Sunday, January 31, 2021

101 Amazing Uses for Cinnamon by Nancy Chen REVIEWED

This post contains affiliate links.

You learn a lot about people once you marry them. Case in point, prior to marrying the late Mr. O-P, I thought that everyone liked cinnamon. No, he didn’t, not at all. That was disappointing to me because, as a cinnamon lover, it changed the way that I cooked and baked.

Now that I’m on my own, I do what I want, when I want, and that includes adding cinnamon to as many dishes and beverages in as many ways possible. That’s why, when I was offered a review copy of 101 Amazing Uses for Cinnamon by Nancy Chen, I jumped at it. If you are the cinnamon lover than I am, this book is for you. If you can take or leave cinnamon, this book is still for you because I think you will find its many uses nothing short of amazing. 


Did you know, for example, that you can make your own cinnamon syrup for coffee, throat lozenges to soothe your scratchy throat, make your own cinnamon broom (I love those when they hit the grocery stores in the fall), even ward off pests in your house plants by using cinnamon? You can, and details on how are all in this fabulous book.

This is going to be one of those reference books that you will find yourself paging through again and again. In doing so you will learn more things about a spice you’ve no doubt taken for granted than you ever imagined. This book provides a wonderful introduction to cinnamon including exactly what it is and where it came from, as well as tips on buying cinnamon, and how to recognize good from bad.


The coffee lover in me was thrilled with cinnamon coffee syrup. Why go out for expensive, artificially flavored cinnamon coffee, when you can have the real thing at home? Coffee is not the only beverage that pairs well with cinnamon; you can make loads of cozy drinks using cinnamon including Baby’s Dream Cinnamon Milk to aid slumber, Mexican Super Food Hot Chocolate, and Better Than Coffee Shop Cinnamon Chai.

If you enjoy beverages of an alcoholic nature, cinnamon will not let you down. It makes a wonderful addition to Winter Sangria and Mulled Wine, not to mention a spicy rim rub.

In addition to being used on its own, cinnamon is also a component in many spice mixes. Plenty of recipes are provided in this book to allow you to make your own. Apple pie spice mix, Chinese five spice powder, curry powder, garam masala seasoning, to name a few.


You can use cinnamon to flavor meat, or use it as a seasoning in making Chinese chili oil and dishes from Moroccan and Indian cuisine. It goes without saying that it is used in desserts, and there are delicious recipes for them as well.

It may surprise you to learn that cinnamon is also used in numerous beauty treatments. It is also known to boost circulation, lighten hair and stimulate growth, act as an exfoliant for dried lips, a body scrub, a teeth whitener, and even dry shampoo. Divided into clearly marked categories by the use of convenient tabs make it easy to find what you’re looking for.

There is a comprehensive bibliography at the end, divided by chapter, that comes in handy should you be interested in further reading. If there is a downside to this book, it is the lack of an index, a glaring error in my opinion, but in this case, not a deal breaker.

Appealing for every member of the family (including children who can learn to make fragrant cinnamon stick ornaments for the Christmas tree), this is a must for both your culinary and personal libraries. It would also make a great gift for mom on Mother’s Day, not to mention an excellent host or hostess gift should you ever be invited out to dinner again.

I give it four out of five stars; an index would have earned that fifth star.

Thanks to Melissa’s Produce for alerting me to this wonderful volume, and providing me with a complimentary copy.


Friday, January 29, 2021

Rosemary Potato Salad

This post contains affiliate links.

While I understand how eating vegan can be quite healthy for a person, I love dairy way too much to be able to do that. That said, I do find some tasty side dish recipes in vegan cookbooks. Today while perusing Caitlin Shoemaker’s latest book, Simply Delicious Vegan, I came across this recipe for potatoes (one of my favorite vegetables), and had to give it a try.

Because I am who I am, I changed up her recipe to suit my own tastes. I prefer creamier potato salad, so cut back on the potatoes by half. I like the zing of vinegar, so I doubled that amount, and used Duke’s mayonnaise because, well, for me, there’s only Duke’s and nothing else. With the changes, I found this quite tasty. But cooking is all about experimentation, and suiting your own tastes. Make my recipe, make Caitlin’s, or simply make your own.

 Rosemary Potato Salad
Adapted from Simply Delicious Vegan

1 1.5-lb. bag Melissa’s Baby Ruby Gold potatoes
1 t. salt
2 ribs celery, diced

For the dressing:
½ c. Duke’s mayonnaise
1 T.
Dijon mustard
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
½ t. chopped fresh rosemary
½ t. chopped fresh thyme
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
¼ t. salt*

* I used
Hawaiian red

Wash potatoes and cut into 1” pieces.

Place potatoes and salt in a large pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook for eight minutes until the potatoes are tender. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water to stop from cooking further.

While the potatoes are cooking make the dressing. Place all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste, if necessary.

When potatoes have finished cooking combine potatoes, celery, and dressing. Toss well to coat. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to cool, overnight to thoroughly meld flavors. Serve chilled; leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to five days.

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.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce (That Your Italian Grandmother Would Love)

This post contains affiliate links.

 I feel fairly confident that you have never had a spaghetti sauce made quite like this before. Here’s what happened: I had a craving for meatloaf, so I pulled out a favorite recipe and made one. It was very tasty and I enjoyed it for a couple of days, and then, quite frankly, I’d had enough. I thought about cutting it into slices, wrapping each slice in plastic wrap, putting those slices into a gallon Ziploc freezer bag, and putting them into freezer, but as I have no doubt mentioned to you in the past, it is like playing a game of freezer Jenga every time I attempt to add something new. My goal is to take things out of the freezer, not to put things in. That freezer, that wonderful, magnificent freezer, that I bought in 1979 is still (knock on wood) working. That was back in the day when appliances were worth the money you paid for them. I was freshly out of college, living on my own, and that was one of my first major purchases. Sure, other college kids were buying furniture, I figured that I could sit on the floor, a freezer was what I wanted. But, as freezers tended to be back in the day, it wasn’t frost-free. Defrosting that freezer is something that I have not done since I moved into this house nine years ago. Now do you understand why it looks like the Arctic north? But I digress.

Where am I going with this, you ask yourself, well, I’ll tell you. I went from craving meatloaf to craving a good spaghetti sauce. I had Italian sausage that I could use and indeed, I had a couple of pounds of frozen ground chuck, but as I looked at that meatloaf from the other day, I thought, why not just cut it up into tiny little cubes and use it in the meat sauce, so I did. It was excellent! Because there was so much flavor in the meatloaf itself, I think that imparted an additional flavoring into the sauce. Now, all of this said, I’m not suggesting that you make a meatloaf and cut it up. Go ahead and, as listed in the recipe below, use ground chuck. This is a good sauce whether you make it the way I did with
the meatloaf or not, but keep in mind that leftovers have many uses. More than you might think. Be creative. Always.


Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce

(That Your Italian Grandmother Would Love)

1 lb. sweet or spicy* Italian sausage, sliced 
1 lb. ground chuck

2 Melissa’s shallots, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 c. minced fresh parsley

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 14.5 oz. can tomato sauce

2 6-oz. cans tomato paste

½ c. red wine**

2 T. sugar

1½ t. dried basil

½ t. fennel seed

1 t. Italian seasoning 

1 bay leaf

½ t. oregano

½ t. salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper


In a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat, cook sausage and beef until browned; drain on paper-towel-lined plate. Once drained, add it, and the rest of the ingredients to a 6-quart crockpot, give it a mighty stir, and cook on high for four hours.


 *I like food with a bit of zing, so I used spicy sausage, use what your family likes.

**If you don’t have red wine, use coffee or beef stock. In the name of all things holy, do NOT use water! Water has no taste. It will add nothing to your delicious homemade sauce.



Monday, January 25, 2021

Easy & Elegant Creamed Spinach

This post contains affiliate links.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to shy away from the traditional breakfast. I’m not a fan of something sweet in the morning, far preferring the savory, even if that means a slice of cold pizza. I have often been known to put pesto on top of my scrambled eggs, or to eat a healthy serving of vegetables in the morning. That brings to mind one of my favorite breakfast side dishes that is equally good (and probably more appropriate) for dinner, namely creamed spinach. This is a fast and easy, not to mention delicious and company worthy, vegetable side. The longest part of the entire process is thawing the spinach. Once that’s done, this is little more than tossing a few things into a pan and heating through. It goes well with eggs, as shown here, is wonderful topped with thick slices of peppered bacon, and good when slathered onto a thick slice of toasted rustic bread. You’ll never look at creamed spinach the same way again.

Easy & Elegant Creamed Spinach

1 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, drained & squeezed dry
1 T. butter
1 small
Melissa's shallot, minced
Pinch of kosher salt
Few gratings freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Few gratings
whole nutmeg
¾ c. heavy cream
½ t. freshly grated lemon zest
2 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a
10-inch sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add shallot and sauté, 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Stir salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg into the shallot mixture; carefully pour in cream. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until cream begins to simmer. Continue cooking about five minutes, until mixture thickens. Stir in lemon zest, spinach, and Parmesan cheese. Heat through about two minutes and serve.

This serves 2 to 4 depending upon your love for spinach.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Everything but the Bagel Salad Dressing

This post contains affiliate links.

There are two spice blends that I am absolutely obsessed with; I buy both in the biggest jars possible, and replenish them quite often. The first is Montreal Steak Seasoning, an excellent combination of ingredients that true, works wonderfully well on steaks, but also enhances everything that it comes into contact with from scrambled eggs to soups to salads to vegetables to casseroles, you name it. I have a similar love for the Everything But the Bagel Seasoning. My favorite way to use it is indeed, on top of a schmear of cream cheese on a bagel, but it works well in many other things including dips (hot and cold), spreads, vegetables, baked potatoes, and in the salad dressing below. There’s nothing better than homemade salad dressing, don’t buy the bottle version...EVER! The latter contains all kinds of terrifying ingredients to allow it to last a long time, unopened, on your shelf, or opened in the fridge. Invest in a little ninja chopper and use it for making dressing. It’s a snap to throw your fresh ingredients into this little blender, and it emulsifies like a dream. And once this chopper emulsifies, that dressing never separates.

Everything but the Bagel Salad Dressing

Adapted from EverydayIrene

 ¼ c. Dijon mustard

3 T. raw honey

¼ c. apple cider vinegar

¼ c. olive oil

1 T. Everything Bagel Seasoning

1 - 2 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice


 Place all ingredients into the work bowl of a mini food processor or ninja blender. (I have this one and love it.) Blend for 20 to 30 seconds. Your delicious fresh dressing is ready to be used. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.




Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Let It Snow Tablescape

This post contains affiliate links.

During the last year or so your enjoyment of candlelit romantic dinners has probably been few and far between considering the shut down of restaurants worldwide. It’s times like these when we need to get creative and enjoy our own candlelit romantic setting at home.

The shorter days of winter seem to provide the perfect opportunity for dinners such as these. After all, what is more cozy and enjoyable than being inside enjoying warmth and delicious food while outside snow is falling?

This is my second winter tablescape for this year, and I had great fun putting it together. It began with the centerpiece featuring two faux pine trees covered with a sparkling crystal “ice.”

My favorite oil-rubbed bronze metal houses, illuminated from within, give the feeling of a romantic night in the woods. A project that I was working on requiring polyester fiberfill caused me to put some in place to represent snow.

An abundance of candlelight was a must so I used both my little reindeer candleholders as well as snowflake candleholders. I always hate putting these away after Christmas, so try to get as much mileage out of them as possible.

Three twig reindeer round out the cozy scene, dappled with little snowflake plaques.

I wanted to keep the colors as neutral as possible to represent winter. I used a repeat of my favorite checked tablecloth, topped with a macramé table runner from Anthropologie.

White metal chargers from Pier 1 are topped with nubby-edged, chestnut brown dinner plates are also from Pier 1. The salad plate features a wonderful pheasant.

Flatware in this table setting is from Cabela’s as it was in the last table setting, this set featuring a cozy cabin.

Pure white cups and saucers are a further reminder of white blankets of snow; the crystal stemware represents ice.

If you’re trying to create a romantic setting nothing beats candlelight, the more the better. Even the simplest place setting can look quite elegant in candlelight.

This post is linked to:

Tablescape Thursday



Monday, January 18, 2021

Chicken & Dumplings

This post contains affiliate links.

Last week I gave you a recipe for amazingly good biscuits the scraps of which I turned into dumplings for chicken and dumplings. Today I’m going to give you the recipe that I used to make the soup. (If you don’t want to go to all the trouble I did for the dumplings, make it easy on yourself and use the recipe on the Bisquick box, or simply get a can of Pillsbury biscuits, separate them, quarter them, and drop them into the simmering soup.) As I enjoyed every delicious, comforting mouthful of this scrumptious meal-in-a-bowl, the likes of which would have made grandma proud, one thing came to mind -- if my mother truly didn’t enjoy chicken and dumplings, then she was obviously crazy. Somehow we just didn’t see it.

Chicken & Dumplings 
Slightly adapted from The Novice Chef

6 T. butter

1 c. chopped Melissa’s shallots

1 c. matchstick carrots

1 c. diced celery

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 T. flour

1 12-oz. can evaporated milk

32 oz. (1 quart) chicken stock

4 c. shredded cooked chicken

1 t. dried thyme

1 t. freshly ground black pepper

Salt, to taste

 In a medium stockpot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook for five minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Add garlic, and cook for one minute more. Sprinkle flour on top of the vegetables, stir to combine, and cook for one minute.

 Slowly pour in evaporated milk and stock, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and add chicken, thyme, pepper, and salt. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, while you make the dumplings. Once made, drop dumplings directly into the simmering soup. Scatter them around the surface so they don’t cluster in one section. Press them down gently so that the soup runs over the tops of them.

 Cover the pot (I like to use a glass lid so I can see what’s going on), and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes; gently stir the soup and dumplings. Cut one dumpling in half to check for doneness. If dumplings are not yet done, simmer an additional 2 to 3 minutes and check for doneness again.

 Serve immediately.





Friday, January 15, 2021

Black Pepper Cheddar Bacon Biscuits

This post contains affiliate links.

For the most part, we all tend to like the foods with which we became familiar in our youth. Generally, if our parents didn’t like certain foods, they never became a part of our culinary experience. I was thinking about this the other day, puzzled by the fact that my grandmother made chicken and dumplings, and yet my mother didn’t like them. Ergo, I had never eaten chicken and dumplings in my life. The more I thought about this, the more I knew I had to have them. I mean, what’s not to like about a creamy chicken soup full of fluffy biscuits?

I started doing some research into a variety of ways to fix chicken and dumplings, and found a recipe that looked appealing. Dumplings, I learned, are essentially biscuits. So why, I asked myself, not look for an incredibly delicious biscuit recipe to use for dumplings. How could I go wrong?

I know that this is a long introduction for this biscuit recipe. The reason I wanted to tell you all this is that not only did I make these biscuits as is, but I also made dumplings out of the remaining part of the biscuit dough for a big pot of magnificent chicken and dumplings, the recipe of which I will share on Monday.

Now, I’m not going to lie, these biscuits are work. The worst part, in my opinion, is grating frozen butter on a box grater. I did not enjoy that at all. Plus, there is the dicing of the bacon (I froze my bacon first to make it easier), and then the hand mixing. On the plus side, I thought they rolled out like a dream. I do have a
marble rolling pin that made this easy; if you don’t, you need one. It makes a world of difference any time you need to roll out a biscuit, cookie, piecrust, or any type of pastry.

As soon as I made these biscuits, I drove half of them, hot from the oven, to number one son’s house for his family to try. They were happy to be guinea pigs, and thoroughly enjoyed these biscuits. You will too. It’s not my recipe; it comes from the Damn Delicious blog. So good!

 Black Pepper Cheddar Bacon Biscuits

From Damn Delicious

 6 slices bacon, diced

4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

¼ c. chopped fresh parsley leaves

4 t. baking powder

2 t. freshly ground black pepper

1½ t. kosher salt

1 t. baking soda

1 t. garlic powder

¾ c. unsalted butter, frozen

1¾ c. buttermilk

 Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Drain excess fat; transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

In a large bowl, combine bacon, flour, cheese, parsley, baking powder, pepper, salt, baking soda and garlic powder.

 Grate butter using the large holes of a box grater. Stir into the flour mixture.

 Add buttermilk and stir using a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.

 Working on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 3-4 times until it comes together. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1¼" thick rectangle. Cut out 14-16 rounds using a 2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter. Place biscuits onto the prepared baking sheet; place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove biscuits from freezer. Place into oven and bake for 14-17 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Serve warm.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Winter Hutch

This post contains affiliate links.

Two of my favorite seasons when it comes to decorating my 10-foot-wide wall unit, commonly referred to as “The Hutch,” are autumn and winter. I suppose it’s because I have so many dishes that lend themselves well to both of these seasons. The fact that they are two of my favorite times of the year may have something to do with it.

 In winter I tend to focus largely on white to represent frosty gray winter days and snow. This year I added a new tray (at center, I found it on Amazon here) and my mother’s Wilton Armetale. Lately I have become a bit obsessed with Wilton Armetale, and am lusting after this darling Sea Turtle Chip and Dip Divided Server.

Adding whimsy to this group are the elk salt and pepper shakers that you first saw in last week’s “Winter in the Woods” tablescape. I have to admit these became fast favorites despite being a bit awkward to use.

I also tend to gravitate toward pitchers, clustering them in groups of three. (I am currently stalking this one for a Bee Tablescape that I am planning for the spring.) I like to offer plenty of beverages at the table from ice water to ice tea to juice, even mulled wine. There’s something about the relaxing process of sipping something delicious that makes a shared meal so relaxing.

Touches of green keep the silver and white from becoming boring. The texture provided by the mini pine tree gives it warmth.

Do you change up your hutches, buffets, sideboards, or china cabinets with the seasons?


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Fannie Flagg’s Cheese Ball

This post contains affiliate links.


Years ago, when life was simpler and Facebook was fun, I followed Fannie Flagg. She is one of my favorite authors, and I always wanted to make sure I was well aware as to when her latest book was going to be released. I also enjoyed reading her witty comments and observations on life. Back in 2014 she posted a recipe for a cheese ball. As with everything she does, this cheese ball was unique. All my life a cheese ball has been covered in chopped pecans; leave it to Fannie to do things differently, and blend those pecans into the mix. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about this cheese ball once made, but I absolutely love it! The strawberry preserves topping just adds to the goodness.

In her own words, “The all-American cheese ball is great for the holidays, or to keep around in case of unexpected guests, or just for informal bowling on the lawn.” I’m not much of a lawn bowler myself; I will just tell you that it is wonderful with crackers, crudités, or crisp slices of apple. If you love cheese balls as much as I do, give this one a try.

Fannie Flagg’s Cheese Ball

4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¾ c. mayonnaise
1 small onion, peeled and grated*
1 c. chopped pecans
¼ t.
red pepper
Strawberry preserves

Combine cheese, mayo, and onion in a food processor until blended. Stir in pecans and red pepper. Shape into a mound on a serving plate, then cover and refrigerate for two hours. Spread preserves on top before serving with crackers.

*I used a shallot from Melissa’s Produce instead. I like the milder flavor.