Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mountain Cookies

What is it about men? They always seem to want to offer we single women advice. What is with that? Frankly, I’m doing just fine on my own, and neither need nor want their advice. After a recent, friendly, but annoying interaction with a male acquaintance, doing his best to raise my hackles by trying to tell me what to do, I knew that a cookie was in order. It couldn’t be any ordinary cookie; it had to be one with loads of taste, lots of substance, and ingredients that would replenish both body and soul. This Mountain Cookie came about as a result. You can make it normal size, or one of epic proportions. It’s up to you. Largely, it just depends upon how annoying the men in your life happen to be.
Mountain Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 3/4 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment; set aside.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, espresso powder, and salt; mix well.

In large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add egg, vanilla, and milk; mix only until incorporated. Gradually beat in flour mixture and oats. Stir in chips, raisins, coconut, and pecans. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are crisp and browned but centers are still soft. Do not over bake. Cookies should be very brown on the outside but still chewy in the center. Let cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks; let cool completely.

For an equally satisfying chocolate chip cookies without the raisins, try Copycat DoubleTree Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Not Quite My Momma's Potato Salad

The late Mr. O-P and I disagreed on potato salad. He liked potatoes thinly sliced, while I liked mine cubed and chunky. You would not believe what a big issue this was in our household, so much so, that it got to the point where he bought the kind he liked at the local market, and I didn’t eat any at all.

With the heat of summer already upon us, striking us dead in our tracks in early May, I’ve been thinking about barbecued ribs, corn on the cob, and potato salad. These dishes, along with a delicious wilted slaw, were things that my mother would make in the middle of summer. She would serve it to us with tall glasses of sweetened iced tea. As a consequence, this is one meal that just says “summer” to me. So today, I was thinking about potato salad, trying to remember what she put in hers and came up with this one on my own. As far as I can tell, the only thing lacking here are radishes, and I didn’t include them because I didn’t have them.

I made it super easy on myself by using a package of Melissa’s Parisian Pre-Cooked Potatoes, a potato that can seriously change your life. Because I always feel that warm potatoes absorb more of the saucy goodness (This may be true, this may not be. This is not a topic that I have seen covered on “Myth Busters.”), I did blanch these for about two minutes in boiling water, drained them, and then cooled them only slightly (and by this I mean not at all), before cutting them into cubes. Using pre-cooked potatoes made this dish a breeze! Plus, the potatoes are so tender, buttery, and delicious, perfect to soak up all of the tasty ingredients in the sauce. If you can’t get your hands on these potatoes, well, complain mightily to your grocer, but in their place you can use an equal amount of Baby Ruby Gold Potatoes, cooked until fork tender and cubed. 
Not Quite My Momma's Potato Salad

½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons sweet pickle juice
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 sweet-pickle chips, diced
3-4 large hard-boiled eggs, diced (Extra for garnish, if desired)
½ cup chopped celery
1 small Melissa’s shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Bring a large saucepan full of water to a rapid boil; add salt. Drop potatoes into the boiling water and heat through (1-2 minutes); rinse, drain, and slightly cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together mayonnaise, pickle juice, mustard, vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper, to taste, in a small bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, toss potatoes with pickle chips, eggs, celery, shallot, and parsley. Add dressing and eggs to potatoes and toss to coat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired, and then fold in dressing.

This gets better if refrigerated overnight.  To serve, dust with paprika, and top each serving with an egg slice and pickle chip.


If you prefer a more German-type of potato salad, you will love Miss Hulling’s German Potato Salad from a local landmark restaurant.

 You can get more of Miss Hulling’s delicious recipes here:



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Friday, June 15, 2018

Creamy Parmesan Chicken Florentine

I am finishing out Mushroom Week with this delicious and easy, on-the-table-in-30-minutes meal, Creamy Parmesan Chicken Florentine. While this can, indeed, be on the table in 30 minutes, it helps to start the day ahead by marinating the chicken breasts in buttermilk. If you have never done this, trust me when I tell you that this should be your new practice with absolutely every dish that you make that uses chicken, and I am talking every single one, including chicken salad, or even if you’re just adding pieces of cooked chicken to a chef salad. It makes a world of difference, because that buttermilk helps to break down any toughness the chicken may possess, and it will come out juicy, and melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Creamy Parmesan Chicken Florentine

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and halved*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
Melissa’s shallot, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 handfuls baby spinach

In a large sauté pan, melt oil and butter together. Sauté the chicken on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. Remove chicken to a
plate, tent, and set aside. Put sliced mushrooms into the pan, cook and stir until softened. Remove with slotted spoon to bowl; set aside

Add the 1/4 cup butter to the pan and allow to melt. Add garlic and shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook until partially thickened. Whisk in chicken stock, cream, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and salt. Add the spinach, and allow to simmer until sauce starts to thicken and the spinach is wilted. Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan, heat through, and serve atop the pasta of your choice.

Makes 4 servings

*You learned how to do that here.

Another easy and excellent chicken dish is this toothsome Chicken Piccata.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Creamy Bacon & Mushroom Fettuccine

Recipe three in my celebration of Mushroom Week features pasta, namely fettuccine. There are a lot of ways to fix fettuccine, but this is one of my favorites. It is particularly easy to put together if you start your water boiling for your pasta around the same time you cook your bacon. This way everything tends to get done at the same time and you can toss it together and serve. This is one of those 30-minute meals that come in so handy on busy days.
Creamy Bacon & Mushroom Fettuccine

4 slices bacon, cut into ½” pieces
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
Melissa's shallot, minced
4 ounces fettuccine, uncooked
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/3 cup whole milk
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried basil leaves
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley

Red pepper flakes, for garnish

Cook bacon until crisp; drain. Add mushrooms and shallots to the skillet, cook and stir about four minutes. Stir in reserved bacon. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook fettuccine as directed on package in large saucepan; drain. Return fettuccine to saucepan. Stir in cream cheese, milk, garlic powder, basil, and fresh parsley. Cook and stir over medium/low heat until cream cheese melts. Toss bacon mixture with fettuccine mixture. Serve immediately. A sprinkling of red pepper flakes takes this over the top!

Makes two main dish servings.

Another fabulous fettuccini dish is this Fettuccini Alfredo for Two.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bacon & Mushroom Spread

Continuing in our Festival of Fungus, today I am offering up Bacon & Mushroom Spread. Not only is this a delicious spread, but it has to be made ahead in order to allow the flavors to meld into something magnificent. You reheat it in the microwave when ready to serve, so this is probably one of the easiest hors d’oeuvres you can possibly serve your guests.
I put mine in one dish alongside an assortment of crackers, but if you like, you can use this as an appetizer at the beginning of the meal, putting small servings in ramekins and serving them on a plate with a couple of crackers or pieces of flatbread. It’s a lovely presentation, and a delicious way to start a meal.
Bacon & Mushroom Spread

3 slices bacon
6 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cook bacon in a 9-inch sauté pan until crisp. Remove bacon from pan to drain; crumble and set aside.

Add mushrooms, onions, and garlic to the pan in which you cooked the bacon. Cook over medium/low heat until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle flour, salt, and pepper over the top, and cook, stirring, until smooth. Add cream cheese, Worcestershire, and soy sauce, stirring until cheese is melted (At this point it is going to look like glop. Don’t despair; it is supposed to look like glop.) Stir in sour cream, lemon juice, and reserved crumbled bacon. Heat through.

Pour into serving dish; allow to cool 10 to 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Serve the following day at room temperature, or warm 1 to 2 minutes in the microwave.

Another delicious spread is this Superior Pecan Spread. Everybody loves this one!

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Mushrooms

I don’t know about you, but sometimes one of my produce bins gets a bit more full than the other. So, when I came home from the store with a 16-ounce package of whole mushrooms, it was impossible (Curses, you kohlrabi and celeriac!) to put it in the vegetable bin where it belonged. So, just for the moment, I put it into the fruit bin that had dwindled down to virtually nothing other than a withered piece of citrus, so old and so shriveled, as to be unidentifiable. Fast forward two weeks later when it was time to wash out those bins and I found the mushrooms. Gasp! A pound of mushrooms, looking the worse for wear, and me with no clue as to why I’d bought them. Sure, I have a lot of recipes that call for mushrooms, but I know, at the time that I bought these, I was thinking of something in particular. Well, it’s too late now, I need to use these up and fast. So, this is going to be the Week of the Mushroom! Four different recipes will be coming to you, all using mushrooms. Get ready to be bowled over by fungus!
First up is Cream of Broccoli Soup with Mushrooms (yeah, yeah I had put the broccoli in the fruit bin as well), a surprisingly tasty, decidedly summer soup that pairs nicely with a tossed or fruit salad, crusty roll or slice of nut bread.
Cream of Broccoli Soup with Mushrooms

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
Melissa’s shallots, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
16 oz. chicken stock, preferably
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, sauté mushrooms, shallots, onion, and garlic in butter over low heat until mushrooms and onions are soft and all of the liquid has evaporated. Add wine and cook until evaporated. Stir in flour, and cook and stir for one minute. Add broth and broccoli, and bring to a simmer and cook for two minutes. Add milk and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Add seasonings to taste and serve. This tastes equally good cold as it does warm, so consider it a soup for all seasons.

One of my favorite broccoli soups is this copycat of St. Louis Bread Company’s.

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pick a Color...Any Color

I have a very large great room in the lower level of my house. For quite some time, I have wanted to paint that room, but it just seemed so daunting, particularly considering that I’m troubled with carpal tunnel. It took me a week to paint the master bathroom because I can only do a little at a time. So, when a man who has painted for my family for the last 30 years got in touch with me and asked if I had any work for him, I jumped at that opportunity. But, there is good and bad in everything; I was deliriously happy with the idea of having that room, at long last, painted (I am not a fan of "Contractor's White"), but plunged into the depths of despair at the thought of having to select the paint.
Source: Pinterest
If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that one of my mottoes is, “Go Big or Go Home. The upstairs part of my house is done in neutrals and it’s serene, I like that, but the great room downstairs, designed to spark conversation, conviviality, and fun, needs to be dramatic. I found this picture on Pinterest, and considering I have a similar chair (as you can see below), and some of those exact same baskets, I knew I wanted to paint my wall a dark shade of gray.
But, and you can trust me on this one, there are way more than Fifty Shades of Gray! My painter left with me a couple of fan decks to aid in making my selection, and I was shocked at how many different shades there actually were. There is blue gray, and brown gray, and green gray, and gray gray, there are even purple-y grays. It was a nightmare! He told me to get a couple of paint samples, put them on the wall, and make my choice from there. I cannot tell you how stressful it was for me to select paint. I finally settled on three colors: Armory, Downpour, and Volcanic Ash. I thought to myself how the same guy who names lipstick and nail polish, must also name paint. The paint color that I really wanted was called Zombie. How exotic does that sound? Unfortunately, it was so dark as to look as though big, black hefty bags had been affixed to the wall. No, that would not do.
Why am I telling you all this, you ask yourself, yawning. I’ll tell you why, because I want you to help me select this paint. I put big patches of it in various parts of the room so that I could look at it at different times throughout the day. As I mentioned, I’m looking for bold, in a room that is roughly 20’ x 30’.
Source: Pinterest
I moved most of the furniture to the center of the room (and I needed a big nap after that), but moved one piece and the accessories (Very sentimental because the piece of furniture itself belonged to Jim, and the bust and brass lamp belonged to my mother) back into place so that I could see what they would look like up against the wall. Before you begin to wonder whether or not I have truly lost my mind, let me add that, in late fall, white crown molding is going to be installed all around the top of the room, as is a white fireplace flanked on either side by window seats. (See above inspiration photo.) I am also planning a gallery wall of white painted frames holding black-and-white photos from my travels.
So, here are two pictures of the paint, which color do you like? Color number one Downpour? Color number two Armory? Or color number three Volcanic Ash? I think I’ve made my selection, but I’d appreciate it if you would weigh in.
Funnily enough, son number two and I separately ranked the exact same colors, for the exact same reasons. That apple did not fall far from the tree.

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