Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jello is coming back! Cranberry Orange Dream

I grew up eating Jello. I love Jello. Jello makes you happy.
 My grandmother Leone, my dad''s mom was the queen of making Jello. She would make jello for every holiday and it would always be tasty, colorful and fabulous. Her Jellos had multiple layers of all flavors, and she added things like evaporated milk, cottage cheese and sour cream for texture.

 Leone Mesenbrink married Harold Seamon in the late 1920's and drove to California from Bonners Ferry Idaho. They settled in Guerneville and my dad was born in June of 1930. My grandparents were both German. I didn't get to know my grandfather Harold very well because he died when I was six years old, but I uderstand that his real last name was Rittenhause. His grandfather changed his name to Seaman to disguise his heritage in the early 1900's while immigrating to our country.

Leone was an amazing cook and baker. I still have her original recipes that were given to me by my cousin Darlene. All of the recipes are written in her own handwriting so they are very special to me. Leone passed away when I was in my mid 20's and I wish I could have spent more time with her in the kitchen.

This recipe was given to me by my Aunt Harriet, Leone's daughter. Harriet took over the beloved tradition of making Jello and we all remember Nana when we eat Jello recipes.


1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 8oz pkg cranberrry jello (or cherry)
16 oz whole berry cranberry sauce
1 1/2 cups cold water

Combine ingredients together in a large bowl per Jello pkg instructions, add cranberry sauce and place in fridge until thickened.

1 11 oz or 15 oz can of mandarin oranges

After thickened, fold in oranges.

1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c melted butter

Place graham crackers and sugar in a food proccessor and pulse until crumbly. Add melted butter and combine. Or put crackers in a Zip Lock bag and crush with rolling pin. Take mixture and spread in a 13X9 glass dish and place in freezer.

1 8 oz box softened cream cheese
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 tub thawed Cool Whip or 1 1/2 c whipped cream

Mix cream cheese, sugar together in mixer. Fold in cool Whip or whipped cream.

 Spread cream cheese mixture over frozen crust and place in fridge. Pour thickened Jello mixture over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate three hours.


The Holidays are a time for sharing new recipes. MAPLE-HERB ROASTED NUTS

This time of year we are all getting together with family and friends. Food is usually involved, but great food is always the buzz around town. I have attended many holiday parties over the past few weeks and I'd like to share some of the recipes that I have enjoyed. Now you can bring them to your next dinner party and be invited over and over again because everyone loves your yummy appetizers!

This recipe is the perfect hostess gift or you can make them and give them to your favorite teacher. My nineteen year old son Andrew got in on the action two years ago and made these nutritious and delicious treats for his teachers. It never hurts to show someone how much we love and appreciate them.

 Maple Spiced Nuts – an easy way to dress up nuts for gift-giving or party-going.

1/2 CUP              OLIVE OIL
1 CUP                 PURE MAPLE SYRUP
                            SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE







Monday, November 19, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

Well, we all love butternut squash. At least, I do. I especially love having soup this time of year when winter is approaching. The Fall leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder.
It is the perfect time to make soup. This recipe is easy and delicious.

You can roast the squash instead of boiling it to give the soup a more robust flavor.Add a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of light brown sugar to squash before roasting 


2 Tablespoons butter
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 ½ pounds)Or cur squash in half/peel on and roast in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes until soft when pierced with a knife. Scoop out flesh.
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 sliced leeks (about 2 medium)or 1 diced medium onion
1 apple, peeled and diced
2 sage leaves minced or 1 teas ground sage
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half

Freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic
 1 teaspoon nutmeg
 1 apple, diced
 White pepper
 Arrow root

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash,
potato, salt and pepper to pan; saute 3 minutes. Add leek or onion; saute 10 minutes.
Stir in broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until
potato is tender, stirring occasionally. Place half of potato mixture in
blender or Cuisinart. Remove center-piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape);
secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender
lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Repeat procedure with
remaining potato mixture. Stir in half-and-half. Cover and keep warm.

Garnish w/  sour cream and chives

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Let's Make Mud Pies: Carmelized Cauliflower Soup and Easy Hot Rolls

Let's Make Mud Pies: Carmelized Cauliflower Soup and Easy Hot Rolls: November is a beautiful of year. The Holidays are almost here, our heaters have come on from the cold weather, and it is time for soup. Th...

Carmelized Cauliflower Soup and Easy Hot Rolls

November is a beautiful of year. The Holidays are almost here, our heaters have come on from the cold weather, and it is time for soup. There is nothing like a hot bowl of soup to make my tummy happy. This recipe is perfect for an easy weeknight meal or great to serve for company on a special occasion.
In my opinion, cauliflower is an under utilized vegetable. Most people walk right by it because they don't know what to do with it. This recipe will make you a cauliflower believer too.

Who needs bread to go along with soup? I do!
Why make the dough from scratch (I have recipes if you want to go through the trouble), when you can make them look and taste like you made them from scratch and your friends and famly will never know the difference. It's hard to believe, but it is true. Read on to find your next favorite best kept secret to making any meal extra special.


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • ½ bunch thyme, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon fine chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 cups Chardonnay
  • 1 cup Madeira
  • 1 cup veal or beef stock (vegetable stock optional)
  • 2 cups half and half

  • 2 T dried potato flakes if needed to thicken
  • 4 crostini (lightly toasted thin slices of French bread)
  • 1 cup grated Fontina or smoked gouda cheese


Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until almost caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the onions and continue to cook, stirring until they darken.  Put the cauliflower on a sheet pan, sprinkle w/ 1T olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until caramelized.  Add the thyme and garlic to pot and cook for 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients to pot and cook soup on medium heat for 30 minutes.

Ladle soup into ovenproof bowls, top with the crostini and the cheese.  Place the bowls under a hot broiler until the cheese is bubbly.  Serves 4. 
Easy Hot Rolls
Buy Bridgeford Loaves (comes in a pkg of three loaves and found in freezer section of most grocery stores). Defrost in refrigerator overnight in covered bag so it does not dry out.
Divide roll into 10 pieces with a sharp knife and roll each piece into 4 inch long strips. Take each strip and tie in a knot. Place each knot into a greased (shortening or Pam) muffin tin pan. Brush w/ slightly beaten egg and let rise on counter until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve immediately w/ homemade apricot jam and butter.




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Oh yeah. Sweet Potatoes

Well, it is almost Thanksgiving. I have so much to be grateful for. It is wonderful to spend time with friends and family on this joyous occasion. I first ate this recipe when I attended Thanksgiving at my sister Julie's house @ 10 years ago. Her wonderful sister in law Mary Ann brought this dish to share and my family won't ever be having another Thanksgiving holiday without it.
Your family will LOVE it too!

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 C. Mashed sweet potatoes( roast in oven for 1 hour@350 degrees or boil)

1/3 C. Brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/3 C. Skim milk

2 T. Margarine/ butter

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp Kosher salt

2 egg whites (Whipped until frothy)


½ C. Packed brown sugar

¼ C flour

2 Tbsp chilled butter

1/3 C. Pecans chopped
1/2  teaspoon cinnamon

 Prepare by  whipping egg whites until stiff. Then take the first six ingredients and mix thoroughly in stand mixer. Fold egg whites into sweet potato mixture and spread evenly in a 13X9 glass dish.
Make the topping by putting all of the ingredients into a cuisinart and blend, or cut ingredients w a pastry blender by hand. Sprinkly topping over sweet potatoes evenly.

350 degrees for 30 min
Serves @ 6 people.

A family favorite for sure! Spanish Rice

Here is the Spanish Tomato Rice recipe I talked about in the last blog.
My mother made this recipe for us and it warms the tummy. Perfect side dish with chicken, tacos, or any main dish. My friend Marie adds red kidney beans to make it a more nutritious dish.

Spanish Tomato Rice

8 Slices bacon

1 C. finely chopped white or yellow onion

¼ C. chopped green pepper

1 1Lb can whole tomatoes

1 ½ C. water

½ can tomato paste

¾ C. uncooked long grain white rice

½ C. chili sauce

1 teas Kosher salt

Dash pepper

1 T. brown sugar

½ teas Worcestershire sauce


Fry bacon till crisp and remove from pan. Pour off half the fat. In remaining fat, cook onion and pepper till tender.

Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer 45 minutes. Crumble bacon over top and serve.

Serves 6-8

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.


Let's Grill!

Skirt Steak with Red Onion and

Citrus Lime Mojo
Upcoming recipe on my blog:
Skirt steak w red onion and citrus lime mojo
This recipe has to be one of my all time favorites. It is perfect served with Spanish rice or even on a bed of lettuce.
I like to marinade the meat the night before if possible for more flavor. It is so good that you will want to make a double batch and share it with your family and friends.

1 Skirt Steak

1clove garlic

3 green onions

1/2 jalapeno/ remove seeds

1bunch cilantro, including stems/divided

3/4 cup canola oil or peanut   oil

1teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1teaspoon kosher salt

1       teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Juice and zest of 3 limes

2 large red onions, peeled and thickly sliced


 Chop the cilantro and reserve 3 tablespoons for garnish. Set aside.

On a clean, wide work surface, place skirt steak down between two pieces of plastic wrap (spray the plastic wrap with non-stick spray before placing steak). Using a flat-sided meat pounder, flatten each steak until tender, paying attention to the thicker side of the steak. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the canola oil, the remaining cilantro, ground cumin, garlic, mustard, oregano, lime and salt and pepper. Process until the mixture is a smooth paste. Rub ½ the mixture over the steak and let marinate at room temperature for ½ hr.

TO COOK AND SERVE: Light a charcoal or gas grill, or have grill pan hot on stove top. When the grill is very hot, remove the steak from the marinade (discard the marinade), pat dry, and season with salt and pepper; cook 5 to 7 minutes on one side and 3 to 4 minutes on the other for medium rare. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes.  Grill the red onions at the same time as the strip steak
6 to 7 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, warm the reserved mojo over low heat. Slice the flank steak very thinly on the bias and serve with the reserved mojo, cilantro and grilled onions.


Nutrition Facts per Serving
Yield: Yield:  Serves 4-6
Fat. Total:
Carbohydrates, Total:
% Cal. from Fat:


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lemon Garlic Chicken

oven baked whole chicken

Lemon Garlic Chicken

It's that time of year again when the weather changes and I feel like cooking more. There is nothing better than a delicious baked chicken with roasted veggies. It warms the soul.

What I love about this recipe is that you can buy two or three whole chickens and bake them at the same time and have leftovers all week long or at least for a few days depending on the size of your family. With the leftovers I make chicken tacos, quesadillas, Asian chicken salad, panini's, chicken noodle soup and many more easy to fix meals.

 Sometimes I will give an entire chicken to my mother in law, my son "forever the bachelor"  or a neighbor in need and they appreciate it as well. It is a hospitable thing to do and it doesn't take much more of an effort on your part. I also believe it is economical because a large whole chicken can provide enough protein for a small family for a night or two.

I'll never forget when my friend Jan brought over a baked chicken dinner after I had an outpatient surgery. It was brought over hot, ready to eat sitting on beautiful caramelized veggies and whole fingerling potatoes.  A smile appeared on my face because I didn't have to trouble my husband with preparing dinner that night.
Here is the recipe:

Lemon Garlic Chicken

Preheat oven 375 degrees

2 or 3 Whole Organic Chickens
2 med size yellow or white onions
1 to 2 heads of garlic
2 lemons
1 bunch of parsley
Olive oil
kosher salt
3/4 C. White wine (Chardonnay)

Place chicken(s) in a roasting pan with legs sticking up. Sprinkle kosher salt liberally inside chicken cavity. Cut onions in half or quarters(leaving the peel on even!) and place in cavity. Cut head of garlic in half exposing the garlic on one side and put 1/2 head into each chicken. Cut lemon in half or quarters and squeeze 1/2 lemon into each cavity and toss it in. Divide parsley, and fold (stems and all) and place into chicken cavity.

Pour and rub @ 1/8 Cup Olive oil onto chicken on all surfaces leaving chicken legs sticking up.
Sprinkle liberally w/ kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Pour 3/4 C white wine into roasting pan and place into preheated oven.

Bake for about 15 minutes until skin is brown, then cover with foil. (this can also be done at the end of the cooking process by covering at first with foil, then uncovering for the last 15 to 20 minutes.) Chicken is cooked when skin is pierced between leg and breast and the juice runs clear about 75 minutes to1 1/2 hours. Let rest on counter covered for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Roasted veggies:
1 each of yellow and green zucchini sliced thick
1 white or yellow onion cut into chunks
1-2 yellow, orange or red bell peppers cut into chunks
2 carrots cut into thick slices
2-3 stalks of celery cut into thick chunks
1/2 butternut squash peeled and cut into chunks
4-5 potatoes peeled, and cut into quarters(or I prefer mashed potatoes)

Place cut veggies on sheet pans, pour a small amount of olive oil to coat, and sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked pepper. Toss. Bake veggies during the last 30 minutes of baking time until caramelized and soft when pierced with a sharp knife.

Gravy- If time, make a warm gravy to accompany the chicken and vegetables. Take drippings from roasting pan and reduce by half. Add canned chicken stock if you don't have enough liquid, but there should be plenty. Squeeze 1/2 lemon into gravy, and thicken with equal parts @ 1 teaspoon of arrowroot (found in the spice section), or cornstarch and water. After gravy is reduced pour in arrowroot and boil until thickened. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of Worcestershire if desired. Take off heat and add 1 Tablespoon of butter and stir until emulsified.

Will you make this for your family and friends? I hope you are inspired. Give me some feedback and share your thoughts with us. Post your questions. I'm here to help.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Summer Excursions and Food

So I just spent the last 3 weekends away from home. After all, it is summertime and it is time to play.
I also spent many hours preparing food for all three excusions since I love to feed people.

The first trip was to Bethel Island where my husband and I spent two nights in a motor home. That was a fun experience and it beats staying in a tent any day. We went boating with our good friends Kevin and Donna and their grandson Jamison. It was a blast.
 I brought my decadent Grand Marnier Dark Chocolate Cheesecake to celebrate my girlfriend Kathi's 50th birthday. It is her favorite and was enjoyed by everyone. This recipe is a crowd favorite and feeds a large crowd if you slice it thinly. After all, it is very decadent. It is the perfect end to a perfect meal with friends and enjoyed best with a cup of strong coffee.

Here is the recipe:

Grand Marnier Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
4 tbsp             butter, melted
1 cup               graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp             granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp          ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients and press into the bottom of an 8" or 9" springform pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

5   8oz pkgs    cream cheese
1 3/4 cup         granulated sugar
1 tsp.               lemon zest
1/2 tsp.           vanilla
Pinch              salt
4 or 5            large eggs = 1 cup
2                   egg yolks
1/4C             whipping cream

1. Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until soft and well-blended.  Add zest, vanilla and salt and blend again.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended.    Fold in cream.
Put into a spring form pan on a sheet pan in the center of a preheated 450 degree oven for 12 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for 1 hour more. Cheesecake will pull away from sides of pan when cooling and crack in the center. It is ok since you will be topping with the dk choc ganache when cool.
Ganache Topping:
1 cup                 cream
1 tsp                  vanilla
1/2 tsp.              coffee extract
1 C                   dk chocolate 52%  (like Cacao Barry)
1 T.                   corn syrup

Heat cream in a med size stock pot until almost boiling. Take off heat and add chopped chocolate,corn syrup, vanilla and coffee extract. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Set aside to cool.
When cool, top cheesecake with ganache. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove sides of pan and bottom before slicing. Can be frozen for up to 1 month.

     The next excursion was in Tahoe with 22 members of my husbands family. We stayed in the same house like we do every summer and we shared meals, stories and adventures. It was so much fun and I really enjoyed being with the neices and nephews and their babies.
I made a BBQ pulled pork, a turkey ragu w/ spaghetti, chicken enchilada's, Spanish rice and magic cookie bars for the occasion. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect vacation. Here is the recipe for the magic cookie bars:

 Magic Cookie Bars


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Use a 13 by 9 glass baking dish.

Take 2 packages of graham crackers and crush them in a food processor and 1 stick of butter or margarine melted and mix. Spread mixture into a 13x9 baking dish. Place 1 Cup shredded or flaked coconut onto crust. Sprinkle 10 oz or more of semi sweet chocolate chips over coconut. Sprinkle @ 3/4 C. chopped walnuts over chips. Pour 2 cans of sweetened and condensed milk (not evaporated!) over entire pan.

Bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until brown.

Cool and cut into squares.


Last weekend, my Aunt Teri and my mother in law Nilda and I headed north to the Point Arena Coast to visit the relatives. My aunt and I stayed at the Coast Guard House and had a quiet and relaxing time together visiting the local shops and going to the famous Point Arena Lighthouse. My aunt loves history and was excited to find a local book on the area that she could bring back to cherish forever.
We also had an unexpected visitor surprise us with his presence. We didn't expect to see a tiny green frog crawl out onto our window sill, but it was something to do since we didn't have cable tv. Next thing we knew, he was devouring his dinner right before our eyes! My aunt and I must have been tired because we couldn't stop giggling during the frog incident. I haven't laughed that hard in years!

I prepared a ragu bolognese with polenta, a roasted cauliflower and split pea soup, raviolis with Armenini's pesto, chocolate cream puffs, and candied ginger banana bread. Yum! The 93 year old aunt and uncle enjoyed the homemade meals and loved having their niece Nilda there to share stories about the good old days.

I'm back at home now planning the next great summer excursion to go on. I'm excited to cook again. What should I make next time?


Let's Celebrate the Heirloom Tomato!

                                          Photo: Heirloom tomatoes for dinner again. Yum!
     This year I shopped and planted by tomato garden in in early April. I attended the Master Gardener's tomato sale in Walnut Creek with my mom and her fiance. I picked up around 14 plants of all new and different varieties.  Staying away from Better Boy, Ace, and Early Girl my tried and true favorites, I purchased  Hearts of Passion, Cherokee Purple, Candystripe, and Black Zebra along with many others.

     A few plants were given away as an Easter gift for those favorite people who I knew would appreciate them. Some plants didn't flourish in my well prepared organic soil, but that was okay since I had so many others to rely on.

     The weather in the East Bay rained a lot and the tomato plants didn't start developing fruit until mid to late July. They typically like hot days and warm nights before the fruit becomes ripe. I also noticed that the heirloom varieties don't produce as many tomatoes, but the ones that do grow become very large and juicy.

     In any case, it was fun to see organic eats come from my garden to my table.
I am happy and always surprised to find a tomato hiding in the center of the bush, only to be plucked quickly off  and sometimes eaten the moment it is picked. So delicious!

     This recipe is extremely simple. It's not the same old Caprese Salad that you see everywhere.
You will need:

1 jar of pesto (I like La Romanella found at Smart and Final)
1 container of mozarella in water sliced
4 or 5 heirloom tomatoes of various colors sliced thick
Salt and pepper to taste

Place sliced tomatoes on a large serving platter. Arrange mozarella around tomatoes and drizzle the pesto onto the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Serves 6


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Honey makes Chocolate Chip Cookies taste even better!



Most people love the taste of honey. I am not a huge fan. Whenever I had a cough, my mom would give me a huge tablespoon of honey. It was supposed to help calm my cough. It probably worked and that is why she always gave it to us kids when we were sick.

I dislike the taste, but I do use it to flavor my tea occasionally. Mrs. Miller, my ex mother-in law was a fabulous cook and always used a tablespoon of honey in her chocolate chip cookie recipe to make her  cookies more moist. It is a great tip for us cookie lovers.

I fell in love with chocolate chip cookies when I was a girl. We lived in a quiet neighborhood in Concord near a chef and caterer. This chef always had cookies stored in a Tupperware container in her outside freezer. Sometimes, she would ask me to take care of her house while on vacation. I couldn't resist taking a cookie or two from the freezer for my efforts. It was the perfect looking cookie. The chocolate chips were placed ever so carefully on each cookie before they were baked. They tasted amazing. They were so rich and chewy and chocolatey. She must have noticed a few cookies missing, but never said a word to me about it. I was ever so happy each time she left for a trip.

My absolute favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe was shared with me while at my friends house. Donna made these cookies for me over 20 years ago while we were studying for a microbiology class and I still make them for my family and friends. They have oatmeal, coconut, walnuts and chocolate in them, so you feel like you are getting a little nutrition in your cookie. You won't ever go back to baking a plain chocolate chip cookie after you taste this cookie. I have added a little honey in the recipe to sweeten things up a bit.
Donna’s Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Crunchies

1 C.  butter or margarine
¾ C. Brown sugar
¾ C granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ C. sifted flour
1 teas soda
1 teas salt
1 teas vanilla
1 teas hot water or coffee
1 C chopped walnuts
12 oz choc chips
2 C. Oatmeal
1 C shredded  or flaked coconut
1 Tablespoon  of honey

Blend butter w/ sugars until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, honey, then vanilla and scrape bowl often. Sift flour w/ soda and salt and incorporate into batter. Alternately, add hot water, oatmeal, chips, and walnuts and blend just until well incorporated.
Scoop batter into balls and press gently to flatten w/ powdered sugar hand.
Bake @ 350 degrees for  9-11 minutes (depending on the size of the scoop) until golden brown.