Food Journal

Welcome to my food journal! This is officially on the net as of Oct. 24th 2011! I will try to put new entries in my journal once a week if possible – some of them may take a little longer. My journal is where I will be writing about anything going on in my culinary world. This includes recipes from my home, restaurant and event reviews, some basic culinary information that I want to share with you, and whatever else may come to mind. The food journal will always have the last ten things I put on the site in it, just not categorized. Everything will be in it’s own category on the menu bar as well. This is the best place to look if you want to see my latest post, because it will always be at the top. You can use the search tool to look for a specific subject by typing key words into the search bar. You can also go to the index on the menu bar for a list of everything on the site. If there is something you would like to know about that I haven’t posted or if you have a question, please feel free to contact me and I will try to answer as soon as possible. I love to share my food and knowledge, and  I put this site up for us!

Here are my 5 most recent entries!
If you would like to see a list of all of my recipes, lessons and reviews, please go to the index on the menu bar.

Fried Pickles


Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


Chili Mac





Chili Mac

Posted by on Nov 1, 2013 in Dinner, Food Journal | 0 comments

Chili Mac

Chili Mac -(Recipe with video tutorial follow)- This is one of those dinners that everyone in the family loves, from our 18 year old (our oldest) to our 3 year old. It’s comfort food, food that fills your tummy and makes it all warm and yummy feeling. You know, comfort food. It’s also a great recipe for busy mom’s (or busy anyone for that matter). It’s fairly quick and easy to make, pretty nutritious (I can’t call it totally nutritious, after all, it has mac and cheese in it :), but still) and really delicious. What more can you ask for? So, enjoy!

1 family size package of the creamy style mac and cheese
iodized salt (regular table salt will work)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sofrito
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 (16 ounce) can dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes with the juice
10 – 12 ounce frozen corn

Optional Garnishes
sour cream
green onions


1. Prepare the mac and cheese according to the package instructions except, add 1 Tablespoon of salt (preferable iodized) to the water.
2. While the mac and cheese is cooking, in a separate pan, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
3. Add your minced veggies/sofrito to the hot oil. Sauté for about 1 minute.
4. Add one pound of ground beef. I use a lean ground beef for this so that the fat does not have to be drained. If you look at the package of beef, you will see a number like 85/15 or 90/10. These numbers represent the fat to meat ratio. So if you are buying 85/15, you have 85% meat and 15% fat and you will end up with a lot of grease in the pan. If you use a lower fat meat like the 90/10 or the 93/7, you will have a lot less fat and it will not be necessary to drain the fat out of the pan.
5. When your meat is brown, sprinkle it with the thyme and the chili powder. Stir it to evenly coat the meat.
6. Once the meat is evenly coated, add the kidney beans and the tomatoes. Stir until everything is well combined and allow the beans and tomatoes to get heated through.
7. Add the frozen corn, stir, and allow the corn to get heated all the way through.
8. Gently fold in the prepared mac and cheese, being gentle is important so that you don’t tear your noodles (it will be prettier if you don’t tear them).
9. Serve your delicious chili mac with your favorite garnish. I prefer to use sour cream and green onions. My husband and son like to spice it up with some hot sauce. Enjoy!

Please enjoy this how to video!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

Goat Cheese Tartelettes with Fresh Fig Compote

Posted by on Sep 25, 2013 in Appetizers, Food Journal | 0 comments

Goat Cheese Tartelettes with Fresh Fig Compote

Goat Cheese Tarts with Fresh Fig Compote – (recipe and video tutorial follow) – So, I’m nineteen weeks pregnant now and the cravings are going strong – lucky for you :). That means I’m in the kitchen making stuff that I don’t make on a regular basis, but more for special occasions. After all, twenty four goat cheese tarts is hardly good to put out at the dinner table for the kids. Although, now that I think about it, they may like the idea, they did destroy them pretty quickly. Anyway, this is a great dish to make as an appetizer for parties or to put out on the buffet. It can also be served as dessert and you can change the topping to anything that you want – ah, so versatile. They can be made ahead of time and they are delicious at room temperature. They are a little time consuming to make (this recipe will probably take you 45 minutes to an hour if you don’t recruit help), but very well worth it.

Ingredients for tart shell
1 1/2 cups A.P. Flour fresh figs for fig compote
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
10 Tablespoons butter (cold)
3 Tablespoons ice water

Ingredients for Fig Compote
6 figs
1/2 cup dry red wine
4 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

Ingredients for Tart Filling
4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
4 ounces goat cheese (room temperature) Fresh fig compote
2 Tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Instructions for tart shells
1. Place your flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processer. If you don’t have a food processer, you can do this by hand. Pulse/stir the ingredients to mix them evenly.
2. Add the butter and pulse a few times. If you are doing this by hand, use a fork or pastry cutter to incorporate the butter. You are looking for a texture that is similar to cornmeal with a small chunks of butter. When you have the correct texture…..
3. Add the water. I start by adding about three tablespoons and pulsing/stirring to combine. If the dough doesn’t come together into a ball, add the last tablespoon of water and stir/pulse. You should not need more then 1/4 cup (four tablespoons). Fresh fig compote
4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. If you absolutely do not have time to do this, you can skip this step, but the shells will come out better and the dough will be easier to work with if you refrigerate it. Also, I like to double wrap mine so it doesn’t pick up any flavors from the fridge.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and unwrap it. Divide your dough ball into four equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll the first piece into a “dough snake” (see video).
6. Divide your dough snake into 6 equal pieces by first cutting it in half and then cutting each half into thirds.
7. Working with one piece at a time roll the first piece into a ball. Then, mash that ball into a circle about 1/4 inch thick. This will be your mini-tart crust. Transfer the crust to the mini-muffin pan and shape it into one of the holes. Make sure that the dough is touching the bottom and the sides. Repeat steps five through seven with the remaining dough.
8. Once you have your mini-muffin pan completely full, dock all of the crusts. This means that you poke small holes in the crusts with a fork. Doing so helps keep the crust from getting bubbles in the oven.
9. Bake the crusts for ten minutes at 350°F. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. While your crusts are baking, you can start your fig compote – just set a timer so that you don’t forget about them :)
fresh fig compote
Instructions for Fig Compote
1. Wash your figs.
2. Trim the tip of the stem end off of the figs.
3. Place figs in a sauce pan and add the wine, brown sugar, and the balsamic vinegar.
4. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. As soon as it starts to boil, reduce the heat to a light simmer. Allow the figs to simmer for about twenty minutes. Make sure you stir it every few minutes and watch the liquid. It should thicken into a syrup, when it does, it is done. You do not want all of your liquid to evaporate, so make sure to watch the figs and check on them every few minutes. Also, I use a high heat rubber spatula when I make this, that way I can scrape the bottom and sides well when I stir. Also, if your haven’t checked your tart shells, check them, they’re probably done :) While the fig compote is cooking, you can make your filling.

Instructions for The Filling goat cheese tartlets
1. Allow your ingredients to come up to room temperature. Then, cream the goat cheese and the cream cheese together. You do not have to get rid of every chunk at this point because you will be mixing after each additional ingredient.
2. Once you’ve gotten most of the chunks out, scrape the bottom and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then add the honey and salt. Mix until well combined. Scraping your bowl ensures that you will have a nice even texture in the tartelettes when they’re all done.
3. After the honey is mixed in well, scrape the bottom and sides of your bowl and then, add the eggs. Mix the eggs until combined. Scrape the bowl one more time making sure to get the sides and bottom. Then give your batter one final mix. You should mix it until it has a smooth even texture – you may still see a few cottage cheese size chunks, and that is OK.
4. Transfer your filling into a measuring cup or whatever you may have that is easy to pour out of.

To Assemble Your Tarts
1. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shells. I like to pour some into each one before filling them all completely to ensure that I have enough batter and that they’re evenly filled.
2. Bake them at 350°F for about ten minutes until the middle is just set. This means that the middle should still jiggle a little when you shake the pan. If you over cook them, they will crack and they will have a drier feel to them.
3. Allow your tarts to cool and serve. You can either serve the compote on the side, or you can spoon a little on the tops. It is also pretty to put a little on the plate around the tarts :).

Please enjoy this video tutorial!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

Cajun Seasoning

Posted by on Sep 2, 2013 in Culinary 101, Food Journal | 0 comments

Cajun Seasoning

Cajun Seasoning – (recipe and video tutorial (coming soon) follow) – Now days, when you go to the store (like a regular grocery), it seems like the spice isle has more blended spices then individual spices. You commonly see things like “steak rub, Cajun seasoning, seasoning salt, pizza seasoning, jerk seasoning, southwest seasoning” and the list goes on and on. I think this is great and convenient except for one little thing. I feel like you lose control of your recipe. Let me explain. Say you went to the store to buy Cajun Seasoning. Then you bring your Cajun Seasoning home and you make some….. I don’t know – chicken with it. Well, one of three things are going to happen. You’re either going to love the seasoning blend because it’s exactly your taste, or, it will be too spicy for you, or not spicy enough. And of course this can be true of any blend except too much or too little of the spices that you like. Anyway, the point is that if you know what goes into different seasoning blends, you can make them for yourself at home exactly the way that you would like it to be instead of eating it the way that someone else thinks is perfect. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think spice blends are convenient like I said. Not only that, but I also do understand that not everyone is totally sure how to make a spice blend taste the way that they want it to anyway. But at least if you have an actual recipe, you have a jumping off point. So, with all of that said, here is my recipe for Cajun Seasoning. I hope that you love it – and if not, feel free to adjust it :)

Cajun seasoning


3 Tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (double this if you like spicy)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 Tablespoon oregano
2 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon thyme

1. Place all ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Mix.
3. Store in an airtight container

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

Cherry Cheesecake Wonton Bites

Posted by on Aug 1, 2013 in Desserts, Food Journal | 0 comments

Cherry Cheesecake Wonton Bites

Cherry Cheesecake Wonton Bites with a Cherry Balsamic Reduction – (recipe and video tutorial follow) – The other day I was walking through the produce isle at the market and there was this huge display of cherries and…….they got me. I just couldn’t resist, they were so beautiful and of course you know that they’re going to be amazing because they’re in season right now. So, anyway, I ended up going home with like five pounds of cherries which seemed like a great idea until I got home and remembered that I had just bought a ton of mangos, blueberries and plums. What can I say, I get excited at the grocery sometimes – it’s a Chef thing I think. I decided to rinse and pit my cherries and just let the kids have at them, but then, I had an idea. What was the idea? Well, I’m glad that you asked. I decided to try stuffing some wontons with a mixture of cherries and cream cheese and while I was at it, I figured I might as well make some kind of yummy sauce. So, I went into the kitchen and started playing and my beautiful creation of cherry cheesecake wontons was born. My family and I absolutely loved them and I hope that you will too. Enjoy and happy cooking!

To Start
2 cups fresh cherries
1/4 cup sugar

For the sauce
juice from cherries
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

For the Wonton Filling
12 ounces cream cheese
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pureed cherries

35 – 40 Wonton skins

1. Place your cherries into a food processor along with the 1/4 cup sugar and pulse until you have small pieces (like you minced them (see video)). If you don’t have a food processor, this recipe will be slightly more difficult. You can mince your cherries on a plate and reserve the juice or if you have a potato masher, you could mash them with that in a bowl. However, the food processor is your friend and will give the best results with this recipe. Which ever way you decide to chop your cherries, make sure that you don’t lose any of the juice, we need it to make the sauce :)
2. Once your cherries are chopped, transfer them to a strainer and place it over a bowl to catch the juice. Also, pour any remaining juice from your food processor to the bowl. Set to the side. You want your cherries to set for about ten minutes. The sugar will help pull some extra juice out of them.
3. Rinse and dry your food processor and place the cream cheese along with the two Tablespoons of sugar and the 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg in it. Pulse the cream cheese mixture a few times and then turn the food processor on for about 20 seconds to make the cream cheese, sugar and nutmeg form into a smooth mixture.
4. Place the cream cheese mixture into a medium sized mixing bowl. Set to the side.
5. Set up your oil on the stove that you will be frying your wontons in, but do not turn on the heat yet. Also, this is a good time to set up your “wonton station”. I use a sheet pan for my “station”. You will need to have your wonton wrappers, one egg – mixed up in a small bowl, and your cream cheese mixture. Getting this stuff set up now is allowing your cherries to set for the proper amount of time.
6. Check on your cherries. The sugar should be causing a lot of their juice to come out. Gently press on them with a rubber spatula or spoon to help squeeze out the juice. Be careful not to knock any of the cherry pieces into the juice. If you do, just make sure to strain them before you put the juice into your pan later.
7. Once you have all of the excess juice out of your cherries, add them to the cream cheese mixture and gently fold them in until they are evenly combined. Set the juice to the side.
8. Place one wonton wrapper out on your station with a corner facing you. Place a small spoon of the cream cheese mixture into the center of your wonton wrapper. Put a small amount of the egg onto the edges of the wonton wrapper. Fold the wonton by first bringing up opposite corners (the top and bottom of the diamond) to touch and then bringing in the sides. Carefully seal all of the edges of the wonton. If you do not properly seal your wonton, it will leak when you cook it. Also, I recommend doing a couple of “test wontons” before you fill all of them just to get the amount of filling right. The reason I say this is because if you put too much filling, they will open when you cook them and all of the filling will pour out. This happened to me on my first test batch. I over filled them and over half of them opened. It was very sad. So, just to give you an idea, I made 24 fat wontons in my first batch and 40 smaller wontons in my second. My second batch only had a few casualties which made me happy :)
9. Heat your oil. I don’t have a temperature gage on mine, but I would guess my oil is between 325° and 350°F. I look for bubbles to form around the edges of what I’m cooking to know that my oil is ready – as a side note, if your oil starts smoking, if is way too hot. You will also need your oven heated to 350°F.
10. Grab your cherry juice, add the 1/4 cup of sugar and the two Tablespoons of balsamic. Stir to combine. Put the juice into a small pan and put it on the stove on medium heat. I don’t recommend starting the reduction until you are at the stove frying your wontons because it needs to be watched. Stir the sauce every few minutes with a high heat spatula making sure to scrape the sides and the bottom. It will slowly start to thicken. When it is slightly thicker, turn off the heat. It will thicken more as it cools. You want it to be thick enough when it cools so that it doesn’t run all over the plate when you pour it, but thin enough to pour it with a spoon. It is better to turn it off early and check it because you can always heat it and reduce it more but once you over-reduce it, it is harder to deal with. Set it to the side when it’s done. Also, you should be frying your wontons while it is reducing – oh and you may want to turn on your vent fan if you have one for the frying and the reducing.
11. Now it is time to cook your wontons. Normally when you cook wontons (like crab wontons) you would just cook them in the oil. However, these are a bit more temperamental and need special treatment. So, we are going to fry them just until they float and them finish them in the oven. This is because these guys get a lot of steam build up as they cook – especially in the oil and once again, they will open if you have them in the oil for too long. I know I keep mentioning them opening, and I don’t want to scare you into not making this recipe, I just want you to be aware so that you are careful and you don’t end up with a bunch of open wontons and a sad face. So anyway, fry them just until they float.
12. Remove your wontons as they start floating onto a sheet pan lined with a lint free towel (I use a cloth napkin). This allows any excess grease to drain. Move them to another sheet pan and then into the oven. Allow them to cook until they are golden brown on the edges. It will take about nine to ten minutes.
13. Remove the wontons from the oven return them to the sheet pan lined with the lint free towel. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar.
14. Place them onto the serving plates and drizzle with the cherry balsamic reduction.
15. Serve warm – enjoy!

Please enjoy this how – to video!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

Peach Pie with Buttermilk Crust

Posted by on Jul 23, 2013 in Food Journal, Pie | 0 comments

Peach Pie with Buttermilk Crust

Peach Pie with Buttermilk Crust (recipe and video tutorial follow) – Everyone in my family is a pie eater from our youngest child to our oldest. So, I make pie pretty much all during the year (there’s a pie for every season :)). Summertime though is like pie making season with all of the amazing fruit that comes into season. My very spoiled family gets to eat everything from blueberry pie to strawberry pie to raspberry pie with a sugar cookie crust. Not to mention the mango pie and the mango coconut and the mixed berry and every other combination of berries and summer fruit that you can think of. I can’t really say that I have a definite favorite, it just depends on my mood. For my husband on the other hand, I would say that it’s a toss up between blueberry pie and peach pie…..although he does love the raspberry with the sugar cookie crust – hmmm. Anyway, when I make this pie, I always end up making another with-in like a week because someone will get the last piece and then everyone else will be like (with a very sad face) “man, I was going to eat that piece”. So then, I end up making another so that everyone can have another piece. It’s fine with me anyway, I love peach pie and the peaches always go on sale in the summer so it’s not an expensive pie to make – always a plus. So, anyway, here’s my recipe for yummy peach pie with buttermilk crust. I hope that you love it as much as my family and I do. Enjoy and happy cooking!

Ingredients for the Double Crust
2 1/4 cups A.P. flour
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
*up to 5 Tablespoons additional buttermilk
1 teaspoon almond extract

Ingredients for the Peach Filling
9 peaches (5 1/2 – 6 cups sliced)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cardamon
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 Tablespoons butter

Instructions for the Pie Crusts
1. Place your flour in a small mixing bowl.
2. Add the butter to the bowl. It is easiest if you slice the butter as you add it.
3. Mash the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or a fork until it looks like small crumbs (see video).
4. Add 1/2 cup of buttermilk and stir to combine.
5. Add three more Tablespoons of buttermilk and stir to combine. You are looking for your crust to come together into a ball as you stir. If your crust does not come together, you need to add more buttermilk. The last two Tablespoons will usually be enough.
6. Place the crust onto a well floured surface and form it into an even disk. Cut the disk in half so that you have two equal pieces. One piece is for the top crust and one is for the bottom.
7. Form one of the pieces into a disk and roll it out. Set the other to the side.
8. Place the crust in your pie pan and dock it (poke holes in it so it does not puff up in the oven). Set it to the side while you make the filling.

Instructions for the Peach Filling
1. Rinse and peel your peaches. You can either peel them with a veggie peeler, or you can blanch and peel them.
*to blanch your peaches, cut a small x on the bottom, place into rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds, remove from the boiling water and place into an ice water bath, then peel (see video)
2. Slice peaches about 1/4 inch thick.
3. Place your peaches into a large bowl.
4. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F if you haven’t already.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cardamom and Kosher Salt. Stir until evenly combined.
6. Sprinkle the sugar and cornstarch mixture over the sliced peaches and stir until the peaches are evenly coated. Set them to the side. As a side note here, if you did not make the homemade crust above and are using a store bought crust (which is fine) then you need to add the almond extract into the pie filling. It is a very important flavor component.
7. Roll out the top crust and cut it into strips using a pizza cutter or pastry wheel cutter if you have one.
8. Pour the peaches into the bottom crust.
9. Cut the two Tablespoons of butter into small pieces and place evenly around the peaches.
10. Form the lattice crust on top (see video if needed).
11. Bake your pie at 350°F for 50 minutes to 1 hour. I put mine on a sheet pan in the oven just in case it boiled over but it didn’t. (I didn’t want to take a chance, my oven is spotless right now :))
12. Let your pie cool for at least four hours before you try to cut into it or it will run. I let mine set out for about four hours and then put it in the refrigerator overnight.
13. Enjoy your delicious pie!

Please enjoy this how-to video!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

Arizona Bar-B-Que Fest

Posted by on Apr 29, 2013 in Food Journal, Restaurant Reviews | 0 comments

Arizona Bar-B-Que Fest

This past Saturday my family and I headed out to Salt River Fields for the fourth annual Arizona BBQ Festival with two things in mind. The redneck games (yep, I said it) and of course, the BBQ…..and my son wanted to see Metalhead (they had lots of other music too). My husband even gave himself a “redneck haircut” to celebrate the festivities, don’t worry, I took pictures so everyone can see. Can I get a “Yeehaw”? I think I should take a minute here and say that I don’t say “redneck” in a mean prejudice kind of way, but more in a I love my family that has plenty of rednecks in it kind of way. Remember, my family is spread between the Midwest and North Florida :D, that’s where rednecks come from lol. Anyway, my husbands’ haircut and outfit was super awesome, so I threw on my best redneck clothes too all the way up to the blue eyeshadow which looked pretty good in my opinion – wait a minute, is that the country girl in me coming out again :)? When we got there we decided to make an entire circle around the place just to check it out before we committed to doing one thing (unfortunately, we were on a schedule that day and had a ton to do). I had a few places in mind that I wanted to visit BBQ wise and I also wanted to check out “the redneck games”. They had the awesome contests going on. There was the broken lawn mower race – which my husband Xavier got second in, the redneck “horseshoes” played with toilet seats, arm wrestling, watermelon seed spitting, hub cap hurling, bobbing for pigs feet, beer pong, a pie eating contest and cornhole. YES! And guess what, they were giving away….. a remote control grill for the person with the most medals at the end of the contests. Pretty cool huh? Oh, and the rules for the medals were that you were allowed to trade, buy, and take, yes take each others medals. I think the fact that they were serving vodka, Jack Daniels, and beer made the rules all the more interesting. So, we kind of hung out watching the games for awhile (check out the video below) and then we went in search of some BBQ yumminess.  I, being the food nerd  that I am, did some research the night before on the different places that were going to be there and a few had caught my attention. Now, I want to be clear that everything we had was super yummy and that we didn’t get to taste all of the BBQ that was there – there were way too many and we would have exploded, but we did try quite a few. So, are you wandering who was the stand out for us? Well, there were two actually. Little Miss BBQ and Honey Bear’s BBQ. But, if you made me choose, I’d have to go with Little Miss BBQ. This husband and wife team sure can throw down some good food and they have the trophies to prove it! They’re ribs are out of this world, oh – and their jalapeno sausage, if you see them at your local BBQ Festivities, I highly recommend getting in the very long line that is sure to be there, it is worth the wait. As for Honey Bear’s, yes, yes, yes and another giant YES,  go to their restaurant (they have two here in Phoenix) if you’re in the area. They are super yummy too! They have the best logo, it says “You don’t need no teeth to eat our meat”. I just thought that was awesome because as tender as the meat was, you probably don’t need teeth :). Oh, I almost forgot to mention The Bacon Station, I loved these guys just on principal before I even tried them. They were serving bacon, yes just bacon served on top of…..more bacon, and then you had your choice of sauces to top your bacon. Mmmmmm, bacon. We had the chocolate sauce (salty and sweet) and the “redneck” hot sauce which was, well, hot. Actually, too hot for me but I’m a baby when it comes to spicy things, my son and my husband however gobbled it up like nobody’s business YEEEEEEEEHAW! Woe, sorry, it got me again. Let’s see, what else was going on? They had a huge area set up for the kids with bouncy houses, slides, giant hamster balls that they could roll around in and a few carnival type rides to make them dizzy, I got dizzy just watching one of them. They also had a mechanical bull, just in case you were in the mood to prove your manhood (or womanhood) by getting thrown off of something violently, cooking demonstrations, and a flavored vodka tent. They had lots of booths that were giving away fun stuff like drink koozies and temporary tattoos, another way to get into the spirit. Dude, I totally forgot to mention that Barrel Boy from KNIX 102.5 (country music) was there hosting the redneck games and of course I got my picture with him. He was so, so super nice (in case you were wondering). So, that’s it ya’all. All in all we had a honky-tonkin’, redneckin’, BBQ eatin’ Yeehawin’ fun day. We will definitely be there next year to try some more of the BBQ, who knows, maybe we’ll even win the redneck games and take home a grill…….that is if they’re giving one away next year. We’ll see. OK, one more time - can I get a  YEEEEEEEEEHAW!

Here are a few clips of our day!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

Creamy Chicken Rotini with Swiss Chard

Posted by on Mar 8, 2013 in Dinner, Food Journal | 0 comments

Creamy Chicken Rotini with Swiss Chard

Creamy Chicken Rotini with Swiss Chard – (Creamy Chicken Rotini with Swiss Chard recipe along with a video tutorial (coming soon)follows) –  So, I was walking through the produce section of the grocery store yesterday when I noticed the absolute most beautiful Organic Rainbow Swiss Chard. I had no real plans on making Swiss Chard for dinner, but man, it was soooo pretty I just couldn’t help myself. So I bought it. Then as I was driving home, I was thinking to myself, “wait a minute, I’m making Pizza tonight”. But that’s beside the point. Because once I remembered that I was making pizza for dinner, that gave me a whole day to decide what to do with the Swiss Chard. Then, my husband said that he wanted to have chicken for dinner (the next day). So, now I had two things to put in our dinner, chicken and Swiss Chard……..and tomatoes thanks to my wonderful little girl Tia, who had convinced me at the store to buy two pints of organic plum tomatoes. Which just kind of made everything else fall into place – at least for me. So, I got out my little note pad and jotted down all of the things that may be tasty in my pasta dish. The next day, (last night), I started cooking, glancing over at my list now and then to remind me of some of my ideas. I ended up adding a few extra things and of course omitting a few things too and this is what I came up with. My husband said that this is the best pasta dish he has ever tasted which is quite a complement coming from him. I was happy to tell him that not only did I write everything down, but I also videoed it – just in case something super wonderful happened so that I could share it with all of you. Oh, I guess I should tell you that I love to create in the kitchen (obviously), but I have a hang up about writing and measuring while I’m creating – Chefs, go figure. So anyway, here it is, enjoy and happy cooking everyone!


13.5 ounce box whole wheat Rotini

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

In a Separate Pan

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, medium dice

4 cloves garlic, emince (sliced thin)

1/2 pound Apple-wood Smoked Bacon

1 1/2 pounds chicken

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 bunch Swiss chard (stalks and leaves separated)

*I used rainbow Swiss chard

1 1/3 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half

6 ounces cream cheese (by weight)

1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese

1 cup pine nuts

Options (you can use one,two or all three – I recommend adding at least one of the options)

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest, minced

a few leaves of basil for garnish


1. To start your noodles, fill a large pot with water and add salt. I use an eight quart pot with seven quarts of water and about 1/4 cup of iodized salt. You want your water to taste like the ocean. This helps in the final taste of your dish. If you don’t properly salt your water, your noodles will have a “flat” taste. For more information on this, see my article “Table Salt, Strangely not Just for the Table“. Put the pot on high and bring the water to a rolling boil.

2. While your’re waiting for your water to boil, you can work on the rest of the dish. Make sure to check your noodle water from time to time. When it is at a rolling boil, add the noodles and cook them for 8 minutes. Drain them, then put them into an ice water bath to cool them and drain them again. After you drain them, put them back in the pot you cooked them in and toss them with a little bit of olive oil so they don’t stick to each other. Put them to the side.

3. In a large pan, add one Tablespoon of olive oil. Turn the heat on medium -high and add your onion. Sprinkle the onion with a little Kosher Salt and black pepper. Sweat your onion. That means you saute it until it starts to get a translucent look. Lower the heat to medium – low. Allow the onions to caramelize.

4. Emince your garlic – that means cut it into thin slices (peel it first of course). Set it to the side.

5. Rinse and then Slice your tomatoes in half long ways (see video for a time saving tip). Set them to the side.

6. Rinse your Swiss Chard and drain it. Chop off the very ends of the stalks if they are brown. Remove the leaves of the Swiss Chard by tearing them off. You can also cut them off, but this is not necessary. We are removing the leaves from the stalks because they do not cook at the same rate and if you put them in together, either the stalks would have to be under-done, or the leaves would have to be over-done, so, we will add them at seperate times. Set the leaves to the side.

7. Slice the thick parts of the stems into 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices. Set to the side.

8. Slice the leaves of the Swiss Chard. It is easiest to do this if you work with a few leaves at a time and roll them together before you slice them. Set the leaves to the side.

9. At this point, your onions should be good, go over and check on them and then remove them from the pan and set them to the side.

10. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the chicken to the pan (that you had your onions in). Sprinkle it with Kosher Salt and pepper. Stir your chicken. Allow the chicken to cook for two to three minutes.

11. When you chicken is about half way done, add the bacon to the pan. Stir.

12. Saute the chicken and bacon together until they are almost done. Add the chili flakes (red pepper flakes). Stir.

13. Deglaze with the red wine vinegar. That means you scrape any of the fond (the brown bits that are stuck to the bottom) off of the pan. I use a wooden spatula for this. Stir.

14. Add your chicken stock. Then, add your garlic. Stir.

15. Add the stems from your Swiss Chard. Allow them to cook for about one minute. Reduce the heat to medium – low.

16. Add your tomatoes. Then your cooked onions. Stir.

17. Add the cream cheese in chunks. Stir. You have to be a little patient with the cream cheese as it starts to melt, but it will, and then it will stir in easily.

18. Once you have the cream cheese melted in, sprinkle in the Parmesan Cheese and stir to combine.

19. Add the Swiss Chard about 1/2 at a time along with a sprinkle of Kosher Salt and pepper and stir in between each addition. It will look like you have way too much but don’t worry because it cooks down.

20. After your Swiss Chard is stirred in, turn off the heat and add the pine nuts. Stir.

21. Add your cooked and drained noodles. Fold them in to combine and serve hot.

Please enjoy this “how to” video!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

The Best Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies Ever

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in Cookies, Food Journal | 0 comments

The Best Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies Ever

The best chocolate chip pecan cookies ever – (recipe follows) – There is one thing that I think all… or at least most of us have in common and that is the love of chocolate chip cookies. Actually, for me, chocolate chip cookies happen to be extra special, near and dear to my heart because they are the first thing that I learned how to bake totally on my own without being a “helper”. Sorry, that sentence is confusing, I didn’t teach myself to make them, my Grandma taught me. What I was trying to say is that chocolate chip cookies are the first thing that I could bake on my own – after being taught. Yeah! Of course, like  a lot of Grandmas, mine used the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House package. It’s not a bad recipe, and I’m definitely not knocking it in any way. It’s actually a great way to learn “The Cookie Method” and anytime I want to have “Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies”, those are the ones that I make. Just as a little side note, do you all know the history behind that recipe? It’s kind of cool. I should say here first, that there are variations to this story, but this is what is most common –  There was a woman named Ruth Wakefield. Her and her husband purchased an inn in Whitman, Massachusetts in 1930. They named it “The Toll House Inn” – bet you didn’t see that coming :). Ruth did a lot of baking for the guests and loved to improve on old colonial recipes. One day, she was making her butter drop dough cookies, and decided to add some chocolate to them. She chopped some small pieces off of a Nestle Chocolate Bar, and added them to the cookies. (Another version of the story is that she was making chocolate cookies, and ran out of bakers chocolate and decided to add the Nestle pieces expecting them to melt and mix in in the oven- hmmmm, I don’t know, if she baked, I would think she knew they wouldn’t “mix in” in the oven). Anyway, the cookies became super popular at the inn and eventually, her recipe was published in the Boston newspaper. Of course this made sales of the chocolate bar go up. There is also the story that the cookies were being sent over seas to the men who were from Massachusetts and fighting in the war and they were sharing them with others and then all the men were writing home asking for more cookies which made the recipe become even more popular. I think it was probably a combination of both. So, Ruth and Nestle got together and made an agreement for Nestle to be allowed to print her recipe on the back of their chocolate bar – a deal which included free chocolate for Ruth to make the cookies for the rest of her life. As the popularity of the cookies and sales of the bar grew, Nestle wanted to make it easier for everyone to use their chocolate for cookies. At first, they scored the chocolate and packed it with a special chopper to chop the chocolate small. And then, in 1939, The Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip was born. Oh, also, Ruth had a recipe book out, it was called “Toll House Tried and True Recipes” and it was published in 1936. The book has the original recipe for the chocolate chip cookies except they are called”Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies”.  Awesome right? I think so too. So, now that you’ve had a quick history lesson on how chocolate chip cookies came into the world – thanks Ruth, lets make another version – after all, you’ve tried the Toll House Ones Right?

Dry Ingredients
3 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Other Ingredients
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 sticks butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup pecans (if you don’t like pecans, substitute something like walnuts, white chocolate chips, or more chocolate chips, just make sure to add something for the 3/4 cup)

1. Get your butter out and let it come up to room temperature.
2. In a small bowl, measure all of the dry ingredients, then stir them with a fork or a whisk to make sure they’re evenly combined.
3. Pre-heat your oven to 350°.
4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula making sure to get the bottom and the sides, then mix for a few more seconds to get any chunks of butter that may have been hiding mixed in.
5. Add the eggs and mix to combine.
6. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Scrape the bowl with your rubber spatula again.
7. Add in the dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time mixing in between each addition. Scrape the bowl with your spatula, again, make sure to get the bottom and the sides. Mix just for a few more seconds to get any dry ingredients that you may have scraped from the bottom or sides.
9. Stir in your chocolate chips and your pecans – or whatever you choose to substitute for your pecans. I use my hand mixer to do this, but you can use a rubber spatula.
10. Place your cookies on a prepared sheet pan a scoop full at a time. I’m using a number 20 scoop which is equal to about 3 Tablespoons. To prepare your cookie sheet, you can use either cooking spray, or parchment (wax) paper. You can also use a silpat.
11. Bake your cookies at 350°F for about 14-16 minutes. I rotate my pan half way through the cooking time.
12. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to set on the cookie sheet for about one minute and then you can move them to cooling racks. Enjoy your delicious chocolate chip pecan cookies :)! Soooooo good!

Store them in an airtight container.

Here’s a great tip for storing your cookies – put a piece of bread in the container with them. It will keep them softer longer. I have even added a piece of bread to cookies that were getting a little hard and something magical happened – they got a tiny bit softer – Yay, cookie magic!

Please enjoy this “how-to” video!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Cheesecake

Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in Appetizers, Food Journal | 0 comments

Roasted Red Pepper Cheesecake

Roasted Red Pepper Cheesecake(recipe with video tutorial follow) – If you’ve never had a savory cheesecake, let me tell you that you are in for a real treat! Oh, maybe I should explain what a savory cheesecake is. Well, a savory cheesecake is one that is not sweet. Sweet and savory are kind of like opposites. So, a sweet cheesecake would be served for dessert, and a savory cheesecake, saaaaay like a roasted red pepper cheesecake, would be served as an appetizer. We have some friends coming over this weekend and we’re going to go hiking and then grill some burgers, so I thought that this would be a great appetizer served with some crostini and and maybe some vegetables or crackers, or…maybe all three. And then, after I started thinking about what a great appetizer this was going to make to go with the burgers, I started thinking about the burgers. You should know at this point that one of the people coming over, my friend April, loves to have sauteed peppers and onions on her burger. So, I started thinking about April’s burger specifically – which kind of inspired me for how my burger is going to go down this weekend. It’s going to be the burger topped with a thin slice of the roasted red bell pepper cheesecake and maybe some bacon – oooo and some basil – oh yeah, we’re getting there now! Doesn’t that sound so good? I think so anyway. I’m like sitting here craving it and I haven’t even tried it yet. What was my point? Oh, my point is that not only does this make a great burger topping – aaaaa, I mean appetizer, but I think you could get creative with it. So like you could serve it as an appetizer, and then you could take any of the left over – assuming that there is left-over (you can always stash some early) and use it on hamburgers, or on sandwiches, or stuff it into a pita with some chicken and heat it up. Oh my yummy, I mean seriously. How good would a turkey, bacon sandwich be toasted with a slice of melty roasted red pepper cheesecake on top? Dude that sounds so good! So, I know what is going to happen if we have any left overs. The cheesecake serves around 18-20 people (as long as you don’t have a 16 year old eating machine running around like I do) and 12 of us are eating, so I have a good sporting chance at my sandwich dreams. It’s cool either way because I love this just as it is, served as an appetizer, I was just saying.

roasted red bell pepper cheesecake served with crostini
1 pound cream cheese
8 ounces goat cheese (I used Laura Chenel)
4 eggs
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, fresh ground if possible
1/2 teaspoon thyme (dried, ground)
*if you use fresh thyme, you’ll need 1 1/2 teaspoons
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 c green onions, sliced thin (green parts only)
1 1/2 cups roasted red peppers, diced (about 4 peppers) how to steam skins off of roasted bell peppers
*please see my recipe and video tutorial of “How to Roast a Bell Pepper”  if you don’t know how to roast your own bell peppers. You can also buy them in jars at the store, but you can roast your own at home for a fraction of the cost and they’re fresh and yummy!

For the Crostini
French Bread
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt


1. Place the cream cheese into a large bowl and cream it for about one minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula (and your beaters or paddle attachment).
2. Add the goat cheese into the cream cheese and mix them (with a mixer- either hand held or a stand mixer) until they are well combined and have an even consistency. Scrape your bowl with a rubber spatula again. Doing this helps to make sure you don’t end up with clumps of cream cheese or goat cheese in the end and also helps to ensure that you have a smoother texture when your cheesecake is all done.
3. Add the first two eggs and mix until combined. Then add the other two eggs and mix until well combined. Scrape the bowl again. Then mix again just to get rid of most of the chunks. You may still have a few little chunks in there, but don’t worry about them.
4. Add the garlic, Kosher salt, pepper, thyme, green onions and bell peppers to the cream cheese/goat cheese mixture. Stir these in by hand using your rubber spatula.
5. Line the outside of a ten inch spring-form pan with aluminum foil. Then place that pan into a larger roasting pan or large casserole dish. We will be cooking this in a water bath, so you need the larger pan.
6. Spray the inside of your spring-form pan with cooking spray.
7. Pour the red pepper cheesecake batter into the spring-form pan. Then add some water to the roasting pan – try to get the water even with the top of the red pepper cheesecake. However, if it starts floating around a lot, stop adding water because it will end up floating instead of being in the water bath where we want it.
8. Bake the cheesecake at 350°F for about 30 minutes – until the center is just set. If you over-bake it, it may get cracks. Remove the cheesecake from the water-bath – you can also remove the foil.
9. Allow the red pepper cheesecake to cool for about one hour and then place it in the refrigerator. If you place it into the refrigerator too soon, it will likely crack. So, be patient and let it cool.
10. Leave it in the refrigerator for at least five hours – overnight is better, to allow it to set up.
11. Once your cheesecake is totally set-up, run a knife around the edges and remove the outside of the spring-form pan.
12. Garnish your beautiful cheesecake with some extra roasted red bell peppers and serve. I served mine with some french bread crostini on the side – so very delicious! Enjoy everyone!
**Oh, to make the crostini, slice your french bread about one inch thick, lightly brush it with olive oil and then sprinkle it with the salt and pepper. Bake it in the oven at 350°F for a few minutes until it gets toasty on the outside – you still want it to be soft on the inside. It should take anywhere from four to six minutes. OK, now enjoy :)

Please enjoy this how-to video (coming soon) for making Roasted Red Pepper Cheesecake!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

How to Roast a Bell Pepper

Posted by on Jan 16, 2013 in Culinary 101, Food Journal | 0 comments

How to Roast a Bell Pepper

How to Roast a Bell Pepper – (instructions with a video tutorial follow) – The other day my husband and I were driving home from our daughter’s ballet practice and I saw a sign for a farmers’ market that read “$10 for 60 pounds of produce”. I do enjoy going to farmers’ markets, but on this particular day, the kids were a little extra tired and needed to eat and so on and so forth so, we drove home. Well, after about five minutes of being home, my curiosity got the best of me and we loaded up the mini-van and headed back to the farmers’ market – yes, I have a mini-van, and, it’s awesome! So, anyway, we got there like ten minutes before they were supposed to be closing up – they were already kind of packing everything. I walked in and paid my ten dollars and I asked the lady “How do we know when we hit the 60 pounds”? And she said “We don’t care, (big smile), just take as much as you want, cases if you want”. And I was like “Really? Cases”? And she was like “Seriously, take as much as you want”. So the next thing I know, I have my poor husband digging through flats of grape tomatoes to find the best one and then pushing a cart around. Not like a shopping cart, but the kind that’s for moving refrigerators and stuff like that. I ended up leaving with a case of watermelon, a flat of grape tomatoes, quite a bit of squash….I don’t know, some other stuff, but most importantly, bell peppers. Twenty five pounds of bell peppers. And they are beautiful – still. I have some of them sitting next to me as we speak. Then on the way home, my husband reaches into the case of bell peppers and takes one out and takes a big ole bite of it (like it was an apple). I look at him like he’s crazy (like most people would although I guess you eat them raw on a veggie tray anyway). And then, he holds it in front of me and is like here try it. So, I take a bite and much to my delight, it was the sweetest most yummy bell pepper I have ever had. Yay! So of course I got all excited to get home and cook with them, which I did. But then, I started realizing that we had a lot of bell peppers to go through. The point is, the next few recipes that go on my site are going to involve roasted bell peppers and I don’t want to start every recipe with how to roast a bell pepper because that could get boring, so I thought I’d do a culinary 101 for everyone on “How to Roast a Bell Pepper”. Also, I’d rather everyone actually roast the bell peppers then buy them in the jar. It’s not hard, you’ll see.
Red Bell Peppers on a Sheet Pan

red bell peppers, that’s it

red bell peppers roasting under the broiler
1. Place your bell peppers on a sheet pan (cookie sheet). If you don’t have a sheet pan, you can use a casserole dish or a roasting pan, it’s no big deal. Also, get out a large bowl, not one that will melt, but either stainless steel or a glass one along with some plastic wrap and set them to the side.
2. Put the pan of peppers under the broiler in the oven. They should be on the top rack of your oven unless they touch the heating element in which case you’ll need to put them down a rack lower.
3. Keep the oven door open just enough where you can look in. Most ovens have a spot where the door will stay  around four or five inches open. The point of leaving the door open is more so that you don’t forget about your peppers in there because it’s easy to walk away for too long. So, don’t walk away, stay there and baby-sit a pepper-sit, your bell peppers. steaming the skin off of roasted red bell peppers in a bowl
4. When one of the sides turns black (the side closest to the broiler), turn the pepper a quarter of the way. Then, when the next side is black, turn the pepper by a quarter. Do this until the skin of the bell pepper is black all the way around.
5. Remove the bell peppers from the oven and place them into the bowl that you got out earlier.
6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap as fast as you can. We are trying to trap the steam from the bell peppers.
7. Let them sit in the bowl, covered with the plastic wrap for at least 15 minutes. You can let them sit longer if you happen to be doing something else, but I wouldn’t leave them for more then 40 minutes for sanitation reasons.
8. Remove one pepper from the bowl and place it on a cutting board or plate. Be careful because they are probably still hot or may have hot juices inside. I wear gloves for this part.
9. Gently remove the blackened skin. Then, hold the pepper upside-down and pull the stem off. When you do this, some juice and seeds will come out.
10. Open the pepper up and remove all of the seeds. Your pepper is now roasted and ready to use.
Keep scrolling for the video tutorial.

How to Choose a Bell Pepper
No matter what color bell pepper you are shopping for, look for peppers that have deep, vivid colors, are heavy for their size, have a smooth, wrinkle free texture, and only push in slightly when you squeeze them softly.

A little extra information on bell peppers
Bell peppers are fruits….well botanically speaking because they contain the seeds of the plant. However, as far as the kitchen goes, they are generally treated like vegetables. They originated in Mexico, Central America, and Northern South America and made their way around the world from there on trade ships and such back in the 14 and 1500′s. Of course, they have lots of other names through out the world including capsicum and paprika. Bell peppers are a member of the Capsicum genus – Why do we care? Well, members of the capsicum genus produce the chemical capsaicin and capsaicin is the chemical in peppers that makes them hot. The higher the level of capsaicin, the hotter the pepper. However, bell peppers are the only member of the genus that don’t produce any capsaicin. So do we still care that they’re in that genus – a, yeah, now you can answer that question if you’re ever on Jeopardy or you can impress your friends at the dinner table. OK, so how about some nutrition facts. Red bell peppers are high in vitamin A and vitamin C, they have around 209mg of vitamin C compared to about 70mg in an orange. I should note here though that cooking will destroy at least part of the vitamin C. So, if you want to get all the nutrition, raw is better. Bell peppers are also high in carotenoids (a group of antioxidants) including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. There is a ton more nutrition information out there if you want it. The two links below have some great information, so check them out if you want to know more.

Links for more information

Please enjoy this how to video!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013
Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲
website security