Labor Day Weekend

Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad

September 3, 2012

Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad

My Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad has a delicious flavor and is one of my favorite summertime classics.  This pasta salad contains no mayonnaise which is why it’s picnic perfect!


8 Ounces Corkscrew Pasta

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 Diced Tomato

1/4 Cup Diced Yellow Bell Pepper

1/4 Cup Diced Cucumber

1/4 Cup Diced Carrots

1/4 Cup Diced Celery

1/4 Cup Diced Green Onions

1/4 Cup Chopped Green Olives

1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro

1/4 Cup Chopped Sopressata

1/4 Cup Diced Cheddar Cheese

1/8 Cup Diced Pepperoncini Peppers

1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper

1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

1/2 Cup Basic Herbed Salad Dressing

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain the pasta and add 1 tablespoon to the drained pasta.  Do NOT rinse the pasta.  Place the pasta in a large bowl.  Combine the tomato, yellow bell pepper, cucumber, carrots, celery, green onions, green olives, sopressata, cheddar cheese, pepperoncini peppers, kosher salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and basic herbed salad dressing.  Mix well, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Serves 6

Twice Baked Potatoes

September 2, 2012

Twice Baked Potatoes

Talk about a guilty pleasure!  Talk about the best of both worlds!  I love baked potatoes and I love mashed potatoes.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think that I have met a potato that I didn’t like.  Twice Baked Potatoes takes some effort, but isn’t complicated.  The payoff, however, is huge. 


4 Medium Baking Potatoes

1/2 Cup Sour Cream

1/4 Cup Half & Half

1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter

1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper

1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

1 Tablespoon Chives

1 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Preheat your oven to 400° F.  Scrub the potatoes and pat dry.  Pierce the potatoes with a fork.  Place in the oven and bake on the center rack for 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven let stand for 10 minutes.  Hold each potato with an oven mitt or dish towel and cut a lengthwise slice off the top.  The potatoes will look like little canoes.  Carefully scoop out the insides and place into a bowl.  Make sure that you don’t scoop all of the insides out so the potatoes hold their shape.  Mash the potato pulp with an electric mixer on a low speed.  Add the butter, half & half, sour cream, salt, pepper, garlic powder and chives.  Beat for 2 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese.  Spoon the mashed potato mixture back into the potato shells.  Place onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the tops of the potatoes.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter and serve hot.  Serves 4

Fresh Blueberry & Mango Cake

September 1, 2012

Fresh Blueberry & Mango Cake

I am going on a Labor Day picnic this weekend and made my Fresh Blueberry & Mango cake to take along.  It is delicious and easy to cut into pieces to pack into the picnic basket. 


1 Pint Fresh Organic Blueberries

1 Small Diced Mango

1/2 Cup Softened Butter

2 Cups Sugar

4 Large Eggs

1 Cup Milk

3 Cups Unbleached Flour

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Wash and dry the blueberries.  In a large size bowl cream together the butter, sugar and the eggs.  Stir in the milk.  In a medium size bowl combine the flour, baking powder and the salt.  Slowly add the flour mixture into the egg mixture.  Stir and then add the vanilla.  Mix well.  Fold in the blueberries and mango.  Prepare a bundt pan or any pan you wish to use which will hold the batter.  Bake for 1 hour until done.  Remove from the oven and cool the cake while still in the pan for 25 minutes on a cooling rack.  Remove from the pan onto a cake plate.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost if you wish.  Serves 8


Edible Play Dough Recipes

September 1, 2012

Edible Play Dough Recipes

Sometimes it’s just plain fun to play with your food!  If you are looking for a fun activity this Labor Day Weekend to do with your kids how about making Edible Play Dough? 



1/3 Cup Margarine

1/3 Cup Light Corn Syrup

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Pound Powdered Sugar

Food Coloring

In a large size mixing bowl mix the margarine with the corn syrup, salt and vanilla.  Add the powdered sugar bit by bit.  If you need less use less and if you need more than use more.  Knead until the color is well blended.  Divide into portions and add the food coloring(s).  Work the food coloring well into each portion.  Store in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator when not using.  Makes 1 batch.



1/2 Cup Corn Syrup

3/4 Cup Peanut Butter

1/2 Cup Soft Margarine

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

5 Cups Powdered Sugar

In a large size bowl mix all of the ingredients thoroughly.  Play and Eat.  Make sure everyone’s hands are nice and clean.  Use a piece of waxed paper to work on.  Makes 1 batch.



1 Cup Flour

1/2 Cup Salt

1 Cup Water

1 TablespoonVegetable  Oil

2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar

1 (3 1/2 Ounce) Package Unsweetened Jell-O

In a medium size cooking pot combine the flour, salt, water, oil, cream of tartar and package of Jell-O.  Mix well and cook over a medium heat.  Stir constantly until the mixture looks like mashed potatoes.  Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes.  Flour your hands and knead until the mixture is dry.  Make sure that the play dough has cooled completely before storing in an airtight container.  Makes 1 batch.

Sweet Potato & Apple Gratin

August 31, 2012

Sweet Potato & Apple Gratin

Fall is around the corner and my Sweet Potato & Apple Gratin is the perfect fall dish.  It’s easy to make and a real crowd pleaser. 


3 Cups Thinly Sliced Granny Smith Apples

1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice

1/4 Cup Maple Syrup

1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Melted Butter

1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper

2 Slices White Bread

1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

2 Pounds Peeled and Chopped Sweet Potatoes

Preheat your oven to 400° F.  In a large size bowl combine the apples and lemon juice.  Add the sweet potatoes, maple syrup, butter, salt and pepper.  Grease a 13×9 baking dish.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Bake for 25 minutes and then stir the mixture.  Bake for another 20 minutes after stirring.  Put the bread in a blender or food processor and pulse until you have coarse bread crumbs.  In a small size bowl combine the bread crumbs, olive oil and nutmeg.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the potato mixture.  Bake for another 30 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 8

Basic Pound Cake

August 30, 2012

Basic Pound Cake

The simplest of cakes is the most delicious and it goes well with everything.  You can flavor your pound cake any way you like or just serve it with berries or ice cream.  This truly is an easy cake to make.  Make sure that your eggs are room temperature and that you beat the butter and sugar long enough so that the batter is fluffy.  Once you’ve added the flour be sure not to overmix the cake.  You don’t want your pound cake to be tough. 


2 Cups Unbleached Flour

1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 1/4 Cups Sugar

1/2 Pound Softened Butter

5 Large Eggs

2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract

Juice of 1 Lemon

1/2 Cup Half & Half

Preheat your oven to 325° F.  Grease and flour a loaf pan.  If you don’t have a loaf pan then use a bundt pan.  In a medium size bowl combine the flour and salt.  Set aside.  In a large size bowl beat the butter and sugar together for 5 minutes.  I use an electric mixer on low for this. Add the eggs one at a time.  After the third egg add 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture.  Beat for 10 seconds.  Add the vanilla and lemon juice.  Put down your electric mixer and mix in the flour by hand.  Add the flour in thirds.  Alternate with the half & half.  Make sure not to overmix.  Pour the batter evenly in the pan and tap it on the counter to get out air bubbles.  Bake for 1 hour on the middle rack.  After 50 minutes check to see if the cake is done.  The top will spring back when you touch it.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 20 minutes.  Turn the cake out onto a rack and when thoroughly cool wrap in foil and store in a tightly sealed container.  Wait 24 hours before slicing it.  The good news is that pound cakes will keep in the freezer for months so this is a great “make ahead” recipe.  Serves 16

Boston Baked Beans

August 29, 2012

Boston Baked Beans

Labor Day Weekend is coming up and you might want to round out your BBQ with my delicious Boston Baked Beans!


2 Pounds Dry Navy Beans

1/2 Pound Salt Pork

2 Quartered Onions

1/2 Cup Dark Molasses

1/2 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar

1/4 Cup Pure Maple Syrup

1/4 Cup Tomato Paste

2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard

2 Teaspoons Freshly Ground Pepper

1 Quart Boiling Water

Rinse the dry beans and cover with cold water in a pot.  They will need to soak overnight.  Drain and rinse the beans the next day.  Preheat your oven to 225° F.    Cut the salt pork into 1 inch thick slices.  Put 1/4 cup of the salt pork and 4 onion quarters in the bottom of a bean pot.  Fill the pot half full of the beans and repeat the pork and onion.  Pour in the rest of the beans.  Mix the molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup, tomato paste, mustard and pepper into the boiling water.  Stir until all of the ingredients dissolves and then pour over the beans.  Fill the pot with enough additional water to cover.  Put any leftover salt pork on top.  Put the lid on and bake for 4 to 5 hours.  Check the beans for water level after 2 hours.  Add a bit more water if needed.  After 3 1/2 hours start checking for tenderness.  Cooking times for beans vary.  You’ll know when they are done.  The last hour of cooking remove the lid and bake uncovered.  Don’t worry if the beans are tender, but still soupy because they will absorb the liquid as they stand.  Remove from the oven and let cook for 15 minutes before serving. When you do reheat them as leftovers you will probably need to add more water.  Serves 12

Spinach Soup

August 27, 2012

Spinach Soup

Many times spinach can get lost in soups, but not this soup as it contains 12 cups of spinach. A touch of lemon adds a little something to complete the flavor of this beautiful soup.  Garnish with either croutons or bacon bits. 


1 Cup Diced Onion

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

4 Cloves Minced Garlic

1/3 Cup Unbleached Flour

3 Cups Half & Half

2 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth

12 Cups Baby Spinach

1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest

2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper

Croutons – Optional

Bacon Bits – Optional

In a large stock pot heat the olive oil over a medium high heat and sauté the onion for 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Stir in the flour and cook for 3 minutes.  Slowly pour in the half & half and either chicken or vegetable broth.  Stir and bring the soup to a simmer over a medium heat.  Add the 8 cups of spinach and cook for 6 minutes.  Reduce to a low heat.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  You can use one of these devices to puree: a handheld blender, a food processor or a blender.  Puree all of the soup in batches, if needed, and return to the soup pot.  If you are using a handheld blender then you may puree right in the pot.  Stir in the remaining 4 cups of spinach.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Cook for 1 minute more.  Ladle the soup into soup bowls.  Garnish with croutons or bacon bits.  Serves 8

*If you want to lower the fat content then use fat-free half & half. 

Victoria’s Slow Cooker Tri-Tip

August 26, 2012

Victoria's Slow Cooker Tri-Tip

Here is a nice Sunday meal that really is no fuss.  Throw in some carrots, potatoes and cipollini onions and you have a complete meal. 


2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Boneless Tri-Tip Weighing 5 Pounds

1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper

8 Chopped Garlic Coves

1/3 Cup Unbleached Flour

3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

1 Tablespoon Anchovy Paste

1 Tablespoon Beef Bouillon

1 Cup Red Wine

14 1/2 Ounce Can Whole Tomatoes With Juices (Quartered)

3 Dried Bay Leaves

1 Teaspoon Sage

1 Teaspoon Rosemary

1/2 Teaspoon Grated Nutmeg

1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

1 Pound Halved Small White Potatoes

4 Cut Carrots

12 Ounces Blanched & Peeled Cipollini Onions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat until it is shimmering.  Brown the tri-tip on both sides which should be 5 minutes per side.  Transfer the tri-tip to a 6 quart slow cooker.  In the skillet stir in the garlic, flour, tomato paste, anchovy paste and beef bouillon.  Cook for 1 minute.  Deglaze the skillet with the red wine.  Scrap up the bits on the bottom.  Add the tomatoes, tomato juice, bay leaves, sage, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  You want the consistency to be thick.  Pour the wine mixture over the tri-tip in the slow cooker.  Add the potatoes, carrots and cipollini onions to the slow cooker.  Cover the slow cooker and cook on the high setting for 5 hours.  You will want the tri-tip to be fork tender.  Transfer the roast to a serving platter.  Arrange the vegetables around the tri-tip or place them in their own separate serving bowl.  Strain the remaining sauce and skim off any excess fat from the surface.  Serve the sauce with the roast. Leftovers make great sandwiches! Serves 8

*In order to easily peel the cipollini onions blanch them for 2 minutes in boiling water.  Transfer them to an ice water bath and the skins will slip right off. 

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

August 25, 2012

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

I don’t know one person who can resist this weekend morning cake. 


1 Cup Chopped Pecans

3/4 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar

1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

2 Cups Unbleached Flour

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 Cup Sugar

3/4 Cup Softened Butter

2 Eggs

8 Ounces Sour Cream

2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract

Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Prepare a Large glass baking pan (13x9x2) by greasing it with butter or olive oil.  In a medium size bowl combine the nuts, chocolate chips, 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon.  This is for the filling.  Set aside.  In a small size bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a large size bowl combine 1 cup of the sugar and butter.  Beat with an electric mixer on a medium speed for 1 minute.  Add the eggs and beat for another minute.  Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat for 30 seconds.  Add the flour mixture and beat for 1 minute.  The batter will be thick, but the consistency should be smooth.   Remove 1 cup of the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Distribute the filling over the top of the batter.  Finally spoon the 1 cup of reserved batter over the filling in small mounds.  Bake for 55 minutes until done.  Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.  Serves 8

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