Labor Day Cookout 2017

One week to go and it’s Labor Day – the unofficial end to summer and the Backyard Party Season. Labor Day is an American celebration of the workforce. The very first Labor Day Parade took place on a Tuesday, September 5, 1882. It was the brain-child of Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader. Mr. McGuire felt the span between Independence Day and Thanksgiving was far too long, and the workers deserved a holiday all their own somewhere in between. His inspiration came from America’s northern neighbor, Canada. In 1887, Oregon became the first state to declare Labor Day as a public holiday. By 1894, Congress had unanimously voted to approve legislation to make Labor Day a National Holiday, moving the date to the first Monday in September.

All I know is that Labor Day is one of my all-time favorite National Holidays. Who doesn’t love a three-day weekend? It’s a last hora for the barbecue/picnic season, and it means Autumn isn’t far off – my favorite time of the year in the kitchen.

While I’m not sure just where we will be this Labor Day, my menu is planned and I’m excited to get cooking! First up, this year’s menu. Those of you who have read my blogs of the past know that one of my favorite things to do is to create menus. There’s something wonderful about the thought and reflection that goes into a set menu. Sometimes I fear the meal planning  task is a lost art for the homemaker of today. So busy with work, the children and running Mom’s Taxi Service, meals are often last-minute decisions.

Appetizers and Munchies:
Red, White & Blue Deviled Eggs
Roast Beef Spirals with Cream Cheese-Horseradish Spread
Store-Bought Chips, Dips and Assorted Munchies

Main Goodies:
Grilled New Mexican Marinated Flank Steak
Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken in Sourdough Bread Bowls
Hot Dogs & Hamburgers

Side Dishes:
Butterfly Pesto Pasta Salad
Mema’s Potato Salad
Watergate Jello Salad
Sliced Mellons such as Cantaloupe and Honey Dew

Sweet Delights:
Shirley Temple Bundt Cake
Platter of cookies or store-bought mini cupcakes

Red, White & Blue Deviled Eggs
For The Eggs
16 Hard Boiled Eggs (or as needed, see tip below)
1 Cup Mayonnaise
3 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard (or your favorite style)
4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Onion powder to taste
Garlic Powder to taste
Kosher Salt and White Pepper to taste

Tip: Boil 2 or 3 eggs more than required to fill serving tray. The extra eggs give more yolk filling, the extra whites allow for tasting and adjusting seasonings if necessary.

To Boil eggs, place eggs in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a full boil. Remove from heat, cover and let rest for 12-14 minutes. Drain, then plunge eggs into ice-cold water to cease the cooking process. The results will be a perfectly cooked egg with a sunny yellow yolk.

Tips for Peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs: Once eggs are cool enough to handle, roll gently on counter to crack shells. Place into cold water, refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from water and peel. Water will work its way into shell, the result is an easily peeled egg. Farm Fresh eggs are difficult to peel. Try to buy your eggs at least a week in advance.

Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Remove egg yolks and place yolks in food processor with mixing/chopping blade. Set whites aside and mix coloring.

For The Coloring
2 or 3 teaspoon Royal Blue Food Coloring (more if needed)
2 or 3 teaspoon Red Food Coloring (more if needed)
2 tablespoons white vinegar, divide

In a glass bowl, mix 1 cup hot water, distilled white vinegar and Royal Blue Food Coloring. Mix well and add more coloring if desired. In another glass bowl, mix remaining cup of hot water, distilled white vinegar and Red Food Coloring. Mix well, and add more coloring if desired. Set coloring bowls aside until ready to color.

Mix/chop yolks until fluffy and are fine grade resembling bread crumbs. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix until creamy. Mix in red wine vinegar one tablespoon at a time and season to taste. Transfer yolk mixture to a bowl and chill until ready to fill.

Divide egg white halves into three groups. One group is to remain uncolored, the remaining two are colored red and blue.

Color one-third of the egg whites, one at a time, in the blue mixture. Allow egg white to soak undisturbed for about 3 or 4 minutes. Turn gently to allow other side to soak.. Once desired color is reached, remove dyed white from coloring. Lay on a paper-towel lined baking sheet cut side down and let drain/dry. Repeat until a third of the egg whites have been colored blue.

Color another third of the egg whites in red coloring as above.

To assemble: Place 12 white halves on serving dish or egg platter. Select best of the halves.

Spoon filling mixture into a piping bag fitted with desired tip. (I like the larger star for deviled eggs), then pipe into egg white halves.

Tent with plastic wrap (using toothpicks for “tent) and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Roast Beef Spirals with Cream Cheese-Horseradish Spread
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 green onions, chopped about 1/2 cup
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, drained
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
8 ounces deli roast beef, sliced
2 10-inch flour tortillas, (flavored add a nice touch)

Combine cream cheese, green onions, parsley, horseradish, salt and garlic powder. Blend until smooth.

Place the two tortillas on work surface, spread half of cheese over each, top each with half of the roast beef slices, leaving a 1/2 inch border around edges.

Roll up, wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes or up to 1 day ahead. Remove from refrigerator, unwrap and cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange cut-side up on serving tray.

Note: For a red, white and blue presentation, add a little blue food coloring to the cream cheese mixture and use white flour tortillas.

New Mexican Marinated Flank Steak
For the Steak
2 to 2 1/2 pound flank steak

Place flank steak in a large casserole dish, allowing steak to lay flat. Set aside while marinade is made.


For the New Mexican Marinade
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican Oregano, crushed between your palms
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered cumin seed
Juice from 2 limes
4 to 5 cloves minced garlic

In a medium-size bowl, combine all the ingredients. Whisking to blend well.

Pour marinade over steak. Cover, refrigerate, and let marinate overnight or at least 8 to 10 hours, turning several times.

When ready to cook, remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to grilling. Prepare and pre-heat your grill for cooking. Grill the marinated steak 5 to 7 minutes per side, is medium rare or until the internal temperature reaches desired temperature on your meat thermometer. Flank steak is best when grilled rare or medium rare. Overcooking will result in a tough, dried out hunk of meat.

Remove from heat and let steak rest 5 minutes before slicing. With a sharp knife, slice steak thinly against (diagonal) the grain.


Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken in Sourdough Bread
For The Rub:
6 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
¼ Cup Kosher Salt (reduce by half if using table salt)
¼ Cup Chili Powder
½ Cup Paprika
4 Teaspoons Black or White Pepper
½-¾ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (increase for spicier flavor)

For The Chicken & Everything Else
2 bone-in Split Chicken Breasts, trimmed, skin slashed, cut in half
4 Bone-in Chicken Thighs, trimmed and skin slashed
4 bone-in Chicken drumsticks, trimmed and skin slashed
2 Large or 4 Small Bread Bowls, hollowed out (save bread)
2 Large or 4 small sheets of foil (to wrap the chicken-filled bowls)

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil and top with wire racks. Set aside.

Combine sugar, salt, chili powder, paprika, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl. Coat chicken pieces with spice mixture, gently lifting skin to distribute spices underneath while leaving skin attached to chicken. Place chicken skin-side up on prepared wire racks, tent with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to 24 hours for best flavors.

Adjust oven racks upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 475-degrees.

Remove foil covering from chicken and roast until brown, crisp and breasts register 160-degrees. Roast chicken for 20 minutes. Switch and rotate baking sheets, continue to roast 15 minutes longer.

Transfer breast pieces to a platter or dish, cover to keep warm. Continue to roast thighs and drumsticks until they register 175-degrees, about 10-15 minutes longer. Turn off oven. Place an assortment of chicken pieces inside each bowl. Top with bread “lid”. Wrap tightly in foil and keep in the warm oven until ready to  place on the table, no more than an hour to prevent everything from drying out. Once removed from oven, keep everything wrapped in foil until ready to serve. Bread will absorb some of the chicken flavoring while keeping the chicken warm.

Butterfly Pesto Pasta Salad
3 Garlic Cloves, unpeeled
1 Cup Fresh Basil
1 ½ Cups Baby Spinach
¼ Cups Pine Nuts
¼ Cup Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
¼ Cup Parmesan Cheese
½ Cup Best Foods Mayonnaise
1 lb Farfalle Pasta (bow-tie)
1/4 Cup or so Reserved cooking water

Toast garlic in a small skillet over medium-heat, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant and color deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let garlic cool, then peel and chop coarse.

Process garlic, basil, spinach, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down bowl as needed. Add Parmesan Cheese and mayonnaise, continue to process until thoroughly combined. Transfer pesto to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. (Mixture can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring often, until pasta is just past al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta cooking water, drain pasta. Toss pasta with a little olive oil and spread into a single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Let pasta cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss cooled pasta with pesto, adding reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until pesto evenly coasts pasta.


Mema’s Potato Salad
3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 Eggs, hard-boiled
1 Red Onion, minced
2 Celery Stocks, minced
1 Tablespoon Bacon Drippings, warm (Optional)
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
1 Tablespoons Mustard
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar plus a sprinkling for potatoes
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper to taste
¼ Cup Parsley or green onion for garnish

Peel and slice potatoes into large chunks. Place potatoes in a stockpot and cover with 1-inch of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are just tender but not soft, about 10-15 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle LIGHTLY with red wine vinegar and set aside in refrigerator to cool.

Place eggs in a saucepan, add cold water to cover eggs. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 12-14 minutes, then plunge eggs into cold water to stop cooking process. Once cooled, roll egg on counter to crack the shell. Return eggs to cold water and let sit for about 15 minutes. This will help to make the eggs easier to peel.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine onions, celery, bacon drippings, mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine. Taste dressing and season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Peel and chop 3 eggs. Add to dressing. Cut V marks in 4th egg to create two tulip flowers. Reserve 1 flower, chop other and add to dressing. Taste dressing a second time, adjust seasonings as necessary.

Place potatoes in a large bowl. Pour egg dressing over potatoes and toss to coat. Smooth out top. In the center, using the back of a spoon, create a small indentation. Place Egg flower into indentation. Sprinkle top of salad with parsley or chopped green onion for added color. If desired, sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled.


Watergate Salad
8 oz Cool Whip
1 Box Pistachio Pudding Mix (low-fat)
16 oz Crushed Pineapple with juice
1 Cup Mini-Marshmallows
1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans, optional

Fold pudding mix into cool whip until well incorporated.

Add remaining ingredients.

Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour.

Note: To add a little more color, try using colored mini-marshmallows or garnish with maraschino cherries or both!

Shirley Temple Cake
The Bundt Cake
1 1/2 cups butter softened
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons lemon extract
3/4 cup 7-Up
1 jar maraschino cherries 10 oz, drained and juice reserved

Pre-heat oven to 325.

In large bowl mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs and continue to mix until blended. Next add the flour and mix again until smooth. Add the lemon extract and 7-Up. Beat lightly to combine.

Gently fold the cherries into the batter. Set aside until ready to bake.

Grease a bundt pan with shortening, then dust it with flour.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until center is set.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remember, the cake will continue to cook while in the pan.

Turn the cake out on a cooling rack, then turn again so that it is right side up. Place the cake while still warm onto a serving dish.

Using a skewer, poke holes all over the top of the cake. Slowly pour the reserved cherry juice over the cake and let it all soak in. Don’t worry if the juice soaks all the way to the bottom. It will be fine. Let the cake cool completely. While cake cools, make the glaze.

The Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon extract
3-4 Tablespoons milk

In a bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and lemon extract. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Once cake is cooled, drizzle with glaze. Garnish with cherries and serve.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful, fun-filled Labor Day! If you are looking for more Labor Day recipes, check out a few suggestions from the past:

Labor Day Picnic – A Fond Farewell To Summer

****** The Menu ******
The Main Dishes
Grilled Onion Hamburgers
Bratwurst in Beer – Picnic Style
Italian Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich

The Side Dishes
Cooler Corn on the Cob
Mema’s Potato Salad

The Salads
Asparagus and Tomato Salad with a Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Red Potato Salad*

Tropical Pineapple-Lime Jello Salad 

The Sweet Dessert:
Peach-Almond Upside Down Cake

Labor Day – Oh My!

****** The Menu ******
The Grilled Meats
Grilled Smoked Sausage with Barbecue Sauce 
Boozy Bacon Bourbon Barbecue Chicken Kabobos 
Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce 
Hot Dogs or Hamburgers for the Children

The Side Dishes
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes 
Slow Cooker Smokehouse Bacon Beans
Warm French Bread with Melted Garlic Butter

The Salads
Asparagus and Tomato Salad with a Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Red Potato Salad

Tropical Pineapple-Lime Jello Salad 

The Refreshing Ends
Lemon Pie Squares
Sugar Cookie Fruit Pizza 

If nothing else, I hope you come away with some inspiration and create your own Labor Day celebration that is perfect for your family and friends.

Tuscan Garlic Chicken in a Creamy Sauce

This is a recipe originally shared with you folks just over a year ago. By the time this recipe is published again, our BIG MOVE should be behind us (hope!) and I will be well on my way of setting up my new kitchen. Moving is always stressful, unless you have the finances to pay someone else to do everything for you. We don’t. Not only did we have the move itself to contend with, there was all the pre-packing sorting to do. Have you ever stood in a room filled to the rafters with “stuff” and asked yourself “What the heck was I thinking?”

Like most people during a move, we had a one-day yard sale. Hubby was hoping we could recoup the money spent on boxes, tape and bubble wrap. Oh yeah, like that was going to happen! Especially with the way we had gone about our sale – nothing was marked with a price, and we told people to pay whatever they felt was a fair price. It’s amazing what a dollar will get you when the seller is more interested in letting go rather than making a buck. A lot of our customers were children with pockets of coin to spend. I’m a sucker when it comes to children. They got the best deals – for a quarter they could take whatever they could carry. We had worked out a deal with some church ladies that we would donate anything remaining at the end of the day to their upcoming Rummage Sale. We were more interested in getting rid of things rather than packing.

Anyway, back to the recipe at hand. Since I don’t know when I’ll have access to a printer, my meal planning for the immediate future revolves around dishes I am familiar with. This luscious chicken dish served over a bed of linguine is one I can whip up with my eyes closed.

Creamy Tuscan Garlic Chicken
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, thin sliced
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup White Wine
1 cup heavy cream
6 Cloves Garlic, minced
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup spinach, chopped
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
1/2 Lb Linguine

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large flat-bottom skillet. Sprinkle Italian season over chicken. Place seasoned chicken into skillet and cook over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or until brown and no longer pink in center. Remove chicken to a small platter, cover with foil and hold in a warm oven.

Add Linguine to boiling water and cook until just cooked through, about 9 minutes.

While pasta cooks, add chicken broth and white wine to the now empty skillet to deglaze the pan, scraping up any little brown bits of chicken.

Add the heavy cream, minced garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Whisk over medium-high heat until smooth. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to whisk until sauce starts to thicken.

Lower heat to simmer, add the spinach and sun-dried tomato strip. Let it simmer until the spinach starts to wilt.

Remove chicken from oven. Cut into strips and return to the skilled with sauce. Spoon sauce over chicken to coat.

Drain pasta, transfer to rimmed serving platter. Arrange breasts over pasta, spoon sauce over chicken, serve and enjoy!

Rigatoni and Chicken Bake with Artichokes – Round Two

By the time this is posted, we will be in full swing of the big move – the unpacking stage. The kitchen is going to require some work to get things just where I want them to be. The great thing about the new digs is that it has a huge bonus room, just off the living room. While this could be turned into a family room or media room, we have elected to create an actual dining room. (With no distractions – no electronics allowed!)

There is a breakfast nook just off the kitchen that could be used as the family dining area. However; that’s not the plan – I want to utilize the space with a big butcher block or other table (like an old farm table) and create a great “prep” area – with shelving and a low hutch for all my kitchen goodies. Room to stretch out and strut my stuff so to speak. The natural light in the room is amazing – can’t wait to set up the camera equipment and really get to cooking.

While I’m excited about all the possibilities, there are some draw backs. There is no pantry – it’s an older home, but still I know people kept food in the house, you would think a pantry would be a must. I am accustomed to the no-pantry concept, since the home we are leaving behind (also an older home) lacked an actual pantry as well. There, we used a large hutch as a pantry. The new place has two closets (down the hall and around the corner from the kitchen) with tons of shelving. There is something else in the hall built-ins that I don’t understand. There’s an actual cutting board – I’m not sure why someone would need a cutting board in the middle of the hallway, but there it is. Go figure –

Anyway, recently I shared a recipe very similar to this one, Pesto-Alfredo Pasta Chicken Bake a dish inspired by The Cooking Jar. Not only was this dish absolutely incredible, the leftovers were equally as delicious. Until things get settled in the new digs, we’ll be looking for meals that can stretch throughout the week, and my Rotini and Chicken Bake with Artichokes are just the ticket. Not only do we have a bag of cooked chicken in the freezer, but I still have an extra jar of Marinated Artichoke hearts from our 4th of July celebration. I wanted to make sure I had enough to make my Panko-Parmesan Marinated Artichoke Hearts with Lemon-Basil Aioli for everyone. I worry all the time about not making enough food, and as a result, there are “extra” ingredients for later. (If you would like the recipe, check out Hurray for The Red, White and Blue).

This is a dish I shared a few years back. With all this moving, it’s one I’m making again. Hope you enjoy.

Rigatoni and Chicken Bake with Artichokes
1 lb Rigatoni pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1 roasted chicken)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes Italian style
1 can (14 oz) Marinated Artichoke Hears, drained and quartered
6 oz sliced green olives (optional)
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
1/4 Cup White Wine (Optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, gather and prepare all your other ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Heat oil in large deep skillet over medium heat until hot. Add onion and pepper; cook and stir about 1 minute. Add chicken, tomatoes with juices, pasta, artichokes and Italian seasoning; mix until combined.

Place half of the chicken mixture in prepared dish, sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with remaining chicken mixture and cheese. If desires, pour a little white wine over the casserole before placing it in the oven.

Bake, 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve with warm bread and a simple salad for an easy weeknight meal.



Steak and Ale Pub Pies – Oh My

Every year, around Saint Patrick’s Day, there is a fun 3-Day Celtic Fair in Sonora, California. Sonora is one of those quaint Gold Rush towns that dot the Sierra Foothills, so named for the miners from Sonora, Mexico who established the town in 1848. Sonora nearly doubles in size during the Celtic Fair, the largest such gathering west of the Mississippi. It’s a real hoot. There’s the usual attractions – jousting, parades, living villages, Tea with the Queen, period vendors and entertainers galore. Here and there throughout the fair grounds, there are stages headlining some of the best Celtic Musicians from all over the world. Our favorite, by far, is Celtica – a bagpipe playing rock band. This group will get your heart pumping and your body jumping. The high-light of their show features flaming bagpipes.

Hubby, Kiddo and I (donned in our Renaissance-period costumes) have been attending the event for a number of years now. While we enjoy everything the fair has to offer, the truth of the matter is that we go for two reasons – the music and the food.

One of the food vendors who make an annual appearance can be spotted no matter where their pop-up kitchen might be. The British Flags flapping in the wind are unmistakable.  Their specialty happens to be an English pub comfort dish – aptly named Pub Pies. Although its been said that these pies are losing their popularity among Britten’s pub diners, their popularity at the Celtic Fair is obvious by the long lines of anxious customers. While the pies at the fair are made with a typical savory pie crust, they are none the less delicious.

My rendition of the Pub Pie uses a top crust of puff pastry. I love the light, flaky crust and the crunch you get when you sink your spoon into the Pie. (You’ll need a spoon so as to not miss any of the savory fillings or rich sauce).

In years gone by, we have stayed in Sonora at various inns. With the exception of the Celtic Fair, Sonora really isn’t known for its tourist appeal and finding lodging is always an adventure. Our new digs (yeah!) will cut drive time in half, providing a drive through the lush green country hillsides. We can hardly wait for the 2018 gathering of like-minded crazy people out for some good, clean fun. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my recipe for Pub Pies. It’s one I’ve shared before, but it’s been a few years. This delicious Pub Pie deserves a second look.

Steak and Ale Pub Pies
½ frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted
1 pound round steak, coarsely ground
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed dried thyme
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup Beef Stock
½ cup Stout Ale (see note)
1 tablespoon bottled steak sauce
1/4 Cup frozen Peas (see note)
1/4 cup frozen Carrots (see note)

Note: If you want to make the pies “ale-free” simply increase the beef stock to 1 1/2 cups and eliminate the ale.

The peas and carrots should measure 1/2 cup total. If you can find a bag of Peas and Carrots mixed together – great – use that!  The carrots should be diced into pieces just slightly larger than the peas for even balance. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Chop steak into chunks. Fit food processor with a blade and chop meat to a medium ground texture. Set aside until ready to use.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 6-inch square. Using a sharp knife, cut into twelve 1/2-inch strips.  (Or you can just cut squares to fit over your ramekins. That’s what I did, reserving remaining pastry to decorate tops of pub pies.)

In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, brown beef, mushrooms, and onion until beef is no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Sprinkle mixture with thyme and flour.

While beef mixture is cooking, rinse peas and carrots under cold water, then set aside to drain.

Add beef broth, ale (if using) and steak sauce; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in peas & carrots. Spoon mixture into 6 ramekins; about 3 inches in diameter.

Arrange pastry over filling, tuck and fold to fit. If desired, decorate tops with any remaining scraps of pastry.

Place ramekins on a baking sheet to prevent spillage. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Carefully remove pies from baking sheet. Place ramekins on plates for ease of serving.


If you are looking for a Pub Pie packed with chicken, and without the ale, try my recipe for Easy Chicken, Vegetable and Mushroom Pub Pies

Spaghetti Bolognese with Chicken and Pancetta

Panchetta is Italian Bacon, of sorts. Both American Bacon and Italian Pancetta are pork, usually from the pork belly section. Typically both have been cured (while some bacon is sold uncured). Bacon is cured in salt, either in a brine or packed in salt. It is then aged by drying the meat, be it dried in cold air for weeks or even months, or smoked (my favorite kind of bacon). Pancetta can also be cured in simple salt, but seasonings and other aromatics are often added to the curing process to infuse Pancetta with its distinctly Italian flavors. While this recipe can be made using Bacon, depending upon the type of bacon, the flavor will vary.

The second point of conversation needs to be the very concept of Spaghetti Bolognese, a dish not found in Italy. That is not to say Bolognese isn’t Italian – it most certainly is, just not served over a mound of round Spaghetti noodles. Here in America, we equate Italy with Spaghetti as though no other pasta existed. The truth of the matter is that in Italy, Spaghetti noodles are not used in a Bolognese, and for good reason. Spaghetti is round. Tagliatelle is typically the pasta of choice. The long, flat noodles lend themselves beautifully to any sauce. Just as you won’t find Spaghetti Bolognese in Italy, the idea of Spaghetti with Meatballs is a foreign concept. (As is – surprise – Ham and Pineapple Pizza!) There are many dishes that are found in American-Italian restaurants that you won’t find in Italy. That isn’t to say these dishes aren’t delicious, they are. However; American-Italian cuisine isn’t the same as true Italian cuisine.

I am at my very roots, an American home-cook with some heavy Southern influences in the kitchen. While I like my dishes to be as “authentic” as possible when exploring the world through what I cook, there are certain liberties that are sometimes taken. My guys love Spaghetti with just about anything, and so a lot of the my authentic Italian sauces are not generally served over the correlating pasta of choice in Italy. I feeling is, if it is what you like, go for it authentic or otherwise.

For that matter, in Italy you would not find Chicken in a Bolognese, so we are taking all kinds of liberty with this dish. What makes this recipe Bolognese in spirit? It is the use of carrots, celery, tomatoes and cream in a sauce that has been kissed with wine. While Bolognese is usually made with a red meat and incorporates a red wine, since this dish utilizes a milder meat in the sauce, the red wine has been replaced with a fortified white wine to enhance rather than dominate the flavor.

For a “red” sauce that is more in keeping with a true Ragu Bolognese, see my recipes for Classic Ragu Bolognese with Beef, Veal and Pancetta or Fettuccine Bolognese (That’s Inexpensive and Easy to Make).

This wonderful, lighter version of Spaghetti Bolognese was inspired by Kimberly at The Darling Gourmet. Her blog is an absolute delight – an invitation to tour the world through taste. I’ve included a link to her original recipe at the bottom of the page.

Spaghetti Bolognese with Chicken and Pancetta
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 Cup baby carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 lb ground chicken
1/4 lb Pancetta, chopped
½ cup fortified white wine (such as vermouth)
2 cans (15 oz) crushed Italian tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 lb spaghetti, cooked al-dente
Italian Parsley, for garnish

Peel and finely dice yellow onion. Set aside in a large bowl. Wash and finely dice baby carrots. Add carrots to the onions and set aside. Wash and finely dice celery stalk. Add celery to the vegetable mixture and set aside.

Peel garlic and set aside until ready to press into the dish.

Over medium-high heat, melt butter with olive oil. Take care not to allow butter to burn. Once the butter has melted and is hot, add the bowl of finely chopped vegetables. Saute the vegetable mixture until softened, about 6 minutes.

Press garlic into the sauteed vegetables and cook another 30 seconds or so until aromatic.

Add ground chicken to the pan, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Cook for about 5 minutes or until no pink is remaining.

Add Panchetta and cook for about 2 or 3 more minutes.

Increase the cooking temperature to high, add wine and let everything come to a full boil for about 2 minutes.

Add canned tomatoes with their juices, chicken stock, Rosemary and Thyme. Let sauce return to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer the pot, uncovered, for about an hour, until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Bring a large pot of water to a full, rapid boil. Add a pinch of salt to the water to increase boiling temperature.

Add pasta to the boiling water. Cook according to package directions, stirring the pasta to prevent sticking as it cooks.

While the pasta is cooking, add the cream, Parmesan cheese and basil to the sauce. Gently stir well to incorporate the creamy textures and fresh herbs to the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

To serve: Drain pasta (but do not rinse), shaking off any excess moisture. Empty pasta into a large, rimmed serving platter or large bowl. In another large bowl, empty sauce. Incorporate pasta with sauce at the table, served family-style. Garnish plates with a little parsley for some added color.

NOTE: As with most pasta sauces, this will intensify in flavor with age. The sauce can be made up to two days before serving to let all the flavors marry. Simply warm the sauce gently as the pasta cooks.

original recipe:

A Royal Presentation – Pork Crown Roast with Fruited Sausage Stuffing

This beautiful Crown Roast come to us from Betty Crocker. Who would have thought it, right? I have a bucket list of recipes I’m dying to try, yet for one reason or another, haven’t. Usually, these shortfalls are a direct result of that undeniable excuse – life. Life gets in the way or circumstances prevent us from checking something off our culinary bucket list. For me, it’s been the Crown Roast. I can remember, a very long time ago, when grocery stores regularly featured a nice selection of Pork Crown Roasts around the holidays. Nowadays, you’ll be lucky to find one in your typical grocery meat counter – holidays or otherwise. Once I spied one sitting all lonely in the meat counter. I can only assume someone had ordered it, then failed to pick it up, so there it sat. Unfortunately, we were leaving town, and I really didn’t want to freeze the beautiful TALL standing roast for later use. Hubby was already bugging me about the amount of freezer space dedicated to a goose, a duck and a Capon Chicken. Heavy sigh, I walked away.

Still, this Betty Crocker sensation is on my bucket list for a Holiday Supper – perhaps a New Year’s Eve dinner or something equally spectacular. I wanted to share this recipe as I dream just a little of champagne worthy foods.

Pork Crown Roast with Fruited Sausage Stuffing
Crown Roast
1 pork crown roast, about 16 to 18 ribs (8 to 10 lb)*
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. On rack in shallow roasting pan, place pork with bone ends up. Wrap bone ends in foil to prevent excessive browning. Insert oven-proof meat thermometer so tip is in thickest part of pork and does not touch bone or rest in fat. Place small heat-proof bowl or crumpled foil in the center of crown to hold its shape evenly. Do not add water.

Let Crown Roast cook for about 3 hours. While pork is roasting, prepare the stuffing.

Fruited Sausage Stuffing
1 lb bulk pork sausage
1/4 cup butter
4 medium stalks celery, chopped (2 cups)
3/4 cup chopped onion (about 1 large)
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
6 1/2 cups unseasoned stuffing cubes (16 oz)
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup applesauce
1 cup orange marmalade

Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking sausage apart as it cooks. Drain and set into a large bowl. Set aside.

Melt butter in the now empty skillet. Add chopped celery and onions. Saute until celery pales and onions become translucent.

Add sautéed vegetables to the sausage.

Warm chicken broth. As broth warms, add sage and poultry seasoning. Set aside.

Add stuffing cubes to sausage mixture. Add pineapple, applesauce and orange marmalade. Gently stir ingredients to combine.

Slowly add chicken broth to the stuffing mix until the desired consistency of “stuffing” is reached.

About 3 hours into roasting the Crown Roast, remove from oven. Remove the foil or bowl from the center and fill crown with stuffing mixture.  Cover stuffing with foil, return roast to oven and continue to cook for 30 minutes.

Remove foil from stuffing and return roast to oven one final time to complete cooking. Roast is done when thermometer reaches 145 degrees.

Remove roast from oven, tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let rest for 3 or 4 minutes.

To serve, transfer stuffed Crown Roast to a large serving platter. Remove foil wrapping from bones, and place paper frills on the ends of the bone. Garnish the platter with some greens and strips of orange or even peels of carrots, anything to give contrasting color.

When ready to serve, spoon out the stuffing into a bowl to pass or onto individual plates at the table, then cut roast between the ribs and serve.

Note: Any excess stuffing can be baked in a casserole dish to be served with the roast.

Smokin’ Cowboy Rib-Eye Steak with Spicy Onion Rings

Many, many year ago, Hubby and I took a road trip, just the two of us, to New Mexico. I can’t remember the last time a road trip, or any vacation for that matter, didn’t include Kiddo. This was one of those “we are a couple, right?” kind of trips. Just the two of us, doing whatever we pleased. While in Santa Fe, we had an unforgettable steak dinner at Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe. Hubby and I both adore spicy foods, and New Mexican cuisine is out-of-this-world delicious. You haven’t truly experienced heat on a plate until you’ve dined in New Mexico!

A year or so later, Coyote Cafe opened a restaurant in Las Vegas. In the middle of the glitzy MGM Grand stood a New Mexican adobe building with high ceilings, traditional wooden vigas and Terra-cotta walls. Owner Mark Miller has duplicated his Santa Fe restaurant and its signature modern Southwestern cuisine smack dab in the middle of a casino. Needless to say, Hubby and I wasted no time making a reservation for dinner as soon as possible. Much to our delight, the food was perfect – just as we had remembered it to be in Santa Fe.

Unfortunately, Las Vegas is a glittery tourist destination, and not necessarily a culinary one. Within six months, the awesome steak with butt-kicking heat and spicy deep fried onion rings had been altered to tone down its sizzle. Diners, unfamiliar with New Mexican cooking, had complained about the amount of spice. Others, more familiar with Chef Miller’s knowledge of and passion for all kinds of peppers, left the Las Vegas restaurant scratching their heads – what had happened?  The establishment, last I heard, has closed its doors. That is a shame.

This recipe is one I clipped a while back as a way of savoring that perfect Mark Miller Santa Fe steak supper. I’ve made a few alterations, based on ingredients more abundant where we live. Just as soon as we get settled in the new place, Hubby and I are going to grill up these awesome spice-rubbed steaks as a way of saying “We’re home”. Can’t wait!

Smokin’ Cowboy Rib-Eye Steak with Spicy Onion Rings
Spice Rub for Steak
1⁄4 cup smoked paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1⁄2 tablespoons ground Hot Mexican Style Chili Powder
1 1⁄2 tablespoons ground dried Poblano Chili
1 1⁄2 tablespoons ground chipotle Chili
1 1⁄2 tablespoons sugar
4  16-oz. bone-in rib-eye steaks

In a medium bowl, whisk together smoked paprika, salt, ground chilies, and sugar. Put steaks on a parchment-lined baking sheet; rub with the chili mixture. Refrigerate steaks overnight.

Build a medium-hot fire with mesquite charcoal. Make sure grate is clean and lightly oiled.

Grill steaks, turning once, until medium rare, about 12 minutes. Serve with onion rings.

Spicy Onion Rings
1 small yellow onion, cut crosswise into 1⁄8″-thick rings
1 cup milk
1 1⁄2 cups flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon Hot Mexican Style chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon White Pepper
Peanut oil for frying

Cut onion into thin rings. Place rings in a bowl of milk and let soak for 20 minutes. While the rings are soaking, pour Peanut oil into a 4-quart saucepan to a depth of 2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk flour with seasonings and spices. Set aside until ready to use.

Working in batches, lift onion rings from the milk, shaking off any excess milk. Toss rings into the seasoned flour to coat, then drop rings into the hot oil. Fry onions until crisp, about 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove rings, drain on paper towels. Set aside until ready to serve with steak.

Rings can be placed on the side, or piled on top of the steak when serving.

Original Recipe:

Double the Crunch with a Double-Decker Tostada

What is a Tostada but an open face taco? Or the Mexican answer to a pizza? All I know is that I love ’em to pieces.

Recently I posted my take on the popular Taco Bell Crunch Wrap with my Chorizo Crunch Wrap – Double the Pleasure! In that posting, I  included a link to a prior recipe for Double-Decker Tostadas. The problem with most links is that they suck you in – at least with me, that happens. I’ll click on a link, which brings me to my destination, but also gets my brain to whisper “what else is out there?” and before I know it, half my day has been spent wandering around. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I haven’t been “productive” – I’ve usually managed to save/pin/be inspired by my finds – it’s just that the day got away from me. And it seems that we are always just one click away from greatness, if you know what I mean. So here’s a click you won’t have to make. I hope you enjoy!

Double-Decker Tostadas
16 Tostada Shells
1 lb Ground Beef
1 Lb Chorizo (always use the good stuff)
1 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning
1 Can Refried Beans
1 Tablespoon Bacon Drippings
1 Jar Nacho Cheese Sauce
24-32 Nacho Jalapeño Peppers (optional)
4-5 Lettuce leaves, shredded
1 Tomato, diced

Garnish Suggestions
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 or 2 Avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 Cup Sliced Black Olives
1/2 Cup Chopped Cilantro Leaves (instead of or in addition to the lettuce)

Warm oven. Place tostada shells on a baking sheet and warm in oven.

In a heavy cast iron skillet, brown ground beef and chorizo meat together, crumbling into small pieces as it brown. Season with taco seasoning to absorb some of the excess fat (The seasoning will retain some of that yummy flavor of the drippings). Drain well, keep warm and set aside.

While the meat is browning, shred the lettuce and dice the tomatoes. Set aside until ready to assemble.

In a skillet, heat refried beans with bacon drippings until warm. The beans will spread more easily if warmed, the bacon drippings help to thin out the beans for spreading and add a little flavor.

Divide refried beans between 8 tostada shells, spread beans on shells. Place remaining 8 tostada shells on top of beans. Spread a layer of nacho cheese on each top shell. Divide meat mixture between the 8 double-Decker tostada shells. Place 3 or 4 Nacho Jalapeño Pepper on top, if using.

Return tostadas to warm oven for 5 minutes.

Remove warmed tostadas from the oven. Dollop with sour cream. Sprinkle with shredded lettuce and tomatoes. Garnish as desired.

Since the tostadas already contain refried beans and lots of veggie toppings, there is no need for additional sides. However; if you like you can always add a side helping of rice. (Yeah, I know – more links!)

Authentic Spicy Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

Mexican Rice with Chunky Salsa

Mexican Rice


Lasagna Roll-Ups stuffed with Chicken and Italian Cheeses

Have you ever had a Lasagna Roll-Up? These things are awesome! Great for supper time, pretty as an appetizer or to serve up something different at your next pot luck. I’ve made Lasagna Roll-Ups using just an Italian Cheese filler, with Italian Sausage, a traditional meat filling and with today’s share, cooked chicken. Any cooked chicken will do, from last night’s left over roasted chicken to a rotisserie chicken from your local deli. To transform this recipe into an appetizer, simply cut the lasagna noodle in half width-wise to create two short noodles. Fill as you normally would, roll tightly and then cut in half again. Bake, remove from pan with cocktail skewers and plate with some Marinara Sauce for dipping. As a supper, the lasagna roll-ups are great for kids since the rolled lasagna is easier for little hands to handle. For a fancier presentation, ladle some sauce in the center of a plate, place three roll-ups upright in the sauce and top with some fresh basil for garnish. Paired with some warm, soft bread sticks and a nice Italian salad, you’ve got the makings for a supper fit for company. The sky is the limit.

The pasta sauce for this dish can be any red sauce of your choosing. I like to mix mine with some Italian-Style chopped tomatoes for extra flavor and texture. Fresh, chopped Roma tomatoes also work well when in season.

Chicken and Italian Cheese Stuffed Lasagna Roll-Ups 
8 Lasagna Noodles, cooked
3 cups Chicken, cooked
1/4 cup Milk
1 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (just a pinch)
3/4 Cup Baby Spinach, torn into pieces
2 cups Pasta Sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/2 Cup Basil, finely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook Lasagna noodles until just al-dente. Drain and lay noodles flat on a baking pan in a single layer until ready to fill. By laying the pasta out flat, this will make rolling tightly a little easier. The pasta should be warm and pliable.

While the water comes to a boil and the Lasagna noodles cook, prepare the filling.

Shred/chop cooked chicken meat as you would for chicken salad, into smaller pieces that will blend easily with the rest of the filling mixture. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Combine chicken with milk, Ricotta and feta cheeses.  Season with pepper. Stir/fold mixture to blend.

Spread about 1/2 cup of the filling mixture on each Lasagna noodle. Top chicken mixture with a sprinkling of torn baby spinach leaves. Press lightly to hold spinach in the cheese mixture.

Roll each filled noodle jelly-roll fashion. Spread pasta sauce into a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. Arrange Lasagna rolls, seam-side down on top of the sauce in the baking dish.

Cover baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until hot.

While pasta is baking, finely chop fresh basil. In a small bowl, mix basil with Parmesan cheese and set aside until ready to use.

Once roll-ups are hot, remove from oven, remove foil and sprinkle with basil/Parmesan mixture. Return to the oven, bake another 8-10 minutes or until cheese has melted and is just beginning to brown.

Serve and enjoy! If desired, drizzle with some of the pasta sauce and more Parmesan cheese.

Chorizo Crunch Wrap – Double the Pleasure!

Confession time – the photo for this posting is not mine. It came from Delish, my source of inspiration. Typically, I like to at least snap a photo of the finished dish – but with the big move happening, I’m lucky I can find the stove to cook on let alone room to photograph anything. Hopefully, by the time this recipe share is posted, we will have the packing behind us and the move in full swing. For Lauren Miyashiro’s original recipe and the wonderful “how to” video, be sure to check out:

While my recipe is similar, there are a few changes. Recently Hubby celebrated his birthday with a big Mexican Fiesta dinner – complete with street tacos filled with homemade Chorizo. While my guys love Chorizo all on its own, since the party included my less spicy extended family, I mixed the Chorizo with ground beef (3 lbs chorizo to 1 1/2 lbs ground beef). As it turns out, we had way more meat than we needed, and a ton of leftover. I decided to use the leftover taco filling for the crunch wraps. It was awesome! The key to chorizo is that you use good quality chorizo sausage. You can either make your own (Home-Made Chorizo Tacos – Oh My!) or buy the good stuff at your local Mexican market. The beauty of using Chorizo is that the meat doesn’t need a lot of spices added, it is flavorful all on its own.

This crunchy Tostada-Burrito combination is a lot like my Double Decker Tostadas, with a new dimension added for a little extra “wow”!

Double Chorizo Crunch Wrap
1 lb Chorizo
1/2 lb Ground Beef
1 Cup Tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 Cup Lettuce, shredded
1 Can Refried Beans, warmed
1/2 Cup Nacho Cheese Sauce
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
4 Large Flour Tortillas
4 Small Flour Tortillas
8 Tostada Shells
vegetable oil for frying
Hot sauce, for serving

In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, cook up the chorizo and ground beef together. As the meat cooks, break it apart with a metal spatula until it is nicely crumbled and cooked through. Drain off fat and keep warm until ready to use.

While the meat is browning, dice tomatoes and shred the lettuce. Set aside until ready to use.

Empty can of refried beans into a microwave safe bowl and warm beans. The beans will spread easier once warmed. Set aside until ready to use.

Lay small flour tortilla on a cutting board. Place a Tostada shell in the center of the flour tortilla. Using a sharp knife, cut around the Tostada shell to create a flour tortilla about the same size as the Tostada. Set the round circle aside and repeat until you have four small rounds.

Once all the layering ingredients are ready, heat about 1/4 inch or so of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. While the oil heats, build the crunch wraps.

Lay one large flour tortilla on your work surface. Spread Nacho Cheese sauce on one side of a Tostada shell and place it in the middle of the flour tortilla. Spoon meat over the cheese sauce. Sprinkle some chopped tomatoes over the meat. Dollop a little sour cream on top of tomatoes.

With a second Tostada shell, spread refried beans. Place Tostada shell on top of meat covered shell. Sprinkle with some shredded lettuce. Place small flour tortilla cutout on top of lettuce/bean Tostada. Tightly fold the edges of the large flour tortilla toward the center, creating pleats. The Tostadas should now be completely encased in a flour tortilla wrap.

Flip wrap over, seam-side down, and gently place wrap into skillet to fry. Cook wrap for about 4 minutes, until nicely golden and crisp. While the first wrap is frying, build a second wrap.

Turn frying wrap over and continue to cook another 3 minutes or so until it is golden and crisp. Remove from oil, blot with a paper towel. Place on a wire rack in a baking sheet and hold in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Repeat until all four wraps have been built, fried and ready to eat.

Serve with hot sauce and your favorite sides such as Mexican Rice with Chunky Salsa.