Saturday, October 20, 2012

How to NOT LET your Herbs Go Bad!

I love fresh herbs! They taste Sooooo much better than that dried stuff in tins we get at the store. But frankly, fresh herbs are not the cheapest to buy. And then, when you DO buy them, how many times do you get to use them before they turn black or moldy???  When we buy them, they are in the 'cooled' produce section, so where do we usually store them when we get home? In the refrigerator, of course! (Bad idea) Most people don't know how to successfully do that. So a couple years ago, I began growing some herbs to offset that cost, be able to pick them when I want them, and not waste. At first, I just grew the ones I found seeds for with total disregard of whether I actually had a Use for them or not! LOL too funny... they looked great in the garden but I was still buying herbs at the store! Ok. Enough! So last year I paid attention to what I was buying and using, and then found seeds for THOSE herbs. Yay! Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks???

The herbs started growing fast and furious! Next thing I knew they were out of control! I cannot possibly use them that fast! So I set out in search of an answer to How to Store Herbs. Turns out the best way to 'preserve' them is to dry them. So I leave enough in the garden to get me thru the summer and into autumn having fresh and then dry the rest to get me through the winter & spring! There are several ways of drying herbs, none are Wrong, you just need to find what works best for you and I found this method not only works fast and easy for me, but I can use it to dry any herbs I end up buying at the store also! Lately, I have learned to look for the ones marked "Manager's Special!" I buy them (at 1/3 of the regular price) and take them home to dry!

My method....

1. Grab a handful of herbs by the stems
2. Make a marker with the herb's name - this can even be a small piece of paper.
3. Using a twistie, wrap it around the stems & marker maybe 1" from the end.
4. Leave enough of the twistie so you can also create a "loop" with it.
5. Find a small nail or cup hook to hang this from (upside down). I hang mine over the sink off to the side.

You see, herbs need air to dry. When you keep them in plastic in the refrigerator, the condensation is what turns them black. So even if you can't hang them, I have been successful by poling holes in the plastic containers they are sold in at the store and leaving them out on the counter.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's SOUP Time!

It's Time for Soup

I love autumn... heat turns to cool, sweatshirts come out and along with autumn comes SOUP weather... I love Soup!  Today, I found a recipe that I actually have all the ingredients for... so for lunch I'm making a NEW Taco Soup.  Here is the recipe if you'd like to make it along with me! (pictures later)

Taco Soup
serves 6-8

1/2 lb. lean ground beef
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet onion, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
28 oz. can of tomato sauce
1/2 c. chicken stock
15 oz. can of corn, drained & rinsed
15 oz. can of black beans, drained & rinsed
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
small dash of cinnamon
squirt of 
olive oil

1. Brown ground beef.
2. Meanwhile, add garlic, onion, and bell peppers to a stock pot. Saute with olive oil for 5-8 minutes. Salt to taste.
3. Add tomato sauce, chicken stock, corn, beans, and meat to stock pot. Stir. Add cumin, chili powder, paprika, cilantro, and sugar. Add salt and Sriracha to taste. Stir.
4. Adjust seasonings to taste.
5. Simmer 30-45 minutes. Garnish and serve. For additional garnishes try sour cream and slices of avocado, or quick fry some strips of flour tortillas (or won ton skins)

Pumpkin Season is HERE!!

YAY!!!  I LOVE pumpkin season!!  I love pumpkins... pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin coffee creamer, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin ice cream! OH..... and pumpkin SOUP! Oh Yesss.. if you haven't tried it... the best so far I've had is at the Emerald Tea Room in East Peoria.  But they don't have it all the time, she changes the soup up daily so you have to call (309) 694-1972 or write her on her Facebook page and ask if she's having it, or WHEN is she having it... its SOOOO good.

Anyway..... I cooked up a couple pumpkins a few days ago, and I've been laboring on what to make with the pulp! There are sooo many good things that come to mind (as you can see above and I'm sure I missed a few) but I think I have found THE thing to start off my pumpkin season! It looks soo yummy, I'm going to make it THIS morning! It is called "Pumpkin Pie Cupcake" and looks like this...

I wanted to make these last nite but didn't think I had any heavy whipping cream. This morning I saw a whole Quart in the fridge! The cream fairy must have visited over night! So, I'm off to the kitchen to start work!

Pictures later!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Just a Pause...

We have not completed the search for the perfect pizza, just had to take a pause. You see, Friday night was Emphasis Night at school where the school kicks off the sports season for the year. They bring out all the teams and put on a little dog & pony show for us, introducing us to this year's atheletes. It's kind of a big deal here so you don't miss it and since All the teams (and their families) are present, you better get there early to get a seat! NO PIZZA for us!

Then, Saturday night was our 15th Wedding Anniversary. Pizza? I think Not! LOL We went to 2Chez in P-town for some calamari & rack of lamb. Yummmmmmmm Now if anyone wants to hear about that place I have only two words: Go There! I love that place, their food is wonderful. Oh, it's small so call in a reservation to be safe and it's probably medium on the pricy scale. Most items are quite reasonable I think, but the ribeye is kind of high... 1/2 rack of lamb....$17, ribeye....$25 Take it from there. But it was all wonderful! Maybe we will get back on the pizza search tonite.... Ciao!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stop #3 - American Legion

Amazingly enough a friend called me today and wanted to know if the hubby & I wanted to join her and her hubby for dinner at the American Legion. It was Pizza night! HECK YES! It fell right into our plan.

It was a smorgasbord of flavors! They made Hawaiian Pizza, Supreme, Pepperoni, Chili, and Sausage. I only tasted the Hawaiian and the Supreme. Husband ate Chili, Pepperoni & Supreme. I was surprised to find I really liked this pizza. If it weren't for the fact that they did not make their own crust, we might have had a 4.5 rating! The toppings were 4.5 but since they bought the crusts from elsewhere I have to downgrade it to a 3.5 - but I will definitely check them out again!

Crust 3.5  
Toppings 4.5
Overall 4.0

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stop #2 - Oliver's in Peoria Heights

Tonight we visited Oliver's in Peoria Heights. They make thin crust pizza only. I have to say I was not looking forward to it, as thin crust is not my favorite. However.... it was really good! We ordered the Hawaiian pizza (ham, pineapple, and 3 cheeses) We tend to like this pizza and have had it at several places. Therefore we feel quite qualified in rating this particular flavored pizza. It was quite good; the crust was flaky and crisp on the edges and not too soggy in the middle. It's hard to not get soggy with a pizza sporting pineapple with all the water it carries. They added the trace of cornmeal under the crust which did not go unnoticed, it was great.

I must say, for a thin crust pizza I was impressed.  They DO need to use larger chunks of ham, so we can actually taste it, but other than that, it was pretty good.                  

Crust 4.25  
Toppings/ham 3.75
Overall 4.0


In Search of Pizza Perfection!

My husband and I decided we like Pizza so much, and we have watched Food Tv SO much that we would head out on a hunt of our own to find the Perfect Pizza. We even have said we just might have pizza for dinner for several nights in a row to accomplish this. I'm thinking we might skip a few nights to get the taste out of our system but we will push on and review them here on this blog, sharing the outcome with all of you.

1st stop on our Pizza Tour is Papa Johns.  I had never been there or knowingly had their pizza, so it seemed a good place to start.

We ordered two of what they call "specials": A Chicken Parmesan (pictured above) and a Tuscan Six Cheese. Each pizza came with a pepper and a tub of "Special Garlic Dipping sauce" aka garlic butter?

First I tasted the Chicken Parmesan. The crust is light and fluffy, "not bad" for a hand tossed says the hubby. Has a real hand made feel to it; not a lot of flavor, just... 'crust'. The edge puffed up nice and soft giving you a good handle to hold onto while eating. The sauce had a tangy and slightly sweet flavor to it which wasn't bad since I don't like a real acid tasting tomato sauce.  The dough in the middle of the pizza was quite chewy and in some places not quite cooked completely. The chicken pieces tasted a little dry and a tad mushy... lacking flavor, maybe they should consider marinating the chicken first for a while. The Parmesan was present on the cheese but the taste disappeared after a few chews.

I wasn't overly thrilled with the Tuscan Six cheese. I could taste different cheeses but the overall feel when I took a bite was "mushy". I didn't taste any Parmesan, or any sharp cheese flavors. The hubby said he tasted the Parmesan...  Maybe lowering it to a 4 cheese and using a sharp in there would help.

Crust 3.5  (no seasoning, some doughy, just 'crust')
Toppings/cheese 3.0
Overall 3.25

Thanks for stopping by! Look back again as we endeavor into other pizza palaces, in search of....

Monday, August 6, 2012

Oooey Gooey Chewy Caramels

Step 1What You Need

What you will need:


3 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup cream
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margerine
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
More butter

Useful Tools:

3 quart pan
Candy thermometer
Cookie sheet with raised edges
Pizza Cutter
Wax paper

Step 2In the Pot

In your pan, combine sugar, corn syrup, cream, butter (margarine), and salt. Put in probe of candy thermometer about 1 inch from bottom. Slowly bring to a boil. Stir until sugar boils. (when sugar boils DON'T stir anymore!!!!!).Use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush the sides if any sugar starts to crystallize on the side of the pot. Gently swirl the boiling sugar througout the boiling process. Cook to hard ball stage(250F°-266F°) Add in vanilla. Pour immediately into buttered dish. Allow to completely cool.

Step 3Cool, Cut & Eat!

When cooled, cut into squares with oiled pizza cutter. (Optional: Roll into logs. They are easier to wrap.) Wrap them in wax paper. store at room temperature in a nice bowl.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Shrimp Stir-Fry

Yummmm-o but needs pineapple....


  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup frozen Oriental mixed vegetables, thawed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts


  1. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Stir in the soy sauce, garlic powder and ginger; set aside.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet or wok, stir-fry broccoli in oil for 2 minutes. Add red pepper and onions; stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the shrimp, Oriental vegetables and garlic; cook 3 minutes longer.
  3. Stir cornstarch mixture and stir into shrimp mixture. Add the peanuts. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mini Meatloaves

These yummy meatloaves are healthier too! They are each only 1 oz and filled with veggies.... zucchini, carrots, onions and garlic. I rolled into balls, and somewhat smashed into a cupcake tin, then after baking 25 min at 350, I drained the grease, and squirted a bit of BBQ sauce on top, gave them 5 more min and done!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Coconut Cake!

I found a recipe ....and then a 'suggested change' to the same recipe I'm going to post it here, even tho I haven't tried it yet.  I will.... tonite!

Ok I just did!

- Yellow BUTTER RECIPE cake mix
... 3 eggs, 1 cup water, 1/3 c butter,  1 tsp coconut extract

- 1 can sweetened coconut milk/cream
- 1 cup shredded coconut - Divided in 2 parts (1/2 cup & 1/2 cup)

- 1 small tub Fat Free Cool Whip (or similar topping)

Make cake according to directions, but ADD 1 tsp coconut extract AND 1/2 cup shredded coconut.
Bake according to directions.
Cool 15 min.  Poke holes in cake with fork (many holes).
Pour coconut cream all over cake in pan. Let it sink in and Cool completely.
"Frost" with whipped topping, and then sprinkle the remaining coconut on the topping.

EAT!!! and ENJOY!!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chocolate Mint (Grasshopper) Crepes

Today's yummy treat comes by way of a post I found on a WordPress blog. I almost started one on Word Press, actually I DID start one... created the blog, but when it came down to starting a POST on it... I could not find how to do it! ...and if I - a computer experienced person - could not find how to create a post... what are the odds I would stay there? So... here is the yummy delight I found there... can't wait to try this one some day!

Grasshopper Crepes(inspired by Hugo’s, Fayetteville, AR)

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

(recipe ::here::)
Chocolate Crepes
(borrowed from The Domestic Goddess)
3 eggs
¾ cup water
½ cup half & half cream
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
Vegetable cooking spray for cooking
Combine eggs, water and cream in blender; blend 10 seconds. Add flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and butter; blend until smooth. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Spray 6-inch crepe pan lightly with vegetable cooking spray; heat over medium heat. For each crepe, pour 2 to 3 tablespoons batter in pan; lift and tilt pan to spread batter. Return to heat; cook until surface begins to dry. Loosen crepe around edges; turn and lightly cook other side. Stack crepes, placing wax or parchment paper between each. Keep covered.
Chocolate Sauce
(borrowed from The Domestic Goddess)
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
¼ cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
Stir together sugar and cocoa in small saucepan; gradually stir in evaporated milk. Add butter and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Remove from heat.
Assembling the Crepes
Place one cooled crepe on a plate. Spread one scoop of ice cream down the center of the crepe and roll crepe (seam side up is my preference). Add a dollop of whipped cream and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve immediately.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers

I found this on another site and I wanted it to be the FIRST thing I posted so I don't lose it. It looks SO good I can't WAIT to try it!

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers
makes 7-8 large patties

2 cans cannellini white beans, drained
1 large sweet potato, baked/peeled/mashed (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp tahini
2 tsp maple or agave syrup
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning OR Cajun seasoning (or another fave spice!)
1/4 cup wheat flour
optional: additional seasoning (whatever you have on hand - I used a few dashes cayenne, black pepper and a scoop of nutritional yeast)
salt to taste if needed

plentiful Panko crumbs
safflower oil for pan

burgers: avocado, Dijon mustard, grain buns, romaine, onion, olive oil, pepper


1. Bake sweet potato. Peel, place in large mixing bowl.
2. Add drained beans to mixing bowl. Mash beans and potato together.
3. Mash in seasoning, flour and any additional seasoning. Your mixture will be quite soft and moist. But you should be able to form a patty. Add more flour or a scoop of breadcrumbs - or dry rice to thicken the mixture if needed.
4. Heat 1 Tbsp safflower oil in a pan over high heat.
5. Form a patty from mixture and coat in Panko crumbs. Thick coating. Then drop the patty in the pan. Repeat until the pan is filled. Cook until browned on both sides. You could also bake. If baking, use less Panko.
6. Transfer cooked patties to paper towel. Cool for a few minutes.
7. Serve on toasted bun with lotsa toppings.

Note: yes this patty does fall kind of apart as you eat it. But that is OK because it tastes yummy. 
original source: