Just in case you don't think there is any rhyme or reason to this dinner blog, here it is: It's a rotating week. Monday Beat the Blues Comfort Food; Tempting Tuesday; Casserole Wednesday; Tasty Thursday; Featured Friday (where I feature a special person and their recipe); Saturday Side Dish; Sunday Soups/Scoops/Specials. Each week I'll be blogging on a different day, so there's something new about every eight days.

NOTE: This blog will be changing. Stay tuned for a new look and routine of when I will post.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Taking a Break

It's been a busy October and it's going to be an even busier November, so I am taking a break from posting any new recipes. I'll check back in at the end of the month. But don't forget to check out my regular blog: Present Letters.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beef & Barley Soup

The other day when I was making Pepper Steak, I had used extra meat from a nice beef tenderloin. I buy whole tenderloins and cut it into filet mignon’s as it’s so much cheaper that way. You have to do a little bit of extra work, but… hey why not? I can’t throw the scraps away—I say scraps because they aren’t filets, just hunks of meat. I save them for stew or soups. A few of the bigger nicer hunks I used in the Pepper Steak.

For the soup, I took the smaller pieces with a little fat, threw them in a pot with some butter until the meat browned.

I added some water to fill the pot, 1 cup of barley and simmered it. Seems like it needed something else, so I chopped up a big onion

(and saved half of it for Beef Stroganoff that I plan on making later). I added half the onion, sprinkled in some garlic powder and poured a little Kitchen Bouquet in for some added color and flavor. It still needed something, so I added a package of Grilled Portabella and Onion soup mix. I was going to have it for lunch, but it was so beefy, I dumped it into the Beef & Barley.


Rating & Type: E/B

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spinach Salad

Spinach salad may not be something you think about eating in October, but why not? Spinach salad is something you can create to your taste. I did another spinach salad in the spring with strawberries and nuts. But there’s something about the warm bacon dressing that makes it a real spinach salad, to me anyway.

I usually buy bottled bacon dressing that you can heat up and pour over your salad. This time I didn’t have any on hand and after having gone to two stores earlier, I didn’t want to go out again, so I decided to make some. I looked up some recipes—none which seemed right. There was only one that you warmed up, but I didn’t like the rest of it, so I combined what I liked and made my own.

Lynn’s Warm Bacon Dressing

6 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
¼ c bacon crumbles
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup chopped onion

I combined all the ingredients and cooked it on low until the ingredients blended nicely and I was ready to pour it over the salad.

I put the baby spinach leaves in a large bowl,

added portabella mushrooms, 2 hard boiled eggs,

roasted pecans (I sautéed them in a little butter),

and some more bacon crumbles. I added the dressing and mixed well. This was one of the most tastiest spinach salads I’ve had and my husband agreed.

Another thing I decided to do next time I make this is to use real bacon replacing the bacon grease with the olive oil. I think Trader Joe’s apple smoked bacon would make a nice addition to this recipe.

Spinach leaves

Rating & Type: EE/V or P

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Macaroni & Cheese

Growing up my mom made macaroni and cheese, homemade of course, with elbow macaroni.

When we moved into our stepmother’s house after my mom passed, my little sister Ruthie and I made Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

As I grew older and had children of my own, I’d make homemade macaroni and cheese and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese—as kids like that.

When I started to date current husband, we went to his folks on occasion. Maurine (mother-in-law) was ‘famous’ for her macaroni and cheese (and her potato salad). She used what she called “macaroni macaroni” noodles. Long macaroni noodles—like thick spaghetti hollowed. You could drink through the noodle like a straw. I never knew they made such a noodle—and it does make good macaroni and cheese. It’s what I use now… unless I don’t have any on hand and want to make mac and cheese, then I might use any kind of noodle.

My husband’s folks are no longer living, but when the rest of the family gets together, you can bet there’s usually Maurine’s version of mac and cheese.

Cook a package of Macaroni Noodles (I can only find these noodles at Schnucks—here in St. Louis, MO). Butter a casserole dish, add a layer of noodles, sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with hunks of cut up Colby cheese, dot with a little of butter and repeat. Top the noodles with some slices or shredded Colby cheese, dot with butter. Add milk—enough that when you tip the casserole dish you will see the milk starting to appear. Maurine always liked to use more milk, so give it an extra splash if you want. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about a good hour, or longer, until golden brown and bubbly.

Some folks like the top of this to be crunchy, which I’m not a fan of, however even leaving the lid on makes a crunchy top. But you could take the lid off the last 10 minutes of cooking for any extra crunch.

Macaroni Noodles
Colby cheese
butter, salt and pepper

Rating & Type: E/V

Friday, September 16, 2011

Feature Friday—Becky Povich

A big welcome to Becky Povich as my Feature Friday guest. Becky claims she doesn’t cook much, so I told her she could share anything she wanted. Becky sent me her favorite meatloaf recipe that she received from her niece, Renee. Becky says, “It’s the best meatloaf I've ever had!” I’m definitely going to have to give this recipe a shot.

We all know what meatloaf looks like, so Becky shared pictures of her homemade recipe book instead. How cute is that?

Here’s the front cover, the spine and the inside.

And now for the recipe.

If you have trouble reading the recipe card, here it is:

Grandma Berry’s Meat Loaf
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 ½ pounds ground beef
2 eggs
¼ cup chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. sage (didn’t use)

3 T. brown sugar
4 T. ketchup
1 tsp. dry mustard

Soak 2/3 cup bread crumbs in a little milk. Add beef and remaining items. Put loaf in pan and cover with sauce.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

A while ago, Becky had sent me some pictures of her ice cream cone cupcakes that she made when she was about 10 years old. The photo of the cupcakes aren’t the ones Becky made (they’re from the cookbook) although I’m sure Becky’s were just as cute, if not cuter. If you read my dessert blog, I had written about my ice cream cone cupcakes made from a silicon mold. I think Becky’s would be better because you put the batter in the cone and bake it. No worries about the cones falling over like mine did. As Becky said, “You can eat the entire thing—no mess, no dishes.” And look at that sweet Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls Becky received from her mother. I just love it.

Becky has a fun sense of humor, a generous heart and is working hard on her memoir. I’m glad to have met Becky through St. Louis Writers Guild, and that we’re now friends.

You should check out Becky’s blog as there’s something there for everyone, and she always has a cool quote to go with her blog post.

Thanks Becky! And I look forward to trying your meatloaf!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


It's Tasty Thursday.

Just so you all don’t think I always cook cheap or make comfort food or easy easy dishes, here’s something I’ll share. I prepared a French dinner for my husband for our anniversary. And since I wrote all about it and took pictures along the way, you can view it here if you’d like.

Otherwise you can just sauté the scallops in a little butter, squeeze a little lemon juice on them and you’re good to go. That’s not how I made them for this French dinner, but how I’ve made them before.

Bon Appetite!


Rating & Type: NE/F

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Egg Salad

It’s Wednesday Casserole day. So why am I telling you about egg salad. Let’s use our imagination and pretend this is a cold casserole. Could be, couldn’t it? I mean, who wants to eat a casserole in this hot weather? Okay, I would. What won’t I eat is more the question.

Boil those eggs. Depending on how many you are going to feed will depend on the amount. It’s just my husband and me, but he LOVES egg salad. He tells the story of how he grew up on egg salad, that they were poor and ate egg salad all the time. I would think you’d hate egg salad if that’s all you ate growing up.

I usually boil at least 6 eggs. I found a trick peeling eggs. After you’ve boiled them, run cold water over them. Take the egg and roll it so that the shell cracks and keep it in the water for at least an hour. Then peel your eggs.

Chop them up. Add enough mayonnaise (I use Miracle Whip) to moisten the eggs, along with some pickle relish and salt and pepper, according to your taste.

Pile it on the bread and dig in. Something that would be good on it is a sliced home grown tomato. Mmmmm.

Pickle relish

Rating & Type: EE/V

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chicken Mushroom Spaghetti

For my Tempting Tuesday dish I wasn’t sure how tempting it was going to be, but it turned out pretty good.

I had some left over portabella mushrooms and wondered what I could do with them. Since we hadn’t had a pasta dish lately, I figured I could sauté the mushrooms and add them to the noodles and we’d be good to go. However, the only kind of noodles I had was spaghetti noodles.

I decided I needed to make more of a sauce and if I was going to do that, then I need to add some chicken to the mix.

I cooked up the chicken in some butter, added the mushrooms. I made a basic white sauce that is in a lot of recipes on this blog – shrimpy noodles or beef potato casserole or cod in cream sauce to name a few.

I added about ½ cup or so of parmesan cheese, then combined it with the chicken and mushrooms. After the noodles cooked, I added those and called it chicken mushroom spaghetti. I need to be more creative with my made up recipes, but hey you at least know what you’re getting, yes?


Rating & Type: EE/C

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fontina Cheese

It’s Monday’s Comfort Food. Nothing says comfort like cheese and bread, but this dish will knock your socks off.

It comes from the same cookbook where I got those Fleur de Sel caramels that will put you into a coma because you want to eat too many. I’m pretty sure you might want to pick up Barefoot Contessa, how easy is that? by Ina Garten.

My daughter Jessica had been wanting to learn a few cooking tips from her momma, but she’s always busy. However, she was home when I decided to make this dish and since she’s a vegetarian, it was right up her alley.

It’s so simple… easy, just like the book title says, that she could even do it, and she did, mostly. She bought the cheese, cut it up in cubes, put it in the pan. I drizzled the olive oil over it and sprinkled the rosemary, thyme, kosher salt and pepper. Jessica could have. Oh, I made the bread too. And I put the pan under the broiler until the cheese melted and started to brown. I also dropped the pan on the floor, screamed and Jessica came running thinking I hurt myself. Guess I should have let her do it all.

Just a tip, you might want to wear oven mitts on both of your hands in the event your one hand isn’t quite capable of holding the heavy pan and it starts to turn. If your other hand had a mitt on, it could just grab it. I at least had enough sense not to grab the just-out-of-the-oven pan with hot sizzling cheese with my bare hand. In slow motion the cheese slid out of the pan and plopped onto the floor. I grabbed a spatula and scooped it back into the pan. I had just swept the floor, so I didn’t think it would hurt.

Here’s the end result.

It would’ve looked prettier had I not dumped half of it onto the floor. It didn’t seem to have any affect on the taste as Jessica and I gobbled up as much as we could, which was about half. When my husband got home, he ate the other half. And yeah, I told him I had dropped it on the floor. And it was so good that I wouldn’t have cared if I had pulled out a cat hair from my mouth.

Italian Fontina Cheese

Rating & Type: EE/V

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Popcorn Sunday and Renee

Renee (pronounced REE-NEE), an elderly neighbor that lived near me when I was a single parent renting my best friend’s house, who lucky for me was moving and getting remarried as I was moving and divorcing. Renee seemed like she could have been a Southern lady. She had a bit of a drawl to her voice—okay maybe she was from the hills. I’m not sure. She also reminded me of Gladys—or whatever character that was in some sitcom who was always peeking out her window to see what was going on—maybe that was Bewitched. I always felt safe with Renee around—sometimes a little too safe. But Renee was nothing but good to me and my children. A true sweetheart.

Renee told me that every Sunday she took a break from cooking dinner. She and her husband would eat popcorn, sliced apples and cheese. I always thought that was an interesting combination.

So Renee, this one’s for you!
Pop some popcorn.
Slice up an apple.
Pull out your favorite cheese.
You can’t get much easier than that!


Rating & Type: EE/V

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

It's Saturday Side Dish.

I made this dish for Easter one year at my sister’s. I probably won’t ever make it again as the memory behind it shatters my heart. You can read the article I wrote that was published online by Hot Metal Bridge, Pittsburgh University’s literary journal called Sweet Potato Casserole (how clever, eh?)

There are many sweet potato casserole recipes out there and I can’t tell you which are the best. Someone will have to fill me in on that. But you can try the one by my cousin in the Bunco Cookbook. Head on over to Lynn, What’s For Dessert? (Hot Fudge Cake) for info on the Bunco Cookbook.

Sweet potatoes

Rating & Type: Who knows

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feature Friday—RitaBook Hunt

Rita is my daughter. The baby of my three children. While carrying her in my belly, it was one of the most difficult times in my life, and I’m pretty sure I cried every day. I was sure this baby was going to be depressed and fussy. But surprise, Rita was a bundle of smiles. She’s always been a bright spot in my most gloomy of days. There’s an experience I had with her when she was about three months old where our eyes locked and we spoke soul to soul. It changed my life.

My Rita is one of the sweetest, most loved people. I can’t tell you how many times adults who have worked with her or who have gotten to know her, who meet me for the first time, and the first words that come out of their mouth is, “Oh I just LOVE Rita!” And then it’s followed either by “I wish she were my daughter.” or “We’ve adopted her as part of our family.” or “You’re so lucky.” In deed I am.

This isn’t to say Rita’s perfect as there are folks who don’t care for her or who don’t get along with her—usually those her own age. Or slackers. I’m guessing because deep inside they’re jealous. And if you’ve rubbed Rita the wrong way, you’ll know it. (Just wanted to add that so you don’t think this mother is disillusioned about her children… I love all three and wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I also know their not-so-swell traits—that of which we all have, myself included.

But another one of Rita’s good traits is she’s creative. Out of the box creative. Beats to her own inner creative drum and beats well. She can turn anything into something. That has started her working on her own business called EGABRAG CraftsI turn your garbage around. Even the name is creative. EGA-BRAG (that’s how you say it), but it is garbage spelled backwards by the way.

Okay so this is about food. Rita isn’t what I call a patient cook. She likes to get it done in a hurry. She’d never stir anything for hours on end. Her slogan would be BING-BAM it’s done MA’AM. Or something to that affect.

Rita brought over Strawberry Shortcake for Father’s Day.

She brought it in canning jars—a little one with cut up strawberries.

A bigger one with the strawberry sauce (recipe to follow) and then a package of shortcakes and whip cream of course.

Here’s some shots of the sauce in the making.

Recipe for Strawberry Sauce in Rita’s own words:
Cut strawberries, at least a cup, about a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, and 3-4 tablespoons agave nectar.
(Can use corn syrup, honey, sugar... depending on health and taste preferences)
Adjust by adding more of the following ingredients until desired taste.
I usually do not measure... ever.
Bing Boom Bam! haha ;)
Take the rest of your strawberries and cut them up.
You then take you shortcakes, throw some strawberries on top, pour on the strawberry puree, add a dollop of Cool Whip and enjoy!

You could use this sauce over ice cream. I used the leftovers in a smoothie that I blended with blueberries, ½ banana, OJ, ice and a tad bit of water. It was yum.

Rita also makes a mean macaroon cookie—gluten free and it is delicious. You can check out that recipe in the book, BabyCakes: Vegan, (mostly) Gluten-free, and (mostly) Sugar-free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna. Now that has to be one of the longest titles of a cookbook!

Rita works at Café Nura. I went in there one day and ordered the homemade poppyseed scone. Rita asked if I’d like lemon icing to go with it.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“I made it. It’s really good.”

“I don’t’ think I want icing on my scone.”

“Really, you should try it.”

“Okay, fine.” How does a mother refuse her child especially when it comes to food?

This wasn’t what I’d call icing. It was more of a sauce. I spooned some onto the scone and oh my. I was like a dog with a steak dinner. Or a cat with fresh tuna. I dunked the scone in the lemon sauce until it got nice and soggy. I was afraid I’d run out of the sauce before I finished the scone, so I planned to make sure. With a little bit of sauce left, I took the spoon and lapped it up. Had I been home, I’m sure I would’ve licked out the dish! I’m surprised I didn’t ask for more so that I could drink the stuff. I made sure I thanked Rita for talking me into it. That scone wouldn’t have been near as good without the sauce.

Here is her recipe, again in her words:

Lemon Glaze (How about glaze ?)
2 individual butter servings, sugar, and lemon juice
You can use powdered sugar in substitution for sugar.
This too is an adjust to taste, you want a sweet lemon taste. The more sugar you add the thicker it gets. This recipe only makes enough to cover 1 - 2 scones.

My note: It’s one of those sauces that you could probably pour over anything and it’d make whatever you’re eating taste better.

Well, check out Rita’s EGABRAG site, and if you’re in Webster Groves, stop in Café Nura and say hi. She makes a mean latte too. Or check out the Café Nura site, which Rita is helping put together.

And no, I’m not trading her for your child, but I’m willing to share. Oh and one more thing, her clever nickname is RitaBook. Sometimes people don’t get it. Read-A-Book. Did I mention Rita can write too? She’s my little stinker.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

BBQ'd Ribs

On Mother’s Day I barbequed ribs. I had bought this package of ribs not realizing there were three slabs in it. Oh well, I froze the leftovers for another meal.

I put these on low on the grill—turned off the middle burners (of 4) so that I wouldn’t have to watch these 24/7—after all it was Mother’s Day and I had other things I wanted to do, like nothing.

The ribs looked like they were getting a little dried out after being on the grill for three hours, so I heated up a stick of butter and some red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar. I thought I remembered my dad making this mixture when he barbequed chicken. Seems like you could use it for beef too. Only I think I should’ve basted it from the get go. I don’t know if you can revamp already dried up meat. My dad probably sprinkled his bbq with Stagg or Falstaff too!

I had rubbed the ribs with Penzey’s Spices—Galena Street (Rib and Chicken Rub-Traditional Southern style bbq rub).

About an hour before they were ready, I doused them with bbq sauce (Sweet Baby Ray’s is one of my favorites) so that the sauce will cook on. When you eat the ribs, the sauce and the meat will stick to your teeth. It’ll be chewy. Mmmm, nothing better than chewy bbq.

The ends of my ribs were a little dried out—so I’d suggest basting from the get go!

Rating & Type: E/P

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Zucchini Casserole

I can’t remember when zucchini is in season, but it’s probably close to this time of year. I’m writing some of these blogs ahead of schedule, so… I could be a little off. I can hear my kids now. Yeah, yeah, I know, I am a little off.

Sorry no pictures, but look at my Beef Potato Casserole (finished) and it’ll probably look similar. Any dish topped with cheese is going to have a close appearance, but underneath is another story. Does that go with—you can’t judge a book by its cover? I think so.

I was at a gathering where someone brought rice. (How does this fit in? There’s rice in this casserole, that’s how.) How can you mess up rice? Trust me, you can mess up rice. I avoided any future dishes made by this gal.

Then there’s my rice story (pat pat on my back). My son Casey was in town and his friend Ian had come by. They were hungry and I made some food—one being plain ole rice. Ian wanted to know what I did to the rice. I thought about that gal and asked, “What’s wrong with it?”

“Oh nothing. This is the best rice I’ve ever had.”

“Come on.”

“No, really. What’d you do?”

“Nothing, just followed the directions and cooked it.” I was embarrassed because it was so plain.

“You’re kidding, right? You had to put something else in here.”


Ian shook his head. “Man, I can’t believe it.”

Casey looked at me with a bit of a twinkle in his eye and a slight grin. He nudged Ian. “Ian man, don’t you know… my mom’s secret ingredient is love.”

I stood there. Awwww, sweet boy, he remembered. (Mother’s gush like that.) I had made Casey a homemade cookbook with some of his favorite recipes and things he could make. I added little notes. One was to always remember to add love to your cooking because it really will make everything taste better.

There it was. Proof.

You may have to sprinkle in extra love in this dish for fussy children, after all it has zucchini in it. Either that or don’t tell them. My kids seemed to like it. Then again, could’ve been the love.

Recipe for Zucchini Casserole

1 pound ground beef
2 small zucchini
3 small onions
2 cups tomatoes, peeled & cut
2/3 cup uncooked rice
3-4 slices cheese
salt & pepper

Brown ground beef. Drain (keeping 2 Tablespoons of the fat in skillet) set aside. Slice zucchini and onion into thin slices and add to fat. Cook about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer 10 minutes. Into a 2 quart casserole, put a layer of zucchini/tomato mixture. Sprinkle uncooked rice on top of this. Add browned beef. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper. Top with remaining zucchini/tomato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 45 minutes. Uncover and place cheese on top. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese has melted and is slightly brown.

Ground Beef

Rating & Type: E/B

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grilled Brats

These homemade goodies came from Patrowski’s down in the city. Because they were special, I wanted to find some nice buns, not Wonder or Hostess hotdog buns. I went to several specialty bread stores that only had big—almost French roll type buns. I wanted to be able to taste the brat and not have it covered up with bread dough.

The last place I stopped was Clayton Bakery and Deli. They will make hotdog buns for you but since I needed them that day, I went with some round buns that they had. I decided we’d cut up the brat to fit the bun.

Grill your meat until done. Ha, how do you like those directions?

If I’m going to sauce my meat like I decided to do with these brats, I want the sauce grilled on so the sauce becomes one with the meat—almost chewy. The kind that sticks to your front teeth after you’ve taken a bite.

That’s what happened when you sank your teeth into these babies. And those buns—perfect match with the brats. I don’t think I’ll want to eat them any other way.

Rating & Type: EE/F

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shrimpy Noodles

I’m sure I could come up with a better name for this dish that I made up. It was one of those days where I had no idea what I was going to cook. I looked in the freezer and saw a bag of shrimp. In the cabinet the bag of noodles jumped out at me. I decided to make a white sauce: 3 tablespoons of butter and blend in 3 tablespoons of flour. Add 1 – 2 cups of evaporated milk and cook until slightly thickened. Add some parmesan cheese. Adjust with more milk or more cheese if needed.

While that is cooking, I pulled the tails off the raw shrimp and added them to the sauce. I boiled some noodles and when they were finished, I added the noodles to the shrimp/sauce. Voila, a tasty pasta dish.


Rating & Type: EE/F