Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Looking for a fun and different table decoration for your Easter table?  Here you go.  This is my variation of something I saw on Pinterest.  I used a square clear glass vase, about 6 inches high.  I placed a small jar in the middle of the vase.  I then emptied one package of jelly beans in the bottom of the square vase and evenly distributed them.  Next I separated in groups of three and four PEEPS marshmallow bunnies and placed them on top of the jelly beans.  I then used five "bushes" of silk tulips and arranged them in the jar.  This makes a great centerpiece because it is colorful and low enough your guests can see over it.  You could use various color combinations and I think you could even use a clear glass cylinder and do something similar.  If you prefer fresh flowers, use those!  Wishing you and yours a very happy Easter!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Grilled Steaks with Poblano Pesto

If you live anywhere in the Midwest, you are likely experiencing a warmer than normal Spring!  Even though the temps here in Indiana have resumed a "normal" level, the eight days of summer-like weather still linger in many of our minds.  Summer weather means one thing - grilling.  I love to grill. 

Grilled food tastes fresh, flavorful, and clean up is a breeze!  I absolutely love to marinade meats before placing them on the grill.  I often times marinade meats up to two days before I think I will throw them on the grill.  I love big, bold flavors, and grilling is perfect for achieving both.  The above picture is from last night.  Nothing is better on a Sunday evening than grilling out in the backyard, with our dog, Annie, running around, after a good day's work in the yard. 

You'll notice in the picture that along with the enormous ribeyes grilling, I have asparagus on the top rack of the grill.  If you like asparagus, and if you've never had it grilled before, run, don't walk, to try it soon!  After snapping the ends off of the asparagus, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the spears and dust with salt and pepper.  Place the asparagus directly on the grill (don't use a high flame as I did initially...note the flame ;)), and monitor it to flip while it is cooking.  Once I have it to the desired degree of being cooked, I move the asparagus to the top rack to let it stay warm while the remainder of the meal finishes grilling.  Honestly, I love grilled asparagus just as much as a good steak.  When the tips of the asparagus begin to char, it produces a slightly nutty flavor.  It is delicious.

The recipe I am sharing today is for a Poblano Pesto.  This recipe is one of Melissa D'Arabian's from the Food Network.  I saw this recipe on TV on a cold winter day and knew I had to try it!   I made this recipe back in January and served it with broiled steaks.  I kept part of the pesto back and froze it in a glass container.  This made for an easy condiment for last night's dinner.  I just placed the pesto out on the counter and let it thaw in the afternoon.  I love making enough of a recipe to use for another purpose later on.  This pesto froze beautifully!  You could not tell it had been frozen.  Pesto is typically formed from an enormous amount of basil.  This pesto is a bit different - it's primary ingredients are poblano peppers and cilantro.  The flavor of this pesto is bold and stands up to any deliciously grilled steak.  I enjoy pesto of any form, and the smoky flavor of this pesto is no exception.  You could easily whip this pesto up this weekend, enjoy it with a steak, and freeze the remainder and enjoy it again a month later without any of the work of making it.  Yum!


Poblano Pesto

Recipe courtesy Melissa D'Arabian


  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt


Char the poblano peppers on top of a gas burner, on a grill, or under the broiler) until all of the sides are blackened. Place in a bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap, allowing the steam to help loosen the skin. With your fingers or a spoon, scrape and discard the blackened skin then remove the seeds and core. Coarsely chop the poblanos, and place into a mini food processor. Add the Parmesan, cilantro, garlic, chili powder and oil and process until well combined, but not totally smooth. Taste and season with salt.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Double-Drizzle Pecan Cookies

I know my mom just posted a cookie recipe of mine, and what can I say, great minds must think alike!  I was planning on posting tonight, and I just have to post this recipe, even though it's another cookie recipe!  This cookie recipe is pretty yummy if I do say so myself!  I know it may seem like a lot of work to make to sauces to drizzle, but it completel worth it!  :)  This recipe is from the All New Taste of Home Cookbook.  If you've never read a "Taste of Home" magazine or cookbook, you are missing out!  They have extremely practical, delicious, well-tested, and yummy recipes!

I will be honest, you can definitely drizzle the two sauces in a much prettier fashion than what these cookies are pictured as here.  It was late when the cookies were cool enough to top, and the drizzling wasn't happening.  ;)  Even if these don't have perfect drizzles, they are delicious! 

As always, please feel free to comment!  If you cannot easily leave a comment on the blog, please find our facebook page, which is also called "Chicken Soup for the Bowl". 



Double-Drizzle Pecan Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 1 ounce semisweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon butter
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt;
gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Shape dough into 1-in. balls; roll in pecans. Place 2 in. apart on
ungreased baking sheets; flatten slightly. Bake at 350° for 8-10
minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing
to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small saucepan, bring brown sugar and cream to a boil. Remove
from the heat; whisk in confectioners' sugar. Immediately drizzle
over cookies.

In a microwave, melt chocolate and butter; stir until smooth. Drizzle
over cookies. Let stand until set. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: about 3-1/2 dozen.

Boxed Lemon Cake Cookies

I sampled these cookies, thanks to Olivia's efforts, and they are excellent.  If you like lemon bars but don't want to take the time to make them or you like a light and somewhat "refreshing" cookie, this is the cookie for you.  Oh, and did I forget to mention...THEY ARE DELICIOUS AND EASY?  As you can see from the picture, Olivia "rolled" (or as she put it "plopped") the dough in powdered sugar before baking them.  It makes them more appealing to the eye and adds a little more sweetness to balance with the lemon.  Once you try these little gems, you will want to add them to your baking repertoire!


1 box cake mix (any flavor) lemon, spice, and chocolate are good
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs

Mix oil and eggs into dry cake mix. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. 350 degrees, 8-10 minutes.

Recipe from:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


One of our yearly culinary traditions is travelling to the Maple Wood Nature Center's Maple Syrup Days in LaGrange.  There are numerous towns throughout Northern Indiana that sponsor maple syrup events, but we really enjoy this one for several reasons.  It is located in a park where they actually collect maple sap, they have a very nice sugar shack where the sap is boiled down and entertaining men who have done this process for years and have a nack for telling how it is done, and last but not least, the pancakes and sausage they serve with real butter and real syrup are "melt in your mouth" good.  The event also features horse drawn wagon rides through the woods where the sap is collected and people who demonstrate the various methods used throughout the years to produce that heavenly nectar known as maple syrup. 

This year's trip to the event was unique in that the weather was warm.  The event is always held in March and snow is often still in the air and on the ground.  This year warm temperatures made the sap running season short and the syrup production less, but wonderful nonetheless.  Going to this annual breakfast acts as a herald of Spring and a sure sign that all of warm weather's bounty is not far behind.

We usually leave our home early for the hour long drive to the syrup days so we get there before the crowd.  If you are in line for pancakes by 8 a.m., your wait will be short.  If you arrive after  9 a.m.  you will be standing in line a while.  Our normal routine is to eat pancakes, visit the sugar shack for the demonstrations, buy syrup plus maple cotton candy (oh yes, it is as wonderful as it sounds) and maple candies, and then ride the wagon through the woods and watch the outdoor demonstrations of more primitive syrup making.  It is a heartwarming and stomach comforting event and one we would highly recommend.  If you have never been to such an event, we've posted a few pictures from the day for you to enjoy.  Try to find one in your area next year if you can.  You won't be disappointed.
 This is a homemade sap boiler that includes a roaster tray on top filled with boiling sap.  The door on the front is used to feed the fire and the stovepipe vents the smoke.  It takes a lot of time and effort to tend the fire and watch the sap to net a good result.
 This is the road we travelled at 7:30 a.m. to get to the syrup days festivities.  As you can see, we were in the heart of Amish country.
Here you can see one of the workers pouring the thin sap into the tray.  It is as thin as water at this stage.
  This shows the separator tray used for "professional" syrup production. The sap travels through a series of channels as it boils at a carefully regulated temperature until it is just the right consistency for syrup.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to create one gallon of syrup!
 Cooking the syrup for this extended length of time creates a lot of steam.  Most sugar shacks have a ventilation system in the roof like the one pictured here.
 This is the old fashioned way of collecting sap--with a bucket that has a cover on it to keep the critters out.  Modern sap collection methods often have long plastic tubes that run from the tree to the large holding tank that keeps it until it is processed.
This picture does not do the taste justice, but suffice it to say, it was delicious!
Here is one of the earliest methods for producing maple syrup--cooking it over an open flame in a kettle.

As you can see, the methods vary from simple to sophisticated, but the results can be equally great.  If you have never tried REAL maple syrup, you are in for a treat.  It is a delicate, sweet gift from nature!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grilled Rosemary Ranch Chicken

Here in the Midwest, we are having an unusually warm end to our winter season.  It has been over 80 degrees out for the past four or five days now.  While I love the different seasons and I don't generally mind snow, I must say - I have really enjoyed the summer weather.  The flowers are sprouting, trees are flowering, grass is growing, robins are plentiful, and the grill has reappeared from the garage.  I love to grill.  I can marinate some meat for a couple of days, throw vegetable packets together in foil, and have dinner grilled in no time, with very little clean up!  Now that is my kind of weeknight cooking!

I do not keep ranch salad dressing in the house usually.  With that being said, I do keep my ranch salad dressing seasoning (see my post about homemade mixes) in the cupboard.  Instead of using ranch dressing in this, I used 1 cup of buttermilk and 3-4 tablespoons of ranch seasoning mix.  (I like a lot of seasonings in my marinades.)

This marinade resulted in the juiciest, most flavorful chicken ever.  I love this marinade so much that while I just used this recipe last week, I already have more of it made and marinating pork chops as we speak for dinner tomorrow night!

Try it for yourself and let us know how you like it!

Happy Grilling!

I allowed this chicken to marinade for about 48 hours or so.  You certainly do not have to, but I like to throw it together on a Saturday or Sunday for dinner Monday or Tuesday night when I get home from work!

Rosemary Ranch Chicken

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried rosemary  (I used fresh.)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar  (I used apple cider vinegar.)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon white sugar, or to taste
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves -

In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper, and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes. Pound chicken breast to 1/4" thickness. Place chicken in the gallon size Ziplock bag, and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (all day). Preheat the grill for medium-high heat. Grill chicken for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear.

All grilled up and ready to eat...  MMMMMMMM!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saint Patrick's Day Feast

St.  Patrick's Day has always been one of my favorite holidays.  I guess it is because it comes in the middle of the Lenten season and provides a small morsel of fun and frivolity in the otherwise introspective time of the year.  My husband and I both have a bit of Irish heritage, so we celebrate with gusto and enjoy all that is green.  Every year I reminisce about the Catholic college where I got my undergraduate degree.  On St. Paddy's day a green stripe was painted down the main road, corned beef and cabbage were served, and green beer was eagerly sought.  Although a good beer makes a nice addition to the meal, green is not as important as it once was (beer isn't as important as it was in college either). 

Now we normally dine on corned beef, fried cabbage (the boiled stuff is just a little boring), red potatoes, Irish soda bread, and desserts ranging from green pistachio pudding, lime jello, green cake, or whatever your imagination can produce.  The red potatoes are always prepared quite simply.  I do this because I like pausing to remember all those dear souls who perished during the Irish potato famine in the mid 1800s.  It was a desolate time for the Irish people and keeping the potatoes simple reminds me of their struggle to survive.  We have pictured below a loaf of Irish soda bread that Olivia made, however, the recipe I am sharing is one that came with my bread machine (I warned you I am the lazy cook and she is ambitious).  I am sharing my recipe because it includes golden raisins and caraway seeds.  Few other recipes I've found include caraway seeds and usually use regular raisins, but I really like the delicate flavor of the golden raisins and that flavor paired with the tangy taste of the caraway seeds is a great combination.  I hope you enjoy this tip of the hat to the Irish.  Perhaps you will do as we do when we celebrate each year--we crank up the Celtic music as we dine and toast our Irish ancestry! 
Corned Beef Brisket

Nothing fancy to this recipe.  Find a brisket packaged similarly to this one at the meat counter.  It usually comes with a spice packet.  I always apply the spice packet and cook in my slow cooker on low while I am at work.  By dinner time, it is fork tender and smells divine.  Follow your package directions if you wish to cook it in the oven.  Just be sure you cook it long enough so it is tender.

Irish Soda Bread

2 1/4 cups bread flour
2 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 T. butter
1/2 cup golden raisins
2T caraway seeds
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. dry yeast
Put everything in your bread machine according to directions. In mine you put everything in the mixing bowl and the yeast in the lid to drop down in the mix at the proper time.  Then you bake on the light mode .  It makes a dense, moist, delicious loaf.

Red Potatoes

Wash your small red potatoes and quarter them.  Boil them until tender and drain. Return to the empty pan off the stove and cover.  This helps dry the potatoes slightly.  Toss with a little parsley (for flavor and the all important green factor) and some butter.  Salt and pepper to taste.  They are simple but wonderful. 

Fried Green Cabbage
Cut up 4-5 strips of bacon and fry them.  Remove from pan.  Cut up one small onion.  Fry it until tender in the bacon grease.  Remove from grease.  Save bacon and onion.  Drain most of the bacon grease, but leave enough to coat the pan.  You may add a pat of butter if you like the buttery flavor.  In the grease and butter, place one small to medium head of cabbage that has been cored and roughly chopped.  Fry this as you would potatoes.  Leave it alone for a few minutes initially so the cabbage will brown, then stir and continue to stir occasionally until the cabbage has reached your desired texture.  Drain off remaining grease, stir back in the bacon and onion.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

Dessert--you are on your own, but make it a nod to the Irish either in color or ingredients and best of all celebrate the dear Irish people and remarkable St. Patrick himself--the patron saint of Ireland and a beloved missionary who ministered to the Irish people in the 5th century!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cookies from Across the Country

With St. Patrick's Day on the horizon, I thought now would be appropriate to share this recipe from my friend Liz.  Liz and I met in college in an ancient literature class.  As riveting as the class may sound, the friendship that grew from meeting Liz in that class is much more exciting.  Liz and I were friends throughout college, and then she began teaching at the elementary school across the street from the middle school where I teach.  Having a built in best friend in the same corporation as you teach in was a  blessing.  Liz married her husband a little over a year ago in September 2010.  I was the maid of honor in her wedding, and then she moved out to California to live with her husband and they had a beautiful baby girl, Ava.  When I married my husband in December 2010, Liz flew back and was my matron of honor.

I am sharing this timeline with you to make this point - food, even recipes, bind people together.  Sure, Liz and I have some hilarious stories from our college days to chat about, but a topic of conversation these days is "What have you cooked lately?", "Should I take the peel off of this vegetable before I make it into baby food?", or "Did you see that one recipe on Pintrest?"  Liz is the sister I never had.  She is an amazing friend, and even though she lives on the west coast, I can talk to her any time and pick right back up from where we left off on the last conversation.

Liz and I differ in one main area - She is a baker.  She loves to bake!  Liz loves to make cookies, like the recipe below, and send cookies off with her husband to share with his coworkers.  I can attest - these cookies are TASTY!  If you need an excuse to make them, blame making them on St. Patty's Day since they have bits of green in them.  Who am I kidding?  Who needs an excuse to bake cookies?  :)


Nutella Cookies with Andes Mint Chips
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter-softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Nutella
Andes Mint chips
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
In another bowl, cream butter and sugars.  Add the eggs and vanilla.
Gradually add flour mixture until combined.  Stir in Nutella and Andes Mints.  
Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.  Use parchment paper.
Makes about three dozen.

Recipe from:  Our friend Liz!

Before baking:

After baking:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Taco Seasoning and Crock Pot Chili

Making your own seasoning mixes is fun and makes you a little more likely to use a variety of spices if it is easy to do.  When Olivia was a little girl, she had her own herb garden and we often dried herbs to use in the winter.  That simple interest morphed into her ability and desire to make seasoning mixes with and without herbs.  This taco seasoning recipe is a versatile one.  You can of course use it for tacos (duh) or just about anything you make Mexican, plus chili.  I'm seriously considering sprinkling a little on scrambled eggs with a little shredded chese.  Ole!  This recipe calls for onion powder, but Olivia admits when that isn't in the pantry, onion flakes make a good substitute (you can even turn them into powder in the food processor if you like).  Onion flakes are a staple item in both of our pantries--a good substitute when you don't have or don't want to mess with real onions.  This seasoning mix would even make a great small gift if placed in a pretty jar and perhaps presented with a few recipe ideas to use it!  It stores well and is really good.  Enjoy!

Taco Seasoning:

1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1/8 cup ground cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon sea salt

Put ingredients into a jar and shake.

Ingredients poured into a canning jar before shaking:

All mixed up and ready to use:

Crock Pot Chili:

1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped 
1 large chili HOT chili beans
2-3 tablespoons taco seasoning  (depending on taste)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 small can green chili peppers
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 - 1 cup chicken or beef stock  (depending on how "soupy" you like your chili)

1)  Cook the ground beef and onion in a crock pot on low for a couple of hours until it is cooked.  Drain the grease.

2)  Add the chili beans, taco seasoning, chili peppers, sugar, and stock.  Cook on low for a couple of hours until you are ready to eat.

3)  Serve with shredded cheese.  Enjoy!

Chili Ingredients

Ground Beef with Chopped Onions

Bowl of Chili  - YUM!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sour Cream and Bacon Crock Pot Chicken

I  must admit I have not tried this crock pot recipe, but Olivia says it is fabulous and my child has never told me something that isn't this must be really good (wink).  It is reminiscent of a recipe we have made in the past that included wrapping chicken around dried beef and then wrapping the chicken with bacon, but that was an oven recipe.  Olivia says this is very similar and it can be done in a crock pot--what's not to love?  The chicken comes out so tender you can flake it with a fork and it can be served with rice, noodles, or potatoes.  What I also really like about it is the ingredients are simple things you are likely to have around the kitchen anyway.  This sounds like a week night meal waiting to happen to me.  Hope you like it!

Sour Cream and Bacon Crock Pot Chicken

  • 8 bacon slices
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 (10 oz) cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup flour (all purpose or gluten free blend)
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
  • garlic powder to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-low heat until some of the fat is rendered. Be sure that the bacon is still pliable and not crisp. Drain on paper towels. If you use this method, reduce the flour to 1/4 cup. Or don’t cook the bacon and proceed with the recipe.
  2. Then wrap one slice of bacon around each boneless chicken breast and place in a 4-5 quart crockpot.
  3. In medium bowl, combine condensed soups, sour cream, spices, and flour and mix with wire whisk to blend. Pour over chicken.
  4. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours until chicken and bacon are thoroughly cooked. You may want to remove the chicken and beat the sauce with a wire whisk so it is very well blended.
  5. Pour sauce over chicken.
  6. If you have a newer crockpot, check the chicken at 5 hours. The internal temp should be 160 -170 degrees F.

Chicken in the crock pot all smothered and ready to cook!

The delicious chicken served up with some mashed potatoes and peas.  Mmmmm!