Palate Pleasers

It’s good to be back and blogging about my favorite things.  Food and wine – what’s not to love?  Over the past several months, I’ve come across many recipes that I’ve made, but didn’t quite feel they were worthy of putting pen to paper (so to speak).  However, over the past several months I’ve been looking at this recipe thinking I really need to make this – it’s perfect for a nice winter day or anyday for that matter.  Afterall, I first printed the recipe in February 2007 and here we are nearly 4 years later and I’m finally making it.  It’s from “Every Day with Rachael Ray” and it’s a 30 minute meal.  I have to tell you that if my husband had been home on time and not stuck in traffic, I would have been able to make and serve this dish in 30 minutes.  Even now it’s in the pot waiting to be eaten and the nice thing about it is the favors are melding together and when we do eat it (hopefully soon), it’ll be just right!  **Here it is April and I am just posting this blog from January – I think you’ll still enjoy it regardless**


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

4 ribs celery – chopped

2 onions – chopped

2 carrots – shredded (1-1/2 cups)

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

6 cups chicken broth

1 pound ground chicken*

1 egg

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs (a couple of generous handfuls)

1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese (a couple of generous handfuls)

2 cloves garlic – finely chopped

One – 1 pound package gnocchi

1 cup frozen peas (optional)

Flat leaf parsley

Crusty bread for dunking


In a soup pot, heat the EVOO over medium high heat.  Add the celery, onions, carrots and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in the broth, cover the pot and bring to boil.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Stir in the egg, bread crumbs, cheese and garlic.  Roll the mixture into walnut-sized meatballs (you’ll have about 40) and add to the stoup.  Simmer for about 10 minutes while you wash up.  Add the gnocchi to the stoup and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the peas and parsley and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Remove the stoup from the heat, discard the bay leaf and let cool for 5 minutes.  Serve with bread.

COOK’s NOTE: Since I didn’t have ground chicken, I used a mix of ground pork and ground sirloin that I had sitting in the freezer and already mixed up from another meal.  Once it thawed I did add extra bread crumbs and parmesan cheese to them.  They came out really great in the Stoup.   I did not use any garlic – so that would be up to you if you wanted to.  I also used one-half a can of peas instead of frozen since I didn’t have a package handy but I would never do that again (Leave out the peas!).  In addition, I used dried Parsely which worked just as well as the fresh.  And to top it off, I made biscuits – but crusty bread or ciabatta rolls  would have been a nice addition.    It’s definitely a great meal and if you have a chance to make it – I’d encourage you to do so.

Bon Appetit!



The end of summer is almost here and I’m actually looking forward to the cooler days of fall. Here in California I anticipate that time to be sometime at the end of October.   I’m excited to pull out all my fall decorations and get my house ready for the fall and then Christmas will be here before we know it.  But more than anything, I can’t wait to get back in the kitchen again to prepare my favorite fall and winter comfort foods and even try some new recipes that I’ve found during the summer months, or forgot that I had.  I‘m looking forward to breakfasts and dinners made with my cast iron pans and enameled dutch ovens.  I’m looking to add a 7 or 8qt oval dutch oven to my pots and pans … I just haven’t found one that I can afford.  Any suggestions?

I’m finding that summer is just too hot to be in the kitchen and I’ll most likely take a hiatus from writing during those months, unless I find some exceptional recipe or something that might help you out in the kitchen.   I have this 1953 Merritt & O’Keefe stove/oven and it just makes the temperatures in the kitchen too hot in the summer.  While it’s a good stove, I’m looking for something more modern and with a much bigger oven.  If you’re looking for a vintage stove that works great – I’ll sell you mine.  

I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while – but am looking forward to catching up with you at the end of October – it should be cool enough by then. Until then…

All the best!

I love BLT’s – and saw this recipe in Cooking Light for a BLT in a salad form. It was so easy to make and really delish!  With the crouton’s it tastes almost like the sandwich.  The feta cheese is icing on the “cake” so to speak.


6 ounces French bread baguette, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Cooking spray

4 slices hickory-smoked bacon

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1/4 cup tsp black pepper

1/8 tsp salt

6 cups torn romaine lettuce

1-1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. 

Layer bread on a baking sheet; coat with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until toasted.  Cook bacon in large non-stick skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan.  Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces.  Stir oil into bacon drippings in pan; remove from heat.  Stir in vinegar, pepper and salt.

Combine lettuce, tomatoes and onions in a large bowl; drizzle with vinaigrette.  Add bread; toss well to coat.  Sprinkle with bacon and cheese.  Serve immediately.  Yields:   4 servings.

COOK’s NOTE:  This was really refreshing and Mike liked the dish as much as I did.   I wouldn’t change a thing about it.  I hope you enjoy it too!


This is one of my all time favorite recipes and again, it’s one that is best made with a cast iron pan or dutch oven.   I’ve made this recipe on several occasions and if you were coming to my house for dinner (especially during the winter months) this would probably be a dish that I would prepare for you.  The nice thing about this dish is that you make it and then bake it for 90 minutes to 2 hours and while it’s baking, it leaves you time to clean up and work on your side dishes.  When your guests arrive, your house smells good with all the flavors that are melding together in the cast iron pan.  Once served, the meat is fork tender and melts in your mouth. 


Makes 6 servings.  position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 Degrees.

3 pounds country-style pork spareribs

Salt and pepper

Merlot Sauce:

1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 can (14.5 ounces each) Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes or regular crushed tomatoes (drain off excess liquid)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 cup Merlot or other full-bodied red wine

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

To prepare the ribs, rinse them, pat dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Place a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat; add the ribs, fat side down.  Cook, turning once until browned on all sides, 2-3 minutes.  Transfer the ribs to a plate and drain reserving all but 2 Tablespoons fat from the skillet.

To prepare the sauce, turn down the heat to medium-low, add the onions to the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally until they start to soften about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, red wine, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Turn the heat up to medium and bring the sauce to a boil.  Return the spareribs to the skillet pushing them down gently to submerge.  Protecting both hands with oven mitts, cover tightly with foil.  The liquid will reduce while cooking, leaving a rich, flavorful sauce.  With the oven mitts, carefully place the skillet in the middle of the oven and bake until the meat breaks apart easily with a fork – about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

**COOKS NOTE:  The first couple times I made this I used my 12 inch cast iron pan.  The last time I made this I served 6 people and made it in my dutch oven which was just as round, but also higher on the sides.    I used a good balsamic that was over 10 years of age.  There is a difference in the balsamic  vinegars that you buy and use and depending on the age of the balsamic depends on if yours will be acidic or smooth.  The smooth flavors of a good balsamic from a specialty store or Italian Market make all the difference in how the flavors meld together.  I don’t always use a Merlot, since I don’t have too many on my wine rack.  I tend to use a full-bodied Cabernet or Zin.   

This dish can be served with Corn Casserole (which I’ll also post), corn on the cob, herbed polenta or mashed potatoes – whatever you like.  And, I also served a caprese salad, but a tossed one works just as well.   I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do and let me know if you’d like to join us for dinner!**

Bon Appetit!


Here is another recipe that I’ve had since the 1980’s and have never made.  This is a recipe that my grandmother, Elinor Hoole gave me.  I always thought it looked great, but just never made it until last week.  I have 2 great recipes for Country Style ribs and they will be posted one right after the other.  This recipe calls for vinegar to be added and for a minute I had to stop and ask myself, what type of vinegar my grandmother would have used – would she have used a white wine or red wine vinegar – or would she have used balsamic?  Did they even have Balsamic Vinegar back in her day?  Considering I got this recipe in the late 1970’s – early 1980’s – she probably would have made this in the 1950 – 1960’s and I don’t think that Balsamic Vinegar was on her list of staples in her pantry as it is with mine.  So, being the cook that I am now, I chose Balsamic for its rich flavors and it was a great choice.    Her recipe is more of a BBQ type vinegar sauce – something that would be on a good North Carolina pulled pork sandwich –  I could see myself using her recipe with white or red wine vinegar on Pork Shoulder to make pulled pork sandwiches – does anyone have a great coleslaw recipe?


1-/2 – 2 lbs of country style ribs (approximately 4-5 ribs)

1/2 cup sliced onions

1/2 cup catsup

1/2 cup water

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp vinegar

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp dry yellow mustard

Arrange ribs in shallow pan.  Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Drain and continue cooking 30 minutes longer. 

While ribs are cooking, add all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil.  Have sauce warm and ready to use on the ribs once they’ve cooked 60 minutes. Baste the ribs with the sauce for the remaining 30 minutes.  Just before serving pour the remainder of sauce over the ribs. 

Serve with tater tots, french fries or hash browns, a green salad, chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies (I think my grandmother had a sweet tooth).

**COOKS NOTE:  I did bake the ribs for 90 minutes and then pulled the ribs out and poured the sauce in it’s entirety over the ribs.   I also doubled the batch of “sauce” as I found that if I did not double it I wouldn’t have enough of the sauce to cover the ribs.  What I think would have been even better is to have cooked the ribs WITH the sauce for 90 minutes so that it had a chance to soak up all the good flavors of the sauce.  I think that Sweet Potato fries would have gone really well with this recipe – but I could not find them anywhere.  I’m sure one of the grocery stores carries them and if not, I’ll have to find a recipe for them and make my own.**

Bon Appetit!

This is one of those family recipes that I’ve been collecting and I decided that it looked good and would make it.  It was quick and easy to make and I’m really surprised that I’ve never made this before.   I decided to add chicken which gave it more substance. 


1/4 cup butter

1 cup chopped onion

4 cups *freshly cooked rice (* 1-1/3 cups uncooked rice)

2 cups sour cream

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 large bay leaf

1 cup cottage cheese

3 – 4 ounce cans chiles

chopped parsely

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

Melt butter in skillet.  Saute onions until golden brown.  Remove from heat and stir in hot rice, sour cream, cottage cheese, bay leaf, salt, pepper and green chiles.  Toss lightly.   In a 9 x 13 x 2 dish,  layer half of rice mixture in baking dish, sprinkle with half the cheddar cheese.  Repeat layers, bake uncovered.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley. 

**COOKS NOTE:  I baked the chicken tenders/strips in the oven for 20 minutes at 350.  First I salt/peppered them and then 0nce the chicken was baked, I left it cool and then diced the chicken and added it to the onion mixture and continued to cook for a few more minutes.   At this point I added all the other ingredients as noted above.  I chose not to add chopped parsley to the top and just left the top layer with the cheddar cheese.   It was great for leftovers a few days later.

Bon Appetit!

This is another cast iron dish from my favorite cookbook!  I know I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again how much I love cooking with cast iron.  It’s easy to make and easy to clean up!  I made this a few weeks ago and forgot to post it and my niece mentioned she was making beef brisket for St. Patty’s day, so I thought I would get this posted for her, and all of you!   This is comfort food at its best!  This dish is slow-simmered with a sweet and sour sauce that becomes very tender over time.  Serves 4-6 people.


1 beef brisket – 1 to 3 pounds

Apple Cider-Ginger Barbecue Sauce

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Caramelized Onions

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, cut into quarters, then thinly sliced crosswise

To prepare the barbecue sauce, place the brown sugar, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a medium saucepan.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.

To prepare the onions, spread the olive oil evenly in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until golden.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Turn up the heat to medium, add the brisket and cook turning once until seared on both sides about 5 minutes.  You may need to add a bit more olive oil to keep the meat from sticking to the pan.

Remove the heat and spread the barbecue sauce evenly over the top of the meat.  Sprinkle the cooked onions over the brisket, cover the skillet tightly with foil and bake until fork-tender, about 3 hours.  To serve, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices.

**COOK’s NOTE:  This is a really easy dish to make and I love caramelized onions.  All the flavors were great.  One thing that I left out was the ginger because I didn’t have any on hand, but it was just as good with the Apple cider barbecue sauce.  If you make it with the ginger, let me know how it turns out!   I was able to take 2 forks and pull the brisket apart.  I added potatoes to the barbecue mixture once it had cooked 90 minutes.  We ate it with just the shredded beef, potatoes and a salad.  I think that it would be great on a french roll also!

Bon Appetit!

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June 2018
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