Friday, February 3, 2017

Roman Holiday

I have looked online to see if there is a similar recipe called Roman Holiday, but they are different from the one I know. My grandmother made this during the depression but used ketchup in place of the sauce - I can't imagine what that tasted like! My mother changed it to this recipe and our family loved it

Roman Holiday
1 lb ground beef
1 pkg large elbow macaroni
 2 large cans Spaghetti sauce
American cheese

 Brown ground beef and drain. While it is cooking, make your macaroni so it is ready when the ground beef is finished. Mix Spaghetti sauce, ground beef and macaroni together and layer in 4 qt casserole the mix and slices of American cheese, the mix and another layer of American cheese. Place in 350 degree oven for half hour or until hot and cheese is melted.

You would be surprised how good this is - the American cheese is always a surprise to people and it changes the taste from something made with mozzarella to something with a bit of zing to it. My daughters change it up a little more by making it with mushrooms.

I changed it a little by making my own spaghetti sauce:

1- 28 oz. can of tomato puree
1-28 oz. can of crushed tomato
1-28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 lb ground beef cooked and drained
1 lb sweet Italian Sausage (uncooked)
1 Tbsp Basil
1 Tbsp Oregano
2 cloves garlic chopped fine
1/4 tsp Onion Powder (you can use onion, I just hate the texture of it!)

1 lb medium elbow macaroni or medium size shells
 8 slices American cheese

Put everything except the macaroni and American cheese into crock-pot and cook on low for 6 hours. (You can also cook it on the stove for several hours if you prefer) The sausage will cook well and lend its flavor to the sauce.)

Cook your macaroni and mix it with the sauce. Layer it into large 4 qt bowl or 13x9 pan. After first layer cover with sliced cheese (you may need a few more slices for the pan) and cover with another layer of sauce and cheese.

This easily feeds a family of 6 with left overs for lunch. I half it and use a 2 qt bowl and it makes two dinners and some left for lunch for the two of us

I always make it when we are expecting a large crowd and everyone loves it - Served with some salad and garlic bread gives  you a good meal!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

42 Years!!

In  August of 1974, I was peacefully minding my own business, when I received a phone call from my friend Chris in Chicago.  We had becomes friends in 1967 when I was 17 and writing about Davy Jones for FLIP magazine. She was one of the may hundreds who wrote me after the first month my article appeared, and continued writing me.  As time went on, a friendship was formed and when I was on the road with Up With People the following year, her family took me in while I was recovering from exhaustion. Flash forward to 1974...Chris was getting married and wanted me to come sing at her wedding. I was broke and said I couldn't, but then she called and I couldn't say no to her, so I borrowed some money and headed for Chicago.

The night before the wedding we had a long chat about love and marriage. I was quite convinced that I was never going to meet anyone. I was doing a lot of theater at the time and all the guys I met were either gay or married!. In fact, I had this habit of falling for gay guys! The one guy I had dated who was a possibility was close to what I was looking for, but he wanted to be with me all the time, and I wanted more freedom. We would date for 6 months or so before I got bored and would break things off. Several months would go by and I would miss him and we would start dating again. This went on for 2 or 3 years. He really was a nice guy. My parents really liked him and I really thought he could be the one. The only problem I could see was that he didn't fit in very well with my theater friends - didn't dress the right way, I thought. So, when we would go out, I would tell him what to wear (boy, was I young and stupid!). I guess the straw that broke the camel's back had finally come for him and in June of  '74, when I once again told him what to wear to a cast party; he never showed up. I knew I had crossed the line and that it was over. I felt bad, but wasn't broken up over it. That's when I realized he wasn't the one. I dated a few guys over the summer, but no one was close to what I was looking for.

I flew in for Chris and Tom's wedding and she and I chatted late into the night about finding the right guy. She said she knew the minute she met Tom that he was the one, that it's just something you know in your heart. I was skeptical about that, but happy for her. She mentioned she had a friend she wanted me to meet, but I told her I didn't do blind dates - too many bad experiences!

The wedding day was beautiful. I sang "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof and Chris was a beautiful bride. After the service, she pointed out her friend, and thinking he was nice looking, I went over to introduce myself to him. I said hi and he basically blew me off! He said later, he thought I was too beautiful for him and either too young or too old. When I got to the reception, I had no idea where to sit. Unlike most weddings I had been to, there was no card for a table to sit at. I went over to Tom to ask what to do,and he asked, have you met Cork? I said, I did, but I don't think he liked me. He said, "You just need to be introduced" and called him over. He introduced us and said, "You both work in hospitals, why don't you sit together." Cork looked at me and asked did I want a drink. I said a screwdriver and he said, "I'll get one for you STAT" That cracked me up and the ice was broken. I remember asking him what his sign was and when he said "Aries", I thought, this just might work - Sagittarius and Aries were supposed to work well, I thought. We enjoyed a nice dinner and decided to dance. It was while we were dancing that it happened. I felt like I was Maria and he was Tony in West Side Story! Everyone disappeared and it was just us two. He says he was "dancing in tongues" because he was dancing so well, when in reality, he can't dance at all! We decided to go outside for some air and took a walk. We started singing songs from Brigadoon, which was his favorite show. We walked back towards the venue and were in the parking lot, when he said to me "You're really tall" I said, "No, its just my platforms", and took off one shoe to show him how tall I was. He laughed and took off one of his shoes to show me his height and then leaned down to kiss me. We went back inside, and they were cleaning up - we had missed most of the reception!

I had no way to get back to Chris's house, so he offered to take me first to the after party at Tom's parents and then back to Chris's house. On the way there, we stopped at his favorite truck stop for a cup of coffee - here I was in a beautiful evening gown and he in a suit - I thought it was the funniest thing! I had never been to a truck stop before. Then he continued to show me his town and brought me home to meet his parents. I thought to myself, Oh my gosh, I think he wants to marry me! After we left his parents, his mom said to his dad, "He's going to marry that girl!". We went to Tom's and people started asking us how long we had been in love - it was that plain to all who saw us! When he took me back into Chicago, we sat for a while in his car and he told me he loved me. I said I loved him to, but how could we have a relationship when I lived in NY and he in IL. We took a walk around the block, and stopped in front of a tailor shop - and that's when he asked me to marry him...and I said yes. Later that evening, Chris called from her honeymoon to ask when we were getting married! I asked her how did she know and she said she and Tom could see it right off!

I flew home the next day. I went back to Chicago a month later and received my engagement ring. He came twice to Long Island to meet my parents and spend a few days with me. We never actually dated! Then 3 months after we met, on this day, we married. 42 years - quite amazing really. Do I believe in love at first sight, yes, I do!!!!!  Do I know how to plan a wedding quickly and on the cheap? Yes I do!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

I'm over my fear of venison!

Its the end of 31 days of I will leave you with this. Happy New Year!
For years I was afraid of venison - I always found it had a gamey taste and would bravely try it in different ways - pepperoni, jerky, roasts - they were all awful! But with things being tight these past few years, when a family friend offered us some venison to try (he likes to hunt, but his wife hates venison!), I said sure. That first delivery sat in the freezer for quite a while as I tried to get up the courage to cook it! Truthfully, for the first year of making venison, I always hesitated before trying it, even though I knew it was good - and I wouldn't try the leftovers either - that's how queasy I was.  I looked online for recipes and all I saw were recipes that were tomato based. hubby likes fresh tomatoes fine, but cooked tomatoes make his lips burn, so unless its chili, he avoids them. Even when I make spaghetti I usually have to make a plate of plain so he can butter it and I keep some sausages aside as well. I did notice, however, that a common thread in the recipes was the use of vinegar in the marinade. I thought about that for a while and decided to try marinating the steaks in balsamic vinaigrette. Why? I haven't a clue!!!! I just like balsamic vinaigrette and wondered if it would work - it did!! The venison didn't taste gamey at all! So I came up with my first recipe for venison-

Venison Pepper Steak

 Balsamic Vinaigrette for marinating
1 lb venison steaks
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
1 onion
1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette
 1-2 tbsp. olive oil

1. Marinate steaks in Balsamic vinaigrette for several hours - making sure to turn it at least once. I marinate it all day - the longer the better. It caneven be frozen when you add the marinade. They are so small, they thaw quickly.

2. Put the olive oil in a deep frying pan and start to heat the pan
3. Cut all the peppers lengthwise and cut up the onion into slices as well.

 Add them to the pan and stir fry until the onions and peppers are soft. Remove from pan and put int a large bowl
4. While the vegetables are frying, rinse the marinade off the steaks and slice them length wise.

5. After vegetables have been removed from pan, add venison and stir fry quickly - venison has no fat and can get tough if overcooked. When they turn pink, add 1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette and cook a minute or two longer.

Remove steaks and marinade from pan and add to the pepper mix.
6. Serve over rice

Nutritional Widget Image
 So there you have it - non gamey venison. I asked our friend Vern who is an amazing hunter and regularly eats venison what he thought of my idea - he laughed and went to his pantry and pulled out....wait for it.....balsamic vinaigrette!!! He gave me some other ideas for cooking it and I have made another recipe that works really well - I take a roast and put it in my crockpot with a ton of barbecue sauce. I cook it all day and then take it out and rinse it and the crockpot. Then I pull it apart with forks to make a pulled venison, put it back into the crockpot , add a little more barbecue sauce, cook it another hour and serve it on buns - the kids never even noticed it was venison - score!!
Our friend who now gives us about 1/3 of the deer he gets every year, found that if he added bacon to the hamburger mix, it made amazing burgers - he gave us some and he was right! Reported it to our friend Vern and yep, he does that too! The big thing with the burgers is they fall apart easily because there is no fat, so we use our George Foreman grill - cooking both sides at once works great and only take a few minutes. My son now hunts and made an amazing jerky - now I need to get his recipe before next year!!!

Moral of the story - If a friend offers you some venison, put aside your fears and give it a whirl - you may be very pleasantly surprised.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Banana-Nut Pound Cake

At my house, Wednesday is the day my husband gets up early to go to a meeting with other pastors to pray for the needs of their friends and congregations, missionaries, our state and our nation. They have been meeting for many years now and although that doesn't seem like a big thing, in reality, it is. These pastors are not all from one denomination. They are Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Catholic and Lutheran among others. It is rare to see something like this as many times pastors prefer to stay within their own denomination, or perhaps be part of an ecumenical group that meets once a month to plan larger events. This is simply a group of men, coming together in prayer. In the Northeast, where I live, churches are generally pretty small - nothing like you see in the mid-west of southern states. Our average congregations run about 40-80 people with only 3 churches in this county that have over 150 regular attendees. I remember going to a church in Nashville several years ago when we brought our daughter down there for college and being blown away by the sheer numbers of people. They were looking for 200 Sunday School teachers and we laughed because we didn't even have 200 people!

At any rate, the pastors here rotate their meetings monthly so no one church (or wife!!) has to be responsible for coffee or a meeting place. This month, it is here at our house, so it was the perfect excuse for me to try a new recipe. I found this in Better Homes and Gardens December issue. It was the Grand Prize Winner in their contest and was made by Brenda Orbell. I want to give credit where credit is due, but I also like to bake something first before posting it! I made this with the low fat milk instead of the bourbon because it is not something i either like or keep in the house. The pastors just left and they all raved about it!  Enjoy!


Serves 12

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 medium bananas
1/4 cup bourbon OR low fat milk
1 TBSP vanilla
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
Powdered Sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour and 10 inch fluted tube pan; set aside
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt, ; set aside
3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined
Gradually add sugar, beating about 7 minutes or until light. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minute after each egg; scraping bowl continually.
4. In a small bowl, combine bananas, vanilla and bourbon (or milk), mash until mixed thoroughly. Alternately add flour mixture and banana mixture to butter mixture; beat on low to medium speed until just combined. Stir in pecans. Spread  evenly in pan.
5. Bake for 80 minutes (mine took closer to 95) until toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.
Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and continue cooling on rack. Sprinkle with Powdered Sugar when cool. Serve with berries or ice cream, if desired.

This is delicious right out of the oven and freezes like a dream. I can also see adding a cup chocolate chips to this!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Navy Bean Soup

It's been really cold here - lots of snow today so its time for warm and hearty meals.
My husband's friend Spencer used to make the most incredible Navy Bean soup - it was just beans and broth, but I have never been able to duplicate it, and sadly he has passed on, so I needed to find a better one than I had. Enter good old Better Homes and Gardens. This soup was wonderful! I did change a few things and made it in my crockpot. My husband has been eating it for several days now and was sad when I gave some to our neighbor and put the rest in the freezer!
Navy Bean Soup
1 bag dried navy Beans
1-1 1/2 lbs meaty ham bone
1/2 cup ham (left over from ham dinner)
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
2 cups sliced carrots
1/4 tsp onion powder (or 1 onion chopped -I hate onion, so I rarely use it)
3/4 tsp crushed dried thyme
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf

Put beans and ham bone in crockpot, cover with water
Add the rest of the ingredients except 1/2 cup of ham and cook on slow 6-8 hours.
Remove bone from crockpot and cut up any bits of ham left on bone. Add 1/2 cup cooked ham and serve

That's it! So simple, but so tasty!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tasty Chicken Piccata

I can't remember which magazine had this recipe, but i do know it is adapted from one in a book called Eat This! Italian. I decided to try it last night after remembering to buy some capers at the dollar store - who buys capers anyway? And what the heck are they? I did taste one and they are tart, so they obviously help the lemon taste. Here's the recipe.  I did change it a bit.

Chicken Piccata
Serves 4

Cooking Spray
8 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (2 lbs)
1 can chicken broth
4 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp water
1/2 rsp rosemary (or 1 tsp fresh rosemary)
4 lemon slices
3 tbsp drained capers
1 tbsp butter

1. Coat your iron frying pan with cooking spray
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook over high heat till almost cooked through. If you need room, cook 4 at a time and keep them warm while you do the nest 4 - It should take about 2 minutes per side
3. Remove all from pan and add broth to pan over high heat. Stir in dissolved corn starch, and stir till thickened
4. Turn heat down to medium and return cutlets to pan, adding rosemary, capers and lemon slices and cook a few more minutes until done.


5. Once again remove cutlets from pan to serving dish. Then add butter to mixture in the pan and cook once again over high heat until slightly thickened - about a minute or two.
6. Serve cutlets with gravy spooned over them - this makes a really nice presentation.

I served this with asparagus and potato - rice would be nicer still.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Crack" Toffee

 I found this recipe wandering around the web and its so easy and uses items you probably keep in your cupboards. I initially made this to give away - but it didn't get into many of the gift packages because we pretty much ate them till there were so few left, I decided to keep them!

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
40 saltine crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Line a 15"x10" jelly roll pan or 12"x17" cookie sheet with foil and spray with a non stick spray
2. Lay out crackers in a flat layer onto the foil
3. measure out your morsels and set them aside
4. Melt brown sugar and butter until a boil is reached. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 5-6 minutes or until mixture is thickened and sugar is completely dissolved. It should be pretty thick, but thin enough to pour and spread on its own. Pour this mix over the crackers making sure all are coated evenly

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until toffee becomes bubbly
6. After removing pan from oven, let it sit for 3-5 minutes and let it begin to set up.
7. Sprinkle on chips, let them spften and melt about 5 minutes and then spread them into an even layer. You can add nuts, cracker crumbs or whatever else you please at this point, but really, it is so good, it doesn't need anything extra.
Let cool or if needed quickly, refrigerate until it hardens.
Break into pieces and serve - it won't last long!!!!