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.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pepper Steak

I had used extra meat from a Beef Tenderloin to prepare this Pepper Steak. I buy a whole tenderloin and cut it into filet mignons as it’s much cheaper that way. You have to do a little bit of extra work, but… hey why not? I save the scraps—I say scraps because they aren’t filets, just hunks of meat. I use them for stew or soups. A few of the bigger nicer hunks I use for other dishes, like Pepper Steak.

This recipe came from my brother-in-law Russ who passed away from cancer. He’s the same Russ who thought my meatloaf was the best he’s ever tasted. His pepper steak is pretty darn good too only I switched the kinds of peppers as I’m not a huge fan of green peppers. I prefer red, orange or yellow. And it's what I had on hand.

Russ’s Pepper Steak
round steak, green pepper, 1 can mushrooms, bouillon cubes, soy sauce, sugar, garlic salt, salt & pepper.
Cut meat in strips,

brown, drain (I didn’t drain and also cooked mine in a little butter). Add cup of water and 2 Tablespoons soy sauce and simmer til tender. Add 1 Tablespoon sugar, mushrooms, green pepper (I used orange and yellow), bouillon cubes, garlic, salt and pepper.

Simmer until cubes dissolve. Add flour and water to make gravy.

Serve over rice or noodles. (I didn’t have cubes, I used a jar of this bouillon paste and I cooked the dish until I felt the peppers would be the way I’d like them.)

see above

Rating & Type: E/B

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Changing Things Again

Here I go changing things again. Starting Monday, April 25 (the day after Easter) this blog will go weekly, and I’m going on a little hiatus until then.

Doing the food blog daily has been too time consuming and not leaving me much time for other things that I want to write, or other creative activities that I love doing—photography, gardening, and yeah, cooking.

I want to keep the categories that I had set up (see April 1, Some Ideas on This Blog). The categories: Monday Beat the Blues Comfort Food; Tempting Tuesday; Casserole Wednesday, Tasty Thursday, Featured Friday, Saturday Side Dish, and Sunday Soup/Scoops/Special. Each week I will be blogging on a different day. Monday, April 25 will be Comfort Food, the following week I will blog on Tuesday, May 3, the next week on Wednesday, May 11—it’s every 8 days.

Most folks don’t have time to read a blog every day unless they’re only following one and that’s all they have to read. Even that can be pressing sometimes. I don’t know about you, but as a writer I love to read, and my stack of books grows faster than I can get through them.

With that I hope you enjoy what you see here, hope you try some recipes, hope I give you some ideas of what to have for dinner, and hope you share your thoughts!

Bon Appetite every 8 days!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Feature Friday—Mr. Smeagol & Ms. Kitty

Probably should call this one Feline Featured Friday—with Mr. Smeagol (black and white) and Ms. Kitty (tiger).

Smeagol’s been in the family since he was about 5 or 6 months old. I think he’s about 7 now, I can't keep track. Ms. Kitty just moved in with her momma, Jessica. I think Ms. Kitty’s a little over a year.

Ms. Kitty and Jessica will be here for about 4 months. We all thought King Smeagol would go bizerk and not tolerate Kitty because he usually acts weird with any kind of animal. We allowed Ms. Kitty in so long as Smeagol didn’t start acting goofy. We'd give it two weeks. Two weeks are up and I think they are going to be okay.

Smeagol has been the calmer of the two. It must have had to do with that cat talk I had with Smeagol before Ms. Kitty moved in. I told him that he was going to have company and he needed to learn how to get along.

Smeagol let Ms. Kitty eat out of his dish, but before I could snap a picture, Ms. Kitty disappeared. It gave me the idea of featuring the two felines.

Smeagol can only tolerate Trader Joe’s Holistic dry cat food. We’ve tried all kinds of brands. Smeagol is a puker. He cleans himself so much, fur balls fly out like Jiffy Pop, especially after he eats. No, he doesn’t have something wrong with him. He’s been a puker since day one. When he was sick and vomiting something other than his normal, he was taken to the emergency room. Long story, extensive testing and $1500 later, they found nothing wrong. I joke that he’s bulimic and wants to keep his trim figure. He doesn’t bring up the food as much with Trader Joe’s Holistic, so we’re fans. It’s tiresome cleaning up cat puke on a regular basis.

Other than Smeagol’s food, I’m not sure what Ms. Kitty eats. Her food looks a little more colorful than the drab brown of Smeag’s morsels.

Ms. Kitty and Smeagol are working hard at being friends. They follow each other around and hiss and do a little paw punching, but no one has gotten hurt. The months will whiz by, they’ll be the best of friends and I’ll bet they’ll be sad when they have to part ways.

They recommend table scraps if the owners allow it as a nice little treat. Beg as much as you can get away with. They also recommend a nice nap after eating.

P.S. They now nap on the same bed. Progress.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Trader Joe's Orange Chicken

Remember when I said I need time lately—see post on Crab Cakes. Well, here’s another extremely easy meal that doesn’t skimp on taste—Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken.

If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area, well then I’m sorry, you’re missing out.

Open the package, cook the chicken, add the sauce. Scoop it over Trader Joe’s organic brown rice (that steams in the microwave in 3 minutes).

It’s nearly as good as eating out at your favorite Chinese restaurant.

Rating & Type: EE/C

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Beef Potato Casserole

A lot of these recipes I’m posting are for the benefit of my adult children who have asked me to share some dishes they remember from their childhood. This particular one came to mind that I used to make quite a bit. As a single parent, I was into easy, economical and something all three of them would eat.

I was late getting the casserole in the oven, so when my husband came home early from work, I told him I was a tad bit behind with dinner. He wanted to know what we were having.

“Beef Potato Casserole.” It doesn’t matter what I tell that man we are having, he’s happy to eat it. I love that about him.

“I don’t think I’ve ever made this dish for you, have I?” He didn’t recall. Wow, that means I haven’t made this dish in 13 years. I told him I used to make it all the time for the kids.

“Must be a poor man’s dish then.”

“Well, yeah, probably.” But sometimes the poor man dishes are some of the tastiest. By the way my hubby gobbled it up, I’d say I’m right.

He’d say, “You’re always right.”

I don’t try to be, but when it comes to stuff the two of us discuss, it turns out I really am always right. I seriously don’t get it though. But do get on this dish and have some poor man’s food and tell me what you think.

Peel about 4 or 5 potatoes and cube.

Add a pound of raw ground beef and mix with potatoes.

Make a cream sauce and pour on top of the ground beef and potatoes.

Top with shredded cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and a half.

Cream Sauce

Rating & Type: FE/F

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Curry Chicken

This was my attempt to duplicate a dish at Monsoon’s Vietnamese Bristro. Monk Curry—with sweet potatoes, eggplant in a coconut milk curry sauce with your choice of chicken, tofu, beef or pork (I always get it with tofu). The combination sounds odd, but one bite and I was hooked. I won’t get anything else when I go there. I crave it.

I had some left over chicken tenderloins and debated what to make. I thought perhaps I could try Monsoon’s dish, knowing full well it wouldn’t be the same. I had a sweet potato but no eggplant. Too lazy to go to the store. I made do.

I stirfried the chicken pieces in a little butter. Cut up the sweet potato in little cubes and threw that in with the chicken.

I added half a can of Trader Joe’s Lite Coconut Milk and simmered until the sweet potatoes were soft and the coconut milk reduced by half. I sprinkled in curry until I felt it was the right color and taste.

I added the rest of the coconut milk, some more curry and about a teaspoon of honey.

I let that cook on low for 20-30 minutes or longer.

The one thing I learned from reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking that the slower and longer one cooks food, the more blended and the better tasting the dish seems to be. One can’t hurry good taste.

I wanted to eat with my daughter who was dropping by after coaching Lacrosse, but I couldn’t wait. This dish (at Monsoon’s) is my daughter’s favorite too.

I shoveled it in. There was something missing. Monsoon’s had a bit more of a bite to it, so I threw in a chili pepper. That’s probably not going to be enough time for the hotness to work in, but by tomorrow it should be near perfect. Not bad for making it up on my own. Now we’ll see if daughter agrees.

Daughter concurs. It’s a hit. Just needs a kick. And whatever calories or fat that's in this dish, it doesn't matter to me, I'll eat it anyway!

Sweet potato
Coconut milk

Rating & Type: E/C

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fried Chicken

Now fried chicken is some kind of comfort food, yes? My mom made it quite often. She’d actually chop the head off of a real chicken, pluck the feathers and do whatever one does to prep a chicken for a meal. Although I never saw her chop the head off, I did witness my uncle do this. He let the chicken go and it ran around without its head. I then understood the meaning behind, Running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

I remember watching my mom fry chicken and so after she passed, I attempted to make fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy for my dad and little sister, Ruthie. What a fiasco. I was 12 and never cooked in my life. That should give you an indication of how it went.

In Ruthie’s words, “I’m not eating that! It looks disgusting!” I didn’t like her much then. What I had attempted was a lot of work and to have her whine was more than I could handle. My dad was a trooper, ate it with gusto, bragging about it, encouraging Ruthie to try it. She flat out refused. Seriously, I can’t blame her. I wouldn’t have eaten it if I were her.

I found out later, years and years later, that my dad confessed to puking it all up afterwards. Yet he boasted to my friends who would come over that “Lynn makes the best fried chicken!”

When I spoke at his eulogy I referenced that Fried Chicken is what came to mind when I contemplated on what I should talk about. I didn’t get it at first and then realized he encouraged me by pretending that I made the best fried chicken when really I sucked.

I kept on cooking and now I do make a mean fried chicken. Not really much of a trick to mine though.

Coat with flour whatever pieces of chicken you want to eat and fry it in some oil until it gets golden brown. Salt and pepper more than once while it’s frying.

Next time I make it, I’ll be sure to take pictures and show you step by step.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another Birthday

We seem to be having birthday’s right and left around here. Today is Todd and Robyn’s birthday. They’re twins. My husband’s children who are 38 today. Whew that’s hard to believe and starting to make me feel old.

I offered to make them a birthday dinner—so long as they decided what I should cook. Todd suggested meatloaf, spaghetti or breakfast. I figured most people can make spaghetti or breakfast, but meatloaf could be a little more challenging.

And you all know what I’ve said about my meatloaf. Oh you don’t? Well read meatloaf and grilled meatloaf sandwich. I’m not trying to be lazy in not having a different meal today, but I just don’t want to blog about meatloaf again. Unless of course you all share your meatloaf recipes with me, then I’ll write about meatloaf again.

Happy Birthday Todd and Robyn! Love you!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes

The original recipe came from Mastering the Art of French Cooking but I’ve modified it a bit. Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a great book to learn some basics about cooking though. I learned how to hold a knife. Who would have thought after all these years of cutting, slicing, chopping that I could learn how to hold a knife? I mean I only once came close to cutting my finger off. (Well, okay, maybe more than once, but only once that was serious enough to require stitches, but didn’t.) I didn’t think there was an art to holding a knife, but you’d be amazed by following the instructions in this book.

On to the scalloped potatoes. It says to peel them, but I don’t always. Skins are good for you and saves a lot of time. Layer by overlapping in a dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, sprinkle with a little Guyre cheese. The better the cheese, the better the potatoes. Keep layering. I usually do about three.

In the book, you’re to use a fireproof dish that can also go in an oven. You add some cream and heat slightly over a fire, but I skip this step and just put the dish right into the oven at 350 degrees for about 45-60 minutes or until golden brown.

The first time I made them, I followed the directions in the book.

Rating & Type: FE/V

Friday, April 8, 2011

Feature Friday—Ruthie, my Baby Sister

Ruth Pondrom is my featured guest. She’s also my baby sister that I refer to as Ruthie in my other blog, Present Letters.

Ruth made a birthday dinner for me last Friday night and so it seemed appropriate to have her as my featured favorite. This isn’t necessarily her favorite recipe, but it is the one she made me for my birthday. We three sisters do this for each other and you can read about the last dinner if you want. Don’t worry, you all didn’t miss my birthday—it’s in December. We just have these dinners whenever the three of us can work our schedules.

Ruth hates having her picture taken. Must run in the family. Ruth's photo is far better than any of mine—just look at that smile.

So on to the dinner…

We started off with an appetizer: Rosemary and Onion Foccacia bread. We almost gobbled it down before I could snap a picture of it. Homemade of course. I think I mentioned that Ruth is the bread maker in our family.

After we devoured that, we had a simple salad. But it wasn’t in a simple bowl—this was a Parmesan bowl—edible! We gobbled that up too!

Then she placed the Fontina cheese and crusty bread on the table. Oh my, so scrumptious.

Unooked fontina:

Crusty bread:

Cooked fontina:

Imagine scooping that cheese up with the crusty bread. Mmmmm.

After I gorged, Ruth said, “So you ready for soup?”

“What? Soup? I thought you said it was bread and cheese and dessert!”

“I have corn bisque too!”

“Bring it on.” Even though I was full, I wasn’t going to pass up anything that Ruth made for me. She’s almost as good of a cook as me. Wink wink.

The corn bisque had a bite to it and it was delicious. By now, we rubbed our tummies like the three little pigs only we weren’t worried about our houses blowing down. We were worried about our bellies exploding.

Ruth informed us that she made not just one dessert, but three. Good grief. First she brought out the bowl of homemade Fleur de Sel caramels made with Fleur de Sel salt. I’m definitely going to get some of this high and mighty expensive salt as it sure made an impression on me. The caramels were too hard to bite into without losing your teeth—and I’m talking permanent teeth—so you had to let them soften in your mouth for a while.

Ruth presented Black Forest Chocolate Mousse and it didn’t matter how full you were, you continued to spoon the smooth chocolaty goodness into your mouth.

Her grand finale was made just for me—maltballs. Only they weren’t balls, but discs. She couldn’t get them to stay round. Some of you know I’m a maltball snob. A maltball connoisseur. I’m on the prowl for the best maltball. Everywhere I go that has candy, you’ll find me purchasing a few maltballs, if they have them. I always ask first, “Are your maltballs double-dipped?" If they say yes, I pass. All you chocolate fiends quit scratching your heads—maltballs should have a thin coat of chocolate. But we’ll talk more about maltballs another time.

Too bad us three little pigs didn’t let any crumbs escape because Ruth's Dachshund, Obie is a regular Hoover. He was begging for something to fall.

Ruth’s cooking would impress any food critic. The next morning as I woke from my Fleur de Sel caramel coma, I was hungry for more.

Thanks Ruth, you outdid yourself and thanks for being a sport as my first featured favorite! I love you!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Take a peak in the ole ice box… err, refrigerator. I grew up with my parents calling the refrigerator an ice box since that’s what they grew up with—an honest to goodness ice box. For some reason, the name ice box has stuck and I’ll probably always call the refrigerator an ice box.

My husband is always correcting me when I say, “Honey, will you get the mustard out of the ice box?”

“You mean refrigerator?”

“No, I mean ice box.”

When I tell the grandkids to put something in the ice box or to get something out of the ice box, they open up the freezer. Hey, they’re not stupid. Ice. Freezer. Kind of the same.

I never think about what that must sound like to them. Although if they’ve been around me, they’ll pick up things as I talk to myself. “Oh, better get the cream cheese out of the ice box so it can soften.” And I head to the refrigerator, open the door and pull out the cream cheese.

So this week’s Tasty Thursday could be tasty, depending on what’s in your fridge… err, ice box.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tuna Casserole

Our first Casserole Wednesday is: Tuna Casserole

I have a version of tuna casserole and then my husband has a version of tuna casserole. His seems to be more like someone who has Alzheimer’s and couldn’t remember if they were making tuna casserole or tuna salad.

I’ll start with mine:
1 can tuna (whatever type you prefer) drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
milk – fill up the empty can of soup
Elbow macaroni noodles, but I’ve used shells, corkscrew, egg—whatever's on hand.
Cheddar cheese (amount is up to you)

While you boil the noodles, drain the tuna, put in casserole dish and add the soup and milk and stir together. After the noodles have cooked and drained, add to the tuna/soup mixture. If you use shredded cheese, you can mix whatever amount you want in with the mixture or if you use hunks of cheese, then take pieces of cheese and place throughout the casserole. Top with additional cheese or bread crumbs or crushed up dried onion rings or corn flakes or… you get the idea. I use cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. The pictures are all from my recipe. The reason it doesn't look as golden brown is probably because instead of topping it with cheddar cheese, I used Guyre cheese (that's what I had on hand).

Husband’s Tuna Casserole:
Boil noodles and while that’s cooking, open a can of tuna (drained), dump in bowl along with some mayonnaise (I use Miracle Whip), some pickle relish (your choice on amount), mix that up (yep, it’s like tuna salad) and then add the drained noodles. Eat right away while still on the warm side. It does seem weird, but it’s not bad.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crab Cakes

Tempting Tuesday has me stumped. I wanted to have dishes that were on the higher end of calories and fat. Everything seems to be more on the high calorie end, unless you’re eating straight up vegetables.

I personally don’t like to cook with low fat anything. I think that’s part of why my food taste good because it’s not hidden under fake ingredients. Real butter. Real cream. Real everything. It’s not that I cook high in fat or high in calories all the time, but what small amounts of ingredients that do go into some dishes, it doesn’t make sense to ruin it with some low fat tasteless stuff. What’s the point of going through all that work? You might as well just grab a veggie and munch.

I’m all for eating healthy, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want to skimp on key ingredients when I'm cooking.

Today it’s Crab Cakes. I have no idea if they are high in calories. I’ve made them from scratch before, however, there’s a Member’s Mark (Sam’s) brand which is pretty hard to beat and saves a lot of time. I need time lately.

Our favorite place to eat out for crab cakes is Bristo’s. There are crab cakes with more filler and then there are crab cakes with lots of crab. Bristo’s has lots of crab as do the above mentioned brand.

Take them out of the package, heat in oven until brown. A good 30 minutes. You can top them with Thousand Island salad dressing (okay, so here’s where the calories come in). I would usually serve this with a salad.

Yikes, I just read the back of the box: 15g of fat and 210 calories for one crab cake. Guess crab cakes work for Tempting Tuesday!

Rating & Type: EE/F

Monday, April 4, 2011

Veal Parmesan

It’s the start of my new themed recipes… Monday: Beat the Blues with Comfort Food. Only I’m having a hard time deciding what is comfort food as I seem to be comforted by most food. I’m open to suggestions.

As I thumbed through my recipe holder book, which includes recipes from various people, I spotted Mary Morreale—the former boss of my 2nd x-husband. Even after we divorced, Mary insisted that I visit with the children and always wanted to feed us. It didn’t matter what day or time it was, she was always cooking something—always home-made.

“Here honey, have something to eat.” or “Try this.” or “You should see what I made.” or “Here take this home.” She taught me a thing or two about cooking from scratch and she’d call me up when there was a sale on some meat and told me what to do with it.

“You can get chuck roast for 89 cents a pound at Schnucks. You won’t find it any cheaper. Buy as much as you can. Then grind it up in a meat grinder to make some Italian sausage.” Mary would rattle on about this spice and that to add to the ground up meat.

I’m pretty sure Mary was Italian and if she wasn’t, she should have been.

Mary was also the Queen of doll making. When I was on a vacation with future husband number 3, I had bought her a little locally made doll. But when I got home, I discovered Mary had passed away. I still have the doll and think of her when I see it.

Although Veal Parmesan may not be true comfort food, Mary sure knew how to comfort a hurting soul. Here’s her recipe for Veal Parmesan written all those years ago.

Mix egg with water. Dip meat in egg, then in seasoned bread crumbs (garlic and oregano) Fry slow til brown in skillet with a little oil. Put in flat pan, pour spaghetti sauce over, top with cheese. Cover with foil. 400 degrees for 10 minutes or 300 degrees for 30 minutes.

Bread crumbs
spaghetti sauce

Rating & Type: E/B

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jessica's Birthday Dinner

It’s my middle child’s birthday—Jessica who is 26 years old today. As old as I was when I was pregnant with my first child. Jessica is no where near settling down and that’s okay.

I asked her what she wanted for her birthday dinner and of course her answer was crock pot chicken. See my first post about crock pot chicken. Even though Jessica is a vegetarian, she still gobbles it up—not the chicken, just the sauce.

I’ll have to post some pictures later so come back as I don’t have pictures of my first crock pot chicken.

It’s Sunday, so check out Lynn, What’s for Dessert? and of course, I will be featuring her birthday dessert…Gooey Butter Cake.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cod in Cream Sauce

Whenever I ask my husband what he would like for dinner, his usual reply is something like, “Whatever you want to make.” or “Surprise me.” And on rare occasions he might come up with, “How about fish?” or “How about chicken.” I should surprise him all right and plop a raw whole fish or chicken on his plate sometime.

And so this night, he gave his stock answer, “How about fish?” Hey it is a start. I took out some cod, saw the spinach in the freezer too—ah ha, I’ll make creamed spinach with the fish. I made the cream sauce, added the spinach and then decided I would make another batch of cream sauce and let the cod poach in the creamy liquid. Not sure how it was going to turn out, the fish browned in the sauce. That was a surprise to me. Bigger surprise than my husband’s answer on what to have for dinner.

One could probably cook just about anything in cream sauce, don’t you think?

My Version of Cream Sauce
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1 to 2 cups milk (depending on thickness of sauce)
salt and pepper

Melt butter in skillet, whisk in flour. Slowly add in the milk stirring constantly until you get the desired consistency. (If you’re making creamed spinach, then add the spinach—even if it’s frozen, it’ll thaw in the sauce. I sprinkled a little garlic powder in there too. If you’re poaching cod, place the filets in the sauce and cook until the fish is done.)

I think I served some rice with this. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to serve two creamy things, but I thought they complemented each other rather nicely.


Rating & Type: FE/F