Greek Orzo Pasta Salad

Even before the official start of summer, the weather here was dreadfully hot & humid, so much so, even our dogs started to drag instead of their usual bounding on our morning walks. When it’s hot like that, the last thing I want is to turn on the oven. This dish is the perfect solution.

Ingredients:

For the dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

For the salad:

1 1/4 cups Orzo pasta, dry

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 English cucumber, diced

1 10.5 oz grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced

1/2 cup red onion, chopped

3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

3 tbsp parsley, chopped

S & P to taste

Preparation:

Cook orzo according to package directions to al dente. Drain & rinse under cool water to stop cooking. Drain well.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, & minced garlic to emulsify; set aside.

Slice, chop, & dice all vegetables & add to bowl of cooked & cooled pasta. Pour in salad dressing & stir to evenly coat.

Season with S & P, to taste.

Enjoy!

Adapted slightly from: https://www.cookingclassy.com/greek-orzo-salad/

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Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

Every once in a while, breakfast calls for a little something sweet. Mixed in between the rotation of eggs or avocado toast is a deserving, subtly sweet muffin.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup oil or melted butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 1/3 cup chocolate chips, divided

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 cup measuring cup with paper liners; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, milk, yogurt, & vanilla. Whisk in eggs. Sprinkle salt & baking soda over the batter & whisk thoroughly to combine. Stir in cocoa powder, until all lumps disappear. Stir in the flour & cup of chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups. They will fill all the way to the top. It will be okay & won’t spill over. Trust the process. Scatter the remaining 1/3 cup of chocolate chips over the tops of the muffins, pressing in slightly.

Bake muffins for 18 – 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out batter free.

Eat right away, store muffins in an airtight container, or eat some, store some, & place some in the freezer for another day when a double chocolate chip muffin will hit the spot.

Enjoy!

Source: https://smittenkitchen.com/2022/05/double-chocolate-chip-muffins/

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Dessert Pizza

Easy, delicious, & just in time for Memorial Day which always symbolizes the beginning of summer. This is the perfect dessert to complement any barbecue. It’s light & cool.

Ingredients:

1 package refrigerated sugar cookie dough

4 oz cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Assorted fresh fruit

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press the cookie dough onto a 10 or 12 inch pizza pan (depending on how thick you want your cookie crust – the pan I used was 11 inches) & bake for 14 – 16 minutes. Check & bake for an additional 2 minutes at a time until set, being careful not to over bake. Allow to cool completely.

Beat the cream cheese with the vanilla extract & sugar until well combined & creamy. Spread over cooled cookie crust & assemble with fruit of your choice. Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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Carrabba’s Copycat Sogna Di Cioccolata “Chocolate Dream”

The number 1 searched recipe on this site on any given day, regardless of season, is single handedly Carrabba’s copycat Mama Mandola’s chicken soup. Hands down. I’m predicting this recipe may very well give the soup a run for it’s money, if not surpass it altogether. Plus, when I tell you, just how easy it is to make and how much it tastes just like when enjoying at the restaurant, you may find yourself doing the ultimate happy dance.

Ingredients:

1 box Ghirardelli’s Dark Chocolate brownie mix, made per package instructions (you’ll need an egg, 1/2 cup vegetable, & 1/4 cup water)

1 1.5oz box Jell-O sugar free chocolate pudding, made per package instructions but instead of using 3 cups fat free milk, use 2 cups heavy cream & 1 cup milk

2-3 cups homemade whipped cream (place a pint of whipping cream in a bowl & beat on high until stiff peaks form then add 2 – 3 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar to get desired sweetness)

Ganache for drizzle

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a square 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper, coat the parchment paper with nonstick spray; set aside.

Make the brownie mix, per the package instructions & once oven ready, bake for 42 minutes; careful not to over bake.

While the brownies are baking, make the pudding (using heavy whipping cream & milk will create a mousse filling) & once whipped, keep in the refrigerator.

Also, while the brownies are baking, make the whipped cream & store in the refrigerator until needed.

Once the brownies are done baking, transfer to a cooling rack & allow to cool completely. Once cooled, remove the brownies & slice in the middle, creating a bottom & top layer. Place the bottom layer (sans parchment paper) back in the 8×8 pan. Evenly distribute half of the mousse mixture & then top with half of whipped cream. Add the remaining half of the brownie, & repeat layering process first with the mousse mixture, & then the whipped cream.

Drizzle with ganache.

Return to refrigerator & allow to sit for 1-2 hours before serving.

Enjoy!

Notes: a little of this dessert goes a long way.

If you don’t want to have discernible chocolate chips in the brownies, before making the brownie batter, sift the dry ingredients to remove the chocolate chips.

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Brisket Topped Burgers

Just looking at this picture makes me want one of these burgers, that & I haven’t had lunch. From the power (read: suggestion) of YouTube, my husband came across this recipe & tweaked it to make it his own. This isn’t a recipe per se, but an outline of ingredients to assemble.

Ingredients:

2 lb hamburger

Uncle Chris’s Steak Seasoning

Cheese of your choice

Onion Buns

1 lb Brisket

BBQ sauce

Condiments, per choosing

Preparation:

Instead of grilling, which he normally does, my husband made these burgers in a cast iron skillet. He does not shy away from using the following seasoning. For a long time, he used Montreal Steak Seasoning, which is good, but we’re on a kick of using this seasoning. He sprinkles it on before mixing it into the hamburger. He makes half lb burgers, but you do you.

We buy the brisket from a local barbecue place & they supply the sauce as well.

Once the burgers are cooked to your liking, add the patties to a toasted bun, add a slice of cheese, top with brisket & barbecue sauce. Add condiments, or don’t. You get the drift, do your own thing. Serve with homemade steak fries & chef’s kiss, you’ve got a great dinner.

Enjoy!

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Coffee Cake Cookies

The high temperature was set for cold, blustery, & snowy 28 degrees today and while the closest I got to venturing outside was letting the dogs in & out, I’m fairly sure the wind chill prohibited it from getting anywhere near the projected high. In other words, it was prime baking weather.

I’ve yet to meet someone who isn’t a fan of cookies or coffee cake, so when the two worlds collide, say no more, I’m on it.

Ingredients:

For the cookie:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups flour

For the streusel:

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 – 1/2 cup flour *see note

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

For the icing:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp milk

Splash of vanilla extract

Preparation:

For the dough: beat together the butter, oil, & sugar & mix together until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg & vanilla & beat together for another few minutes. Add the remaining ingredients & mix together until just combined.

For the streusel: combine all the ingredients in a bowl & using a fork, spoon, or your fingers, work the ingredients together. *Note: start with a 1/3 cup flour. The mixture should stick together, but should also crumble when you run it through your fingers. If it isn’t crumbling, add 1 tbsp flour at a time until it does.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Using a large cookie scoop, or a 1/4 measuring cup, roll the dough into a ball. Using a spoon or fingers, make an indentation into the center of each cookie & sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of streusel.

Bake for 12 -14 minutes or until light golden color. While the cookies are cooling, assemble the icing. Once the cookies have cooled, drizzle the icing over the tops of each.

Enjoy!

Source: https://www.thepalatablelife.com/gilmore-girls-coffee-cake-cookie/

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Spicy Green Beans

What’s there to say? I love me some spicy green beans & they went perfectly with the Katsudan pork cutlet & rice bowls I made for dinner tonight.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb fresh green beans, trimmed

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup peanut oil (sesame or canola works)

8 – 10 garlic cloves, minced (you can use less, but I wouldn’t)

2 – 3 inch ginger root, peeled & grated

Red pepper flakes, per taste

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Preparation:

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans & boil for 1 – 2 minutes, until the beans turn bright green. Strain them & run under cold water to stop them from cooking.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the sliced almonds & toast until golden brown, tossing frequently, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Return skillet to burner & heat to medium-high heat. Once heated, add the oil, a few pinches of salt, garlic, ginger, & pepper flakes cook just until garlic starts to brown. Add the vinegar & let cook down for 1 – 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat & toss in the beans to coat thoroughly & evenly with dressing. Stir in the toasted almonds.

Enjoy!

Posted in Asian, Vegetables, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Easy Peasy (no knead) Peasant Bread

Winter is notorious for soup & as of late, we’ve had our fair share. And what better side to serve with a bowl of soup than some homemade fresh bread. Normally, if I know the day before I’ll be making soup, I’ll also make the crusty overnight artisan bread, but it doesn’t always go according to plan. With this recipe, you can still have it the day of in just a few hours.

Ingredients:

4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp instant yeast

2 cups warm water

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, & yeast. Add the water & mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients form into a ball & no streaks of flour remain.

Cover the bowl & allow the dough to rise until doubled, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Using nonstick spray, generously grease a bread loaf pan; set aside.

Using a spatula, scrap the dough away from the sides of the bowl & place into prepared bread pan. It will have a rough appearance to it & that’s okay, it’s not store bought bread.

Allow the dough to rest, uncovered in the pan for 15-20 minutes.

Bake for 15 minutes & then reduce the heat to 375 degrees & bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until golden.

Enjoy!

Source: https://www.melskitchencafe.com/easy-no-knead-peasant-bread/

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Aunt Karen’s Shepherd Pie

Forgive the picture. We’d already eaten & I’d forgotten to take a picture of it served on a plate so had to compromise & use what was left in the dish.

Shepherds Pie is one of those dishes I’ve heard of, but have never had. Until tonight. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with the selected recipe because it’s my aunt’s recipe. I like to think everyone has that one person in their life where you know the food is going to be good because it’s always good. For me, that’s aunt Karen. She will not lead you astray.

Ingredients:

1 lb hamburger meat

2 celery stalks diced

1 onion

3 garlic cloves

S & P

1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

2 tbsp tomato paste (or ketchup)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 12oz bag of frozen mixed veggies (peas, carrots, corn, & green beans)

1 package instant mashed potatoes (I used garlic)

Shredded cheese

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Over medium high heat, cook the hamburger meat with the celery, onion, & garlic until browned. Season with S & P. Drain grease. Add Worcestershire & tomato paste, mix together. Stir in a can of cream of mushroom soup. Add bag of mixed veggies & stir to combine. Transfer to a 9” round or square pan.

Make instant mashed potatoes (or use leftover mashed potatoes, if you have them) according to instructions. Spread evenly over meat mixture.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven, add shredded cheddar cheese to top, & return to oven for another 10 minutes. Enjoy!

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Books I Read In 2021 (and my fave five)

On occasion, people will ask me for book recommendations & while I’m willing to oblige, it’s not without slight reservation. To me, books fall into the same categories as food & music. What I like, piques my interest, or resonates within me can be vastly different than what another would find deeply satisfying & fulfilling. It’s also no different than when someone has avidly recommended a book to me, which I read only to be left wondering what was so great about that? It’s neither right or wrong & just symbolizes our differences.

This can occur within ourselves, as well. Sometimes while rereading a book I once considered life changing & profound, I’m left wanting more & missing the sense of awe & wonder, like I first experienced. Similar to trying to recreate a memory in that it simply doesn’t hold the same wonder-filled significance. Conversely, there are books that didn’t impact me so much whilst reading them, but months & sometimes years later, I find myself surprised at how often I revisit it in my thoughts.

  1. Open House, Katie Sise
  2. Like Brothers, Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass
  3. Antiracist Baby, Ibram X Kindi
  4. The Last of the Moon Girls, Barbara Davis
  5. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
  6. Hadley & Grace, Suzanne Redfearn
  7. A Widow’s Story: A Memoir, Joyce Carol Oates
  8. Love’s Executioner, Irvin Yalom
  9. Hallelujah Anyway, Anne Lamott
  10. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Deesha Philyaw
  11. After Alice Fell, Kim Taylor Blakemore
  12. Best Friends Forever, Jennifer Weiner
  13. Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily Nagoski, PhD & Amelia Nagoski, DMA
  14. The State of Affairs, Esther Perel
  15. Shrill, Lindy West
  16. Inheritance, Dani Shapiro
  17. What Happened To You? Conversations On Trauma, Resilience, & Healing, Bruce Perry, MD, PhD & Oprah Winfrey
  18. Tears of Amber, Sofia Segovia
  19. Last Couple Standing, Matthew Norman
  20. The Problem of Alzheimer’s, Jason Karlawish, MD
  21. Mating In Captivity, Esther Perel
  22. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  23. Stories To Tell, Richard Marx
  24. Mercy, Jodi Picoult
  25. Fire Shut Up In My Bones, Charles M. Blow
  26. The Housekeeper, Natalie Barelli
  27. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
  28. Plenty: A Memoir of Food & Family, Hannah Howard
  29. The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish
  30. Beneath Devil’s Bridge, Loreth Anne White
  31. Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, Emmanuel Acho
  32. Night Road, Kristin Hannah
  33. The Seven Day Switch, Kelly Harms
  34. Apples Never Fall, Liane Moriarty
  35. Unbound, Tarana Burke
  36. Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle
  37. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  38. The Menopause Manifesto, Dr. Jen Gunter
  39. The Four Seasons of Marriage, Gary Chapman
  40. The Storyteller: Tales of Life & Music, Dave Grohl
  41. The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
  42. Somebody’s Daughter, Ashley C. Ford
  43. No Cure For Being Human: And Other Truths I Need To Hear, Kate Bowler
  44. A Familiar Sight, Brianna Labuskes

My favorite five: (In no order of favorites, but read chronologically)


Fiction: “The timing of of the thing had to be just so in order for me to become the person I am. Delay the act by an hour & you change the gene selection.”


Collection of short stories: “How do you make love to a physicist? With your whole self, quivering, lush, unafraid.”


Nonfiction: “Even if you’ve accumulated a house full of nice things & the picture of your life fits in a beautiful frame, if you’ve experienced trauma, but haven’t excavated it, the wounded parts of you will affect everything you’ve managed to build.”


Memoir: “That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people & they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.”


Memoir: “Everybody pretends that you only die once, but that’s not true. You can die to a thousand possible futures in the course of a single, stupid life.”

“It takes great courage to live. Period. There are fears and disappointments and failures every day and, in the end, the hero dies. It must be cinematic to watch us from above.”
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