Friday, November 20, 2015

An Old Fashioned Christmas by Ellen Stimson - TLC Book Tour

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Countryman Press; 1 edition (November 2, 2015)

With its snowy streets, pine forests, sleigh rides and woodsmoke curling from the chimneys, Vermont was practically invented for the Christmas postcard. And no one celebrates the season better than Ellen Stimson, author of the best-selling Mud Season, and now the author and home cook behind this cozy new collection of holiday magic.

From warm drinks for the first snowfall to treats for furry friends, from indulgent snacks for carolers to a traditional menu for Christmas day, An Old-Fashioned Christmas will keep you and your loved ones eating, drinking, laughing and baking all through the holiday season.

Anyone who loved Mud Season will remember Stimson’s hilarious and heartwarming stories of life in her small Vermont town—and An Old-Fashioned Christmas brings her trademark touch to holiday memories new and old. Readers will be inspired to begin their own family traditions like the Stimsons’ annual Christmas Adventure, the collection of nostalgic tree ornaments, and of course, the legendary Christmas party attended by friends and family from all over. This is a book you will return to year after year.

A guide to celebrating Christmas in proper Vermont style—from sleigh rides to country stores—rounds out this deeply personal and completely delicious collection. The 98 homey recipes in this book will soon become annual favorites for your family too, including:

Maple Pecan Cookies

Root Beer Pulled Pork

Maple, Fennel, Sausage and Cheddar Meatballs

Chestnut Mousse

About Ellen Stimson

Ellen Stimson is a bread-and-butter homecook…possibly more butter than bread. Her table is usually overflowing with friends, family, and folks who have come just to listen to her stories. Some of those tales made it into her bestselling memoir, Mud Season. She cooks and writes from a farmhouse in Vermont.

Connect with Ellen

My Thoughts

I am so beyond excited to tell you all about this cookbook.  If you've known me for years you know how much I love cooking and collecting cookbooks from all over the place.

This book combines stunning photography with delicious recipes and beautifully told stories that leave you wanting to turn the pages as fast as you can, and the best part?  It takes place in beautiful Vermont.

Ellen Stimson retells stories of her family's fondest traditions, Christmases past and in between shares recipes for good home cooked dishes that are sure to please your family too.

I got the book in the mail, paged through it really quickly and set it aside.  Not because I didn't want to read it, but because I wanted to indulge in it with a big mug of coffee and a cookie, a warm crochet blanket and a glowing fire.  And so I did, the day came and I settled in with the book, and before I knew it, I had been reading it for 2 hours and shushing anyone that tried to get my attention otherwise.

I don't think there is a single recipe on these pages that I will not try, especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up and hosting dinners at our house.  If one thing this book did for me was get me in the Christmas mood and now I am literally counting down the days.

So I tried to pick a recipe that I could make today, that would be easy and that would use ingredients I already had on hand, so I settled on the Eggnog Gooey Butter Cookies, and oh my word, am I ever happy that I did.

These cookies don't take many ingredients, take only about 5 minutes to get together and then you can pop them in the fridge for 2 hours and go work on something else.  They bake up a dream and taste AMAZING.  My kiddos love them.

Eggnog Gooey Butter Cookies

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup powdered sugar, more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Beat in the egg.  Mix in the rum extract and nutmeg.  Lastly, mix in the cake mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Cover bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Roll the chilled batter into 1-inch-sized balls and then roll them in powdered sugar.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.  Bake 12 minutes.  The cookies will remain soft and gooey.

Cool completely and sprinkle with more powdered sugar (more is always better).

This book would make a great Christmas gift, if you have a family member or friend who love cooking, or collecting cookbooks, then this is it.  I know that if I had received it as a gift, I would have been extremely happy :)

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a review copy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Macho Nachos

Macho Nachos

Macho Nachos
Source:  I wash you dry

6-8 large handfuls of corn tortilla chips
1½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1½ cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 (15 oz) can of chili (your favorite brand works)
½ cup sliced black olives
½ cup sliced, pickled jalapeƱos
½ cup diced tomatoes
¾ cup sour cream
2 green onions, diced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In an oven safe pan or baking sheet lay half of the chips, then top with half the can of chili, ½ of the cheddar cheese, and ½ of the pepper jack cheese. Repeat the layering; chips, chili, cheese.

Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and gooey.

Quickly top with the black olives, jalapeƱos, diced tomato, sour cream, and green onions. Serve hot with a side of salsa. Enjoy!

Macho Nachos

Monday, September 28, 2015

Panda Express Chow Mein

I just gave you the recipe for the Sweet Fire Chicken, but I didn't give you the recipe for the perfect side dish, which is of course, the Panda Express Chow Mein.

Also from Damn Delicious, and also a copycat recipe, and ALSO delicious.

But I'm not going to say anything else, other than, make yourself some chow mein, like nowwww.

I used purple cabbage because it's what I had on hand, but other than that followed the recipe exactly and it was phenomenal.

Panda Express Chow Mein

Panda Express Chow Mein

1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 (5.6-ounce) packages refrigerated Yaki-Soba, seasoning sauce packets discarded*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced diagonally
2 cups shredded cabbage

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, ginger and white pepper; set aside.
In a large pot of boiling water, add Yaki-Soba until loosened, about 1-2 minutes; drain well.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and celery, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in cabbage until heated through, about 1 minute.
Stir in Yaki-Soba and soy sauce mixture until well combined, about 2 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken

Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken

If my family and I could eat at Panda Express every day, we probably would.

In a dream world of course, because in reality, there's just no way we could afford that, or my thighs could sustain it.  But once in a while, it's good to indulge and if when the craving strikes, I can make it at home?  Even better!!!

This recipe comes from one of the food blogs I most admire, Damn Delicious.  She is fantastic and has some of the best recipes out there, so when I saw this one, I knew I had to make it for the family.

The results?  Amazing!!!

My husband and children loved it, all had seconds, and my 12 year old boy even had thirds, he just couldn't get enough.

So here you go, a great copycat recipe for next time you crave Panda Express.

Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken

Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken
Source:  Damn Delicious

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups diced pineapple, fresh or canned
1/2 cup Thai sweet chili sauce, or more, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced
For the chicken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
Working one at a time, dredge chicken in flour, dip into eggs, then dredge in flour again, pressing to coat.

Working in batches, add chicken to the skillet, 3 or 4 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bell pepper and pineapple and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in chicken and Thai sweet chili sauce until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnished with green onions.

Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken

Philly Steak and Cheese Burgers

Philly Steak and Cheese Burgers

Yes, Philly Steak and Cheese Burgers.

My family and I love a good ol' Philly Steak and Cheese but it's not something I make very often, and even though I can make a good one, it's never really as yummy as the one you get elsewhere.  For us, it means Charley's Subs which we absolutely love.

On my last menu plan, I had put down oven burgers.  I didn't have a set plan in mind, or recipe, I just had an idea that I wanted some sort of smothered bunless burgers.

I had peppers and onions on hands and thought I could use those, honestly at first I was thinking some sort of creamy sauce to cook them in but as I started assembling them I noticed that the ingredients I was using were very reminiscent of a a Philly Cheesesteak and so these burgers came about.

My husband and kids love them, I did too.  I am sure you could slap these on a bun and have a typical burger but I kept them bunless, served up some simple white rice and mixed veggies.  Yummy!!!

Philly Steak and Cheese Burgers

Philly Steak and Cheese Burgers

2 lbs ground beef
Salt and pepper to taste
Mesquite Burger seasoning
Green pepper, sliced
Onions, sliced
Provolone or Mozzarella Cheese

Season the ground beef with the salt and pepper and mesquite burger seasoning.  Divide into 8 equal parts and shape into patties.

Philly Steak and Cheese Burgers

Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and place the patties in the pan.  Top each with sliced onion and green peppers.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes until meat is cooked through.

Top each patty with a slice of provolone or mozzarella  and pop back in the oven until melted.

Super simple but really tasty.

Weekly Meals in Review and Menu Plan

Hello everyone, and welcome to another week of meals in review and this time, my menu plan for this week as well.

I wasn't going to include the menu plan because at first I wanted to keep it strictly to meals in review, but then I decided that it would actually be a good idea to do so, that way I don't have to put up two posts.

For now at least, I'll give it a try and see how it goes, I may eventually do different posts, but we'll see.

Skillet Pork Chops and Potatoes

Weekly meals

Philly Steak and Cheese Burgers

Weekly meals

Crockpot Chicken Stew

Weekly meals

Homemade Spaghetti Bolognese

Weekly meals

Marketside Pizza (hubby and I had to run to Walmart before dinner and just picked up Supreme for dinner)

Hubby and I had to run errands, and with everything going on with my grandmother being hospitalized he wanted to take me out of the house.  He took me to Denny's for a late lunch and I had the Grand Slamwich was soooo good, but extremely filling.

We had a super easy Sunday, no one really wanted big meals so we all decided to just do snacks and grazing all day long.  Sandwiches, chips and dip, fruit, ice cream, it was one of those days.


Copycat Panda Express Sweet Chili Fire Chicken and Chow Mein

Lemon Basil Chicken and roast potato wedges

Penne and Sausage Casserole

Beef baked with Yogurt and Black pepper, Rice

Pan Bagnat

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

Best Chili Ever, Homemade Rolls, rice

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Homemade Bagels

I love bagels, my husband loves bagels and my kids loveeeee bagels.  Truth is, I can't seem to keep them in the house long enough and they're quite pricey at the store.

I've made pretzels before, and some of the process is the same for the bagels so I figured it couldn't be that hard to make.

I set out to find the right recipe, and the one I happened upon was this one from Natural Chow.  It was simple to make and they turned out pretty good.  I don't know if it's because it was the first time making them or not, but they weren't as smooth as I would have liked them so I'm going to continue looking for recipes until I find the perfect one for me.

Nonetheless I wanted to share this recipe with you because it is pretty easy to make and tastes good too.

Homemade Bagels

Homemade Bagels
Source:  Natural Chow


1½ cups warm water (110° F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Water Bath:

2 quarts (8 cups) water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon unbleached pure cane sugar


Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle in the yeast and brown sugar. Let sit 2-3 minutes. Add in the flour and salt and mix on low speed until a cohesive dough has formed. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest for 1.5 hours.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts and shape into smooth, round balls. Cover them with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Homemade Bagels

While the dough is resting, prepare the water bath by heating the water and brown sugar to a very gentle boil in a large pan (I use a wok).

Preheat your oven to 425° F. Use your pointer finger to poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole until it is about 2 inches in diameter (the entire bagel will be about 4"-5" across).

Place each bagel on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Transfer the bagels to the simmering water, four at a time. Increase the heat to bring the water back up to a gently simmering boil, if necessary. Simmer the bagels for 2 minutes, flip them over, and simmer 1 minute more.

Homemade Bagels

Using a skimmer or strainer, or the end of a wooden spoon, remove the bagels from the water and place them back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Homemade Bagels

Bake the bagels for about 25 minutes, or until they're browned to your preference. To top with seeds, remove them from the oven after about 15 minutes, brush with water, and sprinkle with seeds. Return to the oven to finish baking.

Homemade Bagels

Place the bagels on a cooling rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with cream cheese, lox, eggs, or whatever you'd like.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Weekly Meals in Review - September 14th to 19h

Monday 14th
Arroz a Valenciana - Rice with chicken and peas


Tuesday 15th
Tiras de frango com natas - Chicken strips with cream


Wednesday 16th
Almondegas da Bio Ema - Greatgrandma's Meatballs


Thursday 17th
Pizza Caseira - Homemade Pizza


Friday 18th
Cachorros Quentes com molho de pimento e tomate - Hotdogs with spicy pepper sauce


Saturday 19th
Bacon Sandwiches

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bolo Formigueiro - Chocolate, Orange and Coconut Cake

Bolo Formigueiro

Bolo Formigueiro.  If I were to give you an exact translation to English it would be something like Ant Hill Cake.  I know, it sounds so weird, but it's because of the way it looks.

Now this version you won't really be able to see it because it's chocolate, but if you were to make the traditional cake, you would be left with a gorgeous yellow cake with tons of little brown spots, which in fact do look like little ants.

It is believe that this cake originated in the Colonial Times.

My kids said the cake tastes just like those chocolate oranges, you know the ones, you have to smack them on a hard surface to separate into slices?

I have to agree, it tastes amazing but then you also have the coconut thrown in and it's just one of the yummiest cakes I've ever had.

Are you ready to try?  I promise that soon I will make the traditional cake so that you can see how cool the little brown spots really look, but for now, let's grab out chocolate and start baking.

Bolo Formigueiro

Bolo Formigueiro
Chocolate, Orange and Coconut Cake

4 egg
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup of orange juice
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup coconut flakes

For the sauce:
5 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar

Separate the eggs, and beat the egg whites until stiff.  Add in the egg yolks, the sugar, flour, orange juice and mix well.  Make sure you don't overmix as not to remove the air from the egg whites.

Next, add in the baking powder, cocoa and coconut flakes.  Mix well with a spoon.

Grease a bundt cake pan and pour in the mixture.  Bake at 350 until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven, and invert onto a cake platter.

For the sauce, dissolve the cocoa in 1 cup of hot water.  Add in the milk and the sugar, mix well.  Use a fork to poke holes all over the cake, and pour on the sauce.  I didn't use all of mine because it was just way too much, but pour in as much as you would like.

When cool, dust with powdered sugar.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Bifes a Portugalia - Portuguese Steak, Fried Egg and Fries

I was born in Mozambique, which was a Portuguese colony and so I'm Portuguese, when the revolution happened in 1974, I was just a few months old and my parents, grandparents and remaining family were forced to evacuate the country.  We fled to Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe for a few months and then on to Portugal.  I lived there until I was 10 years old and then moved to South Africa, returning again in 1988 to Portugal.

Within a year, we were back in South Africa.  Crazy, I know, but we had to go where work was available for my father, and so we did.  I have always regretted not staying in Portugal and I really wish that I could go back.  I have been back a few times to visit and each time I make sure to have a good ol' Portuguese steak, at least once while there.

Portugal is amazing, not just for the old charm but the fantastic food, if you've never tried it you don't know what you're missing.

Anyway, all that just to tell you that you must give these steaks a try.  There are so many different versions out there but this is how I remember them.

The measurements I'm giving you below are for 4 people, just adjust accordingly depending on how many you are serving.

Portuguese steaks

Bifes a Portugalia

4 steaks, I used bottom round because it is what was on sale, but use whatever you like
Salt and Pepper
Bay Leaves
White wine
1 and half cups beer
Heavy Cream
4 Eggs, one per person

Season the steaks with salt and pepper, garlic, bay leaves and place them in a bowl.  Pour in some wine, cover and refrigerate to marinate for a few hours.  I like to get mine ready around lunch time and let them sit until dinner.

Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the steaks and cook on both sides until brown.

Add in another 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup of beer.  Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes or until steaks are cooked through and tender.

Remove steaks, and keep warm.  Into the skillet pour in the 1 cup of beer and about a cup of heavy cream.  You can add more or less according to your taste.  Stir well and simmer until thickened.

Fry up the eggs and fries while the steaks are cooking.

On a plate, place a steak, add some of the gravy on top and around, I like to have the bottom of the plate filled with gravy.  Add some fries on the side, right onto the yummy gravy, and place the fried egg on top of the steak.

That's it.  Dig in and enjoy!!!!

Costoletas de Cebolada - Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce

Costoletas de Cebolada

I love pork chops but quite honestly, I get tired of fixing them the same old way.  I had chops on the menu a few days ago and decided to make them the way that I make the Portuguese steaks in tomato sauce.

The recipe is already here on the blog, so I'm not going to share it with you again, but I'll give you a link and you can go and take a look.  All you do, is switch out the pork for the steaks, and that's all.

Bifes de Cebolada (Portuguese Pepper Steak)

These are phenomenal served over white rice, or mashed potatoes or even fries.

Costoletas de Cebolada

Beer Battered Onion Rings battered.  Enough said!!!

Of all the different batters for frying up goodies, I have to say that I think beer is my all time favorite.  Anytime I'm in a restaurant that serves any kind of beer battered anything, I order it.

So, when making ribs the other day, I served up some baked beans and then really wanted some onion rings, so beer battered it was, besides I have quite a few bottles of beer in the pantry from the family reunion, that I need to get rid of.

Super easy recipe, and the results are divine.

Beer Battered Onion Rings

Beer Battered Onion Rings
Adapted from All Recipes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste
1 cup beer
3 large onions, sliced into rings
1 cup oil for frying

In a shallow bowl combine flour, egg, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Gradually add beer, stirring, until a thick batter forms. Add more or less beer depending on the desired consistency of the batter.
In a heavy frying pan heat oil (adjust amount, depending on the size of your pan, so that you have a couple of inches of oil) over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, dip onions in batter and fry, turning once to brown evenly on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Beer Battered Onion Rings

Weekly Meals in Review - September 7 to 12th

Another week has gone by and lots of yummy meals were enjoyed.  So let's take a look at what I dished up.

Monday 7th
Barbecue Ribs, Beer Battered Onion Rings, Baked Beans

Beer Battered Onion Rings

Tuesday 8th
Costoletas de Cebolada (Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce)

Costoletas de Cebolada

Wednesday 9th
My son and I both started feeling sick, so Chicken Soup it was

Chicken Soup

Thursday 10th
Ranch Chicken with Buttery Spaghetti (I accidentally deleted my picture, OOPS)

Friday 11th
Hubby brought home Taco Bell for dinner.  Kids and I got Quesaritos and Loaded Potato Grillers, hubby had Taco Supremes

Bifes a Portugalia (Portuguese Steaks)

Portuguese steaks