Friday, July 17, 2015

Everyday Orzo - my go-to side dish and an update

Everyday Orzo 1
Hi everyone!

I've missed you. I've missed this little corner of my world.

I've missed being in the kitchen. I miss cooking for all my friends. I've missed baking and eating! Yes, I miss eating the foods I love most of all!

I wanted to give you all an update. I'm did my 6th round of chemo this week. Halfway there!! I have 12 total. After chemo is done I'll be having a lumpectomy and then radiation. I've got a long road ahead of me, but I'm going to make it through, and that's all that matters to me.

I've been doing pretty good with chemo. I'm extremely lethargic. I'm napping most days out of necessity. I just can't keep my eyes open. I'm having some stomach issues and I have lost all taste in food, which for a foodie like me is not so great, but again, I'm dealing with it. I'm eating a very bland and boring diet. When you can't taste your food, you lose all interest in it. I eat when my stomach growls or when I know I really should eat something. I've been losing about 2 -3 pounds a week and normally that would be a YAHOO moment, but right now....not so much. My nutritionist would like me to drink some Ensures so I'm getting the vitamins and nutrients I need, so Ensure it is. Yuck!

The hair.....for those of you who know me, I have a lot of hair. I have big, thick, curly blonde hair. Well, I should say HAD, I DID have big, thick, curly blonde hair. My hair started to thin after chemo #4. I was shedding like a husky on a hot summer day. I made the decision to cut it short. I was starting to look like I had a mullet, so I went with a short haircut. Over the last week or so it really started to come out, so I finally started wearing my head coverings. I thought I would be much more upset about it, but I'm really not. It's only hair. It will grow back. I'm going to LIVE and that is so much more important then the hair on my head. I just might rock the bald look.

I'm being treated at Women & Infants Breast Health Center in Providence. I have amazing chemo nurses and doctors. I cannot say enough good things the folks there. I have been pampered and loved on by all my amazing friends and family, I have my good friend Eva as my chemo buddy. She takes me to most of my chemos and we color in those wonderful intricate coloring books to pass the time. I'm reading books I have been meaning to read forever and I'm pinning recipes that I want to try once my taste buds are back. As I said before. Life is still amazing and wonderful and I'm so very happy to be here.

I want to thank all of you that reached out to me since my last posts. I was flooded with good wishes and lovely thoughts. It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through, but this time really has held some of the best moments too. People are kind, and sweet and filled with kindness. I thank each and every one of you who reached out to be.

Now I'm happy to say.....on to some food!

I'm revisiting this dish. I originally posted it back in 2010. I felt like there might be lots of followers who didn't get a change to make this wonderful side so I had to remedy that, plus it gave me an excuse to make it again!

Most home cooks I know have a favorite side dish that they make over and over again.

This one is mine.

I fell in LOVE with this dish 5 years ago and I've been making it ever since.

I haven't eaten very much pasta over the past year and half, but this is the one dish that I'll make an exception for and indulge.

What makes it even better's so easy to make!

I tweaked it just a very little bit from the original recipe. The two things you must do to make this recipe turn out perfect are as follows:

1) DO NOT SUBSTITUTE THE CHEESE! The Gruyere makes this dish. If you want to use another cheese, choose another recipe. I'm so serious about this.

2) One you remove that pan from the burner, DO NOT LIFT THAT LID! Patience. It's only 25 minutes. You can do it!

Everyday Orzo2

Everyday Orzo
adapted from a recipe at the Junior League of Seattle.
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped fine (I used a combination of onion & shallots)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 pound orzo pasta, uncooked
3/4 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE!)
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until soft but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat chicken stock just until it begins to boil.

Add orzo to onion and garlic in skillet. Stir in hot chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let stand, without removing cover, until all liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. DO NOT LIFT THAT LID! Stir in cheese until melted. (If your cheese doesn't melt right away, just heat up the orzo over low flame a bit to get it to melt quicker); add chives and season with salt and pepper. Orzo will have a creamy consistency. Serve hot.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why I haven't been around much.....

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been around for a bit. Well, I had a bit of a health crisis. On May 5th I felt a lump in my left breast. I cannot begin to tell you what that moment felt like. I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, feeling it over and over again. I have a lump in my breast. This is really happening. I was a little terrified; I’m not going to lie. I immediately told John. “it could be nothing” he said. “It could be something” I said.

So Thursday I went to my primary care doc. She did a breast exam and didn’t seem overly concerned about it. Yes it’s a lump, but it was soft and movable. Good signs she told me but I needed to go get a diagnostic mammogram immediately. So off I went on Thursday. I had the mammogram, was asked to take a seat while the radiologist looked at it and them. She came back about 5 minutes later and said that they would need a few more scans. After a few more scans I headed to the radiologist and had an ultrasound. She informed me that the doc would be in to look for herself. So I laid there for what seemed like an eternity looking up at the beach scene that was painted on one of the overhead tiles in the ceiling and I tried to stop myself from crying, but it didn’t work. A few minutes later the doctor came in and she told me that they found a mass and it wasn’t a cyst. I would have to come back for a biopsy to determine if it was indeed cancerous. My doctor called me as I was leaving the hospital. “How are you?” she asked. “Well, I’m kind of freaking out a bit” I told her. She’s a straight shooter my doc. I admire that quality in her. She told me “Look, I want you to know that the radiologist said that she is concerned that it is a cancerous lump”. I sat on the bench outside of the hospital shaking. I don’t even remember the ride home. The next morning I was back for my core biopsy. I was told I would get the results in 3 – 5 days and was sent home to ice the incision for the rest of the day.

3 – 5 days of waiting. Let me tell you. Those were 5 of the worst days of my life. Waiting and waiting for results. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping. My mind never stopped. The “what-if’s” were never ending. The mental torture that I was putting myself through was unbearable. I cried and cried, uncontrollably at times. I tried to keep busy. John and I worked in the yard every night after work until it was dark. My main goal was to keep myself occupied because once I stopped and started to think about how my life could change with these results, I just lost it. I was never more nervous. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t want them to worry. Keeping all this a secret from my mom was so hard.

Sunday night I got the call from my doctor. The results had come in on Saturday. She didn’t expect them so soon. She told me it was breast cancer, but the good news was the tumor was smaller than they thought. I will probably need a lumpectomy and they will look at my lymph nodes and we will take it from there but she was very positive about it. One step at a time. She said “with your attitude I have no doubt that you will come out of this entire thing ok”. So that is where it stands right now. I don’t know if I’ll be blogging very much. Can’t say what I am going to do right now. I haven’t cooked in a week! The worst part of all this was the worrying and waiting. It was pure torture. Knowing WHAT I have to deal with is so much easier than not knowing. I can deal with this. I can beat this. I am very confident. I know that I have a tough road ahead, but I also know I can handle it.

Thank you to my amazing husband who always stands by my side. He has been my rock through all this. I wish every woman facing this kind of a crisis could have the same kind of support he has given me.

I would like to mention one last thing. To every woman out there who has put off their yearly appointment at the doctors, who has skipped their yearly mammogram, who thinks “it will never happen to me”, please, please, please I beg of you, get a checkup, do your monthly breast checks, have your yearly pap smears. It can happen to you and early detection can save your life.

My heart is still full of love, more so than ever now. I have an incredible family and loving friends who are always in my corner. Life is still beautiful, maybe even a little bit more so now than ever.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baked Scrambled Eggs

Most of you know that I am a breakfast person. I'll give up lunch any day of the week if it means I can stuff myself silly for breakfast. Even though I don't particularly care for waffles or pancakes, I'm in love with just about every other breakfast food there is, so finding this recipe for Baked Scrambled Eggs made me so happy.

I was searching out brunch recipes for Mother's Day. I looked into taking my Mom out for brunch, but when I saw the prices...forgetaboutit! $32 a person! No thank you. I can do brunch much more economically and I'm pretty sure, much more delicious.

So on the Mother's Day Brunch Menu will be my most favorite breakfast casserole of all Blueberry Croissant Breakfast Bake. You can find the recipe here.

Blueberry Croissant Puff

Also on the menu is my Three Cheese Breakfast Bake. Recipe here. It's hearty and cheesy and full of everything we love about breakfast!

A co-worker had told me that she made Baked Scrambled Eggs for her Easter brunch and that everyone went crazy for them, so I thought I'd give the recipe a whirl.

3 Cheese Breakfast Bake 1

WOW! I tried it and I loved it! The eggs came out so soft and fluffy. Could you make scrambled eggs in a fraction of the time on the stove top? Sure, but I love the convenience of having the stove free to cook other things while the eggs are baking in the oven. If you have a large crowd to feed, or a bunch of hungry teenagers, this is a terrific recipe.

All the recipes I found were double this amount! I halved it for us. You can certainty double it if you like. If you like to throw in some cheese, or cooked veggies at the half way point, feel free to do so!

Baked Scrambled Eggs
12 eggs
1 ¼ cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
Pinch salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 350. Place the butter in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Let the butter melt while you prepare the eggs. Whisk together the remaining ingredients. Remove pan from oven and add egg mixture. Bake for 10 minutes then remove and stir well. You want to break the eggs up. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes, remove and stir again. My eggs were done at this point, but yours might take a few more minutes. I would check on them every 3 minutes or so at that point. You don’t want to over bake them. If you pull them out at the right time they will be nice and fluffy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cheesy Smoked Sausage and Veggie Bake

cheesy smoked sausage bake 3 2

First off let me say that my absence from the blog was due to some minor hand surgery that I had done. I couldn't cook or clean for over a week! It was torture! I also couldn't do dishes.....that was NOT torture! But I'm back and I've got a delicious recipe made with Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage.

There are not many brands that I love enough to promote, but this brand is one the whole family loves. Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage is a favorite in this household. I love it because it's quick and easy to prepare for dinner. I mean how many times can you have pasta or chicken for dinner?

My husband would eat it 5 times a week! I love all the different ways it can be used. It's not just for supper. Smoked Sausage for breakfast is also a great idea. If you need more inspiration, head on over to Hillshire Farms for more delicious recipes.

Hillshire Farm smoked sausage is crafted to be better. The experts have perfected the pre-seasoning of the smoked sausage over the last 75 years and let me tell you, it's a winner! Plus it's so much cleaner and easier to work with than chicken. I love me some chicken but there are nights when I'd much rather just slice or dice up some smoked sausage and be done with it!

Hillshire Farms asked me to create an original recipe from them so I came up with this Cheesy Smoked Sausage and Veggie Bake.

It's loaded with veggies (and some cheesy goodness too). So easy to throw together and pop in the oven. You can even make it the night before and just heat it up when you get home!

cheesy smoked sausage bake 2

Cheesy Smoked Sausage & Veggie Bake
recipe from Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion (or 1 large leek, light green and white parts only) finely chopped
8oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage, diced
1 - 16oz package frozen cauliflower, thawed
1- 16oz package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed

Cheese Sauce
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded.
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil and add the chopped onion or leeks and sliced mushrooms. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the onions and mushrooms becomes softened. Add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add in the diced smoked sausage. Toss to combine. Transfer to a large bowl so it can cool for a bit while you make the cheese sauce.

To make the sauce
In a medium saucepan melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour. Once the flour hits the melted butter it is going to clump so it is important to keep whisking so that you make a nice smooth paste or roux. Cook the paste for about a minute to eliminate the raw flour taste but don't let it start to brown. Add the milk in a little at a time and stir until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper and stir until well blended. Pour over the smoked sausage and veggie mixture, folding in gently making sure the sauce covers all the mixture. Add in the cheddar cheese and place into baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the mozzarella cheese and top with paprika if you’d like. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

I'm required to disclose a relationship between our site and Hillshire. This could include Hillshire providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bust Your Buttons Butter Pound Cake

Berry season is almost here. I can't wait until I can pick fresh strawberries and blueberries again, until then I rely on the supermarket berries grown on the west coast. They will just have to do for now. I don't even bother buying them in the winter. Winter berries in Rhode Island taste like nothing. I rely on what I have in the freezer during the winter.

Since deep red juicy berries started showing up in the markets again, I bought my first few pounds. I knew I needed a great pound cake recipe to go with them. I relied on my Pinterest pages and found this one called Bust Your Buttons Butter Cake. I read through it and it sounded like the perfect cake to pair with berries. There is a lot of butter in this recipe, almost 3/4 of a pound. Butter makes cake better, so you know this is a good one.

It has really great almond flavor too and that will want to bust your buttons when you start eating this!

I served it with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. Perfect!

Bust Your Buttons Butter Cake
original recipe from Just a Pinch
3 cups cake flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon real almond extract
4 eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup butter (about 5 ¼ tablespoons)
3/4 cups granulated sugar (white sugar, not powdered)
3 tablespoons water
1 ½ Tablespoons vanilla extract

In a stand mixer bowl combine the cake flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix to combine. Add the buttermilk, butter, vanilla and almond extract and eggs. Mix just until ingredients are combined. Do not overmix.


Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours or until cake tester comes out clean. Do not over bake! Ovens vary so start testing yours around the 50 minute mark.

Combine all the ingredients, except vanilla, in a sauce pan. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Stir in vanilla, set aside to slightly cool. Pierce the cake with the tines of a fork or a bamboo skewer while it’s still in the pan. Pour half the glaze slowly over the cake.

Cool in the pan for 15 min. then flip out onto a cake plate. Pour the remaining sauce over the cake. I found that the glaze gets gooey at the bottom so after it set completely; I moved the whole cake to another plate. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Swiss Roll Cake with Oreo Cream Cheese Filling

What is wrong with me? Why would I make this cake when I'm watching my sugar?

It was a cruel, cruel thing I did to myself. I mean come on! Look at this cake. Really. It's two boxes of Swiss rolls cut into 144 slices, yes I did the math, pressed into a spring form pan and filled with a cream cheese/whipped cream/Oreo filling. Oh. My. Lord.

My youngest with the very active sweet tooth saw this and it was all over. "Mom you have to make this" is what I heard over and over again until I made it.

I'm not, or never really was into the whole Little Debbie thing, but I did love the Swiss Rolls. I liked to peel off the chocolate and then eat the cakey center. That was just my thing.

This was super easy to throw together and look at it, it looks pretty damn impressive.

Oh how I wanted to have a slice but I resisted. I have some willpower huh?

You will lose some of the chocolate as you cut the Swiss Roll into pieces. Just gather them up and throw them back into the pan. It fills in all the little spaces.

Swiss Roll Cake with Oreo Cream Cheese Filling
Adapted from a recipe at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen
24 Swiss Roll cakes (2 small boxes), unwrapped and cut into 6 slices each
8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream, cold
16 Oreos, crushed

Line a 9 inch spring form pan with plastic wrap. Set aside.

Place a metal mixing bowl and your mixer whisk attachment in the freezer or fridge.

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar with your hand mixer, on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Remove chilled bowl and whisk attachment from freezer or fridge. Pour heavy cream in bowl and beat with the chilled whisk attachment with the mixer on high speed , until a stiff whipped cream forms. Working with 1/3 of the whipped cream at a time, gently fold into the cream cheese mixture until smooth and blended. Once all the whipped cream has been added and the filling is smooth, fold in cookie pieces until combined.

I cut each Swiss roll into 6 pieces. Line bottom and sides of spring form pan with Swiss Roll slices. Gather up any loose chocolate and put it back into the pan. Spoon filling into the pan and spread evenly. Top with remaining Swiss Roll slices to cover. Remember, your bottom will become your top so if there are some spaces left on the top it’s ok. Cover pan with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. To serve, turn pan out onto a cake plate and remove pan and wrap.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sour Cream & Onion Deviled Eggs

We love deviled eggs. When I saw we, I mean my husband and I. My boys, not so much. I find it hard to fathom since they are one of my most favorite appetizers.

For over 10 years I've stuck to my old try and true recipe and my Deviled Egg Spread (what better way to use up all those boiled Easter eggs right?)

I saw a recipe for Sour Cream and Onion Dip Deviled Eggs on A Spicy Perspective and thought I'd give it a whirl with a few additions of my own thrown in.

So I bring you Sour Cream and Onion Deviled Eggs. My version.

Creamy, oniony and satisfyingly delicious!

There's a new deviled egg in town!

Sour Cream & Onion Deviled Eggs
adapted from a recipe at A Spicy Perspective.
12 extra-large hard boiled eggs
4 large shallots, finely chopped (or 1 small onion)
1/2 cup thick sour cream
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard.
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste.

Drain the sour cream  in a sieve over a bowl using a coffee filter or a piece of paper towel. Let drain for about an hour. You should see some liquid drain out.

Peel the hard boiled eggs, cut them in half and place the yolks in a food processor.
Place a skillet over medium heat. Drizzle in some olive oil and add the chopped shallots. Saute for 3-5 minutes until soft and golden. Set aside.

Drain (or strain) the sour cream so it is as thick as possible. Place it in the food processor along with the sautéed onions. Puree until totally smooth. Remove mixture to a bowl and stir in the vinegar mustard and chopped green onions. Salt and pepper to taste. You might want to add more vinegar at this point. I like my deviled eggs a little tangy. If you do too, add in a splash more.

Fill the centers of each egg white and garnish with a little more of the chopped green onion. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.