Category Archives: Recipes

Soup = stress relief

I don’t know how you handle stress, but I tend to handle it one of two ways.  The first being that I totally shut down, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t think.  The second being that I cook and bake and cook and bake and in between I have to clean up the huge messes and sinks full of dirty dishes and utensils.  My mom was just telling me this morning that was always what she did.  Now when she’s stressed, she cleans out the junk drawer or organizes a bookshelf.  I kind of wish that would happen with me, I could only imagine how neatly organized my sock drawer would be, or the basement, or the closets.  Brian doesn’t seem to mind that I cook and bake like crazy though.  Thank goodness for him!

This might sound crazy (I realized that it only sounds crazy to me, ha!), but I’ve had a really nice, peaceful day so far today.  I’ve spent most of it in the kitchen making my hearty black bean soup, and talking with my mom.  I treasure days like today. 

Wanna get the recipe for my hearty black bean soup?  This is one of the recipes that I was talking about a few posts back.  I entered this into our local newspaper’s holiday recipe contest and won!  Today is a cozy (I wish it were even a little bit cooler), overcast kind of day, and it is perfect soup weather.  (I think any day is perfect for soup though)  I wish you could smell how good this soup is making my house smell.

Hearty Black Bean Soup

  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 bunch of  fresh cilantro (approx. 3-4 tablespoons)
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 smoked ham shanks
  • 1 jalapeno, split (optional)
  • 2 quarts low sodium chicken stock
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper

(Fresh limes and sour cream for recipe for lime crema- below)

Soak beans overnight with enough water to cover, plus one inch.  The next morning,  pick through the beans and discard any debris.  Wash under cold running water. 

In a blender or food processor, add garlic, onion, cilantro and bell pepper.

Set a large pot over medium heat and add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pot.  Add the vegetable puree and cumin.  Sautee until just starting to get fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add beans, ham shank, jalapeno and chicken stock.  Slightly cover and simmer for 2-3 hours or longer, until beans are tender.  (I sometimes use a crock pot for this step, cooking on low setting, with lid slightly askew, for 4-5 hours).

When cooked, remove ham shank.  Cut ham meat off of the bone, cut into pieces and set aside.

Using a blender, puree just enough of the beans and stock (about 1/3 of the total pot) to thicken up the soup and bring everything together.  Season with salt and pepper and fold ham meat back into the soup.

Serve with a lime wedge, extra garnish of cilantro and lime crema (see below for recipe), if desired.


Lime Crema:     1 cup sour cream and 2 teaspoons lime zest.  Combine and place dollop onto black bean soup.

After proof reading my post, I have come to the conclusion that my description of how I deal with stress sounds a little bipolar, don’t you think?  I’m laughing… laugh with me, please.  Not at me.  Enjoy the soup!


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All good things take time.

  Maybe not all, but most good things do take time.  I spent a big part of my day today preparing our supper, and it was well worth the time and effort.  My motto about cooking is that it is not difficult, it just takes effort and time.  What did we have for supper you ask?  Beef Stew!  Here’s how I made mine:

Beef Stew:

  • 2 lbs. lean stew meat
  • 1 medium onion, coarsley chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 6 -8 medium potatoes, cut into large pieces
  • 1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Aid
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flour
  • water
  • 1 Tablespoon Beef Base

Lightly dust stew meat with flour.  Heat large skillet on high setting until it is very hot.  (test by holding hand over skillet to check)

Spray skillet with cooking spray or use non-stick skillet.  Add stew meat that has been dusted in flour.

Let stew meat sear on all sides,  remove from skillet and add to large dutch oven or roasting pan.

Pour 1 cup of water into the skillet that the meat had been seared and cook on high until the bits that are stuck on the skillet come loose.  Add this water and drippings to roasting pan along with the chopped onion.

Cook covered, on low heat (250 degrees) for 3 hours. 

In medium pots, add carrot and enough water to cover and parboil on stovetop for 15 minutes.  Do the same with the potatoes.

While the carrots and potatoes are cooking, take the roasting pan with the stew meat out of the oven.  Remove the meat, the onion will have cooking into the meat and cooking liquid. Place roasting pan on stove top on high heat. 

In a jar with a lid, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour and 1 cup water, shake well, until lumps disappear.  Add this mixture to the roasting pan after the juices start to boil.  While adding this, stir constantly with whisk until mixture thickens, lumps disappear and it is boiling.

At this point, you need to add water according to your preference of thickness of the gravy.  I usually add 2 to 3 more cups of water.

Season with salt (you will need a good amount, start with one teaspoon and taste test after adding), pepper, and kitchen bouquet.

After gravy is made, add stew meat, carrots, and potatoes back into the roasting pan.  Cook at 350 degrees for another 45-60 minutes. 

Serve and enjoy.  I like to serve with fresh-baked bread or rolls and honey butter.  I made the bread in my bread machine, using the recipe for country white bread. 

Recipe for Honey Butter:

  • 1 stick of margarine or butter softened
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey

Combine in electric mixer and mix butter and honey together until well combined and smooth.

This beef stew will give us leftovers for another supper this week and a couple of lunches.  I like to make big meals like this either over the weekend or at the beginning of the week, providing other meals for us throughout the rest of the week.

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Sometimes, I like to smoke.

Every now and then, I like to smoke.  Cook food in a smoker with wood chips, that is.  Yesterday was a beautiful and sunny fall day, perfect for putting something yummy to eat on the smoker, like stuffed jalapeno and sweet banana peppers.  I had a couple dozen jalapeno peppers that survived in the garden and I found some sweet and mild banana and gypsy peppers at the Crystal City Farmer’s Market this week.  Aside from being grown in my own back yard, there is nothing better than finding fresh, local produce.  You know that the vegetable has been picked within a day or so, making it super fresh and I got these peppers for just a few dollars.  It’s was a win win deal! 

Here is how I made these tasty stuffed peppers:

Stuffed Jalapeno & Banana Peppers:

  • 20 small jalapenos
  • 20 or so banana, gypsy, or small sweet peppers
  • 1 pound of pork sausage (I used half Italian and Half Hot Sausage)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • a small bunch of parsley (about 2 Tablespoons), chopped (if using dry- 1 to 2 teaspoons full)
  • olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper and seasoned salt-to taste
  • bacon (optional)

Clean, slice a small piece of the side pepper off, remove seeds and ribs from peppers.  *Use gloves for the jalapenos or hot peppers*  (keep the part of the pepper that you sliced off, it is good for many uses)  I used a sharp serrated knife and a strawberry huller.

In large skillet, cook sausage and diced onions until sausage is browned. 

In large bowl, add cooked sausage mixture, bread crumbs, cheese,  parsley, seasoned salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Mixture should be a bit dry or crumbly at this point. 

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to mixture, check to see if mixture will form a ball on its own.  If so, it is ready to stuff, if not, add a bit more olive oil until mixture can hold together.

Using your hands or a very small (teaspoon scoop), put stuffing into peppers. 

Optional- wrap a small piece of bacon around pepper and fasten with toothpick.  Bacon is never a bad choice, in my opinion.  People that do not like bacon are questionable in my book. 🙂  Remember, moderation. 

At this point, the peppers are ready to be cooked, or placed on a tray in the refrigerator until ready to cook. 

Place on preheated smoker with wood chips (I used hickory wood chips) and smoke for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours. 

Remove from smoker when done and serve hot or room temp.

*Want a vegetarian version of these?  You could substitute sautéed mushrooms, diced pepper pieces (that you were saving anyway), and shredded or diced squash, instead of sausage.

*You don’t have to own a smoker to make these.  You can bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, until cooked through, or cook indirectly on your grill. ( Add a handful of soaked woodchips to a pouch of foil with some holes poked in it to make a little smoker for your grill.  Place the foil pouch over the heat).

*Use whatever kind of cheese that you have on hand, or that you like.

*Use any kind of bulk sausage that you like.  I just happened to have Italian and Hot sausage on hand.

*Use a milder wood chip like apple, cherry or, pecan, if you like.

Hickory wood just happens to be my favorite. 

I kept the ingredients mild because I really wanted the taste of the peppers to come through.  As you can see, this recipe is just the basis for your palate and imagination.


I took the peppers with me to a party yesterday evening and I do believe that the peppers were enjoyed by all.  Good times.

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Soups On!

Every now and then I discover a new soup recipe or in this case create one of my very own.  A little over ten years ago, I found a recipe for potato soup in an old cookbook.  I used the basic ingredients and instructions and added some more ingredients to create a soup similar to ones that we would order from a restaurant.  It became an instant success!  Brian convinced me into entering that recipe in a local newspapers’ recipe contest.  Low and behold, that recipe won the overall grand prize of the contest!  I still make this yummy soup for my family a few times a year. (yes, I will share this recipe very soon)

I had not entered any other recipe contests until last year when I found another recipe for a soup that I thought I would try to make it my own.  This time, it was for black bean soup.  After tasting this soup, Brian said that it was another winner.  I entered the recipe and waited to see if I would get the call that my recipe had been chosen.  Luckily, I got the call!   This time the contest also featured a tasting of each persons recipes.  We were then able to taste, judge and vote on our favorites.  There were so many good recipes.  I was just thrilled to be able to have my recipe published in the paper, that I didn’t care if I won or not.  A couple of days later, the newspaper notified me that my black bean soup was the winner for its category!  (this recipe will soon be posted too)

It didn’t take me another ten years to come across another instant favorite soup recipe.  Shortly after the recipe contest and tasting last winter, I came up with this soup recipe on my own.  I had searched several cookbooks and websites and still couldn’t quite find a recipe that I liked.  I decided that I had wanted a creamy chicken soup with wild rice.  After I had the basics decided, I added what I thought would round out the soup.  I also wanted a soup that didn’t have alot of prep time or that was very difficult, because if it has too many ingredients or difficult instructions I’m most likely never going to want to make it.  It turns out that this is the simplest soup recipe that I have made yet.  It is now that time of year to start submitting recipes to the local newspaper’s contest.  My taste-testers gave this soup the thumbs up the first time they tried it.  I just entered this recipe into the contest today and I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone.  Here’s how the recipe goes:

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

2 Chicken Breasts, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces (I like to use bone in and skin on and I bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour, until golden brown)

2 Stalks of Celery, diced

2 Carrots, diced

1 large family size can of Cream of Chicken Soup

1 box of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, original recipe- prepare according to instructions

1-2 cans of milk (depending on preferred thickness)

1 Tablespoon margarine

Salt & Pepperto taste


Cooking instructions:

In large pot, saute’ celery and carrots in melted margarine, until tender.

Add cream of chicken soup to vegetable mixture, stir until well combined.

Add milk, chicken, rice, salt and pepper.

Simmer for at least 30 minutes before serving, being careful not to bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally.

I prefer to put the soup into a crock pot and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for a few hours instead of simmering on top of the stove.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Here’s hoping that this recipe will be chosen this year.  I’ll keep you posted!!


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Gooey Butter Cake

Sometimes, making mistakes can be a good thing, and other times, making mistakes can be a GREAT thing!  In this case, it really is a great thing!  It seems  that some of the best culinary mistakes made have stood the test of time and have made history.  For example, buffalo wings, toasted ravioli, ice cream cones and one of my very favorites is: The Gooey Butter Cake.  This is my mother-in-laws, along with most of my family’s favorite desserts that I make.  One of the things that I like the most about this dessert is that I usually always have ingredients on hand to make this scrumptious dessert, and it travels well.

The history behind this dessert is interesting, and there are many legends surrounding the “invention” of the gooey butter cake.  This goes back to the great depression, in the St. Louis area.  The original gooey butter cakes had a yeast crust and were more along the lines of a coffee cake.  A German baker added the wrong proportion of ingredients in the coffee cake he was making.  It turned into a gooey pudding like filling.  Today’s recipe calls for a cake crust and a gooey, cream cheese filling and the whole cake is topped with powdered sugar. 

Bakers have tried to bring the gooey butter cakes to other cities throughout the country, but the cake was not well received.   Yes, there have been other knock offs of the gooey butter cake with some adding fruit (pineapple or cherry), but that’s not really a genuine gooey butter cake.  I would like to share my recipe for the sweet, rich, ooey gooey cake.

Gooey Butter Cake:

Crust ingredients:

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick of butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg

Grease bottom of 9×13 inch pan.  Mix cake mix, softened margarine and one egg with fork until moist.

Pat this mixture into the bottom of the cake pan.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (8oz. pkg.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar + some to sprinkle on top

Beat 2 eggs, softened cream cheese, and powdered sugar for 3-5 minutes in electric mixer.  Pour over crust mixture.

Bake for 40 minutes at 325 degrees in a preheated oven. 

Remove from oven when top is golden brown and has a slight crust on the top. 

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Let cool.  Serve!


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I’m Back!!

It has been almost a month since I’ve posted any recipes.  My apologies.  Life got in the way during most of the month of August.  I had undergone surgery on the 18th and spent a little over a week in the hospital.  I got home from the hospital and was convalescing nicely when my mother got gravely ill.  The good news?  I’m doing SO much better and so is my mother.  I am feeling blessed in so many ways. 

August  made me be cognizant of what is really important in my life.  And what is important to me is my family.  What do you have if you do not have family?  I couldn’t imagine what it would be like. 

In celebration of my family and feeling much better, I decided that I needed to make a special dinner this evening.  I think I may have bitten off more than I could chew in doing this today, but it was well worth the pain and effort.  I am taking the rest of the evening off and am going to put my feet up.  Wanna know what I made for dinner?!  Chicken Enchiladas.  I happen to know that this is one of my mom’s favorite dinners.  🙂

The recipe goes as follows:

Chicken Enchiladas:

  • 3-4  boneless, skinless chicken breasts (baked in oven until cooked through)
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2/3- 1 cup water
  • 2-3 cans (15 oz.) Green Enchilada Sauce
  • 10 Flour Tortillas
  • 1 small block Monterey Jack Cheese, Shredded

In large skillet,saute’ onion in oil until tender and translucent. 

Shred chicken breasts, and add to onion mixture.

Add water, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.

Cook until water is absorbed, about 10 – 15 minutes, on medium low heat.

Spray large baking dish with canola spray.

Add a spoonful of mixture to tortillas, roll up tortilla and place seam side down in large baking dish.

Pour 2 cans of green enchilada sauce over the rolled enchiladas.

Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, about 30 minutes, or until heated through.

Sprinkle shredded Monterey Jack Cheese over enchiladas and bake until cheese is melted.

*optional- serve with guacamole, sour cream or salsa.*


This was Brian’s actual plate.  Chicken Enchiladas in the front row, refried beans, beef enchiladas and Spanish Rice in the back row.  Just looking at that picture of his plate makes me feel full.  He was a happy camper!


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Summertime Stuffed Peppers

What’s for supper?  Stuffed Peppers!  If your garden is doing better than mine (which is everyone else in the world, I think), I bet you have some extra zucchini that you are trying to reinvent into something other than zucchini bread.  The zucchini makes these peppers light and moist.  I came up with this recipe a few summers ago, and it’s been our favorite ever since.

I have 5 green bell peppers, 1 red bell and 1 orange bell, a medium zucchini, some onions and some herbs.

Here’s what you will need for making these Summertime Stuffed Peppers:

  • 3 lbs. Ground Beef
  • 1 cup Rice – cooked (can be brown or white)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 medium Zucchini, grated
  • 2 small ( or 1 medium) Onions, grated
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Seasoned Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 6 or 8 Basil Leaves*
  • marjoram, Thyme, Oregano (totally 1 teaspoon fresh) *
  • Fresh Parsley (about 4 Tablespoons, chopped)*
  • Tomato Sauce (one 20 oz. can and one 15 oz. can)
  • 7  Bell peppers remove seeds, stem and ribs, cut in half

*If you do not have fresh herbs, you can used dried and here are the measurements for those: 

  • For every Tablespoon Fresh = Teaspoon Dried  
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Each: Dried  marjoram, Dried Thyme, Dried Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon dried Basil
  • 4 Teaspoons dried Parsley

Okay, now that we have that figured out here are the instructions for putting it all together:

Mince together all of the fresh herbs.  Grate zucchini and onion. 

In large bowl add:  Ground Beef, Grated Zucchini, Grated Onion, Seasoned Salt, Black Pepper, Worcestershire Sauce, Cooked Rice, Minced Herbs, and Beaten Egg.  

Mix well until everything is incorporated. 

I like to cut my peppers into halves.  If you would rather leave yours whole, that’s okay too.

Spoon mixture into pepper halves, place into large casserole dish or two 9×13″ pans.  

Cover tightly with foil.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 2 hours. 

After baking for 2 hours, remove foil, drain excess grease from pan and pour tomato sauce over peppers. 

Leave uncovered and bake for another 30 minutes.

This batch will make approximately 7 servings.  (2 halves per person) I like to serve corn muffins with these peppers. 

This recipe can easily be cut in half, or freeze the extra for another meal.  We like to have leftovers, they are great for lunches.  Enjoy!

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