Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Original Peanut Coleslaw and Uncle Rick

We are T minus 24 hours before Rick (my husband's brother) arrives.  There are three very important things to remember when you are preparing for Rick's visit.

Summer sailing with Rick in Newport Harbor.
1.  Get plenty of sleep ahead of time and rest up because we have many late nights with a lot of laughter while he is here and each morning we are up early with our coffee time together and start all over again.

2.  Prepare your liver for many beverages.  Rick has impeccable taste in the best wines and always introduces us to some incredible vineyards.

3.  Try to lose 5 pounds before he comes because we gain at least 10 pounds back from all the amazing cooking.  My husband and Rick love to cook together and I get to benefit the rewards of some really awesome meals.  Their specialty is anything carnivore that can be smoked, grilled or roasted.

Two Peas in a Pod (or a Duffy boat in this case).
It was a year ago when Rick was last here and I remember all of us sitting around the dinner table discussing a cooking blog that I should start up...great ideas always happen around the family table.

The fun in the kitchen never ends!!
My husband and his family grew up in Southern California near a great BBQ restaurant called Wood Ranch BBQ.  I really miss this place - must try to get one here in Colorado, especially with all the bbq lovers around the Rocky Mountains.

I love, love, love their coleslaw and get cravings for it now and again.  This is the perfect and quick salad of fresh ingredients to get my energy level up for this week's visit.

Copycat Recipe:
Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill "Original Peanut Coleslaw"
Courtesy of

  • 1 (16 ounce) cabbage and carrot coleslaw mix, packaged, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups red cabbage, packaged, shredded
  • 3/4 cup celery, finely sliced
  • 1/3 cup green onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • garlic pepper seasoning
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine coleslaw, red cabbage, celery and green onions.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together wine vinegar, water, sugar, seasoned salt, garlic powder and oil.
  3. Mix dressing with coleslaw; stir in garlic pepper and peanuts and toss well.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lasagna Soup and Life Back To Normal (Someday)

It has been quite a week since I was in New Mexico for our first long distance volleyball tournament.  The good news was that our team took first place in their division and in the spirit of the Olympics, they "brought home the Silver Medal".  The bad news was my daughter in the final 5 minutes of the last game for first place took a dive for the ball and got kicked in the head.

I watched and waited....not wanting to overreact, but also a flash of concern comes over me to see how bad it is.  Wait for it....then hear it comes, heavy tears streaming down her face, holding her head and she cannot get up off the court. Her coach helps her walk off and her team cheers for her.  All I can think of is concussion.  The team carried on as she and I sat on the sidelines and they brought sweet victory in the end.  Of course the rest of the night and during our 8 hour drive home, I kept waking her up to make sure she was okay (she wasn't really happy with me about interrupting her naps).

When we returned home, my other sick daughter was making a full recovery, which was a blessed sight to see.  Then the real fun started.....

Tuesday:  Took our dog Angus in for a tooth removal, which turned into 4 teeth and an eye skin tag removal $urgery. He came home barely able to walk from being heavily sedated.  Too many puppy martinis it looked like.

Tuesday and Wednesday:  Kitchen torn up for plumbing repairs and then drywall and paint patching.  I tried to pay off the contractor an extra $100 to keep my kitchen torn apart for the week so I wouldn't have to cook or do dishes...he didn't take the bait though, bummer.

Wednesday was my birthday.  Everyone asks me what I want for my birthday.  Every year I want a Personal Assistant just to be able to get through weeks like this.  I didn't get one, maybe next year.  I did however get showered with beautiful flowers, cards and well wishes from family and friends...can't ask for anything more than that.

Friday worked the last high school basketball game concession stand duties with both my girls.  I have never hustled so much popcorn, nachos and soft pretzels in my life (even more than working the state fair in my youth).  People do amaze me though and I just have to vent about this. Some other mothers that were gracious to show up and volunteer too (one in a fur vest and the other in a designer leather jacket, really???) Do they not understand that nacho cheese sauce is flying around this place and every batch of popcorn made, you end up with a canola oil facial!!!  They looked beautiful when they showed up for duties, I only hope their clothes didn't get ruined.

As we are preparing for Uncle Rick's (my husband's brother) arrival this week, Saturday and Sunday were equally schedule packed:  pest control service, carpets got professional shampoo cleaning, dusting, scrubbing, planning weekly dinner menu and shopping, car wash, laundry, paint touch up and the list goes on and on.  I know I am not the only household that does extensive house cleaning and "honey-do-list" when company comes.  It's amazing how much things get accomplished for house guests.

By Sunday night, I was beyond exhausted and needed an easy dinner....this one is awesome and doesn't get much easier.  A one pot wonder that also makes great lunch leftovers.

Lasagna Soup
Courtesy of Cuisine at Home Magazine

1lb. bulk Italian sausage1 lb.
2cups chopped onion2 cups
1cup diced carrot1 cup
2cups sliced button mushrooms2 cups
2Tbsp. minced garlic2 Tbsp.
4cups low-sodium chicken broth4 cups
1can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, chopped (14.5 oz.)1 can
1can tomato sauce1 can
1cup dry mafalda pasta1 cup
2cups chopped fresh spinach2 cups
1cup diced provolone or fresh mozzarella1 cup
14cup shredded Parmesan14 cup
4tsp. thinly sliced fresh basil

Brown sausage in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and garlic, and sauté 3 minutes more.
Add broth, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce, and bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and cook according to package directions, about 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted.
Place ¼ cup diced cheese in each of four serving bowls; ladle soup on top. Garnish each serving with Parmesan and basil.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Chocolate Layered Pudding with Chocolate Box Wine and the ER

We experienced many broken hearts on Valentine's Day this year...not our best year for the holiday.

My oldest daughter woke up Thursday morning, bent over in pain and very nauseous.  I have had sick kids before but this one was completely different and I knew something was wrong. I immediately took her to urgent care and after a quick check-in there, daughter feeling faint and very dehydrated, we were immediately sent to the emergency room.

After spending most of the day in the ER we learned that she has a stomach virus that is running ramped through our city and does not let up very easy.  She looked so helpless but was very brave through all the tests and waiting, my heart just went out to her....broken heart # 1. 

My poor daughter who was supposed to leave for her New Mexico volleyball tournament had to be given the bad news that she needed to stay home and not go...broken heart #2.  Supposedly this virus can last at least a week.  Even as I write this, she is home with Dad and still on a liquid diet.

That left me and her sister to hit the road alone and attend the New Mexico tournament without her.  My twins have virtually been together almost 24-7 their whole lives.  This is the first time they have ever been apart this long and the younger one is really missing her sister...broken heart #3.

I tried to cheer her up and we went out for pizza our first night here on Valentine's Day.  They were serving up heart shaped pizza - very cute and definitely put a smile on our faces.

Our special Valentine's Dinner
The night before we left, I felt absolutely terrible about leaving my husband alone with our sick girl.  We usually team together and get through these things as a family, as he was really sad that she could not go either...and there we have broken heart #4.

The whole ER day threw our plans in a tailspin, so none of us celebrated the holiday.  I did my best though and brought home a special bottle of "Chocolate Box" Red Blend Wine.

My husband has also given up sweets since January 1st.  He definitely has more willpower than me.  Not to worry though, I am eating all of his sweets so nothing goes to's just now going to my waist. 

One of my most favorite deserts comes from my Grandma.  It is sinfully delicious and I could easily eat the entire pan of this if next week continues to go the same as last week did. 

Layered Pudding
Courtesy of GGMa

For The Crust Base:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup powder sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Mix well and pat out in a 9 x 13 pan.  Bake in 325 degree oven for 15 minutes.

For The 1st Layer of Filling:
1 8-oz. package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 9-oz. container of Cool Whip
1 cup powder sugar

Mix well and spread on cooked and cooled crust.

The Next Layer:
1 small package instant chocolate pudding
1-1/2 cups milk

Mix together and spread on top of cream cheese layer.  Let set in refrigerator 1 hour.

(this is where I stopped, due to lack of remaining ingredients, but there is more to come)

Do the same with one package of instant vanilla pudding and let set one hour.

Spread with (1) 4-1/2 oz. container of Cool Whip and sprinkle with chopped nuts.  Chill one more hour and serve.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hotel Chocolate Cupcakes and Volleyball Catering

This past weekend took us to our first long distance volleyball tournament to Colorado Springs.  It is a beautiful city surrounded by breathtaking mountains.

At each tournament, every team has their "team table", which translates to a feeding trough for teenagers, coaches and parents for the tournament day.  All parents sign up for their assigned snack and we rotate each week.  It works out really great so families don't need to run around in an unfamiliar city trying to get snacks to keep their player energized throughout the day, and it saves so much money for the families.
A new use for hotel wet bar (volleyball prep area).
This weekend my assignment was sandwiches and fruit tray.  Since we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us just to get to "The Springs", we decided to drive out the night before and do the hotel stay, since it ends up being a very long and exhausting tournament day typically.

Well it's a good thing that I have a lot of experience with on the road cooking and prepping from our various camping and catering adventures.  I didn't want to prepare the fruit too early, not knowing the hotel room situation and what I would be able to store.

Upon check-in, our room had a wet bar and mini refrigerator.  We hit the nearest grocery store after dinner and stocked up the little appliance with all the supplies it could hold.  So, there I was at 6 am on tournament morning, cutting up fruit at our in-room wet bar counter and making the team's breakfast platter.
15 Year Old's Food Fest Team Table after they devoured their first course.
Also at our hotel, they had a wonderful desert case at the reception desk, that of course my teenagers scoped out.  The youngest begged me for their overpriced cupcake.  I have to admit it did look really good and I caved, once again.  It is after all "chocolate month" with Valentine's Day and my birthday.

It was a dark chocolate cupcake with whipped peanut butter frosting and a cute little Reese's Peanut Butter Cup crowning it.  She was nice enough to share a bite with me and it really was as good as it looked.

Upon our return home, I found what I think could be the exact same recipe.  I'll try it out....I think the total recipe for a dozen cupcakes would still run me less that the cost of that one cupcake!!

"A thing of beauty, is a joy (on my thighs) forever".

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker


For the Cupcakes:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup (1.5 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (4 ounces) sour cream

For the Peanut Butter Frosting:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup heavy cream


1. To make the Cupcakes: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. (If you are using a non-stick muffin pan, heat the oven to 325 degrees F.) Line standard-size muffin pan with baking cup liners.
2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. (Alternately, you can microwave the mixture at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.) Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.
3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.
4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogeneous and thick.
5. Divide the batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.
6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.
7. To make the Peanut Butter Frosting: Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mediterranean Chicken & Sausage (Reinvented) During a Rough Week

It is only Wednesday and I am done!!  My poor family has had to deal with my crankiness for three straight days and I don't see an end in sight.  My hormone level is extremely high and patience level is beyond low.   I just want to go hibernate for the next three months, like our neighbor bears.

I had my first neurotic "mother-in-law" moment and stirred up my attitude (sorry, Tyler and Rachel).  I will make it up to all of you and send out another Nana Care Package for everyone.

My truck had to go in for repairs on Monday and I still don't have it back.  My husband has been gracious enough to help me with my 30 minute commute each way, but the poor soul has to listen to me the entire way with my rantings.

It is -7 degrees and we haven't seen much of the sun this week.  It snows, gets warm, freezes, black ice everywhere, and then it starts it's trend all over again...just can't get a break.

Dogs need to keep dodging our ice daggers on the patio.
  Then tonight my daughter says she needs my help with math.  Now mind you, I was an "A" math student, but my Freshman Algebra topics, my kids were learning in 4th grade - times have most definitely changed.  She is working on a math story problem from the book The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe.  Now what this story has to do with math is beyond me, but I went along with it.

Essentially they needed to figure the rate of the pendulum and if the prisoner had a reasonable amount of time to escape.  I said, "Of course he had a reasonable amount of time, he escaped didn't he?".  She thought that was pretty funny after she pondered on it for a minute.

Then she said as part of her assignment, she has to make a pendulum from household objects...of course she does, because it is due tomorrow and it's 8:00 pm on a weeknight and once again I have been given no warning of another major school project due.

After my blood pressure calmed down, I thought - I got this!!!  Two item pendulum:  Banana Hanger and Pizza Cutter !!  Thank God for kitchen gadgets.

The "pizza" pendulum - Genius!!
Yes, I know this recipe says it is from 2005, I have an archive of recipes from magazines, family, friends and now websites.  You just can't toss away the classics.  Since I wanted to clean up the refrigerator from the weekend, I reinvented it by changing up some of the ingredients.

Mediterranean Chicken & Sausage
from Kraft Food & Family Magazine, Winter 2005

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (I used my turkey smoked sausage kielbasa)
1/2 cup Kraft Creek Vinaigrette Dressing (I used my Red Wine and Olive Oil Dressing)
3 lb. chicken pieces (I used 2 large chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces)
5-6 slices of bacon, cut into pieces (this is my addition, since everything is better with bacon)
1/2 lb. medium mushrooms, halved
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) chicken broth
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3- 4 dashes of balsamic vinegar (I added this for flavor and color)
3-4 dashes of Worsteshire sauce (I added this to give a little richness and depth)
6 cups cooked Minute White Rice (I made a box of our Rice-A-Roni, Rice Pilaf)

PIERCE sausage with fork. Cook in large skillet on medium-high heat 15 to 20 min. or until browned. Remove from skillet. Cut into pieces; set aside. Cook bacon in same pan, until just getting crispy; remove from pan and set aside.

ADD 1/4 cup of the dressing and chicken to skillet; cook 10 min. or until chicken is browned on both sides. Stir in sausage, bacon, mushrooms, broth, balsamic vinegar, Worsteshire sauce and remaining 1/4 cup dressing.

DISSOLVE cornstarch in water; add to skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover. Simmer 15 min. or until chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ham & Cheese Biscuit Bake - Breakfast for Champions

Good news was there was no volleyball tournament this weekend, so we got a little break...yeah, sure we did!!!  Our weekend was crazy busy, once again.  Oh how I long for a "Sea Day".  My friend Annie and her sister coined the phrase "Sea Day".  This is a day where you pretend you are at sea, don't leave your pajamas, watch movies all day and snack to your heart's desire.  I will keep thinking positive thoughts...someday...Sea Day.

Lots of things to do and not much time.  Clean house, grocery shop, bathe the very stinky dogs at our favorite self service dog wash Paws 2 Groom, prep for Super Bowl party meal and get ready for the upcoming week.  Of course, our plan was to do a lot of bbq and using the smoker on Sunday and what does Mother Nature do...she dumps over a foot of snow the night before.

Our teenagers contributed by making the touchdown cupcake platter.
We had great ambitions during Super Bowl for our guests Heather and Matt.  Heather is a phenomenal stylist and Matt is a computer guru.  Heather was kind enough to come over and beautify all our hair and Matt cleaned up our laptop, the trade was a full evening of Super Bowl Foods.

All of this needed a good start to the day with a hearty breakfast I found on Pinterest - Ham & Cheese Biscuit Bake.

Ham and Cheese Biscuit Bake
Courtesy of
  • 1 can Grands Jr. flaky biscuits (10 biscuits)
  • 8 oz diced ham
  • 1 cup grated swiss or cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp honey mustard dressing
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray.

Separate biscuits and cut into quarters.

Place biscuits in bottom of pan. Top with ham and swiss cheese.

Whisk together eggs, honey mustard and heavy cream. 
Pour over biscuits. Top with parmesan cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.