Fried Herb Squash! Plus Brussels Sprouts without the Bitter

Plated veg and Limey Melon

This year I planted a garden.

Hahahahahahahaha! *sniff* You've no idea how funny that is. I have planted actual food in the ground before. A few times. And usually what happens is I frantically scramble to pick all the tomatoes off the vines before the roots rot, or aphids get them, or they die laughing at my attempts to garden them. Or I make my garden boxes too short and all the carrots turn left at the bottom. Everything I plant ends up deformed, moldy, pale, or some sort of weird hybrid thingie that makes my children glow in the dark. So, generally speaking, if my little family and I ever have to live off the land, we won't. We'll be grinding up cattails for flour, drinking dew from leaves and cannibalizing each other.

That's a pleasant thought for a food blog. I'm sorry.

Anyway, this year I wanted fresh herbs. I heart fresh herbs. They're so fresh. And herb-y. And honestly, dried herbs are a whole different and much less desirable animal. Leaves and fronds lose their green zing when you dry them. Basil ceases to have that minty anise flavor, rosemary ceases to be gingery and woody and vibrant. And cilantro tastes like the cardboard box you once stored grass in. You want them fresh. I promise. So I tried to do that this year. Annnnnd. Well. It kind of worked.

I planted my herbs in buckets because our soil is funky after spraying for the 500 metric tons of wasps we get every year. And my huz set up a drip system in the buckets, 'cause he's an awesome mechanical-engineer-type-guy-plus-he-grew-up-on-a-farm-so-you'd-think-we'd-be-better-gardeners-but-what-are-you-gonna-do?

 But something is wrong. My basil went bitter, and I didn't even let it flower! My cilantro decided to turn into Italian parsley even though it still looks like cilantro. And my dill is sonically sour. Yeesh. 

So I'm starting over. Adding more nitrogen and vermiculite to my soil. Pruning more. Giving it more tender loving care. After all that, if the herbs start turning left at the bottom, I'm giving up.

Anyhoo. That is my lovely introduction to cooking with home-grown herbs. Or trying to, anyway. It's also my intro to combating my husband's life-long hatred for Brussels Sprouts. I've never loved the things much either, but his stubbornness seems unfair to me. Just because you hate something doesn't mean you shouldn't eat it. There's a Life Lesson in there somewhere. Besides, I don't like prejudice of any kind, so I've been determined to turn huz's sprout-hate into sprout-love. And I used the fried herb squash dish to soften the blow.

And you know what? I think I done did it. With some help from a lovely brother-in-law named Mark (hi Mark!), we have effectively changed the huz's heart. Or at least softened it a little.

So. What I'm going to do is take you through a pictorial version of the recipes for Fried Herb Squash and De-Bittered Buttered Brussels Sprouts. It was  an experiment after all, and it'll be easier to explain it this way, 'kay? Plus I made a lot of it up and have no idea what the measurements were.

Ready? Keep your arms and legs inside the blog at all times. Here we goooooo!



Fresh herbs gathered from my "garden." These will be used in the Fried Herb Squash. As you can see, I am the Jackson Pollack of Photography. I just throw stuff in there willy nilly, with no regard for matching blue bowls with red and yellow towels, and call it art. What you see is one blue bowl's-worth of Greek basil, rosemary, German thyme, chives, dill weed, and a smidge of cilantro because why not? Wash it, chop it, and revel in the beauty of your own personal bounty. It chopped up to between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of herbs. Not packed. Add more or less if you like. I'm sure the herbs won't be offended.


B Sprouts

Now, I've switched to the Brussels Sprouts because I am multi-tasking. First wash the sprouts and chop off their ends. I know it sounds barbaric, but I promise they can't feel it. You're going to need about 60 small to medium-sized sprouts. In Costco terms, that would be one bag.

Now melt a stick of butter (I KNOW. But trust me here. My North Carolina Farm-boy-bro-in-law-Mark says you HAVE to use a half cup of butter or you won't cut the bitter. The butter cuts the bitter in the bodacious Brussels Sprouts. It has to do with alkali cutting acid and people who grew up in North Carolina knowing about things like this. Trust him. Also trust me, because I've done it both ways and I can tell you that you need the whole stick of butter. But don't trust my husband, because on his farm they didn't believe in Brussels Sprouts.)

So. Melt the butter in a nice large pot. Then place the sprouts, cut end down, in the butter. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and grind some lovely pepper over the whole thing.


Sprouts in Water

Now add water to cover by about an inch. Don't worry that the sprouts float and you can't really cover them by about an inch, because, you know, they're floating. This is what North Carolinians do. It's okay. Breathe.


Buttery Boiling Sprouts

Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to a simmer, and let them gently bubble for about 15 minutes. You can go 20 if you like them soft. I prefer 15. Fork 'em to check 'em.


Frying herbs

And while the de-bittered buttered Brussels Sprouts are boiling (look at me and my bad alliterative self), let's get back to our fresh herbs. Melt about a half stick of butter (1/4 cup) over medium heat in a medium sized frying pan. Throw in your herbs, a bit of salt, and a few healthy grinds of black pepper. Love that stuff. Now fry and fry, and check your sprouts, and fry some more. This will take maybe 5 minutes, if I remember right. All I know is that the dill was crispy like tiny little sticks when I figured it was done. Dark green, not black. Please, for the love of Julia Child, not black. As soon as crispiness of dill happens, add about 6 cups of washed and trimmed baby squash. In Costco terms, that would be one bag. I heart Costco. Except when they move things around. And except when I go in for one thing and come out with 50 and now my bank account is empty.


Squash in herbs

Isn't that purty? Itty bitty zucchini and little sunburst squash? Note how dark and fried-looking the herbs are. So lovely. Just stir this baby around in the buttah until slightly browned and done. If you're impatient you can put a lid on it too. The veggies will steam a bit and cook faster. But I like it better lid-free. Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if needed. Then you can shake some garlic powder over it. I prefer powdered to fresh here because fresh tends to take over and I didn't want to obscure my fried herbs.


Sprouts Done

Ta-daaaah! Sprouts done. Check your seasonings. And be careful! These babies hold their heat.


Squash done

Huzzah! Fried Herb Squash done! Yum-diddlyicious.


Plated veg and Limey Melon

Voilá, le dinner.

Yep. This is what we ate. I squoze fresh lime over the watermelon, and Baby-Baby-Oh (to quote The Bieber), it was amazing. Really. You should try it. I also served triple cream cheddar with the the sprouts, and that was a delish combination.

Now. Um.*cough* There IS a slight Surgeon General's warning with this meal. 

Try to serve some meat with it. And some sort of bready thing. Because if you don't, well, let's just say that you'll find out what it means to be Irish. Or German. Or Belgian. Or any nationality that loves cruciferous veggies like cabbage and sprouts and stuff. 

Let me put it this way:

We are a musical family. We've got harps and violins, and pianos, and guitars, and bass guitars, and upright basses, and vocal chords coming out of our ears.

That ain't nothing compared to the music we created after eating plates full of Brussels Sprouts the other night. 

On the up side, my huz now likes the gaseous little things.



And PS – The fried herbs were a knock-out. Yum!

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Accidental Brunswick Stew

BBQ Stew

Okay, I have to tell you about this photo. It's a bit off center, not because I'm not a brilliant photographress, which in all modesty I'm not. But because I wanted to show off that fabu hand-woven kitchen towel in the upper left corner that my friend Robin of Rurification fame hand dyed and wove with her own little fingers. You should go check her site out, because it's pretty awesome. Her own little fingers do a lot of amazing hand-made type of country-living-things — many of which are showcased on her site.

But, as I was saying about this picture: If you take into account that I have no real camera, I'm pretty dang proud of the full natural light spectrum that I got on this thing. You can see everything in its full glory. Even bits I'm not sure I want you to see, because, well  . . . 

Can you tell that it's cold instead of hot? I think maybe you can. See, the problem was that when it was hot, we were eating it. And I thought it might be, you know, rude to take a picture of the stew with my mouth full. So I waited until we were done. But by then it had cooled down.

I'm thinking it would have photographed better hot. But what are you going to do? I don't want Miss Manners going postal over a blog post written while my mouth was full of food, so we're just going to have to live with it.

Now I don't know if you have ever tried this dish, but I didn't even know it existed until I made it. Then I tasted it, fainted over how really very layered and lovely the flavors were, and thought, "Hey! This tastes just like Brunswick stew!" And that's how I found out about it. The whole thing happened because one day I had leftover barbecued pork. Plus some other random stuff in the pantry. And everyone was hungry. Whining. Complaining. So I said "ALL RIGHT ALREADY!" and put down my James Cavill fan magazine copy of "How to be a Perfect Parent" and made this stew. And it was very Brunswicky. And very delicious. And now you get to try it! Huzzah!

So shall we move on to the recipe? Let's shall.


1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

Olive oil

1/2 – 1 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. garam masala (No, this is a real spice. No, it is. Go check in the spice aisle at your local grocery store. It's there. It's all deliciously Indian and stuff.)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 small tomates, diced

1 small can sliced olives

One can hominy, black beans, garbanzo beans, or kidney beans (This is an equal opportunity blog. Whatever flips your cookies, as long as it's from the legume family.)

1-2 small cans chopped green chilies (I err on the side of 2 cans with green chilies. I love me my green chilies. Can't really go wrong here.)

1 large beef bouillon cube, or two small (When I say large, I'm talking the kind that's so big you have to add 2 cups of water for it to work, instead of just one. I'm talking Knorr. Even though I'm not endorsing them because they didn't send me free bouillon cubes to cook with. But I'm talking Knorr. Okay?)

2 cups water (See?)

About 3 cups leftover barbeque pork, chicken, or beef, cut into small pieces (You can add as much as you want, really. I won't sue.)

1 leftover baked potato, diced (Or you could throw one in the nuking-device and bake it on the spot. S'up to you.)


-Sauté onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes.

-Add coriander, cumin, garam masalla, salt, and pepper. Cook 2 more minutes.

-Add tomatoes and stir. Add olives, hominy or whatever you decided on, chilies, bouillon cube, and water. Bring to boil.

-Add cut up barbequed pork and diced baked potato. Warm through and serve.

-Write to me and tell me how Brunswick stew accidentally changed your life.

PS – I don't know if this actually qualifies as Brunswick stew since I didn't look it up in the cooking dictionary. I just know that I went out to eat and ordered some for the heck of it and realized it tasted a lot like mine, and I'd better go post this recipe right now. Enjoy!


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Homey Pasta Shell Lasagna

It's snowing outside. And I am totally in the mood for a homey granny meal. Something that warms my cockles as well as my guts. Something that brings back happy childhood memories. I'll have to go find me some. NO, NO, I'm KIDDING! I have lots of happy childhood memories. Many of which don't involve me falling off, into, out of, or onto something and getting a black eye. And some of which involve some sort of concoction my mother used to make involving pasta shells and tomato soup and cheese.

I wanted it again.

So I made up a lasagna using those same basic ingredients. And voilá! The family hearted it very much. I'm sure it's all dietetic and healthy. Okay, it's not. But there's protein in that thar cheese, and that's good for you, right? Who can deny the value of a great homey meal over worries about arteries slamming shut? Exactly.

So here she is: My version of my mom's version of some sort of pasta-tomato-soup-thing:


16 ounces medium pasta shells, cooked and drained

1 family sized can tomato soup (Big)


1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

(You could probably add some garlic powder too, if you want. A few lovely shakes.)

Several grinds of fresh pepper (Fresh black pepper is the bomb dot com. It's an epicurean delight. It's Angelina Jolie's right leg.)

2 cups cottage cheese or ricotta cheese (Or more. Your preference. And I'd like to recommend cottage cheese over ricotta, even though this is my recipe and I can just TELL you to use cottage cheese and not even mention the ricotta. But it seems that all Italian recipes call for ricotta, and while I can't abide the wallpaper-paste-y stuff, I've gotta be legit. So it's on here. But don't use it.)

1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (If you're worried about fat calories you can remove a few tablespoons of the cheese.)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese



-Preheat oven to 375F. (This is the hardest part of the recipe. Steady. Steaaaaadyyyy.)

-Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain. 

-In a large bowl mix tomato soup with half a tomato soup-can of milk. Add the basil, oregano, and pepper (and garlic powder, if you are using it). Mix in the drained pasta shells–add as many of the shells as you like, depending on how saucy you want your lasagna.

-In a separate bowl, mix cottage cheese with monterey jack cheese.

-In a separate bowl, mix mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.

-In a 9 x 13 -inch pan, spread half of the tomato/shell mixture. Top with the cottage cheese mixture. Repeat the shell layer, and top with the mozzarella/parmesan cheese mixture.

-Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes, or until bubbly and melty and cheese is starting to brown. Maybe. You can probably take it out before it browns. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. You don't have to stand, though. You can sit.

OOOH! OOOH! I just thought of something! Little bits of cooked bacon would be seriously delish sprinkled over the top of this. Or mixed in. Yum. You can use that suggestion if you want. Go ahead.


Annnnnd Camera! Action! Pictures! But not many! Because I wanted this so bad that I forgot to take pictures until the very end! But here's what I Got!



Top view. I didn't even let it brown. I just wanted it NOW.


Tummy view. Yep. It's that good.

Right. Off you go. Make you some. Share it with people. Pack it in lunches for a week. You can also freeze it in little portions to thaw and warm and eat when you're watching Pride and Prejudice the next time. The one with Collin Firth. But then switch to the one with Keira Knightly for the ending because it is much more romantic. And pasta shell-y.



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Overnight Crockpot Cereal

Hello Tired People Who Are Too Exhausted to Wake Up and Cook Breakfast! I am here to save you. I have found, and slightly modified, this lovely recipe for overnight crockpot cereal. Throw the ingredients into your slow cooker the night before, and wake up to an incredible-smelling, indubitably delicious, wildly comforting breakfast. Cereal with fruits, nuts, cinnamon, and vanilla.

I know, I know. You're skeptical. I don't blame you. Who wants to eat a pot of brown sludge reminiscent of wall-paper paste for breakfast? No one. And that's why I'm not giving you a recipe for that. I'm giving you a recipe for this. And it is delicious. It reheats in the microwave fabulously. My kids love it and that is saying something. They'll happily eat it all week when I make a giant batch. So easy. So good.

And now you are the best parent in the world, because you have attended to the most important meal of the day. Here she blows:


1 cup EACH: cracked wheat, rolled oats, cream of rice (If you don't believe in gluten, this recipe is perfect for you, because it takes pretty much any substitution. So go to town. Try barley, brown rice, corn meal, rolled spelt, or quinoa. Unless you don't know that quinoa is pronounced "keen-wah" and not "kwinn-oh-uh". If you don't know that you don't get to cook with it.)

10 cups water

1 banana, sliced (This really is enough. And it kind of disappears into the cereal.)

1 apple, cored and diced (This is enough too. But I added more this time.) (you can peel it, or not)

1 handful dried cranberries

1 handful pecans, broken (I add more than a handful because I am in love with pecans and want to marry them.)

1 Tbsp. butter

Brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla to taste (Just eyeball it. You can do it. I know you can.)

1 1/2 tsp. salt



-Place all ingredients in crockpot before bedtime. Cook on low all night. Don't stand over it watching. Or stirring. Just go to bed. It knows how to cook itself without you. Promise.

-In the morning, serve in a bowl with milk. Not ALL of it. That would require a bowl the size of your kitchen. Just spoon out what you want and chow down. Refrigerate leftovers. Reheat in microwave. Reheats very well. For days.

Photographic Evidence:
Throwing the cracked wheat into the crockpot.
Followed by the rolled oats.
And then the blurry cream-of-rice. This is really a nice addition. Even if it is blurry. 
Sliced bananernaners. But only one. You can add more if you want. But I don't like them to get all cocky and take over, so I just add one.
Sliced apples. I'm okay with these getting cocky. I added a little more than one this time. Mostly because the first one had been dropped on the floor by my littlest dude who was trying to juggle, and it had a fat bruise. So I cut that out, added the rest, saw that it wasn't enough, and threw in another. Hopefully it works.
Stunningly delicious pecans and dried cranberries. You could use any fruit and nut. Just make sure they're not someone you know. (Hahahaha! Well. I got it.)
That which makes this cereal special: brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. These are the manna of cooking. If I could do it over again I would name my kids Brownsugar, Cinnamon, and Vanilla. Also Quinoa. Because I have four kids.
Water added, and slow cooker getting plugged in.
Lid on. Kids tucked in and kissed on the cheek. Lunches packed for tomorrow. Clothes gotten out and set neatly next to the shower. Husband snuggled with. Crockpot turned on low and left until morning.
TA-DAAAAAA! It's morning. Look at that! Such a lovely thing. I'm going to go get some now. I hope you do too, and that it warms your soul.
Cheers Dears!
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Banananana-Fo-Fanna Nugget Cookies

Dear Chivalrous Chefs and Other Classy Culinarians:

Shortly after Christmas–because I hadn't consumed nearly enough sugarplums, and my cupboards abounded in leftover coconut and chocolate–I dusted off this recipe and was reminded, with nostalgia, how I used to bake these toothsome treats for my kidlets. Back that one time when I toiled every day to make sure there were nuggets of delight for my offspring to om-nom on after school. Healthy nuggets of delight. Which, for me, simply means that there must be something natural like coconut or bananas in them to offset the chocolate and butter. Also they need to be easy, as I am a lazy old chick.

Well, my dears, these Banana Nugget Cookies are it! They fit the lazy-pazy-pantaloon bill. Because all you have to do is dump everything in a bowl, mix it up, throw it out, bake it done, and then eat. And eat some more. And bask in the health of the bananas and coconut, knowing you are probably losing weight due to the excess healthiness of these cookies. Very very probably.

Oooookay. So. These are exceedingly delish and addictive. And here's how you make them:


3/4 cup shortening  (All right, all right. Don't have a heart attack. No, that's it. Just don't have a heart attack. Shortening can cause those. I'm thinking you could sub in applesauce for this. Although I've never tried it, but I'm pretty nearly positive it would work fine.)

1 cup sugar

3 very ripe bananas (Very. Nothing against nearly ripe bananas, but I have it on good Betty Crocker authority that so-ripe-they-are-black bananas are the best to use here. So go with those.)

1 egg (Poor lonely little thing. You could try two to keep it company, but I totally don't recommend it.)

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal (Not slow oatmeal. Not old fashioned. Quick.) (Okay I lied. I used old fashioned in the pictures below because I was out of quick and it was totally fine. So, whatever works. Except steak. Don't use steak. That won't work.)

1/2 tsp cinnamon (Yum. Thank you Madagascar for giving us your tree bark.)

1 1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 small package chocolate chips  (Psh. Use however much you want. Just make sure they're semi-sweet. I mean it. I've never tried milk chocolate in this recipe, but I'm pretty sure you'll have seizures if you use it. Semi-sweet, please.)

1 small package coconut (Don't leave this out. I beg of you. Although maybe shredded carrots would work if you hate coconut. I don't know why. I just felt "shredded carrots" come over me.)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla



-Mix all ingredients in order listed 

-Take a 15 minute break, because this is exhausting

-Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet

-Take another break. Long enough to read InStyle Magazine. You're sweating now.

-Bake at 350F for 12 minutes

To make bars, because really, who wants to wait for 3 trays of cookies?:

-Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple in place of one banana. Spread in greased 9" x 13" baking pan and bake for 40 minutes.

Note that one of these things is not like the others. Yep. The albino banana. Don't say anything though. It doesn't know.
Action shot of the sugar dusting the totally healthy shortening which could also be applesauce maybe if it works.
Overripe bananas trying to make the ripe banana feel like part of the group.
Little egg-let. 
Okay, I'm tired. Here's the rest of the stuff. Note the chocolate chips which are semi-sweet and not causing you seizures.
Are you convinced how easy this is yet? No? Well, here's a video. Of really bad quality. I don't even know why. I processed it twice. But you get the idea. It's easy. It blends. It sounds like it is hailing in my Kitchenaid:



This is a random shot my camera took when I laid it down after filming the Great Ingredients Integration. Note the Happy New Year sign. I don't lie. It was right after Christmas.


Well-loved cookie trays. None of those namby-pamby perfectly silver trays for me! Give me disgusting trays or give me something a whole lot better from Williams-Sonoma! That's what I say.


Close up of the cookie dough. See how nice and moist it is? Applesauce instead of shortening might actually turn these into coconut chocolate chip cookie gravy, come to think of it.


MyOhMy. These are so delish. And the house smells fabu. And LOOK at them! They are so nom-a-licious. I might have to go make another batch now. Please, you go make some too. Just don't add steak. Your children will thank you.

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Guacamole Soup. I Totally Made This Up.

Do you remember that one time when your teenage son–who has always been terribly shy about having friends over and could not be talked into having a party to save his life and you despaired that he'd never get married because of it and never have children and you'd never be a grandmother and then your golden years would be ruined–all of a sudden out of the blue decided to have a New Year's party this year? With all of his friends?

And then do you remember that one time when your kid had the party and you freaked out and decided to distill all of the parties he should have had for the past three years into this one party to make up for it, and so you went a little crazy with the food and the decorations, and included on the menu things like smoked salmon and smoked salmon schmear and guacamole and jalapeno pepper jelly, and all the things teenagers don't love? And do you remember that one time when the only thing the guests ate were the chips and skittles you threw on the bar at the last second because "Gosh, Mrs. Miller! I ate before I came!" So then you had like 87 metric tons of random food left over?

Do you remember that?

I do. It was painfully recent. And I had beaucoup de leftoverage that I needed to do something with. What's more, on the day I needed to do something with the guacamole and the salsa and the cream cheese and the smoked salmon and the limes, I had a couple of boys around here who were irritated with yours truly–for reasons that we will not go into now but they involved nagging–and yours truly needed to get back on the men's good side. Sooooo, I figured their good side was best tunneled into through their stomachs. AHA! Two birds, one stone, baby! I killed the leftovers AND the narsty feelings by putting them all into a soup and feeding them to my main men. And now they love me again.

Psh. Like THAT was ever really a problem.

Here it is, laydeez and jents. My own personal recipe for Guacamole Soup. It is divine. And it will save your marriage.


2 cups water

1 Knorr chicken bouillon cube, or 1 Tbsp Knorr bouillon powder, or 2 small chicken bouillon cubes (I like Knorr. The flavor is mahvelous. Plus I used to only be able to get it when I lived in Germany, and that made me feel all international and stuff. So when it came here, I thought, AH! Culture! And I started buying it again.)

1 1/2 cups milk (From skinny cows or fat cows. Either kind works. I use skinny cow, but that's just me.)

2 cups chunky guacamole (I really think you should make this from scratch. You should. I shouldn't. I should buy mine pre-made from Costco. And I should make sure it is uber chunky and fabu. Not that narsty gelatinous stuff you get at the grocery store. Ick.)

1 cup chunky salsa (See guacamole note above. Same thing applies here.)

1 Tbsp cumin (I always thought this was pronounced "Cyooomin," but I have been corrected and told it is "Cooomin." "Cooomin" sounds stupid. I like "Cyoooomin." And "Cyoooomin" tastes better.)

Juice of 1 lemon (None of that bottled stuff, folks. Work out your biceps. It's best that way.)

Juice of 1 lime (Ditto)

8 oz brick cream cheese (You could probably leave this out if you're worried about calories. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *sniff* I'm so funny. No really though, you might get away with using less, or using that reduced calorie stuff, or even using fat-free sour cream, but then no one would ever speak to you again and you'd have to ask yourself if it was worth it.)

1/2 to 2/3 cup smoked salmon, chopped (or shrimp or chicken)

Salt and pepper to taste (I actually did not add any salt. There was plenty in the broth and guac and tortilla chips. But as I've said before, it's a free blog. It's up to you.)

Garnishes: Tortilla chips, chopped avocado, fresh tomato, lime slices, chopped fresh cilantro, fresh onion, cheese (You want at least the chips. And everything else. I know, because all I had was the chips. It was fabulous. Imagine how much more transcendent it would be with the rest of the garnishes.)



–Bring water to boil. Add bouillon and simmer until dissolved

–Add milk and bring to boil

–Whisk in guacamole and salsa. Cook until warm over medium heat.

–Add cumin, lemon juice and lime juice. Stir to combine.

–Add cream cheese cubes. Stir until partially melted.

–Add smoked salmon.

–Salt and pepper to taste (Like I said, I didn't add salt)

–Warm at a bubbling simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally

–Serve in bowls. Garnish with tortilla chips, and any or all of the other garnishes.


Photographic Evidence

Lonely food from my fridge. So lonely it is blurry. *weep* It needs to become soup.


Knorr bouillon dissolving artistically in hot water. My dissolving broth is said to have been the inspiration for Van Gogh's Starry Night.


Milk and broth in the company of Salsa and Guacamole. First date. I think it is going to work out well.


Adding the citrus. I heart fresh citrus. Hearty heart heart. It should be President.


And cream cheese should be the First Lady.


Adding the salmon and the cream cheese. The salmon is in there. It's just being considerate and not taking the First Lady's limelight. It's probably her chief of security.


A steaming bowl of Guacamole soup, looking for more garnishes and a side of grilled chicken with tomatillo ranch dressing. 

Hurry up and throw a party and serve too much food so you can have leftovers and make this soup. It is calling you. And it is saying:

Yum, amigos. Happy Teenaged New Year!



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Easy Peasy Puddin’ Pie – Coconut Rice Pudding

All right, my little cooking children. There are no words to describe this week's confection. Except to say that it comes from my Ecuadorian neighbors (who may have made it up and it may not be the national dish of Ecuador at all). And it is comfort beyond grandma's quilt, a good book, a cuppa cocoa, and your best friend.

Let us dive in.

Ecuadorian Coconut Rice Pudding


(This can be doubled. Or quadrupled. Or octupled.)
1 cup rice

4 cups water

1 stick cinnamon

1/2" vanilla bean pod (Please, I beg of you, use a vanilla bean, not extract. The difference knows no bounds, and using extract will make vanilla beans all over the world weep inconsolably. Me too.)

2 whole cloves (little dried brown flower buds, not garlic.)

2 cans coconut milk or cream of coconut

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 slices of yellow American cheese (I know, right?! I think it thickens the pudding, and you can't taste it. But it is against my principles to eat something that has to be labeled "food"–as in "cheesefood"–in order for me to know it is edible. So I don't use it in the pudding anymore, and it is fine without. But hey. It's up to you.)

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup raisins (These would be great in it. I leave them out due to the anti-raisin faction in my  home.)

Sugar to taste (but only if you want to go into a sugar-coma. I don't add any sugar. The condensed milk and coconut do just fine.)


  1. Pour water into a saucepan and bring to boil.
  2. Add rice, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean (I mean it), and cloves. Leave until rice consumes the water and is soft. (Around 20-30 minutes. Check toward the end.) 
  3. Slowly add coconut milk, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir slowly and constantly so it will not stick. Add raisins (if you must. I must) and coconut, and keep stirring.
  4. After it starts to thicken add the cheese. (Unless you are like me and it is against your ethics to eat cheesefood. Also, here is where you add the extra sugar that you don't need–before you add the cheese that you don't want. Honestly, you should just skip step 4. The pudding thickens as it sits and it is plenty sweet.)
  5. Serve hot or cold. But baby it's cold outside. Serve this puppy hot. 
  6. Pass out with a sigh and go to heaven as your body digests this bit of gastronomic delight.
Rice in the pot with the indispensable spices. Thank you Madagascar, Mexico, and Sri Lanka (sometimes South India.)
See? It's cooking. My lens is steamed-up
Spices in question. Look at those gorgeous vanilla beans. Touch not the extract, my children.
Sweetened Condensed Milk–nectar of the gods. It looks yellow here. It is not. My lights are having issues.
Coconut milk. One can see why I don't make a living as a hand-model. Looks like it might grab you by the ear and take you out behind the school house for a smack with a ruler. But it works for pouring coconut milk.
Adding the lovely coconut–with no cheese, or raisins, or extra sugar. Perfect. But don't cave-in to peer-pressure. You can add those things if you want.
Thickening. Look how luscious.
Done and transferred into the crockpot to travel to my writer's group. My family sort of had a cow so I had to leave them some.  Looking at this is making me hungry. I believe I have some leftovers. I'll just go check . . . 
Et voilá, mes amis! Easy Peasy Puddin' Pie! (with no pie. only puddin'.)
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Overnight Caramel French Toast. And Spiced Nuts. :)

Hi all! I originally posted these recipes last year, but they are so frighteningly delicious that I decided to throw them at you again this year. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas! Please don't get up. Just sit there and read this lovely recipe that makes a perfect Christmas morning breakfast. Because you make it the night before, it's all ready to pop into the oven at 4:00 a.m. when the little people around your house wake you up Christmas Day.

No pictures for this one. Mostly because I ran out of time. If I'm really on top of things today I'll put up a recipe for spiced nuts here as well. A fabu little number that will give your local Spicednuts-in-a-Christmas-Kiosk-at-the-Mall a run for their money.  In the meantime, Voilá! Caramel French Toast:
Wicked-Good Overnight Caramel French Toast
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
12-ish slices French bread, crusts trimmed (any heavy white sandwich bread works fine. Leave crusts on if soft)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
Ground cinnamon


-Melt butter over medium heat. Add corn syrup and brown sugar. Stir over medium/low heat until sugar dissolves. Do not boil. (If you accidentally do, invest in a good jack hammer.)
-Pour into 13x9x2-inch glass dish (I'm serious. It's a nightmare to get out of a metal dish). Tilt to coat the bottom.
-Arrange 6 slices (or whatever will fit) of bread on caramel mixture.
-Whisk milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Pour half over bread in pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon, to taste.
-Layer remaining slices of bread on, to cover. Pour remaining egg-mixture on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
-Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or several hours.
-Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until bread is puffy and golden-brown. 40-50 minutes. A knife inserted will come out clean.
-Eat entire thing yourself. Unless you live with judgmental people. Then you'll probably have to share.

Spiced Nuts


3/4 cup sugar
3 T. water
1 egg white, beaten slightly
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups pecan halves
1 1/2 cups whole almonds (I have used macadamia nuts in this too, and they're to die for)


-Place first eight ingredients in a bowl and mix.
-Stir to coat.
-Spread evenly in a greased or parchment lined baking sheet (Parchment please. Much easier cleanup. Tried waxed paper–nightmare. It disappeared into the pan and had to soak for quite a while before it could be coaxed out again. Baking parchment is our friend.)
-Bake at 250-degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes (the time will vary depending on altitude and relative humidity. Also on whether or not you doubled the recipe, which I always do because we can't stop eating these. The coating just needs to have been mostly dried and hardened onto the nuts. Be sure to stir thoroughly each time.)

Pictures! But just a few because I was so into making these I forgot to take them. But you have wonderful imaginations don't you? Just imagine mixing the sauce ingredients together. You can do it. I have faith in you. Also, imagine them a lovely golden brown instead of narstily jaundiced. I need to invest in a good camera. And a better kitchen:

Nuts with coating. Don't they look luscious? Note the sunny glow. We'll call it 'antique lighting.' Yeah, I like that.  Incidentally, I was out of pecans and there was no way in hinkypunks I was going out into day-before-Christmas traffic to buy more, so I used macadamia nuts. Yum-ola. Not even kidding.
Stirring the nuts. Stirring the nuts. Stirring the nuts.
All done. Note how the coating has cooked into the nuts except for a crispy bit on the outside? Note how we originally baked these for neighbors but selfishly decided to eat them ourselves? Didn't mean to. Except, I did. Will make more.
Merry Christmas!






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Fresh Tomato Soup

Today's recipe is perfect. It's easy, delicious, and uses up all those extra tomatoes you had to pull off the vines last night before the hard freeze. AND, you can make it in big batches and freeze it in little containers for later. It's just as delish thawed and heated up. And SO good with crusty bread. 

I love this so much that I don't even have anything silly or snarky or weird to say. Just . . . on to the recipe!

(I know. Take a moment. Sit down. Reorient yourself. You are on the right blog.)


2 cups water

5 pounds fresh tomatoes, cored and cut in quarters

1/3 cup sugar

2-3 tsp salt

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried sage

2 large onions

1 small bunch parsley

1-2 stalks celery

1/2 red or yellow bell pepper

5 strips bacon, cooked until crisp and broken into pieces

2 Tbsp flour



-Place all ingredients except bacon and flour in stockpot or deep saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer very low for 1 1/2 hours, partially covered.

-When done, put soup in blender and purée in batches. 

-Pour back into pot and add bacon and flour. Stir to incorporate the flour, and bring to a boil again.



VariationsAdd 2-3 cloves sliced garlic with veggies, more celery, 1/2 tsp pepper, 2-3 Tbsp pesto, cannelli beans and pasta. OR reduce sage to 1/2 tsp. Add sliced little smokies or sliced and fried summer sausage instead of bacon, along with cut green beans.  This soup can take almost anything.




Tomatoes from my mother-in-law's garden before the first freeze of the season, along with the herbs and spices. Ooh lala!




Celery and peppers. Hey. This is an easy soup. Not a lot of photo opportunities here. I hafta work with what I got, you know?


Everything together simmering for 1.5 hours. Smells mighty mighty fine and a lot like heaven. If heaven were made of tomatoes.


Puréed soup. Sorry. No action shots today. I was in a hurry. Had mouths to feed, shoes to buy. Er. 


Adding the bacon (and flour, but I'd already stirred that in.) And can I have a "thank you for pigs," my children? THANK YOU FOR PIGS!

Only problem with this soup is, there isn't one. It's easy. Smells fine. Tastes out of this world. You will not be able to stop eating it. AND it's good for you! Voilá! What. Pigs are good for you. They're certainly good for themselves. Why wouldn't they be good for you?

I do hope you'll try it and love it! Happy day, peeps!


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Prosciutto and Radicchio Stuffed Shells

Halllooooo! And welckome to the Frrrrench Chef!

Yeah, you thought I was Julia Child, didn't you? Especially the way I hung all over that cccckckckkk-sound in "Welckome". The venerable Mrs. Child did have an astonishingly unique speech pattern, did she not? If you're too young to know what I'm talking about . . . no you're not. Because I'm sure you must have seen Meryl Streep in her dead-on interp of Julia in the movie "Julie and Julia." If you saw Ms. Streep, you saw Ms. Child. (And how freaky was it that Meryl Streep was able to go from narcissistic fashion magazine magnate, to hippie-dippie '80's music lover, to strange-voiced-amazonian-French-cooking-expert, to puritanical lipless nun over the course of two years and never have any overlap in her performances? Oh yeah. Meryl is my Mecca. I bow in her general direction twice a day.)

So anyway, I was browsing through a certain EverythingExpert's magazine, which was filled with lots of things that I fantasize about doing to my home and life but never will–such as baking squid-ink soufflé and weaving wallpaper directly from silk-worms–and I came across a recipe for Stuffed Shells. Pasta shells, not sea shells. Those would have sand and the roar of the ocean in them and there would be no room for ingredients.

Well I thought, "THAT'S IT! I'm tired of sitting on the sidelines of this magazine and also of Meryl Streep (which really had nothing to do with anything)! I'm going to step up and MAKE THESE PASTA SHELLS! Especially since they contain Radicchio which I hate because it is so bitter and awful! I will overcome the Radicchio! And the EverythingExpert! And Meryl Streep!"

So I did.

And the stuffed shells were outstanding. Here is the recipe for your eating pleasure.

(Where recipe credit is due: Lucinda Scala Quinn)


1 box (12 oz) jumbo pasta shells

1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling (I forgot to drizzle. Drizzle-free shells were fine)

4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped (This is super-thinly sliced ham or bacon. And it is pronounced "pro-shoe-toe" not "proscweeeetoh." I learned this after spending an evening saying "proscweeeeetoh" all over an Italian restaurant, until finally the people who had brought us couldn't take it anymore and educated me. Yeah, well, I'd like to see them try to pronounce Vichyssoise. Which, as we all know, is "vitcheeee-sauce.")

3 garlic cloves, minced (Don't be a wussy-pants-cook and use powdered garlic. Real stuff only please. You can buy it pre-minced if you're lazy like me.)

1 red onion, chopped

1 head radicchio, cored and shredded (4 cups) (I know. It's not natural. But move forward with faith, young padawan. You too shall overcome the radicchio)

1 tsp. red-wine vinegar

12 oz fresh ricotta cheese (1 1/4 cups) (Someone want to tell me why the abbreviation for "ounce" is "oz"? Were "ounces" invented by the Wizard?)

8 OZ fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes (1 cup)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

5 cups favorite tomato sauce

Unsalted butter, for dotting (I used salted. Not convinced either kind is necessary. Also it was next to impossible to make little dots out of the butter. I recommend chilling it first. Maybe using a hole punch.)

Garnish (I'm not even going here. I think garnishes are silly. If it's on my plate I'm eating it. I'm not going to gaze admiringly and coo over the cleverness of it.)



Bring large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta shells for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Transfer to bowl. Drizzle with oil if you want.

– Heat oil in large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook prosciutto, garlic, and onion, stirring until the prosciutto starts to caramelize, 6-8 minutes. Add radicchio that you've spent the last 45 minutes shredding only to come up with a tablespoon of finely shredded stuff plus three and a half cups of long jaggedy pieces that didn't make it through the shredder.

– Cook until radicchio is tender but not mushy – 4 minutes. Stir in vinegar; cook until evaporated (like a second or two). Let cool slightly. Stir in ricotta and mozzarella; season with salt and pepper.

– Pour 2 cups tomato sauce into the bottom of large casserole pan (9 x 13 or bigger. You might have a few leftover shells. I did. Recipe recommends doing this in two batches. I don't) Stuff shells with 1 heaping tablespoon of filling each. Pack into dish. Cover with foil. You could freeze this for later at this point if you want.

– Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dot shells with butter. Feel your arteries slam shut. Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover, and raise oven temp to 450 degrees. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes more. Heat a cup or two of tomato sauce; serve with shells. Garnish with parmesan cheese, if you're into garnishes.

I served this without the extra sauce. The radicchio completely lost its bitterness and the flavor of the dish was warm, delicate, and homey. I think the extra sauce would mask this.

Et voilá, mes amis! C'est magnifique! Merveilleuse! Fantastique! And really, really good.

Now for pictures. Itty Bitty ones from my iPhone. Don't ask why:


Radicchio. Notice how it looks like the claw of Satan?
Caramelized pro-shoe-toe with veggies (and a little spinach thrown in. I was short on radicchio). Gorgeous, innit?
All the beautiful and calorie-free cheeses waiting to be stirred into a filling of delight.
Shaken and stirred. Mmmmmm.
And finally:
Ohhhhhh Yeaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. The Stuffed Shells of Delight. Right before they went into the oven. We have no pictures of the shells after they were cooked because we inhaled them. Deeply.
What are you doing sitting there drooling over these pictures? Go make yourselves some! Then heap the whole steaming melty pile of Italian deliciosity onto your plate, pour yourself a goblet of sparkling cider (this blog is the designated driver. It doesn't drink. Like, ever), sit down in your cushiest chair, and watch a Meryl Streep movie.
Then call me and tell me how fabulous it was. And how you're going to tell all your friends. And how they are all going to start following my blog.  Um. I mean . . . start making stuffed pasta shells for themselves.
Au revoir, mes petits chouxs.
Caveat: These pictures were taken with a cell phone camera. When I publish my book and it becomes an international best-seller I'll invest in a Nikon Bigfatprofessionalgrade Camera.
Thank you.

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