Monday, December 31, 2012


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This is a story about the best brownies I've ever had...........

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful Queen named Jeni.  She lived with a beast of a man, who had a big scary voice, but had a good heart.  His name was Jason.  Queen Jeni and beast Jason worked hard serving others and serving the Lord.  They were good people.

Queen Jeni (left) with peasants from Kingdom Hillsboro Elementary -
Shelly Whitehead and Becky Voyles

The only downfall for beast Jason is that Queen Jeni made him cook - a lot.  Of course, the minions in Kingdom Hillsboro Elementary didn't mind that because that usually meant that the peasants got brownies.  These brownies were the best in the land.

OK, enough of the fairy tale.  Seriously though, Jeni and Jason are two of the finest people I know.  They are selfless, always lending a helping hand to others,  to those in need.  They are fine Christian people and I am so blessed to know them. 

Here are the ingredients for the brownies:

1 cup sugar
1 stick margarine, melted
4 eggs
12-14 oz. Hershey syrup
1 cup flour

Mix all of the ingredients above and bake in a floured cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

White the brownies are baking, make the frosting for the brownies:

6 tablespoons milk
1 stick margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Melt the butter.  Mix with sugar and milk.  When it begins to boil, remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips.

When the topping is finished, pour on top of brownies.  The frosting will set as it cools.

Make sure all of your chocolate chips melt!  I have chunks, but I don't mind!
Thanks Queen Jeni!  I love you and admire you very much.  Jason, you're not so bad yourself!

Rice Pudding

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My parents used to go to this great Greek restaurant called Constantines.  They were wonderful people and the food was so delicious!  I remember a visit where the owner brought me a little rice was fantastic!

Some of you may be thinking, "Rice Pudding? That doesn't sound very good."  Don't be a hater until you've tried it!

Here are the ingredients for a simple rice pudding:

1/2 cup Arborio rice
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
Pinch of salt

In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of the milk, cinnamon stick, sugar, salt and rice.  As the milk absorbs into the rice, it will thicken.  Add more milk, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly.  The rice will take about 25 minutes to soften. 

Your rice mixture should be slightly thickened when the rice is finished cooking.  If it looks runny, do not worry - it will continue to thicken as it cools.  Discard the cinnamon stick before serving.

I served mine with some cherry preserves that I made:

This is an unusual sweet treat.  Try it, you'll like it!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Southwestern Rolls

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I love appetizer food!  One of my favorite things to order is southwestern rolls.  All of my favorite things found in a Mexican dish, rolled into a bite size piece of yummy!

Here are the ingredients:

Large egg roll wrappers
1 chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 can mild chopped chilis
3 green onions, chopped
Mexican cheese, shredded
Dash of garlic salt, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper

Heat a large pot full of vegetable oil.  Get the oil to 300-325 degrees.

Heat a skillet with a little olive oil.  Add the chicken breast and spices.  Cook until the chicken is done.  Add the beans, corn, chilis and green onions.  Saute about 5 minutes.

Gather a small glass of water, the egg rolls and shredded cheese.  Take one egg roll wrapper and put 1-2 tablespoons of the southwestern mixture at the top of the wrapper.  Add some cheese.

Fold over the sides of the wrapper so that the ends will be closed.

Roll the egg roll and seal the ends with a little water and your fingertip.  When the oil has reached 300 degrees, add the rolls.  Cook until they are brown.  Remove and let them drain on a paper towel.

Cut down the middle and serve with a dipping sauce. 

Try some homemade salsa:

Or you can try an avocado ranch sauce.

1 cup of ranch
1 avocado
1 handful of cilantro (fresh)
The juice of 1/2 lime

Blend together

This recipe makes 10-12 rolls.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2012


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If you want cornbread, you don't have to buy a little blue box...............yes, you too can make fresh cornbread.  It is super easy!

Here are the ingredients:

8 tablespoons butter
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup buttermilk

If you have a cast iron skillet, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and stick your skillet into the oven.  If you don't have a cast iron skillet, just preheat your oven. 

Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter.  Assemble the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, baking soda and powder and salt).  To that mixture, add your wet ingredients (eggs, butter, honey, and buttermilk).  Mix all of that together.

In the meantime, your cast iron skillet should be hot.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and allow that to melt in the skillet.  This will help get a nice brown crust on the bottom of your cornbread.

Add the mixture to the skillet and cook about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  If you don't have a cast iron skillet, add the mixture to whatever oven safe pan you have.  Take the extra butter and make sure you rub it into the pan. 

I enjoyed my corn bread with some YUMMY ham and bean soup:


Ham and Bean Soup

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Christmas dinner is over and I have some leftover ham, along with a bone...........what do I do?  Make ham and beans of course!  If you've never tried it, I urge you to do so.  It is soooooo good!

Here are the ingredients for my ham and bean soup:

3 carrots, sliced thin
3 stalks of celery, sliced thin
2 onions, minced
Salt pork chunks
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
salt and pepper
Ham bone, with ham pieces
1 bag White beans, dried or 3 cans

The night before you are going to make your soup, soak the beans.  Put them in some water and walk away - that is all you need to do.  EASY!

The next morning, slice your carrots, celery and onion.  In a large stock pot, heat some oil and add the salt pork chunks.  Keep the pork into large chunks because you are going to remove them from the soup before serving.

When the bacon is brown, add the carrots, celery, and onion.  Saute for about 5 minutes.

Drain the beans and add them to the carrot mixture.  Add the ham, and cover it all with water.  Let that simmer on the stove for several hours.  The beans will soften as they cook.  If you are using canned beans, do not add them until the end.

As this cooks, you will notice a nice broth.  The broth will depend on how much fat and goodness is left on the bone.  IF you notice that the broth isn't flavorful enough, add some chicken base.  I save the scraps from my hams and throw that into the soup, discarding it before serving.  Those scraps make a great broth.

Once your broth is flavorful, discard the ham bone and any ham scraps (fat).  Add the bay leaves, salt, pepper and thyme.  If you have any leftover ham from your meal, cut them into small chunks and add to your soup.  If you are using canned beans, add them now.  Let the soup continue cooking for another hour or so.

Before serving, discard the salt pork chunks and bay leaves.

I enjoyed my soup with some fresh homemade corn bread - SUPER YUMMY!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Italian Sesame Cookies

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Every time I visited my Nonna's house she had these sesame cookies.  Of course, she always had chocolate cookies, pasta, pizza and everything else I can imagine.  She was always saying, "Mangia, Mangia."  There was always food on the table at my Nonna's.  You never went hungry over there!

Nonnu, Nonna and I - October, 1970
I recently came across this photo and I love it!  My Aunt Lily is in the background.
The ingredients for the sesame cookies are:
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 eggs
3/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
sesame seeds
Optional - Anise - Italians love Anise!  If you like it, add a little into the mix (1/2 teaspoon ground anise).
To begin, mix the shortening and sugar together.  Add in the eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and flour.
On a floured surface, roll a piece of dough into a snake-like rope

Cut the rope into pieces - about 1 1/2 inches long.  Dip into milk and then sesame seeds.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes.  Take caution - if you over cook these cookies they will be hard as a rock!  You want them to remain soft so make sure they don't cook too long.  If they are starting to brown, they have been in too long.
These cookies aren't too sweet and are a staple in an Italian household.

Honey Citrus Lip Balm

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This recipe is listed on The Chicken Chick

My new fascination with creating concoctions led me to try making lip balm.  It turned out great!  Here are the ingredients:

1/2 cup Illipe Butter
1/2 cup Beeswax
1 cup Calendula Infused Oil
Lemon Essential Oil - 4-5 drops
Orange Essential Oil - 8-10 drops
1 tablespoon honey
Liquid from 3 Vitamin E capsules

First, let me start by saying the the ingredients are completely interchangeable.  If you don't have illipe butter, you can substitute jojoba or cocoa butter.  You don't have to use calendula infused oil.  You can use almond oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil or olive oil.  I used calendula infused oil because of its soothing properties.

To begin, melt the beeswax and butter in a double boiler.

When that is melted add the infused oil, liquid from the vitamin E capsules, honey and essential oils.  Stir all of that together and pour into your containers.  I got these at

It's that easy!  If you like your lip balm a little softer, decrease the amount of beeswax.  Have fun experimenting with it! 

This recipe is featured on Chic and Craft Party!

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Sunday, December 16, 2012


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This recipe is listed on Pamela's Heavenly Treat

One of my favorite pasta dishes is LASAGNA!  It has a tangy, chewy, goodness that can't be surpassed.  I love plating the lasagna and watching the cheese stretch over to the plate.  That is yummy goodness!

This recipe comes from my mom.  Mom is a great cook and I am so blessed to have her in my life.  She is a strong woman and has raised her girls to be strong and able to withstand anything.  With my father's passing, my mom handled herself with dignity and grace.  I can only hope to be that strong in life.

Mom, Me, Tonette, Karrie and Julia

Isn't she beautiful?
Here are the ingredients for the lasagna:
Marinara Sauce
Cottage Cheese - Large Container
Ricotta Cheese - 2 large containers
Parmesan Cheese - 2 cups
4 eggs
Parsley - 3 tablespoons
Ground Beef /Ground Sausage - 1 pound each
Lasagna Noodles
Mozzarella Cheese - shredded
Start with a basic tomato sauce.  Here is a link to my meat sauce recipe.  Use that but omit the meat.

Next, brown your meat.  I like to use a combination of ground beef and ground Italian sausage.  When the meat is brown, drain the fat.

In the meantime, assemble the cheese mixture.  Mix together in large bowl:  Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and parsley. 

OK - time for you to make a decision.  Do you want to take the easy way out?  If you want to take the easy way out, you can buy no boil noodles.  These are great and taste just fine.  If you want thicker noodles which taste better, then start up a large pot of water and boil the noodles to al dente.  Of course if you are REALLY wanting to do it right, go ahead and make your own pasta dough!

Once all of your ingredients are prepared, it is a matter of setting up an assembly line.  Start by putting a little sauce in the bottom of your pan and put a layer of noodles on that.

Then, layer your meat, cheese mixture, and shredded mozzarella.

Then put another layer of noodles on top of that.  Ladle some more sauce and start the process over again.  When you near the top of the pan, put a final layer of noodles and ladle some more sauce on the top.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, remove the foil and put shredded cheese on the top.  Put it back in the oven until the cheese melts.

Mangia!  This recipe is featured on Totally Tasty Tuesdays!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lemon Bars

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This recipe is listed on Marvelous Mondays
My sister Karrie is a great cook and we share an affinity for lemon!  Recently, we were able to share a few weeks together while she was here for our father's funeral.

Karrie, Me and Tonette - Thanksgiving, 2012
One of the great traits that my father had was his love for his family.  My sister Karrie personifies this in every part of her being.  Karrie has raised 4 beautiful children.  They are so lucky to have a mom like her.  Tonette, Laura, and I are so lucky to have a sister like her...........I miss her very much.  California is too far away.
Here are the ingredients for her lemon bars:
2 1/4 cups flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
2/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
In your food processor, add 2 cups flour, the powdered sugar and the butter.  Pulse until the mixture is crumbly.  Press that into a 9x13 pan that has been buttered.
Bake this shortbread crust on 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees.
While the crust is baking, start assembling the other ingredients.  I have a handy, dandy juicer which made getting fresh lemon juice extra easy!

In your mixer, add the eggs and sugar.  Mix until frothy.  Add the flour, lemon juice, zest, baking powder and salt. 
Pour over the shortbread crust and bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until set.
Cool on a wire rack.  When the bars are cool, dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares.

When Karrie is in town I love cooking together and sharing ideas for food.  She has a passion for cooking as well.  At this point, I must tell everyone that although Karrie is a great cook, I did beat her in our cooking challenge last is the proof:
Here Dad is pointing to the winner - MY peach crumble bars
Karrie lives life to the fullest - she reminds me of our father in that way.  I have learned many things from her and I consider myself lucky to have her in my life.
Mom and Karrie - Summer 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Shortbread Cookies

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My absolute, favorite cookie in the world is a shortbread cookie!  The sweet, buttery taste makes me, well, we won't go into that!  Let's just say that I am in love.

I have cooked several shortbread recipes and this is my favorite.  Here are the ingredients:

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons vanilla

With your mixer, cream together butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla and cardamom.  Slowly add the flour.

Remove the dough and place it in a Ziploc bag.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  When you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator.  As the dough comes closer to room temperature, it will be easier to roll out.

Make sure that you have a floured surface and keep flour on your rolling pin.  Roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thickness.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out your cookie.

Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes.  This batch makes 12 large cookies or 18 smaller cookies.