Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Tuscan Sun Cookbook

Friends of ours, Greg and Cathy, came for a visit and brought me an amazing cookbook, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook.  They have met the author, Frances Mayes, when they were on vacation in Italy.  Frances Mayes just happens to be the author of the bestseller, Under the Tuscan Sun.  I didn't read the book but loved the movie!

Frances Mayes and her husband Edward Mayes also make olive oil.  In the book, it mentions they have an olive grove of 410 trees and each tree yields only a bottle a tree.  Along with the cookbook, they gave me a bottle of olive oil too!  Thanks, Greg and Cathy, I will treasure every drop as it's the best olive oil I've ever had. 

I thought the cookbook was for me but my husband got ahold of it even before I did.  He looks up from the book and my non cooking husbands tells me, "I'm going to make everything in this cookbook".  I laughed to myself but he wasn't kidding, off he went to the grocery store, came home and started cooking.  He made a steak recipe in the book.  The steak was grilled then dipped in an olive oil bath of fresh rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper.   With only a few quality ingredients the steak was delicious.   I'm looking forward to the next recipe he makes but I won't hold my breath.  In the mean time I'll be making a few recipes myself.  I have some rosemary to use up so I may have to make the rosemary focaccia this week.

Fyi, I know these steaks are huge but I didn't eat the whole thing!  Half of it will go on a salad for lunch tomorrow.  I think I have a reputation for eating a lot.  I do like my food but everything in moderation.  Just saying :)

Recipe adapted from The Tuscan cookbook

2 T-Bone steaks (I used ribeye)  
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, plus a want to baste with
1 garlic clove, minced
Heat the grill.  In a pan (large enough to hold the steaks), combine the olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic. Place the steak on the hot grill. Grill the steak to your liking.  While the steak is grilling, baste it with a rosemary wand dipped in the olive oil bath. Remove the steak from the grill and quickly dip in the oil bath on both sides, sprinkling on more salt and pepper.  Let the steak rest a few minutes.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Beet salad

Lately I have been busy cooking/baking trying to come up with an original recipe for the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off.  I've made many recipes and only one has been worth an entry.  A few of my creations sounded good in my head but not so much, they ended up in the trash.  The entry period will end May 8th so I'll keep at it until then trying my best to come up with a winning recipe.  I've eaten more dough in the last few months that I now know how the dough boy feels!  With all this recipe testing I've tried to replace one meal each day with a healthy salad and this salad is so good that it will be on my weekly rotation.

Mixed Greens
Dried Tart Cherries
Orange Segments
Blue Cheese (Hook's)
Roasted Beets*

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 orange
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Whisk together vinegar, honey, dijon and orange juice in a small bowl for the vinaigrette.  Drizzle in oil, whisking until emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper. Makes enough for dressing for two large or 4 small salads.

*I bought beets that were already roasted.  I found them in the (refrigerated) produce department.   


Saturday, April 5, 2014


We have been so excited around here as our Wisconsin Badgers are in the Final Four.  Last Saturday's win against Arizona was the most suspenseful and exciting game I have ever watched.  The game is tonight against Kentucky and we are all hoping for another win.  Hopefully it won't be as suspenseful because I don't think my heart can take it!  We are so very proud of our Badgers and coach Bo Ryan.  GO BADGERS!
This is my favorite, easy, anytime salsa.  It's a perfect snack for the game and it's Badger Red!  The easy part is that it all goes into a food processor, a few pulses and it's done.  Also you don't have to wait for tomato season to make this as it uses canned tomatoes.  I love the bright red color and the bright fresh taste.  I'll go as far as saying this is better than the salsa I make with fresh tomatoes.

This recipe comes from Pioneer Woman.  Check out her recipe here as she has step by step photos.  With all her recipes, once you look at all the photos, you want to make it!  Everything that I've made from her blog and cookbooks have been delicious.
  Now that the salsa is made, I'll just relax and enjoy a sample before the party starts.  YUM!


1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes  (do not drain juice, you will use it)

2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies)

1/4 cup Chopped Onion

1 clove Garlic, Minced

1 jalapeno, quartered And Sliced Thin

1/4 teaspoon Sugar

1/4 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin

1/2 cup Cilantro 

1/2 whole Lime Juice


This is a very large batch. Recommend using a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.
Combine whole tomatoes with 1/2 of the juice, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you'd like adding more of the tomato juice if needed.  
Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Smooth Hummus

I found this recipe for Ethereally Smooth Hummus on the blog Smitten Kitchen and it's the best hummus I've ever made.  The secret to this smooth hummus is removing the skins from the chickpeas.  Who knew, I didn't, and now that I do, I'll always make it this way.  It takes a little time but it's so worth it.  Once that's done it comes together quickly in a food processor.  Another thing I like about this recipe is it uses the reserved juice from the beans to thin out the hummus instead of using olive oil.     This way the olive oil is just used as a garnish.  This will be my go to hummus recipe for now on.       

  • 1-15 ounce can chickpeas (Reserve juice)
  • ½ cup tahini paste
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil and paprika for serving

  1. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the juice in a small cup.
  2. Remove the skins from the chickpeas. I find the easiest way to do this is to pinch the chickpeas and the skin comes right off. Place the skinned chickpea in the food processor, and the skins in the trash.
  3. Pulse until the chickpeas are in sandy looking. 
  4. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt, and blend until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed.
  5. Slowly add the chickpea juice to the mix until the mixture is the texture you like and completely smooth. I usually use most of the reserved juice.
  6. I like to chill the hummus for an hour or so. To serve, top with olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika.  Serve with crackers, pita bread or veggies.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

47th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest

It's that time again! is now excepting recipes for the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.  Many of you know that I was a finalist in the 45th Bake-Off in Orlando and the 46th Bake-Off in Vegas.  Being a finalist was a dream come true for me as I had been entering for years with no luck. Then when I was chosen a second time, I could hardly believe it.  I can't help but want to go again, the whole experience is so exciting and fun.  This year it will be held in Nashville.  I'm only eligible to be a finalist one more time and what comes to my mind is the saying, "the third times a charm".  I am now busy in the kitchen trying to come up with a winning recipe to summit.  I actually can't think of much else!  With a grand prize of $1 million dollars, it sure makes this girl dream.  
Submission Period

Simply Sweet Treats
Savory Snacks & Sides
February 13 – March 27, 2014
February 13 – March 27, 2014

Weekend Breakfast Wows
Amazing Doable Dinners
March 27 – May 8, 2014
March 27 – May 8, 2014

If you love baking/cooking you should enter.  Just go to and check out the rules to enter.  Believe me, the experience is worth the effort.  Wish me luck and I hope to see you there!      

Friday, February 28, 2014

Best of the Midwest Recipe Contest

Photo -
I was so excited to hear that my original recipe, Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cheese Puffs, is a finalist in the Midwest Living Magazine's fourth annual "Best of the Midwest" Recipe Contest.  The recipe is featured in this month's (March/April) magazine on page 24.  It's fun to see my name and recipe in print.  I also won $300.00!  These cream puffs with the creamy filling of cream cheese and chocolate hazelnut are DELICIOUS!
  • cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into eight pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • cup all- purpose flour
  • eggs
  • - ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread 
  • - ounce carton frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. For pastry: In a medium saucepan combine the water, butter, and salt. Bring to boiling. Immediately add flour all at once; stir vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Drop 12 heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and firm. Prick puffs with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.
  4. For filling: In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1/3 cup of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Fold in the whipped topping until combined. Cover and chill until serving.
  5. Just before serving, cut tops from puffs; remove soft dough from inside. Spoon about 1/3 cup filling into bottom half of puff. Replace top half.
  6. Place the remaining 1/3 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 100% (high) power for 30 to 45 seconds or until softened, stirring once. Using a spoon, drizzle spread over puffs. Serve immediately; refrigerate leftovers.