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.

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