Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Shaved Radish Toasts

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Earlier in the week I reviewed the Southern Living 2021 Christmas book. This recipe is from that book. It is a super simple crostini that is perfect for the holiday season. The creamy cheese is a perfect complement to the crunchy, peppery radish slices. The beauty of this appetizer is that it can be fully prepped ahead of time, assembled just prior to serving, and is the perfect pre-dinner snack because it is both light and satisfying at the same time.

Shaved Radish Toasts

24 (1/2 ” thick) diagonally cut baguette slices
¼ c. unsalted butter, melted

Buttermilk-Herb Cream Cheese (recipe follows)
Thinly sliced radishes*

Sea salt flakes
Black pepper
Freshly chopped chives

Preheat oven to 375° F. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake until slices are just beginning to brown at the edges, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool to room temperature.

Spread 1½ t. Buttermilk-Herb Cream Cheese on each crostini.

Top with radishes, sea salt flakes, black pepper, and chopped chives.

*I used a
mandoline for this.

Buttermilk-Herb Cream Cheese

8 oz. chive and onion cream cheese, softened
6 T. whole buttermilk
2 t. lemon zest (from one lemon)
½ t. kosher salt
½ t. black pepper

Process cream cheese, buttermilk, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper in a food processor until smooth.


Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of Southern Living 2021 Christmas book from Abrams books as a member of their 20 21–22 Abrams dinner party.


Monday, October 18, 2021

Oven-Baked BBQ Pork Steaks

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I like barbecue, in fact, I love it. I also like anything grilled -- fruit, vegetables, even potatoes (parboiled first, of course). But while I like the idea of grilling, I don’t actually like doing it. As a consequence, I miss out on lots of delicious food. (Not that I don’t get, plenty, trust me.) That’s not to say that I haven’t done it, because two of my favorites are barbecued chicken thighs, as well as one of the best hamburgers that I’ve ever eaten. Largely, it just seems like so much trouble to me.

My grill is placed, diagonally, in one of the corners of my deck. It is surrounded -- and I am talking three pots deep -- by herbs, plants, and flowers. The thought of not only moving those out of the way, but trying to find someplace to go with them in the process, means that the only good time for me to grill would be mid-winter, and who wants to do that? That is why this recipe for oven barbecued pork steaks has become one of my instant faves! It is super simple to put together, requires little to no effort, and just lazes away slowly cooking in your oven, while you get on with things, enjoying the smoky aroma. My suspicion is that this would also work on ribs and thick pork chops. I may try an experimental burger over the weekend. If you like barbecue as much as I do, you will love this.

Oven-Baked BBQ Pork Steaks

 4 (1” thick) pork steaks


1 T. Montreal Steak Seasoning

T. Montreal Pub Burger Seasoning

1 T. Jerk Seasoning

 1 T. onion powder

1 T. garlic powder

1 T. sweet paprika

1 t. espresso powder

¼ c. dark brown sugar

1 c. BBQ Sauce (I use Traeger)

 Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pat pork steaks dry with a paper towel; set aside.

 Mix the dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl.

 Place a long sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil into the bottom of a straight-sided 9” x 13” pan (I like this one.), allowing 6” overhang on either side.

 Place pork steaks on top of the foil, and generously slather 1 T. of the dry rub on both sides of the pork, rubbing it into the meat. Wrap pork steaks completely with the foil.

Bake at 350°F for 1½ hours. Reduce heat to 275°F and bake for 1½ additional hours.

 Remove from oven, open foil, and slather on the barbecue sauce. Return to oven and continue to bake for ½ hour longer.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Christmas with Southern Living: Inspired Ideas for Holiday Cooking and Decorating, Reviewed

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Lifestyle magazine Southern Living came into existence in 1966; when you are still in circulation after 50 years, you know that you’re doing something right. In addition to their wildly successful periodical, they have also published a series of lifestyle books including a Christmas annual. This year’s Christmas with Southern Living: Inspired Ideas for Holiday Cooking and Decorating is a real winner!

There is much to like about this book — the wonderful decorating styles, the beautifully photographed, mouthwatering recipes, the overall feeling of Christmas joy as well as one of my favorite parts, the included holiday planner.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have trouble getting it together over the holidays. If I’m honest, sometimes I have trouble getting it together, period. This book will help you if you’re anything like me because not only does it provide you with a calendar, it even tells you what to do! I love that! There’s also plenty of room for note taking, a special planning section strictly for decorating, a party planner, guest list, party to do list, Christmas dinner planner, gift and card log, and a guided section to help you highlight the successes of this year.
  If you are familiar with SL’s Christmas books, you’re going to want to get your hands on this one; if you’re unfamiliar, ditto. You will begin a long and happy tradition and eagerly await new ones year after year.

Now to the recipes! The recipes in this book are all doable no matter the level of culinary experience. Some take a little more time than others, but I have read through each and every one of them, and even a novice in the kitchen will be able to serve a fabulous dinner over the holidays. Each recipe is written in a clear and concise fashion. In many cases recipes have tips to help you through the process, swapping suggestions in case you don’t have all of the called-for ingredients; the photographs will help you plate your excellent meal in fine fashion.

Whether you are interested in preparing a classic Christmas dinner, or something more modern, all of your answers are in this book. I cannot recommend it enough.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Abrams Books as a member of their Abrams Dinner Party 2021-2022.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Come to dinner, Pumpkin!

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I got such beautiful flowers for my birthday that I decided to build a table setting around them. One reminiscent of colorful leaves, cool fall days, of wood smoke, and strong tea.

I chose to match all of the colors of the flowers in the dinnerware, glassware, and the purple votive candle holders. It’s bold, but I love it!


Here you’ll find a gathering of new items, of gifts, of inheritances, and memories galore.

Water hyacinth placemats make up the base. They are topped with Bordallo Pinheiro geranium leaf chargers. A lot of green is visible in fall, and I wanted to reflect that in my table.

The wavy edge plates are favorites of mine. I love the color and sunflower pattern. They are called, suitably, “Sunset Sunflower,” and they are from Maxcera.

 The lidded pumpkin bowls are from Pier 1, and were gifts for a milestone birthday. The pumpkin mugs I have had for years. They are from Starbucks from some time back in the 90s.

The amber stemware is from POSH in Chicago; the green water glasses I inherited from my mother. The small green salad bowls (that I had intended to fill with maple leaf cookies, but forgot) are also Bordallo Pinheiro.

Napkin rings are from Pier One, the napkins are from my mother. The yellow flatware is the “Radiant” pattern from Noritake. It was my mother’s, then mine, then hers, and then mine. We tended to pass things back-and-forth a lot as it suited us.

The purple votives I bought last year, on a whim, from Wal-Mart. I thought that they would look mysterious on a Halloween or fortune telling table.

  Also from Wal-Mart is the darling pumpkin-shaped cheese board with matching spreader.

 This post is linked to:

Tablescape Thursday

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

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I awakened to the sound of raindrops hammering the skylights. Flashes of lightning lit up the room, followed moments later by thunder that rattled the windows. It was a perfect morning. Fall is here! There was a cool nip in the air (I have yet to turn on my furnace), so I pulled the quilt up to my chin. I waited for the timer to turn on the coffee, and lie in bed listening to the first steam signaling it was ready. While I was enjoying my 1st cup, I assembled ingredients, and in 15 minutes had a big pot of potato soup in the crockpot. 4 1/2 hours later I tasted my first bite. This soup, like most of them, he’s better the second day, but it was dark for the first. It is super simple to put together. If you don’t feel like chopping vegetables, toss in some celery seed, and a tablespoon of instant minced onions. When it comes to potato soup, it’s all about the garnishes, so go heavy on those. A cup with half a sandwich makes a wonderful lunch, a big bowl, garnishes piled high, makes a hearty, seasonal dinner.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

1 32-oz. pkg. cubed frozen hash browns*
1 rib celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
Melissa's shallots, sliced
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 packets (6 T.)
Ranch Dressing mix
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 T. dried parsley
32-oz. chicken or vegetable stock
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, cubed
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Spray the inside of a
6-quart slow cooker with Pam. Put potatoes on the bottom, and scatter celery, carrots, and shallots over the top. In a small bowl, whisk together the soup, dressing mix, pepper, garlic powder, salt, and parsley. Pour over potatoes. Pour stock over potatoes. Place cream cheese on top, sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of that, and top everything with bacon. Put the lid on your slow cooker, and cook on low for four hours.

*Because I like peppers, I used a combination of potatoes O’Brien and shredded hash browns. I liked the taste, and I liked the different textures.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Peace, Love, and Pasta, Reviewed

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For the third year in a row I am representing Abrams Books as a part of their Abrams Dinner Party. The first batch of books has arrived, and they all appear to be winners. One of the beauties of reviewing books is that I get to try a lot of new recipes and share them with you. Last week, I shared the recipe for Pasta e Fagioli, a restaurant quality soup that can double as a meal. Today I’m going to tell you a little bit more about the book.

Peace, Love, and Pasta: Simple and Elegant Recipes from a Chef’s Home Kitchen by Scott Conant, may initially appear not, as the subtitle would suggest, simple. In quite a few cases, there are lengthy cooking processes, hard to find, perhaps unfamiliar ingredients, and techniques that may be foreign to the average home cook. That said, anyone who has a working knowledge of cooking, or the desire to turn everyday food into something restaurant quality, this book is for you.

 The recipes are plentiful and varied; the photos are positively mouthwatering. The desserts will make your eyes roll back in your head. The introductions to many of the recipes are both helpful and informative. You’ll feel as though you are sitting down with an old friend with whom you often exchanged culinary tips and ideas.

In addition to a cookbook, you will also get an education in Italian cooking, taught by the chef and owner of Italian-American dining destination, the Americano in Scottsdale, Arizona, Mora Italian in Phoenix, Arizona, and Cellaio, an Italian steakhouse in the Catskills. This book focuses on the dishes of Conan’s childhood, the ones that he makes for his loved ones today. These recipes combine sophistication and comfort to bring the absolute best to your table.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Peace, Love, and Pasta from Abrams Books as a member of their Abrams Dinner Party 2021-2022.

Friday, October 8, 2021

ABM Cheese Bread

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Yesterday I posted a recipe for tasty Italian soup. Today I am going to give you a recipe for something delicious to go with that soup, cheese bread. This bread is fabulous, and incredibly easy to make, thanks to the automatic bread machine. It’s delicious when warm, wonderful at room temperature, and absolutely superb when toasted to enjoy at breakfast the next day. It also makes a mean BLT.

ABM Cheese Bread
Adapted from Red Star Yeast

1/2 c. buttermilk, warmed to 110° F
1/3 c. water, warmed up to about 110° F
5 T. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 large egg, room temperature
3 c. bread flour
1 t. salt
¾ t. garlic powder
2 T. granulated sugar
1 packet (2¼ t.) yeast

2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

2 T. unsalted butter, melted
2 T. chopped fresh parsley (or your favorite herb)
¼ t. garlic powder
10 cheese cubes, your choice of cheese

Place bread ingredients, in the order listed, into the bowl of the bread machine. Put the machine on the “dough” setting and press “start.” When the cycle has run its course, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Punch down. Roll the dough into a 9“ x 15“ rectangle. Sprinkle cheese all over the top, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Tightly (and I am talking TIGHTLY) roll the dough into a 15-inch log. Place the log seam side down on the work surface. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log in half lengthwise. Crisscross 1/2, cut side down on top of the other half, forming an “X.“ Tightly twist the two together. Pinch the outer edges to seal. Place in a greased loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with Pam. Allow the covered loaf to rest for 30 minutes. It will rise slightly.

Place the oven rack in the bottom third of your oven and preheat to 350° F. Whisk the melted butter, herbs, and garlic powder together, and drizzle over the top of the dough. Shove cheese cubes into various splits on the surface of the loaf. Bake until golden brown, about 45 to 55 minutes. If it begins browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely before slicing and serving.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Pasta e Fagioli

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I find, as I get older that, like many others my age, I don’t cook as often as I used to. Three times a week does it for me, with Sunday being my main “in the kitchen” day. There is nothing I like more than chopping up ingredients that I’m going to use that day, or later in the week, and putting on a big pot of soup. Soup is one of my favorite foods. I love that a big bowl of it and a crusty roll make a meal; I love that I can pour some into a mug and have it as a snack. There is just something wonderfully soothing about soup, not to mention that it’s wildly nutritious. This recipe for iconic Italian soup will take you all day long, but the results are both plentiful and restaurant quality.

Pasta e Fagioli
From Peace, Love, and Pasta by Scott Conant

1 c. dried cannellini beans
1 c. dried borlotti beans
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
4 c. chopped yellow onions
1½ t. chopped fresh thyme
½ t. crushed red pepper
1 T. finely chopped garlic
1½ t. finely chopped fresh oregano
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
8 oz. prosciutto ends, skinned and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 15-oz. can puréed tomatoes
2 qt. vegetable or chicken stock
2 c. dried
tubettini pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Roughly chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, for garnish

Soak the two types of beans in separate containers overnight
in 4 cups of water per container.

The next day, set the container of borlotti beans aside. Drain the water from the cannellini beans and place them in a pot. Add water to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain the cooked cannellini beans and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Sweat the onions with the thyme, crushed red pepper, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and a little bit of salt to help release acid from the vegetables, 5 to 6 minutes. Continue to cook until the onions start to caramelize, 8 to 9 minutes. Add the prosciutto, if using, and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute, stirring to prevent the vegetables from burning. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Drain the soaked borlotti beans, add them to the pot, and continue to simmer the broth until the beans are tender, about one hour

While the beans are cooking, cook the pasta in heavily salted water until tender. Drain the pasta, without rinsing, reserving the pasta water. Toss the pasta with a little olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside.

When the borlotti beans are tender, add the cannellini beans and return to a simmer. Add half the pasta cooking water, return to a simmer, and cook for at least 40 minutes.

Allow the soup to cool slightly, then remove 1/4 of the beans from the pot and set aside. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the rest of the cooked beans to a blender and purée until smooth. (Or purée the soup in the pot using an immersion blender.)

Combine the tubettini and reserved beans and divide among four or six bowls. Pour the soup over the pasta and beans and serve immediately, topped with chopped parsley, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and a drizzle of olive oil. (The beans and soup can also be prepared the day before, refrigerated, and reheated, but you may need to add some additional stock, as the beans will absorb a lot of liquid as they sit. Do not add the pasta before storing.)

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Peace, Love, and Pasta from Abrams Books as a member of their Abrams Dinner Party 2021-2022.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Lunchroom Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

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I am old school. Literally. I went to school before these lunchroom bars were popular. In fact, I had never even heard of them until I saw them online. They looked good, easy, and who doesn’t like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate? I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. These are not cloyingly sweet. They are sweet, but not overly so; the amount of peanut butter in the dough and topping is just right. The chocolate finishes these off to perfection. If, like me, you were never treated to these when you were in school, give them a try.

Lunchroom Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Slightly adapted from

 1½ sticks salted butter

2 c. creamy peanut butter, divided

¾ c. dark brown sugar

¼ c. granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 T. vanilla extract

2 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

½ t. kosher salt


1 stick salted butter, room temperature

2½ c. powdered sugar

½ c. dark cocoa powder

2 t. vanilla extract

¼ c. warm milk

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9” x 13” baking dish with parchment paper; set aside.

 In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter and ½ cup peanut butter, stirring every 30 seconds until creamy. (This took me one minute.) Whisk in brown sugar, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

 Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.

Press dough into the bottom of the prepared dish. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until set in the center. Remove from oven and immediately dollop remaining 1½ c. peanut butter over the crust, lightly spreading in an even layer. Cool completely.

 To make frosting: place butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and warm milk in a medium mixing bowl. Beat until smooth, adding additional warm milk as desired to reach spreadable consistency. Spread over bars and allowed to set. (This may take a couple of hours.) Slice and enjoy.


Monday, October 4, 2021

Orzo with Parmesan & Basil

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I’m going to tell you something that will shock you. It’s something that I don’t tell just everybody because, frankly, I’m a little embarrassed by it. Are you ready? Do you promise to keep your lips sealed after reading this post? OK, here goes: I have a Rice-A-Roni collection. This is no joke. It is on the third shelf of my pantry, sandwiched in between my pasta collection. It’s in the middle because I have my pasta divided; straight noodles are on the left, curly noodles are on the right. I know it’s crazy, but Rice-A-Roni has saved me more often than you can imagine. It is amazingly versatile, comes in a wide variety of flavors, and so many things can be added to it by way of both meat and vegetables, so that it can be served as a side or a main. No, I don’t represent the company; I just love their product.

  Why do I mention this, you may ask? Because, while wandering around on the web, I found this recipe (somewhere, I can’t remember where), and it is a homemade version of Rice-a-Roni. Naturally, I love it! I have made it three times in the past two weeks, each time varying the herbs. It is amazingly easy to make, can be tailored to whatever suits you, and works equally well for a weeknight dinner as it does for company. You must give this a try!

Orzo with Parmesan & Basil

 2 T. butter

1 c. uncooked orzo pasta

1¾ c. chicken stock

½ c. grated Parmesan cheese

¼ c. chopped fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Additional fresh basil, for garnish

 Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat; stir in orzo and sauté until lightly browned.

 Stir in chicken stock and bring to boil. Cover. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

 Stir in Parmesan cheese and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to shallow bowl and garnish with basil sprigs.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Loaf

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Over the weekend I made double chocolate brownies with pumpkin buttercream frosting. They were delicious. Unfortunately they were not photogenic. Not, in a very big way. As a consequence, I am going to have to make them again and have another photo shoot, because this is a recipe you absolutely must try. I had just enough leftover pumpkin from the buttercream to give this recipe a try. Am I ever glad that I did! I do believe that this is one of the best pumpkin loaves that I have ever tasted. I happen to be a big fan of streusel, totally convinced that it improves everything it graces, which may explain why I like this loaf so much. You have to make this one.

Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Loaf
Slightly adapted from

Crumb Topping:

½ c. flour

½ c. dark brown sugar
½ t. pumpkin pie spice
1/8 t. kosher salt
¼ c. cold unsalted butter, cubed

Pumpkin bread:

1 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. kosher salt
1 c. granulated sugar
¾ c. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. pumpkin purée

2 t. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8” x 4” loaf pan with a Baker’s Joy; set aside

Prepare crumb topping: In the work bowl of a large or
mini food processor combine topping ingredients. Pulse until large crumbs are formed; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice until smooth and blended. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until smooth and no lumps remain.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and top with prepared crumb mix. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until the loaf tests done. If you see the top is browning too quickly, loosely tent with foil.

Remove from oven and allow the bread to cool in the pan for 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Homemade One-Pot Hamburger Helper (with Zucchini!)

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It is officially the first day of fall and, in this household anyway, the official beginning of comfort food season. I thought I would kick off the season with an adapted version of homemade hamburger helper that I found online. What I particularly liked about this version is that it contains vegetables in the form of shredded zucchini that disappears into the mix, so no one’s the wiser. Whether your kids like or don’t like vegetables, they won’t even know they are there in this comforting and delicious casserole. You will find it hearty and satisfying, the kids will love it.

Homemade One-Pot Hamburger Helper
Adapted from

2 T. olive oil
1 lb. ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t.
Montreal steak seasoning
1 t. chili powder
1 t. paprika
1 t. garlic powder
10 oz.
medium shells
1 zucchini, grated (about 1 c.)
2 c. beef broth
1½ c. whole milk
1½ -2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 T. ketchup

Place beef and onion in a large pot (I used
this one) set over medium/high heat; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is browned, breaking up as you go, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the steak seasoning, chili powder, paprika, and garlic powder, and cook another minute.

Add pasta and zucchini and toss to coat. Pour in broth and milk; add ketchup, stirring to combine. Bring to a gentle boil over medium/high heat, and simmer 8 to 10 minutes until the pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cheese and cook until melted and creamy.

Serves four.