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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Open House Eats on Christmas Day at the Lawlers

What usually happens on Christmas Day, is my mother-in-law comes over to our house.  Then, throughout the afternoon, different members of my husband's family come by to wish her well, and eat, and eat, and eat!  So, I try to come up with dips and finger-type food to keep the troops happy.  Some of these recipes I have already shared with you, such as the spinach and artichoke dip below.

 I found some interesting cheeses at Costco, so put those out with a variety of crackers and some black olives.  I also sliced up some Sopressata, which is a huge favorite in this house!

Then, of course, there's always those yummy meatballs that people just can't stop eating... Click on the word meatballs to see the recipe.

 These wings are new, and I can give you the recipe here because it is so easy.  My best friend, Sharon, taught me probably 25 years ago about these, and I never forgot how delicious they are.  I use wings split in half.  I salt and pepper them and broil them to brown.  When they are done, put them into a deep roasting pan.

Put the following ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil:

2 Tbs. mustard powder
the juice from 1 large can of crushed pineapple
2 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbs. Soy Sauce
16 oz. jar of Honey

Pour the sauce over the wings and stir to coat, cover the pan with foil and cook for about 45 minutes.   At that point, remove the foil, add the crushed pineapple, stir together and place back in the oven, uncovered, for the last 15 minutes or so.

 Then, of course there is the Christmas spiral ham, that must adorn everyone's table, right?

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day.....

A slightly different Corn Chowder

Sorry I disappeared for a little bit, but our house has been stricken with a horrible bug, and when I say it knocks you off your feet, it does!  I am finally able to do something, so of course the first thing I do is cook soup!  I love to make corn chowder, but wanted to add some different ingredients like red peppers and carrots, so you'll have to let me know how you like it.

I began by cooking a diced Vidalia onion in a couple of tablespoons of butter.  I added some crumbled bacon and let it cook until the onions were tender.   Once tender, I added 2 tablespoons of flour.  Meanwhile, in another pot, I poured 1 box of chicken broth, a teaspoon of paprika, 3 or 4 bay leafs and let that simmer for about 10 minutes.

I cut up 2 russet potatoes and chopped a handful of small carrots and added them to the broth, along with a sprinkling of Thyme, so they would begin to cook.  After about 15 minutes of simmering, I added this broth mixture to the onion and bacon.  At this point I also added 1 bag of frozen corn and 1 can of creamed corn.

Now for the "soup" part..... and this I usually don't measure.  I poured in some 1% milk and probably 2 cups of half and half.  Here is where you have control over how much soup you make..... if you need alot, add more milk, if less, hold back some.  You can always add more if after serving it there isn't enough soup to go with the ingredients.   I stirred it, added salt and pepper, and because of the flour, it thickens nicely.  I had some left over ham from Christmas day, so I diced some of that and added it, along with a can of creamed corn.

I had to get my daughter to be my taste tester, seeing as I can't taste anything right now!  She gave me the thumbs up, so luckily my instincts were spot on.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Beef and Pearl Couscous soup...hits the spot on a cold night

After a weekend of chicken and ham, I decided we needed a little bit of "where's the beef?"  and soup was definitely in order, so I cooked up some beef and barley (had to substitute pearl couscous!)  I used up a bag of carrots I had, one Vidalia onion, and about 3 ribs of celery...chopped them up and cooked them.  I had a baggie of frozen steak tips that I defrosted and cut into bite-size pieces.  Throw them in with the vegetables until they are cooked When everything is done, add a can of diced tomatoes, about 1 cup of pearl couscous, and a box of beef broth.  Sprinkle in some thyme, salt, and pepper, and let simmer. 

Once all the broth and veggies are in, I run to the fridge for the last dlicious ingredient...Bella mushrooms...these are so much better than regular mushrooms.  Slice them up and just cook for about 5 minutes.

 Last ingredient is a little more beef broth, and you are good to go.  The flavor is delish and I can pretty much guarantee there won't be much left over!

Your seasonings are salt, pepper, thyme, and a few teaspoons of beef bouillon.  That's it!  I added a little extra of the broth, but otherwise, taste and add what ever it needs.


Deliciousness from Saratoga Springs, NY.. an appetizer you won't soon forget!

Do you love avocados?   Sun-dried tomatoes?  Brie cheese?   fresh bread?  Well, if you answered yes to at least three of these questions, then you will absolutely love this appetizer..  Not only does it taste amazing, but it looks beautiful and is really easy to shop for and put together.  How can you lose?

Start with some yummy fresh bread.  You can get the french baguettes, or some sort of Italian crusty sub roll, but whatever you get, make sure it isn't too big or wide.

Cut off the top of the roll, and try to hollow out enough of the bread to create a shell.

Next, you are going to cut open an avocado and remove the pit.  The easiest way to get the avocado out of its skin is to take a large spoon and slide it into the bottom end.  Push the spoon forward as you move it from left to right, loosening the avocado from its skin.  Slice the avocado and lay it in the cavity you have created.  Now cut up some sun-dried tomatoes for the next layer.

The last ingredient is the Brie cheese.  I had bought a whole wheel of Brie, and cut it in half.  I cut long slices and laid them over the top.  You can either sprinkle any seasoning you want (basil, oregano, parsley...) or just salt and pepper  before cooking.  

These need to go into a hot, 425 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  Check every so often to make sure nothing is burning!  If the cheese isn't melted by then, turn the oven up to broil, but please don't leave it in too long.


Potato cookies? Not cookies at all.... pure heaven!

So here is the story about the potatoes I made with my Sunday rib dinner...I was calling these potato cookies!  They were the easiest thing in the world to make, and you won't believe how delicious they are.  So listen up.....

Buy a bag of new potatoes, on the smaller side if possible.  Pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees.  Wash them off, and place them on a pan that has low sides (you will be drizzling olive oil in the pan later)  DON'T cut the potatoes, season them, or oil them.......nothing!  Just clean the potatoes and place them on a cookie sheet.  You will cook them for approximately 30 minutes, until they are tender.  Take them out of the oven and set aside in a bowl. 

Take your roasting pan and drizzle some olive oil all over.  Add some fresh ground sea salt and pepper.    Place your cooked potatoes back on the pan, in the oil.  Now for the fun part!  Use the bottom of a mug, and gently press down on each potato until it is about 1/2" thick.  It is so cool, because the skin will crack and you can see some of the white potato.  After you have smushed them all, paint the tops of the potatoes with some more olive oil, salt and pepper.   Return them to the oven for another 30 to 40 minutes, until they are golden and crisp (I turned the pan about half way through, just so they would cook evenly.)

Here is the picture from the article I read.... hopefully it gives you another picture of how they come out.  I have to tell you.  You bite into the crispy outside that has just enough salt and pepper on it, and the taste of that and the soft potato inside is enough to send you over the edge!  

I WILL be making these again and again!

Spare ribs, potatoes to die for, and roasted green beans....too delicious for words!

In our family, there was a choice on Sunday as far as dinner was concerned.  We could either go out somewhere in Boston for dinner, or....stay home and have Mom cook....  I won out, hands down, so off to work I went...

My family LOVES ribs, and that is what they wanted me to cook.  Kind of a no-brainer.... remove the thin skin on the back, cut into sections, season both sides, cover with BBQ sauce, seal with foil and cook for about 2 hours.  The killer part of this dinner was the potatoes!  Wait until you hear about easy, and they had to be the best potatoes I think I have ever eaten.  I can't believe restaurants haven't heard about these!  Too bad I couldn't copyright them!!!

Well, I'm getting way ahead of myself.  Back to the ribs....

Line your pans with foil, and coat both sides of the rib sections with onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, salt, and my all time favorite.... Raj al my followers, this is the spice I got in Cincinnati that has turmeric, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, lavender, roses, paprika. etc... I'm telling you - you need to go on the Colonel De's website ( and order some of this.  It is my all-time favorite!

Last step is to spread your favorite barbecue sauce all over the ribs.  My favorite is Sweet Baby Ray's.

The only thing left is to cover the pan tightly with foil and cook in a 325 degree oven for 2 hours.  Do not open up to peek!  After the 2 hours was up, I took the foil off, added a little more sauce and popped them back in for another 15 minutes or so.

In the meantime, I took some green beans, coated them with olive oil and salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and roasted them until they were done, probably about 20  minutes or so.  Every once in a while I stir them up a bit with some tongs, just to move them around a little.

I think I will make a separate post for the potatoes.....they need their own blog!

So, here they are....  So delicious and tender.  Every time I tried to cut them apart, the bone would just fall off!  This has to be a tried and true way of cooking ribs, especially when grilling season is over.


Friday, December 21, 2012

What to make for dinner on a windy, rainy, cold night....

Today was a day full of pure intentions, but the reality of it all was getting things done... and I didn't!  But, we must always roll with the punches, and I can tell you that when all is said and done, the dinner was totally yummy!  And, isn't that what it's all about???   So, yes, you have seen similar dinners on my blog, but each one is truly unique in it's own way, so please read on!

I cooked up 2 half packages of pasta that I had left over.  While they were boiling away, I cut up the rest of a package of broccoli, and sauteed it in a pan with a little olive oil, fresh garlic, and a little water. Oh, and of course salt and pepper.  Stir this into your cooked pasta.

After the pasta was cooked and drained. I added probably 1/4 -  1/2  cup of this Ranch dressing.  I didn't want the past to stick together, and I thought the Ranch dressing would give it a little flavor.

Cut up approximately 6-8 Compari tomatoes (or the equivalent of either cherry tomatoes, or whatever you have on hand, as long as they are fresh...)  Add those to the hot, cooked pasta, along with about 1/2 package of fresh spinach.  Add fresh snipped basil (impossible to measure an amount!  In my mind, you can never have too much!), and some fresh chopped parsley.

More salt and pepper and about a cup of Parmesan cheese.  Stir everything together.  Pour in 1/2 cup of some sort of 1/2 and 1/2....fat free, low fat, or just plain old 1/2 and 1/2, whatever you prefer.

Now for the best part......the star of this dish is Langostinos.  If you don't know what they are, I'll enlighten you.... they are like miniature lobster tails.  If you ever see them in a store (like I did at Costco), buy them and freeze them!  They are an amazing substitute for lobster.....If you can't find them, you can use chopped shrimp or the "sea legs" that are used for seafood salad.

You're almost done!  Taste it and see what it needs.  Mine needed salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, as well as a little more Parmesan cheese.  And, my magical ingredient???

About 1/4 cup of mayonnaise.  For some reason, the mayo seems to bind everything together and make it taste yummy!  Just fold it in and enjoy.

This is another one of those "comfort dinners" that just make you feel so good after each bite!
I want you to know that any vegetable you have left over in the fridge could work in this dish... carrots, celery, mushrooms, onions, peppers - the sky's the limit!