Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Happy New Year! Let the good times roll....or as they like to say in N'alens -Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Our favorite dish to have on New Year's Eve is gumbo, especially shrimp and sausage gumbo. Even though I live in the west I have been fortunate to visit the south and specifically Louisiana several times in the last few years.  I like to say that visiting New Orleans is the closest thing to going to a foreign country and still be at home. The combination of the different cultures and access to such good and fresh seafood have combined to make culinary heaven with their Creole cuisine. Gumbo, red beans and rice, crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, and so many other wonderful dishes may all be a little different at each restaurant or each home but they are all good. Here is my favorite recipe for shrimp & sausage gumbo.

A note about file powder for file gumbo. File is dried & ground sassafras leaves. It can be found in specialty stores and online and it was my intent to add a link to Uncle Bill's File Powder which is the real deal. A gentlemen from Baton Rouge was selling his file powder at the Red Stick Farmer's Market in Baton Rouge (making his product as taught him by his blind Uncle Bill) and then he had a website and I purchased some file powder from him sometime ago.  I guess he is not longer in business (not online anyway) as the link no longer works. If anyone has information about this, please email me. If you can find this item, use sparingly. Please note that real file is green and most of the commercial that you see is a grey color and probably contains things like ground bay leaves and other herbs and probably not any sassafras. This recipe does not call for file so if you want to use, adjust the spices accordingly and add just a little of the file.


1 1/2 cups chopped frozen okra
2 small red onions, sliced
4 inner celery ribs, sliced
3/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup minced fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 pound cooked andouille, sliced lengthwise and then sliced across 1/2" thick (if andouille too hot for you, OK to use kielbasa)
Vegetable oil
1/2 cup AP flour
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup of tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
5 plum tomatoes, seeded & chopped
1 pound medium shrimp(FRESH not cooked), shelled and deveined
1/2 cup minced scallion greens
2T distilled white vinegar
Hot cooked rice for serving, we prefer brown rice but this is normally served with fluffy white rice, personal preference

1. In a large bowl, stir together the okra, onions, celery, bell peppers, 1/4 cup of the parsley, the garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, red pepper, thyme, and allspice, stir to combine.  Set aside.

2. In a large dutch oven or large heavy pot, cook the sausage until lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl. Pour the fat from the pan into a glass measure and add enough vegetable oil to equal 1/2 cup.  Return the oil to the pot and over medium heat, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Gradually add the flour and cook stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes, or until this roux is very dark and rich brown.  Taking the time for the roux is what is the difference between an OK gumbo and a great gumbo - take the time, do it right.

3. Immediately add the broth and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom. Blend the tomato paste and water, add to the pot along with the vegetable mixture, the sausage and tomatoes.  Heat the mixture to boiling over high heat; reduce the heat to low and simmer for one hour, or until thick. 

4. Stir in the shrimp, scallions, the remaining 1/2 cup parsley, and the vinegar.  Remove the dutch oven from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. The heat from the mixture will cook the shrimp you do not want to overcook the shrimp or it will be tough. Remove the bay leaf. Serve the gumbo in bowls with rice and as they say in New Orleans..Laissez les bons temps rouler, let the good times roll.

Recipe resource
ME, Tis The Season Holiday Cookbook, 2000

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Just a gentle reminder to those who love and follow Downton Abby that it is time to plan your party and get those invitations out to your guests.  This will be our third annual DA party and just in case you thought we were a snooty bunch please be aware that the correct attire at our party is PJ's (well, it is Sunday night and some folks have to go to work the next day) of course gloves are a must and a lovely hat is always appreciated.

The invitation......

 The evening schedule.....


The Pixel Boutique is a blog new to me but it looks wonderful and she has lots of free print outs, I found my invitation "stationery" at her blog and modified it for me but if you join her blog you can have free print outs. Here is the LINK

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


TaDa....I have finally used up all my cranberries with this beautiful upside down cake and two more loaves of cranberry-nut bread. This is a simple yet rather elegant dessert for those who like the combination of the tart fresh cranberries and the brown sugar-carmel-y topping and a deliciously moist cake.
Gather a few simple ingredients....
Mix your dry ingredients, add the wet...
You will cook butter and brown sugar on the stove top...
Then pour the brown sugar butter into the pan and top with your cranberries...
Then you get this beautiful, tart, moist cranberry upside down cake to serve your guests!

You will need a 9" cake pan - the one with the higher sides. I used my 9" spring form pan and it worked great.

Set the oven at 350°

Butter the bottom and sides of your 9" cake pan, set aside

Topping Ingredients:

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 Tablespoons butter

Cranberries that go over the brown sugar/butter topping, 12 ounces.

Cake Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
1 stick of butter (room temp)
3 large eggs (room temp)
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk

In a small sauce pan on the stove top put the butter and the brown sugar and stir until well combined, once the butter is melted and combined with the brown sugar stop stirring and let the mixture just simmer for about 15-20 seconds.

Pour the sugar/butter mixture into your greased pan and top with your cranberries.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

In the bowl of your mixer add the softened butter and whip until light and fluffy, then add the sugar and beat again, then add the eggs one at a time, finally the orange zest. Then add 1/2 the sour cream and mix, then 1/3 the dry ingredients, mix, the other half of the sour cream, mix, another 1/3 the dry, then the milk and the rest of the dry ingredients.

Now place in your preheated 350° oven and turn down the oven to 325°. Bake for 55-60 minutes, test with a wooden tester.

Cooks Notes:

The butter will soften in the microwave but do 4 seconds per side and check it each time you turn the butter, you don't want to melt it, just soften the butter.

If you have forgotten to set out the eggs to get to room temp just put them in a bowl of water - not hot but not tepid - for a few minutes and they will come to room temp very quickly.

Do not use a toothpick to test this cake - use a wooden skewer as this is a tall cake and could be done on top but not the bottom.


Recipe from Simply Recipes 

Thank you for stopping by.

Monday, December 22, 2014


I guess if I had a signature cookie this would be that cookie. When I was little my wonderful Aunt Gert would make these cookies for us with the instructions (given with a wink and a nod) that we could dunk until we were 12 and then after that it would not be polite.  These cookies do not fall apart when dunked in hot chocolate, coffee or milk.  I do have history with these cookies....when my two sons were about 7 & 9 for about three summers they sold these cookies and lemonade at the golf course at Mace Meadows in Pioneer, CA where we lived. I would get up early on Saturday morning and make the cookies and lemonade and the boys dad would put a redwood table and bench and umbrella in our old pick-up truck and drive the block to the course parking lot and they would set up their stand and stay until they sold out. One summer Saturday b0th the boys were sick and about 1:00 my doorbell rang and there stood a golfer wanting to know if I had any cookies to sell to him? Err, no, boys are sick no cookies today. Guess he liked the dunking platters.
There are lot's of recipes out there for these cookies but this one is a little different.  The only ingredient that may be hard to find is the Grape Nuts Flakes.  Every time I go to Walmart to purchase this cereal I say a little silent prayer that they will still carry it - other cereals are NOT the same.  These cookies are chewy and delicious - if you like chewy just bake them till they are done, if you like crunchy bake them until they are a darker brown and they will be crunchy.
I would often make my boys a large dunking platter but I normally make this size, nine to a sheet, about the size of a ping-pong ball.
Using the ping-pong ball size the yield will be 30 cookies. You can increase your yield considerably by making smaller cookies but my husband (says this is his FAVORITE cookie no contest) would say why???

Here they are wrapped and ready to give as gifts.


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar 
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups a/p flour
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
2 cups Post Grape Nuts Flakes
1 cup chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla.  Mix together the baking powder, baking soda and flour and add to the creamed mixture.

Stir in the oatmeal, Grape-Nuts Flakes and nuts.  This is a very stiff dough and I use a tablespoon to scoop out the dough and then form a ball.

Bake 12-15 minutes depending on the size of the cookies you make.  If you make a big one for your little one, it takes longer, just keep an eye on the oven.

This recipe may be doubled, etc.  When I was making these for the lemonade stand I would always double.

Recipe source - my late, wonderful Aunt Gert, my memories of her are marvelous, she was loving, and stern at the same time (always kind but wanting to teach) - a wonderful cook and an inspiration to me.


Saturday, December 20, 2014


This is a fast and easy way to spice nuts. I used walnuts but you could use pecans, or almonds.  I love walnuts and am one lucky duck at the holidays as I have several relatives who are growers and they are kind enough to share their bounty at Christmas.
Just a few ingredients, butter powdered sugar, spices and nuts.  You can change the spices - I added a pinch of cayenne but if you like one spice more than another or want a little more heat, adjust the spices accordingly.
Butter and sugar into your crock pot...stir...stir...stir...
Onto racks to cool......
The recipe is for one pound of nuts and you certainly could get more bags by using smaller bags but I chose to make half-pound bags.


1 pound of nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds*)
1 cube of butter (melted)
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper

*personal preference but if I am doing almonds I will omit the cloves and add more ginger.

If you have the larger (usually oval) size Crock Pot, please use that one as I think you will have to cook them longer if you have the small Crock Pot.

Turn on the Crock Pot to high for about 15-20 minutes before you start your nuts.  Then nuts into the Crock Pot, pour the butter in and stir, then the powdered sugar and stir until completely blended. Put on the lid and cook on high for 15 minutes. Take off the lid, set the Crock Pot on low and with the lid off let the nuts cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally until the nuts have a crisp glaze.  If you are using the large Crock Pot you can sift the spices over the nuts and stir for a bit to get good distribution on the nuts. If you are using the small Crock Pot pour the nuts into a big bowl and then sift the spices over the nuts and stir. Pour onto either racks or waxed paper and let cool completely before either serving or bagging.

This is something good to make when you are in the kitchen baking, etc. as you just need to stir every once in awhile.

 Bagged with a label and ready for gifting.

Thank you for stopping by.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Last Friday night the support group for Alzheimer's Idaho (local grassroots organization) met for their Christmas gathering.  I had made the gingerbread house for a special decoration and wanted to make them something a little festive for their dessert.  I chose to make mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with salted maple caramel sauce and whipped cream.
I especially like this gingerbread recipe as it is made using a cake mix and is not as strong a gingerbread taste and is a lighter texture than most gingerbread. I have found that often someone who does not care for gingerbread loves these little cakes. Once the cakes have completely cooled dust with powdered sugar.

 A sinfully good and easy to make salted maple caramel sauce to drizzle over the cakes.

To assemble the desserts heat the caramel sauce (I use the microwave and heat at 8 second intervals, stirring after each until it is warm enough to drizzle) transfer to a little pitcher or any other cup with a lip, drizzle on the cakes and then using real, canned whipped cream (or cream that  you have whipped in a piping bag) fill the center hole, ready to serve.

Recipe for cake:

1 pkg Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
2 Tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup strong vanilla chai tea (or regular tea, your preference)
1 small box of vanilla instant pudding
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup light molasses
4 eggs (room temperature)

Place all the dry ingredients into the bowl of your mixer and mix on the lowest setting until the ingredients are mixed.  Add the tea, oil and molasses and mix, then add the eggs, one at a time until all incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Pour batter into your prepared pans, greased and floured.  If using a large bundt pan start checking at about 50 minutes, if using these small ones start checking at about 20 minutes.  Also makes a nice loaf.

Recipe for Salted Maple Caramel Sauce:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter
1/2 cup maple sugar (is best with this but if you use regular sugar add about 1/4 cup maple syrup) maple sugar is much sweeter than regular sugar.
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp coarse kosher salt
5-6 drops maple extract

Melt butter in heavy medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add sugar (and maple syrup if using regular sugar), whisk until sugar melts and the mixture is thick and boiling, 2-3 minutes.  Gradually whisk in cream.  Bring sauce to a boil, whisking often.  Boil until sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and is reduced to about 1 cup, whisking often, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat, whisk in the coarse salt and extract.  Okay to make ahead of time - may be a week ahead.  Cool, cover and chill.

Recipe from Bon Appétit magazine.

Thank you for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Last Friday night was the Christmas gathering for the Alzheimer's Idaho (local grassroots organization) support group.  I wanted to something a little special for these wonderful caregivers besides their normal dessert.
 I love this gingerbread mix and I used two of these and had enough to make the large  house and the two little ones.
Both of these pans are made by Nordic Ware.  I found the one that makes two houses on big time sale after Christmas last year and have had the other for years.
I am not a big fan of fondant but there are times (like this) when you need to use this product and when I do this is my favorite boxed fondant - available at Michael's and Hobby Lobby.
 Started with hubby cutting out a piece of hardboard and then I rolled out fondant and covered the board - remember everything has to be edible (except the board).  I next made a batch of royal icing to use as "glue."
Using royal icing "glued" the houses to the fondant. I did the peppermint stick "fence" last, it is just sitting on the fondant here to make sure that I liked the look. The little houses and the gingerbread men are from the $ store - I removed the blue from the men and replaced with the heart red hots and covered the houses with candy, covering the blue on them as I wanted this to be as red and white as possible.
The rest of the job is using the piping bag (with the royal icing) to outline your houses and then adding the candy, then a dusting of powdered sugar.  I used the crushed peppermint to cover the frosting that adhered the gingerbread to the fondant. This is a fun project - no right or wrong, just have fun.

This gingerbread village actually did double duty as it traveled to the hostesses Sunday school class last Sunday and I am told they just dug in and had the best time eating houses and candy.  As the creator of this little village nothing could have made me any happier.


Cake pans, at specialty stores and
Candy, $store, grocery store, Trader Joe's for the smaller starlight peppermints, they can be hard to find, bagged Christmas candy used on the roofs of the small houses, Hammond's Candy CO available at Cost Plus, I just kept looking and gathering candy thinking about this little village.
Fondant, speciality stores, Hobby Lobby & Michael's and online.

Thank you for stopping by.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


If you like plain brownies (no nuts, no chips, no extras) that just deliver the best and most chocolate-y taste then this is the recipe for you. These have fleur de sol sprinkled on the top and have a deep chocolate and salty taste. The recipe comes from Ovenly, a NYC bakery and David Lebovitz recently posted it on his blog.  His blog post was wonderful but LONG and as most of us are a little stressed with our time right now I will post the basics for making these heavenly brownies.
Gather your ingredients.....
 Be sure and sift your two different chocolates together.....
Line with foil your baking pan, butter the foil and the sides of the pan...
Smooth out the batter and sprinkle with the sea salt....
Let them COOL COMPLETELY (important) before cutting and removing from the pan....
Ready to be gifted to your favorite chocolate lover.....
 A label for you....I just printed them out on a full sheet, 81/2 x 11 label.....

This is my source for the black chocolate - they have WONDERFUL products, check out their price on vanilla beans and all their other awesome items. Love the free shipping over $50.  Here is a link to their website: Link


1 cup (8 ounces) butter, cubed, plus additional to grease the pan. (truth in advertising, I did not cube, just melted and let cool)

1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Trader Joe's)

1/4 cup black cocoa powder - see source below

1/2 cup flour 

2 tsp instant expresso powder (I use fine grind and then either pop it in my coffee grinder or us a motar & pestle)

3/4 tsp salt

4 large eggs room temp (if you forget to get them out just put them in a bowl of warm water - not hot but not tepid, for a few minutes to bring to room temp)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

Flaky sea salt, such as fleur del sel or Maldon for finishing

Preheat oven to 350°

Prepare an 8" square pan or a 9x13 pan, lining with foil and greasing with butter or nonstick spray

Sift together the natural cocoa powder, black cocoa powder, then the flour, espresso powder and 3/4 tsp of salt in a large bowl, then using a whisk blend it all together.

In a separate small bowl whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar and brown sugar.

Stir half of the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, then stir in the melted butter, then the rest of the egg mixture. Give it a few stirs until smooth (don't over beat) Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the flaky sea salt.

Bake brownies just until the center feels almost set, not quite.  Should take about 25 minutes - start checking at 20 and it you use the 8x8 pan it will take a little longer.

Thank you for stopping by.