Category Archives: Cooking

Menu: 2/23/14

I haven’t posted one of these in a while.  I’m still making my menu’s just haven’t been putting them out here (or even putting them on the kitchen menu board for that matter. 😦 )  I think this winter weather is making me a lazy bumb.  I’m keeping the house clean and have even given up my weekly Saturday morning grocery store jaunt just so I don’t have to get out of bed and fight the snow.   Anyway I hope you guys get inspired by my menu…please share yours, I could use ideas (especially hearty soups for the winter – but please no soups with beans I acquired a bad taste of those after one of my summers with my grandmother when I was 9.).  So here we go:

Sunday – Salibury Steak with noodles (I know you are thinking why not potatoes, but I’m having potatoes on Saturday and if you remember, my actual menu starts on Saturday so we won’t be having potatoes back-to-back :))  I think I would like to add some type of greens with this so I may pick up some on Saturday afternoon from Kroger (they have the best greens pricing) – maybe a collard/mustard mix.

Monday: Soup & Sandwich day!!! – My version of a Minestrone without beans and Rachel’s or Ham & Cheese for Babydoll.

Tuesday – Asian Beef & Broccoli…I plan to serve these with homemade egg rolls and potstickers if I can dedicate myself to make them ahead of time on Monday.  I not then we’ll have the store bought version.

Wednesday – Pasta and Sauce – Stan loves this and I will make plain pasta for Babydoll and add some smoked sausage (she stays away from tomato sauce as much as possible because it aggravates her re-flux), I’ll fix a salad and garlic bread to accompany it.

Thursday: Pan-fried Tilapia and rice and either fruit salad or steamed broccoli

Friday – Not sure…I’m hoping I can talk Stan into taking us out if the weather cooperates.  If not, I maybe make a quick taco salad.

Saturday – Pork chops with pears, Twice-cooked roasted potatoes and spinach.

The dessert that I will make for the week is an Apple Crisp/Cobbler with French Vanilla Ice Cream.

On a side note: I have been craving Rice Krispy Treats since I watched an episode of Unique Sweets (does anyone else love that show); so I will be making about 5 different versions of Treats on Saturday.  My goal is to take pictures and post how they turn out.  Look for it some time next week. Smile

Also…I have been working on post about the basement remodel.  I believe I will break it down into about five or six parts.  I’m writing the entire post and will then break it down once I’ve finished it.

Have a great weekend guys.



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Extract update

Time’s almost up on my vanilla extract making process. Here is a shot of it from the other day.


The color is magnificent. It looks so dark and rich.


Tasting it now isn’t going to tell me anything….have you ever tried vanilla extract? But it sure smells good. Just a few more weeks to go.


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A HomeGoods find

I went to HomeGoods to replace the 1 qt stainless steel pot that Stan burnt up trying to warm up Chicken & Dumplins. The man won’t warm up soup in the microwave to save my pots! He even warms up canned soup in a pot. I’m digressing. What I walked out of the store with is this….

Orange Emulsion…

Lemon Emulsion….

Red Velvet Cake Emulsion….


A good size bottle of vanilla extract (I know I know I’m making some why am I buying more…I bake a lot guys and my homemade won’t be complete for another six weeks and I will run out before then)


Now look at the prices I paid for them


Yep, $2.99 for the emulsions and And $5.99 for the extract.  I also found this bottle of black peppercorns that I was in need of.


And look how much I paid for it…


Now I did get a new pot also, but it wasn’t a 1 qt.


Still looking for the replacement for my pot; but so happy to have found these. I bought all of the emulsions that they had on the shelf. I have no idea what to do with them yet. I made citrus cookies last weekend (along with a carrot cake – still making two desserts a weekend trying to get holiday desserts right) and I was afraid to use the emulsions. I used my orange and lemon extracts instead with the zest of both.

If you’ve ever used emulsions, send me a word and let me know the best ways to use them. I could really use the advice. I make a White Chocolate Orange pound cake that I’m thinking about using the orange emulsion in but the recipe calls for fresh orange juice and zest. Don’t know how to work it. I guess I’ll need to check Google for research.


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Extract Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since I put my vodka and vanilla beans together in hope of making a super delicious vanilla extract and I wanted to give a quick update on the process.

This is it after week two….


It smells divine.

I’ll keep you updated.


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Fusion Cheesecake

Last week we took Babydoll to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner in honor of her first A/B Honor roll of the school year. I was unable to attend the Honors ceremony for this nine weeks because of work so I promised her dinner on Friday to celebrate.

It was a decent meal, I ordered the wrong thing because I was trying to prove to Stan that it was possible to have this item on their menu and it be good. It wasn’t…hence the reason why I say I ordered the wrong thing. However, our appetizers were awesome – Babydoll loves calamari and we also ordered the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes (a real winner there). Babydoll decided on the buttered pasta but was disappointed to get bowtie pasta instead of angel hair, but we sent it back for the right one.

The purpose of this quick blog is to tell you about their cheesecakes. Many years ago (I think this was pre-Babydoll because she wasn’t with us or maybe we had a babysitter.), Stan and I came to Cheesecake Factory for dinner and when it came time for dessert, I looked over the vast selection of cheesecakes and couldn’t find anything that I wanted to order. See, I wanted some cheesecake and I wanted some chocolate cake. When our server came back to the table and asked if we had made our choice, I asked her if there was anything in the restaurant that would satisfy my craving. I wanted chocolate cake and cheesecake at the same time. They had nothing. Sad smile I left the restaurant that night without any dessert for the first time since I had begun going there (I first had it when I went to DC for college, a long time ago).

On the drive home that night, I sat in the car and devised how to get my chocolate cake and cheesecake at the same time. I discussed it with Stan and tried it out the next weekend. It worked! I served it to my girlfriends at my dinner party that December and it was a huge hit. My first cake was a vanilla bean cheesecake with a chocolate, almond cake crust. My “fusion cheesecakes” were born that holiday season out of a need that I couldn’t find at the Cheesecake Factory.

In subsequent years, I have made many versions of this fusion cheesecake – lemon, strawberry, chocolate, plain vanilla, red velvet and whatever anyone request. So imagine my surprise, last week when I look at the cheesecake menu and I see not one, but about a half dozen cheesecakes that now have some type of cake layer in them!!!!! We haven’t been to the Cheesecake Factory in a couple of years, because 1) the wait is always ridiculous and 2) I’ve learned to make such an awesome cheesecake I don’t feel the need to go there for dessert. The one thing that is on their menu that has me coming back again and again is their Crusted Chicken Romano – and you have to get it with a white sauce (Alfredo) and not the red. That is something I haven’t been able to duplicate yet (and to think that I didn’t order it this time because I was wanted to prove a point…God what a mistake).

Back to my angst….should I be upset that what used to be one of my signature desserts is now being served at the Cheesecake Factory? The process of how it’s put together differs, but should I feel like I’ve been ripped off? Mind you, they’ve probably never heard of me and my fusion cheesecakes, but I don’t have the luxury of saying that it was mine anymore. If I told you I came up with this years before them would you believe me? It made me a little sad….

But I ordered the 30th Anniversary cheesecake because it had the cheesecake and chocolate cake combination that I wanted all those years ago that they didn’t have. I took it home and looked at it for 20 minutes (the next day, I was too tired to eat it that night and it was really late. I did mention the wait at that place is ridiculous) then I finally ate it. It was really good.

Have you been to the Cheesecake Factory and had any of the cheesecakes with the cake inside?


HEY…as an afterthought I remember when I came up with my fusion cheesecake idea, I was pregnant with Babydoll. That’s where the crazy craving came from. MY PREGNANCY!!!

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Homemade Extracts

After much talk and procrastination, I decided to bite the bullet and make my own vanilla extract. I bake something every weekend and sometimes again on Mondays; so you can imagine that I go through a lot of vanilla. Recently I noticed that I was buying vanilla extract every week. Last year I came across an article online that explained how to make vanilla and give it as gifts to your friends. My friends rely on me to do the baking and when they do bake it usually doesn’t require them to use pure vanilla extract. But I was very happy to see that making homemade vanilla extract was quite simple. You needed to get some inexpensive vodka and some vanilla beans.

About a month ago, I started putting vodka and vanilla beans on my grocery list. Each week I wouldn’t buy them because I knew I needed a fair amount of vanilla beans (at least 5 for a small amount) and I couldn’t find more than three for around $7-$9. One day, while looking online for the recipe to get exact ingredients measurements, I came across the website recommended to purchase vanilla beans. I went to and ordered the Madagascar grade B vanilla beans. The grade B beans are recommended to use to make vanilla extract. I bought 10 beans for $7.99. I also ordered some vanilla paste. While out grocery shopping, I bought a bottle of Dark Eyes vodka (my husband called it gut rot); I need an inexpensive vodka and it was on sale. Meijer had these beautiful bottles on clearance and I bought a blue one.


I had a crazy busy day on Saturday, but I had my Sunday mapped out…I was going to make my vanilla extract, make the praline sweet potato pie, a mini sweet potato cheesecake, make red pepper jelly (to go with the jalapeno poppers we were having with the football food dinner – shrimp po boys and homemade onion rings) and try to rest because after a week of doctoring, my babydoll had passed on her light cold.

I know, I know if I’m sick what would make me want to cook, right? Well, that’s my thing, I get sick I want to eat and cook. So I get in the kitchen, wash my hands so much they start to chaff and refuse to open my mouth for anything. I usually end up with some pretty good stuff. I’ll tell you more about the other recipes a little later.

Back to the vanilla extract. I started by slicing my vanilla beans. Not completely through and not from end-to-end. I started about ½” from the end and cut to about 1” from the other end. I decided to slice open 5 of them to see where that would put me with my 1 cup of vodka in my bottle.

Here’s my finger tips covered in little vanilla bean seeds after cutting them.


I dropped them in and added 1 cup of vodka.


I still had plenty of room left in the bottle so I added the other 5 beans. Then another cup of vodka.


I still had room in the bottle and about 1 ½ cups of vodka left in the bottle. I had no more beans, but did I want to leave that vodka in the bottle? We weren’t going to drink it – after all my husband called it gut rot and we had the good stuff in the fridge. So I started pouring into the bottle. I chickened out about ½ cup in. I didn’t want to mess up my first foray into extract making so I stopped. I poured the vodka back into its bottle to be used when my extract starts to run low.


I stopped up the bottle and gave it a little (okay a vigorous) shake and placed it on the shelf in my pantry. I’m not showing you a picture of my pantry because it is a fright. I plan to change out the wire shelves to actual wood shelves soon and add baskets and all kinds of nifty storage stuff and lights. But I haven’t done that yet therefore you do not get to see my dirty little secret.


I will keep you informed of my extract progress however. I am to give the bottle a shake once a week for the next eight weeks and then it will be ready for use. I’m so excited and proud of myself. I’m thinking lemon and orange extract are next on my list of homemade extracts. What do you think?



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Carrot Cake 2.0

This past weekend was the Babydolls birthday and we did a slumber party. It was six girls (five guest plus the guest of honor) and a really late night. This had to be the easiest party ever!!! The menu was very basic (personal pizzas, sour cream & cheddar chips, fruit – they had cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon & mango and a Jell-O poke cake for dessert) and it was such a relief.

Having said that, I didn’t do a family dessert until Monday. I was going through some magazines last week and saw a comparison of carrot cakes (a healthy vs. traditional version) that had me intrigued. It also made me want to have carrot cake for dessert really soon.

The healthy version of the carrot cake cut the sugar and oil in half and whole wheat flour was used along with all-purpose flour. For me, anytime you tell me you want to cut out the fat in a cake, you kind-of lose me. I never, ever, ever want a cake to be dry and when you reduce fat you run the chance of having a dry cake (and that was mentioned as one of the comments for that recipe.) I still wanted to try a healthier recipe so I set around and thought. I decided upon applesauce as that is something that is used often in recipes as a fat substitute. Plus the applesauce might also add some flavor to the cake. I also did a mixture of all-purpose flour and cake flour instead of using only all-purpose flour. I felt this would help to make for a lighter cake. I shifted the flours and spices twice before making the cake. My goal the entire time was to have a light and flavorful cake.

For the icing, I decided to cut the cream cheese and powdered sugar in half and added a 8 oz. jar of marshmallow fluff. It remained light and still really good.

I have to say that the end result was very tasty. It was not as moist as my original recipe but not at all what I would consider dry.

If you want to have a good carrot cake that does not have much fat and sugar as the traditional recipe, give this one a try.


Carrot Cake

4 eggs

1 ½ cup sugar

3/4 cup oil

½ cup applesauce

2 tsp. vanilla

1 cups cake flour

1 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. of baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

3 cups shredded carrots

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

This cake can be made in a large mixing bowl. Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, set aside. Lightly beat eggs. Add sugar and oil. Add applesauce and vanilla. Fold in flour mixture. Add carrots, raisins and walnuts. Pour into 13×9 prepared pan. Bake at 350o for 45-50 minutes.  Let cool completely before you frost.


¼ cup butter, softened

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 8 oz. container marshmallow fluff

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste because wanted to see some of the vanilla bean seeds.  You can’t see them with this picture because I really need to get a AF – auto focusing micro lens or is that macro lens.)


Cream together the butter and cream cheese.  Add the marshmallow fluff and beat until well combined.  Slowly add the powdered sugar a little at a time.  Add the vanilla lastly.  Smear all over your carrot cake once it has cooled.

I really wanted to take a better picture, but my time was running out and I really wanted to get you guys a picture of the cake cut.  It was really, really good.



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