Monthly Archives: April 2015

Broccoli Cheese Soup


 My favorite soup from Panera Bread has to be broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl,.  But you and I both know that can be a little pricey.  I’m thrifty and I’ll be the first to admit it.  So why not just make your own at home?  For the cost of one bowl at Panera you can make a whole pot with 6-8 servings.  I’d bought a 2 pound bag of broccoli florets at Sam’s with this soup in mind.  I don’t like my soup completely pureed.  Do you?   I like to see and be able to bite pieces of broccoli and carrots.  And there has to be LOTS and LOTS of cheese.  Remember I am the cheesiest!  Let’s fill some bread bowls!

Broccoli Cheese Soup

2 pounds broccoli florets, divided

1/2 medium onion, small dice

1 cup carrots, small dice

1 tsp. finely chopped garlic

3 Tbs. room temperature butter, divided

1 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for drizzling

32 oz. carton chicken broth or stock

1 chicken bouillon cube

1 cup milk (I used 2%)

1 cup half and half

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 Tbs.flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Rinse and trim the broccoli florets.  Place on a clean kitchen towel to drain.  Pat half the broccoli dry and place on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Using your hands, mix the broccoli around to evenly distribute the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees.  In a large Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium heat.  Add onions and carrots.  Cook and stir for 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Pour in the chicken broth, bouillon cube and the remaining broccoli.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until broccoli and carrots are soft, stirring occasionally.  Add milk, half and half, cheese, salt and pepper.  When small bubbles start to form turn heat down to medium low and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile in a small bowl, mix the 2 Tbs. butter and 2 Tbs. flour until all of the flour is incorporated into the butter.  Drop small pieces into the pot.  Stir it around until the butter melts and the soup begins to thicken.  Use an immersion blender to slightly puree the soup, but still leaving it chunky.  Add as much of the roasted broccoli as you’d like to the soup.  I ended up using about half of it.  Cook and stir until thick, hot and bubbly.  Enjoy!

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,



Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner


  I have been so hungry for fried chicken lately.  The problem with it is that it can tend to dry out while trying to get it done all the way through.  One good way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to do what I did to this lovely piece of chicken breast. I fried it until my breading was golden brown and finished cooking it in the oven.  It stayed moist and juicy on the inside but nice and crispy on the outside.  Believe it or not, this was half a chicken breast cut horizontally.  These came from Sam’s Club and tend to be at least a pound a piece.  That’s too much chicken for one person and it would never get cooked through without it burning and/or drying out.  Chicken shoe leather is not tasty.

I spent pretty much all afternoon in the kitchen.  First I made some broccoli cheese soup which I’ll share with you tomorrow. Then I made this winner, winner chicken dinner.  The breading is well seasoned with a variety of spices.  You won’t miss KFC if you can make this at home.  Ready?  Set?  Let’s dredge some chicken.

 Crispy Fried Chicken

4 chicken breasts 6-8 ounces each  (no more than 1″ thick.  If it is, you’ll need to place between plastic wrap and pound with a mallet or heavy skillet to make thinner)

2 large eggs

Splash of water

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)

Oil for frying

Set up a station by whisking the eggs and splash of water together in a glass pie pan or small casserole dish.  In another whisk together all the dry ingredients.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place a wire cooling rack on a baking sheet.  Put about one inch of oil in a large skillet and turn heat to medium.  Using tongs dredge each chicken first in the flour.  Shake off excess.  Next dredge it in the egg wash.  Shake off excess.  Then dredge in the flour mixture once again.  Set on a piece of parchment paper and continue with the other 3.  The oil will be ready when a piece of flour dropped in sizzles. Carefully place each piece of chicken in the hot oil.   Cook for 6-7 minutes or until golden brown.  Using clean tongs, turn each piece over.  Cook 4-5 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and place on the prepared wire rack. Save those crispy bits to make gravy!  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Now you have perfectly done fried chicken.  Enjoy!

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Banana Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting


Three very ripe bananas stared at me from the top of the microwave this morning.  They implored me to make something with them before they got thrown away like, well,  rotten bananas.  Do I make banana bread?  Banana muffins?  Banana brownies?  Nope.  Banana cake.  I have a whole lotta banana cake recipes.  Which one should I use?  Apparently none of them.  I looked to my good friend Ina Garten (I wish!) for help.  She has a one layer cake that just so happens to use 3 bananas.  Cha-ching!  Let’s do this!

The result is this beautiful, HUGE one layer of banana excellence.  It’s moist and packs a wallop of banana flavor.  Question- I wonder how many times I’m going to say banana?*  Did I mention this cake is HUGE?  It was probably big enough to make a double layer.  I didn’t do much at all to change this recipe.  I omitted the orange zest and walnuts she put in her cake and used some coconut pecan frosting I had left over from some German chocolate cupcakes instead of a cream cheese frosting.  If you’d like to see her complete recipe, click here.  If you’d like to hear a funny banana song, click here.  Don’t you love those little fellas?  Let’s cake!

  Banana Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9″ cake pan with cooking spray with flour.  Place a circle of parchment paper inside the cake pan and spray with the cooking spray with flour.  Put the mashed bananas and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix on low speed until combined.  Now add the oil, eggs, sour cream and vanilla.  Mix on low until well combined and smooth.  In a small bowl, sift together the flour, soda and salt. With mixer on low speed, slowly pour the flour mixture in the banana mixture mixing until just combined.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, making sure there are no unmixed clumps.  Pour into prepared pan.  The pan will be very full.  Don’t worry, it won’t overflow.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Cool for 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.  Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on the rack.

To make the coconut pecan frosting, click here.

Frost top and sides of cake.  Remember I used leftover frosting so I didn’t have enough to completely frost the cake.  I think it still looks pretty.  Plus you can really see how HUGE it is.  Enjoy!

*Answer-I counted 17 times including the title.  Ha!

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Quick and Easy Chili


 What a lazy Sunday we’ve had at our house today!  We stayed in our jammies until late afternoon, watched tv and talked.  I did make us a breakfast sandwich this morning and did two loads of laundry.  Suddenly it’s almost 4:00 and I’m wondering what the heck I’m going to make for dinner.  My green-eyed Irish guy suggested sandwiches.  Not in the mood for a sandwich, I walked back and forth between the pantry and the fridge, opening the doors stalking their contents and asking myself what can I make for dinner. After pondering this riddle for 10 or 15 minutes, I decided it was going to be this quick and easy chili. I don’t always use packages of chili seasoning, but tonight it was all about quick and easy.  I always keep a couple packages of chili and taco seasoning in the pantry just in case.  My recipe for chili seasoning mix follows the chili recipe.  I usually like to put a piece of buttered corn bread in the bottom of my bowl or sprinkle the top with corn chips and of course there has to be cheese and sour cream.  YUM!

 Quick and Easy Chili

1 1/4 lbs ground beef (I used 90/10)

1/2 medium onion, diced small

1 tsp. chopped garlic

3 large pepperoncini peppers from a jar, chopped

2    1.25 oz. pkgs. mild chili seasoning*

1 – 2 Tbs. worcestershire sauce

2    11.5 oz. cans (or about 3 cups)  V8 juice

1    15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes

1    15 oz. can dark red chili beans, drained

1/4 cup ketchup

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

few dashes of hot pepper sauce

Toppings of your choice such as shredded cheese, sour cream, green onion

Corn bread, crackers or corn chips if desired

In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, brown ground beef.  Drain off grease.  Turn heat down to medium and add onion to the pot.  Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until onion softens and becomes translucent. Add garlic, pepperoncini and chili seasoning and cook for another minute or so.  Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Taste to see if seasoning is correct.  Add more salt, pepper and hot sauce if needed.  Enjoy!

*If you’d rather make your own use:

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 Tbs. flour

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. parsley

1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, depending upon how hot you like your chili

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Mix everything together and store in a small container with a tight fitting lid.  Add one tablespoon at a time until it’s spicy enough for you.

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Split Pea with Ham Soup


 We’ve had an interesting week weather-wise here in Indiana.  The temperatures went from 70 degrees one day to snow and the 30’s another day and today in the mid 40’s and rain.  Sheesh Mother Nature!  Make up your darn mind!  We Hoosiers just say welcome to spring in Indiana.  Looking at the 10 day forecast as of today, it’s supposed to get gradually warmer each day.  All I can say is show me the money.  Yep I’ll believe it when I see it.

With the weather yucky like this and me still feeling pretty crappy from this hookie flookie that I’ve been fighting all week, all I can think of is a nice, warm bowl of soup.  This morning, before everyone was up and around for the day, I decided I was going to make this split pea with ham soup.  Both my green-eyed Irish guy and G asked, “What is that smell?” when they came downstairs.  I said, “That delicious smell is split pea with ham soup.”  Green eyes hates peas so I knew it was not going to impress him much, but G was interested.  She even invited her BF over to have some before they went off to have fun this weekend.  Speaking of G and her BF, they got engaged two weeks ago!  He surprised me one day beforehand by stopping in.  He asked for permission and I so wanted to mess with him and say no, but he looked so sincere and so frightened I didn’t have the heart to do it.  Then he called my green-eyed Irish guy and talked to him about it.  Pretty sweet stuff.  Good news is we kept the secret and she was happily surprised.  Oh yeah, she said yes.  They don’t have a date in mind yet.  G’s still in college and her BF just graduated so their plan is to wait until she graduates.

Unlike the soup nazi, I always say some soup for you!  Let’s get this soup simmering.

Split Pea with Ham Soup 

16 oz. bag dried split green peas

1 small onion, small dice

2 ribs celery, small dice

1 tsp. chopped garlic

1-2 Tbs. olive oil

2 32 oz. cartons chicken stock or broth

2 chicken bouillon cubes

small ham bone or the “rind” from a glazed boneless ham tied off in cheesecloth*

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 large or 2 small bay leaves

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 1/2 cups diced carrots

12 oz. diced ham

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

Pick over your peas to make sure there’s no rocks or other foreign objects in them.  Rinse them with cold water and drain. Set aside.  In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium heat.  Add the onions and celery.  Cook and stir for 5 minutes or so until they soften and become translucent.  Add the garlic, thyme and oregano.  Cook and stir for a minute or so.  Add the chicken stock, bouillon cubes, bay leaf ham bone or rind and peas to the pot.  Bring to a boil on medium heat, turn heat down to simmer so just lightly bubbling.  Skim off any foam that forms on the top with a spoon.  Cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Remove ham bone or rind packet.  Add carrots, potatoes, ham, salt and pepper and simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally.  Taste to see if more salt or pepper is needed.  If it’s gotten too thick, just add an additional cup or two of stock or water.  This makes a delicious, thick soup.  It’ll warm your cockles.  Have you heard that expression?  I’ve used it many times but had no clue what a cockle was until just now when I googled it.  It’s a small, edible saltwater clam.  I guess I’ll save that expression for when I make clam chowder.  Any way, it’ll warm your tummy and your soul.  Enjoy!

*I made a boneless, glazed ham for Easter.  I find that after you refrigerate it, the outside that’s been glazed or rind as I call it gets tough and inedible.  I usually cut it off and throw it away.  I cut it off the ham, wrapped it in cheesecloth, tied it off with kitchen twine and placed it in the soup instead of a bone to impart more ham flavor.

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Carrot Cake Mug Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting



You know when you want a little somethin somethin sweet but you don’t want to make a full sized cake?  Maybe you have time constraints or are feeling lazy (who me?) or you’re afraid to have the whole cake in the house (once again who me?). What do you do?  You can jump in the car, run to the nearest grocery store with a bakery and buy a cupcake or slice of cake. Or you can just whip up this easy carrot cake mug cake with cream cheese frosting.  It makes a moist, delicious cake and the cream cheese frosting oh my!  What doesn’t taste good with cream cheese frosting on it?  

Carrot Cake Mug Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) self-rising flour*

Pinch of kosher salt

2 large baby carrots, shredded

1 Tbs. pineapple, chopped

1 Tbs. pecans, toasted and chopped

1 Tbs. golden raisins

1 tsp. coconut

1 Tbs. vanilla Greek yogurt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

sprinkle of cloves

*If you don’t have self-rising flour make your own by combining 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 3/8 tsp. baking powder and a pinch of kosher salt
Place the butter in a small mixing bowl and microwave it for 30 seconds until melted. Add the egg,whisking it in with a fork. Stir in the milk, vanilla, and sugar. Add the flour and salt. Add remaining ingredients and beat the batter until smooth. Divide the batter between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1.5 to 2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.  It took mine two minutes.
To make frosting:

2 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature

2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbs. heavy cream

1 cup powdered sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

Cream the butter and cream cheese together with hand mixer until smooth.  Add powdered sugar and beat on low until combined.  Add vanilla and cream beating until smooth and fluffy.  Frost cooled mug cake and enjoy.

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Rigatoni Cheese Pie


 Hello beautiful!  There’s a Chinese saying we eat first with our eyes, then our noses, then our mouths.  I believe that’s true.  If a dish is aesthetically pleasing we’re more tempted to try it.  I mean, how often do we say, “boy that looks good!” or “that sure looks tasty!”?  Well, this Rigatoni Cheese Pie is definitely a looker.  Both my green-eyed Irish guy and G wholeheartedly approved of both the beauty and the deliciousness of this dish.

It takes a little bit of patience to stand all the rigatoni pasta upright in the springform pan.  Remember patience is a virtue.  I’ve added a link to my go-to pasta sauce recipe.  Now let’s create this work of art!

Rigatoni Cheese Pie

1 lb. box rigatoni pasta

1 recipe of my homemade pasta sauce found here

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

8 oz.  pkg. (2 cups) finely shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 9 inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray (I used the olive oil kind).  Bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Season liberally with salt.  Add pasta and stir until it comes to a boil.  Cook according to package directions to no more than al dente.  The pasta will cook more when it’s baked.  Drain pasta.  Rinse with cold water and drain again.  Sprinkle with the olive oil and parmesan cheese and stir until all of the pasta is coated with oil and cheese.  Arrange  the pasta noodles in the springform pan, standing them upright.  Spoon half of the sauce over the noodles, reserving the rest to be served with the pie if desired.  Carefully push as much sauce into the noodle holes as possible. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.  Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted, bubbly and browned.  Let stand in the pan for at least 15 minutes before removing the springform pan ring.  Place on a plate or platter and cut into wedges to serve.

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,