Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rustic Plum Tart

So I had a lot of plums. More plums they we were going to eat. Yes they were on sale. 79 cents a pound, how could I pass that up? I went a little overboard and bought a few too many so I decided to make a plum tart, a rustic plum tart cause I'm the kinda girl that just wouldn't make a fancy plum tart.

I used Elise's recipe for
Pâte Brisée All Butter Crust for Sweet and Savory Pies. I then researched for a plum filling and found one from Gourmet. It looked really simple:

1 pound plums
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 T cornstarch
2 t lemon juice

So I mixed all that up in a bowl and added my plums. Now maybe my plums were too ripe. They were very ripe indeed. I added in a pound of plums and it just looked too soupy. So I added in 2 more plums. That looked better. I mixed it all up and it still seemed too soupy so I just kind of let the juice run through my hands before I filled the pastry with them. I brushed the top with some milk and sprinkled on some demerara sugar and into a 375 degree oven it went.

It leaked a little in the oven. One of the sides seemed to blow out a bit, but that's ok. I kinda like the river of magenta and purple running down the side.

Tangy and tart and sweet and just fruity enough.

Grilled Pork with Mushroom Sauce

I don’t blog about food every day of the week. I know there are a few rare individuals out there that actually make a beautiful and photographic meal seven nights a week, but that will never happen here, unless I get fired from my job and with the luxury of 40 extra hours every week then I will have plenty of time to post amazing recipes and photographs every single day of the week. Until then you will see 2 or 3 food entries a week for the most part, sometimes more, sometimes less. I have to wait until the weekend to cook lavish and time consuming dishes for my crew (dessert included!).

Now we do eat 7 days a week. Meals prepared by moi with the occasional Subway sandwich or pizza thrown in on any given Friday when I just need a break from the kitchen. Our weekday meals are usually quick and easy. Once a week we will have a pasta dish with varying accompaniments, veggies, beans, seafood, etc. We usually have chicken at least once a week too. I try to plan out all my meals for the week on Sunday so I’m not going crazy trying to decide what to have for dinner every night.

We are a grilling family. We grill year round. Snow, sleet, rain, hail, oh well not so much hail, but we do use our grill 12 months out of the year. I cannot count the number of times John has had to brush the snow off the grill before he heats it up. Sometimes the weather will dictate what we eat. Last week when a heat wave came through we ate lots of salads and cold sandwiches, fruits and what little warm food we could tolerate was cooked on the grill. We also have a smoker, John’s favorite toy of 2007. There is nothing like the taste of meat cooked on the smoker. I love that smoker. Because of it; I have one less thing I have to tend too. I only have to worry about sides and desserts when there’s a hunk-o-meat smoking away.

So the grilled pork with mushroom sauce is a typical weeknight dinner. I brined the pork the day before (always brine you pork, you will never eat un-brined pork again I swear) When I got home from work I started the mushroom sauce, John grilled, I made some the sauce and some rice and fresh greenbeans from the garden and dinner was on the table in less than a half hour.

Grilled Pork with Mushroom Sauce
6 pieces of boneless pork loin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 10oz package of portabella mushrooms, sliced thick
White wine
Fresh thyme
Salt & pepper

I brine my pork. It’s super easy to do and all you have to remember is to get it in the brine about 24 hours before you want to eat it. I used about a ½ gallon of cold water, ½ cup of kosher salt, ¼ cup sugar and 1 cup of boiling water. Mixed it all up and but the pork in the water and let them sit in the fridge overnight. This is just a simple brine, you can get all elaborate and add all sorts of spices and twigs and berries, but most of the time I use a simple one like this.

While John was grilling the pork I started on the sauce. In a large pan I cooked the mushrooms in the little olive oil. As soon as they started to look like they were cooked about half way through I added in some white wine. No measurements here, I just poured it in until it just covered the mushrooms. I added in some fresh thyme and some salt & pepper. I let it simmered about 5 minutes and then poured it over my perfectly grilled pork. That brined pork was so moist and juicy.

So here is an example of a weeknight dinner at my house. What did ya think I was gonna show ya Chef Boyardee? Tsk, tsk.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Doing a little redecorating.

Yup.....looks a bit different round here don't ya think? I decided to brighten things up a bit and change things a little. I've got a custom made masthead being created as I type! It's all new I tell ya...shiny and gleaming and ready for a whole new phase in my little blogging world.

I have a few more adjustments to make before I declare the redecorating offically done. Let me know what you think? How do you like the lighter, brighter me??

Special thanks to my blogging mentor Krysta @ Evil Chef Mom for putting up with a day full of email from me. Thanks for all your help girl!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bulgogi Burger with Quick Cucumber Carrot Slaw

This is my 3rd test recipe for Jaden at Jadens Steamy Kitchen. The Bulgogi burger. Oh man was this delicious!

I was apprehensive at first. Would my kids eat a burger with brown sugar, ginger, garlic and soy in it? Could I get them to even try the cucumber carrot slaw?? Raw veggies on a burger without a drop of ketchup or mustard in sight?

I gave it a shot tonight for supper and the answer is...YES! They loved it! Jesse declared it "awesome" in fact.

I'm not going to post the recipe since it's not on Jaden's site. You will all just have to buy her cookbook when it comes out and see for yourself how delicious it is!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Like many of my recipes I have been making this lasagna for over 20 years now and have never attempted to write the recipe down. So I had to make this with notepad by my side, scribbling as I pinched and stirred. It was a very messy piece of paper by the time I got done.

One note – lasagna is not very photogenic. I tried to get a shot of just a piece of it on a plate, and no luck. It just looks like a gooey mess….a gooey mess that tastes fantastic that is.

This is my lasagna recipe. People really seem to like it. My husband adores it. I’m sure you have a favorite too….this is his.

Lisa’s Lasagna
Printable recipe
1 package lasagna noodles (I like Barilla or Ronzoni)
2 pounds ground beef or turkey or a mixture of both.
1 large onion, chopped
Large container whole milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs
Provolone cheese
Pecorino Romano cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Fresh chopped parsley
Dried oregano
Fresh chopped basil
Garlic, chopped – to taste. I use 5 – 6 cloves. We are garlic fiends. You can use less.
Sauce – I usually make my own sauce, but in a pinch jarred will do. You will probably end up using about 1 ½ - 2 jars.

I start my lasagna the way I start many dishes, by cooking up some onions and garlic in some good olive oil. I do a fairly large chop on the onions and then cook them in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, just until they are translucent.

Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until they are very, very al dente. DO NOT OVER COOK YER NOODLES! You will end up with very mushy lasagna if you do. I have often been tempted to try Ina Gartens method of just pouring very hot water over the noodles and letting them sit for 15 minutes, but I haven’t tried it yet.

In a large skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil, cook the onions until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic in for just a minute or so. Add the ground beef or turkey, or both and cook until meat is no longer pink inside. I usually take a colander and drain the mixture at this point. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, 2 eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, and the herbs. Mix gently. I don’t measure any of the herbs. I just chop them up and kind of go with what looks good to me. Set aside.

The assembly:

I kind of make an assembly station for my lasagna making.

I line up, in this order…..the lasagna noodles, a 9x13 inch pan or a 10x15 inch pan. I just found the larger lasagna pan. I had been looking for one for years and I picked it up for $6.99! Bargain. Anyway, back to the line up. The noodles, the pan, then the sauce, the cheese mixture and finally the meat mixture. I start by putting a little sauce in the bottom of the pan. This prevents the noodles from sticking. Put down one layer of noodles, then spread on the ricotta mixture, a layer of mozzarella cheese, and on just one layer, I cover the surface with some Provolone cheese, and then some sauce. Repeat layers. I usually get 2 layers from one box. End with a sprinkling of mozzarella.

Cover with aluminum foil and heat in a 350-degree oven for 30 – 45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. I give the foil a shot of cooking spray so it won’t stick. Place a cookie sheet under it in case of spills and bubble over! I remove the foil at the last 15 of cooking so the edges get nice and crunchy…the best part! Let sit for 15 minutes before cutting.

I usually serve this with a big salad and some garlic bread.

Pina Colada Pie

I just entered this recipe in "Beat the Heat" at A Southern Grace. Perfect timing!

It was dessert day yesterday. I made not one, but two lovely treats. The Chocolate Rice Krispie Cake for the kiddos and this Pina Colada Pie for the adults. We had dinner guests, as always. I also made a huge lasagna, that's coming up next.

When Food Network was first on the air I got hooked on a show of theirs that highlighted all different kinds of cooks and recipes. I can't for the life of me remember what the name of the show was, but it had a female host with a very enchanting voice. This recipe for Pina Colada Pie came from that show all those years ago.

This is the perfect summer dessert because:

1) It's a no bake dessert.

2) It's like eating a frozen Pina Colada.

3) It's cool, refreshing, fruity and creamy all at the same time.

You can make it days in advance and just pop it out of the freezer about 20 minutes before you want to serve it.

Oh I almost forgot #4!

4) It's super easy and quick to make.

Pina Colada Pie
Printable recipe
4 ounces cream cheese (softened)
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
½ cup pineapple juice
½ cup shredded coconut
3 cups whipped topping, divided
½ cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 large graham cracker crust* (see note below)

Combine cream cheese, milk & pineapple juice and beat until thoroughly mixed. Fold in coconut, crushed pineapple, & 1½ cups of the whipped topping. Pour mixture into pie shell. Freeze until firm. Top with remaining Cool Whip.

If desired garnish with toasted coconut, chocolate shavings or nuts. Return to freezer for at least 8 hours. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Tip: Buy the large can of crushed pineapples and you can use the juice from the can. Just squeeze and squeeze and you should get that 1/2 cup.

Keebler now makes a larger graham cracker crust pie shell (9oz). This recipe makes enough to fill a large 9 inch pie shell, if using a smaller store bought pie shell, you will have more than enough to fill the pie shell – you can freeze remaining filling in a container for a treat later!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chocolate Rice Krispie Cake

I have a confession to make. I have never, once in my life, ever made rice krispie treats for my kids. Never. Ever.

Why? Well cause I found his recipe and in my opinion, it's way easier and tastes better than regular ole rice krispie treats. My kids love this even more than any square of a rice krispie treat they have ever eaten. It's filled with chocolate rice krispies, mini chips, M&M's and marshmallows. The original recipe includes salted peanuts but that would cause my two kids to take a bite of cake and then spit out all the peanuts. This I know from experience, so I eliminate the peanuts now and add mini chips. You can substitute anything you like. I couldn't find mini M&M's this time, so I just went with the regular sized ones.

This mixture is a sticky mess. Use a big bowl. When you first start mixing the chocolate and marshmallow mixture with the rice krispies you are going to think, there is no way in hell that this will all combine, but it will. Just keep gently mixing and it will come together. Once it does I add in the chips and M&M's, cause you don't want to add them too soon or they will melt.

What's nice about this recipe is that it looks like a bundt cake and you can slice it like a bundt cake, and take as much or as little as you want. Personalized slices. I made this as an extra dessert for one of Jesse's birthday parties and it went faster than the regular birthday cake. Kids love it.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Cake
Printable recipe
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (3/4 cup)
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 bag (10 ½ ounces) mini marshmallows
6 cups chocolate rice krispies (we found chocolate/vanilla krispies at the store)
1 cup salted dry roasted peanuts (I substituted mini chips for nuts)
1 cup M&M mini baking bits (I substituted regular sized M&M's)

Spray a 10 – 12 cup bundt pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl heat chocolate and butter in microwave on high for 1 min, stirring once during heating. Remove from microwave and stir until melted and smooth. Add marshmallows to mixture. Heat in microwave on high 1 min longer until melted and mixture is smooth.

Add cereal, peanuts. Stir until coated and well combined. Add mini bits (these are added last so the mixture won’t melt them) Put in bundt pan pressing mixture down with fingertips. Let stand 1 hr, in warm weather put in fridge to set.

Loosen with knife or metal spatula to unmold. I just run my frosting spatula all around the edges and it pops right out. Invert to plate, cut in slices to serve. Store in covered container at room temp up to 3 days.

Farmer's Market

Evan and I got up early this morning and took a ride to the local Farmer's Market. It's located in Scituate, which is about 15 minutes from our house. There were lots and lots of tents set up and lots and lots of food and goodies. I chatted with a wood carver, a herbalist, a lady who makes her own dips and sauces, a man who makes his own hot sauces, a couple of young hippies who ran a vegan booth (Evan ate of their vegan Oreo cupcakes for breakfast and said it was great) and a very nice lady who sold beautiful bouquets of her home grown flowers. I bought a bouquet for my table for dinner tonight. Everyone is very happy and chatty at the Farmers market, so I fit right in.

There were lots of veggies, but our garden is keeping us supplied with those. I also talked to a little girl who was selling lemonade and hand made coasters for the local dog shelter. Evan and I bought lemonades and one of her adorable coasters. She had a little loom and was weaving away making them. She was so tickled when I told her I was going to put her coaster right by my computer and use is every day.

I also found a booth for Rhode Island Soapworks. Oddly enough she wasn't selling soap, but herbs, and lip balm. I chatted with her for a bit and ended up getting some Herbs de Provence, Marjoram, and some Italian seasonings that I plan on using tonight when I make garlic bread. 2 of the bags were 50 cents and the Herbs de Provence was only 75 cents. How could I pass that up? Of course being the lip balm addicted person that I am, I couldn't pass up on her herbed balms. I picked a strawberry lime one. It smells so good I could eat it.

There was a bread stand there that was amazing. I could have bought $100 worth of bread easily. I wanted every loaf and bun they had.

Evan ended up with a hand made necklace. It's a little sea shell with a tiny hole punched in it. The little boy who was selling them was about Evan's age and took great pride in telling him where he found the shells, how he made the holes in them and strung them, it was so cute.

Moose also got some liver and cheese treats. He was very thankful.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I could really use some. First we had a heatwave for a week, now it's been pouring, and I do mean pouring buckets for 2 days. Yesterday at about 4pm it got so dark out that it looked like it was midnight. The skies opened up and there was just a sheet of water pouring from the sky. Thunder boomed so loud it shook the house. I thought it was going to crack open the roof and scoop us all up into the clouds. I love thunderstorms but this was damn scary.

Last night the storms continued but in a good way. A slow trickle of rain, thunder off in the distance, the flash of lightening across the sky. It cooled everything down and just the sound of it falling put us all in a melancholy mood for the evening. The electronics were unplugged and we all curled up with a good book and just sat in silence, reading and listening to the rain fall.

Jesse said to me "I hope we loose power".

"Why?" I asked

"Cause then we could light candles and lamps and play board games, it's cool"

I have to agree with him. It is cool when it happens. It kind of makes us all just take a step back from our hectic lives, detach from the electronic devices that sometimes rule our worlds and just enjoy each other. Enjoy being together. We break out a board game and all huddle around the big table in the living room and laugh and talk and just be.

Just be.

It's storming again tonight, so I need to get off this computer until it passes. I kind of hope the lights go out now too.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cannelli Bean Salad

We have been in the middle of a heat wave for 6 days now. 6 hot and humid days. Living in the Ocean State has its perks, and it’s drawbacks. The humidity here can really drag you down. It makes it hard to breathe, hard to see and hard to enjoy the outdoors. For almost a week now we have been waiting until after sundown to go outside to water or pick veggies. This recipe was thrown together, and I do mean thrown together in about 10 minutes. It’s a nice cool and refreshing side dish.

Cannelli Bean Salad
2 cans of cannelli beans sometimes called Great Northern White Beans (I used one can of regular and one can of small white beans- Goya brand)
1 small red onion, finely chopped
½ can small black olives, chopped
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh basil, chopped

In a mason jar mix:
3 parts olive oil to 1 part fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Shake it up, pour over beans, mix gently.

This dish tastes best if left to “soak” for a few hours, or overnight preferably.

This will probably never happen again.

I despise having my picture taken. I think that is one of the reasons that I am always behind the camera instead of in front of it. I have gotten better over the years and have actually allowed a few people to take my photo, as long as they promised never to show it to me.

I've noticed that many bloggers post their pictures in their profile, or on their blogs and I love that. I love to put a face to a blog so to speak. Quite a few people have asked why I haven't posted a photo of myself and I think after reading the first paragraph you understand now. In an effort to get over my phobia, I tried to take a few the bathroom....with my horrible camera, that I despise even more than having my photo taken. Yes I was in the bathroom, with horrid lighting, a mirror that splits into thirds so I have a lovely line down almost all the photos. Do you know how hard it is to take a photo of yourself? Your eyes automatically look at yourself and not into the camera lens so you always look like your looking away. I swear I took 30 photos and the 6 you see are the only decent ones, and I use that word lightly, that were kinda in focus. I purposely posted the rejects so you could get a laugh. My oldest son was behind me in some of them. He was critiquing me. Hence the confused faces.

So here I am. No retouching what-so-ever. No photo shopped images. I don't even have photoshop. You are getting me au natural. Dark circles under my eyes, frizzy hair (hey it's 95 out!), eyes with no pupils, 44 years of living on my face, me in all my glory. Take a look now, cause I can't promise that I won't freak out and delete this post.

My husband looked at this last photo and said I look like....and I quote "a coked up disco queen". Nice. Thank you hun, that's an esteem builder for sure.

Devil Dog Cake (for Pa)

I have not made this cake since September of 2001. You may wonder how I can remember both the year and the month, well it's because this was a cake that I used to make for my Pa's birthday. He loved this cake because he loved Devil Dogs and this cake tastes like a Devil Dog...a big giant rectangular Devil Dog. The last time I made it was for his 81st birthday. Over the past 7 years I have glanced over this recipe time and time again and just couldn't bring myself to make it. It reminds me so much of him that I thought making it and not having him there to eat it would just make me so sad inside. Today I really thought about it. Why can't I make this cake and be happy about it? These are the memories of him that made me happy, made me smile. Why had I waited 7 years to make this cake again? Did the boys even remember eating this cake? Why did I sometimes think maybe I should just tear that recipe out of my binder and throw it away so I won't have to look at it every time I go searching through it? Why? It's just a cake right?

I have a picture that is on my fridge from that very day when I last made that cake. Jesse is just 6 years old in it. He's sitting on my Pa's lap, grinning, hands on his face. My Pa is smiling, looking down on him. The boys always made him smile. He lit up when they came running into the room to see him. That cake is on the table in front of them in that picture, out of camera range, you can just see the candles off in the left corner. That cake, that I wouldn't make for 7 friggin' years.

I can see him in my mind, fork in hand, digging into a big plateful, his voice telling me "this is delicious Lisa Anne". He always called me Lisa Anne.

My Pa loved his sweets. Gram always had a tupperware container of goodies in the cupboard, and as soon as the dinner dishes were cleaned, she was getting that container of sweets. He was very fond of Little Debbies, and macaroons, and those pinwheel cookies with the marshmallow that are covered in chocolate, and grapenut pudding....well you get the picture, sweets made him happy. So I decided that this cake won't hold a painful memory for me, but instead a joyful celebratory memory of a man I loved so very much.

I'm so glad I didn't throw this recipe away.

Devil Dog Cake - for Nicola.
Printable recipe
1 package (18 ¼ ounces) chocolate cake mix
1 package (3.9 ounces) instant chocolate pudding mix
¾ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup water
4 eggs

Combine all 5 ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased and floured 9x13 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 30 - 35 mins or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool 10 mins and invert on wire rack to cool completely.

3 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
½ cup butter softened
½ cup shortening
¾ to 1 cup sugar (I use ¾ cup and it's just perfect)
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small saucepan combine flour & milk until smooth. Bring to a boil, cook & stir 2 mins or until sauce is thickened. Let cool slightly. In mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening, sugar & vanilla, about 2 minutes. Beat in milk mixture until sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes).

Split cake into two horizontal layers. Spread filling over the bottom layer, cover with top layer. Refrigerate until cream is firm. Cut into serving size pieces. Store in an air tight container.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Clam Cakes

When John first came to Rhode Island and heard that we eat clam cakes, lets just say his first reaction was not "oh I must eat one right now!" a cake?? Are you Yankees ok?? No it's not a cake, really more like a fritter. In fact the batter that I use is from a local company called Drum Rock and is called "Clam Cake and Fritter Batter". I buy it in 5 pound bags. You use 1 pound per batch of clam cakes, which sounds like a lot, but it's really not. The directions are right on the package. You just add water, clams, let it sit then scoop and deep fry them. I use canola oil for mine. Once they are golden brown you take them out of the oil and let them drain on a brown paper bag. This is a colanders or paper must be a brown paper bag cause well...that's tradition.

Clam cakes have been consumed in Rhode Island since the turn of the century. Most Rhode Islanders had their first clam cakes at the Rocky Point Chowder House in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Here's a really old post card of the Shore Dinner Hall.

The Chowder House was right outside the Rocky Point Amusement Park and once you finished up with the rides, you either went and ate at the Shore Dinner Hall (a huge banquet house that hosted clambakes and boils and sat 1000 people) or you went to the smaller Chowder House and got clam cakes and chowder, cause the best way to eat a clam cake is to dip it in your chowder. While the amusement park and dinner hall are now gone, the Chowder House is still making clam cakes as they did throughout the 20th century. My Gram made clam cakes too and they were pretty close to the Chowder House ones, but she didn't have the amusement park to go along with them.

You really have to have the clam cake mix to make these. I'm telling you it's worth your while to get some. If you really want to make them, you can get the mix right from Drum Rock
here. I know they sound disgusting but they are scrumptious. After John took his first bite of one, he was hooked. You will be too.

Things that make me happy #17

Origanum rotundifolium (Ornamental Oregano - Kent Beauty)

Two days of things that make me happy in one week!

I have to show you my favorite plant of this season (well technically it's an herb, but it's really not edible, so I'm calling it a plant). My Ornamental Oregano. Just look at it, isn't it pretty?

When I walked into the nursery last month I was immediately drawn to this plant. There was a large plant in the middle of the greenhouse and it dragged me in from 10 feet away. Those chartreuse leaves, the pinkish tinges on the petals, the delicate way it arches and bends, like dozens of little bells on a vine. I love this plant. I love watching it change, and grow. I love the way the light catches each leaf, the dark green veins, the tiny purple trumpeted flowers it produces.

The leaves turn from that beautiful chartreuse color to a light purple and finally to a deep pink. It extraordinary. This baby is making it's way indoors for the winter. I'm not letting the Rhode Island winter do any damage to this beauty.


Anyone outside of New England might be looking at the title of this post and thinking…what the heck are stuffies?? No it has nothing to do with undergarments! If you do live in the New England area then you already know that they are stuffed quahog shells. Moist and tender clams, Italian bread, bacon, and seasonings stuffed into a shell then baked until they are crispy and eaten piping hot. I think it may be a law in RI that you must burn your tongue on a stuffie at least once a year or you could face deportation (you know like to Canada or something).

Stuffies are everywhere in Rhode Island. You can find them at the local VFW halls, backyard cookouts, local clambakes and, of course, just about every restaurant in the area. There are probably as many recipes for stuffies as they are clams in the ocean. They are all similar, and most contain the same basic ingredients. The difference comes in the amount of other ingredients that embellish the bread and quahog. My Gram always made awesome stuffies. I can remember sitting at her kitchen table, cutting up dozens and dozens of quahogs with the kitchen shears. I wish I had written her recipe down. Lost forever.

If you’re a good New Englander, you go out and you dig for your own quahogs. If you are slacker like me, you go to the local fish market and buy the shells ($1 for 15 – bargain!) and you buy the quahogs already minced in clam juice. Now don’t go thinking I have never quahoged in my life. When I was younger I went with my Pa. He had a quahog rake and a bushel basket with an inner tube around the outside. The official tools of a Rhode Island quahoger. You float the basket while you dig. I’m sure I did more playing than digging back then.

In the 70’s wherever there was a patio or porch, there was a calm shell ashtray. If you were lucky enough it was hand painted! I can remember painting clamshells in school to bring home for Mother’s or Father’s Day gifts and I’m sure kids that went to camp found out that clam shells would be part of their craft making projects. They are literally everywhere out here. In the coastal towns even their driveways are made out of crushed shells. I kid you not.

So since it was over 90 degrees today, I decide it was the perfect night to heat up the oven and make some stuffies! I also decided it was the perfect night to fry up clamcakes (that's the next post) cause I really wanted to spend a half hour cleaning the grease splatter off my black stove.

Without further adieu I give you the recipe for my stuffies:

Lisa's Stuffed Quahogs
1 loaf Italian bread
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 quart chopped hard-shell clams, in juice (this is enough to make stuffies and clamcakes)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 pound bacon, chopped fine
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 stick butter, cut into smaller pieces
Fresh parsley
juice of a half of lemon

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the onions and chopped bacon. Cook until the bacon is crispy, but not overly browned. If your bacon renders off too much fat drain it off so just the bottom of the pan is coated with bacon grease. That's where all the yummy bacony flavor is! At this point I add in the crushed garlic and Worcestershire sauce and then I turn off the heat while I make the stuffing part of the recipe.

It's best to use day old bread for this recipe, but you can use fresh in a pinch. You can do like I did and rip the bread into little pieces or you can get out your food processor and grind it up in that. I didn't feel like dragging out my food processor so I just ripped it up by hand. I add my seasoning to the bread when it's all ripped up in the bowl. I put in some fresh chopped parsley and a good couple of shakes of Mrs. Dash. I love Mrs. Dash, what would I do without her?

Take the juice from the clams and pour it all over the bread. Get in there and squish it up with your hands until you have a nice big bowl of goop. If you don't have enough juice, you can use canned clam juice or even chicken stock. I always have a can of clam juice in my cupboard, cause that's the kind of girl I am. Squish it around, kinda like your making meatballs. Never made meatballs??? Shame on you....go do a search at the top of my blog and make some homemade meatballs, your family will thank you for it.

Now back to the pan. I add in about 2 cups of clams (I just kinda eye this part) and the stuffing mixture and the chopped butter and let them all mesh together. Just before I turn off the heat I squeeze on the lemon. Ok now your just need to let this cool so you can handle it. While that cools I will tell you how to prepare your shells.

Preparing the shells for baking.

You need to clean the shells really well before you bake them. The easiest way to do this is in your dishwasher. I'm serious. Load them into the top rack, and run them through a cycle. Whatever you do DON'T USE DISH SOAP! You just want to sanitize them. If you don't have a dishwasher, you can boil them for a few minutes then let them cool. If you are storing them to use the next day, make sure you put them in the fridge or your whole house will smell like low tide in the morning. Not a good thing.

Back to the stuffing. Go preheat your oven to 375 so it's nice and hot. Take your clean shells and your cooled stuffing and get a big sheet pan, grab a shell and start stuffing. I just take a big tablespoon and pack enough stuffing in there so everyone get a nice portion.

The last step is to sprinkle some paprika on them before they go in. Then I do something my Gram always did...I put a little piece of bacon on the top of each one. Looks cute....tastes great. I get 15 stuffies from this recipe. They cooked for about 30 minutes. Check them at the 20 minute mark. You want them to be heated through and get a nice crunchy top.

Let them cool before anyone picks one up cause those shells get smokin' hot in the oven. I do know impatient people who will grab a pot holder to hold the hot shell shell in cause they can't wait for them too cool. They most likely will burn their toungue. Serves them right. Once they are cool enough...grab a spoon and start eating.

John and Evan eat them with hot sauce, I eat mine with a little drop of lemon. They are filling little buggers, so a little goes a long way.

Now go get stuffing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pepperoni Pinwheels

I found these little scraps of paper way in the back of one of my folders over the weekend. I pieced together the scraps and there was a recipe...Pepperoni Pinwheels. They were super easy to make and the boys thought they were a great snack. They were eaten up in 3 minutes. I'm not kiddin'. From plate to hungry mouths - 3 minutes - gone!

Evan declared them...."pizzery good"

Pepperoni Pinwheels
Printable recipe
1/2 cup diced pepperoni
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 egg, separated
1 tube (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent rolls

In a bowl combine the pepperoni, cheese (I ran out of mozzarella, so I use 1/2 cheddar), oregano and egg yolk. I added in some fresh chopped parsley too. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until foamy; set aside. Separate the crescent dough into four rectangles; seal perforations.

Spread the pepperoni mixture over each rectangle to within a 1/4 inch of edges. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with the short side, pinch seams to seal. Cut into 6 slices. I couldn't get 6 slices out of these, I got 5 at the most.

Place cut side down on greased baking sheet (I used parchment). Brush tops with egg white. Bake at 375 for 12 - 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Things that make me happy #16

Buried Treasures

Over the weekend we bought another storage shed...this one just to hold the long handled tools that seems to be taking up too much room in the regular shed. John had to dig a bit to get the ground level. Look what he found in just a few feet of dirt:

An old pull tab to a soda can. I asked the kids what it was, they had no idea. I told them "this is how we used to open up soda cans".

"That is totally weird" Jesse said.

Some Singer sewing needles. I had to knock the dirt outta the container.

A really rusty fishing reel. It was practically crunchy!

Three love nuts! One with the meat still in it! What a find! If you are unfamiliar with the love nut story you can catchup here:Love Nut Story.

All that stuff in just a few feet of dirt. Kinda makes me wanna go dig up some more of the yard to see what I can find.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sauteed Green Beans (aka Mess o' Beans)

Ok don't blink or you will miss this recipe. That's how easy it is. This is what we have been picking in our garden every other day:

A mess of green beans. John says that is the technical term for the amount of green beans we pick "a mess". It's kinda like a bushel or a peck. Green beans are picked in messes, or so he says.

So when I have a mess of beans like I do now, this is how I cook them.

Quick and Easy Mess o' Beans
1 mess o' beans
2 - 3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 shallots, thinly sliced

In a hot saute pan combine all ingredients. Cover and let them steam for a few minutes, but don't walk away for long. You need to keep checking on them and stirring so they don't burn. Once they seems steamed enough - probably about 5 - 8 minutes, take the cover off so they can start to brown up a wee bit. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

These beans stay nice and crunchy, if you don't like crunchy beans and you prefer the mushy beans, you have no right eating fresh vegetables so just go grab yourself a can and leave the rest of the beans to us veggie lovers.

Cleaning out the freezer

I have been on a quest the last few weeks to try to use up some of the frozen items that I have in my extra freezer, which was getting ridiculously full. A took out a package of chicken thighs on Friday night, searched the net for ideas on what to use them in, then decided to improvise and just make something up. Sometimes those turn out to be some of my best recipes.

I boiled some quartered potatoes and pulled them out of the water as soon as I could slide a knife easily into them. While the potatoes were cooking I salted and peppered the thighs, put them in a hot pan and cooked them until they were golden brown on each side then set them aside. I took out my half sheet pan, placed the thighs and potatoes with a package of mushroom cut in half, 4 onions quartered, 6 cloves of garlic thinly sliced, some fresh thyme and rosemary, coated everything in some olive oil, tossed it all up with my hands (yeah it's messy but your hands are the easiest way to mix this stuff up) and put it in a 375 degree oven for an hour.

That's what it looked like before it went into the oven.

This was so delicious and super easy. The chicken and potatoes got all golden and crunchy and my kitchen smelled like an Italian bistro, not that I have ever smelled an actual bistro, but if I had the chance to smell one, I'm pretty sure it would smell like my kitchen did this afternoon.

I had picked a mess of beans from the garden this morning, so we had green beans as our veggies. Quick and easy green bean recipe to follow.


We are blessed to have neighbors who we absolutely love and call our friends. We have lived next door to each other for over 20 years now and I can honestly say, I couldn’t have hand picked better people to live side by side with.

Yesterday they had a carnival in honor of Celeste's mother who was turning 90! Celeste is one of 16 kids, so a party at their house always means lots of food, lots of people, and lots of fun. Oh did we have a very fun and very exhausting day! Warning: This post contains lots and lots of pictures, more pictures then I have ever posted in a single post...well ever! Scroll at will.

Each child (and there were lots of 'em) started off making their own personalized party bag. There were all sorts of stickers and letters for them to use. Everyone had a pretty stylin' bag.

Then they moved on to the sand art table. See all the pretty colored sands?? Well fast-forward about a half hour and all those pretty sand containers were a mish mass of colors!

Oh the food! It never ended. Hot pretzels and mustard were passed out while the kids did sand art. There was shrimp, stuffies (stuffed quohaugs for your non-Rhode Islanders), chowder, corn dogs, french fries, sweet potato fries, popcorn....and that was just the first course.

John somehow landed the job of clam cake maker. He still doesn't know how it happened, but one minute he was at the grill with Tom drinking a beer and the next he was frying up batter!

There even hired face painters. The adorable little girl in orange is my neighbor’s granddaughter Madison, who I adore. She's the one with the bumblebee on her cheek. Even the birthday girl got a rainbow. Cousin Ellie went for the full-faced rabbit.

The older boys sat on this teeter-totter for ages. I was surprised cause I thought they would say it was too babyish for them. Evan really enjoyed it, but Jesse's face seems to say "get me off of this thing".

Next it was time for more food. Round 2 - burgers and dogs with a bunch of toppings.

Coke in glass bottles! My neighbors are classy!

Then the games began. Tom & Celeste always have fun games and tons of prizes for everyone involved. There was plate spinning, a popcorn race, pin the tail on the monkey, land a ball in a fishbowl (yup live fish), tin can bowling, and there was the obstacle course. Oh did that have us all laughing.

Each team had to throw a bowl through a hoop, take an inner tube swim floaty thing…oh what’s the word for them…you know those floaties the kids use in the pool….anyway.. they had to pass it over their entire body, grab a hat out of a bag, put it on, stick balloons up their shirts, put lipstick on and kiss the birthday girl who was waiting at the end of the line. Poor lady ended up with a face full of lipstick, but she smiled and laughed all the way through it.

There was a dunk tank and a water slide, both hugely popular with the kids....well the dunk tank was pretty popular with the adults too.

More and more food came out....ribs, chicken, meatballs, sausage, antipasto, nachos and cheese, it seemed like the food would never end.

One of the messiest and funniest parts of the evening began around dusk. The pie-eating contest. This was broken up into 2 contests. One for the adults and one for the kids. The kids each got half a little pie. Jesse won the kid contest. The adults got a whole pie. Oh lordy was there a huge mess at the end of the contest. One of Celeste's brothers decided to fill his mouth with whipped cream and then was nice enough to "spray" all of his competitors with a lovely stream of cream. The cream spraying started a food fight. Just imagine blueberries and cream…..everywhere! Oh man what a mess. I high tailed it out of shooting range to save my camera, so sorry, no shots of the food fight.

Renee got a little messy.

The night ended with snow cones, cotton candy, root beer & orange creamsicle floats, cake, ice cream, cookies and lots of other desserts. The fire pit was lit and everyone kinda chilled out till the wee hours of the morning.

My neighbors know how to throw a party.

Oh I almost the two newest members of the family....Moe and Larry. The boys won them in the fish toss. I'll keep you updated on how long they are "with us".