-me savory seafood application rather than a sweet dessert way. Had I been up on my Big Easy history at the time, I wouldn't have been surprised by it at all. Now owned by the Brennan Family,...... View full recipe for "~ Creole Crawfish Beignets w/French Remoulade ~"

06/02/2016

~ Remoulade Sauce: A Staple in the NOLA Kitchen ~

It is 99.9% impossible to visit New Orleans and not experience their remoulade sauces. Lots of people go to NOLA for Mardi Gras. Back in 1982, Joe and I decided to spend seven days there, which included New Years Eve and New Years Day -- if you like to travel, I highly recommend doing this. I tell everyone, "we did nothing but eat our way through the city's superb restaurants, bars, grilles and countryside dives". For our very first meal, we chose to dine at the elegant Galatoire's, where I encountered their signature appetizer: Creole shrimp remoulade. Remoulade sauce is...... View full recipe for "~ Remoulade Sauce: A Staple in the NOLA Kitchen ~"

05/12/2016

~ Rich & Creamy Celery Soup (Isn't Ho-Hum at All) ~

Celery. It's the swizzle stick in my Bloody Mary, a must have in my egg, tuna and potato salad, and, send back those Buffalo wings if they don't come with a crudité of celery and some blue cheese dip. That said, in my food world, celery is not considered an exciting vegetable. No one ever gleefully remarks, "my Bloody Mary had the best stalk of celery in it", "the celery in her tuna salad was divine", or, "the celery that came with his chicken wings was outstanding". Celery, however, is one of the world's most used vegetables, coming from the...... View full recipe for "~ Rich & Creamy Celery Soup (Isn't Ho-Hum at All) ~"

03/30/2016

~ Another Crockpot Corned Beef & Cabbage Recipe~

There's always room for one more, and today, the food world can make room for mine. Why? When asked, I always answer. While I've shared my recipes for ~ Braised & Brown Sugar Glazed Corned Beef ~, and, ~ My Brown-Sugar Crusted Crockpot Corned Beef ~, the two are essentially the same recipe, cooked via two different methods, and, they are both geared toward making corned beef sandwiches -- a year round favorite of my husband and I. Corned beef and cabbage, served as a knife and fork dinner or a main-course soup, isn't something either of us grew up...... View full recipe for "~ Another Crockpot Corned Beef & Cabbage Recipe~"

03/27/2016

~ 'Ye Olde' Diner-Style Creamed-Spinach Omelette ~

The French omelette is iconic, but, miracle of miracles, we Americans actually improved it. By allowing our omelette to get a little golden on the outside, which gives it a bit of extra flavor and texture, and, by generously filling it with a heavenly host of filling combos, egg lovers like me have turned the omelette into the hot pocket of beloved egg dishes. While I make quite a few omelettes during the course of any year, classic recipes with a clear history, popular breakfast-joint favorites, and, recipes with eggs-traordinary stories are the only ones I share. For example. My...... View full recipe for "~ 'Ye Olde' Diner-Style Creamed-Spinach Omelette ~"

03/24/2016

~ What's Up Doc? A Carrot Pie w/Gingersnap Crust ~

In the Fall, we all flaunt our favorite recipes for pumpkin, squash and sweet potato pie. Well, it's Spring now, and I am here to tell you: anything a pumpkin, a squash or a sweet potato can do, a carrot can do better. It's got way more flavor than a pumpkin or a squash and a lot less calories than a sweet potato. There's more: besides being a great source of vitamins and minerals carrots contain more natural sugar than any vegetable aside from beets, which intensifies during the cooking process. Also, I have it on good authority, it's the...... View full recipe for "~ What's Up Doc? A Carrot Pie w/Gingersnap Crust ~"

03/21/2016

~It's Not Easy Being Green: Me & Creamed Spinach~

"Why can't you be more like your friend Melanie?", said the mothers of many of my childhood friends. A long, long time ago, middle-class mothers all cooked, and, when you were invited to a friend's house after school, it was common practice to be asked to stay for the evening meal. Those were hospitable times, and, that was my life during the 1960's (age 5 thru 14). If you are old enough to remember June Cleaver, Margaret Anderson and Donna Stone (Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best and Donna Reed), the image of each of those TV moms serving...... View full recipe for "~It's Not Easy Being Green: Me & Creamed Spinach~ "

03/18/2016

~ Classic Coquilles St. Jacques (Gratin of Scallops) ~

Once upon a time in Happy Valley we had a fancy-schmancy resort restaurant called LePapillon. As the name implies, it specialized in French cuisine. If you were into a swanky, suit-and-tie, heels-and-hose, Saturday-night-date-place to enjoy a wonderful meal while listening to the best grand piano player in the area, and, take in a breathtaking sunset, this is where you went. For a period of about ten years, Joe and I frequented the place often, and, I arranged for many family celebrations and business gatherings to be held there. Times change, people change, and, back in the late 1990's, when they...... View full recipe for "~ Classic Coquilles St. Jacques (Gratin of Scallops) ~"

03/16/2016

~ Meatless Mushroom Duxelles & Gruyere Crostini ~

For lack of better words, I'm going to refer to this mouthwatering crostini recipe as an "all-purpose, all-occasion" hors d'oeuvre. They complement a host of foods, and, can be served (for brunch, lunch, or dinner), at casual or upscale gatherings. They pair well with all sorts of cocktails, as well as red or white wine. They can be passed prior to an entrée of fish, seafood, poultry, porcine or meat. They can be served with a cup of soup and/or a salad. They are meatless too. That makes them perfect for meatless meals, certain religious holidays, and, entertaining vegetarian friends....... View full recipe for "~ Meatless Mushroom Duxelles & Gruyere Crostini ~"

03/11/2016

~ Get Out Your Whisk & Make this Tomato Bisque ~

You need recipes like this, I need recipes like this, all of us cooks need recipes like this. This creamy, rich tomato bisque is what I call a "go to" recipe -- one I rely upon for a variety of kitchen encounters. From unpretentious eat-in-the-kitchen meals to upscale dinner-in-the-dining-room soirees, it's a perfect starter course to plug into a host of menus, and, it pairs great with many salads and sandwiches too. Plus, there is little risk serving tomato soup because almost all folks like it a lot. I've handed out this recipe countless times, which is just how I...... View full recipe for "~ Get Out Your Whisk & Make this Tomato Bisque ~"

02/27/2016

~ Pretty in Pink: No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecakes ~

When you find a big beautiful box of fresh strawberries in your market in February, you don't pause to ponder. Into the cart they go, you checkout, and, by the time you're out of the parking lot, your mind is recollecting "that recipe" you made "that time" for "that woman", who, two days before her Oscar party, decided to add mini-strawberry cheesecakes to her menu -- which caused you to go looking for strawberries in February -- not to mention 28 mini-cheesecake pans. "That woman" would be me, and, as I always say, "the devil is always in the details."...... View full recipe for "~ Pretty in Pink: No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecakes ~"

02/07/2016

~ Mel's Pan-Seared Crimini-Crusted Sirloin Steaks ~

Fact: I will not stand outside and grill if the temperature is below 40 degrees. Fact: It is below forty degrees. Fact: I am cooking steaks indoors today and the line forms to the left of the stove. Great steak dinners & our original hunters and gatherers: I'm guessing mushrooms have been paired with steak, since, um, fire was invented? I imagine a big hairy guy, standing in a cave, yanking a hunk of red meat off a sharp spear and throwing it on an open fire to cook. Meanwhile, an equally-hairy but less imposing woman picks a few mushrooms...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Pan-Seared Crimini-Crusted Sirloin Steaks ~"

02/04/2016

~ The Hasselback Potato: A Majestic Baked Potato ~

The next time baked potatoes are on your mind or menu, and you have a bit of extra time, make a batch of sexy, stylish Swedish Hasselback potatoes. Want to feel like a rock star? Go the extra mile and make them using using small, fingerling potatoes -- people adore fancy-schmancy, darling-to-look-at, petite food. Place two or three on a plate next to a perfectly-cooked steak or pass a tray of them around at a cocktail party -- majestic -- to say the least. The Hasselbecken Tavern was established in the 1700's as a small red hut located in a...... View full recipe for "~ The Hasselback Potato: A Majestic Baked Potato ~"

12/31/2015

~ Butter-Rum, Vanilla Bean & Eggnog Pound Cake ~

If you're planning on drinking some eggnog over the course of the next two days, set a cup of it aside until you read the rest of this post. You can thank me later. In my opinion, any cake, cookie or confection that starts out as plain vanilla, gets jettisoned to star status with the addition of the flavors of eggnog: cinnamon, nutmeg, and, of course, rum. Even folks who don't care to drink eggnog per se seem to love it if it is used as a flavoring in a dessert -- like this cake. Eggnog literally means eggs in...... View full recipe for "~ Butter-Rum, Vanilla Bean & Eggnog Pound Cake ~"

12/29/2015

~ Mushrooms Stuffed w/Garlic & Fine Herbs Boursin~

Boursin cheese -- it's in my refrigerator at all times. If guests drop by unexpectedly or on short notice, it, a box of crackers and zero effort is all you need to relax and enjoy your time with them. Boursin is technically classified as a "specialty" cheese, however, I classify it as a "party" cheese, because, if you serve it at a party with crackers or toasts, people flock to it. This soft, spreadable, cow's milk cheese has a creamy, buttery texture and a full, slightly-tangy flavor, similar to that of cream cheese. It's perfect to serve as a snack...... View full recipe for "~ Mushrooms Stuffed w/Garlic & Fine Herbs Boursin~"

12/26/2015

~ The Original Nestle's Toll House Cookie Recipe ~

When my mom asked me to bake the Toll House cookies for Christmas, I did it with more joy than all the fancy-schmancy stuff I have baked in a long while. When I was a kid, Toll House cookies reigned supreme. Besides store-bought Fig Newtons and Pecan Sandies, homemade gingersnaps and Toll House were one of the few cookies my dad would eat. The apple didn't fall far from the tree -- we both dislike Oreos too. So, every year, amongst an array of fancy confections, the basic Toll House cookie proudly takes its place on our holiday cookie tray....... View full recipe for "~ The Original Nestle's Toll House Cookie Recipe ~"

12/23/2015

~ My Six-Ingredient Last-Minute Eggnog Shortbread ~

There are two kinds of people. Those who finished their holiday baking last week and those who haven't started. If your holiday is under control in a Martha Stewart-esque sort of way, the force is with you and you need no help from me today. If, however, you fall into the category of those who just got home from doing all of your gift shopping and find yourself panic stricken in the kitchen in need of a last-minute cookie recipe, preheat your oven to 325 degrees now. ~ Step 1. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom...... View full recipe for "~ My Six-Ingredient Last-Minute Eggnog Shortbread ~ "

12/20/2015

~ My Big Baked Denver Omelette Brunch Casserole~

Yes Virginia, there is more than one way to make an omelette, especially if you are cooking breakfast or brunch for a crowd. The Denver omelette in particular, which is a festive-looking Southwestern omelette that is loaded with lots of smoky diced ham, bell peppers, onions and grated cheddar cheese, once the ingredients are diced, which takes about 10 minutes, transitions from making omelettes one-at-a-time to one crowd-pleasing casserole so easily, if you're like me, it's going to end up at or near the top of your go-to AM casserole recipes list. Here's my photo of ~ My Kinda Cowboy...... View full recipe for "~ My Big Baked Denver Omelette Brunch Casserole~"

12/18/2015

~ My Kinda Cowboy Breakfast: A Denver Omelette ~

My phone conversation yesterday. "I'd like to order a Denver omelette with home fries and an order of French toast with a side of bacon." "Sorry m'am, we don't make Denver omelettes." Short pause. "Ok, do you make an omelette full of ham, bell peppers, onions and cheddar?" "Yes m'am, that's our Western omelette." Longer pause (where I'm calling from, as the crow flies, my gateway to the West is through Ohio to Chicago, which has zero to do with a Denver omelette). I wanted to say, "I think you mean Southwestern omelette", and further prove my point by explaining...... View full recipe for "~ My Kinda Cowboy Breakfast: A Denver Omelette ~"

12/15/2015

~ Ooh-La-La: Beefy French Onion Soup Dumplings ~

When it comes to Soupe a l'Oignon a la Francaise (French Onion Soup), I take no shortcuts -- the time it takes to achieve perfection is irrelevant. I'm not interested in amateurish thirty-minute-or-less dumbed-down versions -- using flour to thicken the homemade beef stock and/or sugar to sweeten the caramelized onions is sacrilege. There's more: you'll be verbally abused for suggesting vegan stock, beaten with a baguette for any utterance about gluten-free bread, and, ejected from my kitchen if you say soy cheese can be substituted for nutty Gruyere. When it comes to French Onion Soup, I'm a by-the-book purist....... View full recipe for "~ Ooh-La-La: Beefy French Onion Soup Dumplings ~"

12/09/2015

~ Easy, Creamy & Dreamy: Mushroom Bruschetta ~

My history with this decadent dish dates back to December, 2011. I ordered it in a recently-restored, historic hotel and fine-dining restaurant in our area. Everything my girlfriend Jeanne and I ate that afternoon was superb, but, this dish, my appetizer, blew me away. I liked it so much, I left a big tip and asked for the recipe. A few minutes later, I was handed a computer-generated copy. If you've ever been given a recipe by a chef, you know there is not much too it: a very short list of ingredients, garnishes, and, a few cryptic instructions. Chef's...... View full recipe for "~ Easy, Creamy & Dreamy: Mushroom Bruschetta ~"

12/04/2015

~ Breadcrumbs, Butter, Garlic + Shrimp 'de Jonghe' ~

Chances are, if you have never been to Chicago, you have never heard of shrimp de Jonghe -- it's virtually unknown outside of the windy city. Dating back to the late 19th Century, it is said to be one of the city's oldest "gastonomic glories" -- in Chicago it's an immortal institution. Close your eyes and conjure up an image of a plate of succulent, jumbo shrimp bathed in a rich herb-butter, sherry and garlic sauce, topped with the most divine, golden, homemade French breadcrumbs and doused with few generous squirts of fresh lemon juice. Tres magnifique! Invented by Belgian-born...... View full recipe for "~ Breadcrumbs, Butter, Garlic + Shrimp 'de Jonghe' ~"

11/22/2015

~ Pass the Buckwheat Blini: We are Serving Caviar ~

"I'd rather have a hot dog than caviar." That's how I feel about caviar, so, when I came across that quote by famed Colombian race car driver Juan Pablo Montoya, I had to share it. Don't get me wrong, caviar is not on my 'foods I hate' list, I just like a long list of other things more, and, I love the humorous comparison. From a perceived foodie standpoint, caviar vs. a hot dog is the difference between "classy" and "trashy", which makes me feel a bit naughty in a Groucho Marx sort of way. That said, a lot of...... View full recipe for "~ Pass the Buckwheat Blini: We are Serving Caviar ~"

11/20/2015

~ Please Pass the Caviar: Russian Buckwheat Blini ~

For centuries, these small yeast-risen buckwheat pancakes have been traditional fare on the opulent "zakuska table" ("appetizer table") at important Russian gatherings and festive celebrations. "Zakuska" literally means "little bite". Stacks of them are served alongside iced bowls of pickled herring, smoked sturgeon, salmon, many types of caviar, aspics and pates. There are plenty of condiments too: tangy sour cream, finely-chopped eggs, onions, briny pickles and sauteed mushroom mixtures. No one can eat just one blin (singular), so, make plenty, and, don't forget to freeze the Russian vodka as an accompaniment -- it's mandatory. "Nasdrovia": "to health" and "thanks for...... View full recipe for "~ Please Pass the Caviar: Russian Buckwheat Blini ~"

11/15/2015

~ Anchor-Deep Deep-Fried Shrimp w/Tartar Sauce ~

Circa 1960's and 1970's Anchor Deep Seafood was the name of a take-out seafood joint in my town, Tamaqua, PA. It was a block from my Great Aunt Mary's house, which was three-four blocks from the high school, where I had band or majorette practice after school three-four days a week, and, way back then, there was no "activities or sports bus" to shuttle us kids who lived in the burbs home -- our parents had to "deal with it". For years, I walked to Aunt Mary's after practice, then, around 5:15PM, my mom would pick me up after she...... View full recipe for "~ Anchor-Deep Deep-Fried Shrimp w/Tartar Sauce ~"

11/12/2015

~ Pumpkin 'n Spice and Everything Nice Pancakes ~

A stack of pancakes with a dollop of whipped butter and drizzled with pure maple syrup -- it's an iconic breakfast that few people can resist. Add a few strips of salty, crisply-fried bacon to the side and even I'll hang around the breakfast table until, astonishingly, I manage to finish it. A pancake breakfast is special to us Americans and there is lot of evidence to prove it: All sorts of community organizations host pancake breakfasts as a way to raise money for a good cause, iHop thrives in every town or city, and, when any mother in America...... View full recipe for "~ Pumpkin 'n Spice and Everything Nice Pancakes ~"

11/09/2015

~ Oh My Cup of Tea: Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares~

I love cheesecake -- on many levels, it's my ultimate-indulgence dessert. For me, a slice of cheesecake is a celebration on a plate. Ponder that last statement for one moment. Now: Would you rather celebrate your birthday with a candle in a slice of real-deal cheesecake, or, no matter how moist and decadent, a piece of cake or a cupcake? You've guessed my answer. I'm guessing I'm not standing anywhere close to alone. I hear a resounding cry for "cheesecake"! A bit about cheesecake: Cheesecake, a sweet dish of one more layers, is a beloved dessert around the world. A...... View full recipe for "~ Oh My Cup of Tea: Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares~"