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When my younger son visits from Kentucky, he always has a list of favorites that I’m REQUIRED to make.  This soup I made on his last visit just made the “must have” list.  Hmm, pretty soon his visits will have to be a month long!


We love the soup at Olive Garden and have been happy with this acceptable copycat recipe.

Serves : 6
Prep Time: 0:35

1 lb. hot/spicy Italian sausage – crumbled (I used Johnsonville brand)
1 – 3 oz package Oscar Mayer Smoked Bacon Bits – be CAREFUL not to pour the bacon bits in and let the little moisture packet fall in the soup! (or save your cooked bacon and add)
1 qt. water
(2) 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth (I used Swanson Organic Chicken broth in the 32 oz container – use all of it)
2 lg. russet (baking) potatoes – slice in half lengthwise and then slice into ¼ inch slices
2 garlic cloves – minced
1 med. onion – chopped (about 1/3 cup)
2 cups chopped kale (cut pieces slightly larger than would fit on a spoon.  Cut the leaves off the thicker part of the stem.  Discard stems.)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper – to taste (heavier on pepper – it doesn’t need much salt because of the bacon)

-In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as you fry it; drain, set aside.
-Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot; simmer over medium high heat until potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes – don’t overcook because it will be cooking an additional 10 minutes).
-Add sausage and bacon back to pot; simmer for 10 minutes.  (Skim any fat off the top that you can.)
-Add kale and cream to pot; season with salt and pepper; heat through.  Don’t boil.



Drain the grease after frying


Boiling the onions in the broth



Don’t let this little packet fall in!


The finished product


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Yesterday we joined my sister and her husband at the Vista Strawberry Festival.  It is a 45 minute drive to Vista but it’s always worth it to enjoy the abundance of fresh fruit, the company of my sis & her husband and of course, delicious strawberries!   https://www.facebook.com/VistaStrawberryFestival.


There were booths with Strawberry Pizza, Strawberry Lemondade, Strawberry Shortcake (the classic dessert), Chocolate-dipped Strawberries as well as things that had strawberry as an ingredient such as Strawberry Vinegar, Strawberry Chutney, etc.  My husband was tempted by the Strawberry Frosted Cupcakes and Strawberry Funnel Cakes but we still had a dinner to prepare at my sister’s house.

BUT, before we left, we DID enjoy some food from a vendor called Rollswisserie who had a big PORCHETTA sign above their booth.  They had these rotisseries full of chicken and ribs but the real heavenly offering was Porchetta which is pork tenderloin covered in pork belly stuffed with an herb mixture (secret recipe) cooking slowly and methodically on this innovative mobile rotisserie. The Porchetta is shown behind the ribs on this photo of the rotisserie.  If I had a list of the 10 best things I ever ate, that pork would be on it.  We bought 2 lbs to bring home and I am going to try to dissect what herb mixture is in the pork.


.  Here is a photo of the roasted chicken plate with red potatoes and broccoli/zucchini spaghetti mixture.  Delicious!


Here is a photo of the delicious, flavorful cherries from Watsonville.  Perfect candidates for a clafouti.  This is what’s left of the avocados we picked up.  So buttery and flavorful.  And I’ve already made 2 batches of freezer jam.  Yum!


I wished I would have taken some pictures of the delicious dinner my sister prepared for us.  Homemade tomatillo salsa and carne asada and chicken and guacamole and spanish rice and red salsa and, and, and…so much good food.  My contribution was to make some Special Quesadillas.


Take some raw, uncooked tortillas and brush water around the edges.  Fill with a handful of shredded Queso Quesadilla (or Monterey Jack if you can’t find QQ).  Pinch and roll the edge to seal in the filling and quickly fry in a pan of hot vegetable oil  Spoon some hot oil over the rim to cook the edges while the bottom is cooking.  These are delicious served with Chile Relleno sauce (tomatoes sauteed with onions, garlic, bell pepper and a serrano chile).  Happy times!

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Just a few more days until Thanksgiving and I know that there are a lot of young cooks out there scrambling about and searching the internet for tips and tricks on how to cook their turkey, etc.  I just wanted to post a couple of quick links to previous posts I’d made that might be helpful.   I also found some other recipe ideas that I might try and maybe you might want to check them out for ideas, too.

1)  I previously wrote about my use of a Roaster as an accessory to cook your turkey in so that you could free up your oven for the side dishes.  You can find that here:


Turkey day

2) For hints about making rolls from scratch (a WONDERFUL tradition to start), you can find the recipes and step-by-step instructions here:  https://ablogaboutfood.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/thanksgiving-dont-show-up-without-the/


3)  I found this post about some easy looking biscuits that I might want to try.  They look easy-peasy!  http://www.thecountrycook.net/2012/02/butter-dip-biscuits.html

4)  And last, I will try and get the pics and recipe up for my Mom’s cranberry salad this year but in the meantime – this is definitely on my list of side dishes to try in a pinch:  Cranberry mandarin sauce: –  http://siggyspice.blogspot.com/2010/11/thanksgiving-side-dish-extravaganza.html

Here’s what my family USUALLY has as their Thanksgiving menu:

Turkey (Gotta be a Butterball!)


Mashed Potatoes


Mom’s Cranberry Salad

Green Bean Casserole

Yams (mashed with brown sugar/pecan topping)

Strawberry Jello Salad


Homemade Yeast Rolls

What’s on your “must have” list?

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How was your Fourth of July?  We had front row seats of several displays of fireworks this year and the food was great!



I get tired of seeing people try to make desserts with flags made of strawberries, blueberries, etc. for the Fourth of July.  BORING!

So, I decided to just use some tried and true recipes for the party I attended and they were a big hit!

First up…Strawberry Pizza!



This is a modified version of the “Strawberry Pizza” recipe I got from a friend when I lived in Kentucky.  It looks good if you only use strawberries but I took it to the next level and added some raspberries and green grapes for definition.  What do you think?  Should I have stuck to just strawberries?



Crust – Mix together in a small bowl 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1 stick softened butter.  Spread crumbly mixture into 12″ pizza pan.  Press dough down lightly with fingers.  Bake at 325º for 15 minutes.  Let cool.

2nd layer::

1 1/2 pkgs (12 oz total) softened cream cheese

1/2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp lemon juice

Blend until smooth in a mixer.  Spread on cooled crust.

Mash 1 1/2 cups strawberries.  Mix 6 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp cornstarch together and add to saucepan.  Cook until thick over medium high heat.  Cool strawberry mixture and spread almost to the edge of the cream cheese layer.  You can add a few drops of red food coloring if your strawberries were on the pale side.

Garnish with sliced strawberries that you’ve cut into thin slices and lay in a circular pattern.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

* * * * * * * * * * 

I also made a Toll House Chocolate Chip Pie.  It came out beautifully but I think it needed another 5 minutes of cook time to make sure the center was set. It’s a pretty easy recipe and you can use Marie Callendar’s frozen pie crust like I did.Image

Served up with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, it’s a classic that is sure to please anyone who loves a chocolate chip cookie!


1 9″ frozen pie crust or make your own from scratch

2 eggs

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup butter, melted and COOLED to room temperature

1 6 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325º.  In large bowl, beat eggs until foamy.  Beat in flour, sugar and brown sugar until well blended. Blend in melted, cooled butter.  Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.  Pour into pie shell.  Bake at 325º for 1 hour (if  your pie shell starts to get too dark, cover the crust with foil.)  Remove from oven.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.  Recipe may be doubled.

NOTE:  I think it could have used another 5 minutes of cooking.

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In a list of my favorite foods, you would definitely see Chile Relleños near the top of the list.  I think I could eat one of these several times a week and not get tired of them.  I really came to appreciate them in high school when a boyfriend’s Mom prepared them with such finesse and flavor like I’d never had before or since.  Someday, maybe I’ll get the secret of why Mrs. Cano’s rellenos were SO good!

Later, when I was newly married and living in Kentucky, it was impossible to find one on a menu.  Even so, I was reluctant to try to make them because the recipe sounded intimidating to a novice cook.   It took me about 10 years before I even attempted to make them on my own.  I seem to remember that there was flour everywhere and at the time I used Anaheim chiles which just didn’t cut the mustard.  I definitely prefer the flavor of pasilla (poblano) chiles.

pasilla chile

Which brings me to why I decided to try making them again.  There is a sweet lady named Belinda (www.belindascocina.com) who sells some of the most authentic Mexican food around (here in San Diego county).  I first tried her rellenos at the La Jolla Farmer’s Market on Sundays.  They were so perfectly prepared and delicious!  She made them even more so when she offered to put a little chile verde on top instead of the red sauce.  Wow, that was good!


Now,  I’ve seen them on menus with different fillings such as shredded beef, picadillo and chicken but I’ve never tried them.  I like the simplicity of the chile, the cheese and the egg batter covered with a salsa fresca red sauce.

Getting over to the farmer’s market isn’t exactly convenient so I knew it was time to tackle making them again.

First I bought the dark green poblano (pasilla) chiles at Pancho Villa’s store on El Cajon Blvd.  They have great produce at great prices (they’re part of the Boneys market group).   I started to roast them on the gas grill but that wasn’t enough flame to get the outside skin blistered up so I brought them back inside and just did it like my Nana did so many years ago.  I just patiently roasted them over the flame of my gas stove.  (The last time I made them, I roasted them on the top rack of the oven and I felt it overcooked the chile.)

When they were good and black, I dropped them into a clean, brown paper bag and folded down the top.  I let them sweat in the bag for about 15 minutes.  I then removed them from the bag and ran them under cool water and rinsed off the blackened skin (see photo above), split ONE side open very slightly and reached in and pulled out the seeds.  Try to get them all out as they are unpleasant to bite into if you don’t.  Pat the chiles dry and put a piece of Monterey Jack Cheese in the opening.  You can TRY to use a toothpick to secure but I heard of a better way to make these that I’ll mention in a minute.  After stuffing the chile, dip them into a plate with flour on it and coat well.  This will help the batter stick later.

After the chiles were dry and waiting to be stuffed with cheese,  I looked through my 20 or so books on Mexican cooking to get a recipe for the batter.  You would think that I could get a consensus on how to make the batter but noooo, they were all different!

Cookbook library

So I finally decided that I would be OK if I used enough egg  whites to cover my 7 chiles and settled on 5 eggs for 7 chiles.  I had batter left over, so  I guess 4 eggs would have been enough to coat them but it was easier to have a full bowl of batter.  To make the batter, you simply separate the egg yolks from the whites:

Separate Eggs

Beat the egg whites at a high speed with your electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  With a fork, beat the egg yolks you’d set aside until they are well mixed.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold them into the beaten, stiff egg whites.  Distribute the yolks as evenly as you can through the egg whites without breaking the egg whites  down.  Get a big skillet and heat the oil so it will be sizzling when you drop the chile rellenos into the oil.  If your oil isn’t hot enough, the egg batter will absorb too much of the oil.  Yuck!

Drop into hot oil

I used the deep, narrow bowl for beating the egg whites and it was perfect to dip the chiles in.  Using the stem of the chile,  dip it all the way up to the top of the chile.  If you can’t quite get it to stick to your floured, toothpick-secured chile, just lay it in the hot oil and spoon a little batter toward the top.  It will work just fine.

2013-01-13 22.50.27

Remove them with a slotted spatula or spoon to a paper towel lined plate.  Remove the toothpicks if you used them to secure the side.  (I read on one restaurant’s website that they spoon the batter into the hot oil and lay the stuffed chile on top of the batter, THEN spoon more batter over the top and then flip it.  I may try that next time.)

So, it is time to make the sauce.  I diced up 4 small tomatoes, 1/4 of an onion,1 clove of garlic minced,  1/4 of a Bell Pepper and half a jalapeno (to add a little kick).  Saute everything except the tomatoes in some oil until the onions are transparent.  Add the diced tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste after it has cooked down awhile.  It will thicken up after about 15 minutes.  I was too impatient to wait for the thickening part and just ate it in its early stages.  it was still good but would have been better if it had thickened and developed the flavors a lot more!

Here’s the final product:

Final product

They were so good that I ate two of them!  But still, I think some time will have to pass by before I get a hankering to do this again.  However, if I ever  move to Kentucky…well…that’s another story!

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My hard-boiled eggs come out perfectly 99% of the time with no grey ring and not overcooked in the least.  I wish someone had told me sooner the trick to making them this way:


The first trick is to make sure your fingers are wet when you lift the eggs from the carton.  Having wet hands actually makes for a better grip on the eggs (you would think the opposite, huh?).  Put them in a saucepan where they have plenty of room.  Fill the pan to cover the eggs by at least 1/2 inch.

Bring the cold water and eggs to a rolling boil.  Quickly cover with  a lid and TURN THE STOVE OFF (or remove from heat if you have an electric range).  Set your timer for 13 minutes (don’t lift the lid!).  When the timer goes off, immediately put the eggs into an ice-water bath to quickly cool them down.  This is what I was told prevents the grey ring.

Then, to peel, start at the fatter end of the egg.  A little air pocket exists under there that will make it easy to slip your spoon in (upside down) and help force the egg from the shell.  Again, you would think the opposite but nope, the pointy end does not house an air pocket.


Be sure to rinse the egg and pat dry before setting aside in the bowl. If you by accident mix up your fresh eggs with your hard-boiled eggs, you can spin the egg like a top.  If it spins, it’s hard-boiled.  If it immediately lays down and won’t spin, it’s raw.

To make egg salad,  I find it easier to press the egg through one of those wire slicers that slices them in even segments.  For 6 eggs, I put about 2 heaping Tbsp of mayonaise (you can always add more to taste but it’s impossible to take away excess mayo), a tsp of  regular yellow mustard, salt and pepper (come people use white ground pepper but I’m old-fashioned).  No fancy spices, just the basics.

I like to make an egg salad sandwich with sweet, dark brown squaw bread and a slice of lettuce.  Oh, it is soooo good!  Try it and let me know how it worked out for you!

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Chicken Cacciatore

I wanted to watch the Academy Awards last night so I tried to think of an easy, low maintenance meal that would pretty much make itself with little effort on my part.  This recipe comes from my trusty 1976 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that has been my “go-to” reference since I was first learning to cook in 1979.

If you could see the oil splattered pages that long ago tore loose from the 3 ring binder format of this cookbook, you’d think I was careless in taking care of it and  you would be right.  Along the way, I’ve certainly learned the value of a good bookstand with splatter guards and such but there is something of a nostalgia I feel when I open it to this page.

After browning the breasts, saute onions in oil

I will give you the recipe as written with my notes or modifications in parentheses.

The recipe says to brown one 2 1/2 – 3 lb ready to cook broiler fryer chicken, cut up, in 1/4 cup hot salad oil.  (I just buy one package of boneless, skin-on breasts and 1 pkg thighs).  Remove chicken to a separate plate (I just push it to the side…I have a pretty big Le Creuset Dutch oven.)

In same skillet, cook 2 medium onions cut into 1/4 inch slices (1 onion is really enough) and 2 cloves garlic, minced until tender but not brown.  Return chicken to skillet.

Pour tomatoes and seasoning over chicken

Combine one 1 lb can tomatoes (do they make 1 lb cans anymore?), 1 8 oz can tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon dried oregano OR basil (I use 1/2 teaspoon of BOTH oregano and basil), 1/2 teaspoon celery seed (I use celery salt) and 1 or 2 bay leaves.

Pour mixture over chicken and cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 cup white wine and cook uncovered for 15 additional minutes (I skip the wine but I do uncover and continue cooking).  Remove bay leaves and skim off excess fat.

Chicken has finished simmering

Pair with a fresh, tossed lemon salad and a side of chicken flavored rice and we’ve got a nice TV tray friendly meal!

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did!

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