Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mexican Hot Sauce

Dad's Secret Recipe!

My dad enjoyed cooking almost as much as my mother, but he was a  little secretive about some of the ingredients in those great foods he made.   This is one of them!

In the area I grew up in, Upstate New York, they had hot dog stands, hamburger stands...but, my favorite were the Mexican Hot Stands.  Never heard of "Mexican Hots"?   You don't know what you've missed!

These made a plain, simple hamburger or hot dog uniquely delicious and all because of a hot relish that was poured on top of meat.   Some places even poured it over the whole burger and roll.  You know, like a covered sandwich.  But, beware, it could be really spicy if you use the truly hot peppers.  My hubby likes it "the hotter, the better", not me, I like to taste the burger too, so to heat his up more, I add some hot pepper flakes onto his serving.

Oh, okay, back to my sneaky dad, hehe!   Well, the first time I tried to make this, dad told me his ingredients and I followed them to a tee!   But, it just didn't taste the same as his.  I chucked it up to inexperience.  Then one day, I saw him putting his hot sauce together and what do you think?  He was adding something that he left out when telling me.  Ketchup!  Yes, plain ol' ketchup!   Believe me, I jumped on him about that and all he could do was laugh!   Talking to my brother, just recently, this was a habit of dad's...he thought it was pretty funny.  Oh, dad! 


2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups green bell pepper, diced
2-3 jalapeno peppers, diced
2 cups white onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic

Combine above ingredients in a saucepan and cook on low until tender.

8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
dash of Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper, to taste

Add to the pepper mixture and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.  It doesn't take long. 

Serve immediately over your burgers or hot dogs, or refrigerate until ready.  Best when heated thoroughly before serving.  Store any leftovers in mason jars and freeze for another time. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Friday, May 29, 2015

Farmhouse Strawberry Pie

Easy as Pie!

I was so happy to find this recipe from Shoney's Restaurant in the Midwest.  It's been a favorite of my husband's for years.  Anytime we visited Shoney's he always had their famous Farmhouse Strawberry Pie for dessert.   Since today just happens to be his birthday, and we have no Shoney's around here, I'm making one for him.  Yes, I know, I'm such a good wife.  Haha!  Now, don't feel badly that he's not getting his chocolate's coming!  We'll have the kids here on Sunday and he'll have all his favorites on the menu.  I do love spoiling him!

The only change I made to this recipe is the amount of strawberries I used.  It calls for a pint (2 cups), but once I placed them into the baked crust, it just looked really skimpy.  So, I decided to just add more until I liked the height of it, I pretty much doubled it. 

It's chilling in the refrigerator until later when we get home from dinner at his favorite restaurant, which works, because it's mine too.  "wink"   Then, I'll cut generous slices and top it with whipped cream.  Easy, refreshing and delicious!


1 frozen (9-inch) pie crust, or ​make you own favorite one
1 cup water
1 cup white granulated sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup strawberry gelatin powder
1 pint of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (I ended up doubling this) 


Pre-bake pie crust according to directions on package or prepare your own homemade crust.  (If you'd like to use my Mom's Flakey Pastry, scroll down.)  Cool to room temperature.   Prick the inside of the pie crust all over with a fork and bake at 400F degrees for about 10-15 minutes, then allow to cool completely. 

Wash and hull strawberries.  Then cut them in half (or maybe smaller depending on how big your berries are). 

In a sauce pan, over medium-high heat, add water, sugar, cornstarch, & strawberry gelatin.  Whisk together until thoroughly combined.  Whisk mixture constantly while heating to prevent clumping or scorching until mixture begins to come to a gentle boil. Remove pan from the heat and allow the glaze to cool.  (I put the pan into a bowl with a couple of inches of ice water.  This cools the glaze quicker and allows it to set up a bit.)

As the glaze cools it will become translucent in color and you should notice it will thicken a little more as well.  Whisk it occasionally as it cools. It will be thickened but still pourable. 

Add your sliced berries to the baked and cooled pie crust. Pour strawberry glaze over berries. Making sure to get it in between the nooks & crannies of the berries as best you can. 

Chill pie in the refrigerator at least 2-3 hours before serving. 

When ready to serve, dollop each slice with some whipped cream. 

Mom's Flaky Pastry: (Make 1/2 recipe for this pie)

2 c. flour
1 c. shortening
1 tsp. salt
3-4 Tbsp. cold water

Combine flour, shortening and salt; cut with a pastry cutter or fork until it looks like coarse meal.  Then add water (start with 3 Tbsp.) then if it's still dry add more, 1 Tbsp. at a time.  Divide in half, this makes 2, 9" bottom crusts, or a top & bottom.  Roll out on floured surface, using enough flour so the dough won't stick.

Just use half the recipe for this pie, and if you don't feel ready to try crust yet, use the Pillsbury ones, they're all ready for you to just roll out.

"But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts." - Psalm 103:17-18

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Strawberry Freezer Jam

You'll never buy strawberry jam again!
This is a faithful, time tested Freezer Jam's PERFECT!   Yes, it's the same recipe on the Sure-Jell package, but really, why mess with perfection?   Make sure to use the exact amount of sugar it calls for, or it won't set.   It is still less sugar (and no preservatives) than the store-bought brands.

You'll get five, 8 oz. jars of yummy goodness from this recipe.  So, take advantage of the beautiful fruit in season and double, even triple this recipe.  It will keep up to a year in the freezer, and three weeks in the fridge, once you open the jar. 

People love to get this jam as a gift, so share them with your friends and neighbors. 

2 cups crushed strawberries (about 1 qt. fully ripe strawberries, stems removed)
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest (if you like a tang)
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 pkg. SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin*
Rinse plastic or glass containers in boiling water, and make sure they are completely dry before filling with jam.  I always use the Ball glass mason jars but plastic containers work great also. 
Rinse strawberries gently with clean water, pat dry, then stem and crush them thoroughly, one layer at a time.  (For this, I use a potato masher, 1/2 cup at a time.)  DO NOT USE A BLENDER!

Measure exactly 2 cups of strawberries into a large bowl.  (It's really important to measure the berries and sugar exactly, or the jam will not set properly.)   Add the sugar and stir for several minutes until well blended. Let stand for 10 min., stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, combine water and pectin into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Once boiling, stir for 1 min. 

Remove from heat and add it to the strawberry mixture. Stir mixture for really well, for several minutes, until sugar is well dissolved and no longer grainy; a few sugar crystals may remain, but that's fine.
Immediately fill containers with jam and leave 1/2'' of head-space at the top.   Wipe off top edges and cover with lids.  Allow to stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

After 24 hours you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or freeze it for up to 1 year!  Thaw frozen jam in the fridge before using.

Here's a hint:  Bake some biscuits and use a jar right away!  Spoil yourself a little!

"Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."   -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Original Hidden Valley Ranch Cheddar-burgers

Best Burger!

If you've never tried a ranch cheeseburger, you're in for a real treat.  They are juicier and tastier than plain ol' burgers, and so easy to prepare!  I made these for a cook out with friends and they loved them.  The aroma from the grill sent everyone running to it, curious to find out what smelled so amazing.  In fact, they all went home with this simple recipe. 

You can top it with onions, tomatoes, lettuce...all the fixings.  But, I love mine plain because the flavor is all in the burger.  So delicious!   Don't add any salt, the ranch dressing has enough to flavor and then some.  If you're a little salt sensitive, you can use 1 1/2 lb. of ground beef, or don't use the whole packet of ranch, and that will cut down on the intensity.  I've done this many times for those who are watching their salt intake, and the flavor was still great.


1 (1 oz. packet Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing dry mix
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (We like the sharp.)
4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
Break up the ground beef in a bowl.    (Breaking up the meat first will save it from being overworked and getting tough.)
Add grated cheese and sprinkle with the dry ranch dressing.  Mix together.  (I wear food prep gloves; clean up is so much easier that way.)
Shape into 4 one quarter pound patties, about 1 inch thick; cook thoroughly about 5 minutes on each side or until meat is no longer pink in the center.  (You can grill them outdoors or cook on the stove top.)
Toast buns before serving, if desired.
That's quick and easy and the best burger I ever had!
"Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies." - Psalm 141:4

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Peanut Butter Cup Stuffed Brownies

Chocolate and peanut butter collide into a yummy dessert!

Well, it all started at Costco's when my husband picked up a huge box of Ghirardelli's double chocolate brownie mixes.  I think there are 6 or 8 bags in this box, and yes, I plan to use every one of them.

I like using brownie mixes for other things besides just brownies.  Maybe a base for a dessert pizza, cake balls or even making little cups and filling them with chocolate mousse.   So, now I'm into stuffing them.  I know...I'm a sick woman. 

I wanted to make something  for Andrea to take back home for her brother and sisters, so I hope they'll like these as much as we do.  After all, they'll be imported brownies, and doesn't that make them even more special.


1 Family-size box brownie mix (for 9x13" pan) OR your favorite homemade recipe (plus whatever ingredients are on the box directions)
16 Reese's Peanut Butter cups, regular size

Preheat oven to 350'F.  Spray a 13x9" pan with cooking spray.

Mix the brownies according to the package directions, or make your own homemade ones. 

Pour half the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Place Reese's cups next to each other, there should be 4 in each row.

Carefully cover them with the rest of the batter, gently spreading the it with a spatula.  Make sure everything is covered.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove brownies and let cool to room temperature.

Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

"Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies." - Psalm 141:4

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Easy Fried Dough (Pizza Fritte)

Pizza Fritte!

This was one of our favorite treats, growing up.  Mom would fry dough for breakfast, lunch or a snack.  I've carried this tradition down to my children and grandchildren, and I know they're going to do the same with their families.  One of the easiest recipes I can give you, actually, not a recipe at all.  Just some simple instructions.

My son loved these so much, that whenever we would go home to visit, my Aunt Helen made sure to have these "in the pan" for him.  I can still see her standing at her stove, while David eagerly waited for his favorite treat.  She would laugh and joke with him, smiling the whole time, because she knew he was practically jumping out of his chair in anticipation.   Precious memories, so precious!

I listed some toppings that you might like, but we always just use the two different sugars. 
You can let your imagination go wild, even dip it in chocolate or Nutella. 

1 lb. prepared pizza or bread dough (Walmart has delicious pizza dough in their deli
                                                                   section for less than a dollar)
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
Large frying pan with deep sides
Powdered sugar
Granulated sugar
Cinnamon sugar


Pour about 1" of oil into frying pan, and heat to medium-high.  (A tip for knowing when your oil is ready: tear off a tiny piece of bread and when it floats to the top and has bubbly sides it’s ready. You don’t want it sinking to the bottom.)

Place dough on floured board and press down to even out a bit.  Cut into 8 equal pieces.  Put a little flour on your hands (so the dough won't stick) and gently stretch out the dough as far as it will go, without ripping it.  

Pieces have set a few minutes, and are ready to fry.
Use tongs to keep your fingers away from the hot oil.
Carefully place into the hot oil, cook about a minute (goes fast) or until the side down is golden, then turn over and brown the other side.  (Never leave the stove when you're frying something.  I learned the hard way, and burned down my first house. Yeah, true story!) 
Underside is starting to get golden brown.
Carefully turn them over.

Ready to put on the paper towels to drain off oil.
Ready for the toppings!
Use tongs to remove onto a paper towel or brown paper bag, to drain off any excess oil.
Immediately sprinkle on cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar or spread on some butter, and various other toppings, if desired.  Serve warm.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer.   -Psalm 19:14

Friday, May 8, 2015

Secret Fruit Salad

Don't leave out the secret ingredient!
I found the recipe for this fabulous fruit salad last year on Pinterest, and I'm so happy the summer fruit is back, so I can make it again.  You don't have to use the fruits listed here, make it with your favorite fruits.  It's really easy to put together and everyone loves it.  I know your family will too!
The original recipe is from Rachel Schultz, and I just want to give her props for taking the simple fruit salad and making it something special. 
2 tablespoons dry instant vanilla pudding mix
1 pound of strawberries, quartered
½ pint blueberries
½ pint raspberries
½ pineapple, cubed
1 bunch grapes

Combine all fruit in a large bowl, and sprinkle pudding powder over the fruit and stir gently.  The raspberries are very delicate. 
Serve immediately or allow to sit overnight.
"I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples."  -Psalm 108:3

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Italian Pepper and Egg Sandwich

Best of the best!

Here's a sandwich that you'll find on the menu in every Italian restaurant in my hometown of Rome, NY!  The humble Peppers and Eggs Sandwich!

Of course, we always thought it was pronounced "sangaweech".  No, I don't think that's a real Italian word...just the way dad would pronounce it.  So, that's what we called it at home.

We never ordered them in any of the restaurants or diners, because my mom's were the best!   This was one of our "Friday Meals" because, back in the day, the Catholic religion didn't allow us to eat meat on Fridays.  It was a rule.  I'm not sure that's how this sandwich got started, but whoever thought of it was a culinary genius.   And you don't have to wait until Friday to make it, either.  In fact, it was last night's dinner.  Yum!


4 green or red bell peppers, washed, seeded and sliced
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 large eggs, scrambled up in a bowl with 1 tablespoon water and a generous amount  of
                        grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf of Italian bread, sliced or 4 ciabatta rolls
jarred hot Giardiniera (optional, usually found in the pickle aisle of your supermarket or Italian delicatessens)


In large skillet add olive oil and garlic and saute on low until garlic is golden.  Be careful not to burn the garlic, it will become bitter. 

Add peppers and onion, season with salt and pepper, stir to coat vegetables with oil.   Continue cooking on low heat, stirring frequently, until peppers are tender, but not mushy.

Raise heat to medium and add eggs,  stirring gently to mix the eggs into the peppers.  Cook eggs thoroughly, but be careful not to burn them.

Serve on good, crusty Italian bread or Ciabatta rolls. 

And, if you like hot stuff, add a little heat (spicy heat, that is) Giardiniera to top it off, or melt some mozzarella over the eggs and peppers.  So many delicious ways to eat this!

"The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are trustworthy." -Psalm 111:7

Monday, May 4, 2015

Caprese Salad with Grape Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Basil

So simple, with so much flavor!
There's not much in the produce world that can compare to the flavor of a fresh-picked tomato. But this flavor – that to some portrays the very essence of summer – is extremely vulnerable.  Make sure you don't refrigerate them, it changes the chemical structure and will lose their great flavor.

Growing up in an Italian household, tomatoes were a staple, and everyone I knew had a garden in their backyard.   Sometimes, the whole yard was a garden.  You couldn't find a patch of dirt that didn't have either a flower or a vegetable growing on it.

We had a huge garden and grew so many delicious vegetables.  In fact, I can still hear the rattle of my grandfather's wagon, filled with his garden tools, coming down our street.  He and grandma had their own garden, but he would still walk about a mile to our house to help take care of ours too.  They don't make them like my grandpa anymore. 
So many times, we had just a fresh tomato salad for dinner, along with a loaf of Italian bread, hot out of the oven.   No knife ever touched that was just passed around the table so each of us could break off a piece to dip into the juices of that salad!   Let's face it, we thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in one hand. 

My husband and I still do that sometimes, and all those sweet memories come flooding back.  This is my version of it, I add more goodies to ours, sometimes red onions or a bell pepper, but the sentiment is still the same.  You don't have to use cherry tomatoes, either...just cut ripe, whole tomatoes into chunks. 

4 - 5 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 lb fresh imported Italian mozzarella, cut into cubes
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/4 cup kalamata olives, halved (or more, if you like)
10 - 15 large fresh basil leaves (to taste)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar for a more intense flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss together the tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar.

Lightly chop basil into pieces and toss into the salad.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately (can be refrigerated to serve a little bit later too).
Serve with fresh, crusty Italian bread. (Of course!)

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  -Psalm 18:2