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.