Sunday, December 27, 2015


I love soups in the winter!  That incomparable smell of everything cooking, the aromas in every part of the house, the steam on the windows from the combination of warmth inside hitting the cold glass,  and my stomach growling big time anxious to have a bowl full of vitamins. Shhh, don't tell the kids--they're allergic to vitamins!
Soup brings me back to a simpler time when all I had to do was worry about  my schoolwork. It brings me back to my mother's kitchen on Monday's that told me, 'this is home' the minute I came bustling through that door. And now, I give you my mama's recipe for a bowlful of cheer!

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup green beans, chopped
2 whole zucchini, chopped
1 cup sugar snap peas
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh parsley, rough chop
2 cans tomatoes, chopped with juice
2 white potatoes, cubed
2 teaspoons mustard
1/2 parmesan cheese

64 ounces vegetable stock--not broth--stock.

In a large soup pot, add the oil and the first five vegetables and slightly sautĂ©. Add the tomatoes, the potatoes and the stock. Bring it to a boil, then lower until it's simmering. Just before serving, add the parmesan cheese and mustard stirring to combine. Cook for approximately 1 hour.

Serve with salad and biscuits 10-12 servings.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


4 chicken breasts, trimmed of all sinew and fat
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter


To flatten the chicken breasts to one half-inch thick, I place a kitchen mallet inside a plastic bag and hammer away.

Make sure to remove the sinew and fat from chicken breasts. Mix the granulated garlic, breadcrumbs, and the grated cheese together in a large baggie and after shaking, set aside. Dip the chicken in the egg wash first, then place inside plastic bag and shake making sure to coat all sides of the chicken.

Using a skillet, melt butter and add the olive oil into the pan. Using medium heat, fry each piece of chicken until golden, keeping it warm until serving.


2 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brandy
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt to taste


 Melt the butter, add the brown sugar and cinnamon and allow it to bubble. Unless you know how to flambĂ© remove the pan from the burner before you add the brandy. Blend with a wire whisk.

Add the 1/2 cup water mixed with the cornstarch and whisk until thickened. Add the lemon juice and whisk again. Once you're satisfied with the taste, add 1 cup sliced peaches!
 Plate the chicken onto a plate, spoon peaches down the middle and spoon sauce over top.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Here's a recipe sure to please Chinese food lovers! Again, it's easy, fast and delicious!

Add 1 cup rice to boiling water, or use a rice cooker. Give the rice a head start so it's cooked and ready to go when your beef dish is ready.

1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced
1/3 cup corn starch
2 tbls oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups broccoli flowerettes
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 cup soy sauce

1 tbls cornstarch

As mentioned before, mise en place (pronounced me sen plas) which means prep the ingredients by measuring and cutting everything beforehand. The cooking of this dish is so fast, you'll want to make sure you don't have to stop in between to prep something. Besides, it's quick and easy!

To give you a sense of value of mise en place, here's an example of how my day played out after I'd started my personal chef service.

After I'd graduated from culinary school, I did all the legwork to start my personal chef service. When a local newspaper reporter got wind of my service, he called and interviewed me. To my surprise, my phone was ringing off the hook and by the end of that day, I was immediately booked solid and cooking for twenty-one families per month, some on a weekly basis, others monthly. The service included me preparing a menu based on their meal preferences which would lead to me preparing five different meals for the client.

The day of service, I'd leave my home and head to the supermarket by 8:00AM, then go straight to their home and begin prepping the ingredients by 9:15AM for every single meal. Sometimes it seemed like I'd never get done prepping, but I was always ready to start cooking by 12:00 Noon. In addition to the meals, I was baking cornbread or biscuits, salads and a dessert.

The meals were cooked in their homes because I didn't have a commercial kitchen. Once cooked, the food was divided into serving containers, double wrapped with a label for reheating, and stored in their refrigerator or freezer. After cleaning up the mess I'd made in the kitchen, I'd set the table, then head for home. By prepping ahead of time, I was done for the day and ready to leave for home by 2PM. That my friends, is the value of mise en place!

So what are we waiting for? Let's get busy!

This is the ginger paste I use. You can find this tube in the refrigerated section of your supermarket with the other herbs in the vegetable aisle.

Slice the beef thinly on an angle. Slice mushrooms and break broccoli into small flowerettes. Using a large plastic bag, add the cornstarch and the sliced beef, shake to coat. Using a well-seasoned wok, add the oil and turn the flame up to high to heat the wok.
 Add the garlic, ginger and dusted beef slices to the hot oil and fry, turning frequently until slightly brown.

Remove the beef and place in a bowl until ready for use at the end. Add the vegetables to the hot wok, and pour all but 1/4 cup of the stock, soy sauce and brown sugar mixture. Continue to turn frequently. The soy and stock help to steam the vegetables. Remember, you want the veggies crisp tender.
 Before adding the remaining soy mixture, add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to it and stir until completely dissolved. Add to the vegetables and continue turning until thickened, then add the beef back in, turning to combine until everything is covered evenly with the sauce.
And ta da! You have Chinese Beef, Mushrooms and Broccoli served over rice.


 I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did! I trialed this recipe last week for the first time to make sure it was good enough to share with you. Well, we did, so here's the recipe. Okay, so now it's your turn!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Best and Easiest Fettuccine Alfredo

After having a dinner party on Saturday night, the last thing I wanted to do for Sunday night's dinner was make something that required work. Scrounging around in the refrigerator, I came up with this recipe. I swear, this dish was so incredible, you'll make it often.

I didn't have fettuccine in the house, so I used linguini instead. Use what you have in the house and refrigerator.

CHEF'S TIP: Want to cook like a pro? Measure out all your ingredients first before you even start to cook. The French call this mise en place which means you get all your tools ready and the ingredients measured out. If you do this step with every recipe, you'll be amazed at the speed with which you'll produce some wonderful recipes. Having to stop to measure out ingredients in between makes for a long drawn out process which can also ruin what you're cooking because of the lapse in time.


3 tbls sweet butter
2 tbls all purpose flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
2 cups heavy cream, half and half or fat free cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 blue cheese, crumbled
Salt and Pepper to taste

8 ounces linguini, cooked al dente

Using medium-low heat, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan on the stove. Once melted, add the flour and whisk until completely smooth allowing it to bubble just until it's a golden color to cook the flour.

 Turn off the heat and pour in the cream and whisk until completely combined and smooth. Add the nutmeg and whisk until blended. Turn the heat back on and add the two cheeses, again whisking until melted and combined. Taste the sauce before adding the salt and pepper. Remove from the burner. Test to see if sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Dip the spoon into the sauce, then using your finger, draw a path through the center of the spoon. If the 'path' remains, the sauce is perfect.

Rinse the linguini in hot water, drain well and add to the saucepan, swirling around until every strand of pasta is covered. Top with a sprinkle of parsley and parmesan cheese and serve.

This recipe makes 2 or 3 servings depending on portion size.

Most recipes call for 1 1/2 cups of cheese to thicken the sauce, but since I'm calorie conscious, I use less cheese and add the flour to thicken it.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Cannoli's are one of those rare special treats everyone enjoys, and even if you've just stuffed your face, there's always room for an Italian cannoli.
One of the things I've learned about making them through my research is that no recipe ever tells you to drain the ricotta. It's as if you're supposed to know. So before you embark on trying this recipe, purchase your ricotta cheese two days before, as well as a package of cheese cloth. Follow these simple steps and you'll be baking like a professional. This recipe makes 16-18 cannoli, but don't fill them all at once. Just fill the amount you'll be eating--usually one per person.
1 ½ pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
Cut a piece of cheesecloth approximately 17" long. Using a tray, unfold the cloth all the way and lay it down on the tray so you can scoop the contents of the ricotta right into the middle. Now bring the four sides up, making sure the cheese is completely covered and tie as tightly as you can. Using the handle of a wooden spoon or knitting needle, slide it under the knot or bow, and hang the sack over a deep enough bowl so sack isn't touching bottom. Do this 2 days prior to making the filling.

This photo is after the first day. It has already drained a half inch of liquid. Today, when we were ready to use the ricotta, there was at least an inch of milk on the bottom of the container.
CAUTION: If you bypass this step, your cannoli filling will be watery, run out the sides of your shells, be a major mess to eat, and not a pretty sight.

Once drained, empty the contents of the cheesecloth into a mixer bowl, add the confectioner's sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and beat on a medium high setting for about 10 minutes.

Drained ricotta
1 ¼ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand, add the following and mix by hand:

½ cup candied fruit, finely chopped
¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate morsels

While the filling is chilling,(hey, that rhymes) you can prepare the dough for the shells OR you can buy the premade shells, which are just as good. Nevertheless, I'll give you the recipe just in case you're feeling ambitious, but I highly recommend buying the shells.

Here are a few more pictures from our fun day.
 I'm demonstrating piping in the filling into the shells with a pastry bag that I've only used a coupler. A coupler is what is used to hold the decorating tip in place, but if you're just filling shells, such as I am above, you don't use a pastry tip.

Here's Julie dusting her filled cannoli with confectioners

CANNOLI SHELLS (you'll need 6 6" aluminum tubes that are 3/4' in diameter--can be purchased at specialty shops.)

Combine the following ingredients and sift into a mixer bowl:

3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt

Add 2 tbls Crisco into the mixture and using the paddle on medium high, mix until the pieces are the size of small peas.

Beat 2 eggs and pour into the mixture, paddle until well blended

Now add:
2 tbls white vinegar
2 tbls cold water

Paddle to combine. The dough will form into a ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl,  then turn  dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead, if necessary. Wrap in saran wrap and chill the dough for 30 minutes.

Fill a deep saucepan with oil and let it heat until it reaches 360 degrees.

Roll the dough out and cut oval pieces that measure 6x4.5". Wrap the oval loosely around the cannoli tube and seal with beaten slightly egg whites. Deep fry for about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Move onto paper towels to drain. Once cooled, they're be ready to fill.

Remove the mixture from the fridge, fill a pastry bag half way with the ricotta mixture and pipe into each end of the shells. You can dip each end of the cannoli with chopped nuts, colorful sprinkles, or nothing at all. Dust the cannoli tops with confectioner's sugar and serve. Makes 16-18 cannoli


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


I've tried something very different with my pumpkin pie this year. I love pumpkin pie. I don't have it other times during the year, so it was important to me not to ruin the integrity of the taste . . . and I didn't! I'm posting this today just in case you want to try it along with me. Here's the recipe.

1-15 ounce can of pumpkin
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
6 ounces evaporated milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, beaten

PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees

Pour the contents of pumpkin into a mixer bowl, and add the sugar and spices. Whip to thoroughly blend. In a 4 cup measuring cup, drop the eggs in one at a time and whisk, add the evaporated milk and heavy cream and blend to thoroughly mix. Pour the liquid into the pumpkin mixture and beat to incorporate.

Pour the mixture into a baking dish and transfer to the oven.
Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Cool and return to refrigerator overnight so it nice and cold. If you don't do this step and mix it with the whipped cream while it's warm, I can promise you, you'll have soup.

Shape the pie crust into the pie plate and bake according to manufacturers directions.

3 cups cold heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Whip together until semi-firm peaks form.

In your mixer bowl, spoon all the custard into the bowl and mix until it breaks up. Add 3/4 of the already whipped cream and beat on low until blended.

 Scoop the mixture into the already baked pie shell, spreading until even.

Add remaining whipped cream over top, sprinkle with chopped nuts and you're ready to serve.

8-10 servings

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

Sunday, November 22, 2015


3 lbs eye round roast
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp granulated onion
salt and pepper
4 large carrots, sliced
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 tbls Crisco
32 ounces beef or chicken stock

As you can see, I do not use the traditional chuck roast for my pot roast. The reason is because I like my pot roast to slice more like roast beef than stringy dried pulled beef. However, if that's your choice of cut of beef, by all means. It's not going to ruin the taste. It's more the texture thing.

Okay, trim the fat off the roast leaving a thin layer on. Using a gallon-sized plastic bag, add the flour and seasonings and shake to blend the seasonings. Place the roast inside and shake to coat the entire roast. Save the bag if you have left over flour. You'll use it to thicken the gravy.

In a five quart heavy pot, melt the Crisco just to brown your roast on all sides--ends too. Once you've seared the meat and you have a nice crusty coating that has been browned, you've sealed in the juices.

Leave the roast right in the pot and add the 32 ounces of stock and allow to simmer for 1 1/2 hours--that's a half hour per pound.

When the roast is done, I remove the meat to a serving platter, cover until you're ready to slice it after you've made the gravy. Pour the juice, onions, carrots right into the pan into the blender to emulsify for the gravy. Do this in batches because juice will be hot. Add two tablespoons of the left over flour, cover and whirl around to thicken. Check to see if the gravy is thick enough. If not, add another tablespoon of flour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Now, you're ready for slicing.

Slice the meat, and serve on a platter.

I serve this roast with mashed potatoes, vegetables--typically string beans, cranberry sauce and lots of gravy. This is my absolute favorite fall meal.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tres Leche Cake!

My husband is celebrating his birthday tomorrow, and although he likes angel food cake for his birthday, I decided to make Tres Leche cake instead because this year's theme is his favorite, Mexican food, hence, this recipe. He tasted this cake at a local Mexican restaurant and liked it, but the dessert didn't even come close to being as moist and rich as this recipe. This is a very easy recipe that is done in steps, each taking very little time to do.


4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces granulated sugar

6 3/4 ounces cake flour (no, not a cake mix)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

5 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


12 ounce can evaporated milk (whole)
14 ounces can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half-n-half


2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 degrees

First things first. Measure out the cake flour and rest of dry ingredients in a separate bowl, blending together. Let sit.

Using the paddle on your mixer, add the butter and sugar and whip until fluffy on medium speed. If all you own is a hand mixer, that's fine too. Now, add 1 whole egg at a time, whipping after each addition. Add the vanilla and blend. Remove bowl from mixer and add the dry ingredients a little at a time, whisking with a wire whisk after each addition until you have a smooth batter with air bubbles. Coat a 13 X 9 rectangular baking dish with spray and add the batter.

Transfer the cake pan to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The top will be a golden brown. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes or until internal temp is 200.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the 3 milks until thoroughly combined. Poke mucho holes in the top of the cake and pour the milk mixture over top. At first, it will look like you've flooded it, but trust me, the cake will absorb the moisture. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.

This is what it looks like after you pour on the three-milk liquid
This is what it looks like an hour later

I used this 10 X 2 round only because my 13 X 9 rectangular baking dish was still at the party we attended the other night. Either will work.

Whip the frosting and cover top of cake.Return to refrigerator. This cake is served right from the baking vessel you baked it in. Sprinkle each serving with cinnamon and get ready for the compliments--this recipe is another one of those OMGs, because every bite just melts in your mouth with moisture and deliciousness.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Today, I'm giving you a recipe for herbed baked salmon. This dish is so delicious, you'll be making it for years to come. It's quick and easy and definitely a hit with everyone!

Dishing Up Romance

2 bagels, crumbled
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 pound salmon cut into filets
salt and pepper to taste


Break the bagels into bite-sized pieces and place in a food processor to crumble using the pulse setting. I've used sun-dried tomato bagels, plain bagels and cheese bagels. Add the minced garlic, thyme, parmesan cheese and zest and pulse until mixed. Pour the melted butter over top and pulse again until completely blended. Set aside.

Prepare your filets by removing any skin, season with salt and pepper and place in a greased baking dish.

Pour the bread crumbs over top of the fish, distributing evenly until fish is completely covered. Bake for approximately 20 minutes and stuffing top is golden. Do not overcook because it will dry out the salmon.

Serve with a side vegetable and a huge glass of pinot noir. Yes, this is one fish you can enjoy with a red glass of wine.


Monday, November 2, 2015


One of our favorite dinners is Caprese. I make this about once a month and serve it with garlic bread. It's easy, fast and so delicious! Here's how I do it.

8 red peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
Extra Virgin olive oil
Pesto, prepared or homemade
Tomato slices
Buffalo mozzarella, sliced, one ball per person

Another drizzle of olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. Let's get started!

Cut the peppers in half.Clean out the white membrane and seeds

Place them cut side down on a sheet pan and place under the broiler, until they  . . .

look like this!
Remove from oven and cover with syran wrap. The heat and condensation will lift the burnt skin and make for easier peeling. The burnt part will have a smoky taste.

30 minutes later, remove the cover and peel the skin off.

After peeling, place the skinned pepper down on a cutting board, slice into strips and place in a bowl with 2 cloves of minced garlic, add salt and olive oil, stir and allow the ingredients to marry. 

Slice the buffalo mozzarella. And before you ask, no, it's not made with buffalo. LOL That's just the style they use to make it.  I buy mine at Trader Joes. It comes in water. Don't buy the mozzarella wrapped in plastic alone--it won't have the right consistency for this dish. Slice the tomatoes.
Now, start to put the dish together in layers. I use a pesto instead of just using the basil leaves and place a dab on each mozzarella slice. Layer until you use one round mozzarella starting with a tomato slice first.
Sorry this picture is sideways, but iPhone doesn't have a rotate feature.
I add the roasted peppers on each side of the log, but you can place them in between the slices if you'd prefer. Once the roasted peppers are placed, run two beads of olive oil down the center and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. Serve with garlic bread. Here's a picture of the finished product that won't last very long. It's sure to become a favorite of yours too!

Buon Appetit!

Sunday, October 18, 2015


(Recipe from Dishing up Romance) 

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup peanut butter - creamy
5 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup finely chopped dates
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (approx. 40-45 cookies)
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar

Place the first three ingredients in a medium sized saucepan, and using medium low heat, stir to incorporate. Remove from the heat and add the cocoa, again stirring to blend.

In a large bowl add everything except the confectioners sugar. Pour the chocolate mixture over top and work with your fingers to form into a pliable dough. If the dough is too dry, you can add no more than 2 tablespoons of hot water, one tablespoon at a time, and blend.

Form the dough into 30 one-inch sized balls, then roll each ball into the confectioners' sugar twice to coat generously.  Instead of using the confectioners' sugar, you can also roll these balls into cocoa, cinnamon-sugar or shredded coconut.  Place each ball into a mini cupcake liner and place on a serving platter.

These Snowballs are a big hit at every party.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Sandra Leesmith
Today, instead of a recipe, I'm giving you a recipe for love. Yup, you heard me right! My friend, Sandra Leesmith has a brand new release titled Love's Dream Song.


Autumn O’Neill came to Arizona on an archeological dig hoping to find out what happened to the ancient Anasazi tribes, but her true desire was to discover her own Navajo roots. It didn’t help that the dig was located on Jess Barron’s ranch and that the handsome rancher scorned his own native American heritage and believed Autumn was part of a drug ring operating on his land. When the dig is compromised and danger threatens their lives, Jess and Autumn can no longer fight their attraction for each other. They both come to understand that finding answers means listening to the voices of their ancestors and the longings of their hearts.

Link to Amazon:Click here to purchase

Author bio: link for my website: 
Sandra Leesmith <> writes romance designed to warm the heart and make you smile. Sandra loves to play pickleball, hike, read, bicycle and write. A retired teacher, she lives in Arizona with her husband. During the hot summers she and her husband travel throughout the United States in their motorhome, where she enjoys the outdoors and finds wonderful ideas for her next writing project.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Asian-stryle Shredded Chicken

Last week while looking through the freezer, I found two packages of chicken legs and thighs that I'd purchased two months ago. Now that I was a vegetarian, I knew I wasn't going to eat them, and even though hubby's not a fan of dark meat, I set out to camouflage the chicken, and I actually succeeded. Here's the recipe.

I used a large crockpot and put the frozen pieces in, turned the dial to high and covered it waiting for it to defrost. Three hours later, I had achieved my goal.

Taking a large tray, I removed the chicken pieces and using two forks pulling away from the bones, I shredded the chicken away from the bones, then returned it back into the pot where the juices from before still remained Turn the heat to low.

At this point, I could have added vegetables, but honestly, I was looking for something short and sweet and to the point. :-) Of course, making it special was also on my mind, so I decided to turn this dish into an Asian meal.

In a separate bowl, mix all the ingredients together and blend making sure it's thoroughly mixed.

2 large cloves garlic, diced
1/4 teaspoon ginger paste
3/4 teaspoon red pepper to give it a little zing
1/4 cup orange juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup of water
1-2 tablespoons sherry-to taste.

Pour the liquid over top of shredded chicken and stir, allowing the flavors to mingle and become friends so when you serve this over white rice, you'll feel pretty good when the compliments fly!

More great recipes in Carolyn's Romancing the Chef's Toque series. Dishing Up Romance, One Menu at a Time and Catering to Love all have my original recipes.  
Bon Appetit!

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Here's an easy meal for you to prepare. As a pescatarian, a fish-eating vegetarian who's always on a diet, I try to come up with recipes that are easy and aren't too many calories. I love cod. It's a white fish that has a mild taste so you really have to season it to taste good. Here's what I did.

1 pound white fish
6 ounces of prepared pesto
2 medium sized tomatoes sliced thinly
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
salt and pepper - to taste
Granulated garlic and onion

Cut the cod in 4 equal serving pieces and place in a baking dish that's been coated with oil. Season each piece generously with the salt and pepper, granulated garlic and onion.

 Spread the pesto over each piece covering all four corners. Add the sliced tomatoes. I cut each piece in half and layered it over the fish.

Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and top it off with the mozzarella.

Bake in a preheated oven of 375 degrees until it flakes with a fork, 20-30 minutes.

I served this over garlic and olive oil spinach.