Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bread buddies are poppin up everywhere!

I have so many more Bread Buddies than I knew I had!
Tonight, I got a funny phone call from Andi saying
"I don't know whether to thank you or smack you!, I love bread and this 5 minute bread is delicious!"
I was at a Famous Dave's waiting for my friend Mari to meet me for dinner, and there I was, with my ear bud still in my ear, laughing and talking about BREAD! with Andi!
She bought the book today at Barnes N Noble, and she too, can't believe how easy and doable it is! She was just as giddy as I am! I found a soul mate!
She gets me! It is ridiculous how excited I get over holes in my bread. The more and bigger holes, the better my day! Totally nerdy... but oh so satisfying!
Then I get home... and I just read that DeeDee, too, is a Bread Buddy! She made the master recipe into PIZZA DOUGH!
She is going to accompany me on my whirlwind tour of the world teaching this method! Hee hee!
So, now I have Adrain, Andi, Dee and myself in my lovely bread world.
Who else is going to join the HOLEY club of boules, bialys, bagels, and brioche?
Any takers?
Our club can handle lots more!
I ought to start a bread blog.
What do you think?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yo Adrian!

Girl... your bread turned out P-E-R-F-E-C-T!
If there were holes in it... it was perfect.
My first loaf looked and tasted like a hockey puck!
For all you readers... Adrian is a new friend I made on the blogosphere, and she has become my newest Bread Buddy!
She too, is now addicted to the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day way of making and baking bread.
What FUN!
I comment on the authors blog a lot, and Adrian, they would be thrilled to hear about your results! They are so nice, and they respond to everyone!
I want to work for them and show the world how to do this!
Then you and I could go to Italy, Adrian!!!, and show all my people!
I am so happy you are enjoying the book the way I do!
Whenever I empty a bucket of dough, I immediately make a new batch... right in the old dough bucket.
Lately, I have been adding Flax Seed Meal to all my loaves to help fortify it and add lots of fiber and nutrition. You can't taste it at all, and it gives it a really great whole grain look.
I love ya for trying the book Adrian!
I am just giddy about it!
I know I go on and on about it!
You'd think I wrote the book!
Zoe and Jeff... if you are hiring...I'm available... Adrian can be my travel buddy!

Brown Rice Fajitas

Last nights dinner was brown rice fajitas.
I'm trying to prepare at least 2 totally vegetarian dishes a week.
Since I already had cooked brown rice and sliced onions from Sunday night's prep,
all I had to do was
slice up some home grown green peppers from out back and heat everything through.
Add in some taco seasoning mix and a pinch of salt and pepper, warm up some tortillas,
and we were almost in business!
A quick transfer of grated cheddar from the fridge to a plate, some sliced
home grown tomatoes from Letti's garden and it was
Dinner Al Fresco by the pool.
Watermelon was dessert and swimming immediately
after dinner was preferred over plopping down on the couch for TV.
(no, we don't wait 30 minutes after eating to swim, NEVER HAVE... it a MYTH!)
They never missed the meat. Brown rice has a meaty texture and it is chewy and delicious.
I cooked it all ahead of time for only 25 minutes on Sunday in my Rice Cooker Plus. in the microwave! It was a cinch!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Food for unexpected guests...

Don't you just love drop in guests?
I know why I don't. I never feel like my house is clean enough and I don't always have
something to knosh on for them... until now.
I have decided to develop a few staple "guest" friendly items on hand all the time, for just the occasion for drop in guests... since I have them so frequently.
They are...
Kalamata Olives
Sicilian Olives
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
My bread... of course
Roasted Red Peppers
Marinated Mushrooms
All those items can be purchased
(with the exception of the bread, in my case)
from Trader Joes. They are relatively inexpensive,
jarred, and delicious.
They make a wonderful Antipasti Platter in minutes, and
at least one of the items is something someone would like.
Pair it up with some fresh fruit on hand, nicely sliced, and
it becomes an appetizer or knosh that is unparalleled!
Add a great glass of wine and everything will sing!
Your guests will feel special, and think you are putting on quite a "spread", and you
will know that you are honoring them by welcoming them to stay and enjoy
breaking bread with you, without breaking the bank or slaving in the kitchen.
With the above items... a little goes a long way since they are so savory.
So unexpected guests are going to be a treat for me now.
Now... about keeping my house spotless... that's another story all together...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bread... the saga continues.

I made my own cocktail type bread.
Save about 8 bucks in bread... those little loaves are exceedingly expensive.

This was the dinner bread at the party. We sliced it all up for dinner.

This was dinner on the 23rd. We also had pasta... but the tomato salad was the favorite.


I know... it seem like the BREAD BLOG these days... but it is SO satisfying making bread.
Yesterday, during Alex's party, I taught my Mom and sis in law how to make the dough, it was so satsifying teaching the technique too!
That tomato salad is awesome. So easy.
Cut up tomatoes, some onion and oil, balsamic and salt and pepper and you are in business!
Make it a greek salad by adding chunks of cucumbers and crumbled feta cheese.
Make it Italian Panzanella salad by adding fresh mozzarella cheese chunks and
cut up chunks of day old Artisan Bread.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lock N Lock My favorite storage containers

My Mama and I are obsessed with these containers.
We buy them for each other all the time.
I don't actually own any round ones, but it's the only picture I could find online.
I store my bread flour, cereal, cornmeal, nuts, honey, chips, baking stuff, salt, peppercorns,
leftovers, fruit, veggies, EVERYTHING IN THEM!
I MUST own 100 pieces... and I never get tired of buying them!
You can fill them, and throw them across the room and it won't spill, or crack or open.
Ask me how I know!
I buy them from QVC.
Try them... you will love them!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Favorite Thing 7... Cooling Rack

PC has the BEST cooling racks. I use them every day to cool my bread off.
The legs fold in... they stack, and they clean up like a breeze.
My favorite thing to do with it is to make a bunch of peanut butter cookie balls, and instead of pushing each one down with a fork to make the cross hatch design on them, I just
turn this thing upside down and press them all at the same time!
The small grates make it nice so the cookies don't crease in between the wires.
Pampered Chef Stackable cooling racks...
One of my favorite things.

Tuesday Dinner... late, but good.

Last night... I had a show... and came home around 8:30.
The kids still hadn't eaten, because Bill needed to go next door and help our
neighbor install a new air conditioner.
Normally we eat around 6 ish.
I have learned, in my newly acquired age, to pick my battles.
So I just cooked dinner really quickly.
I already had a bunch of onions cut up ahead of time, so I started sauteing them to a golden brown in a tiny bit of Olive Oil, and added 2 cups fresh frozen peas to the mix.
When they were heated through... I added 1 1/4 cups chicken stock and a cup of couscous to the pan, covered it, and let it sit off the heat for 5 minutes.
I marched hubby outside to BBQ some chicken really quick and I had baked off a great big boule
of bread earlier in the day, so we were ready to eat in 15 minutes.
Whew... crisis averted! Those poor kids were starving. Normally, they cook for themselves when in a pinch, but they knew all the fixing for a dinner was just waiting.
My heart broke when I saw how ravenous they were.
Bill felt bad too, but our neighbor needed air... it's HOT outside, and my guy is a heating/AC guy... who do you call? Bill!
Tonight, before Bill's meeting, I'll have him BBQ a nice Top Sirloin and cook off some potatoes in my Rice Cooker Plus, add a salad, and baked another bread this morning.
What are you having for dinner tonight?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil

After my shows... the very last thing I want to do is cook.
Saturday... after the show with Johnny, he fell right to sleep in the car.
When he woke up, he said... "Mama, that was WORK having to smile and be nice for 3 hours!"
I almost died.
Being 'on' takes a toll on ones psyche... for sure.
There is a certain 'high' right after the show... then a crash. It's all good, it's just part of the job.
I used to get the same way after being on stage, just more so!
So my 'go to' dinner of choice, when I haven't done my prep for the week yet...
is Garlic and Olive Oil Pasta.
1/2 cup Olive Oil
4 crushed cloves of garlic (or more if you like)
red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb of pasta, cooked, not rinsed, and hot.
Heat oil and garlic together so the garlic doesn't burn. Add pepper flakes if using them.
Add immediately to cooked and hot pasta, and toss like you've never tossed before.
Make sure to have your salad and garlic bread done before all of this. Pasta cools quickly, and is best served hot!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Favorite thing 6

This is my 3 tiered stand that I use all the time for a multitude of things.
I love it filled and overflowing with fruit for parties, or daintily studded with mini cupcakes and muffins for brunches.
Sometimes I just use it for forks, spoons and knives when we have a buffet set up.
It used valuable vertical space and is simply lovely just alone.
Yes, it's from PC.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Favorite thing 5

What is it?
A Rice Cooker PLUS.
Pay close attention to the PLUS part.
This sucker does EVERYTHING you want it to do in a microwave.
Yes, it cooks rice... in the microwave... but it does SOOOO much more!
4 chicken breasts in 10 minutes
salmon in 4 minutes
Fresh veggies in 5-10 minutes
Frozen Veggies in 8-12 minutes
A cake in 9 minutes
Ground beef for tacos in 6-10 minutes!
Potatoes in 10 minutes
I use it every single day. I sell TONS of them. It is my highest seller by far.
You can even pop popcorn in it dry!
So there you have it... another one of my favorite things in the kitchen.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Taco dip for dinner

Last night dinner was a family favorite.
Not exactly an actual dinner, but an appetizer that we make into dinner, by simply
not having anything else but it.
It's a Pampered Chef Recipe from way back called Touch Down Taco Dip.
Can you say YUM!?!
It a twist on the seven layer dips of the 70's but the twist is this one is
Oh yeah.... !
First you mix together
Set aside.
and spread them on the bottom of a microwaveable stone with sides
or something that is at least 9x13.
Then pile on the cream cheese mixture.
Top with more shredded cheese
and chopped black olives
Take out of microwave
then add chopped tomatoes or salsa, avacado or guacamole,
cilantro, or anything else you love in a dip.
Grab some tortilla or bagel chips and have at it!
Of course you can add or take away anything you don't fancy.
Try it with a layer of seasoned ground cooked beef or turkey to give it a more
main dish appeal.
It's even better the day after. Just re heat and dig away!
It's cinch to make as long as you have all the ingredients,
and I make it all the time when we camp.
It is just so yummy!
Bill grabs me and kisses me when he knows I am making it.
It is so funny, it's like he thinks it's difficult or something!
I'll just let him keep thinking that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Alfredo... Mockfredo... Tomato, Tamato

I made my very first BAGELS today.
Yes, from my favorite new book
Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day!
They are a little lumpy and bumpy, but they taste great with mustard and honey
mixed in a bowl and dipped.
One batch made about 22 bagels. So we have bagels for a week!
Last night I made Penne with Pea Alfredo Sauce, green salad and homemade bread.
Juan enjoyed the meal, and told me he was flattered that I made fresh bread dinner.
I was touched.
Like I keep saying... it's easy to buy a meal for someone... but when you cook for someone, it's like giving them a huge hug right in the gut!
Here's my recipe for my Mockfredo Sauce.
I would have made real Alfredo Sauce
(no it would never occur to me to buy it... I'M ITALIAN! THAT IS A CARDINAL SIN!")
BUT I didn't have any marscapone or asiago cheese on hand.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
10 oz cream cheese
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
(no green cans please, it will NOT turn out)
1/2 - 1 cup milk
(we only have non fat in the house, so that's what I used,
you can use regular milk or cream)
2 cups FROZEN peas (OPTIONAL)
Dump first four ingredients into a pot and stir until smooth and creamy. Add peas (or sundried tomatoes, or basil, or lobster, or shrimp, or crab, or chicken) and stir until temperature is hot again.
Pour over al dente cooked pasta... any shape and serve immediately.
REMEMBER...NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER rinse your pasta after cooking it.
Maxine... no raisins should ever see this recipe... :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Favorite Things #4

My stones... No... not rocks or the band... buy my baking stones!
There is NOTHING better to bake bread on. Or cookies. Or EVERYTHING!
Of course I love my Pampered Chef ones the very best. They are lead free and clean up great!
They don't harbor odors and are virtually non porous. ***
They are versatile, easy, and make food brown and taste better.
The worse they look, the better they cook!

Sunday, July 13, 2008



It was a nice weekend... Not too much mayhem, got some things done...
But it is time to prep again for the week.
Since I have been baking my own bread, I have saved about 150 bucks on Artisan Bread I used to buy for 4.99 a loaf, and now make about 8 loaves for that same price.
I have a batch of regular and a batch of bagel dough all ready to go in the back fridge. I made the dough 3 days ago.
Today's prep involved the usual onions, peppers, pasta salad making and such, but I noticed that William's appetite has doubled since football training started, and he needs more sustainable food in the morning to keep him going the 4 hours until lunch. Cereal just isn't cutting it.
So tonight, when it gets cooler, I'll be making a big batch of pancakes with wheatgerm and flax seed, and boiling up a dozen eggs or so. The protein should help him not feel so hungry before lunch and help build the muscles he is building on a daily basis. He will be limited to one a day because of the cholesterol content.
I was at the little 99 cent store here in town buying clear plastic for my tables and chairs out back and I noticed the bags and bags and bags of shelled and roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds on a bin. I bought a bunch of them, put them into my favorite Lock n Lock containers and will be using them to fortify my homemade bread by adding them to the dough when I shape it.
I love bread with chunks of seeds and nuts in it.
Have any of you jumped on the Prep bandwagon?
Or are you just laughing at me every time I post this?
If you are laughing... laugh away... dinner takes me 15 minutes to make now, from start to finish, and all the time consuming stuff is done in one day!
I have given myself more time to swim or read!!!
Hardee har har!

Friday, July 11, 2008


I think they are as pretty as they are functional.
I have them in all sizes, and my new favorite is the kind that expands to fit over the sink.
I use them for everything!
Pasta, of course, and sweet pickle relish, and tuna, and veggies, and just about anything and eveything that has water in it.
I recently purchased one that is all silicone, collapses down,
and is dishwasher safe, exact one shown above.
That one isn't as pretty as the stainless steel holey ones, but it sure is easy to clean!
I do so love my metal ones too. They make great impromptu steamers, expecially for mussels and clams.
Colanders also make great beach toys in the sand. I relegate my old ones to the motorhome storage bins for just such a purpose.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Kitchen Tongs

Gotta love 'em!
I use them like an extension of my hand. I must own 20 pairs. Short ones. Long ones. Skinny ones. Fat ones. Some with grip, some with scallops, some are metal, some are silicone.
They are absolutely indispensible in the kitchen.
Grab a pair and see what I mean!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things...

I am a total kitchenware geek. I know, I know, I sell the stuff too,
but I just can't get enough! I am starting a series for the next few weeks of my
favorite things in the kitchen. In no particular order. I am in LOVE with my mini food processor. I love Cuisinart and KitchenAid products.
Since Pampered Chef doesn't sell anything that plugs in,
I can say this and be totally unbiased.
I enjoy the mini so much because of the ease of cleaning.
It's small, perfect for quick jobs and it's so easy to clean. Just a rinse or put it on the top rack of your dishwasher. I also am not a fan of having absolutely everything
I own on my kitchen counter, so I love that it fits into a cabinet on a shelf. I used it last night to make Salmon Mouuse for the boys for a nice snack with whole grain crackers this week. It took seconds to whiz it up,
and it turned out so creamy and light!
I use it all the time to make quick pestos, chop nuts, or carrots and
I love it for whizzing around frozen fruit. It only costs about 30 bucks and it is truly one of my favorite things.

Clearing the air.

You know what?
I have gotten some e mail about my "prep" day and it hasn't been understood.
So I am going to clear it up a little bit today, and this will be the only time I do so. I'd rather focus on positivity and not negativity.
First of all, I am not doing this blog to "make" anyone do anything.
Please know it is completely your choice if, when, how, what or where,you prep.
No one is the Prep Police, and no one is going to come over and check up on you.
It is completely up to you if you choose to do things this way.
This is just how I exist in my little world in my home, and I had a lot of people ask me over the years, how I am able to get meals on the table every night, with all I have going on with my business, family, lifestyle etc...
Okay there, I hope that dispells any myth that I am trying to ram anything down anyones throats and make everyone come on over to the "dark side" that is prep in a few peoples worlds.
A couple of people also don't appreciate that I say things like "here in America" or "The Europeans do it this way". These people say I sound anti American.
Remember, I was raised by new immigrants. My home was little Italy, in America. I didn't even feel like I was born here until I moved out and got married!
Those of you that came to my party understand now with all the Italians in the room!
It was like a Godfather movie... only the people were nicer!
I will NEVER, EVER apologize for my heritage, and for how I was brought up. I had the BEST time in my formative years, and wouldn't trade it for anything! I have been to Italy twice and my kids have been there once. Going abroad changes you. It really makes you see the "big picture", and my kids and family are changed forever by having experienced a completely different lifestyle and immersed ourselves in it happily. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I think Europeans live a MUCH better lifestyle than we do here.
Sorry, just my opinion.
They really know how to take life and live it to the fullest!
I re read my posts, and I know I don't come across as preachy, just informative.
Those of you who "get me", thank you... those of you who don't, I hope this clears things up, and I thank you too for emailing me personally and airing your opinions, but please know that this is my blog, and I am entitled to say and post whatever I feel.
This week has been a banner week for people really not liking my way of doing things
and telling me so.
To all my readers, thank you so much for comments, input, teaching me new things, recipes, ways you do things in your kitchens, and just reading! I really appreciate you!
Onward and upward we go... shall we?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Compound Butter

Don't you just hate all those fancy names chefs use for ordinary food?
Burre Blanc = White butter sauce
chiffonade = cut into ribbons
duxelle sauces = mushroom sauce
compound butter = butter with stuff mixed in it
Here in America, we love our butter. We have 4 states dedicated to making our beloved dairy products, they even have funny hats made of wedges of cheese and such.
So it doesn't surprise me at all to see lots of different types of butter being shown on Food Network, for us, the lowly home cooks.
I love making compound butters.
No, it doesn't have to be intricate, keep it simple, and jazz it up with presentation.
I am all about presentation.
Whoever said we eat with our eyes first was dead on accurate.
Here's a list of my favorite mix ins.
Each these butters are mixed when the butter is at room temperature.
Honey butter = 1 cup butter to 1/4-1/2 cup honey. Use this butter for up to one week.
Herb Butter = 1 cup butter and 1 tsp each of your favorite herbs. If using only one herb in the butter, use 1 tbs of herbs. Use this butter the same day and only for 2 days after its made.
Jalapeno Butter = 1 T chopped jalapeno into 1 cup butter
Use within 2 days.
Marmalade butter - 3 T marmalade to 1 cup butter
Use within 1 week
Cinnamon butter = 1 tsp cinnamon to 1 cup butter
You get the picture!
Now for making it extra special.
On the day of your dinner or lunch, make your butter mixture.
You can now lay it out on parchment paper and refrigerate it slightly and use small cookie cutters to make lovely shapes of the butter. Then freeze the shapes and put them on the table when you set it.
Or, you can put it into a pastry bag or Easy Accent Decorator from Pampered Chef (wink)
and make lovely little dollops of butter on a pastry sheet or parchment, refrigerate or freeze.
Roll it into a long tube in the parchment and refrigerate the log. When it's time to serve, cut the log into butter coins.
Use any type of cookie type form or silicone form to make elegant shapes.
The sky's the limit!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tri tip & Beer Chicken

From Angela!
Summertime easy and yummy meats are steak and beer chicken.
We use tri-tip from costco and Lawry's beef merinade.
It is the best.
That merinade even makes cheap meat yummy!
We also like to take whole chickens (usually the seasoned ones)a can of any kind of beer, sit the chicken all the way on the can and bbq until meat is done.
Usually about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Go to Recipes

I really love entertaining.
I don't do as much as I used to with the kids schedules and everything, but I really love
making dinner for friends and family when they come over.
Anyone can buy someone a meal at a restaurant, but cooking a meal and breaking bread with the ones you love under your own roof makes it even more special in my opinion.
Everyone should have a "go to" meal that would be equally at home with just your kids and hubby or for your hubby's boss and colleagues when you want to make a good impression.
If you were to think about that... what would your 'signature' dish be?
I invite you to share your "go to" knock 'em dead meals with me and my readers.
I will post them as they come in on comments, and if you could include a quick list of ingredients and simple instructions, that would be great!
We can all use some new recipes these days, since many of us aren't eating out as much as we used to.
You can also email me directly at and I will post your recipe!
It is so cool to see your name in print!
So please, post away, and each comment with a recipe, will recieve a free Pampered Chef Season's best cookbook mailed to their home(limit one per household) Please only include your address in a personal email to me and it will be kept private.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dinner in a hurry

I have a new dilemma in the cooking department.
I had to figure out, last night, a bunch of dinners that were easy to prepare, transportable, and yummy, so we can take them along with us to Will's football practices.
Okay... here's why...
I'm cheap.
I just can't see spending the money eating out every night,
even though it would be much more convenient. Since I am really watching what I eat,
I also really don't want to
eat food that I didn't prepare myself. I would much rather drop that money at
a department store than a restaurant or fast food joint. Catch my drift?
I came up with a few things that I think will fill us up, be tasty and still not break the calorie barrier I set for myself.
Egg White Burritos, brown rice and salad
Lavash Wraps, watermelon slices
30 minute Chicken, Couscous, salad
Goat Cheese and Baguette and cucumber salad
Chicken Taco Salad, fruit kebobs, tea
Tuna Sandwiches, veggies and dip, melon
Cheeseburger Salad, oven potatoes, melon
Sweet N Sour Pasta Salad, homemade bread, fruit
We love melons, can you tell?
Each meal will be serve with their choice of either unsweetened green iced tea or water.
I own a TON of the storage containers called Lock N Lock, and let me tell you...
You can throw a full container on the floor and it won't open for anything!
So I will be using only those to put our food into.
Gonna try and save some trees while I'm at it.
So... if you are ever in Redlands from 3-7 p.m. and are hungry, give me a jingle and come eat dinner with us! I'll always have plenty!