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Mac n’ Cheese Soup

Move over little blue box (and I don’t mean Tiffany’s)!

All I can say is,  “cheesy and delicious”!

I was sitting out by the pool the other day, can’t get in it now because the water has cooled down to a chilly 54°. Atlas, another pool season come and gone. Back from our trip, holidays over, and nothing to do but sit and flip through old food magazines, trying to see which ones I will get rid of and what recipes I want to finally try. We are having 4 days straight of below freezing temperatures this week and it is the perfect time to try a new soup recipe.

So, Mac n’ Cheese. Who doesn’t like the gooey, hot, cheesy stuff. I have always liked cooking and I guess I have always thought I was a pretty good cook.  When my kids were little there were two things they never liked HOMEMADE — blueberry muffins and macaroni and cheese.  They wanted blueberry muffins from a box because they liked the little wild blueberries and macaroni and cheese had to come from the little blue box — Kraft, probably because of the artificial color that made the macaroni and cheese such a pretty orange color.  Now, they appreciate anything homemade and they are all wonderful cooks even though they did eat some of those boxed items (that aren’t that good for us) and occasionally (more often than we should have) made trips to fast food burger places.

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Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup

Deconstructed Stuffed Bell Pepper  – Soup!

That’s what my son Scott calls this soup.  Take apart a stuffed bell pepper, throw it in a pot and you have a belly warming soup for the cold nights to come this winter.

When I saw this recipe that my son sent me, it instantly brought back memories of stuffed peppers my mother use to make. Also memories of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, pot roast, fried pork chops; all that comfort food that I grew up eating. My mother did not work outside the home and there was always  a hot meal on the table when my dad came in from work. Occasionally she would try new recipes and i think this is one she would have enjoyed making.

My sister and I made this one snowy night recently at her home in Missouri. We have lived in Texas for the last 20 years and haven’t seen much snow since we have been here. Last year, at about this time, we got snowed in at my sister’s house and had to spend the night. This year while visiting, we had temperatures in the teens and a beautiful snow covered lawn and fields to look at while enjoying our steaming bowls of Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup all awhile knowing that we would be back in Texas soon to warmer weather.

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Cake/ Food Stories

De-railed Thomas the Train Cake

How sagging frosting became the hit of the party.

Most people would have been in tears when they opened their refrigerator and saw all the frosting drooping off the sides of their cake. BUT, not me.

My son Paul was making a Thomas the Train birthday cake for my grandson’s 2nd birthday. It was a beautiful 3 layer perfectly level chiffon cake and I have to say it was totally my fault the French buttercream did not turn out. I miscalculated the butter; 24 oz. is NOT 3 sticks of butter, but 6.

So, here’s what happened. When we saw the cake sagging. I laughed and said “this looks like a train wreck”. Since little Milo loves the part of Thomas The Train when the train wrecks, my son took his black frosting and besides the Happy Birthday, he made a train track and had it continue off the side of the cake. And then we used some of the Thomas the Train car pieces and stuck them in the side and bottom of the cake like they had just driven off the side of the cake. I have to say it was ingenious and saved the day.

Milo looks happy with his cake even though the train de-railed.

Looks like mom might be explaining that Thomas fell off the cake. Oh, whatever, it still tasted wonderful.

I definitely owned up to my mistake and the kids and adults all loved the cake and cupcakes.

Moral of the story — don’t let minor derailments spoil the party. After all, kids just want something sweet, they don’t care what it looks like.

Desserts/ Morning Foods/ Side dish

Macadamia Nut Pineapple Casserole

No I haven’t been to Hawaii

But I have a friend on her way there and I hope she will bring back pictures of pineapple fields and macadamia nut trees and maybe of she and her husband doing the hula on the beach.

I love finding a recipe that can be served for brunch, lunch or with dinner and this is such a recipe. I received this recipe back in the 70’s from a friend in our church group and even though I don’t make it often, it has remained one of my favorites.

My sister and I put together two cookbooks of our favorite recipes, one called Double Delight (we are twins) and the other Two Peas In A Pod. In our first book if we both had a recipe we liked and we couldn’t agree which one to put in, we would do both versions, each one of us thinking “ours” was the best. Her pineapple dish had pineapple chunks, Colby cheese and did not have the bread cubes. My recipe takes on more of a bread pudding consistency.

This recipe is delicious with brunch or goes great with a pork roast or baked ham or even a Caribbean themed party. It is very easy to throw together.

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Bread/ Breads/Biscuits/ Morning Foods

Chocolate Gravy with Homemade Biscuits

My first thought on this recipe was YUCK! But wait until you try it!

I would like to say that I had chocolate gravy growing up, but I didn’t. My mother made wonderful milk gravy or sausage gravy which is milk gravy with crumbled pork sausage added. We had red-eye gravy with our country ham, we had roast beef gravy with our roast, but no chocolate gravy. Chocolate gravy is a southern thing and I grew up in extreme southeast Missouri and we always considered ourselves Southerners, but I guess we weren’t southern enough to have ever tasted chocolate gravy.

Now that Christmas is over and everyone is tired of cooking, this simple recipe is just what you need for your last indulgence before the new year rolls around and you go on a diet and give up sweets (me). Have this for New Year Eve breakfast, then store the recipe away until you need another breakfast chocolate fix.

What is gravy anyway but some kind of stock or broth thickened to pour over some type of food we have prepared. So, why not a sweet gravy that will satisfy some of us that crave chocolate in the morning.

This gravy can be used on biscuits, scones, pancakes or waffles. When we were in Brugge back in September we had to try a Belgium waffle and they poured chocolate all over it. It was the richest, gooiest, most delicious thing I have ever put in my mouth. I love chocolate in any form, so why shouldn’t I give this recipe a try.

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Potluck Macaroni Salad

A great addition to any potluck dinner!

Have you ever wonder why there are so many differ shapes of pasta?

Well, I have always wondered that because growing up I knew macaroni and spaghetti and I think that is about it. We never had homemade noodles; we had homemade dumplings.

In case you are still wondering about the pastas, maybe it all started in Italy and homemakers got tired of the same old spaghetti day in and day out and they started experimenting with different pastas. OR, maybe the different pasta shapes serve a different purpose.

There are small pastas like orzo which looks like rice but cooks very quickly in just a few minutes and fit perfect in spoons for small bites. There are hallow pastas that work great for thick sauces to get into the crevices. There are pasta shells like manicotti or shell pasta shapes that one can fill with wonderful savory fillings. There are pastas shaped like little ears and even sombreros (I call those Pinocchio hats). There are thin noodles like angel hair pasta that are so delicate for light sauces and then there are thick noodles like linguine or lasagna that can stand up to just about any kind of sauce. Take something like ziti and penne and the difference is the cut end and how it affects how much sauce gets inside the pasta.

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Cookies/ Cookies/Bars/ Dessert

Santa Kisses

Just about any kind of kiss is a good kiss!

But, for the holidays, these are especially nice and so easy to make, and, for some reason, I keep hearing Marilyn Monroe singing “Santa Baby” —

Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me

I’ve been an awful good girl

Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight”

(I have some Santa Kisses for you!)

Find a you tube version of this song — you’ll love it!


I remember when I was a kid my grandmother would buy these certain peppermint sticks that my grandfather liked. I think the brand was Bob’s and they were twisted sticks and they were so much fun to twirl in your mouth until you had a really sharp point on the end of the stick. My grandmother always seemed to like the peppermint balls that kind of melted in your mouth. And, my little brother use to love peppermint canes and sometimes at Christmas we would try and buy the biggest stick we could find and I’m sure it took months for him to eat the whole thing.

I made this recipe for two parties I catered this season and will be making them for my family as well.

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Dessert/ Desserts

Irish Cream Cheesecake

Are you a hoarder of recipes?

I never thought of myself as a hoarder. At least not in the sense that my house is full of piles of stuff that I can’t stand to part with. If I don’t use it, I figure I don’t need it. BUT, when it comes to recipes I will hang on to one for years before getting around to trying it.

I probably clipped this recipe almost 20 years ago and put it in a ring binder I use to keep all my “clipped” recipes in. I have advanced somewhat to using MacGourmet on my new computer and can make my own categories and import all my old files in from MasterCook. I even have an app now for my iPhone that links my computer cookbook so where ever I go, I have my recipes with me. You can never tell when someone might stop me on the street and ask for a recipe.:)

I’ve made this cheesecake once once before (about 7 years ago) and remember it as being one of the best cheesecakes I have ever made. The recipe went back into my files and was forgotten until now, and while searching though old favorites, I happened upon this recipe again and this time it won’t go back into my files and forgotten — it will be marked as a “tried and loved” recipe. So, for your holiday table this would look beautiful with some bright red raspberries as a garnish and maybe out a glass of Irish Cream in small shot glass to serve along with it.

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Dessert/ Pies/Tarts

Coconut Oatmeal Pie

Chess, yes, oatmeal, yes, buttermilk, pecan, yes! Pie, YES

Did your mother or grandmother ever make chess pie, or maybe buttermilk pie, coconut, pecan, or oatmeal pie? If so, you will love the taste of this Coconut Oatmeal Pie. I think it has flavors of all those pies combined.

I was in Hubble and Hudson grocery the other day (small gourmet specialty market) and, like always, I’m looking around for something new to try and I came across these all natural baby coconuts that are entirely edible. When I say baby, I mean teeny tiny. They are about the size of a nickel.

There’s nothing more fun to me than walking through small specialty grocery stores. My friend, Peggy and I always enjoy exploring markets. Now, I know you think that is really boring, BUT, when we were in Italy a few years ago, we found this small market and were fascinated by the different types of meats (rabbit for one), butchered and just laying there in the display case. And the butcher was so nice and explained what different items were. We’ve found very interesting and unusual items in Asian markets in China town in NYC and also San Francisco. So, when I walk through our local gourmet store, there’s always something that catches my eye.

Back to the baby coconuts. I just tasted one and they taste just like unsweetened coconuts and you can eat the shell.  I mainly bought these for a garnish for these cute little Coconut Oatmeal Pies.

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Appetizers/ Entree/ Fish/Seafood

Bar-B-Q Shrimp

BBQ — Barbecue — Bar-B-Q Shrimp

However you choose to spell BBQ, it still is not going to describe this dish.

On our recent trip to new Orleans, my daughter, Alexis, and I took a cooking class at The New Orleans Cooking Experience. Chique Collier taught the class and I think this may be my favorite recipe I took away from the class. I can’t say enough about how great this Bar-B-Q Shrimp is and you are just going to have to trust me and try it.

When we first booked the class and I read the menu and discovered we were doing BBQ shrimp, I envisioned shrimp swimming in sweet thick, red sauce or skewered shrimp basted and cooked on the “barbie”. Not so. That would not have been what I would have wanted it anyway.

The shrimp in this recipe was marinated in oil, wine and lots of spices and finished at the end of the cooking process with some cream. The recipe called for heads on x-large shrimp which I can normally find in our stores, but I couldn’t find them over the Thanksgiving holiday this year.

Chique told us that typically BBQ shrimp recipes in Louisiana is made with lots of margarine and enough  black pepper to completely cover the shrimp.  This recipe is so much better than any recipe containing a pound of margarine and black pepper.

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Bread/ Morning Foods/ Scones

Almond Coconut Chocolate Scones

I love scones and this Glueten-free recipe does not disappoint.

Somewhere around Mardi Gras this year, my daughter Alexis challenged me to go Grain-free and gluten free until Easter. I did really well adapting recipes using almond flour and as I always like a challenge, I ordered a 5-lb. bag of almond meal online and set about trying crackers and scone recipes from Elana Amsterdam’s book “Almond Free Gluten free cookbook”.


I started with Elana’s Chocolate Chip Scone and added sliced, crushed toasted almonds and some unsweetened coconut to the mixture. These are so easy and healthy you just feel like “hey, I can have that second one if I want”.  Although, I don’t have to eat Gluten-free, it was fun trying different things with the almond flour. The cheese crackers and these scones I will definitely keep making even though our challenge has ended.

If you ate way tooooo much to eat over the Thanksgiving holidays, try making these little scones for a sweet treat and not feel guilty afterwards.

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Appetizers/ HotApp

Parmesan Shrimp Toast

A fabulous appetizer from my catering files.

I have been making this recipe for about 10 years for parties I have catered and my own parties. Last year I finally let go of my Garden Vegetable Terrine (mold) recipe that everyone had always wanted. So, this year, I decided to share this recipe.

I came across this recipe in an old Southern Living cookbook from the 70’s. The original recipe was called Seafood Tart-lets and it called to cut out bread circles and press them into mini muffin pans, fill with the seafood mixture and bake in the oven. That just didn’t cut it for me when I was trying to make them for 50-100 people. So, I decided to try putting the mixture on a baguette slice and I’ve never looked back at the original recipe.

The old recipe called for canned shrimp (gasp) and the powdered type of Parmesan cheese. I always use fresh or frozen shrimp and chop them in about 4-5 pieces each. I use freshly grated Parmesan and Swiss cheese and top with a sprinkle of paprika. Fresh thyme makes a really pretty garnish also.

At one party I catered someone came up to me and said this appetizer was like “sex on toast” — whatever that is suppose to mean. I guess they liked it and these are always a crowd pleaser. I have yet to try substituting lump crab meat and have no doubt it would be just as delicious as with the shrimp.

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