Minestrone with Sausage


This one warms the soul on a cold day:

Minestrone Soup with Sausage

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 - 1 pound of sausage (I used our own pork sausage)
1 onion, thinly sliced or diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup canned chopped or diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons or more of fresh herbs, such as italian seasoning or parsley, sage, marjoram
1 small red or yellow bell pepper, diced
3-4 cups chicken stock
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup macaroni noodles - your favorite shape
1/2 to 1 cup canned, drained great northern beans or pinto or kidney beans
1 can green peas, drained
Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
French bread or cornbread for serving

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the sausage and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just colored.

Add the garlic, tomatoes and herbs - cook for about 5 minutes, stirring. Add the bell pepper, cover and cook 5 more minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes or so.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the macaroni noodles and beans and simmer for another 15 minutes or so, until the macaroni is just tender.

Stir in the peas and cook an additional 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls over french bread or cornbread if desired. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.


Seafood In Mornay Sauce


Seafood in Mornay Sauce is what I made for a special holiday-time dinner this evening. Oh-My-Goodness but this is absolutely divine. It is not that hard to make, but will receive multitudes of oohhs and aahhs. Serve over rice with a simple salad on the side and you have a complete meal that is extra special and makes it look like you spent hours in the kitchen. Here's how I put mine together.

There is a great "fish guy", Mr. Ed, who comes up to our area from the Gulf of Louisiana every couple of weeks from the summer through Christmas. He is here this week with everything super fresh - it is his last trip to town for awhile. My husband was in the area and picked up about 10-12 jumbo shrimp and about a half dozen or so large scallops. This is what I used for my recipe tonight.

You can make this with one seafood ingredient or as many as you desire. I've had it with a combination of lobster, shrimp, scallops and crab - just pick what you like and use it.

It goes together pretty fast, so have everything ready when you get started cooking.

First thing I do is put my rice on to simmer. Use whatever rice you like - a long grain white, an arborio, a basmati - whatever sounds good to you. Tonight I used an arborio rice.

For the 5 of us, I put one cup of rice to two cups of water, bring to a boil, then simmer slowly until the rice is soft and the water is gone. The only rule of thumb you need to remember for successful rice is water 2:1 over rice. Bring to a boil, then simmer SLOWLY, uncovered, until the rice is tender.

While the rice cooked, I cleaned my seafood. I quartered the scallops - not too small or they'll cook too quickly and get tough. I peeled, cleaned and de-veined the shrimp, then cut it into bite-size pieces.

I took a large saute pan and melted 1/2 cup of butter. When the butter is completely melted, put in the seafood and cook over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. You don't want to overcook the seafood. Add a dash of salt. Remove the seafood from the pan and place in a bowl. Set seafood aside.

To the remaining butter in the pan, add 1/2 cup of flour and whisk for about 2 minutes to create a nice roux. You don't want it to get too brown, as the mornay sauce is a creamy white sauce. Once the roux is ready, add 1 cup of chicken stock and 1 cup of heavy cream. Add fresh black pepper to taste. Continue to whisk to keep any lumps from forming. The cream sauce will start to thicken. Continue to stir for about 5 minutes.

Your rice should be done by now - remove it from the heat. Turn the heat off under your cream sauce and add your seafood back into the cream sauce. Stir gently and add 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Your seafood mornay is now ready to serve over the rice. Top with a little freshly grated parmesan. Be careful - it is very filling! We enjoyed ours tonight with freshly made cranberry-pineapple relish and a mixed sprout salad. Lovely and delicious!

Oh yes, after such a filling meal, we took the girls for a walk around the block to look at Christmas lights! Gotta do something to work off all that butter and cream!



1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt to taste
fresh black pepper to taste
Your choice of seafood: shrimp, scallops, lobster, crab

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Lightly saute seafood over medium-low heat, remove from pan and set aside. Whisk flour into remaining butter over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and heavy cream - continue to whisk to prevent lumps and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add seafood back to cream sauce and add in the parmesan cheese. Stir, then serve immediately over rice. Top with additional freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired. Delicious with a simple salad on the side.

Moist Chocolate Cake

This is now my favorite chocolate cake recipe. I made this cake a couple of weeks ago for Papa's birthday with a peanut butter frosting and a week ago for my youngest daughter's birthday with chocolate frosting. It was exceptionally moist both times. I love chocolate and I'm picky about my chocolate cake - I don't like it to taste too bitter or too much like cocoa or too sweet - this one surprised me and is now at the very top of my list. So I'm sharing it!

Now, don't let the fact that it has no eggs scare you. Or the fact that it has vinegar in it. The vinegar and the baking soda react to make this cake super light. I'm telling you this cake is divine. And easy.

Moist Chocolate Cake (frosting recipes follow)

2 cups white sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups water
1 cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan or 2 square or 2 round cake pans.

Stir together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix together the wet ingredients, then add to the dry ingredients. Mix / blend until well blended.

Pour into prepared pans and bake a 9 x 13 for 40 minutes or until set in the middle.

Allow to cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before trying to remove cake from the pans.

Peanut Butter Frosting

I'm not a huge peanut butter fan. I'm about chocolate. But for Papa's birthday this past week, I knew he'd want something besides just chocolate cake. So I decided to liven his up and make it different with a homemade peanut butter frosting. My mom said it was the best frosting she'd had - she usually scrapes off any frosting, but loved this one.

1/2 cup butter - room temperature (1 stick)
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter (the frosting will be as good as the peanut butter you use)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2+ Tablespoons milk

Cream butter and peanut butter in a mixer until well blended. Gradually add confectioners sugar, vanilla and milk. Keep adding milk gradually until the frosting reaches the consistency that you desire - thick to spread or thin to drizzle.

Chocolate Frosting

1/4 - 1/2 cup butter - room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
3-4 Tablespoons chocolate cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2+ Tablespoons milk

Cream butter in a mixer - gradually add confectioners sugar, cocoa, vanilla and milk. Use less cocoa for a light chocolate flavor - more for a heavier flavor. Keep adding milk gradually until the frosting reaches the consistency that you desire.

You can make a vanilla icing by using this same recipe and omitting the cocoa powder. For mine, I sometimes add a tiny splash (1/8 teaspoon) of orange or lemon extract to make it different.


Pumpkin Bread Pudding


I adapted this recipe from one that I originally found in Gourmet magazine. Here's my version:

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 small can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1-1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup melted butter
2 large eggs
5 cups cubed bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 8 inch square pan or similar 2-quart pan of your choice.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the pumpkin, butter, milk and eggs. Mix well. Gently stir in the bread cubes just enough to coat, but not turn soupy. Pour into greased pan and cook on the middle rack of the oven for 40-45 minutes.

Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream or serve room temperature.


Delicious and Easy Baked Snapper

Every couple of weeks during the summer there are two very nice men who come up from Louisiana with a divine selection of freshly caught fish and shellfish. About once a month or so, we purchase a few items and have never been disappointed.

This past week, we purchased large scallops, which my oldest daughter prepared after watching a YouTube video about preparing scallops by Chef Gordon Ramsey. She sauted them in a hot skillet with olive oil, freshly minced garlic, fresh thyme and some butter. We served them with pasta and they were very tasty. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of her cooking adventure to share this time, but I'll be sure to catch some next time.

The next evening we had baked snapper - it was easy and delicious. Here's how I prepared it.

In a 9x13 baking dish, I put a little olive oil in the bottom of the dish. On top I place a nice sized sheet of parchment paper.

After rinsing the snapper filet, I placed it on the parchment paper. I drizzled it with a little olive oil, then added a sprinkling of salt, pepper and herbs de provence. I topped it off with slices of fresh lemon. Then I wrapped the parchment and tucked it under the fish filet. I put about a 1/4 cup of water in the pan around the parchment and baked the filet in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Our filet took about 20 minutes to cook due to thickness. Delicious!

Salmon Surprise

My oldest daughter brought a recipe home from the grocery store the other day after trying a sample of the final product. We gave it a try and enjoyed it, so I'm sharing it here.

Salmon Surprise

1/2 pound Thai Rice Noodles, cooked
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil (I used a mixture of olive oil and coconut oil)
1 Tablespoon Thai Green Curry Paste
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 - 1 cup chopped green or red or yellow peppers
1-2 Tablespoons fish sauce (I didn't have this, so I left it out)
1 Tablespoon dried basil (I used Pesto Sauce instead)
1 large can salmon (I used one with no artificial color)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 shredded cheese of your choice (I used Sargento 4 Cheese Mexican Blend)

Cook the Thai Rice Noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside.

salmon_surprise_onions salmon_surprise_curry salmon_surprise_cook1
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the curry paste, onions, peppers and basil. Cook until onions and peppers are tender.

Mix in the salmon and cook until it is heated through - this just takes a couple of minutes. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Add the rice noodes and fish sauce. Stir to mix, then plate.


Top with shredded cheese - I used the 4 cheese Mexican blend by Sargento. Serve while hot.

Mozzarella Meatballs

Nothing too fancy or too hard, but my girls love it when I make big meatballs like this and love it even more when they are filled will lots of yummy mozzarella cheese! Here's how I do it:

1-2 pounds of M4-D Ranch Pastured Ground Beef
Several 1/2 inch to 1 inch cubes of organic mozzarella cheese
salt - to taste
pepper - to taste
garlic pepper - to taste
any other seasoning you love - to taste
shredded cheese for topping at the end

For your first meatball, take about a 1/4 pound of ground beef (4 ounces) just like you would to make a hamburger patty. Instead of making a patty, I place a cube of mozzarella cheese in the middle and form the ground beef into a large meatball around the cheese. Now, if you make your own mozzarella, that's even better, but not something I've gotten around to doing quite yet.


Set meatball aside. Continue making meatballs like this until you've made as many as you'd like. 1 pound of ground beef should make 4 large meatballs; 2 pounds will make about 8. Sprinkle with whatever seasonings make your tastebuds tingle - I normally use salt, pepper and garlic powder as staples on my burgers.


Heat a skillet with a little olive oil. Now, our pastured ground beef is very lean and hardly ever has any extra grease - if anything I always have to add oil when cooking. So, I heat my skillet with a little olive oil and when it is heated I place the meatballs in to brown.


Brown them lightly on one side, then turn and brown them on the other side.


Next, add about 1/4 cup or so of water to the pan and put on a lid. Turn the heat down to medium or medium-low and allow the meatballs to steam until done. This is the key for having moist, juicy meatballs instead of hard, dried-out ones. Steam. Moist cooking.


When they are done to your liking (we like ours around medium), remove to a plate and sprinkle the tops with shredded cheese - any favorite will work just fine. This cheese will melt and you'll have delicious melted cheese inside and out. Yum.