Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Chocolate Chip Butter Cookies with Christmas Sprinkles

It is officially cookie baking season, and while I am not keen on baking of any sort, cookies in particular, I do set my feelings aside in favor of Christmas cookies, the best cookies of the year! I don’t like cookies that are fiddly, but these get a pass because they require no special equipment other than a bowl and a spoon. They come together in no time, and if you don’t find rolling them into balls too tedious, you are going to be rewarded with wonderful buttery cookies full of mini chocolate chips and holiday sprinkles. These will be a beautiful addition to your cookie tray, and melt in your mouth delicious.

Chocolate Chip Butter Cookies with Christmas Sprinkles

Slightly adapted from

 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter

½ t. vanilla

2 c. flour

1 c. confectioners' sugar

½ c. Christmas sprinkles

1 c. mini semi sweet chocolate chips

 Preheat oven to 375ºF.

 In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter. Stir in vanilla; cool completely.

 In another bowl, combine flour and confectioners' sugar. Stir in the butter mixture, chocolate chips, and sprinkles. (The mixture will look very crumbly.)

 Shape into 1-inch balls. Place cookie dough balls on ungreased or Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Flatten a bit with the palm of your hand.

 Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are brown. Let cool on a wire rack. 

 Makes about 2 dozen.

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Monday, November 28, 2022

Cheesy Mushroom Toasts

It’s the “party food” time of the year! I love making it, and I love eating it. You are going to love this fabulous mushroom topping; it is excellent on slices of baguette, as I have done here. You can cut big slices out of your baguette by cutting on the diagonal, or small rounds by cutting it straight across. This works well as a main dish for lunch, an appetizer before dinner, or a wonderful side for soups and salads. It’s also excellent on top of a pizza crust, and baked until bubbly. This is a “must make” for the holiday season!

Cheesy Mushroom Toasts

 1½ T. unsalted butter

1 large Melissa’s shallot, chopped

1 c. mushrooms, chopped

½ c. mozzarella cheese shredded, plus extra for the top

¼ c. Parmesan cheese, shredded

1 large egg, beaten

1/8 t. oregano

¼ t. Montreal Steak Seasoning

¼ t. kosher salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

1 baguette, sliced on ¾” diagonals

Parsley, chopped, for garnish

 Preheat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

 Slice baguette into ¾ inch slices; set aside.

 In a large skillet melt butter. Add mushrooms and shallot, cooking until mushrooms have released their juices and shallots are transparent.

 Add oregano, salt, and pepper to the skillet; stir to combine. Add mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and egg; stir to combine. Remove the skillet from the heat.

 Place baguette slices on baking sheet, topping each with mushroom mixture. Add a pinch of shredded mozzarella cheese on top of each. Drizzle with olive oil if desired.

 Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and mushroom mixture heated through. Garnish with chopped parsley. This recipe can easily be doubled.

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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Delicious Gatherings, Reviewed

Tara Bench, d.b.a. as Tara Teaspoon was a new name to me. Despite the fact that she already had one cookbook under her belt in Live Life Deliciously: Recipes for Busy Weekdays and Leisurely Weekends, it wasn’t until Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together, graciously provided to me by Melissa’s Produce, that she came to my attention. It seems that she has been in the food publishing industry for more than 20 years and, among other things, has worked as a recipe developer and professional food stylist. 

Tara says, “I am so passionate about the power of food and cooking, and how it can bring people together, allow us to explore our creativity, and nourish our bodies and souls.“ This is evident in her recent book. If you are looking to impress your guests and elevate every day meals and special holidays, this book is for you.

It is divided into five major sections: “Gather-Around Dinners,” “Serious Sides,” “Main Events,” “Breakfast and Brunch,” and “Baking and Sweets.” Each one provides beautiful photos add mouthwatering recipes, thanks to the concise verbiage, are simple to prepare. There are also helpful tips to aid new or inexperienced cooks, as well as a bit of history or other pertinent information about the recipe.

This is one of the most beautiful cookbooks that I have ever seen. There are multiple two-page spreads throughout, and they are just gorgeous! I don’t know how anyone can page through this book and not want to head straight for the kitchen and start cooking. This book is for inexperienced and veteran cooks equally. Tara talks “to” and not “down to” her audience.

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this book and have never seen before is the photo index. There is a regular index at the back of the book with a listing of recipes and ingredients, but the photo index is absolute genius. We eat first with our eyes, why not choose what we want to make first with our eyes. I thought this was an excellent idea, and I find myself referring to it often.

I have tried a number of recipes from this book (one I will be sharing with you later in the week), and each one has been a success. There is so much deliciousness packed into this volume. I highly recommend it!


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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Roasted Tomato Soup

I have decades of experience in tomato soup consumption, but never have I had some quite this delicious. Using fresh tomatoes that are then roasted in the oven takes this over the top. The charred bits make it extra tasty and, thanks to the blending, some of these bits will be in every spoonful.  I had made a batch with the idea that I would put it in single serve containers in the freezer to enjoy during the winter. It was so good that it never quite made it to the freezer. If you grew up eating tomato soup like I did. You must try this one. It’s life changing.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Slightly adapted from

 Melissa’s Organic Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

2 T. unsalted butter

1 yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 t. dried thyme

1 – 1½   t.  Kosher salt

½ t. freshly ground black pepper

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 T. dried basil

1-2 T. sugar

2 c. chicken stock

2/3 c. heavy cream

 Preheat oven to 375°F. Place tomato halves on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and then sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Roma tomatoes ready for the oven.

 Roast tomatoes for 1 hour. Remove from oven and set aside.

Roasted romas ready for the soup.

Heat 2 tbsp oil, or butter, in a large pot (or Dutch oven) over medium-high heat.

Look at that charred goodness.

 Add onion, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Sauté for another minute. Add crushed tomatoes, basil, and sugar to the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and the roasted tomatoes into the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Use an immersion blender to purée the soup, or very carefully transfer to a blender or food processor to purée. This would most likely need to be done in a couple batches. Return the soup to the pot. Stir in the cream.

 Garnish as you see fit.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Harvest Spice Bread

This is a wonderful transitional loaf that will take you from fall into winter. The reason it’s transitional is because it contains 1/2 cup of pumpkin purée that you no doubt have lurking in the back of your refrigerator from other pumpkin things you made in the fall. It also has crisp apples, crunchy carrots, and walnuts. The next time I make this, and I will, I’m going to add rum soaked raisins (or cranberries). I like breads that are packed with goodness, and this particular one lends itself to that very thing.

Harvest Spice Bread


1¾ cup flour
1 t. baking soda
¾ t. salt
2 t. ground cinnamon
¼ t. freshly grated
¼ t. ground cloves
¼ t. ground ginger
½ c. vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ c. granulated sugar
 ½ c. dark brown sugar

½ c. pumpkin purée
1 heaping cup (about one large) peeled and shredded apple
¾ c. (about 2 large) peeled and shredded carrots
2 T. milk
1 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a
9” x 5” loaf pan with Baker’s Joy; set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin, shredded apple, shredded carrot, and milk together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Fold in walnuts.

Spread the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes until bread tests done.

Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before removing and slicing. Cover and store leftover bread at room temperature for up to 4 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.


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Monday, November 21, 2022

Christmas Salad

I call this Christmas Salad because it is colorful, light, festive, and so flavorful. There’s something about cranberries and oranges that just makes me feel Christmassy. Because this salad is light, with a touch of sweet, it goes equally well at brunch, lunch, or dinner. It makes a pretty presentation, so it will be a welcome addition to your holiday table or buffet.


Christmas Salad

1 3-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s dried cranberries
3 clementines, peeled and sectioned
One head romaine lettuce
Two handfuls fresh spinach
¼ c. crumbled feta
½ c. pecan halves, toasted
Orange Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

The day before play you plan to serve this salad, make the vinaigrette. Place dried cranberries and orange sections into a medium bowl. Cover the fruit with the vinaigrette, cover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight.

The day that you plan to serve the salad, place lettuce, spinach, crumbled feta, and pecans into a large bowl. Empty marinated fruit on top, toss together and serve. Top with homemade croutons if you like.

 Orange Vinaigrette

 ¼ c. cider vinegar

¼ c. freshly squeezed orange juice

½ t. salt

1½ t. sugar

¼ t. dry mustard

¼ t. freshly ground pepper

1 t. orange zest

½ c. vegetable oil

 Place all dry ingredients into the bottom of a medium size mixing bowl and whisk together until blended. Whisk in vinegar to blend.  Slowly add oil in a stream, whisking constantly to emulsify. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Will keep up to a week (if it lasts that long.)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Beer Cheese Soup


Despite the fact that I am not a fan of beer (can’t swallow a single sip), there is something magical that happens when it is combined with cheese. This soup is so delicious that I kept finding ways to use it other than that for which it is intended. Case in point, I made an omelet for breakfast one morning, heated up a little bit of the soup, and drizzled some on top. So good! Similarly, I warmed up a little bit of the soup, and used it as a dip for soft pretzels. Again, super delicious! Honestly, you can’t go wrong with his stuff. It’s easy to make, and everyone will love it.

Beer Cheese Soup

Adapted from

4 slices thick cut bacon

2 T. butter

1 Melissa’s shallotdiced

1 stalk celery finely chopped

1 carrot finely chopped

1 clove garlic minced

¼ c. flour

1 t. dry mustard

12 oz. beer

1 c. chicken broth

1 c. heavy cream

1 T. Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

¼ t. smoked paprika

½ t. fresh thyme leaves or ¼ t. dried

6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese shredded, divided

 Cook bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate; reserve drippings.

Add butter to reserved bacon drippings. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in flour and dry mustard. Cook 1 minute.

 Slowly add beer a little bit at a time whisking after each addition. The mixture will be very thick at first. Add chicken broth and cream, a little bit at a time, whisking after each addition. Add Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, smoked paprika, and fresh thyme leaves.

 Bring to a boil over medium heat while whisking. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Remove from the heat.

 Set ¼ c. cheese aside for topping; stir remaining cheese into the soup until melted.

 Ladle the soup into bowls, top with reserved cheese and crumbled bacon. 

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Monday, November 14, 2022

Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Fried Chicken

 There used to be an Outback Steakhouse close to my home. When Mr. O-P was well, we would order from them for pick up. We could get one large meal (we generally opted for the full rack of ribs) and share it between the two of us. We would wait until they offered their "get a free blooming onion with one adult meal" special. A number of years ago that location closed, so I haven’t eaten there in about six years. 
When I found a recipe online for their Bloomin’ Chicken, I had to give it a try. I made the sauce early in the day so that the flavors would have a chance to meld. I also flattened the chicken so that I would have only a small amount to do at dinnertime. 
I varied a bit from the original recipe. In my opinion the chicken needs to be flattened to a quarter of an inch so I did that (It also cooks faster this way, thereby using less energy). I also think that Chick-fil-A or Syberg’s Sauce works just as well and tastes just as good, so, in my opinion, there’s really no point in bothering to make sauce. I’m not a fan of deep-frying, so rather than using a big pot with 2 inches of oil, I used an All-Clad with a 4-inch side, and a half inch of oil. The results were phenomenal! Truly, much better than chicken I’ve had when I've dined out. As I always do, I soaked my chicken in buttermilk overnight. The end result was chicken that was flavorful and juicy, with a super crispy exterior. This was phenomenal. There’s really not much to it, and I like that in a good meal.

 Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Fried Chicken

Slightly adapted from

 Bloomin' Sauce

½ c. Duke’s mayonnaise

2 t. ketchup

2 T. horseradish

¼ t. paprika

¼ t. salt

1/8 t. garlic powder

1/8 t. dried oregano

1 dash ground black pepper

1 dash cayenne pepper

Seasoned Flour Breading

2 c. flour

4 t. paprika

2 t. garlic powder

1 t. salt

½ t. ground black pepper

½ t. cayenne pepper


½ c. water

1 lb. chicken breast

Vegetable oil for frying

Bloom Sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 Seasoned Flour Breading

Stir all ingredients to combine.


Place the buttermilk into a shallow bowl, add the water, and stir to combine. Prepare the chicken by pounding it to ¼ inch thick. If your chicken breast is greater than 1 inch thick, slice in half horizontally. Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap, and gently pound out thin with a meat mallet.

 Set up a breading station by placing the seasoned flour first, then the buttermilk mixture, and then a baking sheet with a wire rack on it.

Dredge chicken into seasoned flour, and then shake off the excess. Dip the breaded chicken into the buttermilk, shake off the excess. Then dip the buttermilk-dipped chicken into the seasoned flour for a second time. Place the fully breaded chicken onto the wire rack.

 Repeat for the remaining pieces of chicken. The breaded chicken should rest for about 5 minutes before cooking.

 Add 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil into a skillet. (See above text) Heat the oil to 350°F.

 Place one or two pieces of chicken into the oil. Deep-fry the chicken pieces in the hot oil until done, about 5 to 6 minutes, turning midway until both sides of the chicken are golden brown.

 When the chicken is done, remove it from the oil and drain on a clean wire rack.

To serve, place the cooked chicken on a plate and drizzle on some of the bloomin’ sauce.


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