Thursday, November 19, 2020

Cheesy Beef and Noodles

 This post contains affiliate links.

 When it comes to food, undoubtedly comfort means something different to everybody. For me, comfort means ground beef, cheese, and pasta; it can be in red sauce, cheesy white sauce, beefy gravy, you name it. Any combination of the above works. I seem to be (aren't we all?) perpetually in need of comfort, so I made this combination for dinner tonight. It wasn’t a recipe; just a variety of things that I had on hand and thought would blend well in a one-pot meal. I was right. Be liberal in following these directions if you are in the mood for a warming bowl of comfort. Use what you have on hand. Deepen the flavors with portobello mushroom powder if you have it, and you will be in for one comforting and delicious, family friendly meal.

A Bowl of Comfort:
Cheesy Beef and Noodles

1 lb. ground chuck
2 large
Melissa’s shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ c. strong, brewed coffee
1 ½ c. water

2 c. beef broth
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
½ t.
Montreal Steak Seasoning
½ t. chili powder
½ t. smoked paprika
¼ c.
tomato paste

1 t. sugar
2 c.
campanelle pasta

Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh mozzarella cut into cubes
1 c. shredded cheddar
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Brown ground chuck, shallots, and garlic in a skillet until the meat is no longer pink. Drain fat and return to pan. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle liberally with cheeses, slide into the oven and bake until the cheese melts, 8 to 10 minutes.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The United States of Cocktails; Recipes, Tales, and Traditions from All 50 States (and the District of Columbia), Reviewed

This post contains affiliate links.

 If you enjoy cocktails, if you have friends and family who enjoy cocktails, if you can spell “cocktails,” you are going to love the latest in Abrams offerings, The United States of Cocktails; Recipes, Tales, and Traditions from All 50 States (and the District of Columbia) by Brian Bartels.

This is a delightful trek through all 50 of the United States and the bars that populate each one of them. Old bars, new bars, the hippest bars, the oddest bars, neighborhood watering holes, they’re all here. Brian Bartels is an engaging and knowledgeable storyteller, providing fun and factual information on every state, every establishment visited, and recipes as well.

In addition to being a valuable resource, it is full of whimsical illustrations, lots of fun trivia, and one of the most comprehensive indexes that I have ever seen. The book itself is divided into regions with page edges tinted in different shades for quick and easy reference. Whether you’re craving Blood on the Leaves from the South, a Sage Gimlet from the Midwest, or a Tuxedo from the Eastern Seaboard, you will be able to satisfy your intellectual and culinary curiosities.


 With the holiday season coming up, I can’t imagine a more perfect gift for anyone in your life of legal age.


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Abrams as a part of their Abrams Dinner Party Program in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, November 16, 2020

Hot Crab Melt

This post contains affiliate links.

The other day a friend and I were talking about how much we missed having lunch out, you know, actually inside a restaurant. We were both waxing nostalgic about our favorite meals at various eateries when she happened to mention a hot crab melt that she had had for lunch along side a cup of lobster bisque that was particularly memorable. I got to thinking about that, and wondered if I could make a hot crab melt of my own. Now, I haven’t had it at this particular restaurant so have no idea how it compares, if at all. I will say, however, that this is very tasty. I would definitely make it again.

Hot Crab Melt

 2 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 T. mayonnaise

1 6-oz. can lump crabmeat*

2 T. finely chopped scallions

2 T. finely chopped celery

½ t. chopped garlic

1/8 t. Old Bay Seasoning

1/8 t. garlic powder

2-4 drops hot sauce

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Remoulade Sauce (recipe below)

2 thick slices rustic bread, cut in half

1 sliced tomato

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Fresh parsley for garnish

 Preheat the oven to 425°F.

 Beat the cream cheese and mayo in a medium bowl until fluffy. Mix in crab, scallions, celery, garlic, and seasonings. Spread remoulade onto bread slices, top with crab mixture, a slice or two of tomato, and then shredded cheese. Place on a baking sheet.

 Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

 Generously serves 2.

 *If you can get fresh, by all means use it!

 Spicy Remoulade

 ½ c. mayonnaise
1 T. coarse-grained mustard
1 T. drained prepared horseradish
2 T. chopped scallions
½ t. paprika
¼ t. cayenne pepper (or less)
½ t. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

 Whisk the first 7 ingredients together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 2/3 cup. Feel free to halve mustard and horseradish if you prefer things less spicy.

 DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020-Style

This post contains affiliate links.

There is little dispute that Thanksgiving 2020 is going to be different from any we have celebrated in the past. Whether your gathering this year is going to be big or small, I am certainly not going to judge. My family decided against the big gathering this year, so I will have the smallest crowd ever, there will only be three of us.

Despite the fact that it will be a small group, that does not mean that I won’t be serving the same delicious food, and setting a beautiful table.


This year I am opting for rustic charm over casual elegance.  The tablecloth was a local purchase from a shop that has since closed. The table runner I found at Pottery Barn years ago; I love its versatility. I have yet to find a season where I can’t press this into service if need be. Black and cream plaid placemats are topped with round rattan placemats on which I have placed a tin charger from favorite local shop, The White Rabbit.

Plaid dinner plates from the late, great Pier One are on top of that. Beneath one of my favorite patterned soup bowls -- that pattern being David Hardin’s “Autumn” -- I have plain orange salad plates, gifted to me by my cousin. She no longer needed or wanted them, so passed them to me. I was both pleased and surprised at how well they blended with so many of my dishes.

I am a sucker for sentimentality, so always include something of my mother’s at each holiday table. The flatware and stemware both belonged to her. The flatware always garners a lot of comments. It’s pretty to look at, fun to use, and I love the whimsy.

The centerpiece is a pumpkin tureen surrounded by orange berries made specifically for the tureen. It, and the candlesticks (with their own berries), were part of a table display at a local shop, sadly, now long closed. I loved it so much that I bought everything. It’s been around for ages, but I still love it today as much as I did when I first saw it.


Lovely leaf salad plates will hold freshly baked croissants and honey butter. Each one represents a different color of the beautiful fall leaves that we have been lucky enough to experience this month.

Whether you’re serving two or ten, or just dining alone. Make the occasion special.



This post is linked to Tablescape Thursday.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Pimiento Cheese Soup with Toasted Tomato Sandwiches

This post contains affiliate links.

I know I’m not the only one who spends sleepless nights, staring into the dark, my thoughts racing. Here were last Thursday's 3:25 AM musings:
1. If I can’t sleep at night does that mean that I am officially elderly?
2. Can I turn pimento cheese into pimento cheese soup? If so, should I serve it with toasted tomato sandwiches?
3. Why is the cat still under the bed, and should I join him?
4. At this point, is it pointless to even consider going to sleep,
should I just get up and do something?
5.  Is it bad form to use “point” and “pointless” in the same sentence?

On Friday evening (dare I mention that I slept in?), I satisfied my curiosity about #2. This reverse grilled cheese and tomato soup served to be quite tasty. I added a cheese spread (recipe below) to act as, for lack of a better word, the “glue” to hold the thin slices of plump, firm, local tomatoes in place. I'll be making this again!

Pimiento Cheese Soup

¼ c. butter
½ c. finely diced
Melissa's shallots
½ c. finely diced carrots
½ c. finely diced celery
¼ c. flour
1 ½ T. cornstarch
1 qt. chicken stock
1 qt. milk
1/8 t. baking soda
1 7-oz. jar
Melissa’s Fire Roasted Red Peppers, drained and diced
1 16-oz. pkg.
Velveeta, cubed, OR 2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ t.
smoked paprika
¼ t. dry mustard
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T. finely chopped parsley

Melt butter in the pot in which you were going to make the soup. Add onions, carrots, celery, and sauté over low heat until soft. Add flour and cornstarch and cook until bubbly. Add stock and milk and make a smooth sauce. Add soda, peppers, cheese, and seasonings. Additional cheese may be added to enhance flavor. Season with salt and pepper.
Add parsley a few minutes before serving. 

Yield 8 servings.

Toasted Tomato Sandwiches

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ c. butter, softened
¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ t.
smoked paprika
¼ t. dried oregano
¼ t. garlic powder
4 slices rustic bread
2-3 fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced

Spread thinly-sliced tomatoes onto a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. This will allow excess moisture to drain to keep your sandwich from getting mushy.

In a medium metal mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Stir in cheese, paprika, oregano, and garlic powder. Spread mixture on one side of all slices of bread. Top two slices of the bread with a double layer of the thinly sliced tomatoes, and place a slice of bread on top with the spread side toward the tomatoes. Finish as you would any toasted cheese sandwich.



Monday, November 9, 2020

Festive Fruit Salad

This post contains affiliate links.

The late Mr. O-P was New Jersey born and bred. In New Jersey, his friends and family referred to this as “fruit cup.” Here in the heartland, we call it “fruit salad.” Whatever way that you refer to it in your part of the world, this is my absolute favorite combination of fruits. It has no added sweeteners, is best when served one or two days after you make it (What could be more convenient than that?), and is always welcome. It contains a unique blend of fruits, both fresh and dried, as well as crunchy, toasted walnut halves.


This salad features something a little different in the pink pineapple. I like using pink pineapple because all of the colors blend so well. It’s not particularly easy to find, so feel free to substitute yellow for that little splash of sunshine. Serve it topped with flaked coconut, a sprig of fresh mint, or, if serving it after a meal, with a pungent wedge of Stilton on the side.

Festive Fruit Salad

1 Melissa’s
Pinkglow pineapple, peeled, cored, and cubed
1 c.
Melissa’s red Muscato grapes, cut in half
1 15-oz. can
Bing cherries, drained
¼ c.
golden raisins
1 c. walnut halves, toasted

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or up to three days. Serve topped with shredded coconut, mint leaves, or a dollop of whipped cream.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Introducing "Stanley"

 I find it interesting, and a little bit disturbing, that when I take a little time off of blogging, that I end up getting more views, than when I’m active. I’m not entirely sure what that says about my skills as a blogger, at any rate, I’m back.

I took some time off because I have added a new addition to my family. Back in March, a week before the lock-down, I decided that I wanted a pet. At this point in my life, I didn’t want the work of a dog. Not that I don’t love them, I do; I am a total dog person, but the training, the walking, going outside in winter — the dog not me I never go outside — all seemed like a bit much. A year ago I played host to my number two son, daughter-in-law, and their two cats while they were awaiting completion of their new home. I really enjoyed those cats.

As soon as I decided to get one, the lock-down hit and the local shelters were closed. They recently reopened, and I paid them a visit. I made the mistake of going with my number two son, Andrew. All animals on planet earth love Andrew, they always have done. When we walked into the Kitty Kottage at the shelter, every cat in the place headed straight for him, turning their backs on me. One cat, in a cage because he had not yet been tested for feline leukemia, and was known to be a bit of a biter, gave me the once over. Because that was the only cat that would let me pet him (and he bit me too), I immediately knew that he was the one. After four visits, and one more bite, I brought him home.

The workers at the shelter gathered around me as I was ready to take Stanley home, and thanked me for taking a chance on him. They added that he was the kind of cat who could end up spending years in a shelter. As soon as I got in the car I wondered what the heck I had done. I know nothing about cats, and now I am bringing one home to live with me; not just any cat, but one who has a bit of a reputation.

We are now eight days into it, and while Stanley has vacated his pumpkin bed (shown in the picture above) that had been given to him at the shelter, and with which he immediately bonded, he has yet to venture far from beneath my bed. He is eating and using his litter box, so I’m just going to let him call the shots.

My intention, because I love British mysteries, was to give him either a British name, or one associated with mystery. Because I couldn’t make the British thing work, I decided to name him after a favorite mystery writer, namely the one who wrote the Perry Mason novels. So my cat’s new name is Erle Stanley Gardner, Stanley for short. I think it will work for both of us. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Matty Matheson's Italian Beef

This post contains affiliate links.

This Cardinal baseball fan is not a fan of Chicago because, you know, the Cubs. But, I do like their food… A lot! That’s why the Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich in Matty Matheson’s new cookbook, Home Style Cookery, really caught my eye. This was my first time making giardiniera, and it will not be my last. Talk about zing! I left the seeds in my jalapeños when I chopped and added them, and it really took my sandwich over the top. A perfect choice, I’d say, for celebrating National Sandwich Day.

Italian Beef

For the Giardiniera:
1 qt. white vinegar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 t. kosher salt
1 c.
Melissa’s red pearl onions, peeled and cut in half
1⅓ c. chopped celery
1⅓ c. sliced carrots
1 c. cauliflower florets
¼ c. sliced garlic
½ c. seeded and sliced Serrano chilies
½ c. seeded and sliced jalapeño chilies
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
1⅓ c. olive oil

For the beef:
3 qts. beef stock
2 t. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 t.
black peppercorns, toasted, plus freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 lbs. boneless beef roast chuck
1 lb. white onions, cut it in half

4-6 sesame seeds rolls

Make the Giardiniera: In a large saucepan, combine the vinegar, 2 cups of water, sugar, and salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.

In a non-reactive container, combine the pearl onions, celery, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, and Serrano and jalapeño chilies. Pour the boiling hot pickling liquid over the top and let sit at room temperature, covered, for 24 hours

Strain the pickled vegetables and reserve half of the pickling liquid. In a medium bowl, combine the pickled vegetables, the pickling liquid, the oregano, and basil. Add olive oil to just barely cover pickled vegetables.

Make the beef: Pour the beef stock into a large Dutch oven and add the salt and peppercorns. Add the chuck roast and onions and bring to a boil, skimming the scum that rises to the top. Turn down heat to low, cover, and braise for 3 to 4 hours, until the connective tissue and fat has broken down. Allow the roast to rest in the liquid until it cools down to room temperature. Remove the beef from the liquid and shred it in a large bowl. Strain it with a fine strainer, then add just enough liquid to the braised meat to moisten it, so it’s super juicy. Season the braised meat with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Cut the sesame seed rolls down the middle, add a big pile of braised meat, and spoon the giardiniera over the meat. Serve with a hot cup of the remaining beef broth for all your sandwich dipping needs.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Burgundy & Big Macs by Vanessa Price, Reviewed

This post contains affiliate links.


The late Mr. O-P enjoyed his wine. Me? I’m not a fan. Give me a tall glass of water, a steaming cup of coffee, or a dirty martini and I’ll be just fine. So when I was given a copy of Burgundy & Big Macs, Wine Pairings for the Real World, from Abrams, I felt at a complete loss. How could someone who didn’t enjoy wine be possibly interested in a book like this? As it turned out, I was!


This book by Vanessa Price is an absolute delight. She pairs a plethora of wines with every fast food, snack food, dessert, and candy imaginable, in each case going into great explanatory detail. Her writing style is humorous and engaging, and her knowledge of wine, not to mention fast food, is stellar.


This woman can tell a story, and that she does, making every pairing seem like a personal adventure. For the uninformed, she demystifies wine, making those completely unfamiliar feel at ease. For those who know a thing or two, she speaks to you as though you are a personal friend, never minimizing anyone, or any wine. The images are charming, and the pairings clever.


With the holidays coming up, or even if you would like to treat yourself during this most difficult year, grab yourself a copy or two of this book. Trust me when I tell you, you will not regret it. Oenophile or not, this is great reading, and you will come away well informed, and no doubt thirsty.


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Abrams as a part of their Abrams Dinner Party Program in exchange for an honest review.