Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rock Soup

A few years ago, I was a subscriber to the Rachael Ray magazine.  Around Christmastime, there was a recipe called Rock Soup, for ham leftovers, which happened to coincide with my having a ton of leftover Christmas ham.  This is a delicious (and not split pea soup) way to use up leftover ham, or you could even just use a ham steak or whatever you have.

This came together fairly quickly and was really easy to make.  It had a ton of flavor, even though I went easy on the hot sauce, and went really well with the leftover bread I used too (Pumpernickel and rye).  I even have a bunch leftover in the freezer for a rainy day or even for lunch club when my turn comes up!

Sopa de Pedra from Everyday with Rachael Ray December/January 2008


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 pound chorizo, ham or leftover meat, chopped
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 to 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • One 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
  • 2 cups cubed stale bread
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


  1. In a soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, celery, carrots, onion, garlic and bay leaf; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the chickpeas and season with the paprika. Stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes and hot sauce and bring to a boil, about 6 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Place 1/2 cup bread cubes in each of 4 bowls and drizzle with EVOO. Pour in the soup; top with parsley.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Dinner Plan

Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl
Cheese and crackers
Shrimp Ring
Something else I can't remember

Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Grands Biscuits

Being brought

One day, we will have something different in the appetizer department and maybe we won't have ham....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Italian Hot Dog

My husband requested Italian hot dogs for dinner once last week, and not really knowing what all this entailed, I turned to my friend, Google.  I found a "New Jersey" Italian hot dog on Simply Recipes that looked delicious.

I don't typically like a lot of stuff on my dogs; mustard and an occasional sauerkraut are sufficient for me.  But boy, throw some peppers and onions on top and you've got yourself a really tasty dog.  My husband commented that this wasn't *quite* was he was looking for when he requested Italian hot dogs, but that it was really good anyway.

Italian Hot Dogs Simply Recipes

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 medium green peppers, sliced into strips
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced into strips
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, or a mixture of oregano, basil and rosemary
  • 8 beef hot dogs, preferably with natural casings
  • 4 sandwich buns
  • Mustard


1Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet or griddle until it shimmers. Put the potatoes in the pan in one layer and fry on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes without touching them. Use a metal spatula to scrape the potatoes off the bottom of the skillet, flipping them. Sprinkle salt over the potatoes, and cook for another 2-3 minutes without touching them.
2 Remove the potatoes, which should be partially browned, to a bowl and set aside. Turn the heat to high and add the peppers and onions. Arrange evenly in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes without touching them. Sprinkle salt over them, then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes untouched. There should be some browned and even blackened bits here and there. Add the Italian seasoning and the potatoes to the pan, stir to combine and cook over medium-high heat until they are soft and nicely browned, about 8-10 minutes.
3 Heat a grill or a frying pan to cook your hot dogs; don't boil your dogs for this recipe. Grill or fry until they are done to your liking and set aside.
4 Liberally smear mustard on both sides of the sandwich roll. Add two hot dogs per roll and top with as much of the potatoes, peppers and onions as will fit. Serve at once.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nutter Butter Snowmen

I was looking for something to bring to a holiday party this weekend, and went to Brown Eyed Baker's blog to see what she had up.  She'd recently posted this recipe, which looked so fun, sweet, and easy that I went for it.

Not only were they fun, sweet, and easy, but they were a perfect afternoon baking activity for my four year old and me.  We had a ton of fun "gluing" the M&Ms as well as sneaking them, and decorating them too.  In addition, they were a big hit at the party!

I have to admit, the orange Tic Tac was a little weird with the other flavors, so next time I might use orange frosting instead.

Nutter Butter Snowmen my pretty purse via Brown Eyed Baker

1. Line a baking sheet with wax paper; set aside.
2. In a small to medium bowl, melt the white candy melts according to the package instructions.
3. Working one at a time, dip a Nutter Butter cookie into the melted coating and flip it over to coat completely (a fork is great for this). Remove and let any excess drip off then place on the wax paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining Nutter Butter cookies. Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so the coating can set.
4. Attach a small decorating tip (I used a #2) to a pastry bag and fill with black icing (I just used Wilton decorating icing to make it easy). Dab a small amount on one side of an M&M and place on the coated cookie. Repeat with another just below to make the two “buttons”.
5. Dab another small amount on the bottom of half of a Tic Tac and affix to the center of the top of the cookie for the nose. Again, repeat.
6. Now squeeze out small dots for the eyes and the mouth. 

Chicken Tamale Casserole

Sometimes, I just get a craving for Mexican food.  Sometimes, I have no idea what to make for dinner, and a recipe lands in my lap that solves that problem.  Sometimes, both happen and all is right with the world.

This recipe was that recipe.  I was able to use things I had in my pantry--the whole roast chicken I'd planned for one thing that didn't end up happening and so roasted (poorly) after trying to cut it into pieces, the cornbread mix I had around from something I'd planned that didn't end up happening-- as well as have enough leftovers to bring in for lunch club.  Total, and complete, score.

Of course, it's only made better because it was so very good.  The enchilada sauce I chose had some spicy in it, but mixing in sour cream satisfied my spicy hating son.  I got compliments from the ladies in lunch club, who got it as leftovers (I was nervous about how well it would reheat, but it was just as good, if not better, on day 2).

Chicken Tamale Casserole Cooking Light November 2008 via Myrecipes

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk 
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn 
  • (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix 
  • (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained 
  • Cooking spray 
  • (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce 
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast 
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream 


  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. 2. Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chiles) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  3. 3. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Chili

My husband was not to be home for dinner the other night, so as we were traveling and I was doing my meal plan, I asked my four year old what he'd like:  vegetarian chili, beef stew, or something with sweet potatoes.  He said he wanted chili, red chili.  So, I found a new red chili recipe to try.

I came across this one from Emeril on Ezra Pound Cake's blog, and her review made me want to try it for sure, in addition to the fact that Emeril's recipe came up in my initial search for vegetarian recipes as highly rated. 

First of all, I wish I had used my better judgment and used canned diced tomatoes instead of the December tomatoes from the store.  Hard as rocks and utterly devoid of flavor, they added little to the recipe.  Since I was cooking for Mr. "It's too spicy," I skipped the serrano pepper (the little sign in the grocery store said HOT!) in favor of some jarred sliced jalapenos I always have in the fridge.  I tossed in more than I might have otherwise, after he enjoyed a spicy to my palate Chicken Tamale Casserole into which I'd mixed sour cream.  He said he liked it at first, and then refused to eat it after about 10 bites.  Yes, seriously.

Anyway, this was REALLY good.  Not the typical chili recipe, but really good nonetheless.  I added lots to it in the way of toppings:  avocado, shredded Mexican cheese, and sour cream, and they were super yummy.

Vegetarian Chili Source:  Emeril Lagasse, via Ezra Poundcake
Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (about 3 small onions)
  • 1 cup chopped red bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3T diced jarred jalapenoVeg
  • 1 medium zucchini, stem ends trimmed and cut into small dice
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 3 ears)
  • 1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms (about 5 large), stemmed, wiped clean and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 15-ounce cans of black beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (do not add to the pot if you’re planning to freeze chili)
  • Optional additions: cooked brown rice, sour cream, Greek yogurt, diced avocado, chopped scallions
  1. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and serrano peppers, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, corn, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables give off their liquid and start to brown around the edges, about 6 minutes.
  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes.
  6. Add the black beans, tomato sauce and vegetable stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cilantro. Adjust the seasoning, to taste.
  8. To serve, place 1/4 cup of brown rice in the bottom of each bowl. Ladle the chili over the rice, and top with whatever garnishes you choose. Serve immediately.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

Have you yet checked out Best 30 Minute Recipes from Cook's Illustrated?  If not, you should do it.  Go to your library, add it to your Christmas list....  I tried a bunch of recipes in the time I had the book, and there was only one that my family wasn't raving about. 

This may be the best macaroni and cheese I've ever made.  My husband, who doesn't really like macaroni and cheese liked it...  that says a lot!  And how many macaroni and cheese recipes do YOU know that really, truly, honestly, absolutely take 30 minutes?  Even if you're a disorganized, odds are good you forgot something, cook like me? 

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese Best 30 Minute Recipes by Cook's Illustrated via Recipe Swap Blog at Syracuse

3½cups water, plus more as needed
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
12 ounces elbow macaroni (3 cups)
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Bring water, 1 cup of evaporated milk, the macaroni and ½teaspoon salt to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes or until macaroni is tender.
Whisk together remaining ½ cup evaporated milk, cornstarch, mustard and Tabasco, then stir into skillet. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Take skillet off heat and stir in cheeses, 1 handful at a time. Add additional water if needed, if sauce gets too thick. Stir in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Variations: Add 4 ounces deli-style baked ham, diced medium, and ½ cup frozen peas with the cornstarch mixture in step 2. Or, for spicy mac and cheese, add 2 teaspoons minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and 1 (10 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes, drained, with cornstarch mixture in step 2.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spanish Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Recently, a friend of mine had her second baby in less than two years, and was really struggling.  I wanted to bring food to help her out.  Since they are vegetarians, I asked my friend Lishie, who is a former veg and has a veg sister, for some inspiration for food that would travel and/or freeze well.
She gave me a few suggestions, and this is the one I chose.

What a wonderful way to use up or take advantage of the bounty of summer produce.  This was really easy (once I figured out an easy and effective way to roast the peppers) and quite tasty.  It's such a basic recipe, you could easily spice it up by adding some crushed red peppers, or change the flavor with some easy additions (mushrooms?  green peppers?)  Lishie suggested making a lasagna using this sauce, which sounds outrageously good!

Spanish Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Delish

  • 5 red peppers
  • 3 medium tomatoes or 14 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • Olive Oil
  • 3 TBSp Heavy Cream
  • S & P

Place the red peppers & the tomatoes on a baking sheet & sprinkle with olive oil. Roast them under the broiler until they are blackened, roasted. Allow to cool.

Transfer the veg to the food processor & puree with a little more olive oil.

Meanwhile, saute the onion is a sauce pan on medium-high. Add the pureed mixture & stir. When the sauce is nearly heated through, add the cream. Add S & P to taste.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Wow, I just realized that the fourth anniversary of my first post was this week (December 5).  This blog has been an incredible resource for me, even if not another soul ever looks at it.  I started because the trend on a message board I was reading was to do it.  Yep, the bandwagon.  But really, I wanted to find a better way to organize all the recipes we've tried and loved so that I could access them from anywhere--and this was before I had a smartphone.  Now that I do have a smart phone, I don't wander the grocery store as aimlessly on those nights I don't have a plan for dinner.  Instead, I bring up my website, and instantly have an easy recipe to shop for.

Another way in which it's been a resource for me is that it's challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone.  It's very rare for us to have a meal again.  For better or worse, the challenge to try something new--a new technique, a new recipe, even a new food, is present because I want to blog about it.

On another message board, there's been criticism of bloggers like me.  One person commented that the only food blogs she reads are those with truly original recipes or really beautiful photography.  This bothered me at first, because I have neither of those.  Ever.  But then I stepped back and thought about why I'm doing this.  First, I'm doing this for me--to have all my recipes (and thoughts about them) in one place, to inspire or challenge myself in some new way and to grow (geez, without this, I'd never have tried to conquer the recipes of Dorie Greenspan or some of the other challenges in which I've partaken).  Second, maybe there IS someone who will read this and find my comments and bad photography useful.  If not, that's totally cool because the ultimate goal is part one, but if it does help another person, how could it be bad?

So, happy birthday, "Tales from the Mad Men Kitchen," formerly known as "Nothing to See Here."   You've been super awesome for me!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

For a co-worker's birthday in October, she requested cupcakes.  When I asked what kind, she said any.  So, I went with something that caught my eye and sounded like something *I* would like.  Turns out, pumpkin is one of her "favorite things ever," and I made a perfect choice.  Score!

These were outrageously good.  My coworkers told me I should open a cupcake business (little do they know how unskilled in the kitchen I really am).   They had that perfect flavor of the Starbucks fall treat to which I used to be addicted (until I realized how much I don't like Starbucks and thus how much cream and sugar it required to make it taste good to me as well as how big a dent such an addiction was putting in my wallet!)

I happened to have been drinking Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Spice coffee the week I made these, so I added that additional flavor to it when I brushed that flavor of coffee over top, but any coffee (or maybe caramel, cinnamon, whatever) would add an additional treat too.

A perfect fall treat!
Shout out to my friend Lishie for the B Movie zombie plate!
Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes Annie's Eats
Yield: about 2 dozen cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing
For the whipped cream:
2¼ cups heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
For garnish:
Ground cinnamon
Caramel sauce
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Stir together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.
Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full.  Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans.  While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating.  Let cool completely.
To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed.  Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually.  Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat.  Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes.  Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce.  Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Source: cake adapted from Williams Sonoma

Creamy Shiitake Alfredo

Oh, my blog, I've missed you.  I'm sure I'll fall behind again, take pictures of every new thing I make, forget what I thought about them, and be back here again.  At any rate, let's catch up.

A few months ago, the guys at The Bitten Word ran a contest to win a subscription to Everyday Food.  By some stroke of changing luck, I won!  I love this little meal because it's... Everyday and I can even use it... every day.  Not fussy, easy meals, that don't take long to make, complete with beautiful food photography, and a design that, if I had time/interest in scrapbooking, I'd use as inspiration for my scrapbook pages.

This is one recipe I discovered in this magazine.  Of course, their food photography looks a million times better than mine, so see how it's supposed to look in a photograph here.

We really enjoyed this.  The boys weren't nuts about the mushrooms, but my husband and I really loved the flavor they brought.  According to the time stamp on the photo, we had this on October 29.  A while ago.  But I know we liked it.  The recipe states it take 50 minutes from start to finish, and I can't remember at all, but I do know that I made it on a weeknight, so perhaps it wasn't so very bad to do...

Creamy Shiitake Alfredo Everyday Food November 2011


  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 pound fusilli or other short twisted pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving


  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, stir in cream, and cook until warmed (do not let boil). Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to skillet, toss to combine, and top with Parmesan.

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