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lucky long noodles with jalapeño

I faced my usual challenge while trying to balance having fun with my guests and taking photos to use for this site during my Friday the 13th Dinner Party.

So in place of the usual photos of the cooking process, how about photos of the guests?

lucky 13

Above you see everyone hanging out in-between dinner and dessert, enjoying each other and the beautiful evening in Linda Land, as Tram and Steve so sweetly have dubbed my backyard.

blondes vs brunettes

Here are The Blondes, Amy and Anne vs. The Brunettes, Peggy and Tram, posing in front of the red wine selections.

the girls

Eventually, the were able to pull me out of the kitchen for a quick snapshot.

scott and amy

Adorable Scott and Amy. Scott with his lucky grapes and Amy holding the fun Texas Boot Scraper they brought me as a hostess gift. They found it at Sweet Salvage and thought I’d love it because of my Texas connection. They were right, of course! OK, on today’s recipe.


This dish was chosen because of the superstition that it is unlucky to cut a noodle before eating and the unlucky connection between hot peppers and friendship.

Cutting Noodles: While noodles are thought to bring good fortune and a long life in Chinese culture, cutting those same noodles brings about a different fortune. Cutting noodles (especially those served on the New Year and at parties) causes bad luck and a shortened lifespan.

Hot Peppers and Friendship: Many people believe that hot peppers can bring discontent among friends. One version of the superstition says that spilling pepper can cause disagreements between friends. And when working in the kitchen, handing a hot chili pepper directly to a friend will cause disagreements in your relationship. However, the bad luck can be avoided by putting the hot pepper down on a surface and allowing said friend to pick it up as a separate action.

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May 23, 2016   3 Comments

a cake made of cheese

Ever since I started this blog, coming up on 7 years now, in August, 2009, there has been one aspect of posting that I’ve been terrible at keeping up on.


It is the task of putting all new recipes over there into the Complete Recipe Index that you see in the left column of the page. It’s not that it is a hard thing to do, it’s just something that I consistently forget to do.

You see, it can’t be done when the post is being written. It can only happen after the post goes live. Therein lies the problem. Once a post goes live, I’m already on to the next post, the next recipe, the next day. Out of sight – out of mind.

get er done

Then, once I’ve gotten far behind, it really does become hard to do and even harder to catch up.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m very proud of myself. I am all caught up! I updated the Menu Ideas page while I was at it. And it only took me … three days. Really, I’ve been working on it since Monday morning, off and on, but still, three damn days! I hope you’ll check it out.


The last recipe I had entered into the Index was from early March 2014. There have been more than 300 posts since then. It makes me grateful that I took that 7 month hiatus for Marissa’s wedding, otherwise that number would have been much higher!

Cheese Layers

Besides getting it done, the upside is that while I was doing all that work, looking over every single post from the last 2+ years, I realized that I never posted about Marissa & Jeff’s Wedding Brunch. This Sunday, will be their 6-month anniversary, so I guess this is as good a time as ever.

Here is the sad part. I don’t remember much about the brunch at all! I was in a complete fog and haze. I don’t know what I served or how it was set up.

Ultimate Cheese Cake

I only remember that I had a pretty great Bloody Mary & Mimosa Bar on my cute French buffet on the back patio. There are no photos of it but I do recall that Jonathan Vento was the voluntary master-bartender and was whipping out Bloody Marys like nobody’s business.

I remember that all the kids’ friends and bridal party were hanging out on the far east side of the patio and seemed to be having a grand old-time.

Cake of Cheese

I distinctly remember that my wonderful friends and family helped me A LOT! I had not slept a wink on the wedding night. I never even put my head on the pillow. I was up cooking and setting up the entire time from when we got home and unloaded from the wedding until my girlfriend, Mary, showed up to help and as others arrived early and pitched in.

I can’t remember even one dish that I served, not one! If any of my family, friends, or Marissa’s friends who were there remember, I’d love to know. Seriously, I would!

And I remember that after all the friends left, and only family remained, I had to excuse myself and go to bed and pass out. I didn’t wake up until hours later, long after everyone had cleaned it all up and left. What a haze it was and still is.

Layered Cheese Cake

But the one thing that I will never forget is this gorgeous Cheese Cake that I assembled for my girl. She had seen something like it on Pinterest – long before her engagement – and she wanted one so bad.

We had thought about having it at the wedding, but the cost was prohibitive. Having a venue or restaurant do this would be crazy-expensive. To do it yourself, still not cheap, but totally worth it.

Cheese Cake

Even though I could barely put together a cohesive sentence or keep my eyes open during the brunch, this beautiful presentation and the joy on the many faces, especially my beautiful girl’s face, when they lay their eyes on it – that made the sleepless night seem like nothing.  It was the perfect wedding brunch.

That, I remember.

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April 21, 2016   2 Comments

El Alma inspired rellenos

I can’t stop thinking about the chiles rellenos I had at El Alma, while visiting Marissa and Jeff in Austin last week.

el alma rellenos


At the time, I posted about it on Facebook and my high school friend and blog follower, Cynthia said, “I just want you to come home and start making some of those recipes.”

Great idea, Cynthia!

I did. I shared it not only with my family but also with my dear friend, Tram.

So here it is!

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April 14, 2016   3 Comments

asparagus & swiss tart


The weekend after I turned 16 years old, my best friend, Laura Galloway, and I went in search of our first jobs. Laura’s birthday is the day after mine, so we ventured out together, filling out applications in just about every store at Scottsdale Fashion Square.


At that time SFS was a small outdoor mall with two anchor stores (Goldwater’s and Diamonds) and a couple dozen shops.

cheese ball

We each got part-time seasonal jobs; Laura as a gift-wrapper at Switzer’s, a women’s clothing store, while I was making cheese balls and cheese logs across the way at Hickory Farms.


My favorite cheese at Hickory Farms was Jarlsberg, a Norwegian Swiss-type cheese with a mild buttery and nutty flavor.

After being “knee-high” in the cheese used in the cheese balls and logs, to this day, I can’t stand even the smell of those particular cheese blends, but I still love Jarlsberg and decided to use it in my asparagus tart for Easter.

round top

Before I get to the recipe, take a look at this beautiful photo that Marissa took in Round Top, Texas. We went in search of fun vintage items during the 48th Annual Spring Antique Show. It was the final day of the 2-week long event but there was still plenty to see.

mother and daughter

Of course, the real problem was not the amount of goods, but rather the size. Having to limit my purchases to what could fit in a suitcase, I missed out on the stuff that really interested me.

got away

The most heartbreaking being this amazing reclaimed barn wood sink for backyard entertaining. I’ll be dreaming about this beauty for a long time to come!

sink [

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April 5, 2016   1 Comment

popover to Austin

Austin, TX postcard mural

I’ve been in Austin, Texas all weekend, visiting Marissa. Actually, not just Austin, but Waco and Round Top too. So this week, along with the recipes from more than a week ago from our Easter supper, there will be a bit of Texas thrown into the mix.

The silo sign

Our first adventure was hopping in the car and driving to Waco, TX so that we could visit and shop at the Magnolia Market Silos.

inside magnolia market

You know, Magnolia Market, as in Joanna and Chip Gaines from the ever so popular Fixer Upper on HGTV.

Magnolia Market Silos

It was raining when we arrived, but it cleared up as the day went on.

magnolia market entrance

inside Magnolia Market Silos

We were nice and dry in shopping heaven, so the rain didn’t bother us anyhow!

Magnolia Silos

Here I am with my two little bags of purchases. I couldn’t go too crazy, since I flew to Austin, I could only buy as much as I could get in my suitcase.

Magnolia Market Garden Shop

That’s OK, maybe I’ll drive the next time. By then this sweet little Garden Shop will be open along with the Magnolia Bakery, which should be opening in the next month or so.

potting bench

After all, a girls needs goals!

cheddar popovers

Sharp Cheddar Popovers

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April 4, 2016   No Comments

yummy au gratin and a new tip

The first side dish from our Easter supper was a rich, creamy, cheesy and garlicky potato au gratin. So Good!

easter dinner

Bonus! A new tip comes along with this recipe. I found the tip on Epicurious.com and thought it was brilliant!

use strainer to strip thyme

The most time-consuming and frustrating herb to remove the leaves from is thyme. Here is a new way to go about it.

strainer thyme

TIP: Use a strainer! Stick the end of a sprig of thyme through one of the little holes and pull through. The leaves stay behind in the strainer. See – Brilliant!

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April 1, 2016   1 Comment

fresh entrée #1

yellow flowers

For last weekend’s Spring Reunion Dinner, I served two fresh and colorful entrées. Today I post the first, along with a few photos of the flowers and tablesetting.

I picked up the flowers above at Trader Joe’s when I was grocery shopping for the dinner and arranged them quite simply in a few of the bottles from my “miscellaneous cool bottles” collection.

Loris flowers

These beauties were given to me by Lori and I can assure you she didn’t just pick them up at Trader Joe’s – more likely at some fancy florist shop. I arranged them in some of my clear square vases and they were held indoors until it was cool enough to move them to the table on the back patio where we ate our meal.


I decided to keep the table simple, fresh and clean – like the food.


I started with white placemats and napkins, blue and gold Indian-inspired tea-glasses for the water and frosted white striped wine goblets.


Gold flatware to match the tea-glasses and a lovely set of mix/match of bird and floral dishes in simple black and white.

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March 4, 2016   4 Comments

fruity first course

This layered fruit-cheese salad was the first course for our Spring Reunion Dinner. I decided to make individual servings, but it could be made even easier in a large clear bowl or better yet, in a trifle dish.


If you’re making one large salad, you’ll use all the fruit. For these six small individual portions, you’ll end up with about half of the fruit left or enough to make at least 12 individual servings. So either cut the fruit portions in half, or freeze the remaining fruit and use for smoothies, that’s what I did.

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March 3, 2016   No Comments

food = love

A dear friend and neighbor has gone through an especially tough time. I offered to bring dinner over for her family. She tried to say no, but I wouldn’t have it, so we decided that Sunday would be a good day. I brought over an Italian pasta dish and this Mexican dish.

Chicken Tortilla Enchilada Bake

I made another pan of the Mexican dish for our family Sunday meal. I hadn’t planned on putting up a post of it, but after Connor asked for the recipe and another neighbor asked for it too, I decided I’d better get it up here.

Chicken - Tortilla Enchilada Bake

I hadn’t taken any photos, meaning I had to remake it. One problem though – I was out of black beans so I used kidney beans in their place. It’s far better with black beans! I also forgot to add the dollop of sour cream for the photo… it’s tastier with the sour cream too. In other words, don’t rely on the photos, just follow the recipe and you’ll be all good.

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February 24, 2016   1 Comment

BLT-Salad Skewers

It’s not always practical to serve a salad. For instance, at a cocktail party or any occasion where guests will be standing. These colorful and flavor-packed little salad skewers come to the rescue! They are a nice alternative to the standard crudités platter.

lettuce knives

You’ll be using a knife to cut iceberg lettuce. There is an old wives’ tale that warns that using a knife on lettuce will cause the cut edges to quickly turn brown. This is not true. Not if you are using the lettuce within a day or so. All torn or cut lettuce leaves will eventually turn brown, under the same scientific theory that cause an apple or avocado to turn brown after cutting.

Even though you cut the lettuce well ahead of time for this recipe there is no fear of the edges turning brown because the cut pieces are held in ice water to keep them crisp and free of any browning.*

Even so, you’ll see that I do use a hard plastic knife especially made for lettuce. It’s one of the many tools crowding my kitchen drawers and cupboards that former students have given me. I have it, so I use it, but it is in no way a necessity.

*It is important to cut and assemble the lettuce portion of the skewers well ahead of time, not only to crisp the lettuce but because this step of the recipe, although extremely simple, is time-consuming and it is the last thing you’ll want to do at the last-minute.

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February 13, 2016   1 Comment