Monday, December 17, 2012

Chocolate Pistachio Gingerbread Cookies

Chocolate Pistachio Gingerbread Cookies......

....or as I like to call them-"Muddy Gingerbread Mittens, Canes and Overalls.  I don't like to bake, but I love to decorate! So if you have a great gingerbread cookie recipe by all means use it, I use ready made gingerbread cookie dough. These are great to give out as neighbor gifts, if I can keep my family from eating them all!

gingerbread cookie dough-(30 oz. size ready made roll like Pillsbury)
all purpose flour
rolling pin
large cookie cutters
semi-sweet chocolate chips
chopped pistachios

  1. Keep dough in refrigerator till ready to roll out.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Sprinkle counter with flour. Cut gingerbread cookie dough-roll in half and put other half in a Ziploc baggie or plastic wrap and place back into fridge to keep cold.
  4. Form dough half into a ball and then flatten with hand on top of floured surface, with a floured rolling pin roll out dough until its 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place on an ungreased cooking sheet, place pan into fridge or freezer until the cookie shapes are cold and firm (cold dough will hold its shape better when cooking then room temperature.
  5. Cook in the middle of your oven for 11 minutes (adjust the time according to the type of oven you have and if you prefer soft or crunchy cookies).  I like my gingerbread cookies firm but soft, you don't want them to fall apart when you decorate them.
  6. When the desired cooking time is done place cooking pan on a rack to cool. Then remove cookies from pan to a platter or covered table until ready to decorate. Repeat steps #3-6 until desired amount of dough is used up (makes about 2 dozen cookies if using the whole roll).
  7. When ready to decorate, use a microwave to melt chocolate chips (about 2 cups), using a microwave safe glass bowl. Frequently check the chocolate so not to over cook. You want the chocolate to be soft and smooth.
  8. Using the back of a spoon and holding the cookie in your other palm of your hand, frost the chocolate on the top surface of the cookie then sprinkle with pistachios.  Once the chocolate is set they are ready to eat.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Slaved all-day" Chili with Beans short-cut

This is my --"I slaved all-day" Chili with Beans fake-out!
It tastes like you slaved all day in the kitchen but its as easy as going to the local fast food drive-thru (Which is  part of this recipe--i.e. "Wendy's").
I came up with this recipe because I needed  to put together a quick slow-cooker meal for dinner.  It was a cold fall day and I thought chili with cornbread sounded nice.  But I didn't have time to make  homemade chili from scratch. My husband is a big fan of Wendy's chili but I wanted something better than just fast food. I had some red wine left over from a Bolognese recipe I made a while ago.  (I don't drink wine but I love cooking with it, it adds the most intriguing boost of flavor to your dish that people can't quite put their finger on.).  I added 2 different brands of canned chili, 2 different kinds of heat, also added corn meal and corn, and sweetness from the Agave nectar to balance out the wine and heat. And viola! Gourmet Chili Short-Cut.
Cooking it in the Crock pot melds all the flavors together and keeps it warm.  I love to serve this with corn bread and garnish with cheddar cheese, red onion and avocado, and my kids favorite 'Fritos' corn chips. Or use to ladle over a baked potato with cheddar cheese and sour cream topping.
Total slow cooker time: 3 hours
I cook big with a 5-6 quart Crock Pot/slow cooker, for left-overs and freezing, so feel free to cut the recipe in half and use just 1-38 oz. can of your choice of chili and 2 lrg.Wendy's chili.
3 large containers of Wendy's Chili
1 Family size 38 oz. can of Stagg Classic Chili with Beans
1 Family size 38 oz. can of Dennison Beef and Bean regular chili
1-small red onion; minced. Or for a short cut order your Wendy's chili with extra onions.
1 cup of dry red wine or 1 cup of Campbell's canned beef consommé
1 squirt of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce-less if you don't like a lot of heat. 
2 to 3 shakes of red Tabasco Sauce-again less if you're a spicy light-weight!
2 Tablespoon of Agave nectar
1/4 cup corn meal and 1/2 cup warm water whisked together till smooth.
 Optional: 2 cups of frozen corn; add about 15 minutes before serving.
 Mix all the above ingredients, except the frozen corn, into Crock Pot. Heat on high until the Chili is simmering or bubbling about 3 hours, stirring 1/2 way thru the cooking time.  If adding the corn, mix it in about 15 minutes before serving to heat it thru.  Turn your Crock pot to warm if ready to serve.
shredded cheddar cheese
minced red onion
diced avocado
corn chips or tortilla chips
Serve with corn bread or over baked potatoes then top with cheese & sour cream. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese
(healthier version)
I love pasta! And every kind of pasta sauce there is!!
Bolognese is a thick meat sauce that has  but this recipe uses less meat then other recipes because I sub it with chopped mushrooms (my kids hate mushrooms but they inhale this sauce-hee, hee, they have no idea, because the texture is the same and I save money on using less meat.) This recipe makes a big batch of red sauce so if you like you can freeze half for a quick fix meal latter on, just remember to let it cool first before adding it to your freezer bag/container.
Sauce Ingredients:
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, minced
2 celery rib, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-6 oz. can tomato paste 
1 cup dry Italian red wine or beef broth
4 oz. pancetta slab (non-smoked bacon), diced into small pieces or 4oz. thick slices of bacon, diced.
1 large carton or 2 small cartons of sliced button mushrooms; chopped into very small pieces (buying  the pre-sliced saves you time in not having to slice them before dicing them).
3 pounds extra lean angus beef
1 Tablespoons dried basil
1 Tablespoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups whole milk
2-28 oz.. cans Cento crushed tomatoes
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

2 small packages of spaghetti
2 Tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
1 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups (divided) shredded parmesan cheese--1 cup for pasta toss and 1 cup reserved for garnish
  1. In a large dutch oven over high heat, add about 1 Tablespoons of olive oil once oil is hot add the onion, carrot, and celery, season with salt and pepper; cook stirring often until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Mix in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the red wine and cook until liquid is almost gone; set aside.
  2. Add a little more olive oil into pot add the pancetta and mushrooms and cook until pancetta is slightly crispy; set aside with vegies. Next heat a little more olive oil in pot and add ground beef, breaking it up as it cooks, once browned, season with salt and pepper and add basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and thyme.
  3. Next mix in the milk 1 cup at a time reducing the liquid by half before adding the last cup of milk; again stir till liquid is reduced by half
  4. Add the pancetta, mushrooms and vegies back to the pot. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and once sauce starts to bubble, add lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Meanwhile cook the pasta).
  5.  Right before serving stir in the chopped parsley.
Pasta directions:
  1. In a large pot cook the pasta according to the 'al dente' directions on the package, in salted boiling water. Drain; and set on serving platter or large pasta bowl.
  2. Add the butter, olive oil and 1 cup of parmesan to the hot pasta and toss with two forks.
Ready to serve:  Plate the pasta on individual dishes and ladle the thick sauce over the top.  Garnish with parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.  Great with garlic bread too!!

Creamy Potato-Cheddar Soup with Bacon

Creamy Potato Cheddar Soup with Bacon
This soup is amazing! Comforting! And just the thing for a cold day filler!! 
Also this soup is a "miracle soup".  Like the fish and loaves that Jesus fed to the masses, this soup 'miraculously' turns into more than what you first set out to make-Let me explain: When you store the left-overs in the fridge, the soup binds and thickens, so when you take it out the next day, you must add more milk to it, to thin it out to it's original creaminess, thus making more volumes of soup!! 
1-large white onion, chopped into small diced pieces
3-large baking potatoes, peeled and diced into bite size pieces, set aside in a bowl and cover with cold water to prevent browning.  (I like to use the baking potatoes because the larger size is easier to peel and you only have to peel 3 instead of 6-8 medium size potatoes)
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 stick of butter
1 small clove garlic; minced
6 Tablespoons of flour
2 Cups Whole Milk
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (tillamook)
cooked crispy bacon, diced (optional garnish)
fresh chives, snipped (optional garnish)
fresh parsley, chopped (optional garnish) 
  • In a large pot add 6 cups of water, to that add the chopped onion and the drained, diced potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat until potatoes are fork tender.
  • Once the potatoes are done, turn off the heat and do not drain the water, this is your soup base! Season the potato-onion soup base with the kosher salt and black pepper.
  • In a medium sauce pan, on medium heat melt the stick of butter then add the minced garlic, stir for 30 seconds, add the 6 Tbls. of flour and whisk for 1-2 minutes (don't let the flour-butter mixture turn brown or burn, remove from heat if color is changing too fast). Whisk in the 2 cups of whole milk into your butter/flour combo, let it cook whisking constantly until it starts to thicken then add it to the large pot of potato-onion-water, turn the heat to Medium Low and stir the soup until it thickens, if it starts to boil, turn down the heat--do not burn the bottom of your soup. Once the soup is thickened, remove from heat.
  • Next stir in the 3 cups of cheese, until melted. If the soup is too thick add more milk.
Serve the soup with diced bacon, chopped parsley and/or chives.
    Let soup completely cool, before storing left overs in the fridge.  When re-heating soup the next day, add more milk to thin out and add more salt and pepper to taste.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chicken Dinner Layered Casserole

 4 layers of comfort-First, buttery mashed potatoes followed by bread stuffing then on top of that, tender pieces of cooked chicken followed by a drizzle of savory chicken gravy. Great meal to take over to a sick friend or a new Mother. I like to save time by buying a roasted chicken, quick-cooking stuffing and jar gravy.  I do make my own mashed potatoes but in a pinch you can buy ready-made potato mash at your local deli or buy the instant-(I don't care for the taste of the instant-your call). Serve with a vegetable side and dinner rolls. Serves 6-8

5 large baking potatoes (I like to use these because the larger size is easier to peel and you don't have to peel as many!)
1 stick of butter, cut into slices
heavy cream 
chicken stock
kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper
1 large canister of 'Stove Top Stuffing'-chicken flavor, entire box makes 8 servings.
Roasted chicken, meat removed and tear into medium pieces; also reserve any juices that remain in the bag or carton,-it's liquid gold!
2-3 jars of chicken gravy-use one can to bake and 1-2 extra to serve with. (I prefer the glass jar gravy, I think it tastes better then the canned).
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Peel and cut potatoes into about 1 1/2 inch cubes, place in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover about 3 inches over potatoes. Add a little salt and boil til potatoes are tender, drain potatoes and place back in pot, off of heat. 
  • Mash the potatoes with the butter. Add a little at a time, the heavy cream and chicken stock until you have reached your desired creaminess. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
  • In a medium pot, cook the entire box of 'Stove Top Stuffing' following the directions for 8 servings.
  • Non-stick spray or butter a 9x13 baking dish.
  • Layer the dish with the mashed potaoes, smooth evenly. Next with a fork fluff the stuffing and then spread out on top of the potatoes. 
  • Place chicken pieces on top of stuffing and then pour any remaining juices that came with the roast chicken over the top of the chicken pieces and then add 1 jar of gravy evenly over the top.
  • Tent the top with foil, so it doesn't stick to the top. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes or until heated through, then remove foil and cook for 10 more minutes. Serve with warmed extra gravy.  

Buffalo Chicken Dip

                                                         Buffalo Chicken Dip
All the flavor of Spicy buffalo wings packed into this hot cheesy dip.  Serve with Tortilla Chips/Crackers and Celery Sticks.  Great for Football Game Night. 

2-8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened.
1-small rotisserie  cooked chicken; meat removed and shredded 
1/2 cup of ranch dressing
1/2 cup of blue cheese crumbles
1 cup of Frank's Hot Sauce (wing sauce)
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese (Cheddar and Monterey Jack)

  • In a large bowl, cream together by hand or electric mixer, cream cheese and chicken.
  • To the cream cheese and chicken add the ranch, blue cheese and hot sauce, mix well.
  • Stir in cheese then place mixture in a 9x13 baking dish.
  • Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until bubbly. Turn oven to broil and cook until the top is browned slightly.

Cottage Ranch Dip

                                                             Cottage Ranch Dip


       Serve this dip with ridged potato chips or veggies, it's also great on baked potatoes.

     The first time I had this cool and creamy dip was over 20 years ago, made by my friend's Mom.  Recently I got a craving for it and called my friend Janette to see if she had her Mom's recipe.  Yes, she did!  So thank you Janette and Mama Naty for this awesome dip!


1-8oz. package of cream cheese, softened.
1-16oz. cottage cheese, small curd.
1-16oz. sour cream
1 packet of 'Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch Dressing'
3 green onions, whites and greens diced, (save a few sliced green tops for garnish).

  1. In a large bowl, whisk softened cream cheese until smooth. (If your cream cheese is cold, place it in the microwave and heat until soft).
  2. To the bowl of cream cheese add the cottage cheese, sour cream and contents of the Ranch Dressing packet and whisk until blended.
  3. Stir in the diced green onions, and garnish the top with a few reserved green diced tops, cover with plastic and chill before serving.  For best results make the day ahead and chill over-night.   

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuna Casser-oh-la-la

                             This is not your Mother's Tuna Casserole!

   This recipe is an update on an old weeknight, 'what's in the pantry', quick-dinner.  You can also substitute the tuna with cooked shredded chicken, just omit the dill. And instead of bowtie pasta you can use medium shell pasta (goes with the "fish" theme).
    I like to make big portions for the next day left-overs, that way I only have to cook dinner every other night (and it saves $). This recipe fills a 9x13 pan, and serves about 10. 

1 lb. bowtie pasta (or medium shell pasta)
2 generous pinches of kosher salt for the pasta water
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-medium white onion, minced (finely chopped).
2-large celery stalks, minced
2-10 3/4 cans of cream of celery soup
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 cup real mayo (like Best Foods)
1 tablespoon grey poupon dijon mustard
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (skim, 1%, 2% or whole)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2-12oz. cans solid white tuna packed in water; drained.
Opt. 1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
 plus 1/4 cup of grated parmesan (save the 1/4 cup of parmesan for mixing with Ritz topping).
1 cylinder package of Ritz crackers
4 tablespoons butter

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 F.
  • In a large pot; boil pasta, in salted water just before it's 'al dente'- (about 9 minutes)-you don't want your pasta over cooked because you still have more time to cook it in the oven.
  • Drain pasta and set aside.
  • Using the same pot you boiled the pasta in, heat olive oil and sauté minced celery and onion on medium high heat. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper cook until vegetables are softened. Remove from heat.
  • Add to the cooked onion & celery in pot; the pasta and all other ingredients except for the reserved 1/4 cup of grated parmesan, Ritz crackers and butter; mix together gently.
  • Pour mixture into a buttered or non-stick sprayed 9x13 glass dish.
  • Open the cylinder of Ritz crackers and place into a large zip-lock plastic bag; crush finely with a rolling pin or hands. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in microwave; add it to the crushed Ritz in bag as well as the 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, mix with the crushed Ritz. 
  • Spread the Ritz mixture evenly over the top of tuna mixture and bake covered with tinfoil in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until heated through; uncover and cook another 10 minutes, or until Ritz topping is golden brown. Remove from oven and serve.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Not Your Average Halloween Song List

    Your Halloween Party or Front-Door Halloween Porch are much more fun if you have festive music and sound effects. 
    But if your tired of the usual Halloween songs like 'Monster Mash' or the 'Purple People Eater' or if you want to add to the standard list of your Halloween music favorites; check out below for a list of my favorite Halloween songs and sound effects albums.
    Before I load my ipod up I make a Halloween play list, grouping together similar themed songs with short or long matching sound effects in between the song groupings, or to introduce a grouping theme... like for example; you put the sound effect of howling wolves at the start of your 'werewolf' songs' grouping- (Werewolf of London, Hungry Like the Wolf etc.). 
    I open my front window about the same height as my iPod speaker and play my Halloween playlist, loud enough to hear when the trick-or-treaters come up my street, the music and sound effects, beckoning them to come to my house--Whhhaa-Ha-Ha-Haaa! (evil laugh).  So fun!!!  
      (all of the following songs and sound effects you can get on i-tunes).

sound effect albums:
  1. 57 kids spooky sounds- The Hit Crew (album $11.99 for 57 sounds or .99 each) 
  2. Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House-Walt Disney Sound Effects Group($7.41 for 20 sounds or .99 each)
  3. Classic Zombie Halloween Sound effects by The Sound Chasers Collection-with 80 zombie sounds to choose from.
  4. For a "zombie emergency broadcast warning" get: Emergency Broadcast from the album- Zombie Apocalypse Survivor Edition: 101 sound effects by Dr. Sound Effects.
song list grouping:

-Trick or Treaters-
  • Happy Halloween Music- Happy Halloween Music
  • I Want Candy- Bow Wow Wow
  • Who can It Be Now?- Men at Work
  • The Twilight Zone Theme- Halloween Scream Themes
  • Anyone Out There- Duran Duran
  • On Halloween Night- Joe Scruggs
  • House of Fun- Madness
  • Prologue/Little Shop of Horrors- Alan Menken
  • This is Halloween- Nightmare Before Christmas Movie Soundtrack
  • Halloween Theme- Halloween Scream Themes/Horror Movie Music with Blood Curdling Sound FX
  • Every Day Is Halloween- Ministry
  • Halloween- Siouxsie & The Banshees
-Wizards, Witches & Warlocks-
  • Harry's Wondrous World- Harry Potter Soundtrack
  • Hedwig's Theme- Harry Potter Soundtrack
  • Double Trouble- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban soundtrack
  • Big City Witches- DJ Wolfsbane
  • Dance of the Witches- John Williams (from The Witches of Eastwick soundtrack)
  • Magic Man- Heart
  • Season of the Witch- Donovan
  • You Can Do Magic- America
  • Spellbound- Siouxsie & The Banshees
  • Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic- The Police
  • Black Magic Woman- Santana
  • Witchcraft- Wolfmother
  • Abracadabra- Steve Miller Band
  • I Put a Spell on You- Nina Simone
  • The Hut of Baba Yaga 1 and 2- Emerson, Lake & Palmer (from Pictures and Exhibition by Mussorgsky)
  • Superstition- Stevie Wonder
  • Stray Cat Strut- Stray Cats
  • Love Cats- The Cure
  • Have You Seen the Ghost of John?- The Undermasks
  • Ghost Waltz the Undead Dancing to Mozart's Requim- Monster's Halloween Party (music & sound effects) 
  • The Ghosts are out Tonight- Victor R. Vampire and friends
  • Ghost Waltz- Cableb Sampson
  • Ghost Town- Shiny Toy Guns
  • The Ghost In You- The Psychedelic Furs
  • Spirits In The Material World- The Police
  • Haunted- Evanescence
  • Peek-A-Boo- Siouxsie & The Banshees
  • Somebody's Watching Me- Rockwell
  • Sleepy Hollow: End Titles- Music from the Films of Tim Burton
  • Overture/Phantom Of The Opera- Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • The Shining Main Theme- The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
  • New Moon Rising- Wolfmother
  • Act I: Hello, Little Girl (from Into The Woods, the musical {Wolf singing to Little Red Riding Hood})- Stephen Sondheim
  • Bark at the Moon- Ozzy Osbourne
  • Werewolves of London- Warren Zevon
  • Hungry Like the Wolf- Duran Duran
  • She Wolf- Shakira
  • Lil' Red Riding Hood- Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
  • Bad Moon Rising- Creedence Clearwater Revival
-Monsters, Vampires & Zombies-
  • Monsters Lead Such Interesting Lives- Mel Torme
  • Monster- Lady GaGa
  • Wild Thing- The Troggs
  • "The Munsters" Theme Song- Manneheim Steamroller
  • Addams Family Theme (from Broadway Musical)- Addams Family Orchestra
  • When you're an Addams (from Broadway Musical)- Addams Family Cast
  • Welcome to Transylvania (Young Frankenstein, The New Mel Brooks Musical)- Ensemble
  • You're a mean One, Mr. Grinch- The MGM Studio Orchestra
  • Psycho Killer- The Talking Heads
  • Psycho Theme- Horror Movie Classics
  • Vampire Girl- Jonathan Richman
  • Who Wants to Live Forever- Sarah Brightman
  • Theme from Dark Shadows- Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
  • Moon Over Bourbon Street- Sting (Song inspired by the book 'Interview with a Vampire')
  • Theme from Batman- 50 Classic TV Themes
  • Zombie (Ray Knox Hands Up Techno Rmx Edit)- Andrew Spencer & The Vamprockers
  • Dead Man's Party- Oingo Boingo
  • Where Is My Mind?- Pixies
  • Cannibal- Ke$ha
  • Zombies Ate My Neighbors- Schoolboy
  • Thriller- Michael Jackson
-Aliens, UFO's & Sci-Fi-
  • X-Files Theme- Halloween Scream Themes
  • Men In Black- Will Smith
  • One Step Beyond- Madness
  • Supermassive Black Hole- Muse
  • Doctor Who Theme- Murray Gold & BBC National Orchestra
  • E.T.- Katy Perry (you can get the song with/without the Kanye West rap)
  • Wild Signals (from Close Encounters of the Third Kind)- John Williams
  • Planet Claire- The B-52's
  • Main Titles ( from movie E.T.)- John Williams
  • The Imperial March (Darth Vader's theme)- John Williams
  • Star Wars Theme- John Williams
  • Halo (video game theme)- Martin O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori
-Mad Scientist's Lab-
  • Weird Science- Oingo Boingo
  • She Blinded Me With Science- Thomas Dolby
  • Dr. Heckyll & Jive- Men at Work
  • My Science Project- The Diggity Dudes
  • Join The Family Business (Young Frankenstein- New Mel Brooks Musical)- Roger Bart & Ensemble
  • Life, Life (Young Frankenstein musical)- Roger Bart
-Pirates and the Stormy Sea-
  • Hoist the Colours (from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End)- Hans Zimmer
  • Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)- Jonas Brothers
  • A-pirating- Heather Graham and the Slush Pile
  • Main Theme from Jaws- John Williams
  • Night Boat- Duran Duran
  • Immigrant Song- Led Zeppelin
-Out After Dark In The Cemetery-
  • Tales from The Crypt Theme- Danny Elfman
  • Cemetry Gates- The Smiths
  • Pet Sematary- The Ramones
  • (Don't Fear) The Reaper- Blue Oyster Cult
  • Hysteria- Muse
  • Another One Bites The Dust
  • No One Lives Forever- Oingo Boingo
  • Shadows Of The Night- Pat Benatar
  • Walkin' After Midnight- Patsy Cline
  • Disturbia-Rihanna
  • Undercover Of The Night- The Rolling Stones
  • One Way Or Another- Blondie
  • Freaks Come Out At Night- Whodini
  • Le Freak- Chic
-Hells Bells & Spider Webs-
  • Main Title (Sisters: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)- Bernard Herrmann-creepy song with lots of bells
  • Hells Bells- AC/DC
  • Tubular Bells- Horror Movie Classics-from the movie, 'The Exorcist'
  • Boris the Spider- The Who
  • Lullaby- The Cure (The song is about a creepy spider)
  • Spiderwebs- No Doubt
-Classical Halloween-
 Reader's Digest Music: Fright Classic Halloween Music album (only $7.00 on itunes, includes 13 songs. These are my favorites:
  • In the Hall of The Mountain King- Edvard Grieg
  • Toccata in D minor for organ- Johannes Sebastian Bach
  • A Night on Bare Mountain- Modeste Mussorgsky
  • Danse Macabre Op. 40- Camille Saint-Saens
  • Funeral March of the Marionette- Charles Gounod
  • Carmina Burana: I. O Fortuna- Carl Orff
  • Dream of a Witches' Sabbath (from "Symphonie Fantastique"- Hector Berlioz
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Excerpt)- Paul Dukas
  • Pictures At an Exhibition: Catacombs- Modeste Mussorgsky
  • Funeral March Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 (Excerpt)- Frederic Chopin
Other great Halloween Classics:
  • Carnival of the Animals: VII. Aquarium- Camille Saint-Saens
  • Dies Irae (from Mozart's Requiem)- performed by the Duke Chapel Choir
  • Masonic Funeral Music for Orchestra, K. 477- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
  • The  Ride of the Valkyries- Richard Wagnar

  •                                             Happy Halloween Everyone!!

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    Make a Jelly Roll into a Yule Log

    For Christmas I buy a Chocolate Jelly Roll (or you can make your own), and make it into a yummy Yule Log!  You can decorate it with white frosting and sprinkle with cocoa powder or below is what you need to make it look like the picture above; a 2-toned bark looking log, with powdered sugar as the snow:

    You'll Need:
    • 1 large jelly roll any flavor (a jelly roll is a rolled sheet cake with different flavored fillings such as chocolate ganache or fruit jelly; and it's not frosted on the outside)
    • 2 milk chocolate frosting cans
    • 1 dark chocolate frosting can
    • mini marshmallows
    • Hershey's chocolate kisses, unwrapped.
    • toothpicks
    • powdered sugar
    To Decorate:
    1. Take large jelly roll and cut at an angle, 1/3 of the end of the roll. Place larger piece onto serving platter. Take the small 1/3 piece and with frosting, stick the angled-cut end to the side of the larger jelly roll piece; this is the stump. Stick it to the middle side or upper/lower side of the cake, either way you decide what looks the best.
    2. With a spatula or butter knife, decorate all the jelly roll sides and ends with the milk chocolate, then take the dark chocolate and put a few 2-inch width stripes on the top and sides but not the ends of the 'log' and 'stump'. 
    3. Using a fork, rake lines of 'bark' grooves along the log and stump. To make 'bark knots' trace the fork in an 'eye' shape along the milk and dark chocolate areas. For the ends of the log and stump, place the fork in the center and make a circle bulls-eye design in the frosting.
    4. Make the mushrooms by sticking a mini marshmallow onto a toothpick. Push the tooth pick all the way through the marshmallow so the pointed end is exposed to stick into the chocolate kiss. Stick the bottom of the unwrapped chocolate kiss on top of the skewered marshmallow. Use the exposed end of the toothpick to insert 'mushrooms' into cake. Make a grouping of 'mushrooms' in one area like 3 on the log and 2 in the stump; again use your own judgement of what looks good to you.
    5. Last, use a powdered sugar dispenser or place desired amount of powdered sugar in a sifting screen and sprinkle the sweet 'falling snow' over the top of your Yule Log! 
    6. To serve; slice horizontally and eat with ice cream or on its own.       
                                           Merry Christmas!!    

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Crockpot-Smothered Beef and Green Chilie Burritos

    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    2 teaspoons chili powder
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    2 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed (top sirloin).
    Extra virgin olive oil
    2-4 oz. cans of mild diced green chilies.
    1 large whole onion, peeled (don't cut up the onion; its easier to "fish" out of the crock pot whole).
    2 garlic cloves, peeled.
    2-19 oz. cans of mild enchilada sauce.
    Large can refried beans
    10 to 20 Ready to cook large tortilla dough rounds (Tortillaland or other brand).
    Shredded mexican cheese mix or shredded Monterrey jack cheese.
    Large Crock Pot (slow cooker)
    Cuisinart or Blender

    • Mix together the 6 dry seasonings in a bowl and set aside.
    • Pat dry the beef cubes with a paper towel (moisture on meat prevents browning).
    • Season the beef on both sides with the dry season mix.
    • In a large non-stick skillet heat up olive oil on medium high heat.
    • Brown all sides of beef cubes; a few batches at a time (don't over crowd). Add more oil and reduce the heat if you need to. Once browned, place beef into crock pot. (Browning seals up the moisture in the meat so you get a more tender and flavorful result).
    • Nestle the onion down into the middle of the beef cubes; add the garlic cloves, 2 cans of diced green chilies and pour the 2 cans of enchilada sauce over the top.
    • Cover Crock pot with lid and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours until meat is tender and easy to shred with a fork.
    • Once meat is tender turn off the crock pot. Remove meat with slotted spoon into a large bowl or onto a platter; set aside.
    • Take out onion and garlic. Cut the onion in half and place, along with the garlic, into a Cuisinart or blender. Add 1 cup of the crock pot liquid to the blender as well, and blend until onion pieces are dissolved into sauce.
    • Pour the rest of the crock pot sauce into a large sauce pan, add the onion-garlic sauce blend to the sauce pan as well. Bring the sauce to a boil and then simmer, until the red sauce is reduced a little and thickened.
    • Shred the beef with 2 forks and place back into crock pot except for 1/2 cup of the beef shreds; set aside.
    • Add to the crock pot about 1 cup of red sauce or just enough sauce to moisten the shredded beef.
    • Add the reserved 1/2 cup of beef into the red sauce in the sauce pan-this is your smothered sauce.
    • Cook tortillas on a cast iron comal or pancake griddle; keep the cooked tortillas inside a paper towel lined tortilla warmer or wrap the cooked tortillas in clean kitchen towels and then tinfoil around the towels to keep warm.
    • Heat refried beans in a microwave safe bowl with a paper towel on top; when done, cover to keep warm.
  • Assemble your burritos by placing the refried beans in the middle of the tortilla then add the shredded beef on top of the beans. Roll your burrito, ladle the smothered sauce on top and sprinkle with cheese. Place under broiler to melt the cheese (only if you have an oven proof plate) or heat in the microwave until cheese is melted.
  •   Enjoy with tortilla chips, guacamole, sour cream and salsa.

    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    Christmas Village Mountain Backdrop

     Make a snowy mountain back drop for your Christmas village by using wire hangers. I bent the hangers into different shapes with the hook as a stabilizer so it doesn't tip over. Then I draped a silver-speckled, white matting cloth (you can find at Walmart after Thanksgiving) over the bent hangers and then arranged my Christmas village on top.

    It took me 2 weeks to notice that my son had put his green army men along with their tanks and weapons in my Christmas village display.  Peace on earth, good will toward men?--Don't you just love boys!! 

    Fettuccine Alfredo with toasted pinenuts

    I usually just make this for our Christmas Eve dinner to go along as a side dish with Beef Wellington, or a Maple Glazed Ham or a Prime Rib. But I had a craving so I made it last night. (It was soooo Good!!!)  You can add Chicken to it as well. For my Christmas Eve dinner I use the green and white mix of fettuccine, it looks so festive! At the table before serving I grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top, the first time I did this and now every year since, my kids started the tradition of singing "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

    1 small bag of pine nuts (1/2 cup)
    1 lb box of Fettuccine dry pasta
    1 pint of Heavy Cream (2 cups)
    2 cloves of garlic (peeled and smashed with side of large knife
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
    1 cup (plus more for garnish) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan cheese wedge-you can find it in the Deli department).
    Freshly cracked black pepper
    Freshly grated nutmeg
    Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (1 hand full)

    Directions: *(try to time the cooking of the pasta with the alfredo cooking time, so they are done at the same time)
    • Toast your pine nuts until golden in a non-stick pan stirring them as they toast on the stove or put them on a cooking sheet and place in oven under the broiler (watch it so they don't burn!).
    • Cook Fettuccine in plenty of boiling, salted water until pasta is al dente, (about 12 minutes). Drain and set aside on a warmed serving dish or platter (you can warm serving dish in the oven on a low temp or in the dish washer on the drying/heat setting).
    • *While pasta is boiling, heat heavy cream and smashed garlic cloves over medium heat in a deep sauce pan. Add butter and whisk gently to melt. Fish out garlic cloves with a slotted spoon and discard. Sprinkle in the 1 cup of cheese and stir to incorporate. Keep stirring, don't let it come to a boil or you'll burn the bottom, so watch, stir frequently and reduce heat if needed. Cook until it thickens (or coats the back of a spoon), add more parmesan cheese if its not thick enough. 
    • Season the Alfredo sauce with freshly cracked black pepper and add a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg.
    • Pour the sauce over the fettuccine and add the pine nuts and the parsley; gently toss the pasta to coat in the sauce.
    • Top with more grated cheese. Serve immediately.

    Wednesday, August 8, 2012

    "Spook" your home pics for Halloween

    Decorate your home pictures for Halloween with construction paper cut-outs. Mount the cut-outs on the picture frame's glass with sticky-tac. 

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Chili Cornbread Pie Shortcut

    Chili Cornbread Pie Shortcut

    When you don't have time to make chili from scratch. Just open a can of your favorite chili and top it with a corn bread muffin mix, throw it in the oven and Bam! dinner is done.

    This recipe serves 10

    You'll need:

    5 cans (15 oz. each) of your favorite canned chili.
    2 cups of frozen corn.
    2-(7 or 8.5) dry corn bread muffin mix.
    2 small cans mild diced green chilies, drained (opt).
    2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or monterrey jack).
    Sliced avocado, salsa and sour cream-for garnish(opt).


    • Preheat oven to 400  F. Non-stick spray a 13x9 inch baking dish.
    • Add chili and corn to baking dish; stir to distribute the corn evenly into the chili.
    • In a separate bowl, follow the directions on the back of the corn muffin mixes to make the batter.
    • Stir drained green chilies and the shredded cheese into the wet, corn muffin batter; top the chili with the corn batter and spread evenly on top.
    • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
    • Garnish with avocado slices, salsa and sour cream.                             

    Halloween Pumpkin Lighted Topiaries

    Instructions below are for one 3-tier topiary like the one above, pictured on the left.
    I stack, skewer and display my 3 pumpkins whole and un-carved from the 1st of October until the 30th. Then on Halloween day I follow the instructions below and place them out in time for Halloween night.

    Pumpkin Lighted Topiaries

    You'll Need: 
    1. Large pedestal urn (place a large lid from a storage bucket in urn top so large pumpkin sits flat and even in urn). Or large planter pot (fill planter pot with dirt or place a smaller size planter pot upside down inside larger pot to prop pumpkin tier on; fill in gap with dried moss around bottom pumpkin.
    2. 3 pumpkins; large, medium and small.
    3. Carving knife and large spoon or other tool for cleaning out pumpkins.
    4. Black permanent marker.
    5. Carving tool or large phillips screw driver for making small, round "star" holes for light to shine through.
    6. Battery operated pumpkin lights; 1 if its a large light, 2 or three if smaller lights, or use a small bunch of soft white or bright white Christmas lights.
    7. Extension cord (if using Christmas lights)
    8. Long metal skewer and hammer.
    • Remove stem from large pumpkin; carve out an opening at the top (discard top carving remnant). Clean out the inside of large pumpkin.
    • Carve out an opening at the top and bottom of medium pumpkin (discard remnants). Clean out the inside of medium pumpkin.
    • Leave stem on small pumpkin; carve out opening on the bottom (discard remnant) and clean out the inside.
    • Place medium pumpkin on top of large. Draw and fill in with a black marker, a tree that starts at the large pumpkin and extends up to the middle pumpkin.
    • Take medium pumpkin off of large pumpkin; poke or carve holes in both medium and large pumpkins (for the "stars") all around tree drawing. 
    • If using Christmas lights; carve out hole near bottom of large pumpkin's rear facing side, large enough for Christmas light plug to fit through. Put Christmas lights in large pumpkin and pull plug through carved out hole. Place large pumpkin with tree drawing facing forward onto urn or planter pot. Attach Christmas light's plug into extension cord. Plug extension cord into outdoor, electrical outlet.
  • If using battery operated pumpkin lights, turn them on and place inside large pumpkin; place large pumpkin with tree drawing facing forward onto urn or planter pot.
  • Place medium pumpkin on top of large pumpkin, lining up the tree drawing.
  • Place small pumpkin with crescent moon facing forward on top of medium pumpkin.
  • Secure with metal skewer by tapping the top of skewer with hammer, down the back of all three pumpkins.       

  • Sunday, July 29, 2012

    Bacon Wrapped Jumbo Dogs w/ Barbacue Sauce

    Bacon Wrapped Jumbo Dogs w/ Barbecue Sauce

    8 Jumbo Beef Franks (like Hebrew National Jumbo Beef Franks-come 4 in a pack, need 2 packages-best tasting hot dog, in my opinion!).
    8 regular sliced, partially cooked bacon (the kind that you can cook crisp in a microwave-not thick cut).
    Favorite barbecue sauce (I use "Sweet Baby Rays"-honey barbecue sauce)
    8 hot dog buns

    • Pre-heat oven 425 F.
    • Put a layer of tinfoil down onto cooking sheet with shallow sides.
    • wrap bacon around each hot dog link and set on tin-foiled cooking sheet.
    • cook in oven, middle rack, until bacon is crispy on one side then turning over the dogs so that the underside bacon gets crisp too (about 15 or more minutes per side).
    • Take out of oven and brush on barbecue sauce on all sides; place back in oven to heat sauce until it gets bubbly and thick (about 3 minutes)
    • Take out of oven, bun it and garnish to your liking-Enjoy!

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Mini Upside Down Pineapple Cakes

    I love Pineapple Upside down Cake; unfortunately my family doesn't. But I love to make it for Christmas anyway! (it looks so Christmassy!) So that I don't eat a whole cake by myself (which I could easily do). I make smaller versions to give some away and the rest I refrigerate in an air tight container or freeze in a freezer bag. I just pop one out of the fridge or freezer when I want a treat! 

    2 cans (20 oz. each) crushed pineapple for the bottom of your cupcake tin and to add to your cake batter- (Important!-save juice from cans-about 1 cup).
    About 1/3 cup butter, melted (for bottom of tins)
    About 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
    24 maraschino cherries
    1 pkg. (16.5 oz.) Duncan Hines Pineapple Supreme cake mix.
    1 cup whole milk
    2/3 cup melted butter
    6 eggs
    1 teaspoon of vanilla
    2-24 count dark metal cupcake/muffin tin
    wax paper
    2 cookie sheets

    • Drain crushed pineapple really well. I put the pineapple in a mesh sieve over a bowl and push down as much liquid as you can with a spatula; discard the juice. 
    • Add 1/2 teaspoon of melted butter to each cupcake tin then sprinkle a packed 1/2 Tablespoon of brown sugar on top of the butter. Place a cherry in the middle of each tin and then add 1 heaped Tablespoon of crushed pineapple  around each cherry (any extra crushed pineapple will be added to the cake batter mix) .
    • Add the cake mix to a mixing bowl and add in 1 cup of milk, 2/3 cup melted butter, 6 eggs and the vanilla, mix gently until moist then fold in reserved crushed pineapple. Using a 1/4 measuring cup pour batter into cupcake tins.
    • Bake at 350 F. 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and/or the edges are a little golden.
    • Place a wax paper lined cookie sheet on top of the cupcake pan. Using oven mitts grab both pans and flip over and let it cool in this position on top of a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before lifting the cupcake tin. To store, cool fully and then put in and air tight container in the refrigerator or freeze in a freezer bag.
    Serve on its own warm or room temperature and/or with ice cream or whipped cream.
    Makes 24 servings

    DIY Dessert/Appetizer Tier Stand

    This is so easy! And you can reuse the candle sticks and plates by using a hair-blow dryer to reheat the welded glue sticks to take the tiers apart!!

    You'll Need:
    • 3 plates different sizes; ideally a large, medium and small. (the picture shows 2 medium plates and 1 small-because that's what I had on hand and they worked great).
    • 2 candlestick holders
    • hot glue gun and glue sticks
    1. Hot glue the top of the candle stick holder and place it upside down onto the center of your largest plate (gluing the smaller part of the candle holder to the plate-top-surface, gives more room on the plate for goodies!). Hot glue the upside-down bottom of candle stick holder and place the medium plate in the center on top of hot glue.
    2. Follow the same steps as in direction 1 to glue second candle holder and small top plate tier.
    If you glue the plates off center, just blow dry on high near glued area with a hair dryer to un-stick and start over.

    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Chicken Supreme

    This is the ultimate comfort food!!  As a kid, I would ask my Mom to make it all the time for me. Now my kids beg me to make it all the time for them. It's creamy, flavor-full and the chestnuts add a little crunch. It makes your home smell so good when it's cooking in the oven.
    This would also make a great meal after Thanksgiving with the left-over turkey meat! This is also a great dish to take to a sick neighbor or a family who has just brought a newborn baby home.

    1 whole roasted chicken; meat removed and torn into bite size pieces.
    1 regular sized box chicken flavored Rice-a-Roni: Cook the Rice-a-Roni following the directions on box; set aside.
    3/4 cup Best Foods Mayo
    1-10 3/4 oz. can-cream of chicken soup *(don't throw away the can!).
    Milk-*Using empty soup can (from above) fill with milk.
    1 cup chicken broth
    1/2 cup minced celery (about 1 1/2 large stalk)
    1/2 cup minced white onion
    1 can sliced water chestnuts; drained
    kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

    • Preheat oven to 350.
    • In a large bowl add all above ingredients (for salt and pepper add about 1 generous pinch of salt and 6 grindings of black pepper); mix all ingredients together and transfer to a non-stick sprayed 9x13 inch, glass baking dish.
    • Bake for 1 hour, uncovered.

    Chicken Asian Salad with almonds and ramen croutons


    Salad Ingredients:
    2 small packages slivered almonds
    1 bottle roasted sesame seeds-if you can't find roasted then you can roast them along with the almonds-(*see directions below).
    2 packages ramen noodles; break up noodles in package and discard season packets.
    2-bags coleslaw mix  (16 oz. each)
    2 cups shredded carrots (if coleslaw mix doesn't come with carrots already)
    1 bundle green onions; green and white parts chopped
    1 large or 2 small roast chickens; meat removed from bone & torn into bite size pieces.
    kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

    Dressing Ingredients:
    3/4 cup vegetable oil
    3/4 cup rice vinegar (murukan)
    3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon white sugar or honey
    2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
    1 Tablespoon Hoisin Sauce

    • Turn oven to broil; put almonds and *unroasted sesame seeds on shallow sided pan and broil until golden:  Don't put to close to the broiler and keep an eye on it while its under the broiler. Do the same with the broken ramen noodles, stirring and turning over during the broiling until most sides are toasted. Set aside toasted almonds, sesame seeds and ramen noodles to cool.
    • In an extra large bowl add; coleslaw mix, shredded carrots, green onions, chicken meat, (cooled)roasted almonds, sesame seeds, ramen noodles and salt and pepper to taste (about 1 generous pinches of kosher salt, 8 "grindings" of pepper).
    •  Shake in a mason jar or mix together in a medium size bowl, dressing ingredients; pour mixed dressing over salad and toss well, ready to serve.

    Saturday, July 21, 2012

    Mormon "Funeral" Potatoes w/ ritz cracker topping

    Popular Sour Cream and Cheddar Potato casserole usually served at Funerals.  
    I changed the standard recipe to a better tasting casserole with different cream of soup flavors, real onions (not dehydrated), minced garlic and a Ritz cracker topping-which is so much better then the cornflake kind! We love these potatoes with Ham or Barbacued Ribs.

    --The Best Tasting Funeral Potatoes!!


    extra virgin olive oil
    1 medium white onion finely chopped
    2 cloves minced garlic
    2 lbs diced-cut(not shredded) frozen hashbrowns- I use Ore-Ida country style cubed cut hash browns. 
    1 cube butter, melted (1/2 cup)
    1 (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
    1 (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
    1 pint sour cream (2 cups)-don't use low-fat or nonfat.
    1 1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (recommend Tillamook brand)
    1 tube package of Ritz crackers-finely crushed in a large ziplock bag with rolling pin or hands

    • Preheat oven to 350.
    • Heat olive oil in fry pan, add onions and saute until onions are almost translucent, add minced garlic to onions and stir until onions finish cooking-don't burn the garlic!  Set aside
    • In a large mixing bowl add hashbrowns, 1/2 cup melted butter, cream of chicken & celery soup, sour cream, salt, cheddar cheese and cooked onions & garlic; blend together and put in a 9x13 inch baking dish.
    • Sprinkle the crushed Ritz crackers evenly over the top. (You can mix into the crushed crackers ziplock bag, 1-2 tablespoons of melted butter before adding them to the top of the casserole. But there is so much butter & cream in the potato mix that as it cooks, it bubbles up into the cracker topping. So I've never added melted butter to my crushed crackers and it always turns out great).
    • Cover with tinfoil and bake in oven for 2 hours, yep, that's not a misprint=2 hours. Then uncover foil and cook until topping is golden (about 5-10 min.).
    • Let set for 15 minutes before eating.
    • Optional: Add chopped chives or parsley on top to garnish.