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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hearty Beef Chili

Nothing is more comforting than a steamy bowl of chili on a cold snowy day. I have many versions. My family especially loves the one that I include steak. It is great to take a bite and have the chunky pieces of steak. I use any braising steak that is on sale. This makes it less expensive without sacrificing taste.


2 different cans of beans rinsed and drained (kidney, pinto, butter, or black beans)
1 pound of hamburger, browned and drained
1 1/2 pounds of a braising steak, cut into 1" pieces
1 small onion diced
2 large cans of tomatoes (whole, stewed, crushed, or diced depending on your preference)
3 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cilantro
1 Tsp. cumin
1 Tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. hot sauce
1 Tsp. chili flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. oil

In a skillet heat oil on medium. Brown the steak on all sides. Remove. Place the onion in the skillet. Saute until translucent. In a slower cooker combine all the ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Garnish with your favorite toppings. (cheddar cheese, sour cream, onions, jalapenos, etc.)

Salmon Cakes


1 large can salmon, drained and flaked
3 scallions chopped
1 egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 cup bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley chopped
1 lemon, wedged
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. oil

In a large bowl mix all ingredients, except lemon. Form 3 inch patties with mixture. Heat oil in a large pan. On medium cook salmon cakes 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve with a lemon wedge.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Marinated Mushroom

My son and I love vegetables. We frequent the "olive bar" at our local market for their marinated vegetables. We especially love the mushrooms and garlic. But at $6.99 pound we do not get them that often. So i decided to attempt my own. After several tries, we like this one the best. Keep in mind, you must make this at least 1-2 days ahead of time for the dressing to be absorbed into the vegetables.


1 pound of baby mushrooms
1 jar of pimentos, drained
1 small yellow onion, diced or sliced
12 garlic cloves, whole
1/3 cup cinder vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 Tsp. of italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. of sugar

In a bowl add mushrooms, pimentos, onion, and garlic. In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over mushroom mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 day.

Slow cooker chicken with carrots and potatoes.

Oh, the wonderful slow cooker. It is one of the best creations for the busy person. Nothing beats coming home from a long day to smell the aroma of chicken and herbs filling the air. This one is so easy and my family loves it! And it's defiantly very budget friendly as it uses chicken thighs which are very inexpensive!


6 chicken thighs
1 pound of small red potatoes
1 lemon sliced
1 small bag of baby carrots (or whole carrots diced into quarters)
1 pound of sweet sausage links or kielbasi
1 Tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. of oil

In a pan, add your oil and brown your chicken thighs on all sides. Remove from heat. Slice the sausage or kielbasi into 1" pieces and brown. Remove from heat. If there is casing, remove this. In slow cooker add potatoes and carrots. Next add the sausage or kielbasi. Add sliced lemons. Place chicken on top. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

Bénéficier! (Enjoy!)

Roast Chicken

So, I was shopping at the local market and they had small roasting chickens on sale. BOGO. Every time I see that, it reminds me of a friend that said boy that BOGO makes alot of stuff. She didn't know it meant by one get one free. LOL. So I picked up two for dinner. Chickens are so easy to cook. I prefer mine with thyme and rosemary. Instead of stuffing the cavity with stuffing, I stuff it with lemon and herbs to help flavor the chicken. I am sure everyone has their favorite way. This is mine~


1 roasting chicken (4-5 pounds)
1 Tbsp. thyme
1 Tbsp. rosemary
1 lemon sliced
2 stalk of celery including leaves in to 2 inch pieces
2 carrot chopped in to 2 inch pieces
2 small yellow onion quartered
olive oil
salt and pepper

Rinse your chicken inside cavity and out with cold water. Remove the "inners". Giblets, etc. Set aside. Sprinkle thoroughly inside the cavity and outside with thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Stuff the cavity with lemon slices, 1 onion, 1 celery stalk and 1 carrot. Drizzle outside with olive oil. Place in a roasting pan. Add enough water to cover bottom about 1/4". Add your "inners" to the water. Add the remaining carrot, onion and celery. This will help make a great stock for your gravy. Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours or until juices run clear. (165 internal temperature) Baste the chicken every 15 minutes. If you notice the skin is getting too dark, tent it with aluminum foil.
When cooked, remove chicken to rest. Strain the broth and place in a pot. Boil and add whisk in 2 Tbsp of flour to thicken the gravy.
Carve chicken and serve with gravy.

Bénéficier! (Enjoy!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Grandma Minnie's Infamous Spanish Rice

As a child one of my favorite dishes of both mine and my cousins was Grandma's Spanish Rice. I had tried multiple time to make it and failed miserably. Something just was not right. Than, my mom gave me the secret recipe and we made it this past Sunday in Grandma's memorable silver pot (Pictured with my mother and my daughter Nicole below). Was it the pot that made it taste just like Grandma's? Or perhaps Grandma was with us in the kitchen guiding my mother and I to Spanish Rice perfection. Whatever it was, it was AMAZING and tasted tasted like how I remembered Grandma's.


1 yellow onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1 large can of mushrooms
4 pork chops
2 quarts (or cans)of stewed tomatoes
2 cups of uncooked white rice

In large pan, add 2 Tbsp. of oil. Heat on medium high heat. Place the pork chops in the pan and brown them on both sides. Once brown, remove and place on a plate. In the same pan, saute your onions, peppers, and mushrooms about 8 minutes on medium low or until tender. Place this mixture in a large pot. If you have a dutch oven that would work fabulous! Cut your pork chops into 1" pieces. Please be sure to leave some pork on the bones. Place pork along with bones in your pot. Add stewed tomatoes. Add rice. Stir well. Cook over medium low heat. Stirring frequently for about 45 minutes or until rice is tender and sauce is thick.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bénéficier! (Enjoy!)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Grandma Minnie's Famous Chocolate Fudge

As a girl, there are many childhood memories of my Grandmother's wonderful cooking. Every time I would visit, the savory and sweet smells would permeate the air. Now, I am not a baker. And I typically do not like sweets, especially chocolate. However, this fudge my grandmother made had me smacking my lips in anticipation, waiting for her to be done beating the fudge to a a dull finish and anxiously waiting for it to harden after she poured it on a plate. No, she did not use your typical 8x8 pan. She always used a regular dinner plate. Between my cousins and I, we would devour the plate in 5 minutes flat. We were firm believers in "who ever eats the fastest gets the mostest". HA HA. SO, I have tried multiple times to make this recipe. I was finally able to perfect it yesterday. Yes, I had the recipe each time. The fault in previous attempts was in the how long I allowed the fudge to cook and beating it long enough to remove the gloss. Both a very tedious process. For cooking, the recipe calls for boiling until the candy reaches 235 degrees. My success arrived when I ditched my candy thermometer and used the "soft-ball" test. At 235° F, the syrup is at the “soft-ball” stage. That means that when you drop a bit of it into cold water to cool it down, it will form a soft ball. This takes about 18 minutes. Then having the patients and energy to beat the fudge to a dull finish. I hope these tips will help you if you decide to try this fudge recipe!


3 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of cocoa
1/8 of salt
1 can of evaporated milk
1/4 cup of butter
1 tsp. vanilla

In sauce pan add sugar,cocoa,& salt. Mix together. Stir in milk, cook over medium heat until the syrup reaches a full boil. (Stirring continuously during this process) Cook until your candy thermometer reaches 235, or the soft ball stage as stated above.
Add 1/4 cup of butter and 1 tsp.vanilla. Beat with wooden
spoon till it loses its gloss than pour into butter pan or dish.

You can also add 1/4 cup of peanut butter when you add the butter and vanilla.

Bénéficier! (Enjoy!)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shrimp Scampi with Angel Hair Pasta

My oldest son is a lover of seafood. He also only eats whole pasta. So this recipe will use whole wheat angel hair pasta, but feel free to use your favorite. This is such a quick and easy recipe!


1 Box of Angel Hair Whole Wheat Pasta
1 pound of raw shrimp, peel and devein
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley finely chopped
3 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, melted
3 gloves of garlic, minced
1/4 Tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
1 Tsp. of Lemon Zest
salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Heavily salt the water. This is the only chance you get to season the pasta itself. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain. Return the pasta to pan. Remove from heat. In a large skillet heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil on medium. Salt and pepper the shrimp and add to the skillet. Cook 2 minutes each side or until shrimp turn pink. Be careful not to overcook. Remove immediately. Place in pot with pasta. In a small pot, place butter, parsley, crushed red peppers, lemon juice, and garlic. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add 1 Tsp. salt and 1/2 Tsp. of pepper. Stir. Add sauce to the shrimp and pasta. Toss to coat pasta and shrimp. Serve with a lemon wedge and fresh parsley.

Bénéficier! (Enjoy!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I have always loved Italian food. Spaghetti and meatballs! Yum. However, it was always Ragu. As my taste buds changed I upgraded to Prego! HA HA. I had no idea how CHEAP and EASY it is to make your own sauce. Don't be intimidated! Give it try. And forget those pre-frozen soggy meatballs. This recipe is so easy. I hope you love it!
Now, I love chunks of tomatoes and veggies in my sauce. My family, however, does not. So this recipe is a smooth variety! However, where it calls for crushed tomatoes, you can use diced or whole tomatoes for a chunkier sauce. Also, my family does not like veggies, I do. So, please add chunks of green pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, and onions to suit your taste.

Tomato Sauce

1 can of crushed tomatoes (large)
1 can of tomato puree (large)
1 small can of tomato paste (small)
1 box of beef stock
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh basil chopped
1 Tsp. dry oregano
3 cloves of garlic minced (I love garlic)
1 small yellow onion diced
1 Tsp. chili flakes
1/2 Tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 Tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp. of olive oil

In a large pot, add the olive oil and saute the garlic and onions until translucent. Add the rest of the ingredient and simmer on low for 1 1/2 hours. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, add a Tbsp. of sugar.


1 pound of ground beef
1 pound of ground veal
1 pound of ground pork
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup bread crumbs
3 Tbsp. fresh parsley chopped
2 gloves of garlic minced
2 eggs
1/2 onion diced
1 Tbsp. of olive oil

In a small skillet saute the onion until translucent, set aside to cool. In a separate bowl add the remaining ingredients as well as the sauted onion. With hands mix the ingredients together. Roll into 1" balls, and place on baking sheet. Cook at 350 for 20 minutes. Drain and add meatballs to the tomato sauce to finish cooking.

Bénéficier! (Enjoy!)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

Growing up I always loved macaroni and cheese. I knew it came out of a box and I could make it easily with a little butter and milk. My children loved this as well. Then I had the best macaroni and cheese at a restaurant. It was so creamy and delicious. I decided to make my own. This recipe is easy and great. You can use whatever cheese you and your family like the best. You can even just use all cheddar as well!


2 cups of cooked elbow or penne pasta (1/2 box)
1 can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup shredded cheddar
3/4 cup shredded gruyere
salt and pepper
Optional (Cayenne pepper or paprika)

Cook the pasta until el dente. About 8 minutes. Rinse under cold water to shock. (Stop the cooking process). Melt one stick of butter. In a separate bowl whisk the evaporated milk with 2 eggs. Gradually whisk in the butter. Whisk in 1/2 cup each of cheddar and gruyere. Add 1 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Whisk and pour into an 8x8 baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Add a touch of paprika or cayenne pepper for color. Bake uncovered at 350 for 35 minutes.

Bénéficier! (Enjoy!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Grilled Salmon with Honey Balsamic Glaze

4 salmon fillets (1/2 pound each)

1 Tsp. dried dill
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. of white wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsp. Honey
1 Tbsp. of Balsamic Vinegar

If using an electric grill, pre-heat to 350. If using an outdoor grill, set to medium. Spray your cooking surface with a non-stick cooking spray.
Whisk together the olive oil, white wine vinegar, dill, garlic, lemon, and lemon zest for your baste. Brush the salmon liberally on both side with mixture. Salt and pepper both sides. Place on grill. If using an electric grill, cook for 5 minutes, or until the salmon turns opaque. If using an outdoor grill, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until opaque. Baste your salmon twice during cooking process.
Mix together the honey and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over the salmon. Serve with rice. (Optional) Garnish with parsley and a lemon wedge.

Bénéficier! (Enjoy!)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Stuffed Pork Chops with Scalloped Potatoes.

Stuffed Pork Chops


8 pork chops, cut 1/2" thick
1 pound of italian sausage
1 cup loose spinach, chopped
1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt

Preheat over to 375.

With a paring knife, butterfly each pork chop. (Carefully cut the pork chop horizontally through the center of the chop. Once you have made a cut, open up the chop to see if you need to make another cut. ) The idea is to create a "pocket" for your stuffing. Be careful not to cut the whole way through.

Mix together the rest of the ingredients to make the stuffing for your pork chop.

Place stuffing mixture into the "pocket" of each chop.

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until internal temperature reads 170 degrees.

Scalloped Potatoes

6 idaho potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 onion diced
1 1/2 cup of milk
1 stick of butter
2 Tbsp. of flour
salt and pepper
Paprika (optional)

Place whole peeled potatoes in a pan with cold water. (Never start to boil potatoes in hot water. This would cause the outside to cook faster than the inside resulting in a mushy exterior and undercooked interior) Add 2 Tbsp. of salt. Bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes until fork tender. Be careful not to boil to long. You will need to be able to slice the potatoes once cool. Strain and rinse under cold water (shock)to stop the cooking process. Thinly slice each potato and set aside.

In a large pot melt one stick of butter. Add onion and saute until translucent. Whisk in the flour. Once the flour is added, you must keep whisking the mixture until blended. Simmer and whisk until mixture is a light brown. This will create a rue which will help your sauce to thicken. Slowly whisk in the milk. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the sour cream and 1 cup of the cheddar cheese. Remove from heat. Gently fold in the potatoes. Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan. Pour in potato mixture. Spread remaining cheddar cheese. Optional: Sprinkle with paprika for extra color. Bake uncovered at 375 for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Bénéficier! (Enjoy!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dreaming of the days of summer.

As I sit here looking out my bay window, watching the snow swirl around on the deck, I dream of the days of summer. Don't get me wrong, I actually love the snow. Building snowmen, sled riding, snow days, sitting around the fireplace, and hoping for a white Christmas. Yes, we FINALLY had one this year. What I miss about the summer is my garden on the deck.

Because I love to cook, I grow a multitude of herbs and veggies. When I walk out on my deck the aroma of sweet basil permeates the air. As I move closer, the hint of fresh mint tickles my nose. I inspect the zucchini plants and see that they are growing rapidly and I should be able to harvest a couple soon. The peppers are ready for picking. Green, banana, chile, poblano, and jalapeno coloring the right side of the deck. These lovely peppers will provide our family an array of delicious meals well into Fall.

Ah, and the sweet tomatoes. Both cherry and beefsteak. Nothing beats eating a tomato fresh off the vine. These treasures can be enjoyed merely with a dash of salt. Add a juicy slice to a sandwich and you have pure heaven on a bun. Tossed in a salad with a vinaigrette. Yum.

But alas, the containers once holding my bounty lay dormant. Looking back at me quite bleak. Hoping for an early summer when they will once again be alive with all of natures best. Until than, I will sip another cup of coffee and dream.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

6 more weeks of winter

So, Punxatawney Phill saw his shadow today. 6 more weeks of winter. Growing up about 20 minutes from Punxatawney, I have never participated in the Ground Hog Day festivities, but I hear they are fun.

My son Ryan also has a love for cooking. He attended a cooking class at Market District today. He had a great time. His favorite recipe was the "six more weeks of winter" soup. I have included the recipe courtesy of the Market District. Ryan said it was delicious.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, small diced
1 box Market District chicken stock
1 Tbsp. thyme, chopped
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1/2 box of whole wheat rotini
1 bag spinach, roughly chopped


1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat
2. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Add chicken stock, thyme, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer.
4. Add rotini and simmer until noodles are cooked through, about 12 minutes.
5. Add spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

(I added one clove of chopped garlic and 1 Tsp. of basil to enhance the flavor)

Serves 4 * Prep Time: 5 minutes* cook time: 25 minutes

For more information on the awesome Market District, check their face book page at:

Vegetable Soup

It's a cold day here in Pittsburgh, so my soul calls out for soup. Perfect day for a vegetable soup.


1 1/2 pound of skirt steak, cut into 1" pieces
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 envelope of onion soup mix
3 cups water
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2" quarter pieces
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can of green beans, drained and rinsed
3 Idaho potatoes, peel and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 TBS of vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of salt
1 TBS of Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf

In a cast iron pot, add 2 TBS. of oil. Heat on medium. Add the steak and brown. Once the steak is browned, remove the steak and place on a plate. Next saute the celery and carrots until soft. About 6 minutes. Add the steak back in. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, and onion soup mix. Whisk until well blended. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Cover and simmer on low for 4-5 hours. Remove the bay leaf. Serve with french or italian bread. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Where my obsession began with cooking.

Today is January 31, 2010. Let me introduce myself. My name is Melissa and I am a 41 one year married mother of three. Let me say I love to cook. I wouldn't even say love. I would say I am obsessed. My obsession with cooking began first with my love of food. As a child I grew up with a family of amazing cooks. Any social gathering always involved food. There was always a wide variety of stuffed cabbage, homemade noodles, pasta, halushki, etc. The food was always overly abundant. Everyone would talk and eat until quite uncomfortably full. At the end of the festivites, all would be leaving with PLATES of leftover. No food was ever thown away. This was probably was the result of a humble background. With both my parents coming from large families and both grandfathers being miners, money was always tight for my parents growing up.
My mother was a homemaker, as most were at that time. She was always cooking or baking in the kitchen. I fondly remember FAMILY dinners. Dinner was always promptly served at 5:00. Dinner was always a home style meal ranging from stuffed peppers, pork chops, spaghetti, and homemade noodle over mashed potatoes with roast. Yummy. I remember peeling those potatoes with a paring knife and being the one in charge of mashing. One meal that I enjoyed was macaroni and milk.
I think the best cook was my grandmother Minnie. Oh how I miss her! She made the most amazing food. The three dishes that I remember the most were her homemade fudge, spanish rice, and pumpkin pie! She would stand over the stove making the fudge or spanish rice for hours. Always in the silver cast iron pot. She would pour her fudge on to a plate to harden. The pieces would be in random pieces when cut. My cousins and I would devour it in minutes. He spanish rice was so creamy with large pieces of pork chops and chicken wings. Yum!
So when did I become obsessed with cooking? I can not really pinpoint the moment. It started gradually. I would cook very little in college unless you consider ramen noodles cooking. Lol. I would say I started to enjoy cooking after I had my third son Ryan. I was able to resign from my job and stay home. I started reading cookbooks and trying new recipes. Than I started experimenting and straying from the recipes. I started making recipes to "taste". At this point I was still only "dabbling" in the art of cooking. Than I started having weekly football Sundays with friends. Either at my house or thieirs. When invited somewhere, I never went empty handed. I always brought a covered dish. When I entertained at my house it was exciting for me to plan what my theme would be and what I would be serving. Friends started complimenting on what an amazing cook I was. I soared when my food was complimented and devoured. Each week I would try to "out do" my last dish.
So this brings me to the present day. I am so obsessed with cooking that at any given time, you can find me pondering over a cook book or cooking magazine with the cooking show on. Always pen and paper in hand. Learning new techniques, herbs I have never cooked with, and foods I have never tried. I have learned to brine, correct knife skills, and how I love my dutch oven. My daughter Nicole stated one day that her friends always say they love coming to our house because there is always homemade food offered or being made. They love the smell and the feeling of being welcomed.
I plan to share my creations as well as some secret family recipes on this blog. I hope you will enjoy this and begin to become your own food artist if you have not already.