Friday, March 29, 2024

Blue Ghost

At the end of February I shared a review for the Krista Davis yet-to-be-published title, The Diva Goes Overboard that you can read here. Today I’m going to share with you a recipe from the previous book in the series, The Diva Delivers on a Promise. Davis includes recipes at the end of all of the books, many of which I have tried having read every book in the series of 17. This book had a cocktail recipe that I absolutely could not resist. More dessert than cocktail, this will be one libation you will never forget.
Blue Ghost
From The Diva Delivers on a Promise

One jigger (1.5 ounces) blue curaçao
One jigger coconut rum
One jigger crème de cacao
Vanilla ice cream

Pour the liqueurs into a mixer and add two scoops of ice cream. Blend and serving chilled martini glasses.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Easter Tablescape Ideas to Inspire


Is it just me, or is Easter early this year? Perhaps because January seemed so long, the rest of the months have felt shorter by comparison. Whatever the reason, this month is just flying by. Easter Sunday will be here before you know it, and a lovely dinner table will be in order. Whether you’re looking to create a simple or more elaborate Easter tablescape, my most recent one can be found here, or check out these other fine examples to inspire you. Just click on the name beneath the picture and it will take you right to the informative post.

Easter Brunch Tablescape

Brunching with Bunnies

Blue & Yellow Easter Tablescape

Lunching with Lapins

Besotted with Bunnies Tablescape

Mr. McGregor's Garden Tablescape

A Simple Bunny Table

Happy Easter to those who celebrate!


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Koulouria (Greek Easter Cookies)

Back when I had my first job, my first real, full time, not-Christmas-help-in-the-cosmetics-department job, I met a Greek man with a wonderful cookie recipe. Each year at Easter, he and his wife would bake up a huge batch of these and distribute them to everyone in the department. Because they looked rather plain, my expectations were low, but overwhelmed by his sincerity, I tasted one. This was certainly proof positive that one cannot judge a book by its cover or a cookie by its rather simple appearance; these cookies were addicting. They are also very special, not just because they came from a friend in whose family they had long been a tradition, but for the way, through delicious food, they can illustrate the true meaning of Easter. The shapes of these cookies, you see, are to represent the crown of thorns and nails used in the crucifixion.  

This recipe makes a huge batch, but it is considered good luck to receive them, so you will want to share them with all of your friends. (The recipe does halve nicely if you prefer to make a smaller batch.)


(Greek Easter Cookies)

1 lb. unsalted butter
1 c. Crisco
6 eggs
4 c. granulated sugar
1 T. vanilla
4 t. baking powder
Dash salt
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. freshly ground nutmeg
Juice of one orange
¼ t. baking soda
1 c. whole milk
14-15 cups flour

1 egg
1 T. water

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter and Crisco. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until thick and lemon colored. Whisk in vanilla. Combine egg mixture with shortening mixture and beat to blend. Blend in baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. 

Mix baking soda into orange juice and add all at once to above mixture. Add milk and blend together on low speed. With mixer still running on low speed, add flour slowly. Continue adding flour until dough is soft and pliable and doesn't stick to your hands. 

Empty dough onto work surface. To shape, pinch off walnut-size pieces and roll into a rope about 5" long and as big around as your finger. Shape into crowns, thorns, or nails. 

Whisk together egg and water to make egg wash. 

Place shaped cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets and brush with egg wash. Bake about 25-30 minutes or until light golden brown. 

Note: This recipe can easily be halved, or if you are rather clever with math, cut by thirds.  The dough can be made ahead of baking up to two days prior. The dough freezes well if you find yourself overwhelmed with cookie baking.

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Monday, March 25, 2024

Lemon Baked Ziti

I bought lemons, and when I say I bought lemons, I mean I REALLY bought lemons. What can I tell you? They were on sale, I had a hankering, one thing led to another, and I came home with about 5 pounds of them. Fortunately there are all kinds of things I can use them for from savory to sweet, salad dressing to beverages, even in soup. Lemons are quite versatile.

 The first thing I decided to do was to satisfy my curiosity by making a Giada DeLaurentis recipe. Her Lemon Baked Ziti has long intrigued me, so I thought I would give it a try.  It is excellent! I cut the recipe in half, and I used bacon instead of pancetta. When I make it next time, and there will be a next time, I am only going to use seven ounces of pasta rather than eight, because I would have liked this to have been a tiny bit saucier. Definitely drizzle the topping with the pancetta cooking juices in place of the olive oil. Give it a try. It is wonderful!

Lemon Baked Ziti

From Giada DeLaurentis


Butter, for greasing the baking dish


1 lb. ziti pasta

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

12-oz. pancetta, sliced into ¼” thick slices


½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ c. all-purpose flour

3½ c. whole milk, room temperature

Zesty of 2 large lemons 

¾ c. grated Parmesan

1 t. kosher salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

1 c. chopped fresh basil

2 T. chopped fresh thyme

¼ c. fresh lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)

2 c. shredded mozzarella


2/3 c. plain breadcrumbs*

1/3 c. grated Parmesan

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the pasta: Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 13” x 9” x 2” baking dish.

 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.

 In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until brown and crispy, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and drain on paper towels.

 For the sauce: In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add the lemon zest. Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, salt and pepper.

 In a large bowl, combine the cheese sauce, cooked pancetta, pasta, basil and thyme. Toss until the ingredients are coated. Stir in the lemon juice. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the mozzarella.

For the topping: In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

 Sprinkle the topping over the pasta mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake until the top is golden brown, 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and serve.

*Use panko here, and everywhere else where plain breadcrumbs are called for. Trust me on this.

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Friday, March 22, 2024

Dolly Parton's Stampede Soup (Copycat)

Despite the fact that I have lived in Missouri pretty much all of my life, I have never been to Branson, ergo, am unfamiliar with Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Theater, that, from what I’ve read, has attracted millions of people (at last count a whopping 20 million). Supposedly it is the world’s most visited dinner show attraction.

Part of its appeal, I’m told, is the four-course meal served in tandem with stunning live performances. A mainstay on the menu for decades is the show’s beloved Dolly Parton Stampede Soup. I had never heard of this before, the ingredients are few, and it sounded too easy to be any good, so naturally, I had to try it. I quite liked it. Don’t let its humble appearance fool you. It’s mild, but flavorful — real comfort food, particularly when served with biscuits on the side. I tend to make soup year round, and I think this will be the perfect summer soup, although indulging in winter is nice too. Next time, to make it heartier, I may just add a little cooked chicken.

Dolly Parton's Stampede Soup (Copycat)


 4 c. chicken stock*

1 bay leaf

1 t. onion powder

1 t. garlic powder

1 t. kosher salt

½ t. freshly ground black pepper

¼ c. cornstarch

¼ c. water

2 c. heavy cream

2 c. frozen mixed vegetables, partially thawed (e.g., a medley of green beans, carrots, corn and peas)

2 T. fresh parsley, finely chopped (for garnish)

In a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot, combine the chicken stock, bay leaf, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.

 In a small glass measuring cup, dissolve the cornstarch into the water, whisking together until lump-free.

 Once the seasoned stock is simmering, whisk the cornstarch slurry and heavy cream into the pot, and whisking until smooth.

 Add the vegetables to the soup (you can roughly chop them into smaller bite-sized pieces if yours are on the larger side). Bring the soup back to a simmer and then let cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and creamy, about 10 to 12 minutes.

 Once thickened, remove the bay leaf and then stir in the fresh parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.

 *I use my own homemade 

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Thursday, March 21, 2024

Country Bunnies Tablescape

This table is set for a country Easter brunch. I started with the rustic bunnies holding faux hydrangea blossoms, and glazed pitcher, filled with faux grasses for the centerpiece, and went from there.
This table setting came together very quickly, because I used so many elements from my previous table. Let this be a lesson to you, a few changes, particularly where color is concerned, and you have an entirely different look.
 The plate stack features a variety of colors and textures. The chargers are Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage plates, topped with Amelie Versailles dinner plates in white, topped with bamboo salad plates, topped with a Blue Ombre appetizer plate by Pfaltzgraff in their “Logan” pattern, on top of which I have lovely vintage glass tea cups with matching saucers, perfect for holding a cup of cold summer soup prior to the meal. That is quite a descriptive sentence, and quite a plate stack, isn’t it?

My mother made the sweet bunny napkins many years ago. I had completely forgotten about them until I started digging around in the Easter decorations and there they were. I’m so happy to have them at my table.
 The silver, freshly polished, is by International in the “Contessa” pattern. A friend gifted it to me, and I absolutely love it. I am one of those people who does not mind at all polishing silver.
The cups are simple white cappuccino cups, the water glasses Villeroy & Boch.
Overnight guests gifted the pale green teapot to Jim and me years ago. The country cottage sugar and creamer set belonged to my mother. I had no idea that she had this set until I unearthed it when I was emptying out her and dad‘s house. I have had them on display in my home ever since.
I think you will agree that this is a charming and serene table for an Easter brunch.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Death of a Master Chef by Jean-Luc Bannalec, a Review

I recently had the opportunity to read an absolutely delightful book, Death of a Master Chef by Jean-Luc Bannalec. I was surprised to learn that this book was ninth in the series of the “Brittany Mysteries,” as this was my first experience with this author. It’s rare that I pick up a book, sit down to read, and don’t get up again until the book is finished. That’s what happened to me with this one, much to the annoyance of Stanley the cat, who was quite miffed at not getting his usual snuggles. (I will admit to having 2 double espressos during the process, because I absolutely could not stand to allow Dupin to drink alone.)

 The book features Commissaire George Dupin, “a cantankerous Parisian-born caffeine junkie,” who recently relocated from Paris to the sleepy little town of Concarneau on the Breton coast where he continually feeds “…his extreme almost medically, indicated caffeine consumption.” There’s no question that Dupin is the star of the show here, but there are a lot of other wonderful characters in this novel that bring it to life, the least of which end up being victims in what proves to be a puzzling series of murders. That, coupled with the wonderful descriptions of the scenery, not to mention the toothsome sounding food, had me both salivating and ready to book a trip to France at the same time.

 The mystery is a good one. We learn, in the first couple of pages, that the first victim is Blanche Trouin, the Michelin starred chef of the region, who is stabbed to death by her own sister, competing restaurateur, Lucille. The stabbing was done publicly, so there’s no question as to the perpetrator, the big question is why she refuses to talk or provide any reasoning behind what seems like an unwarranted attack, despite their ongoing feud. Dupin, visiting the food stalls near where she was stabbed, appeasing himself due to the fact that he is reluctantly in the area to attend École du Police,  finds himself one of three commissaires working to solve this complex case.

 The descriptive writing here is beautiful. You will feel as though you are walking right alongside Dupin working to solve this baffling mystery. You will commiserate with him over his lost bag of gourmet cheeses, you will join him as he imbibes one café after another, and sample the complex taste of Rhum J.M. I had a great interest in knowing where all the action was taking place, so found myself referring quite often to a detailed map of France, feeling as though I had learned so much about this particular region.

I did not at all feel at a loss due to the fact that I had not read any other books in this series. Clearly this, and presumably the others, can be read as a standalone. Slated for publication April 30, 2024, I encourage you to pre-order this book, and then place an order for the other eight in the series. It is exceptionally good, you will fall in love with Dupin, and be booking tickets to Brittany, France. So, put your feet up and Taol da bouez’ ta*.

 *Cast off your worries. 

 Disclaimer: I would like to thank both NetGalley and Minotaur Books for providing me with an advanced digital copy of this wonderful book, in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Pineapple Sloppy Joes


In case you’re unaware, today is National Sloppy Joe Day. I decided to celebrate by trying something new. Recently, I found a chili recipe that called for pineapple. I thought that sounded really interesting, so decided that I was going to make sloppy joes and add pineapple to them. They turned out better than I had anticipated. They are intensely flavorful with the perfect amount of sweetness. I added about a half-teaspoon of hot sauce to give them extra zing. Add more cider vinegar if you prefer to cut the sweetness a bit. Do give these a try. My guess is that the family is going to love them.

Pineapple Sloppy Joes

 2 lbs. ground chuck

1 medium onion, chopped

1 T. Melissa’s minced garlic

 Hawaiian BBQ Sauce

 1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple (in 100% juice), undrained

1 c. ketchup

1/4 c. molasses

2 T. packed brown sugar

2 T. low sodium soy sauce

1 T. Dijon mustard

1 T. cider vinegar

1 t. salt

½ t. EACH ground ginger, smoked paprika, pepper

¼ t. EACH cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano

Hot sauce to taste

 In a 12-inch skillet, over medium heat, brown ground chuck with onions, breaking up clumps. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Drain on paper towel-lined plate.

 In a small bowl, whisk together all of the barbecue sauce ingredients.

 Return drained beef to skillet and pour barbecue sauce over all. Stir well to combine, and simmer for 15 minutes.

 Serve on Hawaiian hamburger buns for additional sweetness; I preferred toasted brioche buns.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Friday, March 15, 2024

TikTok Chicken Cobbler

I’m not sure if it’s because I wasn’t expecting much that I liked this as well as I did, or if it’s just darned tasty. This is a recipe that I found on TikTok. As I pointed out last week with my refrigerator drawer salad bar, I am not on TikTok.  You may find that hard to believe since I have now featured two things from TikTok in the past couple of weeks, honestly, I just stumble upon them. This appealed to me because I liked the idea of a chicken cobbler. Essentially, it is a much easier version of chicken potpie without the bottom crust. I was also drawn in by the fact that it used that yummy Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit mix, and I love those biscuits.
m not sure if it’s because I wasn’t expecting much that I liked this as well as I did, or if it’s just darn tasty. This is a recipe that I found on TikTok. As I pointed out last week with my refrigerator drawer salad bar, I am not on TikTok.  You may find that hard to believe since I have now featured two things from TikTok in the past couple of weeks, honestly, I just stumble upon them. This appealed to me because I liked the idea of a chicken cobbler. Essentially, it is a much easier version of chicken potpie without the bottom crust. I was also drawn in by the fact that it used that yummy Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit mix, and I love those biscuits.

I changed this recipe up a good bit because as I was assembling it, I thought it needed a few tweaks. I have notated all of that below the recipe. The recipe that you see here, is the original one from TikTok. If you want to see what I did, be sure to read the notes below. I will say that I had second helpings of this. It was super simple to put together, and I would definitely make it again. It
isn't pretty, but it sure is good.

TikTok Chicken Cobbler

 ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 c. cooked and shredded chicken

1 12-oz. bag frozen peas and carrots

½ t. garlic powder

2 c. milk

2 c. Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit mix

2 c. chicken stock

1 10.5-oz. can cream of chicken soup

 Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F.

 Put butter in a 9x13-inch baking dish and place in oven to melt while oven preheats.

 Once butter has melted, remove pan from oven. Arrange chicken in an even layer over butter. Next, add peas and carrots over the top. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

 In a medium bowl, mix together milk and biscuit mix. Pour over chicken and vegetables but do not mix the layers together.

In the same (now empty) bowl, whisk together cream of chicken soup and chicken stock. Pour over biscuit layer, but again, do not mix layers together.

 Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes. Mixture will be runny, but will thicken to gravy consistency. Let sit 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


1. I did not use a stick of butter, I used a half a stick (4 tablespoons). One stick just seemed like too much to me.

2. After I scattered the chicken in the bottom of the pan, I topped it with a generous sprinkling of Montreal chicken seasoning.

3. Instead of using a bag of frozen peas and carrots, I used a bag of frozen mixed vegetables that included corn and green beans in addition to the peas and carrots. I liked the greater variety of vegetables here.

4. I did not use the garlic powder, but I did use the seasoning mix that came in the packet of biscuits, and I used the entire amount of biscuit mix rather than measure out 2 cups.

5. I thought 2 cups of chicken stock seemed like too much, so I only used a cup and a half, and it was plenty moist.

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