Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chocolate Dipped Everything (And Some Peanut Butter, Too)

I know Valentine's Day isn't fun for everyone, (believe me, I really, really, do know this), but darn it all, the chocolate part is awesome. Who doesn't love chocolate dipped everything? These couple "recipes" are so easy to do you'll wonder why you ever paid for anything covered in chocolate and why you didn't just do it for yourself. This goes for the chocolate peanut butter candy, too.

I sent these off to Disney a long time ago, and I'm repeating them here because they're just too worthy of being shared. My youngest (who is now 11) loves helping make anything sweet. I suspect this is simply because she loves to consume anything sweet, but at this point in the parenting game, I'll take anything.

Once you've made up a batch of Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, you'll be armed an ready to face your true love and they won't care if you don't have a diamond for them this year ... sorta.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
Makes 20


20 or so large clean, dry strawberries with leaves intact
1/2 lb semi-sweet chocolate, chopped


1. Place chocolate in the top of a double-boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir chocolate until melted, about 5 minutes.
2. Line a cookie sheet or tray with waxed paper or parchment paper.
3. Dip strawberries, one at a time, into the melted chocolate. These can also be dipped into nuts or sprinkles once they are coated in chocolate. Set on paper lined tray and chill for 20 minutes until set. Longer than an hour in the refrigerator will cause condensation on the strawberries, so be careful not to overdo it.
4. Place strawberries into a lined box or pretty mini-cupcake liners if you're giving as a gift.

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods
Makes 24


1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips
24 pretzel rods
sprinkles and nuts, (optional)


1. Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at half power for one minute. Stir with a silicone spatula. Continue to microwave at intervals of 15-60 seconds until chocolate is completely melted. Stir until smooth.
2. Dip half of the pretzel stick into the chocolate. (If it starts to get thick, warm in the microwave for 8-10 seconds.)
3. Dip the coated end of the pretzel into sprinkles, nuts, tinted shredded coconut, or anything for extra color. Stand up in a glass or lay on a cookie sheet (prepared with cooking spray or lined with waxed paper) until set.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Makes one 8 x 8 pan


6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup chocolate chips


1. Melt together peanut butter and butter and blend until smooth.
2. Add in graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar. Mix well and press evenly into an 8x8 baking pan that has been fitted with parchment or waxed paper.
3. Melt chocolate chips until smooth and pour over peanut butter mixture. Smooth over the top and refrigerate half an hour until firm.
4. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting into bars.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Mardi Gras

I love that we have a two-fer in February as far as holidays go, and they are two of my favorite. These recipes will help you celebrate a most delicious Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) on February 13, this year. Try to save some room for the day after, which is a requisite chocolate consumption day - Valentine's Day.

I say "try" because I know how delicious each of these recipes is and I'd have a hard time saving room, too. I originally sent these to Disney for Family.com, which is now defunct, and for a short while they were part of the web site for The Princess and the Frog before moving on to Spoonful.com. The web changes so quickly, though, and the recipes are no longer there. Through the magic of Archive.org, here is a link to where they were housed on Spoonful: Archive.org - Spoonful.com Great Mardi Gras Recipes.

I have already shared several of them here and you can find links to those at the end of the post. Here are the final three, Red Beans and Rice, Shrimp Jambalaya, and Beignets - Enjoy!

Cajun Red Beans and Rice

This thick and hearty stew-like dish is Cajun cooking at its finest. Red beans and the Cajun 'Holy Trinity' of celery, onion and green pepper combine with smoked sausage to make one fine meal. Add more Cayenne or hot sauce as you see fit, there's no way to get that part wrong.

Red Beans and Rice

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Serves: 4

1/2 pound cooked red kidney beans
1/2 pound smoked sausage or kielbasa cut up bite size
1 medium onion-diced
1 green pepper-diced
2 stalks celery-diced
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic-minced
4 cups water
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tablespoon hot sauce
2 cups already cooked long grain white rice - kept warm for serving


1. Combine beans, sausage, onion, pepper, celery, parsley, bay leaf, Cayenne, garlic and
water in a large Dutch oven.
2. Heat to boiling and reduce heat to a low simmer. Lid tightly and cook for 2 hours.
3. Remove bay leaf and add butter, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Stir well and
serve over cooked white rice.

Shrimp Jambalaya

The French word for ham is 'jambon' which is where the term 'jambalaya' comes from. Any jambalaya just isn't right to me if it doesn't contain the smoked meat. This shrimp version is quick and flavorful with just the right kick.

Shrimp Jambalaya

Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 35 minutes
Serves: 6


2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/3 cup each diced green, yellow and red peppers
1 cup diced lean ham
2 cloves minced garlic
16 ounces diced tomato
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup long grain white rice
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 pound shelled and deveined shrimp


1. Heat a large and deep skillet over medium-high and add oil.
2. Toss in onion, peppers, celery and garlic. Stir and cook for 5 minutes, or until 
3. Add ham, tomato and chicken broth and heat for 2 minutes.
4. Stir in rice and seasonings and turn the heat very low. Lid tightly and let cook for 
20 minutes.
5. After 20 minutes, check to see that the rice is tender and add the shrimp. Lid again 
and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until shrimp is pink. Serve hot.


A morning in New Orleans wouldn't be the same without beignets and cafe au lait made with chicory (see Cafe du Monde). NOLA's answer to doughnuts, the beignet is a light and airy fritter sprinkled with mounds of powdered sugar and served in threes -- the only way to enjoy them to their fullest.


Hands-On Time: 30min
Cook Time: 4h 30min
Ready In: 5h
Yield: 2 dozen


1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, 110 to 115 degrees
1 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
oil for frying, enough for 2 inches of oil in the pan


1. Stir together yeast and warm water until yeast is dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes until bubbly.
2. Add in evaporated milk, sugar, salt, oil and egg and stir until well blended.
3. Add the flour one cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
5. Punch dough down and roll into a rectangle 12 by 8 inches. Cut into 2-inch squares and let stand for several minutes.
6. While dough is standing, heat frying oil to 360 degrees. Make sure oil is at least 2 inches deep.
7. Fry dough squares, a few at a time, until golden brown on both sides. Remove to paper toweling to drain well.
8. Shake powdered sugar over beignets and serve warm with cafe au lait!

DO NOT miss the rest of these recipes - linked here:


Corn Maque Choux

King Cake

Sweet Potato Pie with Praline Sauce

Monday, January 08, 2018

Pork with White Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

Pantry staples are a must in a large family. Weekly shopping is tedious enough for us without having to resort to trips throughout the week to stock up. This is especially true in the winter when much fresh produce just isn't the same quality or affordability that it is in warmer months.

Turning to your pantry for more than half of your meals isn't a bad thing, it's a decidedly good thing, especially with quality canned goods. ShopRite has standards that many other brands don't, and it's evident in the beans and tomatoes used for this recipe. The imported cherry tomatoes are like little orbs of sunshine in a can. The flavor is bright and blends well with tiny little white beans. If you can't find fresh cherry tomatoes at any time of year, the imported babies from ShopRite are a very fine substitute.

This can be made with pork or chicken, the cooking time is just about the same for both. The leek adds a dimension of flavor that we really love here, but if you aren't mad about leeks, shallots or even spring onions will do well. About a cup of chopped green onion or 2 small shallots should do the trick.

Pork with White Beans and Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 4


2 Tablespoons ShopRite Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large leek
1 pound 1/2 - inch thick boneless pork chops
1 can (14.5 ounces) ShopRite Fat Free Chicken broth with 50% less sodium
1 can (15 ounces) ShopRite Small White Beans
1 can (14 ounces) ShopRite Imported Whole Cherry Tomatoes in juice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Cut the dark green portion from the leek and discard. Cut leek in half lengthwise and rinse well to remove any sand or grit. Slice thinly.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add leeks. Cook briefly until leeks begin to wilt. Push aside and add pork.
3. Sear pork on both sides, 3 minutes per side and add chicken broth to pan.
4. Cook over low heat until broth is reduced slightly and pork is cooked through - about 5 minutes.
5. Add beans, thyme and drained tomatoes. Heat through for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, November 13, 2017

White Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Pretzel Crust

White Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Pretzel Crust

It's been pumpkin time for quite a while now. It seems it begins each year just a little earlier than the year before. I love pumpkin. I really, really do. That being said, you can most definitely have too much of a good thing. Enter the white pumpkin.

With Thanksgiving coming up, I'm in the throes of menu planning and shopping, and this year as I looked at the uncarved white pumpkin on my porch, I thought, "Why not?" It turns out you can make a pumpkin pie from just about any pumpkin you can purchase, including the white variety.

The flavor is milder and sweeter than that of a traditional orange pumpkin, and so surprisingly different that I've had requests to make this one for Thanksgiving Day. I am more than happy to oblige! This pumpkin variety is so sweet in fact, I am using sweetened condensed milk and no sugar. This changes the usual baking time, so read carefully! Please taste your pumpkin puree to decide whether or not you want to add sugar. Add sugar to the puree first and check before making the filling.

Now, you don't run to the store and simply pull white pumpkin puree from the shelf, you make it in the usual way. You can find instructions for that here: Which Pumpkin?  All pumpkins are edible, but some are more tasy than othersFollow the general rules for which pumpkin to cook, and you'll be fine.

UTZ Holiday Cinnamon Pretzel Sticks

On to that crust! I was greeted one day in my local Giant food store's vestibule by a bag of UTZ Holiday Cinnamon Pretzel Sticks. I love these things. They are very mild in flavor and lightly sweet, but with all the delicious crunch of the usual UTZ pretzel. On their own, they are lovely, but as a pie crust? A whole new dimension of texture an flavor. I though this would pair well with the white pumpkin, and I was right. If you are not able to find these, you can use any pretzel for the crust.

White Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Pretzel Crust
Makes one 9-inch pie

1 1/2 cups finely crushed UTZ Holiday Cinnamon Pretzel Sticks
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter - melted
1/2 cup brown sugar

Pie Filling:

2 cups white pumpkin puree
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk!)
2 large eggs
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (this is to your liking)


For the crust:

1. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Press into the bottom and sides of a well-greased 9-inch pie plate. Set aside.

For the Filling:

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Blend all ingredients until smooth.
3, Pour into prepared crust.
4. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until pie does not jiggle when touched.
5. Cool for 1 hour then refrigerate before serving.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Aunt Dorothy's Refrigerator Yeast Rolls

Aunt Dorothy's Refrigerator Yeast Rolls

Everyone has a food that takes them instantly back to their childhood with a single bite. For me it's these rolls. Served at every large family gathering, they were gone before they cooled and it's still the same way today in our home. These are perfect for Thanksgiving, which is just around the corner here in the United States.

Aunt Dorothy's Refrigerator Yeast Rolls

The original recipe directions were so simplified, almost too much for more novice cooks, that I've expanded the preparation details here. Many refrigerator roll recipes call for using the dough as far out as 3 days, but I find that it rises too much in that period of time. Perfect timing is within 24 hours but can be pushed to 48.

Aunt Dorothy's Refrigerator Yeast Rolls*
Hand-On Time:
Ready In:
Serves: Makes 3 dozen rolls


1 packet dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1 large egg
8 cups all-purpose flour


1. Combine 1/2 cup of the warm water with yeast in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Let rest for 5 minutes until bubbly.
2. Add remaining 2 cups of water to yeast mixture along with butter, sugar and salt. Stir until sugar is dissolved and butter has melted.
3. Beat egg lightly and add to water along with 1 cup of flour. Stir until well blended.
4. Add in remaining flour, a cup at a time, stirring with a heavy wooden spoon until no more flour can be added. Knead in remaining flour with hands, a 1/4 cup at a time until dough is smooth and elastic - about 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Put dough back into bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Store in refrigerator for at least 4 hours but not more than 48 hours.
6. When you are ready to bake rolls, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F, punch down dough and portion into 36 equal pieces. Shape dough into rolls and put into greased muffin tins. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
7. Once rolls are doubled, brush with olive oil or egg wash (1 egg and 2 tablespoons water blended well) and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.

*Aunt Dorothy was my grandfather's sister-in-law. I absolutely adored her and my uncle, Hershel. She was sweet and quiet, which was necessary as my uncle took the spotlight every time we visited. He was a real hoot, definitely a story for another time.