Month: December 2015

Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Lately: Blogger Love

This is my last Loving Lately post of the year. And as this year is coming to an end I’m sure we are all reflecting on a number of things. In life I have so much to be thankful for and I feel truly blessed. It’s really no different as it pertains to my blog. I started this journey as an outlet, a way to express myself, maintain a level of sanity (to be overly dramatic), and fill a need for a level of communication I seemed to be lacking in my every day existence as a stay-at-home mom. I really had no expectations, just a strong desire that something I might have to say would resonate with someone else and even better- that I could actually make a positive contribution by sharing something useful. What I have received is beyond expectation. I was surprised to find out that this endless void of world-wide-web, where my typed-out thoughts seem like drops in the pond, in reality -or in my experience- turned out to be a tight-knit community of support and appreciation. I’ve gotten to know some really great people! What I could not have anticipated was the feeling I’d get when someone replied that they enjoyed my recipe or how something I said reminded them of an experience in their own life- even half way across the globe. Heart-warming to say the least.

I want to thank Parul Singhal of Gharkepakwan Healthy and Nutritious Vegetarian Recipies who recently nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award! I am honored by your kindness! I am in awe of your vast knowledge  of one of my favorite cuisines, Indian food!


In participation, here are seven random facts about myself:

  1. I am a pretty big Audrey Hepburn fan
  2. I can tolerate but do not love cloves
  3. I am a philatelist
  4. I sing at home a lot. I’m a singer. My kids love it. They say things like “Mom, I can’t hear the TV!”
  5. I love the smell of waffle cones, and am always disappointed that they do not live up to their hype
  6. I have yet to use my wedding china for more than display (look out 2016 baby!)
  7. Sometimes I prefer my pasta cold

Thank you so much to Amaya from Life of an El Paso Woman for your nomination of the Liebster Award. I appreciate so much your diversity in what you share while maintaining such an engaging and personal connection.


To answer your questions…

•What’s your favorite holiday? It has to be Christmas. I’m sappy with all of the hubbub.
•What is your favorite thing to cook or bake? I know it’s vague, but anything my family enjoys. Kids can be so picky, it’s  such an accomplishment when they actually eat my food.
•What’s the best thing about the city where you live? Relatives. Oddly we don’t see each other often, but I live within a mile of like 5 uncles, 4 aunts, a great-aunt and numerous cousins. In fact, one uncle is my next-door neighbor.
•What are some of your favorite movies? I’m one of those romantic comedy nuts. I love Pride and Prejudice, While You Were Sleeping, You’ve Got Mail, Something’s Gotta Give…
• What was one of the hardest thing you’ve ever done in life so far? Motherhood.
•Who are you the closest with in your family? I’m blessed to have a very close family. I’m close to my dad, mom and my sister… But I’d have to say my husband. He sees it all, “the good, the bad and the ugly” (of course so do my dad, mom and sister, lol).
•Why did you start blogging? It was a desire for pretense of professionalism
•Is the glass half empty or half full? Oh, it’s very full 🙂
•Are you a Star Wars fan? Yes. But not like a crazy fan.
•What was your favorite toy growing up? Barbie!

Another thank you to Practical By Default for another Liebster Award nomination! I’m just now starting to get to know you, and I see we have a lot in common!


Your Questions for me…

•What language would you love to learn? I’ve studied a few, and there’s so much I don’t know! Maybe Portuguese or Gaelic?
•Would you prefer to read, watch or be told how to do something? At this point, I think I would appreciate more time to read.
•What’s your favorite hobby? Besides blogging, I recently got a metal detector… I’m a nerd.
•What’s your dream job? A mommy blogger. I’m living the dream, lol.
•Dog or cat? Neither, my mother is allergic and couldn’t visit if I chose either. But when pressed, a dog.
•The name of the teacher that influenced you the most? …Can I say two? Mrs. Urbani and Madame Rowley
•Book or Movie? Movie… maybe
•Why did you start blogging? For mental health
•Cook or bake or eat? Eat, let’s be honest
•What are you is your best “I did it!” moment? I’ve had four; Isaiah, Naomi, Elijah and Noah
•Blogging what do you love/hate doing? I love taking pictures, typing on my laptop and drinking coffee. I pretend I’m in a magazine publication office.

In lieu of nominees I would like to do more like honorable mentions. My all-time favorites and friends of 2015, you’ve made blogging a pleasure. In alphabetical (by blog) order:

Roberta of Chorizo & Thyme

Anna Life Bellissima

Lynn of Lynz Real Cooking

Katie of Quirky and Wonderful

Jasmine of The Richmond Avenue

Bec of What’s Bec Cooking

Happy New Year!!!


Hot Artichoke Dip

I am a sucker for hot cheesy dips. Melted flavorful cheese is hard to resist. Period. Give me a cracker, a chip, or a spoon.  I know I’m not alone. The best part of these dips is that they are good all year round. Bring ’em to a pot luck or a party; you won’t disappoint anyone. I am also fond of artichokes. They are great hearty and healthy vegetables that can stand up to a lot of flavor. The combination is perfect as an appetizer, for a midday snack or a light meal …A little reminder that food can taste really good.

As organic as possible:

1 – 12 oz jar Marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1 – 14 oz can Artichoke hearts, drained

8 oz Cream cheese

1 cup Mayonnaise

1 tsp granulated Garlic

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground Black pepper

1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper

3 Scallions (green onion), chopped

3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place half of the jar of marinated artichoke hearts into a food processor and set the rest aside. Add the can of drained artichoke hearts, cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne and scallions into the processor and pulse (not to liquify) until all is incorporated together.

Chop the remaining marinated artichoke hearts into small bite size pieces. In a large bowl add artichoke mixture, chopped artichokes and Parmesan cheeses. Stir until combined. Check for taste, and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Spoon cheesy artichoke goodness into a medium sized baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, until hot and bubbly (and maybe just starting to brown around the edges). Serve with tortilla chips or crackers. Savor.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Sadie’s Fruitcake

I can’t tell you why fruitcake gets a bad rap. Maybe I haven’t eaten a bad one. I can tell you that I could eat this one every day. I’m really proud of it. A blogger friend of mine, Natascha of Natascha’s Palace, made a fruitcake challenge and I accepted. I’ve tweaked this cake to perfection, if I do say so myself. It’s a little sugar, spice and everything nice (with less emphasis on spice or heavy on the everything). This fruitcake is dense and moist and outright delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

As organic as possible:

3 cups flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup chopped pecans

1 1/3 cup chopped dates, pitted

1/3 cup dried cherries

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 10 cup tube or angel food pan. (Do yourself a favor and do not choose a decorative bundt cake pan, trust me on this one.) Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a large a bowl. Gently toss the pecans and walnuts in the flour mixture. Next add the dates. I like to toss these carefully (a few at a time) in the flour nut mixture because they are the stickiest. Once the chopped dates are coated with the flour mixture, add the cherries, cranberries, regular and golden raisins, and coconut. Gently toss until all fruit is lightly coated with flour mixture.

In a separate bowl or in a stand mixer, cream butter. Add sugar and beat with the butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add vanilla, almond extract and lemon juice. Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients, a scoop full at a time to creamed butter mixture, until all is combined. (I like to mix this part by hand, to not over-mix.) The batter will be very thick (like the consistency of  a thick drop cookie). Spoon the batter in the prepared pan, and gently even out the top with the back of the spoon or spatula.

Bake the cake for 1 1/2  hours. Remove cake from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes. Using a knife, loosen the edges of the cake and place onto cooling rack to cool completely before serving.


Have Yourself…

A Merry Little Christmas!

With Love,


Chorizo & Thyme’s Quick Chocolate Bundt Cake

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate chocolate on some level. Some of us appreciate it more than others. I’ve really learned the importance of a good piece of chocolate. If laughter is the best medicine, chocolate has to be the next best thing. My friend Roberta of Chorizo & Thyme has come up with a lovely and quick chocolate cake recipe. It’s just right for a delightful indulgence… with a little more to share.

Now because my friend Roberta lives across the pond on the island of Malta, her measurements are in grams. I felt quite precise getting out my scale (thank you Owen, for my gift several years ago now). I will tell you that preheating the oven to 355° is about right in translation. Because the cake called for natural “yoghurt” I think it’s considered health food, and I really think it helped keep the cake moist. Lastly, the only addition I would make is a pinch of salt, but that’s how I like it. I’ll leave that up to you. Okay, for one more addition, I wish Roberta were here to share a slice over some coffee.

As originally posted at Chorizo & Thyme

For the cake:

250g caster sugar
215g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
85g good quality cocoa powder
60ml vegetable oil
185g natural yoghurt
170ml water
2 large eggs
For the chocolate topping:

100g dark chocolate
small knob of butter
Preheat the oven to 180°C and brush a deep bundt tin or ring tin with melted butter or flavourless oil.

Put all the ingredients for the cake in a food processor or mixer, or in a simple mixing bowl and mix until all the ingredients are just combined.

Pour the cake batter into your greased cake tin and bake for around 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted somewhere near the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Remove from the tin onto a cake stand or serving plate.

In the meantime melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmer water, adding a knob of butter for extra shine. When completely melted, remove from the heat and let it cool slightly.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cake and you’re done.


Thanks again Roberta for sharing this quick cake recipe. We really enjoyed it, and I loved sharing it with my guests!

Susan’s Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is just such a real comfort food. It’s creamy, hearty and warm, and the perfect remedy for a cold day, rainy day or even a hard day. “Mac” short for “macaroni” is really a blanket term for whichever pasta one happens to choose. Big shells, little shells, cavatelli, cavatappi… cook it al dente, cover it with cheesy goodness and bake it until bubbly perfection. I’m in. This is my sister-in-law’s variation; it’s delicious.

As organic as possible:

8 oz “Mac” noodles (today we’re using medium shells)

1/4 cup Butter

2 1/2 Tbsp flour

2 cups Sharp cheddar

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

3 cups of milk


Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cook pasta just short of the package recommendation (as they will continue to soften in the oven).

In a large sauce pan, make a roux using the flour and butter. (Over a medium heat, cook the flour and butter for a couple minutes, stirring regularly, and keeping watch not to burn.) Add milk, whisk. Add cheese and stir until melted. Mix sauce and noodles cover with bread crumbs or crumbled crackers. Bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Parmesan Kale Chips

I don’t know what you may or may not be thinking, so let me just clarify… These are Delicious! They are crispy and salty, with more depth in flavor than you can get from a potato chip. I think they would be a great side dish for any meal. But they are so good on their own, that my favorite way to serve them is as an appetizer or starter. They are perfect little finger foods to accompany aperitifs. Only four ingredients and completely guilt free, because it is kale after all!

As found in Barefoot Contessa’s Make it Ahead:

1 Large bunch of flat-leaf kale

Good olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

With a sharp knife, remove and discard the hard rib from the center of each leaf, leaving the leaves as intact as possible. Place them on the sheet pans, drizzle or brush them with olive oil, and toss to coat lightly. Sprinkle generously with salt and bake for 10 minutes, until crispy. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese and bake for another 5 minutes. Cool and serve.

* I like to brush them with the oil for even coverage. And yes baking kale gives off a strange green leaf vegetable aroma, but it is so worth it in the end!

Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Lately: Christmas Lights

I love this time of year. The chill in the air actually captures the excitement. And I don’t know if it’s just me, or does every adult feel like a child when they see houses, trees and bushes trimmed in lights? I think I get more excited than my kids.

I ask my husband to slow down the car… I tap the window with my pointer finger… I swivel my head back-and-forth both sides of the road… I tell my kids to look at things as fast as I can shout them out…

They are just beautiful. Every house is so individual, white (yellow) lights, colored lights, newer blue LED lights, animated features, blown up characters, just a couple windows or every square inch, nativities… And a drive around the neighborhood is holiday entertainment that doesn’t cost more than the gas.

Could you ever get tired of light season?
Well yes, like by February Santa starts seeming tired… but not lights…for every year. It’s too special.


 *Featured and last photo courtesy of Ryan French

Caroling Chili

Everyone can use a great ‘chili for a crowd’ recipe this time of year! This recipe is delicious and plentiful, perfect for holiday gatherings, football bowl game parties, inviting the kids sports teams over, etc. Aunt Leann has been making it for years and has it down to a science. So get those invitations out, you got this.

Preferably cooked in a roaster, but a large stock pot works too.

Serves 40

5 lbs Turkey Burger (such as 93/7 Turkey Store Brand)

1 – 48 oz bottle of V-8 Tomato Juice

4 – 30.5 oz cans of Brooks Chili Beans (Hot or Mild depending on your taste, 2 of each suggested)

3 packets of McCormicks chili seasoning packets

2 – 15.5 cans Great Northern Beans

2 – 15.25 oz cans Black Beans

2 – 15.5 oz cans Light Red Kidney Beans

2 – 28 oz cans Petite Diced Tomatoes

1 – 20 oz can Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies

2 Tbsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp onion powder

1/8 cup of Chili powder


Brown the 5 lbs of turkey burger in a frying pan, and cook down until all liquid evaporates, using a potato masher to break the meat into small pieces.

Pour the container of V-8 into the roaster. Add the browned turkey and all 3 packets of seasoning. Stir. Add all four cans of Brook’s Chili beans, DO NOT drain and stir to combine. Gently mix in the petite diced tomatoes and Rotel tomatoes with chillies.

Open all Great Northern, Black and Kidney beans. Pour beans into a colander and lightly rinse. Pour beans into roaster and gently combine with meat mixture. Sprinkle mixture with garlic, onion and chili powder. Stir.

Cook 3-4 hours on medium low heat with lid off, stirring periodically. Be careful not to boil.

Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, crackers and diced onion… And enjoy your party!


Christmas Caroling

Years ago my Aunt Leann and Uncle Rich started a tradition of caroling to various neighbors in our community. Part of me has always felt we should invest in long wool coats, top hats and muffs. In reality we are usually just a mismatched well-wishing group of children and adults of (let’s say) assorted levels of technical ability. Some faces of cousins and family I know well, and sometimes I meet new cheerful neighbors. It’s fantastic!



I love bringing my children along to participate in spreading Christmas joy. My uncle uses his work pick up truck (from a local family business) pulling a long flatbed trailer lined with two rows of haystacks for all of the carolers to pile on as we travel from house to house. Our stops this time included (but were not limited to) an elderly man and his wife who suffers with MS, he held the door opened wide so she could hear us from where she was at; a sweet and spry man who boasted he had just turned 93 in November and told us to keep coming back; a family relative who’s husband needed more care than she could provide and recently had moved into a nursing home; another family relative who suffered with a stroke not too long ago and was pushed to the door in her wheelchair. For the first year we didn’t stop at my Great-aunt Shirley’s house, knowing she wasn’t there. Last year the group sang for us at our house because Noah wasn’t yet a month old and not well enough to face the cold. It’s just embodies  what every season should be like, and what this time of the year gives us reason to carry out.


At every home we pass out a poinsettia and sing two selections from our song sheet followed by “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. When we’ve sung to every house on the list we all meet back at the warehouse to refresh ourselves with a potluck style variety of dishes and treats, hot chocolate, and Aunt Leann’s delicious Chili for a Crowd accompanied by all of the toppings. It’s the perfect time to thaw out, dry off or as the case in this year’s mild weather; catch up with old and new friends while we fill our bellies with food for heart and soul.




Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!