Menu Ideas

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta served as an appetizer

I love, love sun-dried tomatoes.  I could spend a really long time just eating them by themselves. Combine them with pasta, spinach, pine nuts and cheese… OH BOY!  Happy Mama!! I made this pasta salad for a Christmas party and served it as an appetizer in little individual 2-ounce plastic condiment cups.  My guests enjoyed this as something different.  Next time, I think I’ll choose a smaller sized pasta so it will fit into the cups a little easier.  You could also add other ingredients to this pasta salad like pancetta, olives, artichokes and mushrooms.  Just go crazy!  It’ll be great!

‘Tis the Season for Kid-Friendly Pumpkin Fondue

Mr. Pumpkin isn’t always sweet.  Sometimes he can be savory and sassy!  (Not sure why I made the pumpkin male….)  From lattes to pies to muffins, many of the seasonal pumpkin recipes are sweet.  Here’s a savory one to add to your fall collection.  I’ve always loved fondue.  Uhhhh….except for that time when my sister and I made fondue for a baby shower and we decided that any old kind of dish and open flame would do to serve our cheese fondue.  That was all well and good until the dish busted wide open with a loud and startling “bang” just as the church ladies were sampling their first very-full cups of blue punch.    Oops.  We referred to the dish that day as Fon-DON’T!

I promise this recipe is a definite Fon-DO!  It’s kid-friendly because there is no alcohol and has a cheese sauce base instead. My most important tip for fondue:  use good quality cheese.  You won’t like the outcome with the cheap stuff.  Been there.  The breads I like to use are jalapeno cheddar and pumpernickel, in case you’re wondering.

Some “getting ready for summer” recipes: Sausage Dogs, Fruit Salad, Key Lime Cheesecake and Frozen Mojitos

No surprise that summer makes me think about food.  Actually, every season makes me think about food, but that’s beside the point.  For summer, I like recipes that include elements that can be made ahead and are easy to double or triple for summertime sharing.  Here are four ideas to get you started with the season.

Dinner-worthy Sausage Dogs (can’t even believe I’m calling this a recipe!)
1.  Choose a kielbasa sausage link (or your fave) from the deli case, one such as Hillshire farms.  Cut into almost bun-length pieces, crosswise.  Slice each piece in half, lengthwise.
2.  Place in your favorite steak or pork marinade  (I like Allegro Creole).  Cover and refrigerate for a  couple hours or overnight.
3.  In a saute pan over medium heat, saute julienned red bell peppers and yellow onions in a little olive oil/butter mixture until softened and translucent; do not brown.  Season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes, if desired.  (note:  by mixing butter and olive oil, the onions aren’t as likely to brown as when you use butter only).  Remove from heat and keep warm.
4.  On a preheated grill, grill sausages on both sides until charred marks appear and sausages are hot throughout.
5.  Serve on Pepperidge Farm Split-top Hot Dog buns with spicy brown mustard, relish, and sauteed vegetables.
You can make these and wrap in foil for a take-along meal.

Summer Fruit Salad
1. Cut your favorite  fruits (I like strawberries, mangoes, blueberries, honeydew melon, green grapes) into 1/2″ dice pieces.2.  Mix equal parts honey, fresh lime juice, fresh lemon juice, and orange juice.  Pour over salad, using enough to coat well but not pool underneath
3.  Stir in finely chopped fresh mint.  Chill.  For a yummy add-on, add a dollop of sweetened whipped cream that has some fresh lime zest mixed in.

The Key Lime Cheesecake is a little more challenging, but Drop Dead Delicious!!!! Worth the effort.

The Mojitos are my favorite “lake cocktail.”  I can bring on big grins with a pitcher of that!

Goin’ Easy on Easter Treats

I don’t know about you, but my schedule has been ridiculous lately!  Oops!  My son’s school Easter party almost snuck up on me.  I did remember in time, but I only had a couple hours total to devote to making the treats.  So, I looked around for some cute but easy ideas.  These treats turned out to be a big, yummy hit and several folks asked me to post about it.  Here ya go. See recipe below.

photo 3-3Scratch-Made Chocolate Cupcakes with Butterscotch Pudding and Canned Frosting
I have had this basic cupcake recipe so long I have no idea where it originally came from.  I love these cupcakes because they are made with mayonnaise instead of eggs and have very few ingredients for homemade batter.  They turn out moist, chocolatey and delicious.


photo 1-3Easter Fish Snacks
Spread Snyder’s Butter Knots pretzels on a baking sheet.  Top each pretzel with a Hershey kiss.  Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for a couple of minutes or until the chocolate looks shiny, indicating that it’s melted.  Remove pan from oven and press a Goldfish cracker into each chocolate kiss, flattening into a disc.  Place in the refrigerator for a few minutes to set the chocolate.  It’s a great snack for kids while they learn about the story of Jesus’ Miraculous Fish Catch, John 21:1-14.  Fun for kids to make and eat!

photo 2-3Rice Krispy Robin’s Egg Nest Treats – Right off the Rice Krispies website  These are great for the kids to help make, too.

Warm weather calls for Chunky Gazpacho

gazpachoSo you don’t think your family will eat cold soup, huh?  Well before you make that final claim, give this recipe a whirl!  During a recent culinary kids program at a local elementary school, I served this and was delighted that about 80% of 1st-3rd graders rated it thumbs up!  It’s a fun recipe to get little summer-lazy hands to help you, too!

Making friends with Butternut Squash

butternut squash soupI am coordinating GTCC’s culinary outreach efforts to local schools and I am having a blast doing it.  We are going into the schools teaching kids about wholesome foods and healthy cooking.  We show them all kinds of produce and do a variety of cooking demos and tastings.  Today, I made Butternut Squash soup for 100 2nd graders.  Did you know that your hands actually turn orange after peeling and dicing 28 lbs. of butternut squash?  Well they do.  Just sayin’…

Here’s the recipe for the soup.  Most of the kids enjoyed it and almost all were willing to give it a taste.  The addition of goldfish crackers added an extra tasty incentive to give the spoon a little slurp.  For the kid version, I just used the basic recipe.  When I make it for adults, I stir in a healthy amount of curry powder to taste and serve with a dollop of sour cream.  If you’ve never tried this kind of soup, you’ll be surprised at how creamy and rich it tastes.  Adults are welcome to add the goldfish too.  It adds a nice taste and crunch.




Who doesn’t love a good Reuben?  I have added a special little twist  to the sauce that makes my hubby’s tastebuds smile!  Bonus idea:  take all the leftover ingredients for the sandwiches and put them in a freezer bag together for an easy lunch on another day.  So nice having all the ingredients together in the same bag.  Just thaw and grill.