Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fish Chowder and My Daughter's Nut and Seed Bread

Full disclosure, it's been a rough week around here. The cute doggie did not respond well to the 2nd chemo, and we almost lost him over the weekend. He's doing a bit better now, but my heart is sad at the thought of losing my buddy.

Fenway in happier times (on vacation at the beach and in the Maine snow!)

So cooking wasn't really on my mind.

I had this vague idea that I was going to make some healthy Valentines treats to share.

Sorry, not happening.

My daughter offered to share the bread recipe she made today. It's a vegan/paleo/gluten-free nut seed pumpernickel loaf.

She adapted the recipe from The Organic Dietitian.

Doesn't it look healthy?

I started wondering what I could have it with.

Then it hit me - Ash Wednesday. My favorite haddock chowder recipe. Perfect combination.

Back in 2014, I celebrated my sale to LIS with dinner at my favorite lobster house in Maine. We started off the meal with their fabulous fish chowder. Ever since then I'd been craving haddock chowder.

I was finally smart enough to look up a recipe. Haddock isn't easy to find around here, but Costco has been carrying it and the recipe is delicious.

Down East Chowder

@ 1 pound of haddock fillet
4 cups of water

You boil the haddock in the water. I like to use my Dutch Oven for this. You have to skim off the foam, but after boiling it for about 10 minutes, you have a nice fish stock.

You remove the fish and break it into bite-sized pieces. Then add about 3 cups of chopped potatoes, 1 cup chopped onion and 1 cup chopped celery. Cover and simmer until tender.

When everything looks ready, add the fish back in. You can add some salt and pepper at this point, and then swirl in 1 cup of milk/cream/half and half (depending on richness you want) and a pat of butter.

I thought I had taken pictures of the process, but I hope you'll settle for pictures from my celebratory dinner.

Is fish chowder one of your favorites? 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Amy's Easy HOMEMADE Macaroni and Cheese

Sometimes, simple things are the best. As I found out over the holidays when my oldest daughter said she wanted to make HER macaroni and cheese for one of our meals.

Now I've shared my recipe with you before (click here to see it), and it does take some time to make, but hey, it's got American, Havarti and cheddar cheese in it, plus some great spices that take it to the next level, right?

Yeah, well, nothing like being shown up by your kids. 

And for those of you who are familiar with Lindi Peterson's Crock Pot mac and cheese, this is even better, not to mention quicker, than that. (Sorry, Lindi. You know I still love you.)

Here's what you'll need for this yummy dose of comfort food:

8 oz. Velveeta, cubed
8 oz. Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp cheese, grated (for whatever reason, the flavor this lends is superior to regular extra sharp cheese)
1 can condensed Cheddar Cheese soup
1 cup cream (you can also use half and half or milk, but the cream makes for a richer flavor)
16 oz. package of your favorite elbow macaroni, cooked according to package instructions
Ground black pepper (optional)
1/3 cup bread crumbs (I prefer the Italian style, and while I happened to have the Panko (crunchy) variety on hand, you can use  whatever you like)
2 tablespoons butter

Okay, if you haven't already, go ahead and cook your macaroni. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, combine the soup, Velveeta and Cracker Barrel cheese over medium-low heat. 
Be patient and be sure to watch it, because you definitely don't want to burn your cheese. 

See, it really doesn't take that long.
I like to use a whisk to help eliminate any lumps.
Stir in your cream or milk.
If you like, add pepper to taste. I added about a 1/2 teaspoon.
Add the cooked macaroni.
And stir to coat.

Pour into a greased baking pan. An oblong casserole dish works well.

Next, over medium heat, melt butter.
Like you didn't know what that looks like.

Once butter is melted, add your bread crumbs.
Stir until butter is absorbed.
Then sprinkle over top of macaroni and cheese.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until top is golden and cheese is bubbly.

That's heaven in a skillet, I tell ya.

I don't know about you, but for me, mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. One I rarely allow myself to indulge in. So when I do, I want it to be good. This fits the bill perfectly. And it's great when feeding the masses. 

So today I stand before you, admitting that my daughter's mac and cheese recipe is better than mine.

'Nuf said.

Now let's talk football. How many of you watched the Super Bowl? Anyone disappointed with the game's outcome? 
Not me. I like Peyton Manning and cheered him on all the way, with plate full of ribs and Amy's mac and cheese. :D

Monday, February 8, 2016

Spinach Spanokopita-style Roll Ups

It's Monday with Jan, the Mid-Westerner!

Today I'm sharing a recipe that I love, but the rest of my family doesn't share my passion.

It isn't that they don't appreciate spinach. They do. In very small portions. (Like non-existent!) And this recipe has spinach at the very heart of its being.

We can blame this on Ruthy. A couple weeks ago she shared her Baklava recipe (go read that post here.) Last Wednesday I made her Baklava for a ladies' fellowship at church.

Yes, we do make each other's recipes! And it was as easy and delicious as she promised!

Well, the problem is that the package of phyllo dough has enough dough sheets for two Baklavas, and I only made one.

I could have kept the second roll in the freezer until the next time I made Baklava - but then I remembered this recipe.

Spinach Spanokopita-style Roll Ups

filling ingredients:

10 oz. (or about 3 cups) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 cup onion, minced (I used sweet white onions)
1 egg
8 oz. package cream cheese, softened (I used a tub of spreadable cream cheese I had purchased by mistake)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley

Other ingredients:
9 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
1/3 cup butter, melted

Mix the filling ingredients together in a medium bowl, then set aside while you prepare the pastry.

I like to use a sheet of parchment paper as a base when I'm working with phyllo dough sheets. They are very fragile and dry out easily.

The box has directions on how to handle the pastry sheets. Basically, you need to keep the sheets you're not working on covered with plastic so they don't dry out.

Line a baking sheet with a second piece of parchment paper. If you haven't used parchment paper before, you'll love this stuff. It's perfect for this kind of work, and even better when you're baking cookies or brownies!

So here we go - the assembly.

Lay your first sheet of pastry on your parchment paper.

Starting with the edges, brush some melted butter on the pastry sheet with light, quick strokes. Do the edges first and then the center - you'll thank me later. :) Lay a second sheet of pastry on top of that one and repeat with the butter. Do it again with a third sheet of pastry.

Now, spoon 1/3 of your filling mixture onto one end of your pastry layers.

Fold over about an inch of the end, and then about an inch along each side, and then carefully roll up the pastry with the filling in the center.

Lay the first log on your baking sheet, and make two more logs with the rest of the pastry sheets and filling.

Slice the top layers of the logs with a sharp knife.

Bake at 375° for 25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Let's look at that first picture again:

Do you see how the filling has burst through the phyllo dough? Part of the reason is that I forgot to put the egg in the filling.

I mean, what difference can one egg make?

Well, plenty. As the egg cooks, it firms up the filling, making it un-soupy. Soupy filling weakens the dough and makes a mess.

No problem! It was still delicious!

When the roll ups are done, take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 15 minutes. You can cut each roll into 5 slices for appetizers, or have a whole one for a main dish.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Mangia, Mangia! Italian biscotti from the Walla Walla Italian Heritage Association- repost

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I bring delicious Italian goodness!! If you've been visiting for 2013 or so, you;ll recognize this recipe. I had planned to do post about the sushi we made but there's a stomach virus going through our family and guess who is the last to get it? That's right... me. So, I promise to type up the sushi post next week. For now, I'll be lazy and cut and paste. Then crawl back into bed. :P
So, here it is!

I was at our homeschool girls' book club last week and spent a few glorious hours in a warm and beautiful kitchen, eating apple crisp with piles of real whipped cream topping! Even though I had eight BAZILLION things to do (like get my hair cut and go to Home Depot- those things are not related) I had a fabulous afternoon chatting and eating. Who cares if our refrigerator is on its last legs? Not me! Or at least, I don't care when I have a plate of warm apple crisp in front of me.
Now, as I was chowing down on that deliciousness, I spied a little cookbook on my friend Terri's shelf. You all know I love a good cookbook.
 But... I had an ulterior motive. See, Terri makes the most AMAZING biscotti. If I could get my hands on that recipe, I could have biscotti every day, as much as I wanted! A devious plan was hatched.
 She so sweetly let me borrow the cookbook. I got it home and started to page through it. You know how you can tell a person's favorite Bible verse by how the page looks? Well, I didn't have to look far for her favorite recipe. Past the braccioli, past the tarduci, past thecardiletti, the latte dulce and the cassata alla siciliana, there it was...
 Behold, the page of the biscotti recipe! Ooooo, I rubbed my hands together in maniacal glee! I was never going to want for biscotti again!

1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
3 eggs
3 c flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp anise flavoring
1 c chopped nuts
 (The recipe was submitted by Pam Daltoso Hamilton, but there was another underneath by Anna Perfetto, and another by Mary Locati and another Carmy Destito, under that one by Rose Zaro.
Since Terri is a Biagi, I'm assuming she knows her biscotti. And if not, I'll just have to TRY THEM ALL.)

 Small child is having a wonderful time chopping walnuts from our tree. I don't have the heart to tell him that we only need a cup.
 Ooooh, what a pretty bowl! I wonder where I got that? (From Terri, of course!) It smells like... biscotti.
 So, cream the butter, sugar, eggs. In another bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Add them, mix well. Now add the nuts and the anise flavoring. (Of course, I didn't have anise flavoring. I don't even like anise. When I lived in France they drank anise liqueur and it was DISGUSTING. So, I'm assuming that vanilla will be just as good.)
 The dough will be very sticky. Grease the sheet well. Heat the oven to 350F. Shape the dough into long rolls.
 While the biscotti cooks for 30 minutes, browse the rest of the recipes.

 Edna is murmuring to herself. "Questa sembra delizioso!" A few minutes later, she makes a noise. Apparently, the pork sausage/ cinnamon spice cake was not meeting with her approval, even though it says it's great with a caramel frosting. I peeked over her shoulder and said she should definitely try the pizza-by-the-yard recipe. "Vorrei un piatto con formaggio..." she mutters. And there's even a recipe for making your own cheese that dries in a string in the basement! This book has everything! (Of course, we have no basement, but that's no matter...)
 The oven beeped and I checked the biscotti. They were huge and fluffy. But I'd set the timer for 20 minutes, just in case my oven ran hotter than the recipe needed. I put another ten minutes on. Edna was eyeing my new Pinterest activity. It's a heart cut from a map, and the place is my honeymoon. Edna snickered and said it looked like a broken heart! She's so funny. Now all I can see is a framed broken heart.                
     Che romantico!!
 After 30 minutes, remove the biscotti and let cool for 15 minutes. Slice diagonally. Put them back in the oven for ten minutes. This is what makes them super crispy.
 I couldn't even wait for them to cool. It was BISCOTTI time.
Now, I hear these keep well in tupper ware, but they were GONE by the next morning. It wasn't me, I only had two.
Okay, maybe four.
   ALL RIGHT. I lost count! I admit it! I'm a biscotti glutton!

 But now I have the secret recipe and an unending supply, BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

  Fino alla prossimo volta, i miei amici!!

(And now from 2016, I hope everyone is well and enjoy the recipe!)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Tina’s No Fail Pot Roast

Missy The Belle here. If you've dropped by after visiting the Seekerville post yesterday, we're so glad to have you! Today we have a special guest blogger. Take it away, Tina...

No Fail Pot Roast with Tina Radcliffe

I learned to make a GOOD pot roast AFTER the nest emptied. This version makes enough for four adults, or two meals for empty nesters.

Large Crock Pot

2 pounds Chuck Roast (butchers recommend Chuck but this cooks slow and long so even a lesser cut will be tasty.)

Lipton Beefy Onion Instant Soup Mix (one packet only!)

All veggies are optional. We go heavy on the carrots and light on the potatoes.

6-8 carrots peeled and sliced (Don’t use baby carrots. Real ones are tastier for this recipe.)

2-3 large potatoes peeled and cut into chunky cubes

1 large yellow onion cut into four chunks

Two or three cloves of garlic

1-2 cans cut green beans drained

Sliced fresh mushrooms  (no canned!)

Garlic powder (check yours-how old is it?)

Salt & Pepper

Mix one envelope of soup mix in two cups of warm water. Add to crock pot. Add meat. Make a few slices on the meat where it naturally pulls apart and slip in half of a garlic clove. Around the outside of the meat place your onion and potatoes. Put carrot sticks in the center. Salt and paper and add garlic powder.

Put lid on roast. You want it to cook for ten hours. So adjust according to your crock pot. Mine lets me set it to ten hours. Do not open the lid to check on it.

Three hours before done add green beans and mushrooms and season lightly. Take a ladle and scoop up some juice to pour on your beens and carrots.

I promise this will be tender, fall apart deliciousness. I like mine in the bowl with lots of au jus. Hubby likes his in a dish, dry with ewww…ketchup.

Picture of crock pot is after two servings. Still a lot of food left.

What’s your success rate with pot roast?? Am I the only epic fail until 2016, around here?

Tina Radcliffe writes humorous inspirational romance for Love Inspired. You can find her at Her latest release is Rocky Mountain Reunion!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rigatoni with Sausage Marinara!

NEWS FLASH!!! All the gals from Yankee Belle are chatting with folks over in their "big sister" blog Seekerville today! Click this link to Seekerville, leave a comment and we'll toss your name into the Yankee Belle cake dish for a chance at a bunch of fun prizes! Winners will be announced via Seekerville's Weekend Edition (Saturday, February 6) and we'll copy them over here with Mary Jane's Fun, Fresh Weekend post! And then come on back here and check out this super easy, guy-pleasing dish!

I love Italian sausage, the mild varieties. I'm a sausage lover from way back, I love good hot dogs and white hots (a wonderful Western New York thing via Zweigle's Meats, a German family who formed their own sausage-making business back in the mid-20th century.)

I know the current rage is for chicken sausage.

I'm not a fan. It's dry, you have to practically drown it in something to make it chewable, and it still can't match the consistency of old-fashioned pork sausages.  I've tried so many delicious variations, and still... I'm a porker kind of gal!

In our local hots and hamburger joint, when someone orders a red hot, they yell "Red!"

If they order a white hot dog, they yell, "Porker!"

So an order would sound like this: "2 grounds with (meaning 2 ground round burgers with cheese), 2 red, 3 porkers and 2 orders (french fries are an "order")

So that family just bought 2 cheeseburgers, 2 red hots and 3 white hots with two sides of French fries.


I love decoding the orders! Okay, back to quick sausage night....

Easy Marinara Sauce:

2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped onion (or a tablespoon and a half of dry, chopped onion)
1 tablespoon parsley
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons granulated garlic or one clove crushed and sauteed in olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper.

Pour everything into a 3 quart saucepan. Heat gently. Mash tomatoes if you'd like them smaller. Don't overheat or cook, you get more flavor by undercooking a marinara like this.

Sausage links or patties or bulk:

Saute until cooked in frying pan with a splash of olive oil.

Rigatoni (cooked as directed)

Parmesan cheese    (if desired)
Mozzarella cheese (if desired)

Cook sausage until done, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Cook pasta. Drain pasta.  Layer pasta onto plate, then some sauce, sausage, more sauce. Top with cheese. Microwave just long enough for mozzarella to melt, about 30-40 seconds.

Dave loved this. A fun, easy meal that goes straight to a man's heart!

And this is what happens when you're not watching a small child and there are cupcakes on the counter: (a very quiet child who can move a chair or stool with great stealth!)

Oh, Finn!!!!! A wise man is always on the lookout for cookies and cakes!

And we've got NO SNOW pics here, we're still on the far side of the jet stream curve, so when this publishes on 2/4, we will have enjoyed a balmy 50++ degree day yesterday...

With rain!

El Nino is giving us a taste of mild to make up for last year's crazy two months of super cold with 3 feet on the level snow pack. And we're okay with that in Western New York, (unless you're doing snow plowing or running a ski resort/shop because then you're staring at the sky and wondering what in the name of Sam Hill has happened????)

I'm busily doing edits and getting ready to launch new books in March, and we will be doing some giveaways RIGHT HERE IN THE CAFE!!!! I'm going to treat you to some of Angelina's and Isabo's recipes from the Kitchen at the Double S Ranch, so stay tuned!  Copies of "Back in the Saddle" might be coming your way in the next week or two!

Ruth Logan Herne loves that she's managed to raise her family, help with numerous others, innoculated pigs, fed and milked cows, birthed puppies and is now living the dream of writing novels that tempt the heart and soothe the soul! Join in with her antics on facebook, stop by her WEBSITE, or visit with Ruthy, Missy and a bunch of other great folks at their sister blog SEEKERVILLE.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Super Bowl, Snacks and those Budweiser Puppies

Super Bowl time!

At my school this week, we're having our annual SOUP-er Bowl food drive. Each student dresses in favorite team colors or jerseys and they each bring in a can of soup to be donated to the local food pantry. I love this way of turning a national sporting event into something that will help people.

I wish I could send along some of the wonderful, hearty soups we've featured here at the cafe.

 Okay, so it's Super Bowl time for real this weekend. In our house, the mourning has finally lifted. I think my husband is secretly relieved he doesn't have to go through the nerves of his team playing. My daughter bought theater tickets for the two of them to see a play he's been really wanting to attend. She accidentally bought them for Super Bowl Sunday. That could have been a disaster DISASTER, but it all worked out in the end. He can see the matinee and then come home and watch the game..
I mentioned in comments a week or so ago, that I rarely have to make football snacks because nerves keep hubby from eating during the game. But everyone else will be eating so I thought I'd see if I could round up some healthy variations rather than the ones that leave you needing a week at the spa beginning Monday morning. I read a quote that said the average American eats a day's worth of calories during the game!!!

First up - has a recipe for Black Bean Hummus. With garlic, jalapeno, and tahini added to the black beans, there should be enough heat for even the most diehard snacker. Serve it with crackers or pita crisps.

Spicy Garbanzo Beans - I've seen these sold in bags at the store, but this is a "super" easy healthy recipe. All you have to do is rinse and drain a can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), toss them with the spice mixture, and bake for about 30 minutes.

A Spinach Dip that also uses watercress (Super healthy) and subsitutes Greek Yogurt for sour cream. If you want to really get carried away, there's a recipe for flaxseed crackers too.

Maybe you're looking for something sweet? One of my favorite recipe sites - Oh She Glows, has an amazing recipe for Almond Butter Dip (almond butter, maple syrup cinnamon - just imagine dipping apple slices into this at halftime)

How about making your own trail mix? Here are some recipes for

  • Cashews, dried cherries, and dark chocolate chips
  • Almonds, walnuts, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and milk chocolate chips
  • Roasted almonds, dried ginger, and bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Almonds, sunflower seeds, spicy wasabi peas, curry powder, and coconut flakes
  • Pecans, raisins, dried figs, and peanut butter chips

Okay, now can we talk commercials.

I am SO disappointed that Budweiser is not doing any more of the puppies. I've modeled two heroes after these ads. The Budweiser ones are my all time favorites.

What are yours?  If you want to post a youtube link I'll edit them into the main post.

And please feel free to share your healthy super bowl snacks!

Adding in Ruthy's commercials:

Mary Jane's videos: