Thursday, February 13, 2014

Strawberry Topped Suzi Q Cake

If you want to WOW someone special, try this show-stopper recipe (actually, after you serve this one, no one will remember there even WAS a show!) This is one of my most requested desserts.
The basic Suzi-Q cake recipe can be found here, but don't despair--it starts with a cake mix. (Or use your own chocolate cake recipe if you have the time and energy). After preparing the cake, for the topping I dipped fresh strawberries in melted chocolate (a bag of Kroger brand semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted in the microwave). Be sure to wash and DRY the berries well before dipping.) I finished it off with chocolate syryp drizzle.

*The original recipe called for Milk Choclate frosting on the sides. I used WHIPPED chocolate frosting for this one.

Friday, December 6, 2013


The gorgeous photo and delicious punch was found on, so I made it to serve in the teacher's lounge at my school. LOTS of recipe requests for this refreshing and festive punch.

2 liters of lemon-lime soda
1 10 oz. jar of strawberry jelly
2 quarts peppermint ice cream (I used Kroger brand)
candy canes *Optional

Heat jelly in 2 cups of the soda on stove till jelly is melted. Set aside to cool.
When cooled, add to punch bowl, along with ice cream and soda--stir well.

You can place candy canes on the side of the bowl, and/or on the side of the cup it's served in, like I did in this photo.


Friday, November 22, 2013

SUPER KALE SALAD for a crowd

Since I work at an elementary school, I have my summers free. Since I have more time on my hands, I like to try new recipes or food  that I've never tried before, and I've been doing that  lately.

With summertime heat and humidity in full swing here in southern Illinois, I  also like to find as many recipes that  I can that don't  require any or much cooking time using the  added heat from the stove or oven.We grill often in the summer, and we also eat lots of salads.

As I you know, I DON'T like diet food, but I do enjoy natural ,healthy food and try to balance my splurges, with plenty of good-for-me food too.  This salad is just that; no-cook, healthy, interesting and VERY tasty!

I have NEVER used kale  before, if you can believe that. I thought I'd give this recipe a try, since it received rave reviews on ALLRECIPES.COM. A full 5stars, and now I know why. (When my hubs who is NOT of fan of healthy says, "this is GOOD!", you  know you have a keeper--The recipe AND the hubs!)

Change things up a bit and give this one a try-- you'll be glad you did.

I call this  SUPER SALAD because it is FILLED with THE most nutritious ingredients-- KALE topping the list as one of the best foods out there! Unusually high in Fiber (great for dieters), full of Calcium, Vitamin A & C, just to name a few nutrients.  You can click here for more KALE info. It's impressive!

Check out the rest of the ingredients, and you'll see more super foods included.  Always remember to at least TRY to purchase organic fruits and vegetables, so you don't cancel out their benefits by the pesticides sprayed on them  that are nearly impossible to wash off.

This recipe makes a crunchy, sweet/tart blend for at least 10 or more guests.


You will need:

3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp.  pepper
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix dressing well, and set aside.

I bunch of Kale
1/4 red onion, sliced thin (I used green onion)
1 cup carrots, shredded (I diced mine)
2/3 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup Craisins (or raisins)
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
8 oz.  frozen  shelled edamame, thawed and drained

Mix altogether and pour 1/2 of the dressing over salad and mix well and let set at least 4 hours (even overnight)  before serving. You can serve it sooner, but the longer it sets, the flavors blend perfectly and the kale because softer.

When ready to serve, you can add the rest of the dressing on the side.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Big, Fat, Mexican Salad

Last night I decided to throw together a huge Mexican Salad. My daughter-n-law Sol said it was her second favorite recipe that I make (second only to my Mexican Soup!).

Unlike many salad entrees, this one was VERY filling, as it was filled to the brim with ingredients that blend nicely while sticking to your ribs.

It was a bit expensive to make because of so many ingredients, but it is a breeze to put together. And if you grill your chicken instead of cooking in the skillet like I did, you won't have to heat up your kitchen making it a perfect summer supper!

I served it will black tortilla chips (Sol's favorite) and some Mexican rice on the side. Give it a try!


*1 package boneless, skinless chicken strips.
*Chili powder, ground cumin, garlic salt, crushed red pepper (sprinkling generously over the chicken to taste)
*Canola oil (about 2-3 T. for cooking chicken)

*Greens of your choice (iceberg or romaine lettuce) chopped
*Bunch of Cilantro (I'm heavy handed with this) chopped
*1 Avocado diced
*3 Roma tomatoes, diced
*1/2 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
*1/2 can whole kernel corn, drained (even better if you grilled corn)
*1 green onion (slice using greens and bulb)
* Sliced Jalapenos
*1-2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
*Juice from 1 lime

*Chipotle Ranch dressing (prepared)

Sprinkle  both sides of chicken with seasonings and cook in oil till done. Set aside. When cool, dice into cubes.

Crisp lettuce and chop finely.  Add all other ingredients and chicken and chill (about an hour if you want it all cold).

Serve with Chipotle Ranch dressing,  sprinkle with lime juice and some Mexican Rice and tortilla chips on the side.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Double Decker Cheese Melt

This recipe can  fill you up for the main dish at lunch, or  as a great side to a soup or salad.

It is simple to prepare and is oh, so creamy--ooey, gooey-- just like a cheese recipe should be.

You will need:

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. onion salt
6 slices bread

In a food processor, blend cheese and butter. Add egg and onion and garlic salts; process one minute or until creamy.

 Spread 2 T. on each slice of bread., cheese side up. for each sandwich; sprinkle with paprika.  Cut in half diagonally.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes until bubbly and golden.  YIELD: 6 servings.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

BAKE SALE Special: Banana Nut muffins (A Tyler Florence recipe)

Recently in my community, a man was battling cancer and a wonderful lady decided to do a fundraiser to help his family with the mounting medical costs. She asked several of us to bake some treats and I chose to bake some TYLER FLORENCE banana nut muffins, and some fresh strawberry bread with dipped strawberries.

I believe that presentation is everything, even in a bake sale, because we first eat with our eyes...then our mouths. So rather than place the brown, not-so-beautiful but very tasty muffins on a regular tray, I decided to brighten them up a bit by displaying them on a 3-tiered tray and placing them over bright red paper napkins. I clearly marked the name of the treats, which is helpful for shoppers.

I served the strawberry  bread sliced and placed in a spiral on a simple white paper plate and placed a disposable plastic, but very pretty bowl of hand-dipped fresh strawberries that were dipped in almond bark (which I actually prefer over chocolate on a strawberry.) You can find that recipe here.

The bake sale was a HUGE success, but sadly, the gentleman passed away. But everyone involved in the bake sale (the planners, those who stayed to set and take down the tables, those who sold the treats, and those who purchased them , ALL had a hand in lightening the load for this family, who already had too much to deal with. That is why we do things like this, and my small community is the BEST at helping one another!

Give the recipes at a try-- and no, you don't have to wait until you have a bake sale. Sweet breads are a perfect summertime treat-- for breakfast, dessert,snack time anytime you need a little pick-me-up.

Ingredients for 12 muffins by TYLER FLORENCE

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans, chopped


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly butter 2 muffin tins.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture. With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together like you mean it, for a good 3 minutes. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in the nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill them about halfway. Give them a rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.

Bake until a toothpick stuck in the muffins comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before turning the muffins out. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Anniversary to ME!

This past weekend, we celebrated our 31st anniversary!  We wanted to get away and do something special, but didn't have the time to travel far. We are also in the middle of home renovations so money is  a bit tight, but we never let an anniversary pass without doing something special because, well, let's face it-- there's not many people around who are celebrating over 30 years together and that is something that must be  celebrated!

We found the PERFECT getaway, that was close to home but felt like a different world for us. It was one hour from our home--a log cabin nestled in the woods- secluded, upon a hill with spectacular views and was just the R&R that was needed for us to reconnect, recommit and rejuvenate! THE CABIN ON THE HILL, in rural Carbondale, Illinois.

 There are actually 4 cabins-- one large enough for several guests, 2 that are a bit smaller, and then the cabin we rented, THE COUPLE'S RETREAT cabin.  This cabin had the best of both worlds.  Just enough "rustic" with the modern conveniences and was beautifully decorated.

A spacious, open design in the living room/kitchen area....
(The cabinets were stocked with all the dishes, cookware and bake ware needed to prepare your own meals. Even seasonings were provided. Microwave and a dishwasher helped make preparation and cleanup a breeze.

There are plenty of places to eat in the area  if you don't want to cook your own meals, but we had already enjoyed a nice meal earlier in the week, and this weekend, was about being ALONE. (hubba, hubba. ;)

The back patio (our favorite place) was where the hot tub and a small sitting area were located, and we were able to watch wild deer grazing in the yard close by, while we enjoyed a little down time.

I zoomed in from the screened-in porch to capture this one

We enjoyed appetizers, while my hubs grilled for us --some steak (marinating in A-1 brand marinade) and asparagus (in foil with a bit of butter and Parmesan) -- I prepared a salad and  a simple  watermelon for dessert.

Nothing fancy-- but nice.

We ate inside at the intimate table for two.

The hosts thought of everything. After dinner and some time in the hot tub (towels and robes provided), we enjoyed a movie on the television. They had also provided a very good selection of DVDs to chose from. There were also plenty of magazines, board games and brochures from  around the area of places to go and experience that would be very helpful for those who are not familiar with southern Illinois.

There was a nice little fire pit, with two chairs that we had planned to enjoy before going to bed, but the rain prevented it. Something I'll look forward to on our next visit.

Our comfortable bed in the nice bedroom ,  (complete with a flat-screened TV for those who need it) and adjoining bathroom was also decorated with just the right mix of rustic and modern decor  which I appreciated.

The front porch, with two rockers and a swing, provided the perfect setting for a peaceful morning's quiet time, enjoying coffee while listening to the birds sing before a peaceful,  steady rain began.

My hubs and I had planned our trip around an itinerary involving a motorcycle ride in and around this area to enjoy the beauty of southern Illinois, but the rain changed our plans.Instead,  we enjoyed the beauty we found INSIDE the cabin, and thoroughly enjoyed each other's company during the calming rainfall as we watched and listened  from the front porch and the screened-in back porch.

Due to the rain, we did not get to enjoy the walk on the trail near our cabin, or take the short trip to the barn to see the animals which was recommended. They also were generous to offer fresh eggs to our  morning breakfast, but I had prepared  our own breakfast ( simple oatmeal with berries and almonds, some grapes, ) and some cinnamon toast.)

Normally, there is a minimum of a two-night's stay (then you can REALLY get the full effect of a relaxing weekend), but there was only one night that was available, and we only had one night free to go. It still did the trick!

There is minimum housekeeping required ( AKA "cleaning up after yourself"...just the basics-- clean and put away any dirty dishes used, and put your wet towels in a hamper).

You really don't need to bring anything except food or snacks-- they provide all else (soaps, lotions, shampoos, robes, hair dryer, dishes, bakeware, utensils, serving pieces,  games, videos, reading material, etc.) You  will only need to sit back and enjoy the view!

I highly recommend THE CABIN ON THE HILL in Carbondale, Illinois for those in the area, who want to feel like you really got away, without having to travel very far.  But it would be a perfect place to retreat for those outside of the southern Illinois area, who are traveling here to take in the natural beauty this area offers.

You can click on their link here, to learn more about the many area attractions, and more info on the cabins.

You will need to book your cabin early, as you will see, there are not many openings any time soon.

We will not wait until next year took book a weekend here, again.  We may even try to talk the family into renting the bigger carbon for all of us.

Our grandbaby, Lia Rose, celebrated with us on the night of our anniversary earlier in the week as she accompanied us to dinner. It was a very HAPPY anniversary!