The Year of the Cookbook

The Year of the Cookbook

I sit in my woman cave (just my upstairs room) alone, well maybe not alone, I have my dog hanging with me. It is a couple of weeks before Christmas and I think about gifts for that special day. I have so many ideas on my mind that I could give. I can give money, video games, clothes, books, gift cards, the list could go on and on. This year I want to do something different. So, I think… I love to cook for my family. They love me to cook for them. How about a cookbook! I have a food blog. This is easy, right?

I start by printing out recipes I know they will love. You just know, no doubts. Then I send a text to all of them and ask for three different meals and one exceptionally delicious sweet that they love. I tell them this is for our Christmas Eve menu. (Aren’t I sneaky?) Then I print out those recipes from my blog. I had to add one – Eric’s favorite Chicken Wing recipe. Only one, not too shabby! I then print out these recipes and a few more I knew they enjoyed.

Next was to decide what to put the recipes in; a folder, a binder, a I DON’T KNOW!!! I ended up picking up binders. I chose binders as close to their favorite colors as I could find. Picked up dividers and sheet protectors. The sheet protectors would keep the recipes from tearing and getting dirty, if they actually use them. Hey, that’s reality!

Next, how to make it personal and a little special. Well, I am a Post It crazy person. I put everything I need to remember on Post It’s. As I complete the task I rip them off and throw them away. I even have a Post It app on my phone. Actually, it is called Sticky Notes. It works just the same. The kids know this is my reminder method. That is just what I do!

So, I print out the recipes, some foodie quotes december 012and placed in sheet protectors, made a cover page letting them know how much I love them, because I do. Then the Post It notes. I bought vibrant colored ones. Put some special, personal notes together december 011and added those to some of the pages.  Then I thought what is a cookbook without a DVD so I added “Chef” to it. december 010 Great movie for any foodie out there! That made it complete!!

Christmas Eve came and I gave them their gifts. I am pretty sure they enjoyed receiving this gift made with love. I know I had quite fun putting it together. Definitely as much as spending time in my kitchen making the food they love.

Not sure if I could top this gift ever. I guess I have to keep spending time in my kitchen, making different recipes that they will love to add to this cookbook. I think that they will agree!!

There is nothing more important in our family than food, conversation, more food, laughs, some sweets, more laughter, more food and sweets and lots of love. We will have to see if I can top this gift next year. In the meantime I will definitely maintain that “Tradition in my Kitchen!!”

Puppy Chow, Muddy Buddies – whatever you want to call it

Here is the most ridiculously simple sweet treat recipe you can make.  The recipe is off of a Chex cereal box. Not a personal favorite but the 20 somethings seem to enjoy it.  I made some as a gift for Jenni from work. Lily and Paige popped over Sunday and they took the rest of it home.  Paige certainly enjoyed “chowing” down on it while visiting!  Simple and Delicious!!

Puppy Chow

december 022


9 cups of rice, corn, chocolate Chex (I used combo of rice and corn)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


1.  Measure cereal into a large bowl; set aside.
2.  In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.
3.  Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.


Tradition in the Kitchen – Random Stuff

I have been thinking a lot lately about our family “tradition in the kitchen”.  I have been going over my blog checking all the recipes I have done since I started in October 2011.  One of my first “Random Stuff” entries was about Eric and the gifts he had been giving me over a one year period related to pizza.  Here is that entry from January 3, 2012;

For Christmas last year (that would be 2010)Eric’s gift to me was a pizza peel.  When I got it I wasn’t sure when I would use it.  I discovered this great kitchen tool about 2 months ago when I started my pizza challenge.  I use it ALL the time.  Then for my birthday this year Eric got me this fabulous Emile Henry pizza stone and a pizza rocker.  (I see a theme here!)  I use each of these great kitchen tools every time I make pizza.  As you know that is every single week.  So, if you are serious (or not) about pizza here are a few of my great gifts.  Thanks, Eric!  🙂


december 005


Zipping forward to 2014, who would have thought that taking on a 50 State, 50 Pizza challenge would turn into such a family tradition.  Those gifts kept me going and going with pizzas.  We have had pizza almost every Friday since October 2011.  We tried changing it up every now and then and that was fun but we always go back to pizza.  Every Friday I use that pizza peel, Emile Henry pizza stone and pizza rocker.  Every Friday Eric is the first to arrive joining Kent and I in our discussion about our week, current events and all kinds of crazy conversation.

I never say much about Eric because he is a private person. I think he should know that the pizza peel was the stepping block into a wonderful journey, every Friday with all of us talking, laughing, sometimes not so laughing, enjoying, sometimes maybe not so enjoying but in the end being there for each other.  Always there for each other.  That is our Pizza Fridays and our “tradition in the kitchen”.


April – White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

12/21/14; Making this cheesecake for a second time.  Quite an easy cheesecake to make.  Give it a try!!

Today is Martin’s “name day”; a Bulgarian celebration.  This day means more to him than even his birthday.  It was a day that was very special to him when he was younger, living in Bulgaria. He has fond memories of this day with his grandparents. Since this is an important day for him I like to keep it with him here in the U.S.  We usually spend the day together and I make him whatever his little heart desires.  This year he challenged me with picking a truffle cheesecake.  I know he likes raspberries so I thought this would be a nice one to try.  He really enjoyed it.  He is having some friends over tonight to celebrate his name day and he took that cheesecake with him.  Hope they enjoy it!  Here is the recipe for you to share with your family!

White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake
december 023


Oreo Cookie Crust
24 oreo cookies, crushed
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

4 oz white chocolate, broken into small pieces (you could save 1/2 oz of chocolate for shaving on top of the cheesecake for garnish)
3/4 cup raspberry preserves

Cream Cheese Filling
4 8 oz packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs (room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chocolate Oreo Crust

1.  Crush 24 oreos (I used my food processor)
2.  Melt 1/3 cup butter
3.  In a bowl combine crushed oreos, butter and sugar.
4.  Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides.
5.  I pre-baked the crust for 10 minutes.  Removed from oven and set aside to cool.

  • Put 3/4 cup raspberry preserves in bowl and mix.  Set aside
  • Break the white chocolate into small chunks.  Set aside

Cream Cheese Filling

1.   Mix cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You may need to scrape down sides of bowl. (You could use an electric mixer or by hand if you want.)
2.  Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary.
3.  Add the vanilla and mix on low until combined.

Preparing for the oven

1.  To avoid butter dripping onto the bottom of your oven;  wrap aluminum foil around the bottom of your springform pan.
2.  Spread the white chocolate chunks onto the bottom of the crust.
3.  Pour half of the cream cheese filling into the crust.
4.  Drizzle the raspberry preserves over the entire surface of the filling. Use a butter knife to swirl the raspberry into the cream cheese. Just a couple passes is fine, you don’t want to blend the raspberry and cream cheese together too much.
5.  Pour the other half of the filling into the crust.  Put teaspoon raspberry preserves around top of filling.  Using toothpick spread out like a star.December 019
6.  Bake 60-65 minutes, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door ajar for 1 hour.
7.  Take out of oven and let cook to room temperature.
8.  Put in refrigerator and serve cold.
9.  Garnish with white chocolate shavings, whipped cream and/or raspberries.

Simple and Delicious!

Jalapeno Popper Pizza

Jalapeno Popper Pizza.  How does that sound to you?  Martin2 makes Jalapeno Popper appetizers.  We really enjoy those. Got me thinking that it would be quite tasty as a pizza. Checked online it looks like a few other people had the same idea.  Thought it sounded delish and wanted to give it a try. Here goes!

Jalapeno Popper Pizza

december 024Before december 026After


1 1/2 – 2 cups jalapeno peppers (you can use fresh or pickled.  I used pickled.)
1 small shallot, chopped (you could use a red onion too)
2 teaspoons Olive Oil
5 pieces bacon, crisp and chopped
6 ounce cream cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 cup Monterey Jack Pepper cheese


1.  Fry bacon until crispy.  Remove for fry pan and place on paper towel to drain.
2.  Add chopped shallots to fry pan.  Saute until opaque, about 5 minutes
3.  Mix cream cheese, garlic and oregano together. Spread on 12 inch pizza dough.
4.  Top pizza dough with Monterey Jack Pepper cheese, jalapeno peppers, shallots and bacon.
5.  Bake at preheated 475 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Simple and Delicious!!  Enjoy!!

Breakfast Pizza – Part 2

Kent wanted a breakfast pizza today.  He does not like it when I use the cast iron skillet.  He insists the skillet has flavors that seep through because I do not clean the cast iron skillet with soap and water.  You DO NOT clean a cast iron skillet with soap and water.  You clean it with oil and kosher salt over heat on your stove.  So…I decided to try something different with our breakfast pizza to appease my loving husband.  This time around I used a 9 inch non stick pie tin.  122913 010   Guess what…it worked fabulously!  

Breakfast Pizza – Part 2

December 016


4 eggs
2 Tablespoons of half & half or milk (preferably whole, but whatever you have will work)
1 small onion, chopped
5 pieces bacon
1 Tablespoon bacon grease
1 piece of ham (or you could use 3-4 pieces of Canadian bacon)
1 Tablespoon softened butter
Mozzarella & Cheddar cheese, shredded (you could just use one or the other)
8-10 ounces pizza dough
salt and pepper

Directions – Preheat oven to 450 degrees

1.  Whisk eggs, half & half, salt and pepper
2.  Cook bacon to just crispy.  (Take 1 Tablespoon of bacon grease to grease the pie tin.  Leave rest in pan.)
3.  Saute onion in bacon grease until translucent (3-4 minutes)
4.  Take 1 Tablespoon bacon grease and apply to pie tin with basting brush
5.  Roll out pizza dough to a 12 inch circle.  Place in pie tin.
6.  Put whisked eggs in  dough
7.  Top with onion, bacon, ham (or Canadian bacon)
8.  I brushed softened butter on the crust that was exposed after I put in the above ingredients.  You don’t have to do this.  I thought it gave the crust a buttery flavor.  (So did my husband.)
9.  Top off with mozzarella and cheddar
10.  Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes.

Kent liked this recipe more than the one I do in the cast iron skillet. 122913 007I thought it tasted delicious too!122913 008  Another simple and delicious recipe for you to try.  Also, you can put whatever you want in your breakfast pizza.  This is what we chose for today.  Enjoy!

Chicken Wings – Eric’s favorite!

There are 2 types of wings in this household.  Wings everyone loves and the wings Eric loves.  This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen.  I make a couple of changes in the baking of them.  They come out perfectly Simple and Delicious!! Here is the recipe…Eric 🙂

Chicken Wings

(When I have a picture I will post.)

3          pounds chicken wings, halved at joint and wingtips removed, trimmed (or go to Costco and buy 10# bag for $20.  That’s all done for you!)
1          tablespoon baking powder
1/2      teaspoon salt
2/3      cup Frank’s Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1          tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1          tablespoon molasses

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (I put parchment on top of the aluminum foil, too) and top with wire rack (I don’t top with a wire rack, pain to clean.). Pat wings dry with paper towels, then toss with baking powder and salt in bowl. Arrange wings in single layer on wire rack. Roast wings until golden on both sides, about 40 minutes, flipping wings over and rotating sheet halfway through roasting.

2. Meanwhile, whisk hot sauce, butter, and molasses together in large bowl.

3. Remove wings from oven. Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Broil wings until golden brown on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes, flipping wings over halfway through broiling. Add wings to sauce and toss to coat. Serve and invite Eric over!!

Pitka – Bulgarian Christmas Bread

Martin requests this bread each Christmas Eve.  This bread is eaten Christmas Eve and throughout the holiday.  A coin is placed inside the dough while kneading.  The person who finds the coin in their piece of bread can expect good luck for the coming year.  You can also add positive messages in the bread for the New Year ahead. christmas 003Another Bulgarian tradition is what remains of the Christmas Eve feast you leave out on the table in the belief that deceased friends and relatives will come and dine when everyone is away or sleeping.  I enjoy these traditions.  This bread is time consuming but simple and tastes delicious.

Updated 2016 – Also, there is a simpler Pitka bread that Martin called a village bread that I bake now for Christmas Eve.  This simple bread was what his grandmother made.  The one above I found online in my early searches and I thought this was the one she made.  He didn’t explain to me until he was older (and wiser) that the simpler Pitka was the bread his grandma made every Christmas.  🙂  Click the link above to get that recipe!

Pitka (Bulgarian Christmas Bread)

christmas 006


1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
2.2 pounds all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons oil or softened butter (I use oil, sunflower if I have it)
4 large eggs (reserving 1 egg yolk to brush on bread)
1 Tablespoon salt
Don’t forget your silver coin!


1.  In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. (I did this in my stand up mixer bowl)  Stir in sugar and 2 Tablespoons flour until well combined.  Transfer to a stand up mixer bowl and add remaining flour, oil (or butter), 3 whole eggs and 1 egg white and salt.  Knead until smooth and pliable.  If dough is too dry add 1 tablespoon of water  at a time until desired consistency is met.  Likewise, if dough is too wet add 1 tablespoon flour until desired consistency is met.  (I used my dough hook with my stand up mixer to knead the dough)

2.  Divide dough into 7 equal size balls.  Place ball in center of a greased 12 inch baking tray.  (I used parchment paper and sprayed the paper with Pam.)  Cover with greased plastic wrap while you roll each of the other balls into 10 inch circles and, using a pizza cutter, cut into 8 triangular pieces.

3.  Lightly brush the top of each triangular piece with oil or melted butter.  (I used melted butter).  Stack three pieces on top of each other.  Twist to form a cone.  Repeat with remaining dough.  You will have 16 ‘cones’.  Arrange these around the center ball of dough with the wide side of the cone facing out.  Cover and let rise until almost doubled. (This takes 1-2 hours)  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

4.  Slash an ‘x’ in middle ball of risen dough.  Brush bread all over with remaining beaten yolk mixed with 1 Tablespoon of water.  Bake 15 minutes and cover top loosely with foil to prevent over browning.  Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.

5.  Remove to wire rack and cool completely.  I couldn’t wait until cooled and it was very delicious!

The above recipe makes a very large loaf of  bread.  You will have plenty for a large crowd!

Almond Paste Cookies

These are my dad’s favorite cookies.  I used to make these cookies with the almond paste in the can.  Well, then I discovered you can make your own almond paste and it is much tastier!  And by the way, all of my kids and their significant others love these cookies.  Simple and Delicious!!

Almond Paste Cookies

december 031


3 cups blanched slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon almond extract


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Adjust rack to the lower middle position.
  2. Place almonds in food processor; process about 1 minute.  Add sugar and process 15 seconds longer. december 020Add egg whites and almond extract; process until paste wads around the blade.  (It should have a consistency similar to marzipan or a pasta dough.)december 021  This just takes a couple of minutes.  Not long at all.
  3. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.  YOU NEED parchment paper for these cookies.
  4. Scoop up a Tablespoon per cookie.  You can drop the paste onto the cookie sheet or roll them into a ball and place on cookie sheet.  I roll them in a ball about an inch in diameter.  Just rinse your hands with water as they become sticky.
  5. I place a maraschino cherry in the middle.  You do not have to do that if you don’t want to.december 023
  6. Bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.
That is it.  Another simple and delicious recipe.  Great for the Holiday Season!


Italian Lemon Cookies

If you are Italian (or maybe not) I am sure you remember those yummy, round, lemony cookies with lemony icing and often with sprinkles on the cookie tray.  That cookie tray was always mounded with all kinds of cookies.  I would always grab those lemon cookies!  It was only at Christmas time.  I used to LOVE those cookies and still do.  Here is the recipe I use.

Italian Lemon Cookies

december 033


1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together shortening and sugar, cream in eggs.  Dissolve baking soda in milk and mix all ingredients together.  You can chill this dough.  I do not chill the dough.
  3. I use a Tablespoon and roll the cookie dough into a 1″ diameter ball.  I place on parchment lined cookie sheet.  You could just place on a non stick cookie sheet, no need to grease the sheet.
  4. I place the racks in middle of oven.  Bake for 9-11 minutes, until bottom is a light golden brown.
  5. When cooled frost with lemon frosting or glaze.  I do a glaze. You just dip the tops of cookies in the glaze and set aside to set.   You can add food coloring to make festive for the holidays.



1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tablespoons butter
2-3 Tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon lemon extract

In my stand up mixer I blend together the powdered sugar and butter, add half and half (or milk) and extract.  Depending on consistency you desire will depend on how much half and half you add.  Sometimes I like a frosting, sometimes more of a glaze.   Either way, these cookies are Simple and Delicous.  HO HO HO!!